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John Merrow is the Education Correspondent for the PBS News Hour.  He is also president of his own organization, Learning Matters Inc., through which he does his work for The News Hour as well as documentaries for PBS.

Several points to note.

  1.  His wife served for 17 years as the head of Castilleja School, and now that they have moved back to NYC is the new head of the Hewitt School.  
  1.  The funders for his Learning Matters include the foundations of Bill Gates and of Eli Broad (the latter is NOT listed on the home page but was included in a recent email about a program showing last night).

Does any of this concern you?  Should I explain why I ask that question?

Let's start with the schools his wife has headed.  "The annual tuition at Castilleja is $33,590. Families who cannot afford the full cost of tuition are supported by a well-established tuition assistance program which distributes over $1.6 million dollars to 18% of the student body" (that information is quoted directly from the school's webpage).  Hewitt School lists a comprehensive fee of $36,650.  This is a very different world than public schools, especially those in inner cities.

Then there are his funders.   Those who closely follow educational issues are well aware of the role played by the family foundations of Eli Broad and Bill Gates, which are often together in their funding efforts.  Among the organizations they have helped fund are Teach for America and New Leaders for New Schools.   They are among the groups included by Diane Ravitch in what she describes as the Billionaire Boys Club, the very wealthy (including also things the the Walton family of Walmart) who use their wealth to drive educational policy in specific directions.  Many of the things supported by such people lack a research base.  

It is worth noting that Broad and Gates funded an effort during the last election cycle to try to elevate education policy to a more important role, but of course with their idea of reform being the focus.   Gates has been providing money for states to prepare their applications for funds under the Race to the Top program - I remind you that some of the requirements for receiving funds under RttT include lifting caps on charter schools, lifting any bans on tying teacher compensation to student test scores, and selecting at least one of four proposed models for restructuring of failing schools.  None of the four methods has any research that supports it as an effective method, a point also made by Diane Ravitch.

Merrow is a voice listened to by many on the political left - after all, his primary venue has been the News Hour.  Those who have seen a large amount of his output would have noted the coverage of Teach for America, and the focus he has put on Michelle Rhee in DC and on Paul Vallas, now about to leave New Orleans after previous tenures (including at boss and predecessor to Arne Duncan) in Chicago and in Philadelphia.

Please note - I am not making any accusations of deliberate bias on Merrow's part.  I do think it is valid to raise the question of whether this major voice in educational coverage is however in anyway compromised by either his funders or his wife's employment in non-public schools in a major role.  Let me offer this for your consideration:   what if his wife were the superintendent of a large urban district and his funding was from the NEA and the AFT, and he was doing many pieces that appeared to shine a positive light on unionized schools versus non-unionized schools -  can you imagine the screams from those hostile to teachers unions and public schools?

The word "reform" has been hijacked with respect to education.  It becomes very hard to offer the perspectives of those not supported by the likes of Gates and Broad.   Paul Vallas gets multiple stories, Michelle Rhee gets multiple stories, we get pieces (including some criticism) on Teach for America.  We do not get equivalent coverage of the work unions do on behalf of the students.  We do not get the same focus on more traditional urban superintendents.  We do not get the focus on those who commit to education as a career (unlike most participants in TFA.  That kind of focus could reshape the concept of what education really needs.  

Again, I am not accusing Merrow of bias.  But I am raising a question.  Do the connections I mentioned above the fold concern you?  Should they?  

And now you will excuse me.  I must get dressed and head out to my summer job - today the students with whom I have been working will sit for another state test on the computer in the morning, and we will spend the afternoon preparing them for the test tomorrow.


Originally posted to teacherken on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 03:26 AM PDT.

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  •  Tip Jar (148+ / 0-)
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    "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

    by teacherken on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 03:26:49 AM PDT

    •  at school with about 30 minutes (17+ / 0-)

      before I will be involved with setting up for testing.  I am a relief teacher today, so I will not be as limited in what I can do to watch this

      I admit I am a bit surprised at the amount of traffic on this.

      Now give me a minute or ten to catch up with comments.

      "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

      by teacherken on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 04:47:39 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  My daughter graduated Castellja in 1984. (11+ / 0-)

        I was a public education teacher, who like the Clinton's and Obama's, sent both my daughters to private schools.

        In 1984 I was paying 8500 to send my youngest to preschool before kinder garden.

        My experience in trying to change the system from within, is it would not ever happen and I was not going to subject my children to the inadequacies of the system.

        As a teacher, I feel the unions wrecked the school system.  But I am not anti-union.  What happened from my perspective and why I got out of teaching, is that good teachers want to just teach and they left a power vacuum in the union for those who wanted power and security and teaching was last on their list of things to do.

        My reflections on the problems of liberals and progressives is that we have interesting and full lives and enjoy the ongoing experience of continued intellectual growing.  On a whole, we reject power as complicating the very things we value.  Thus, we avoid it.

        The result is that those we would never choose to associate with--- wind up being in control of our lives.

        In the 50s, public power was considered a form of service and people should do it periodically and temporarily.  It was not that much of a career path.  In other words, people did not get on the school board as a spring board to higher office.  All that has changed and politics is consuming us.

        Liberals and progressives are going to have to go back out and join organizations like the Sierra Club and AARP to preserve them.  AARP was originally to help seniors and was a service organization out of the Gray Panthers.  Now it is a political organization that also takes a big cut of your money for providing medicare gap insurance that less and less people can afford.

        Progressives are going to have to serve to play.  We have already lost pay to play.  To change the paradigm we have to start doing it without money.  With raising money to run campaigns we are already buying into what we can see no longer works.

        It is easy to write a check but it is not easy to serve.  For progressives, it mean sacrificing part of  our lives doing things we dislike.

        That is why Obama is alien to us.  His experience in organizing and compromising is not something we do well.

        The problem is that education is now a business.  Like the banks, considered too big to fail.  Education as a business was always doomed to failure because that is the one thing it is not.

        I am considering writing a diary about education as business and why it is an absolute disaster.

        •  there is an issue of people in unions (18+ / 0-)

          which is why I served as a building rep, although any teacher from our building willing to serve in that capacity would have been an example of a good teacher.  I recruited three others to support me in representing the needs of our teachers and thus the needs of our students.

          The idea of "leave me alone, let me go in my room, close the door and teach" is obsolete.  We cannot function that way.  We need more collaboration including among those who at the secondary level share kids.  

          It is hard for many who are dedicated teachers but also parents to take on anything new.  They don't want to be away from their students for union business, and they don't really have the time for additional responsibilities outside of the school day.  

          Again - from my perspective any parent who wants to send their kid to a non-public setting has the right to do so, but I do not think that should mean a transfer of tax dollars for that purpose.  And we are beginning to see some examples - and not just of vouchers - of such transfers.  

          "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

          by teacherken on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 08:20:33 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Education is a business.Reason to homeschool (3+ / 0-)

          I homeschooled because the environment was dangerous to my daughter.There were good teachers there who struggled to teach in spite of the environment.

          My favorite teacher had a poster on her classroom wall that read,
          "Don't let school get in the way of your education."
          Mark Twain.
          She had taught my son as well and she was very bright.I am sure she has left by now.The good ones usually do.Too many teachers hang around to collect their pensions.I know some of them personally.Some have a very nasty opinion of the children they teach.

          Some of the homeschooling parents were teachers, doctors, professions of various sorts and just  plain "folks" who couldn't get help for their children with learning problems or wanted to keep their kids from being beat up regularly.ADD kids are often lacking in social skills and get picked on by other students and even teachers.My daughter experienced both.

          What I learned from this was,most of us can teach our children.Its called "vested interests".We could sure use some help and resources at times but schools don't profit from helping you so they don't.

          My daughter was reading before she interred school.
          She was curious, creative and musical.School made  her afraid and withdrawn.I saved her by homeschooling her.I wish I had the courage to do it sooner.She has emotional scares.School should be liberating, not dangerous.

          Companies are starting to line up and fight over the money pot for teaching your kid.Kids and teachers will be the casualties in this fight.Taxpayers will loose too.I suggest you join your school board and get informed on how your dollars are being spent.Its your tax dollars at work or waste.Its up to you.Let the fight begin.

          Cynicism leads to Inactivity. Hope leads to Action.

          by Citizenpower on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 08:29:07 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  No, most of us can't teach our children. (9+ / 0-)

            I say this as a parent of three sons who attended our local public schools from kindergarten through 12th grade. I am also a college professor, and I spent 6 years as an elected member of our local school board and two years as the co-president of our elementary PTO.

            It is dangerous to generalize from your own experience.  My son could read before he entered kindergarten. He was also creative, curious, and musical. He was his high school valedictorian and a National Merit Scholar. He graduated from one of the Ivies (Summa cum Laude) in three years with a major and three minors. He completed his PhD at Cambridge University at age 25. I would never generalize from my son's experience, and I don't think that you should use your daughter's experience to condemn the public schools.

            I am also going to say something that will sound mean and snotty. Your post has a lot of spelling and grammatical errors. I am the queen of typos here at the Great Orange Satan, so I appreciate that some of these may just be typos. However, I am also a college professor who regularly teaches college freshmen at a big urban university. One of the most important keys to success in college is the ability to write clearly and grammatically. My sons had some wonderful English teachers in honors and AP English in our local public high school. There is no way that I could teach writing as well as those teachers did, and I have authored or edited over 10 books in my career.

            •  Thanks for sticking up for us. My sons are (8+ / 0-)

              working their way through entry level jobs in business and the non-profit world. It is upsetting when people think they can teach as well as me. I have a vested interest in my students. My sons' teachers in our public school had a vested interest in their learning.

              Different teachers spark different students, and that is true of me and my fellow teachers. The ones who made a true difference in the lives of my sons were truly incredible teachers, but most importantly different teachers.

              Instead of home schooling, I wish everyone would put in place open enrollment as Iowa has done. Students in Iowa can go to any public school in the state. They do have to provide their own transportation if they go to a school out of their home district. Choice makes people happier. It might help a lot of attitudes about education change. We so rarely do anything about that.

              •  I think open enrollment (5+ / 0-)

                eases a lot of problems, giving schools and parents a place to negotiate and options when parents feel a school is not or cannot meet their child's needs.

                I also think it's important that there be differences among schools, that every school not use the exact same curriculum or be in lockstep such that every 4th grade teacher is doing the same page from the same textbook at the same minute. Yes, it allows kids to move between schools more easily when you have that. But, it robs the ability to individualize learning or to have different approaches available when the standard one isn't working well.

                Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

                by elfling on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 12:20:01 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

            •  I am the queen of misspelling (0+ / 0-)

              Grammatical errors?I can dangle a modifier as good as the next person.My verbs and subjects get in a disagreement from time to time.I hope you don't "flunk" me for it.

              I told my children once that I spell phonetically, but my son said that I spell, "fanatically".He's right.I do keep a dictionary on the desk for times when I think it matters.

              Cynicism leads to Inactivity. Hope leads to Action.

              by Citizenpower on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 12:14:50 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  We are our childrens first teachers (0+ / 0-)

              That doesn't mean I could teach your child.I don't know your child and I am not interested in pedagogy.

              Credentials just don't cut it with me.I've met many people with degrees that whined about having to teach my child.Even with a well-written 504 Plan and a willingness to met teachers half way and then some, her needs were not met.Now and then I would met a teacher that understood how to teach an ADD child and my daughter would thrive.

              I've had teachers scream at me,"If she would only pay attention!".Rude names like "space cadet" from teachers did not endear me to them.Especially when these remarks would be repeated by her peers.

              Sorry, but I think you suffer from some of the same arrogance my daughter had to put up with in public schools.I am very very tired of that tone.I just wanted someone to respect my child and teach her.That's all.

              Other teachers failures are not your own but neither are their successes.I am sure you can hold your own by the number of books you have authored or edited but that doesn't mean that you could teach my child.

              Cynicism leads to Inactivity. Hope leads to Action.

              by Citizenpower on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 12:44:21 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  No, but here is where the arrogance lies: (4+ / 0-)

                What I learned from this was,most of us can teach our children.

                I am honest enough to admit that I can't teach my children subjects like algebra, physics, and Spanish. I could not teach your child (or my children for that matter) reading, writing, and math either. I probably could teach your child to swim (I was certified as a Water Safety Instructor for over 30 years), and I could teach your child college-level archaeology and anthropology when she's old enough. I can teach those subjects because I have both the training and the experience. My performance has been reviewed in many different ways.

                Yes, a parent is a child's first teacher, and a parent has an important role to play in a child's education, but it is just plain arrogance, IMHO, to assume that you can do a better job than a well qualified teacher. If the schools are not meeting your child's needs, your responsibility is to be an advocate for your child. Sometimes that means taking on the system, and I have done just that.

                •  I have been nothing but an advocate for my child (0+ / 0-)

                  When I explained to the assistant principle that my child was being stalked at school and kids tried to pull her down four flights of stairs by grabbing her backpack,her reply was that she should come and sit next to the fish tank to "calm" herself down.

                  I wonder how my daughter was supposed to do this if she lying at the bottom of the stairs.

                  I didn't homeschool to join the Berkinstock crowd.I did it out of desperation to save my daughters life.
                  Her shrink thought she was suicidal.I was warned by other parents not to try and sue the school because as one parent said,"They have on retainer the best lawyers in town." This was born out when I met a parent who had brought suit and lost--her home was sold to cover the law suit.

                  These people would eat you for breakfast.They play hardball.Children were second on their list of priorities.

                  I am sorry if this offends your sensibilites but teachers fell off their pedestal for me a long time ago.

                  I did do a better job in some areas in teaching my daughter than her teachers did.Because I cared and was determined that I would find a way to teach her what she needed to know according to state standards.It must have worked.She passed the state proficiency test,got a GED and was accepted into college.

                  How many kids put in seat time in high school only to end up being asked to take "pre-algebra" and basic writing classes before being admitted to regular classes in college? A lot.

                  My nephew and brother-in-law teach college and tell me this is a real problem.Someone didn't teach these kids but allowed them to graduate.That deserves a bit fat "F" in my taxpayers opinion.

                  Cynicism leads to Inactivity. Hope leads to Action.

                  by Citizenpower on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 07:49:50 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

        •  Interesting. (3+ / 0-)

          The theme here is far broader than eduction.  It's an interesting point that sometimes gets lost:  there really may be something antithetical between progressive values and the psychology of "joinership" that drives localized power centers.

