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View Diary: A Review of the Chetty Study - the Value of Teachers? (61 comments)

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  •  This is good research... (3+ / 0-)

    ...but it could easily justify bad policy.

    Consider the idea that we should fire the bottom 5% of teachers. There are so many things wrong with this!

    We actually can't fire large numbers of teachers. There are 6,000,000 teachers in the US. Firing "the bottom 5%" is a popular right-wing mantra, but that is 300,000 people. Even in this sorry economy we don't have 300,000 people ready-to-teach.

    We need to work with the teachers we have.

    I am willing to bet that those 5% of teachers are not all bad teachers. I suspect that they are stuck in schools where bureaucracy prevents them from doing better.

    If schools had incentives that rewarded student achievement, they would be more willing to give teachers more freedom.

    •  Not sure if I agree (0+ / 0-)

      There are tons of new potential teachers all over the place looking for jobs, working temp jobs, restaurants, etc.

      Under the assumption that there is a valid way to measure performance, you could merely fire (not rehire, lay off, whatever) the bottom 5% of teachers inside a school district to eliminate district or school bias from the process.

      There are many, many people who are nominally qualified that can't get a job, why not give them a chance? In the private sector, getting a job does not come with any kind of a guarantee that you'll keep it, why should the public sector be any different?

      I agree with you about incentives and bureaucracy, though.

      (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
      Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

      by Sparhawk on Thu Feb 16, 2012 at 09:28:34 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Potential and actual are not the same. (15+ / 0-)

        While you're right that there are plenty of teachers who currently would like jobs but can't get them (or are like me, a long-term substitute in a full time teaching position because it's cheaper than hiring me for real and our district is out of cash as so many are) that doesn't mean that there are large numbers of potential teachers who could be in the classroom quickly, if ever.

        Most people seem to think that anyone can teach, but this is far from the truth. Most people also think you really don't need specialized training to teach and that is just as incorrect. The fact is that when you put people with poor preparation into a classroom, they tend to do poorly and bail out of that classroom pretty quickly. The poor retention rates of Teach for America pretty much prove this point, since they wash out over half of those who enter the program after the five weeks of training they receive. Compare that to the two years full-time that's required for an M.Ed. (in addition to an undergraduate degree in a subject field) or the four years of an undergraduate B.Ed. and you can see just how unprepared these poor folks are. It's a myth that you can just go out and replace teachers, at least if you expect the replacements to be more effective than the rank amateurs they are.

        Then you go on to compound the mythology by mentioning the idea that teachers can't be fired and implying that they have "jobs for life". Teachers are not college professors with absolute tenure (certainly not in PA and not in any other state I've even seen) but have only the limited tenure and due process rights that you'll find written into any union contract in the private sector (at least every one where the union is doing its job.) That's not something to be avoided, but rather a standard we ought to be pushing for all other workers.

        I realize that you're stating a common set of ideas about education and teachers, but they're wrong. The whole idea that teachers are somehow unaccountable and have job security and benefits that don't exist in the private sector is a right-wing talking point that they've managed to insert into the popular mythology; please don't give it any more support by keeping these fact-free memes alive.

        Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory, tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat. Sun Tzu The Art of War

        by Stwriley on Thu Feb 16, 2012 at 10:35:00 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  To advance, bad administrators target teachers (6+ / 0-)

          When you have a really well prepared person with a passion for teaching, a poorly performing, marginal administrator can be scared witless (especially those admins who served the bare minimum time in a classroom before begining their climb up the admin ladder).  Ambitions of these people can blind them to anything other than their own advancement -- working under those conditions also causes good teachers to leave the profession. It also harms students.

          We have a case in Gilbert AZ where a teacher advocated for her minority students and colleagues and now is being fired. Even the association rep (AZ is a right-to-work state) acknowledged the teacher is "a great teacher, just not suitable for the Gilbert environment." It appears the rep, also a teacher, is setting herself up for a promotion to a district staff position.

          A teacher or administrator with no ethics, but a big desire to move up the ladder, may decide to ruin the career of teachers who get in their way.  Cause for firing can easily be manufactured.

          •  This is one reason why I am... (0+ / 0-)

            ...in favor of Charter Schools.

            Charters allow parents to punish bad principals by removing their kids.

