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einstein, gop epic failure

It's very odd that the Democratic leadership waited until after the GOP foreign and economic policy had all the positive effects of a 50 megaton nuke before they said those ideas MAYBE don't work. Will Democrats wait for a comparable catastrophe before they reject Republican "reforms" of public education?

I don't know what a comparable implosion would look like in public education, but will it take an equal decimation before Democrats say Republicans either don't know what the fuck they are talking about when it comes to education or that they are intentionally trying to destroy it?

The cornerstone of the GOP attack is the endless cycle of testing. If the same approach was used in health care, a nurse would come take your temperature every fifteen minutes, the doctor would be given no money to treat you, and if you didn't get well, the doctor and nurse would be fired and you would probably die.

The "teach to the test'' nonsense is also a form of micromanaging that tends to chase smart, creative people out of the public schools. Why bother to get a degree when they just want someone who can read a script like the guide on a tour bus?

Their other brilliant idea, merit pay, sounds great to anyone who has never worked in education. In some jobs, like sales, being paid on commission makes sense, but for teachers, there are too many variables: a very good teacher might be given or even ask for the kids who need the most help and therefore make the least progress. Should that teacher be paid less than someone who takes on only average to above average kids?

Also, merit pay would mean administrators get to decide who gets rewarded for their work. Most administrators are shitty teachers who promoted themselves out of the classroom by taking a few night classes. Smart, creative teachers will not be good suck ups, nor will they stick around if that is what is required to be compensated for their jobs.

Probably the worst innovation of the right is treating education like a business. As we have seen this fall, corporations can't even run their BUSINESSES like a business. Why should we let then import that failed model to schools?

What is really galling is to see someone like Obama's pick for education secretary aping one of the ugliest tactics of business, mass layoffs, without realizing that when business does that, it has nothing to do with adjusting the quality of the product--it is a bookkeeping trick to goose the stock price. If you layoff teachers en masse, people will not want to come work in your district because administrators will rightly be seen as arbitrary and malicious.

Wouldn't it be nice if Democrats in Congress and even the White House had the courage to get ahead of the curve instead of acquiescing to GOP scams until they explode, and THEN getting around to doing what's right?

If they had ever bothered to ask teachers what they need to succeed, they'd get some pretty simple answers, most of which wouldn't necessarily cost more money:

  • smaller classes sizes, and the more troubled the community, the smaller the classes.

  • more autonomy for teachers. If you want to attract and keep smart, creative people, give them room to work. If you overly-script and micromanage the job, eventually you will attract exactly the kind of people who are good at that: mindless automatons. That's not how I would describe the best teachers I had growing up, would you?

  • An effective system to deal with dangerous and disruptive students. If administrators limited themselves to this one function, they might actually help instead of hinder the education process. This is why private schools appear to be more effective than public ones--disruptive students can be ejected, and the threat of being permanently removed makes borderline kids behave.

  • Make sure most of the money makes it into the classroom, not district offices for layers and layers of worthless bureaucrats or into the pockets of politicians' cronies for software, building, and consulting contracts that teachers haven't asked for.

Will Democrats flush the steaming turd of GOP education reforms down the toilet BEFORE they drag down the public schools with them, like they did with foreign & economic policy?

Or will they follow Harry Reid's example and defer to Republicans so long as there is even one left in Congress?

Originally posted to Professor Smartass on Wed Dec 17, 2008 at 02:30 AM PST.


When will Democrats flush the steaming turd of GOP education ''reform''?

8%4 votes
25%12 votes
46%22 votes
12%6 votes
6%3 votes

| 47 votes | Vote | Results

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Comment Preferences

  •  The only thing I disagree with in your diary is (7+ / 0-)

    the question mark at the end of "education" in the graphic beside Einstein's head. I'd say there's no question they've failed. That the failure has been targeted at the poor and darker skinned masses is what helps them sleep better at night. For "those" people it is all about being responsible for yourself. For us-folk, well, how does 700 billion and bonuses sound after running the fiscal car into the ditch? The double standards make my head spin...

    Words ought to be a little wild, for they are the assaults of thoughts on the unthinking. -J.M. Keynes

    by elropsych on Wed Dec 17, 2008 at 02:51:08 AM PST

  •  This is the keey: (5+ / 0-)

    Also, merit pay would mean administrators get to decide who gets rewarded for their work

    Very few will be rewarded. The "carrot" will be out of reach for the majority and the "administrators" will be nothing but political hacks.