          "Put your big-girl panties on and deal with it." -- Stolen from homogenius, who in turn stole it from a coffee mug.

          by Mother of Zeus on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 09:23:16 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  "The system" is overly simplistic. (3+ / 0-)

          I live and teach in an area of Michigan with schools that are pretty much average for the state.

          Here are the choices that parents have in terms of schools:

          1. Schools of Choice:  Parents can send their kids to any district within our intermediate school district.  That's about a dozen districts.  There is a good deal of variety.
          1. Vo-Tech: We have a centralized vocational/technical program in which all ISD schools participate.  This is not a traditional vo-tech program.  The selection includes a variety of advanced coursework and specialized education in horticulture, agriculture and technology.
          1. Dual Enrollment:  High school students also have the ability to dual enroll at a local community college.  We bus them to a satellite campus and our kids take college classes.  The tuition is free for the kids.
          1. Options Programs:  We have a handful of districts that run smaller scale options programs for students.  These are geared towards at-risk students.
          1. Virtual Classes:  Students in my district and ISD can take virtual classes.  We have a staffed resource room.  Students have a wide variety of courses available through this program.
          1. Charter Schools:  We do have charter schools in the State of Michigan.  This is, of course, available to students.  I would not say that these schools have been revolutionary.

          Again, I would not describe my district and area as unusual in Michigan.  My county is rural and working class.

          Still, students have a wide variety of choices.  The idea that there is one "system" with one solution for every student is too simplistic a description.

          1984 was twenty-six years ago.  Much has changed for the better.

          by DingellDem on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 11:14:34 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  These reformers need a math lesson. (0+ / 0-)

        A different world indeed:

        Hewitt School lists a comprehensive fee of $36,650.

        $36K per student is 4 times as much as California's spend per prisoner. It's 7 times as much as California currently spends per student.  Between $17 and $19 billion was slashed from CA public schools in the last two years.  This year, Arnold's willing to hold up the budget for the rest of his term if he doesn't get another austerity budget.

        All the BB Club teaches me with its reform theory (read: undermine the credibility of public education, and simultaneously gut it to prove your point) is that money works.  

        Supply top resources to A Sufficient Number of public school professionals at that level, then talk to me about reform.  

        Liberty means responsibility. That is why most men dread it. -George Bernard Shaw

        by soyinkafan on Wed Jul 28, 2010 at 12:23:00 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  it's UNION BUSTING ... (5+ / 0-)

      In the guise of attracting private investment - which is privatization in a few more syllables -  New Markets Tax Credits provide double the return on investment within seven years.

      The biggest obstacle to this rape of our tax dollars has been the teachers' unions. All that the current batch of hedge fund vampiresquids want to do is BUST the UNIONS.

      It started with PATCO in 1981, and it continues apace today thirty years later.

      It's all part of the strategy of Plutonomy unveiled by CITIGROUP several years ago, featured by Bill Moyers back in May on his last program. This video is three-and-a-half minutes long. It's worth every second.

      TAX THE RICH! They have money! I'm a Democrat. That's why!

      by ezdidit on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 09:40:56 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  FYI, Arne Duncan to speak at Nat'l Press Club (3+ / 0-)
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      luncheon today, shortly. C-span2 will do a program on Education Reform (with the speech) from 1:00-2:00 PM.

      A very important diary, Ken. I'm glad you put it out there. I have long been concerned about corporate influence over PBS and NPR. So my answer is: it should concern us.

      There is no more important struggle for American democracy than ensuring a diverse, independent and free media. - Bill Moyers

      by StepLeftStepForward on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 09:52:41 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I don't think it is of concern (4+ / 0-)
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    Just private people trying to advance education.  It's their money so they should have some say.

    The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only legitimate object of good government. - Thomas Jefferson

    by ctexrep on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 03:40:30 AM PDT

    •  It's More Complicated (40+ / 0-)

      It's their money, so they should have their say with PBS documentaries and NewsHour reports? These are the types of things that are not supposed to be influenced by who has money.

      "H.R.W.A.T.P.T.R.T.C.I.T.G -- He really was a terrible president that ran the country into the ground."

      by Reino on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 03:53:05 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Unfortunately PBS has morphed (46+ / 0-)

        over the past decade or so into a mouthpiece for moneyed individuals (foundations) and corporate sponsors.  It is hardly worthy of it's name at this point, unless you consider the likes of Bill Gates and multiple corporate sponsors representatives of the "public".

        For years I was a regular contributor to Public Radio.  No more.

        "If you do not read the paper, you are uninformed. If you do read the paper, you are misinformed."--Mark Twain.

        by ovals49 on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 03:59:08 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  that actually started with Raygun, who (45+ / 0-)

          attacked PBS with a vengeance and slashed budgets and made them march, hat-in-hand, to private sources of funding - hence the Mobil sign appearing on Masterpiece Theater back then, and on, and on, and on.

          The Gates take on this is something like, "In private industry, we always have benchmarks and goals to meet, and teachers shouldn't fear the same kind of monitoring."

          Except that students aren't sold for profit and can be measured by many yardsticks applied over many years as they go through their lives. Not exactly like a piece of copycat software from that "campus" of theft and plagiarism known as Microsoft.

          This is typical of the sad move of most of public TV away from "educating" and serving the public to serving oligarchic agendas.

          That said, the old PBS used to be funded mainly by individual philanthropies without so broad a reach, but often with an upper crust cachet. It was really in the late '60's and early '70's that it hit its stride in outreach to the masses, only to be castrated by the Ronnie zombies in '81.

          Fear is the mind-killer - Frank Herbert, Dune

          by p gorden lippy on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 04:25:21 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  In private industry (39+ / 0-)

            if you don't like the raw materials you're sent, you send them back to the supplier. Public schools have to work with what they're given, because what they're given are, you know, human beings.

            Do people gloss over this on purpose, or has it simply never occurred to them that schools and factories are fundamentally different?

            "The great lie of democracy, its essential paradox, is that democracy is first to be sacrificed when its security is at risk." --Ian McDonald

            by Geenius at Wrok on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 05:09:37 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Sure. (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
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              Doctors only see healthy patients, lawyers only represent the innocent, etc.
              •  Nobody proposes firing oncologists (39+ / 0-)

                or slashing their salaries because so many of their patients die.

                Nobody proposes firing defense attorneys or slashing their salaries because we have a legal system that's loaded in favor of the prosecution.

                I have a good friend who's a doctor. She works with a largely poor and working-class population. They come in really unhealthy. Sometimes they follow her advice. Often they don't. Where is the "accountability"? Why isn't she blamed for all the patients who don't follow her advice and don't get healthier? Because she's not a teacher, that's why.

                "The great lie of democracy, its essential paradox, is that democracy is first to be sacrificed when its security is at risk." --Ian McDonald

                by Geenius at Wrok on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 05:27:03 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  To the contrary, I'm sure (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  ManhattanMan, tgrshark13
                  your friend is subject to many layers of rigorous accountability, from the tort system to internal review.

                  The difference isn't the drive for accountability, but in how well-designed the feedback systems are.

                  •  The feedback systems aren't all that different (16+ / 0-)

                    You take a test, and it gives you a number.

                    If the patient's cholesterol number doesn't go down, the doctor gives a stern lecture to the patient.

                    If the student's ISAT number doesn't go up, the administrators, parents, politicians and media give a stern lecture to the teacher.

                    "The great lie of democracy, its essential paradox, is that democracy is first to be sacrificed when its security is at risk." --Ian McDonald

                    by Geenius at Wrok on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 05:46:36 AM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  Would be happy to settle for a stern lecture. (7+ / 0-)

                      The wave in public education now, the component that is popping up all over the country in new collective bargaining agreements, is that our jobs will depend on that number.

                      And by "our," of course, I mean teachers. Only teachers. No one else in the network that determines educational outcomes -- district personnel, parents, legislatures responsible for funding education and providing safety nets for families in crisis, students -- none of them will be in danger of losing their livelihood.

                      Only teachers.

                      Make. Them. Filibuster.

                      by NWTerriD on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 08:20:22 AM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                  •  So have that kind of accountability... (17+ / 0-)

           determine if the doctor or teacher is operating according to industry-determined, peer-reviewed best practices. These practices are known in the medical profession and in the teaching profession.

                    That's totally different from results-based accountability - or, worse yet (in education), accountability based on irrelevant results like standardized test scores.

                    What have you done for DC statehood today? Call your Rep and Senators and demand action.

                    by mistersite on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 05:51:28 AM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  Standardized tests aren't entirely irrelevant (10+ / 0-)

                      They just can't possibly give you the whole picture, and they shouldn't be treated as though they can and do.

                      "The great lie of democracy, its essential paradox, is that democracy is first to be sacrificed when its security is at risk." --Ian McDonald

                      by Geenius at Wrok on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 05:55:07 AM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  No, I think they're entirely irrelevant. (15+ / 0-)

                        And I say this as someone who has always been very good at them.

                        More often than not, they measure not a student's knowledge about a given topic or field, but rather his or her ability to do well on a standardized test.

                        Not only is that a completely irrelevant skill for today's world, but it's also a lousy as hell way to measure whether a teacher has done his or her job well.

                        What have you done for DC statehood today? Call your Rep and Senators and demand action.

                        by mistersite on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 05:56:40 AM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  They provide a core sample (3+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:
                          fixxit, NWTerriD, miss SPED

                          which could be very useful in looking at students' longitudinal progress, if they were used for that purpose. The problem isn't the tests, it's the fact that they're misused.

                          "The great lie of democracy, its essential paradox, is that democracy is first to be sacrificed when its security is at risk." --Ian McDonald

                          by Geenius at Wrok on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 05:58:22 AM PDT

                          [ Parent ]

                          •  All a standardized test shows is (6+ / 0-)

                            what the students are able to memorize.  It does not show actual learning.

                            (-9.25, -6.62) (BWIU #22)

                            by trs on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 06:15:49 AM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  memorization has no place in learning??? (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            miss SPED

                            Geeezus!  Who knew!!!

                            "Those are my principles, and if you don't like them... well, I have others." - G. Marx

                            by Skeptical Bastard on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 07:16:07 AM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  Rote memorization or" kill and drill" (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            Skeptical Bastard

                            do have their place.You can't fake knowing your mulitiplication tables or basic science facts.

                            Knowledge is built upon facts and understanding.
                            Fantasy is fine in writing class but you have to know
                            how to put the words on the paper to make it happen.

                            Education fads are dangerous.We already know what works.

                            Cynicism leads to Inactivity. Hope leads to Action.

                            by Citizenpower on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 09:03:18 AM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  They show more than that (2+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            Geenius at Wrok, NWTerriD

                            Assessment is useful when the purpose of the assessment is to determine learning goals.  

                            Assessment will not ever be useful as a way to determine if a teacher should be paid.

                            I always wanted to be in one of your fuckin' plays.

                            by otto on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 07:25:02 AM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  sorry, you are wrong (3+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            Geenius at Wrok, cassidy3, NWTerriD

                            a properly designed standardized test can show quite a bit more than memorization and recall

                            "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

                            by teacherken on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 07:41:02 AM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  And that (0+ / 0-)

                            memorization isn't necessarily long-term, rendering it even more useless.

                          •  In an ideal world, maybe (5+ / 0-)

                            I guess they could be used to monitor student's longitudinal progress, as you suggest, but the problem with that is that the tests aren't really about the kids, and they know it.

                            Example, we had a star basketball player who never passed a TAKS test.  (TAKS is the state test in Texas)  He was getting recruited by a bunch of major universities for a b-ball scholarship--full ride in many cases.  His grades were good, but our principal was getting calls from recruiters and they were all worried about him passing the dang TAKS tests.  He told the principal not to worry, he can pass them if he tried.  He never tried before--didn't mean a damn thing to him.  But now, since the recruiters needed it done, he sat down his senior year and took all four--Social Studies, Math, Science, and English.  Not only did he pass them all, he got a "commended" on them--the highest grade.

                            So you see, the tests don't mean a damn thing to the kids and they know it.  Many of them don't give a darn when they are taking it.  It is in NO WAY a good representation of their abilities and shouldn't be used to judge them or their teachers.

                            Another quick example.  I have a kid who does care and does try.  He's brillant.  You should see some of his work in my Pre-AP geometry class and hear some of the incredible conversations we've had.  He's a genius.  But can't pass a standardized, multiple choice test to save his life.  He failed the two he took last year.

                            The tests are worthless and we all know it.  Especially the kids.  

                            It's like, duh. Just when you thought there wasn't a dime's worth of difference between the two parties, the Republicans go and prove you're wrong.~Molly Ivins

                            by TexH on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 07:25:22 AM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  I have actually (3+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            Geenius at Wrok, TexH, miss SPED

                            seen students bubble their answer sheets to make a shape--not even reading the questions.

                            I have also had students absolutely refuse to do anything on the test and we can't force them to.  They can just sit there.

                            A good example of the serious attitude some of them have is the student who was walking down the hall to go to his testing room with his two pencils dangling out of each nostril, laughing all of the way. I don't even know if his answers could be read by the automatic scoring machines.  Does snot make them unreadable?  

                          •  I think of standardized tests... (3+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            Geenius at Wrok, fumie, dreamghost

                            ...the same way as I think of teaching the Bible in public schools.

                            If it were done right, the Bible could definitely be taught in public schools. Students could view the Bible as a beautiful work of literature that has had a profound impact on the way we use the English language, to say nothing of the way the Bible has been used in American rhetoric and history. They could learn about the vast amount of scientific and archaeological evidence that disproves a literal reading of the Bible. They could study the cultural function of holy books and the history of the Bible's development and role in society.

                            But it's never going to be done right, because there's no way in hell that the Christian Right is going to ever let the Bible be taught like that in public schools. So we have to resist the teaching of the Bible in public schools, because we know that regardless of whether it could be taught well, it's only going to be an Evangelicalism 101 class about why everyone should come to Jesus.

                            I feel the same way about standardized tests. Sure, they could serve a useful analytical function in schools, to help teachers refine techniques or figure out what's working and what isn't. They could be used to determine longitudinal progress. But they're never actually going to be used like that, because there's no way the politicians will ever tolerate having a standardized testing system that isn't used to decide what schools get funding and what schools don't, what teachers are kept on or promoted and what teachers are let go, etc. The "raw numbers" and pretense of "objectivity" are just too tempting for politicians who want to impose their agenda on public education (or impose their agenda to dismantle public education).