            If a star teacher is delivering good test scores and is popular with families, the principal can't afford to fire her.

            In NYC, parents sometimes protest when a good teacher is removed or reassigned. But sine parents have no power nobody listens.

            •  Parents can't move their kids from one (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Stwriley

              public school to another?

              News to me, since my sisters and I moved relatively freely from one public school to another within the same district.

              Maybe this is New York City only?

              Pity charter schools aren't only in NYC, then, since they do so much damage elsewhere.

              •  Most suburbs... (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                qofdisks

                ...have only one high school.

                If that high school is bad, you must buy a house in a more expensive suburb.

                •  Wow. (0+ / 0-)

                  Sounds like a good reason to get the hell out of New York.

                  Hell of a place to raise kids, anyway.

                  •  True everywhere. (0+ / 0-)
                  •  That is why I am... (0+ / 0-)

                    ...advocating for Charters!

                    If the Democratic education policy for Harlem is, "Wow, get the hell out of New York!", do you think that our party will remain relevant in the inner city? Or rural areas? Or poor suburbs?

                  •  Virtually ever place I've lived (in 5 different (0+ / 0-)

                    states) give you exactly one option where you can send your kid to public school, based on where your house is located.

                    If you drew a 5 mile circle around my house, for example, there are 5 elementary schools, 2 middle schools, and 3 high schools.   But one cannnot choose where to sent your kid(s) - it's all pre-assigned.

                    Of course, you * could *  get yourself on the committee that draws the boundaries (but I've heard that's a rather thankless job).

                •  But the suburbs aren't where charters are. (0+ / 0-)

                  Just try and introduce a charter school into most suburban settings and you'll see how fast parents flock to shut you down. They pay well to have good public schools and don't want or need charters to suck up money and divide their efforts. Most suburban schools are also doing fairly well because they have many advantages over their urban and (to a lesser extent) rural counterparts.

                  First, they generally spend much more per student than other schools because they have the tax base (property taxes, in many states, which directly ties school funding streams to the affluence of the community) to raise far more funding, plus what they get from the state and Feds like other school districts.

                  Second, suburban districts don't generally have to worry about the familial income problem and everything that goes with it. Their kids come from middle-to-upper class households with all the advantages that implies. The kids enter school better prepared and get far more at every step outside school and in.

                  Third, their school infrastructure is usually much newer than in urban districts and much better equipped at all levels. That may sound like a minor thing, but I work in a school where we don't have enough textbooks to do more than issue each teacher a "classroom set" (i.e., no textbooks to assign to students as their own, so no taking them home to study, etc.) Resources that in suburban schools are simply taken for granted are like gold nuggets in an urban school.

                  Finally, most suburban parents have far more direct control over their schools than urban parents do. Many urban districts are managed by appointed boards or other non-elective bodies, while most suburban districts are managed by elected school boards. As a result, you get top-down politics in urban districts that dictate to parents and bottom-up politics in the suburbs where the school board members must be careful not to anger too many parents or they'll be thrown out of office.

                  Notice that I've laid down these points without ever referring to the main problems with charter schools (i.e., their poor performance versus regular public schools.) Charters have a limited usefulness, mostly to provide for specialized schools that a system could not otherwise provide, but the uses to which they've been put far exceed that.

                  School choice is one of those canards that sounds good until you actually think through the implications. Once you realize that what the whole thing really represents is an attempt to undermine and destroy the very concept of public education, it becomes a bit harder to buy into the hype. To be blunt, school choice and charter schools have failed miserably to live up to what has been claimed for them. This isn't an idea we need to embrace, it's one we should be rejecting as a poison pill to kill off the system of free public education that built modern America.

                  Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory, tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat. Sun Tzu The Art of War

                  by Stwriley on Fri Feb 17, 2012 at 09:56:01 AM PST

                  [ Parent ]

      •  Because teachers have good classes and bad (0+ / 0-)

        classes.  There are good years and bad.  Each classroom has a unique dynamic.  Just one kid can change that dynamic.

        " In the private sector, getting a job does not come with any kind of a guarantee that you'll keep it, why should the public sector be any different?"

    •  Well, in Baltimore it is much simpler (11+ / 0-)

      60% of teachers are bad

      Time for massive house cleaning!!

      Of course, an alternative POV is that 60% of the students (or more) come from hopeless family/socio-economic situations.