    CHRISTIAN, n. One who believes that the New Testament is a divinely inspired book admirably suited to the spiritual needs of his neighbor. A. Bierce

    by irate on Wed Dec 17, 2008 at 03:09:43 AM PST

    •  Not Necessarily (5+ / 0-)

      If the unions are allowed to do their jobs, then horrible merit pay systems like the one you describe will not be implemented. I teach at a school where a lot of teachers, including even me, receive merit pay.

      If merit pay is shoved down the throats of teachers without their input, then it probably will be as bad as you say.

      President Obama is reality.

      by Reino on Wed Dec 17, 2008 at 03:33:04 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  It all depends on what happens to the unions. (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Reino, lilypew, Dichro Gal, chrome327

        I see this fight against the UAW as the first battle in an escalating war on the unions. If the UAW goes down the teachers and public sector unions will be next. (My wife is a retired IEA member and I am a SEIU member so I watch this with more than a little interest.)

        CHRISTIAN, n. One who believes that the New Testament is a divinely inspired book admirably suited to the spiritual needs of his neighbor. A. Bierce

        by irate on Wed Dec 17, 2008 at 04:00:26 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  unions can mitigate damage, but it would be (0+ / 0-)

        better to do away with it altogether and just emphasize that unions want bad teachers out to, so long as due process is followed and it's not done by whim as these "reformers" tend to do.

  •  Start with administrators (4+ / 0-)

    Bad teachers come from bad administrators who don't do their job.  We should start with retraining the administrators - firing poor ones - and reducing their number to the minimum.

  •  The Opportunity Right Now Is Great (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    lilypew, kyril

    NCLB has been horrible, but it has given us a gold mine waiting to be tapped. The money that the federal government gave to states to implement testing went through Title I, the program set up to help schools serving students in poverty. As a result, Title I funding has gone through the roof during the past few years. The downside has been that the money has not gone to help schools serving students in poverty--it has been spent on testing instead. However, if the priorities of the federal government change and that money is used in the traditional ways that Title I funding has been used, then Obama and Duncan will be able to fund low-income schools without increasing the Education budget.

    Of course, we still do not know whether or not the education priorities of the federal government regarding have changed. Obama has not been very clear on what he wants to do for K-12 education. Time will tell.

    President Obama is reality.

    by Reino on Wed Dec 17, 2008 at 03:30:21 AM PST

  •  relevant quotes (7+ / 0-)

    Too many textbooks and discussions leave students free to make up their minds about things.
    --Mel Gabler, censor, Texas

    Allowing a student to come to his own conclusions about abstract concepts creates frustration. Ideas, situation ethics, anti-God humanism — that's what the schools are teaching. And concepts. Well, a concept never will do anyone as much good as a fact.
    --Mel Gabler, censor, Texas

    "When a student reads in a math book that there are no absolutes, suddenly every value he’s been taught is destroyed. And the next thing you know, the student turns to crime and drugs."
    --Mel Gabler, textbook censor, Texas

    The biggest threat to America is not communism, it's moving America toward a fascist theocracy... -- Frank Zappa

    by NCrefugee on Wed Dec 17, 2008 at 04:09:25 AM PST

  •  I'm a NYC teacher (5+ / 0-)

    Normally, I'd have been at work 20 minutes ago, but I'm home with a sick kid. While I agree with 95% of the diary, I have to disagree with the characterization of administrators. You see, thanks to the "reforms" of Joel Klein, many administrators were never teachers in the first place.  They are bean counters, but they "know" a lot more about how to educate children than the UFT!

    I can't wait for the moment when Lieberman's vote saves the day.

    by Van Buren on Wed Dec 17, 2008 at 04:13:45 AM PST

  •  Recced JUST for the title. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:


    Democrats will do NOTHING about GOP anything.

  •  Duncan is backed by business (4+ / 0-)

    He was placed in his Chicago post by the business community to do their bidding, so we should not expect any radical reforms from him.  Expect to see a continued focus on testing, and a continued push for growing national privatization of all public school functions (which benefits a handful of businessfolks at the expense of our children's education).  I would not expect Duncan to address any of the measures that you propose, especially the last one ("Make sure most of the money makes it into the classroom, not district offices for layers and layers of worthless bureaucrats or into the pockets of politicians' cronies for software, building, and consulting contracts that teachers haven't asked for.")  

  •  The GOP believes that America needs education: (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    lilypew, Clio2

    Like it needs a hole in the head.