                            What have you done for DC statehood today? Call your Rep and Senators and demand action.

                            by mistersite on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 08:42:33 AM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                        •  I am going to disagree (9+ / 0-)

                          that we currently misuse them, and do not get back from them information that allows us if necessary to modify instruction is wrong

                          to use them in the high stakes fashion we do is wrong

                          but they can serve a purpose, just not what we currently use them for.

                          Jim Popham, one of nation's great experts in assessment, has been highly critical of how we have been using standardized tests under NCLB.  Neverthless he presents some pretty cogent arguments for how they can be used positively.

                          "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

                          by teacherken on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 06:22:44 AM PDT

                          [ Parent ]

                      •  They are pretty irrelevant when I have (1+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        Geenius at Wrok

                        watched a bipolar emotionally disturbed student pass an 8th grade benchmark by guessing.

                      •  Standardized tests make companies rich (1+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:

                        I learned more about my daughters abilities with a conversation and reading what she had written.

                        Punctuation was not her strongest skill.It was developed as she engaged in her passion of reading and writing.Teachers hinted that she might be plagiarizing or I might be writing her assignments.
                        That brought scads of belly laughs from me because she still spells better than I do.Her thoughts were her own.

                        Motivation is a great teacher.Kids learn best where their interests are strongest.I could flex the curriculum to combine interest and requirements.Teachers can't always do that.They are married to the curriculum even when it sucks.And sometimes it does suck.

                        The biggest problem I had was poor math texts.When I was free to choose my own,I discovered Saxon math and my daughter no longer whined about math.My son was envious.He suffered from bad texts that I had a hard time understanding.No doubt,deals were made that satisfied school budgets at sacrifice for quality.

                        What could teachers most benefit from? Greater understanding of neurology.How the brain learns and what happens when it doesn't.I studied these things and came to understand my childrens different learning styles and even my own.I was able to met my daughters educational needs through determination and education on my part.It was well worth the sacrifice of wages and time.

                        Tests can be useful as a measuring stick but they are often used as a pacifier or rod on teachers.
                        How the test is administered is as important as what is in it.

                        Cynicism leads to Inactivity. Hope leads to Action.

                        by Citizenpower on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 08:58:08 AM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  I have taught for (2+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:
                          Geenius at Wrok, miss SPED

                          thirty years and I can't tell you how many inservice hours have been spent exploring learning styles and individualizing instruction to fit each student's needs.  We do cover that and spend a lot of time on it.  

                          Many students have individual learning plans that we follow, meaning that we make several different versions of assignments and tests each time for each lesson.  

                          •  Good teachers are worth their weight in gold (0+ / 0-)

                            You sound like a real professional.I guess I met too many "time servers" who were burnt out and too lazy or stuck to move on to something different.

                            My nephew teaches college.He typically spends 60-70 hrs a week teaching, prepping,writing grant proposals for teaching assistants.He loves it.He used to work for Intel making lots of money and hated it.He works twice as hard but he reaps much more reward for it.
                            Its amazing how many questions he has asked me about learning styles and how many books he has read that I recommended to him.He wants to be a great teacher and he is.

                            Not everyone can teach but those who do it well should be greatly appreciated.

                            Cynicism leads to Inactivity. Hope leads to Action.

                            by Citizenpower on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 12:06:06 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                        •  Ugh. I hated Saxon math (1+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:
                          Geenius at Wrok

                          Which just goes to show We Are All Individuals.

                          Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

                          by elfling on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 10:23:49 AM PDT

                          [ Parent ]

                          •  I'm not (n/t) (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:

                            What have you done for DC statehood today? Call your Rep and Senators and demand action.

                            by mistersite on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 11:42:25 AM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  One size does not fit all. (0+ / 0-)

                            My son was more of an abstract thinker.My daughter needed concrete examples.That makes it difficult for teachers to reach a classroom full of different thinkers.
                            My daughter went to Japan in high school. Their textbooks were smaller and they did a lot of repetition.Contrary to popular opinion,not all Japanese are math wizzes.My daughter actually helped some of the girls with her Saxon math books.
                            She helped them in chemistry as well.
                            She was hardly the kid her dad thought was a drop out when I homeschooled her.

                            Cynicism leads to Inactivity. Hope leads to Action.

                            by Citizenpower on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 11:59:28 AM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                      •  They have some use in some places (1+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        miss SPED

                        But for example, I think expecting Kindergarteners to do a bubble test (as apparently the Florida law envisioned) shows an impressive disconnect from reality.

                        Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

                        by elfling on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 10:15:38 AM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  and experts in assessment and ECE (0+ / 0-)

                          will tell you that below 3rd grade there is very little reliability on such assessments

                          "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

                          by teacherken on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 03:58:13 PM PDT

                          [ Parent ]

                    •  Yeah, well, good luck with that. (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      miss SPED

                      If it doesn't come down to an "objective" (ROFLMAO!) number, it's not "accountability" in today's world.

                      Make. Them. Filibuster.

                      by NWTerriD on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 08:22:17 AM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                    •  Also- (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      miss SPED

                      Students are not always motivated to score high scores on those tests because they still get promoted to the next grade if they pass their classes.  Any teacher who fails too many students for their classes is on the bad list, and they have families to feed, so put that puzzle together.  

                      The only time it becomes crucial to the student to pass the standardized test is at the end when it determines graduation, and even then they have a lot of chances to retake it.  There have been attempts to tie failing the standardized test to promotion, but there are always loopholes put in so as not to upset parents.

                      I have had to wake students up numerous times during the same test and they have as much time as they want--it is not timed.  Sometimes they will just start bubbling so they can say they finished and then put their heads down.  

                      It is frustrating to be judged by things completely out of our control when I see teachers working harder than they ever have.  The students keep moving up the grades even if they fail the test.  In my district, students only stay in middle school an extra year, even if they fail the classes because they don't want older students in the buildings.  

                      What happens is that it makes the high schools look bad because we get students that haven't mastered the material but have been passed on in an attempt to look good.  You would not believe the number of hours spent in after-school tutorials, Saturday sessions, and pull-outs (students are pulled out of elective classes over a period of months to get ready for THE test).  The pull-outs are not all of the class every day, but amount to half of the class time in those classes over weeks and months.  Thus, they are missing some valuable time exploring their interests.  

                •  This is one of the best comments I have read (14+ / 0-)

                  My mom was a public school teacher for over 35 years.

                  I was educated in public schools.

                  We have some warped sense of responsibility when it comes to education in this country.

                  Teachers are very important - there's no substitute for good teachers.  That said, education is multi faceted.  Parent(s) play a major role but the person who has the largest role by far is the student.

                  No one can make you learn - there are ways to make things more interesting - but how much do you coddle someone?  THe real world doesn't coddle people.  In our efforts to get students to learn, we are creating a generation of people who feel entitled to be "entertained".  When my mom retired, she told me she wasn't an entertainer - she was a teacher (and a darn good one at that).  Did some students fail in her classroom?  Yes.  Did some of the students sitting next to them get A's?  Yes.

                  The debate will be - who failed - the teacher or the student.

                  The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only legitimate object of good government. - Thomas Jefferson

                  by ctexrep on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 05:44:19 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                •  quite the contrary (0+ / 0-)

                  doctors make the most money off their sickest patients

              •  Doctors and Lawyers probably have a similar (0+ / 0-)

                success rate as teachers as far as results go.

            •  That's a major problem: (19+ / 0-)

              schools and factories are fundamentally different?

              I served on a committee considering whether or not a local secondary school should add a program for truly gifted students.  We had a factory owner waxing eloquently about whether or not it was 'cost effective,' and, if not, the new idea for a gifted program should be scrapped. I tried but could never convince him that to really measure cost effectiveness we'd have to monitor the student's contributions to society for most of his life.

            •  Dear Parent: (3+ / 0-)

              Little Johnny has been troublesome.

              He has pulled ponytails and yelled obscenities at several teachers.

              He doesn't do his math problems.

              It has been decided to place him in an at-home 2-month parental review period. At the end of the two-months you may petition the school district for school placement in the next available quarterly school year.

              Please fill out the accompanying behavior improvement questionaire towards the end of two months and send it to me at the central district office in the postage-paid envelope provided.

                           Yours Truly,
                                       Bob Jones
                                       Child Readiness Manager

          •  Gates figured out how to make money (6+ / 0-)

            but Microsoft certainly isn't a hotbed of innovation, nor has it moved the industry forward.  From what I hear (third hand, I admit), it is as hidebound, rule bound and bureaucratic as the worst school system.

            •  His HS education served him well. nt (0+ / 0-)


              by DingellDem on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 07:49:09 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  everything ever done by MS that made $$ (2+ / 0-)

              was NOT original.

              DOS for the PC was a reworked extant OS.

              WORD poached on several extant word processors.

              Windows totally poached the Mac, but money won that court case.

              IE poached Netscape.

              Excel poached Lotus.

              Now Bing or Bong or Ca-ching or whatever the hell it is is poaching Google.

              Lather, rinse, repeat.

              All they did was use market muscle and bundling to force consumers into MS products.

              The only original thing I can think of that Gates pushed was that stupid graphic tablet thing-y that he huskstered everywhere a couple of years ago, but which had a cool factor around negative a trillion.

              Now, Steve Jobs, OTOH, a true visionary genius with a soul and a sense of aesthetics and of cool. Major league.

              Fear is the mind-killer - Frank Herbert, Dune

              by p gorden lippy on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 10:12:40 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

      •  Then PBS (0+ / 0-)

        should not accept "Private Donations" if the donations buy influence.

        Personally, I see nothing wrong with the donors and what they are doing with private education.

        The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only legitimate object of good government. - Thomas Jefferson

        by ctexrep on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 05:55:09 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Stop right there! (14+ / 0-)

          Personally, I see nothing wrong with the donors and what they are doing with private education.

          If you were to leave it at that, I would agree. But that's not the issue. The issue is that they're trying to impose their model on PUBLIC education, and that will not stand as long as I have breath in my body!

          "Lash those traitors and conservatives with the pen of gall and wormwood. Let them feel -- no temporising!" - Andrew Jackson to Francis Preston Blair, 1835

          by Ivan on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 06:14:12 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  This Is Different (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          wsexson, miss SPED

          This isn't somebody paying money into a huge general PBS fund. This is somebody with a ton of money paying a small organization whose chairman is in charge of covering education on PBS.

          Also, Broad and Gates are supporting organizations such as Teach For America that encourage temporary workforces in schools that need stable workforces. Personally, I see something wrong with that.

          "H.R.W.A.T.P.T.R.T.C.I.T.G -- He really was a terrible president that ran the country into the ground."

          by Reino on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 11:08:37 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  it's worked well for tax policy (12+ / 0-)

      sure... let's let the superrich decide how we teach our kids.

      OTOH, if we have public education, it's NOT their money. It's yours and mine.

      It's not a fake orgasm; it's a real yawn.

      by sayitaintso on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 03:57:37 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  That's like saying... (17+ / 0-)

      Not my concern. Just a bunch of private people drilling for oil in the gulf. It's their capital so they should have some say.

      I wonder if the people who have lived for generations along the gulf coast and are now without livelihoods or a means to acquire new ones should have gotten to have a "say?"

      What about the ecosystem of the gulf, does it get a say?

      In public education unions exist to give one form of voice to teachers. So they can have a say.

      It's also the reason so many conservative and monied interests try to extinguish them.

      I'd take your comment as a joke, or snark, but you gave no intimation that it was intended as such.

      "Fear paralyzes. Curiosity empowers. Be more interested than afraid." -Patricia Alexander

      by Caractacus on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 04:35:09 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Why should they have their say... (18+ / 0-) public education?

      Is that the way we think it should work in other fields? The person who donates to a politician should have more say in what he/she does while in office? The person who donates to the police benevolent society, or to the public college's endowment, should have more say in those organization's policies?

      Do you really think money should buy more access?

      I don't. I think the public schools are - and should remain - the property of the public. I think they should be democratic, under the control not of the wealthy donors but under the control of the people.

      And if the donors won't donate enough money to keep the schools in a tip-top state, the people should demand that they fund them through highly progressive taxation.

      So it's their choice: Will they give us the money voluntarily with no strings attached and look benevolent and philanthropic, or do we have to come take it from them?

      What have you done for DC statehood today? Call your Rep and Senators and demand action.

      by mistersite on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 05:03:19 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  What I'm saying is (0+ / 0-)

        They pay their taxes which helps public schools.

        If they choose to give money to private schools and the private schools are willing to accept the money with the string attached - then so be it.

        If private education and it's policies has an impact on public education and policies how do you stop that and is that really happening?  Is it a good or bad thing?

        The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only legitimate object of good government. - Thomas Jefferson

        by ctexrep on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 05:36:12 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  In private schools, sure. (11+ / 0-)

          Donors get to choose in private schools.

          But that's not what Gates and Broad are doing. They're using their wealth to usurp the power of the public over the schools owned by the public. They are taking your power for themselves.

          What have you done for DC statehood today? Call your Rep and Senators and demand action.

          by mistersite on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 05:52:44 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  How? (0+ / 0-)

            By giving to private schools?

            By setting up scholarship funds?

            I don't see this "evil intent" on the part of the donors - I really don't.  I think they understand the value of education and also what it takes to be sucessful in the world.  Maybe we should look to these people for some guidance and value their suggestions.

            I think it's PBS you're after.

            The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only legitimate object of good government. - Thomas Jefferson

            by ctexrep on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 06:01:06 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I have a book recommendation for you. (16+ / 0-)

              Please read Diane Ravitch's The Death and Life of the Great American School System. In it, she outlines how these foundations aren't just giving to private schools, but using their money in public schools and in publicly-funded charter schools to impose their ideas of education - using authority they are completely unqualified to have - and usurp the sovereignty of the public over their education system.

              Also, the fact that they're rich doesn't mean that they know jack or squat about education. We aren't asking them for "guidance" or "suggestions" on brain surgery, or botany, or rocket science; why is education treated as a non-specialist field, as something that any idiot could do with enough common sense?

              There are established best practices for education, based in sound neuroscience, psychology, history, and philosophy, and we're going to toss that out the window because someone who made a whole bunch of money stealing other people's ideas thinks he's got a better way?