      But that's a more difficult problem to solve than blaming the teachers. So let's do that!

      •  And rinse, repeat every twelve years. (5+ / 0-)

        Should also work wonders for those teacher retirement benefits because 60% of teachers can always be labeled as "bad" and fired long before they ever reach retirement age.

        •  I bring up Baltimore because fairly recently (5+ / 0-)

          (i.e., within the past 18 months) I talked to a (much reviled at this site) Teach For America kid who actually taught in a Baltimore City public school.

          The main thing I remember is his description how going through airport security made getting into a Baltimore City public school seem like an absolute breeze.

          So, against this background I can hardly imagine the obstacles encountered by teachers whose entire careers are linked to such a challenging environment.

          IMHO they should be celebrated, not kicked in the teeth.

          •  I like the people, it's the organization... (3+ / 0-)

            and ideas behind Teach for America that I (and many others) don't like. I've known some good people who got into teaching that way, but far more who had a bad experience and bailed out, either at the end of their term or before it. While I have nothing but admiration for the kids themselves, they're being ill-served by a program that does very little to prepare them for the task they've taken on.

            Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory, tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat. Sun Tzu The Art of War

            by Stwriley on Thu Feb 16, 2012 at 10:53:09 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Yeah, I think the kids are definitely well (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Teachers Advocate, Stwriley

              meaning, and perhaps even the organization.

              However if a disinterested viewer - an intelligent Martian perhaps - was to look at the situation they'd surely conclude that the whole thing was largely a charade.

              •  I've never met a teacher who was in it for money (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Stwriley, Roadbed Guy, qofdisks

                Even Teach for America kids.  Often, they don't know how unprepared they are until they're overwhelmed, then burned out.  That happens to many teachers who are NOT TFA, as well. The reality of the classroom can be very different from what teacher training leads young people to expect.

                As for the 60% "bad" in Baltimore, that figure also shows that students have no incentive for doing well on the standardized tests that result in their teachers being labeled "bad." That's a fundamental flaw many people refuse to acknowledge about "reform."
                PS - love visiting Baltimore!

                •  Too true! (4+ / 0-)

                  I see that apathy toward standardized tests from students all the time. They have very little direct incentive to bother with the things, since they don't affect their grades or graduation. Without one of those prime movers, many average-and-below kids just won't bother to do more than randomly mark answers to get done as soon as possible. I can hardly blame them, given what else they go through on a daily basis; I never liked make-work as a teen and I was both well-off and a good student (child of a college professor and a teacher, so I could hardly be otherwise.) They can't see or don't care about any indirect effects, of course; many teens can't and worrying about a teacher who's "hard on them" or next year's school budget simply isn't on their radar.

                  It's a strange thing that this never seems to come up in debates about the value of testing, no matter what it's used for. The problem is certainly widespread in the urban schools I'm familiar with, so the question of just how much it invalidates the whole testing system should be asked.

                  So, let's start asking every elected official who touches education policy that very question, over and over again until they grasp the concept that the answer is likely to be "it invalidates the whole concept, so maybe we should re-evaluate how we use testing."

                  Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory, tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat. Sun Tzu The Art of War

                  by Stwriley on Thu Feb 16, 2012 at 02:41:28 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Why not just make these high stakes tests (0+ / 0-)

                    that determine whether or not students pass to the next grade or graduate?

                    •  Doesn't address the other problems. (0+ / 0-)

                      Most of these tests aren't actually very well aligned with what we should be teaching, only with what can be measured by standardized testing. Even there, the simple fact that a child tests poorly is not necessarily indicative of a failure to learn what was taught, only of a failure to test well. Simply put, standardized tests are good analytical and diagnostic tools to help teachers to understand what's going on with students, but that's as far as we should go. If we push a point assessment like this as the end-all-and-be-all of a child's educational achievement, we'll only be furthering the already well-known disadvantages inherent in standardized testing while gaining nothing that helps these kids.

                      Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory, tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat. Sun Tzu The Art of War

                      by Stwriley on Fri Feb 17, 2012 at 09:27:38 AM PST

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  Except the very study that we are discussing shows (0+ / 0-)

                        that performance on these tests is correlated with significant income differences in later life.

                        So whatever these tests are testing, it's clearly important.

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