    "The great way is not difficult. Simply let go of all likes and dislikes." Buddha

    by independentvoice on Wed Dec 17, 2008 at 04:27:57 AM PST

  •  I teach transitional math (3+ / 0-)
    which is fifth grade math, to 15-17 year olds.
    My classes range in size from 14 to 18 students. (Hint: that is double or triple the size they should be.)
    I work on a pacing calendar provided by the district, in a multihundred page workbook. So much for improvisation and innovation.
    Tell me again how Duncan is going to raise my students' test scores? Just wondering.
  •  Need evidence-based research (0+ / 0-)

    Is there really evidence that smaller classes work better for normal achievers? Japan has class sizes that are much higher than in the US and it doesn't seem to hurt them.

    What evidence is there for more autonomy? In what areas? For example, don't standardized curricula work better?

    I agree with you regarding dangerous and/or disruptive students. But I'm not sure what is the best solution.

    Regarding administration, there are huge economies of scale in running schools, and school systems. New York State has almost 700 school districts and each one has to have an administrative bureaucracy. That is a major reason why property taxes in NYC suburbs are the highest in the US. We can save a lot of overhead money and redirect it to where it is needed by consolidating schools and school districts. (I wish Gov. Paterson had proposed a more aggressive consolidation plan in his budget.)

    •  We have a Public Education Law 94-142 (0+ / 0-)

      which states we have to educate ALL students. How many countries have a similar national law? Are you comparing apples and oranges?

      "There must be more to life than having everything" -Maurice Sendak

      by lilypew on Wed Dec 17, 2008 at 05:53:59 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  The GOP turd (0+ / 0-)

    will overflow all over the American public.

    "There must be more to life than having everything" -Maurice Sendak

    by lilypew on Wed Dec 17, 2008 at 05:42:03 AM PST

  •  Where is Waldo? (0+ / 0-)
    Where in hell is Margaret Spellings?  Wow, did she drop of the face of the earth or what?  Too bad she didn't keep this low a profile before NCLB.  In retrospect she was no worse than the appointment of Rod Paige; but she was also no better.
  •  This diary (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Professor Smartass

    is spot on according to my 15 years of experience in public education. Our standard testing numbers are "failing" so our class sizes got bigger and more teachers are pink-slipped.

    "There must be more to life than having everything" -Maurice Sendak

    by lilypew on Wed Dec 17, 2008 at 05:59:50 AM PST

  •  Competition, the free market and education (0+ / 0-)

    Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit.

  •  I have bad news for you, Prof. Smartass (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Professor Smartass, Clio2, xango715

    There are many dems hell bent on destroying public education, as well. It just so happens that my next dkos post will cover this (to be named: WTF is DFER?)

    Well, DFER is "Democrats for Education Reform". Check out their website:

    I feel strongly that we need to get these dems out of the closet and call them to task for pushing there edu-biz/privitazation/union busting agenda on the administration.

  •  I like your 4-part plan (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Professor Smartass

    and -- seriously -- how can it be put out there in a form to get sustained public attention and action?

    I was a teacher when the Heritage Foundation (new at the time) in 1977 or 1978 produced a big education report featuring a lot of statistics of varying meaningfulness but impressive volume.  The report claimed that classroom enrichments and electives and experiments were responsible for widespread falling skill levels and that education needed to go Back to Basics (rote learning).

    The Heritage Foundation's publicity department did a very effective job of focusing sustained national and Congressional attention on the test-score issue. With the (falsely) academic and non-partisan sounding foundation taking the lead in pointing out alarming symptoms, people tended rather unthinkingly also to accept their diagonosis and proposed treatment. I think that the foundation's push  deserves ultimate credit for where public education programs generally find themselves today, reliant on rote learning, test scores and extremely narrow statistical measures of successful outcomes.

    Now that experience has proved this approach  wrongheaded, we sorely need a corresponding countereffort to turn things around.

    By the way, key leverage with the public mind could come from any figures to show that test scores tend to improve when a school follows your principles, which as a former teacher I am sure is true. Has anybody made such studies to date? I fear not. I also would expect that such studies could show that your principles favor other good outcomes, such as fewer dropouts, more participation in extra-curricular activities, fewer teen pregnancies, better critical thinking skills and more graduates going on to college.  

    We could use a new and more responsible version of the Heritage Foundation "study."

    •  who would benefit from such a study? (0+ / 0-)

      only teachers and students who are considered incidental players when there is money to be diverted into someone else's pocket.

    •  fewer teacher dropouts too (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Eloise, Clio2

      as I was driving home last night, I was listening to some story on NPR about the career of a lobsterman.

      Lots of colorful details, then toward the end, the interviewer says, "You were doing this in the summers and were a teacher the rest of the year, but for the last ten years you've done this full time.  What happened?"

      And the guy said, "Well I saw some changes coming down the pipe that meant a lot of extra paperwork.  Didn't much care for that.  I had my time in for retirement, so I checked out."

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