              What have you done for DC statehood today? Call your Rep and Senators and demand action.

              by mistersite on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 06:08:11 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  Ravitch gives one example (11+ / 0-)

              where a foundation and its well donor funded a school board campaign in San Diego against a school board member who opposed the reforms that rich person wanted.  That's one example.  There are many more.

              "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

              by teacherken on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 06:25:01 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  They're giving money to PUBLIC schools (10+ / 0-)

              I just posted this comment a short while ago on HuffPo regarding Bill Gates' inner city school "small schools initiative."


              The SSI WAS a failure. If the Gates Foundation had given the money and let competent people in the field, on the ground, make the decisions, that would be one thing. But not surprisingly they played Little God, moving in and upending already fragile schools, throwing babies out with the bathwater, creating havoc, in the end wasting money on failed experiments while refusing to meet actual NEEDS like providing photocopiers, paper, etc. Removing teachers from classrooms one day a week for months on end for "training." It was absurd. And as usual the most vulnerable kids suffered.

              Do you really want Bill Gates or industry people he hires or just plain anyone with money to burn making decisions about things they know nothing of? Playing God with people's lives, just because they have the money to do so? Money does NOT automatically make anyone competent--especially in areas they have no experience or training in. Expertise matters. That is NOT how policy should ever be made. But if we leave everything up to rich people, then rich people get to make ALL the value decisions in our society.

              It's a nightmare world I shudder to contemplate, where the only criteria for decision-making is that whoever has the money, has all the power. That is NOT the foundation for a healthy society!

              Privilege is the greatest enemy of right. --Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach

              by mozartssister on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 06:29:54 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  Dude!!!!! (4+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              fumie, wsexson, miss SPED, sluggahjells

              You're not listening! This isn't about private schools!

              The Gates and Broad Foundations are very directly intefering in PUBLIC education. They are giving money to public school systems to do the things THEY WANT the public schools to do. And since public schools are chronically and pathetically underfunded, the states and districts are doing whatever those folks say, as long as they'll keep giving money.

              Make. Them. Filibuster.

              by NWTerriD on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 08:38:04 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

        •  C'mon seriously (16+ / 0-)

          Bill Gates is trying to reshape PUBLiC SCHOOLS.  He's not a teacher and from what I understand about the early days of Microsoft and how he treated employees, he would have failed miserably as a teacher. If he wants to donate millions to private schools who cares, but when he decides to donate millions to political think tanks with specific political agendas regardless of sound research to alter public school policy then we should ALL care!

          I take political action every day. I teach.

          by jbfunk on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 06:57:45 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  You say they pay taxes which help Public schools (9+ / 0-)

          Actually, public secondary schools are primarily funded by local property taxes with help from state tax dollars. Very little Federal tax dollars goes to public schools. Some would argue that the Federal Government imposes more spending requirements on local communities than anything else.

          So, I believe, it is a stretch to say that Bill Gate's personal taxes or Microsoft's corporate taxes support local schools in my home town.

          You might bring up Microsoft donating PC's and software to local public schools. I do not view that as altruistic. It benefits Microsoft to have their software in the schools and colleges in that students on the receiving end are more likely to want to buy Microsoft products as adults as opposed to a Linux box or an Apple computer. It's just a good selfish business practice.

          If you are older than 55, never take a sleeping pill and a laxative at the same time!

          by fredlonsdale on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 07:14:51 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  They should stick to private schools then (0+ / 0-)

          Nobody on here would object if they only limit their grandiose experiments to private schools. But Public schools are a different matter altogether.

      •  which public? (0+ / 0-)

        (a) the public which sends their kids to private schools, because they don't trust to the quality of education in their public schools?


        (b) the public which home schools, either because their dogma is different from that which is taught, or because of my first reason?

        "Good Lord, how can the rich bear to die?" -- Nikos Kazantzakis

        by Shocko from Seattle on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 05:43:25 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  The public that owns the public schools. (15+ / 0-)

          These foundations aren't just donating to private schools.

          They're donating to charter schools, publicly-funded schools which are completely unaccountable to the public by bypassing the authority of the legislative bodies elected by the public to oversee public education.

          They're donating to public schools in order to get them to "innovate" by putting in more anti-teacher policies and more standardized testing.

          In doing so, they're presuming that they know more about education than educators, more about education than experts, simply by virtue of the fact that they're rich and these educators and experts aren't.

          What have you done for DC statehood today? Call your Rep and Senators and demand action.

          by mistersite on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 05:55:09 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  That's paranoia (0+ / 0-)

            They're donating to public schools in order to get them to "innovate" by putting in more anti-teacher policies and more standardized testing.

            Really?  How does breaking a teachers union help Bill Gates?

            If charter schools are so bad, why do most parents what to get their kids into one?

            I think the private working with the public yields the best outcome.  

            There are differences between working in the public and the private sector.  I don't see where becasue they have money they think they know more about education - but they do know what it takes to be sucessful - and we should listen to them.

            The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only legitimate object of good government. - Thomas Jefferson

            by ctexrep on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 06:08:11 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Why should we listen to them? (13+ / 0-)

              What qualifies them to be listened to?

              They have a lot of money. That's really about it. Bill Gates managed to steal a whole bunch of people's ideas and make a whole lot of money from it.

              I don't think "the private working with the public" yields the best outcome for public schools.

              I think the public should always control their schools, and that anything that usurps the power of the public over their own schools - anything that makes schools accountable to anyone other than the public - is contrary to democratic (or Democratic) ideals.

              If private interests want to place themselves and/or their money under the control of the public for the benefit of public education, then they're free to do that. If they think they've got good ideas, let them pronounce them in the public forum and see if they can sell enough of the public on them to produce majorities on school boards for change. But their money should not buy them any more votes than you or I have.

              What have you done for DC statehood today? Call your Rep and Senators and demand action.

              by mistersite on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 06:13:51 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  Just out of curiosity (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              esquimaux, NWTerriD, m00finsan

              When was the last time you taught in a public school?

              I take political action every day. I teach.

              by jbfunk on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 07:01:11 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  not paranoia (7+ / 0-)

              Breaking a teachers union undermines unions and workers in general, which serves the interests of corporate sovereigns like Gates.

              Charter schools are not necessarily bad choices for parents or individual families, but they should not be supported or used to undermine the public school system as a whole.  

              There are different kinds of "success" and saying that wealthy individuals, corporations, and the foundations created by families in order to maintain control of large piles of money for years to come (rather than pay it off in small increments to the public coffers through taxes, thus relinquishing control to the public democracy) "know what it takes to be successful--and we should listen to them" is fine as long as it does not come at the expense of the wisdom and decision-making of the public through the free marketplace of ideas and system of majority rule (with respect for minority rights).

              •  But this is all about education and kids (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                I'm not out to break any union - but what is the motivation here?  I'm reading a whole lot that has nothing to do with educating and everything to do with preservation of employment...

                The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only legitimate object of good government. - Thomas Jefferson

                by ctexrep on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 08:06:38 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  Right. And what does bolstering the corporate (0+ / 0-)

                  perogative have to do with education?    I would flip your point back around and aim your concern at yourself.  I'm not out to break any corporations, but what is their motivation in trying to interject their agenda into the schools?  How does a corporate model which undermines teachers and benefits stockholders and managers/administrators actually benefit students and help them learn?

            •  Point to ponder (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              fumie, not this time

              If charter schools are so bad, why do most parents what to get their kids into one?

              Many reasons probably. But not all of the reasons are to obtain a better education for their kids. I am sure that some want to escape the social problems of their community. Long before Charter schools came into being, inner city parents who could afford it, would send their non-Catholic kids to Parochial schools without subsidies from the public school system. Their primary concern was the safety of their children, not bad teachers or evil Public schools.

              If you are older than 55, never take a sleeping pill and a laxative at the same time!

              by fredlonsdale on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 07:37:13 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  most do NOT want to get kids into charter (7+ / 0-)

                Phi Delta Kappan does annual survey on public attitudes towards school.   And even today a majority thinks highly of the public schools their kids attend.

                "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

                by teacherken on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 07:43:25 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  True: most parents like their public school (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:

                  you are correct: most people regard the public school they send their kids to very highly. In part that is because the American middle class has, more often than not, chosen the public school for their kids by moving to a neighborhood with a public school they approved of. Parents who, for whatever reason, choose to remain in areas (usually cities) where the local public schools are beset by problems are frequently going to make an effort to get their kids into charter schools. At the very least, the demand for charter schools in those areas outstrips the supply because of local dissatisfaction with the public school system.

                  •  again, a misreading of the data (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    miss SPED

                    but I do not have the time to correct all your misstatements.

                    There are areas where there are more interested in charter schools than there are spaces, but in almost all cases including these the percentage of families wanting to move from public schools is a relatively small proportion of all families with kids in public schools.

                    And some of those going to charter schools were never in public schools, but are willing to move into the semi-public environment of charters because it is cheaper than a fully non-public environment.

                    Some of those who want to move to charters get frustrated with the bureaucracies that prevent public schools from making the kinds of innovations that could reach their kids.

                    And FWIW -  the data does not support the conclusion that charters are inherently better.  Since we as yet do not have a clear set of criteria that can be used to determine if a charter will be successful, insisting that we willy-nilly lift the cap is to take risks that might jeopardize the learning of students -  what if the charter fails, or is worse than the public school from which the student comes?

                    Charters are neither inherently good nor inherently bad.

                    "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

                    by teacherken on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 09:03:51 AM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  Try to put yourself in the parents' place (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:

                      Well, middle class parents who found their public school unacceptable generally moved if they could or sought out low cost parochial schools. The result was that you saw basically an evacuation of the cities by families seeking better schools. In many cases, charter schools have similar performance to their peers, all things being equal, but the level of parental satisfaction.  The institutional problems in many urban public school systems are legion and difficult to overcome anytime soon. I don't think charter schools are the solution, but they are a beneficial public amenity for parents seeking alternatives to large unified public school districts, especially when neighborhood schools are not generally available. If you want to support the middle class in cities, charter schools will have a role to play.

                      •  how about sticking to the point (0+ / 0-)

                        instead of changing each time I point out a weakness in what you are arguing

                        you are arguing universals that are in fact NOT supported by the data.

                        And as far as parental satisfaction on charters, it is very much of a mixed picture.  Perhaps you really need to read some of the research on charters before you continue to make the kinds of inaccurate misstatements you have made on this thread.

                        "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

                        by teacherken on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 04:00:35 PM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  Once, again, think like a parent (0+ / 0-)

                          You needn't be so hostile: the point is that parents want to be satisfied, and my understanding is that charter schools do show slightly higher satisfaction rates: obviously this is the nature of charter schools: parents patronize them when the public school system isn't working out for their children. You lack a basic ability to put yourself in those parents' place. I think charters have been a good idea for DC. The previous public solution, telling parents, "Well LEAVE if you don't like it!" didn't do the city or the students a lot of good.

            •  Please, please, please (0+ / 0-)

              educate yourself about this topic. You seem sincere. But you really don't understand what the issues are here and
              what is at stake.

              Make. Them. Filibuster.

              by NWTerriD on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 08:43:16 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

          •  not completely accurate (14+ / 0-)

            charter schools are subject to varying degrees of oversight by public bodies established under the legislation in that state (or in DC) that authorizes the existence of charter schools.  Thus there is in theory SOME public accountability.

            They operate under different rules than do traditional public schools, many of whom have seen what flexibility they had under things like site based management disappear.

            Yes, there are for-profit chains of public schools -  GRreen Dot, Imagine, etc.

            There is a charter school run by a teacher's union

            there are charters run by non-profits to meet specific needs.

            Not all charters are bad.  There are those using charters as a back-door way to devalue public schools.

            And there are venture capital funds that have found tax benefits in using the charter regulations in a way that further undercuts public schools.

            And there are those who are using charters as a wedge to get to vouchers, even though in every case where vouchers have been put to a vote by the public they have been defeated -  but of course voters cannot be trusted to make the right judgment, eh?

            "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

            by teacherken on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 06:29:16 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Thank you. (3+ / 0-)

              The generalizations, they burn, for me.
              Thank you for the summary.

            •  Excellent (4+ / 0-)

              Explanation!  Charter schools always turn into a polarizing topic where peoplel are forced to choose being for or against them.  This helps advocates and hurts detractors.  The reality as you show is that charter schools like public are a mixed bag and that is the one issue charter school adocztes don't want discussed. Once people discover charters aren't a magic bullet for fixing education the question finally arises which is are they worth the effort to  maintain and expand their presence in public education?  

              I take political action every day. I teach.

              by jbfunk on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 07:06:26 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  Fair enough. (0+ / 0-)

              I think that on the balance, though, those who advocate charter schools - and those who provide the money behind even the well-meaning, good-faith people who advocate charter schools - have an agenda to destroy publicly-accountable, critical-citizen-producing public education in this country.

              I think that much, if not most, of the money behind the charter movement isn't philanthropy but investment. The Republicans figured out that nobody gets rich off of public education, and since a venture where nobody can get rich is, to their minds, a pointless venture, they're seeking to inject the profit motive into education.

              While there are some exceptions to that rule - and by and large I can support charters for specific purposes (like STEM), charters run by teachers, or charters devoted to specific educational experiments - I think that on the whole, the charter movement's purpose is to break public education. And even with the exceptions, I have to oppose the movement as a whole because of that.

              What have you done for DC statehood today? Call your Rep and Senators and demand action.

              by mistersite on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 08:59:00 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

    •  Some say (6+ / 0-)

      Like equal to others with less money and therein lies the problem.  People like Gates get far more influence over policy due to their wealth and it is rotting our society.

      I take political action every day. I teach.

      by jbfunk on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 06:48:46 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Cheney's Halliburton (6+ / 0-)

      Just private people trying to advance... (war?).  It's their money so they should have some say.

      They think they should have all the say. Ask the Banksters.
      Invade Iraq, divey up the oil revenue. Just good 'ol boyz having fun down on the farm.

      Never ever think $$ is being spent as the recipient sees fit.  

      •  And don't (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        worry about a few soldiers getting electrcuted in showers.  The profits are good.  

        •  War profiteering (0+ / 0-)

          is run like a ponzi scheme. The contractor sub contracts, who in turns sub contracts the sub contract who twice more removed has someone wire the showers who the week before was in charge of picking up camel dung. Throw those ubiquitous LLC after their names and wallah, no accountability, just 20 dead soldiers.

          This was brought to you by the Government of The U S of A profit run re-organization previously doing business as We The People.  

    •  Right, and "their say" should trump (0+ / 0-)

      others with lesser means. Including those who've spent their lives studying and practicing education. A rich guy with an untested idea influencing what is available  to all of our kids.

      Republicans: Their only tool is a hammer, and every problem is a thumb.

      by Sue Hagmeier on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 10:05:58 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  It certainly is of concern (30+ / 0-)

    I just finished Diane Ravitch's new book and the chapter about the unprecedented level of influence of foundations--such as those run by Gates and Broad--in current current education policy is troublesome. The Center for American Progress' relentless push for neoliberal education policies is much easier to understand once you realize it is funded by the Gates Foundation.

    His wife's employment is of less concern but at the very least, he should disclose his foundation funding since the Gates and Broad foundations are advocacy organizations.

    "Never separate the life you live from the words you speak" -Paul Wellstone

    by WellstoneDem on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 03:50:50 AM PDT

    •  he does disclose (6+ / 0-)

      although the list on his website is not up to date.  The email promoting last night's program on Paul Vallas had a full list

      but the casual viewer of one his pieces might not know

      I think there is some relevance to his wife's employment insofar as this -  it might be nice if at some point he did piece comparing what those able to attend those schools -  either because their parents are well-to-do or because they receive financial aid - experience versus what students in the schools in trouble in inner cities and some rural areas deal with.

      Look, I'm not hostile to John.  But that email caused me to do some thinking, and I thought it worthwhile to at least raise the question.

      "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

      by teacherken on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 05:09:13 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  All (0+ / 0-)

        We'd really need is a survey of the income of the families of students who attend.

        I take political action every day. I teach.

        by jbfunk on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 07:07:42 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  not really (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Daddy Bartholomew, miss SPED

          the issue is not the income level of the families - yes there are scholarships.  The one year I taught in a Quaker secondary school in NJ we gave some scholarships to kids from inner city Camden.

          But those schools operate in a very different fashion than do public schools.  For one thing, they are not subject to the state mandates on testing.  They are not required to take hard to educate kids like SPED and ELL and handicapped of various kinds.

          I have nothing against private schools, except to say I do not think they should be funded in any fashion with tax dollars and that one chooses to send one's child to a non-public school should not free one of the tax obligations for the public good provided by public schools.

          "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

          by teacherken on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 07:46:49 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  The PBS NewsHour's Education Expert (23+ / 0-)

    Needs to come with a disclaimer explaining who is funding their work.  And he owes it to viewers to talk about alternatives other than the ones that he is pushing.

    It concerns me that the conversation about public schools has been so easily hijacked over the past generation.  And no one has been real about per pupil cost, just "On noes, we can't afford that; we can't raise taxes."  And a complete failure to describe how economic development incentives to business have completely undercut the ability to fund public schools.  And then in California, there's Prop 13, which has gutted once the premier public school system in the US.

    And it concerns me that the lost generation we have seen since the 1960s is going to be compounded each generation until public education gets a higher priority.

    50 states, 210 media market, 435 Congressional Districts, 3080 counties, 192,480 precincts

    by TarheelDem on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 04:01:51 AM PDT

  •  Attack on teachers part of right wing strategy (37+ / 0-)

    The attack on the middle class continues full force.

    Public schools are an essential part of the social fabric to educate the citizens and to provide opportunities to live a good life.

    The technical term "projection" is used in psychology when someone actually holds the position which is opposite of what he says and he projects his view on you. The right wing projects about the elite but in fact they are supporting the elite. They are in fact what they say they are against.

    When someone is projecting on you, you cannot reason with them.

    Also, the attack on teachers is part of the goal to destroy unions.

    •  This is being done by Democrats (29+ / 0-)

      I fully agree with what you are saying, but I just want to emphasize that at this very moment the Democrats control the White House, the Senate and the House.

      Education, like many other things, is being undermined by Democrats.

      The man in the White House who is, more than anyone else, responsible for propelling this undermining of teachers, unions, and education, is supposed to be a Democrat.

      And they come and stand on stages at Netroots Nation and say "support us" and "this is going to take time" but what, exactly, is going to take time?  Privatizing education?  Replacing superintendents with CEOs? Refusing to use any stimulus "Race to the Top" money to allow teachers to keep their jobs after bankrupted states, cities, towns eliminate their jobs?  In fact, threatening to veto any attempt by Congress to get any of that Dept of Education "Race to the Top" money to save teaching jobs?

      (And yeah, there's another Orwellian name for you: "Race to the Top")

      •  they don't want us un-educated (20+ / 0-)

        because then we are not useful cogs in their machine; we can't make change at WalMart

        they want us re-educated, so as to believe that BEING a cog is our highest calling, that shopping/consuming is our natural need, to be fed at all costs, and that their view of the political future -- and the word oligarchy's all over the site this morning -- comes to have more or less uniform agreement

        unfortunately, so long as reading is taught, and books are available, and the world wide tower of babel is working, that last bit will be difficult to sustain

        which is why teaching to the test is important, and challenging authority is not

        but my paranoia is showing

        "Good Lord, how can the rich bear to die?" -- Nikos Kazantzakis

        by Shocko from Seattle on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 04:36:34 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Agree with much of this (11+ / 0-)

          it struck me, while we had a kid in the (test heavy) public system that the goal there really was to turn kids into cogs, into Dilberts, and not only not to encourage creative thinking and question asking but to actively stifle it.

          We had our younger kid in our local school and ran into this kind of rigid, inside the small box thinking, and he was miserable (as were we;) meanwhile our daughter was in a private school with small classes and active, participatory learning with encouragement of questions and creative problem solving.

          Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean there's not someone out to get you.

          The flexibility has been removed from the system; the more disadvantaged, the more rigid it gets. Then you add in charter schools which draw off parents who have the time/energy/commitment to their kids' education from the neighborhood schools and it compounds the problem.

          Diversity may be the hardest thing for a society to live with, and perhaps the most dangerous thing for a society to be without - W S Coffin

          by stitchmd on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 04:51:54 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Another large pot of money to be raided (17+ / 0-)

          I really think it's more about greed.  As it happened with pensions and Wall St., there are those who see public education as a giant pot of money to be raided, and they're going for it.

          Along the way they'll exploit the genuine motivations of people who want to improve education.  You got a big problem?  Well have I got a solution for you!  Except they don't.  Problems with education are tied to economic situations more than anything else, IMHO, and as the middle class continues to decline, as stress levels increase, as both parents have to work in more and more families, and as the real income of families continues to decline, the damage will show up in many areas, including education.

          So while there is all this talk about fixing public education -- it's really all about the money.  It's almost always about the money.

        •  Shocko, the churches are doing that already! (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          banjolele, m00finsan

          Watch any TV preacher or walk into any church that adheres to the "Prosperity Gospel" and you'll see the pulpit pimp pushing that exact BS that "God blessed the rich and you must do as they command". Sadly, the brainwashed masses walk out every Sunday and get more brainwashed in believing that they'll get pie in the sky when they die as long as they do what their Corporate Masters want.

      •  there is a real problem (10+ / 0-)

        there is a group called Democrats for Education Reform.  And some of those most active in what is called "reform" are Democrats -  Roy Romer, former governor of Colorado, Jon Schnur who founded New Leaders for New Schools and was previously in Clinton White House,  Floyd Flake, Al Sharpton.  Heck, Paul Vallas ran in the primary for IL Governor against Rod Blagojovich.  

        Cory Booker, who is (a) a close friend of Rachel Maddow, and (b) considered one of the rising stars among the younger generation of African-American political leaders, is on the board of DFER.  Andy Rotherham was in the Clinton White House, and was appointed to the Virginia State Board of Education I believe by Mark Warner.

        "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

        by teacherken on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 05:13:21 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  The Obama admimistration (7+ / 0-)

        Has helped where I teach. Money not only saved jobs, but it helped to keep our arts program intact.

        I have been teaching for 40 years, and one aspect of how well the school does is the administrators and ultimately the parents. An administration who allows teachers to innovate, try programs, etc., seem to have more success in their schools.

        But if parents in an area do not appreciate teachers, are involved too much, not enough, can be a huge problem. At times the only time citizens hear about schools and teachers is when test scores are published in newspapers or when new teacher contracts are being mediated.

        Teachers are also their worst enemies. They are so apolitical it disturbs me.

        They don't realize, in my town, how those who began teaching in the 60's and early 70's  forged a path for others. We stood up to school boards, walked with signs on weekends, attended board meetings to speak. We won binding arbitration, leave for pregnancy, and much more.

        Some of us last year presented a plan to include in Race to the Top, but were ignored. Yet there have been department within schools that have innovated on their own and have seen huge successes.

        The big problem with education is that teaching is not viewed in a lot of communities as an important job. Tax payees do not want to pay for education. Why? They are no immediate results to see- no tangible product.

        Find cities and towns who have explained why education is important-and the story is different. They expect a great deal from their teachers, but they support their staff with what is necessary. These towns are inundated with applications.

        Any administration is going to have trouble- measuring education is a crap shoot. How does anyone find the one perfect way to mold education in a country with many states all with different problems?

        •  My town (7+ / 0-)

          is one of those that strongly supports teachers and invests in them.  People move here to go to our schools.  Teachers want to teach here.  So I do understand what it takes to support good teachers and good schools.  I have three kids in the school system right now and have a good amount of contact with their teachers.  I've had at least one child in the school system for the last 11 years.

          Are you aware that the Dept of Ed is sitting on a lot of stimulus money, and that the House is trying to appropriate some of that money to save teaching jobs that have been cut?  The President threatened to veto the bill if it's passed.

          We just went through the first of many planned funding cuts to our schools by a new ruthless Republican governor (aided by feckless Democratic state legislature and others) who is hellbent on privatizing public education and busting unions.  We've lost a number of teachers, all of the funding for the clubs in the high school and several sports programs.  And our schools already had green money saving programs and a number of other measures crafted to conserve funds.  

        •  not all the administration has done is bad (6+ / 0-)

          through the stimulus there was money that enabled localities to preserve the jobs of teachers, police, firefighters, etc.

          Only that money ran out.

          And as of now the $10 billion to keep more teachers from being laid off is not going through.  The WH threatened a veto because Obey wanted to pay part of the cost of that money by taking money from elsewhere in the administration's educational budget, including from RttT.

          "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

          by teacherken on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 06:43:42 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  How can it be (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            a race to the TOP when a lot of the middle is getting cut out?

            How can it be a race to the TOP when many are sacrificed for a few?

            President Obama needs to sit down and talk to teachers.  It is already too late in my school.  We lost teachers for next year and the schedule has been set.  These things have to be done months ahead of time.  

            •  the administration pushes hard (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              you saw the threat of the veto on what Obey did in the House.

              Now there is a statement by 7 civil rights organizations which basically is a vote of no confidence in the administration's education plans.  The largest Hispanic group, La Raza, did not sign on because of a disagreement in the wording about charters, but the head of that organization made clear that he supported the rest of the statement.

              Today word is floating around educational circles to which I have connection that the administration is leaning hard on the Urban League to try to get it to rescind its support of the statement in question, and there is some evidence around DC of such an effort as well.

              Duncan has also weighed in on the side of mayoral control in Detroit, even though (a) Detroit had it before and it didn't work, and (b) the track record of cities with schools under mayoral control, including during Duncan's tenure in Chicago, is not supportive of the idea that mayoral control makes a positive difference.

              "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

              by teacherken on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 04:04:26 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

        •  My question (6+ / 0-)

          For Obama is why are you sitting on $3.7 billion in education money when publilc schools and teachers are facing the worst climate since the great depression.  Teachers are being laid off, programs are being discarded and libraries are bing shut down as budgets are slashed, but all Obama and duncan seem to care about is there reform program.  This makes me sick.    

          I take political action every day. I teach.

          by jbfunk on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 07:15:05 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  On most issues, (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        I can either support or accept Obama's appointments and compromises he has to make. There are two places that are exceptions.  Arne Duncan is a terrible choice, especially since he has never taught a day in his life.  The other is Elizabeth Warren.  It is so blatantly obvious that she needs to head the consumer protection agency that any other choice will severely impact my support.

    •  What is the role of the teacher in the community? (0+ / 0-)

      Also, the attack on teachers is part of the goal to destroy unions.

      Well, part of the problem is that some teachers view their role as being part of the defenders of the civil service rather than representatives of the intellectual community. Generally, I would have expected more teachers to have sympathy or common cause with parents who want to move to towns with better public schools, seek out charter schools, or support programs that nurture good students and try to advocate to ensure that these parents' needs can be addressed by the local public schools. Many voices instead regard these parents with suspicion or believe they are being unfair to everyone else.

      •  Here is the face of the Evil Teacher's Union (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        miss SPED

        Lily Eskelsen is a former teacher of the year in Utah, and the VP of the NEA:

        Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

        by elfling on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 01:04:22 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  and the probable next president of NEA (0+ / 0-)

          and a very articulate advocate of teachers.  I was invited to moderate a session with her at NN10, but I explained to the people at NEA that I was not going to be in Vegas because of my commitment to volunteering at the Wise health fair.

          Lily is an example of the positive effect of good teachers getting actively involved in the unions.

          "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

          by teacherken on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 04:06:17 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Why is it in your world (11+ / 0-)

    That anyone open to new ideas in education must be opposed to traditional public education and an enemy of education?

    Is it possible that, as you post on this popular website as an ardent supporter of teachers unions, your posts aren't wholly objective? Does that concern anyone?

    •  Yeah, I think it's a good thing (12+ / 0-)

      Teachers' unions are a good thing in my mind. This is an entirely underpaid and under-appreciated portion of the work force.

      They NEED a union. Especially when compensation and requirements often evolve from politicians.

      •  Agreed. I think that part of the problem is that (17+ / 0-)

        what we hear from many corners is about how public education is failing. Not all public schools are failing; some are doing quite well. We need to talk about what we do for those schools that are in trouble, especially those that are in the inner city.

        I don't think that programs like Teach for America are the answer. My middle son applied to Teach for America. He has a masters in writing, and an undergraduate degree in psychology and film, with lots of college English courses. He wanted to teach middle school English. He was accepted to the program, but he was offered a position in special education, even though he had NO training in the field. He turned the job down because he did not think that it would be fair to the students.

        •  That reflects my criticism of the program (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          blue jersey mom

          Not that their efforts were unappreciated. But when they participated in my kids' schools they did things like make alphabet books....posing the kids with props to match a letter and taking their picture for a cardboard book they gave to the kids. They also singled out kids with focus issues (which can only be helpful), but I felt like these young people needed some supervision and guidance rather than rout programs inflicted on them. Could be a very useful program.....maybe it's just because it's in its infancy.

        •  Actually, American education is GREAT (13+ / 0-)

          . . . as long as you're not poor.

          On teacherken's recommendation, I read that book Education Hell: Rhetoric vs. Reality by Gerald Bracey, and guess what I learned? American students not living in poverty perform as well as or better than students living almost anywhere in the industrialized world. It's only when you average in the children of the poor that America's public schools seem to struggle, because their performance is on par with the Third World.

          The conventional wisdom would like to blame this on incompetent teachers and the laziness (or, in particularly shameless circles, the intellectual inferiority) of ethnic minorities (whom they would like us to think are synonymous with the poor, even though a plurality of Americans living in poverty are white).

          I would like the conventional wisdom to read Savage Inequalities and tell me how one is supposed to do well at a job that's twice as hard with one-fourth the funding.

          "The great lie of democracy, its essential paradox, is that democracy is first to be sacrificed when its security is at risk." --Ian McDonald

          by Geenius at Wrok on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 05:18:04 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  be careful about addressing spending (6+ / 0-)

            DC spends a lot more per student than some of the surrounding suburban counties. But a chunk of that is for security, and DC has very high expenses for Special Ed because for years they lacked the ability to meet the needs of many SPED students and thus had to pay for placements in private settings.

            One has to look at things beyond simply taking the entire budget and dividing by the number of students to get a number of spending per student in order to compare.  It is often quite complicated to parse out where the money goes, and why.

            "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

            by teacherken on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 05:20:59 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I don't think of it in terms of $/student (12+ / 0-)

              I think of it in terms of what I see when I walk into the school buildings.

              I did most of my M.Ed. observations in the Chicago Public Schools. But I did a lot of substitute teaching on the wealthy North Shore.

              Poor Urban School can only give its middle schoolers one day of gym a week -- two if they're lucky -- because it's a K–8 school with only one old gym. Rich Suburban School has three modern gyms, a pool, and its own Zamboni -- every winter it floods the baseball field and planes the ice so that the kids can have figure skating and hockey units in gym.

              Poor Urban School doesn't have doors on the bathroom stalls or toilet paper in them. The teachers have to supply the toilet paper and send the kids in three at a time.

              Rich Suburban School has a huge library with two computer rooms and three libraries. Poor Urban School has a dinky library and no librarian.

              Rich Suburban School has a social worker, a psychologist, a guidance counselor and two nurses. Poor Urban School has only one part-time social worker and one part-time nurse, even though the kids are unhealthier and struggling with more problems in their daily lives.

              Rich Suburban School offers students a choice of drawing, painting, ceramics, photography, drama, musical theater, vocal music, instrumental music, orchestra and band every day. Poor Urban School is probably going to have to cut its one-day-a-week art and music teachers this year, if it hasn't already, and it hasn't had drama in years.

              Poor Urban School didn't get its textbook order until October.

              Rich Suburban School has classes capped at 25 students. Poor Urban School packs 36 in rooms designed for 20.

              This one has nothing to do with funding, but it's the one that never ceases to blow my mind: Students at Poor Urban School aren't allowed to bring their backpacks into the classroom, because they might contain weapons. Students at Rich Suburban School aren't allowed to bring their backpacks into the classroom, because they're so huge and bulky and they get in the way; the students leave them in the hallways, hanging open from pegs on the outside of their lockers.

              You can't look at these two entirely different environments and reasonably expect them to produce the same results, can you?

              "The great lie of democracy, its essential paradox, is that democracy is first to be sacrificed when its security is at risk." --Ian McDonald

              by Geenius at Wrok on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 05:39:31 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  don't forget corruption (0+ / 0-)

              The DC system is rife with it, as are the systems in most big cities.

              •  most big cities NOT like DC (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                miss SPED

                and you paint with far too broad a brush in this comment

                "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

                by teacherken on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 06:44:22 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  The point was - it ain't how much you spend (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:

                  In any case, my point was to reaffirm yours - that Montgomery County has exceptional schools and D.C. proper has lousy schools is not attributable to spending. Rather, it's attributable to the socio-economic situation, and to institutional/structural factors. Montgomery county is among the wealthiest in the entire US, home to an exceptionally highly educated population of government and technology sector workers. D.C. is a particularly dysfunctional urban government, for a load of institutional reasons, most of them not under its control, and has lousy educational results, although spending quite a lot of money. Security and Special Ed alone do not account for where that money goes, and, although certainly an accumulation of issues along these lines is part of the explanation, there are monies which are hard to account for.

                  Similar problems occur in other large urban districts in which there is the conjunction of a lot of poverty and municipal incompetence and corruption (in the US no one likes to admit the high levels of municipal incompetence and corruption we suffer) - I'm thinking of Atlanta in particular - where the city government has hardly been clean in recent decades - but neither D.C. nor Atlanta is isolated (these are two of ten largest metro areas in the US) - there are loads of other examples - e.g. Baltimore, Prince George's County, Detroit, Houston, Dekalb Country (Atlanta), Nashville, Memphis, Miami, etc...

                  One more comment - it seems to me that low performing states in general have in common that in those states teachers' unions are weak (!). Whether this is causal, or simply reflects that a lot of those states are in the South, I don't know.

                  •  I think I'm better position wrt Prince George's (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    miss SPED

                    since I have been teaching here since 1995, with one year in the early part in Arlington VA where I live.

                    There has been some corruption in the past, especially in the case of one superintendent.  What is interested is that he was hired by the non-elected board imposed by the state after a major conflict between the previous elected board and the superintendent at that time.  Of the latter situation, I was glad to be rid of both, but the replacement super was far worse.

                    There are in fact many good things going on in PG.  The district is strongly handicapped because of an initiative which makes it almost impossible to raise taxes without a referendum, and further handicapped because of the state not fulfilling its commitments to fund certain things -  yes the state has a crisis, but the school system made plans on a number of things presuming that money would be in place.

                    We have very few very wealthy families in our district.  We have a fair number of middle class.  Some schools are in areas with higher rates of poverty.

                    For all our problems, the local political structure is strongly supportive of public schools.  Many local businesses and community organizations are supportive.  And we have our share of very good schools -  full disclosure, I teach at the flagship high school which has a national reputation.  

                    "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

                    by teacherken on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 07:52:55 AM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

          •  I would warn those who read (7+ / 0-)

            Savage Inequalities to have a box of tissues and a package of antacids, because if you have a heart, it will make you mad and make you cry.

      •  In a world in which the only reform ideas are (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        theran, joanneleon, lilypew, xylon

        coming from the charter school advocates, is it any surprise that their ideas will dominate the field? (no, spending more money is not a reform idea)

        •  Ideas from teachers (16+ / 0-)

          How would we even know if there are reform ideas coming from other places?  My understanding is that this whole movement to privatize is mostly coming from people who have no teaching experience and who don't consult with teachers for reform ideas either.

        •  Addendum: (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          ManhattanMan, joanneleon, angstall
          I could totally see it being the case that I'm falling prey to sexy-reform bias, wherein one only notices the transformative ideas and misses the more modest ideas which may be more effective (I'd put the GOP war on terra in this class, for example; rather than just better policing, people latched onto the Big Idea because it was sexier).

          I'll keep my eyes peeled for modest suggestions.  Anyone wanna point me in the right direction?  Should I start with Ravetch?

          •  'Sexy reform bias' - love that! (9+ / 0-)

            I have not yet read Ravitch but I plan on doing so. I am studying to be a teacher and I have three children so I like to think I have a lot of experience with schools :) As some here have said, the one component you don't see in much of the reform talk is input from actual teachers who have been in classrooms.

            In my view, the 'test state' that has been created in public education is one of the most harmful things to ever happen to the system. It stifles creativity and puts enormous undue pressure on both kids and teachers to learn a narrow, pre-defined and often dumbed-down set of tasks just to pass a test and make sure they get their slice of funding.

            The oddest thing is that private schools are not required to take these standardized tests and are free to teach children how to think, not just how to take a test. And is there an uproar in this country that those poor kids in private schools are being denied an appropriate education because they're not required to take the standardized tests? Hell no! Then why is it so necessary in public schools?

            •  It's about the Benjamins, what else? (8+ / 0-)

              And is there an uproar in this country that those poor kids in private schools are being denied an appropriate education because they're not required to take the standardized tests? Hell no! Then why is it so necessary in public schools?

              Many of the "reformers" who are pushing this test-based, "data-driven" approach to education are the testing services who sell their programs to school districts for big bucks. Public school systems are nothing more than a cash cow for them. And it's OUR money they're getting.

              "Lash those traitors and conservatives with the pen of gall and wormwood. Let them feel -- no temporising!" - Andrew Jackson to Francis Preston Blair, 1835

              by Ivan on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 06:33:49 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  I have read (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                that the Bushes are good friends with the Pearsons of the testing corporation.  Does anyone have a statistic of the profits of these companies in standardized testing?

                •  don't know about Pearson, but consider (0+ / 0-)

                  the friendship with the McGraws goes back several generations, since old man McGraw had a home on Jupiter Island FL adjacent to or very near that of Prescott Bush.

                  Harcourt Educational Measurement is based in San Antonio.

                  Barbara Bush's contributions to relief for Katrina victims was in the form of the educational package her son Neil was peddling

                  Sandy Kress, who helped write NCLB from within the WH, has a client list as a lawyer of a lot of for profit educational ventures

                  "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

                  by teacherken on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 04:09:01 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

          •  There are good ideas... (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Sparhawk, burrow owl, m00finsan

            ...put out by the Teachers.

            They all involve hiring more teachers and paying those teachers more.

            The scary thing is that this will work. If we double the number of teachers in the US, it would cut class size by half. Every sensible study says this will improve education.

            The trouble is, that requires hiring 6 million teachers. At $100k/year each (remember we must raise salaries to get more people) that is $600 billion. It is like doing a bank bailout every year, forever.

            We need to find cheaper methods. Yeah, we could raise taxes, end the wars, cut corporate welfare, etc. We need to do that stuff anyway. But from a Practical Political standpoint, we need to find a way to win other than just laying out more cash.

          •  Ravitch. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            If you start with her, you'll need to find her by spelling her name correctly.

          •  there are several books worth reading (7+ / 0-)

            Yes, read Ravitch's latest book.  There is a reason it has gotten the huge response that it has.

            Read Barbara Veltri's Learning on Other People's Kids to get a more complete picture of what Teach for America represents.

            Get a copy of Gene Glass's Fertilizers, Pills and Magnetic Strips, which will also open your eyes about much involving education.

            Look, charters are not by themselves a problem.  There are good charter schools, there are those that serve particular groups of students.  Just being a charter guarantees nothing, and charters are too often used to bust unions, to make profits, and can too often exclude the harder to educate.  Even so, on the whole they do NOT perform better than the public schools from which they draw.

            "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

            by teacherken on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 05:24:58 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I think charters are by themselves a problem (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              JuliaAnn, Silverbird, m00finsan

              in that they undermine the expectation that the neighborhood school will be good enough to serve everybody.

              "The great lie of democracy, its essential paradox, is that democracy is first to be sacrificed when its security is at risk." --Ian McDonald

              by Geenius at Wrok on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 05:42:46 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  Charters differ. (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              In my school district, secondary charters offer an alternative, self paced education - they are designed to meet the needs of students who lack just a few credits to graduate.  Often classes are computer based, and students attend only half a day.
              They are typically a referral from public schools, for students who couldn't handle Plato (computer correspondence credit), non-traditional high school (night school), or alternative school (the step before the juvenile justice system.)

              Our charter schools exist for kids who can't make it in public high school - it's not a discretionary parental choice.  

              Charters aren't all the same and they aren't all a problem.

          •  Ravitch will give you a solid grouding (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            miss SPED, Olon

            others might be Darling-Hammond's The Flat World and Education,  Bracey's Education Hell just to offer a couple of other useful books without going too deep into the weeds.

            "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

            by teacherken on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 06:49:16 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  sorry, but those are NOT the only ideas (9+ / 0-)

          in Chicago, we had several panels on reforming education in which radical rethinking of the structuring of our schools and how we assess and manage were offered.

          The problem is, the people offering such ideas do not have the same access to the op ed pages or coverage by those on education beats for major papers or broadcast outlets  (although Valerie Strauss of the Washington Post is beginning to offer some balance).  Nor do they have the likes of the big foundations funding their efforts.

          There are numerous groups of those involved with education trying to offer different ideas, groups such as the Forum for Education and Democracy, the Broader Bolder approach, the Coalition of Essential Schools, Teachers Letters to Obama, etc.  If you don't recognize these names, despite the fact that some involve some of the really major names in education, such as Linda Darling-Hammond, Deborah Meier, and the like, you begin to see how tilted the playing field is in favor of those who have appropriated to themselves the label of "reform"

          "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

          by teacherken on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 06:48:06 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  Hyperbole (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      esquimaux, NWTerriD, miss SPED, m00finsan

      If asked to defend this statement, I don't think you could.  Teacherken has written about many new ideas and new proposals for education and is certainly not opposed to all of them.

      If your comment was specific enough to mean anything, perhaps there could be a real conversation about it.

      •  Try looking at it this way. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Sparhawk, theran

        It is very reasonable to believe that because John Merrow makes his money from certain foundations, that they influence his thinking.

        But we must also accept that those who are Public School Teachers, and members of Teacher's Unions have a similar bias -- and a similar personal stake in the status quo.

        This is part of the reasoning behind "School Choice". Parents my not be:

        1. As experienced as Teachers nor,
        1. As ruthless as Textbook Publishers nor
        1. As "visionary" as some Foundations and Philanthropists...

        ...But we are 100% certain that their interests are aligned with their kids. The kids -- not some Union, Corporation, Foundation, Political Party, or Government. Put the choice in the hands of those who we can trust to at least try not to screw the kids.

        •  Well, that's a much better statement (7+ / 0-)

          than your original one attacking the author based on nothing at all...

          Which leads me to this comment

          Caring is nice.  It's nice to have people who care about kid's education....but that doesn't necessarily lead to informed choices.  One thing that strikes me in the ongoing arguments about how to improve education is that many of the people who don't know a lot about education, but who care take emotional stances on the issues.

          I get tired of watching us flail around emotionally on this and other topics.  It's something I deal with daily in my work.  The fact that something is important, or that someone cares strongly about a problem has nothing at all to do with the root causes and eventual solutions of the problem.  It does not change the solution to the problem.

          But we are 100% certain that their interests are aligned with their kids. The kids  -- not some Union, Corporation, Foundation, Political Party, or Government. Put the choice in the hands of those who we can trust to at least try not to screw the kids.

          You begin with the assumption that everyone except the parents are trying to "screw the kids".  That's a mistake.

          (You also make the mistake that all parents care about their kids' education to the extent that they'd be willing to do anything about it.  Another mistake)

          You end with the assumption that it's better to let a well-meaning group of amateurs handle the problem, than a group of professionals, because you mistrust their motives.  This is also a mistake.

          There is a clear way forward, and that is to take the best advice from the people who know what they're doing, tempered with the opinion of parents who care enough to be involved for ALL the kids, not just their own, and to reach consensus on how to improve things.  This is an impossible task if all the parents, like you, begin with the assumption that everyone else is out to screw the kids.

          •  As one who goes to work when it's dark (5+ / 0-)

            and comes home from school when it's dark, I (one humble teacher) salute you.

            I do not understand where the idea comes from that teachers are out to screw the kids or their parents.

            •  Re (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              Teachers have incentives that don't align with the student incentives all the time, and sometimes can be diametrically opposed to taxpayer incentives.

              For example, I think a good case can be made that we could replace a foreign language teacher with a computer, a copy of Rosetta Stone, and half a foreign language teacher. Let's stipulate that some study or other suggests that this option provides an outcome that is at least as good as a full foreign-language teacher, but is much cheaper.

              This method is better for the students and more cost effective for the taxpayers, but what do you think the the teachers' union response is going to be to this approach? What are the 50% of foreign language teachers that are going to be laid off going to think of this? Their incentives don't align!

              (-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 Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 09:37:33 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  I'll disagree with you completely (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                not this time, StateofEuphoria

                Not because I'm a foreign language teacher, but because I think there's value to having someone in the classroom to help.

                What your example COULD do would be to allow schools to teach MORE languages - perhaps instead of offering only Spanish, the school might be able to offer German or Mandarin to some motivated kids. But, the idea that you'd go from a class of 30 kids working directly with a teacher to 60 kids with a teacher and 60 computers, is I think, not going to be an equivalent educational experience.

                In particular, with language, a huge part is the oral feedback where the student speaks, and the time when the students speak with the teacher and each other. Computers don't handle that as well as humans, and even if they do, the infrastructure required to have 60 soundproof carels is not to be underestimated.

                Our teachers are doing something cool with computers: having the kids chat on foreign language bulletin boards with native speakers. Huge and valuable use of computers. Doesn't replace the teacher, though.

                Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

                by elfling on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 01:11:07 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

              •  And as far as incentives not aligning (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                Even if I did agree with your example as a cost-saving measure, which I don't, the union as a whole is still not necessarily going to find this against their interests. If the money is saved, it can be used in other areas - to bring back art - to add half a math instructor - to build a great chemistry lab - all kinds of other things the teachers would like to spend money on, both infrastructure and people.

                Or it could simply be used to pay the spiraling cost of health insurance.

                Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

                by elfling on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 01:20:56 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

          •  A Teacher's Union... (0+ / 0-)

            ...has a legal, fiduciary duty to represent the economic interests of its members. Not the community, the country, the kids, God, rainbows, or Care Bears.

            Saying that a Teacher's Union cares about kids is like saying that the Mineworker's Union cares about mountains. That doesn't mean that these unions are not full of good and caring people! BP Corporation is probably full of caring people also, but when sitting across from them at the negotiating table, I understand the rules they are legally bound to follow.

            I don't think that parents should have total control over everything, but they need more control, and more options than they have now. The biggest objection to Choice seems to be that parents might exercise it! That is not policy, that is a hostage situation. ("Put down the third-grader and step away from the chalkboard please. Nobody needs to get hurt...")

            There has got to be a better way.

    •  critical thinking is not objectivity (6+ / 0-)

      I'm not sure what objectivity is, but I come here daily to learn from others' critical intelligence.

      and if you aren't aware that  teacherken  brings "new ideas in education" to us constantly, you're not paying attention.

      Please move your chair back into the circle.

      Eyes on learning.

      It's not a fake orgasm; it's a real yawn.

      by sayitaintso on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 05:00:19 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  you obviously have not read much of my stuff (16+ / 0-)

      I want major reform of public education.  I am not opposed to all charters.  

      I am opposed to privatization.

      I am opposed to the rhetoric that blames all on teachers and teachers unions.

      Are there bad locals of the teachers' unions?  Yep.  There are also those that have tried to improve the learning situation for students.   The unions exist in part to prevent teachers from being abused, to ensure basic due process rights.  And because most individual teachers have no real ability to negotiate either conditions of work or compensation (including benefits).  Those are reasons not dissimilar from why other workers are unionized.

      I strongly suggest that before you imply that I am biased in the way you did that you perhaps inquire, even perhaps doing some reading - I have posted several hundred diaries here on education.  I have been paid to write (largely online) about education by the New York Times, The Washington Post, Teacher Magazine, and the Learning First Alliance.  I maintain friendly relations with people with whom I strongly disagree on some aspects of how to approach educational policy.  I maintain their respect because they know how dedicated I am to the wellbeing not only of my students, but of all students.

      "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

      by teacherken on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 05:18:28 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Most of what is "wrong" with Public School ... (11+ / 0-)

      Isn't the "teacher union." Just for the record, over 40% of all Public School teachers work in states that do not allow collective bargaining of Public Employees. So if the reformers really wanted to show the "powerful teachers unions" that they have better ideas, it seems to me they would put them in place in the non-union states first and let the results speak for themselves.

      But they know it isn't as simple as that. The two best predictors of student achievement are (1) household income and (2) education attainment of parent(s). "Reforming the schools" is a dodge to avoid some really difficult issues and realities.

      "Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will." -- Frederick Douglass

      by Egalitare on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 05:22:22 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  and let me add to what you wrote (15+ / 0-)

        the highest performing states are heavily unionized.  Most of the worst performing states do not allow collective bargaining for teachers.  Thus places like CT and MS have very high test scores if you want to use that as the basis for comparison, while MS and AL do not.

        In the case of some of the Southern states, the problem is still part of the legacy of the resistance to Brown v Board, even after more than half a century.  That is something worth considering, the racial aspects of some of what is wrong with public education.

        There is a further problem, that most of those involved in making federal education policy and many of those involved with making state education policy are apparently ignorant of the needs of rural schools and students, and rural schools still teach about 1/5 of our students nationally.  

        "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

        by teacherken on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 05:29:09 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  There are also real differences in the (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          eru, miss SPED, StateofEuphoria

          curricula between the high performing states and states like MS and AL. I took a look at the curriculum that was offered at the high school in Georgia that had a segregated prom a year or two ago. The high school had no AP or IB program, and it only offered two years of Spanish. In my neck of the woods. Trenton High School, which is considered a special needs district in our state, offers AP French and Spanish as well as a host of other AP courses. We need to offer all our students a challenging and appropriate curriculum. Half the high schools in this country have no AP program at all.

        •  Is that taking into account the demographics? (0+ / 0-)

          When you are comparing between CT & MA on the one hand, and AL and MS on the other- the first thing that comes to mind is that the demographics of the public schools are very different. Are you matching the demographics when you say the former is higher performing than the latter?

          •  NJ usually comes up third in most of those (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            miss SPED, Egalitare

            surveys, and we have a pretty diverse demographic profile.

            There are state-by-state differences in program that reflect, in part, real differences in state graduation requirements. My niece went to high school in both AL and NC. Her family is relatively affluent, and she want to school in AL in what was an upper middle class district. The HS program that was offered was inadequate. The only world language offered was Spanish, and the was no opportunity to begin Algebra 1 before the 9th grade. When she moved to NC, she experienced a bit of a rude awakening.

          •  I think the reality is some of each (0+ / 0-)

            which is to say, I think that the fact that the demographics are different is in part because people of those more successful demographics seek out places with better public schools.

            Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

            by elfling on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 01:24:31 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  pattern is pretty consistent (0+ / 0-)

            that unionized states perform higher.  In general, they devote more resources to education than do right to work states.  And the people in those states tend to have higher wages because the non-educational workforce is more heavily unionized.  

            Does that mean unions are the cause of the higher scores?  Not necessarily.  Diane Ravitch, who is a strong supporter of unions, points out that the correlation does not necessarily show causation, but also reminds people that those who are hostile to unions have a problem given how much they use test scores to make their arguments.

            "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

            by teacherken on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 04:12:20 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  Thanks, great post. Maybe we should (0+ / 0-)
        have a big conversation on what is the best way to make struggling schools workable while we address underlying issues.

        Too big to fail = too big to exist.

        by Liberaltarianish on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 06:12:06 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  what new ideas? (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Ivan, Clues, NWTerriD, Olon, m00finsan

      As far as I can tell, the current "reform" movement doesn't have much substance in it. They tried the smaller schools thing, and when it didn't raise test scores, they've retreated to test scores and firing teachers.

    •  Unions (6+ / 0-)

      Where is the evidence that teachers' unions are bad for public education? Speaking very overly broadly, the states with the best public education are in the mid west and north east, where teachers' unions are strongest, and the states with the worst public education are in the south east, where teachers' unions, like unions of all kinds, are weakest.

      Perhaps teachers need to have more, not less, say in how educational systems are run. Perhaps a big problem is the tendency to impose business style administration by administrative experts who know jack about education.

    •  I can say this. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      miss SPED

      Some who post on this site may be part of a union.  I am a teacher in Texas and am not a member of a union, although I do belong to a professional organization that provides legal services if needed.

      I am not coming at my opinions based on unions.  I have taught thirty years and am sad to see that money matters more than people now, and that didn't used to be the case.

  •  What a wonderful way (14+ / 0-)

    to cast the private education of the privileged in a positive light while shilling for policies that cut the throat of public education.

    You know it is bogus when Paul Vallas gets positive stories. He accomplished nothing of value when he was head of Chicago Public Schools and his accomplishments in Philadelphia and New Orleans are equally hard to find. It is all about privatization, skimming the gifted from public schools into charters and magnets while slashing resources for other students, and generally creating a system that favors and educates the few. Bosh. Nothing but bosh.

    Tea Party = Racist, Rapacious Republicans

    by DWG on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 04:16:50 AM PDT

  •  Structural Support for the Oligarchy? (12+ / 0-)

    funny coincidence that this diary appears at the same time those discussing the downward slide of the middle class....

    I'm not up on all the qualities/detriments of RttT....but I know teachers hate TttT (Teaching to the Test) and that those test scores are beloved by the public as indicators. I don't like them to the extent they squelch curiosity and direct focus to meaningless indicators.  I also feel that stamping out the activist tradition in education is a huge mistake.  But then, I wasn't all that impressed with TFA when I saw them in action in San Francisco.

    It's so hard to know what works in schools. I just recently moved to a famously bad school district from a famously good one (San Francisco). The difference in income level of Baltimore and SF is huge in terms of the school family population. More parents have to work full-time here and there are more single parents. And when I was a single parent I was very, very grateful for the participation of Moms and Dads who could be present at their kids school.

    I'm giving the local one a chance...even put my 2nd grader twins in a brief summer school to meet the other kids and learn the instructional language here. But I do know that one reason my kids' school in SF was great was parental involvement. It's the reason, I think, their new school is considered one of the top five or so in the city as well.

    The other reason my kids' old school was so great was that the teachers were very experienced. My son's kinder teacher had 30 + years and was amazing: up to date on theory and practice and had a laser-like focus on the kids.

    I don't know what emphasis, if any, the organizations you mention give to the teachers, but I think their professional happiness and competence is a major factor in the quality of schools. Having known many teacher/activists, I think a strong union figures mightily in that equation...up there with parental involvement and income level of the student population. (One of the biggest complaints I heard from teachers I know is teaching the test to children just learning English. Whole schools have failed because their population needs that extra help before being tested. It's a shame that schools with large immigrant populations aren't allowed to give more attention to language skills before having to test the kids).

    If Gates' foundation made it so one parent could spend an afternoon a week at their kids school and bolstered teachers instead of threatening them, it would go further than any test or tying of teacher compensation to test scores....

    Just my uneducated and long-winded 2 cents....

    •  Parent involvement is key, but it is a challenge (12+ / 0-)

      when parents have to work long hours to make ends meet.

      In June, I ended 20 years as a public school parent. My youngest son goes off to college in three weeks. My experience with the public school was, for the most part, quite good. I think that highly trained and experienced teachers make all the difference.

      •  What if Gates funded parental involvement? (4+ / 0-)

        What a change that would make, too.  I think you're right, many parents, if not most, can't participate.

      •  An alternative perspective (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        I think parental involvement is overrated. Let me explain. As a parent, I send my children to school rather than educating them myself in part because I think that a trained, professional educator will do a better job than I would (and I am a trained, professional educator, though at a different level) (the other reason is that I have to work). I have lots of opinions about how to educate, but I'm not really sure they're worth a damn, and I suspect those of a lot of parents are worth a lot less (that's said tongue-in-cheek). Parental involvement often means parents abusing a teacher who gives their kid a bad grade, rather than getting after a kid who got a bad grade - it's a mixed bag. It can also mean folks clamoring to teach creationism - in the end it seems to me that the parameters of an education ought to be established by professional educators competent in the relevant subjects - and parents ought to be mainly left out of it - although their existence should always be taken into account (folks forget too often that elementary education also serves as childcare for working parents).

        What's clearly essential is parental involvement with their children - but that's not really something that falls under the purview of the educational system.

        •  It depends on the nature of the parent (5+ / 0-)

          involvement. I was both a PTO president and an elected school board member. One of the things that the PTO did was fund-raising to support teacher projects that were not included in the school budget. I ideally, these things should be paid for by the taxpayers, but in reality, too often they are not. These included things like small classroom libraries for beginning readers.

          Another project we worked on was to find parent volunteers who would supervise first graders on the playground for a hour of so. This allowed the teacher to work more closely with half the class on reading skills while the other half of the class had recess. I would add that I have a full-time job, but I was able to adjust my schedule (I know that not everyone can do this), so that I could volunteer for a hour of playground duty every two weeks.

          I can also say that as a school board member, we listened to the advice of the education professionals. Teachers were part of every committee.

        •  Parental involvement is helpful (0+ / 0-)

          when the parents are there supporting the teachers - telling the kids education is important, helping with fundraising, helping with special projects, etc.

          For example, in our school we do a living history field trip which could not be done without interested parents willing to give time and energy and supplies.

          It's also nice when the parents show up to the parent-teacher conferences.

          Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

          by elfling on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 01:27:18 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  Welcome to Baltimore, hon (12+ / 0-)

      gotta tell you we're refugees from the city school system - are you in the city?

      We were in the "gem" of the city system, and loved it, until we hit the testing years. Then it just became untenable. And I'm no favor of our superintendent, either; he hasn't gone after the teacher's unions like his well-publicized counterpart 35 miles to the south, but he has focused on tests at the expense of pursuing excellence.

      As I read the diary above, I thought about that, as well as the proliferation of charter schools in our city and the lack of support for some of the traditional selective schools. Teach for America has a huge presence in Baltimore (we know some of the coordinators) and it is far from the panacea that it is claimed to be.

      The focus on testing is now coming back to bite us in Baltimore.

      BTW, one of the ongoing issues I find so damned ironic living here in Baltimore regarding testing and private schools: many of the parents of private school kids will say loudly that testing is really required because we need to know that kids are getting an education, and then turn right around and say that they have their kids in private schools because of the problems of "teaching to the test." Certainly a goose and gander thing.

      Good luck.

      Diversity may be the hardest thing for a society to live with, and perhaps the most dangerous thing for a society to be without - W S Coffin

      by stitchmd on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 04:37:18 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Heh....thanks! (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        stitchmd, miss SPED, mali muso

        What a change from my last city!  It's amazing how real estate values evolve from individual schools, race, and income. We had a lottery in SF, so any kid could go to any elementary school.

        As far as the testing goes....I'm hoping my friends are right that it's hard to screw up the elementary school curriculum. I'm very, very lucky and get to take a year off to watch and participate.

        Oh, and one other thing.....I think my new city compares favorably to my old one in terms of where we live and the people and the beautiful neighborhood (M.Wash)... but WHAT'S WITH THE ROADS HERE???? Northern Parkway is scary. Pavement then....nothing.  And other roads are pretty bad, too.

        •  Roads got destroyed in the snowmageddon (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          ksh01, miss SPED

          we had last winter. I agree, Northern at Falls particularly is a disaster, and I traverse that every day of life. I haven't driven through a lot of Mt. Washington recently, but I can't get down the hill from Roland to my house without wondering if my car is going to shake apart. The roads were always rough in B'more but it's beyond absurd now.

          Mt. Washington is a really good school, if that's where you are, and generally it's been small enough to fly under the radar, since it's only K-5 and small even at that. I understand they're looking (again) at expanding, so you're likely to come under more scrutiny. Your current principal is great and you've been lucky to have a series of pretty good ones. And the parents are really involved.

          We were just southeast at RP. We had a great principal and a dynamic school. Went from the sublime to the utterly ridiculously incompetent. But hey, as long as the test scores are adequate, that's okay; Alonso has other problems, I understand that. Oh, this is not the forum to go further into it.

          Diversity may be the hardest thing for a society to live with, and perhaps the most dangerous thing for a society to be without - W S Coffin

          by stitchmd on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 05:04:33 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  yeah, I overheard her talking on the phone (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            about acquiring the closed Catholic school. Sort of disappointing as they're assigned to RP middle school....years away. Hubby was 12 years at Gil. School, so his parents are horrified, but oh well. I think it was less expensive back in the day...

            on the roads, I wonder if they'll level No. Pkwy so that the manholes don't protrude a foot and the storm drains don't kill your tires. Yikes.

            •  Just noticed as I came home (0+ / 0-)

              this evening that it they are working on Northern Parkway - can you mention a few more streets in your next posts, please, as you have a magic touch!

              Diversity may be the hardest thing for a society to live with, and perhaps the most dangerous thing for a society to be without - W S Coffin

              by stitchmd on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 06:17:33 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

  •  Interests of teachers =/ interests of students (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ManhattanMan, icemilkcoffee

    "When school children start paying union dues, that 's when I'll start representing the interests of school children."

    --Albert Shanker, late president of United Federation of Teachers for 20 years

    I hope that some day you will begin addressing educational reform issues with the recognition that these issues pit two progressive constituencies against each other.  Just as Shanker recognized that the well being and education and children of working class students in public schools are necessarily the interests of his union or teachers, the interests of the vast number of working class, middle class and poor parents, who vote Democratic and have children in public schools, will not necessarily place the interests of teachers' unions ahead of the interests of their children.

    Parents want the failed public school systems across the country to change -- to not condemn their children to lives of failure.  

    If these means that teachers will be held accountable, they don't necessarily think this is the tragedy that you seem to think it is.

    •  follow the money (5+ / 0-)

      in much of rural America, the school superintendent controls a huge pot of jobs (proportionally)

      teaching is the best, most secure job college grads can get

      it is not necessarily their calling, nor their craft; it's just the easiest way to stay employed in their home town

      "Good Lord, how can the rich bear to die?" -- Nikos Kazantzakis

      by Shocko from Seattle on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 04:39:23 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  There is nothing... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Sparhawk, Geenius at Wrok, HamdenRice

      ...that the anti-reform crowd can say to the families trapped in bad schools.

      Here in NYC, parents enter lotteries to try to get into charters, or blow their Life Savings trying to buy expensive houses near better schools. Only the richest and the luckiest can escape.

      The point of the current Diary is not to propose solutions, but to "work the refs" and complain about media coverage -- media coverage on P.B.-frickin'-S. for crying out loud!

      We knew the Bush Administration was on the ropes when they started whining about "media bias". Stephen Colbert put it best; "Reality has a well-know Liberal bias".

      You don't like the coverage? Don't agree with the studies? Fine. Present alternate info, refutations, or better ideas. Complaining about not getting good coverage on PBS (PBS...!) isn't helping kids, it is purely political.

      •  I also had a kid in the NYC public schools (4+ / 0-)

        We found an excellent school in a neighboring district, and there was a program that allowed students to transfer out of district.

        You would think it would have been a matter of applying, filing paper work and getting a response.

        Instead, my SO had to camp out in front of the district superintendent's office for two days and I had to write threatening legal-sounding letters just to get these people to follow the law.

        The current school system makes the bureaucracy of the Soviet Union look excessively democratic and libertarian.

      •  the media has changed (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        wsexson, smkngman, esquimaux

        which we have all noticed, right?

        it's no longer even pretending to be an umpire, an arbiter, a seeker of truths

        it's niche marketing now, spittle-rattling invective to boil up ratings

        so when Ken argues that the leading expert on a network has a compromising net of connections to a specific point of view, I think that's worth talking about

        are there bad schools? yes, and bad teachers, and all of that

        but if we're to have a meaningful debate about what's best -- as opposed to what benefits specific ends of our society -- we have to have an open debate which includes the biases of the participants

        and admits that bias is part of being human, eh?

        "Good Lord, how can the rich bear to die?" -- Nikos Kazantzakis

        by Shocko from Seattle on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 05:51:29 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  sorry, your bias is showing (10+ / 0-)

        when you call those who question "anti-reform" -  I am certainly not.  In fact, some of what I have advocated would represent far more radical change.

        I refuse to allow the word "reform" to be coopted by those whose approach is basically based around tests, charters, privatization and the like.  That is not reform.  That is destruction of public education, a point Ravitch makes very clear.

        "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

        by teacherken on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 06:58:17 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Aaaargh. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        miss SPED

        You don't like the coverage? Don't agree with the studies? Fine. Present alternate info, refutations, or better ideas.

        1. "Don't agree with the studies"  -- Wrong. Teacherken is saying that he DOES agree with "the studies," but the initiatives being backed by Gates and Broad are not based on "the studies."
        1. The person you addressed this comment to, the diarist, has indeed "presented alternate info, refutations, and better ideas," in many, many diaries on this site, as well as in numerous other publications, forums, and communications with decisionmakers. There is a wealth of other information out there about what actually works (i.e., real reform) and there are many in the education community who are tirelessly writing and talking about these ideas. The fact that you aren't aware of that is strong evidence of a problem with . . . .
        1. "The Coverage." Yes, we are complaining about the coverage, because despite all the writing and talking and discussing and research and innovative work being done in the educational field (i.e., real reform), the bulk of "the coverage" consists of three things: (a) exclaiming about how terrible our public schools are, and about how many lazy, incompetent teachers there are who can't be fired because they have tenure, (b) promoting the Gates/Broad/privatization agenda as the panacea that will solve all our problems hallelujah, and (c) bashing the teachers unions for opposing that agenda.

        The national media are not interested in fostering dialogue about what really works in the classroom and what "the studies" actually show (i.e., about real reform), any more than they are interested in fostering honest, substantive dialogue about any other policy issue in this country.

        Make. Them. Filibuster.

        by NWTerriD on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 09:50:23 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Of course they don't. (12+ / 0-)

      If the interests of teachers = the interests of students, all teachers would work for free, 24 hours/day for the little darlings.

      I can't think of a single profession where the interests of the professional match exactly the interests of the person being served.

      But logic fails you in your comment when you assume that this precludes teachers from caring, from being good teachers, and from giving good value for the money paid to them to teach.

      Teachers are professional employees represented by a union.  It is the job of that union president to represent those teachers.  It is NOT his job to represent students.  I find his quote to be a bit flippantly stated, but not objectionable.

      Furthermore, there is no need to

      pit two progressive constituencies against each other.

      Teachers want fair pay and fair working conditions.  They also want good schools, good educational programs, and good results for the students.  What is there, in that, that a progressive cannot support?

      •  Teachers want both sides of the coin (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Sparhawk, HamdenRice

        according to you, but do they not have to work to create the other side if they get the "fair pay and working conditions"?

        And while it's not the unions' job to represent the students, the students are the reason teachers have jobs, so while perhaps the union boss's priorities are structurally correct, good luck with any sympathy coming from the public if their kids' interests aren't being met in the name of the teacher's union.

        Too big to fail = too big to exist.

        by Liberaltarianish on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 05:20:01 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  some parents have funny ideas (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          elfling, Dirtandiron

          about their kids' interests

          which involve which among their friends are in class with them, and whether they have a starting spot on the team, and whether they really did the thing the teacher says they did in front of eight reliable witnesses...

          and, yes, sometimes it's about education

          but mostly it seems to be about social status and getting ahead anyway possible

          "Good Lord, how can the rich bear to die?" -- Nikos Kazantzakis

          by Shocko from Seattle on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 05:53:20 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Union functions are very specific (6+ / 0-)

          and union contracts are negotiated, so if the contents of the contract are not satisfactory to the local school board, then someone isn't doing their job properly.

          good luck with any sympathy coming from the public if their kids' interests aren't being met in the name of the teacher's union.

          I have two comments about that.  First, the issues of sympathy and kids' interests are very subjective and emotional ones.  Part of the reason that teachers' unions are important is to keep the educational environment on a rational, objective basis.  Without unions, teachers and administrators both would be subjected to the endless churn of one subjective report after another, and nothing would ever be accomplished except through a ridiculous amount of ass-kissing and politicking.

          Having a union means that the interested parties sit down periodically and work out parameters that they think are fair, and procedures that they think are fair and rational.  The idea being that if these things are decided beforehand, and not in the context of any hot issue, that when a hot issue arises, everyone has a roadmap to follow that has been signed off on by all the people concerned.

          In the heat of the moment, I'm sure there are parts of the public that will accuse the union of working against the students.  But through their representatives, they signed off on these procedures and they have recourse if they don't like them.

          My second point is that, if you think the public has the right to be all up in arms over items in the union contract (which mainly specify pay, hours, and procedures for measuring and documenting performance), just imagine how the public would feel if the unions did as you said and started "caring" about the students' education by meddling in areas like syllabus, student code of conduct, funding for various student programs, etc.  That is what you would get if unions worked "for the students" and not as teachers' employment representatives as you'd like to see it.

          •  Good points for sure. (0+ / 0-)
            I for one think everything possible should be done to honor contractual stipulations already agreed upon.

            Whether unions should only be concerned with the teachers in general is certainly not uniformly true, and it's in the teachers interest to take the student concerns into consideration, as well. You wouldn't completely ignore customer demands if you were running an auto union, for instance.

            Too big to fail = too big to exist.

            by Liberaltarianish on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 07:13:20 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Well, in one sense, yes. (4+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Linnaeus, elfling, miss SPED, DruidQueen

              union contracts can show concerns about the quality of work in a number of ways.

              If a union contract stipulates some sort of performance measurement, and a procedure for documenting and removing workers that fail to meet that measurement, then you could see items in the contract that help insure the measurement can actually be met.  For example, teachers unions are interested in class size.  If the class sizes are too big, the teachers won't be able to meet the measurements agreed to in the contract.  (It's also bad for the students)

              You can't do it for everything, and you can't do it in a generic way, like saying that "auto unions ought to focus on the customer".  But you can, for example, measure the quality of someone's work, and if the quality falls below a certain measurement, then you'd have a procedure for either raising it, or getting rid of that worker.  But even actions like this are not solely to protect the customer, they are to protect the workers from unreasonable measurement and dismissal.  An item like this would demonstrate the management's goal of making the customers happy as well as the worker's goal of being protected by a measured performance system.

              In the end, you can't contract intentions and aspirations.  You can contract things that make the workplace reasonable and expectations of output, and the results of meeting or not meeting the expectations.

              Many of the comments being made here that unions don't have the kids' best interests in mind are attempts to put someone's "feelings" into a contract, which would be a bit strange.  

      •  And. not all. (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        elfling, Albatross, m00finsan, DruidQueen

        22 states are Right to Work States, including Texas.  So I, as a teacher, belong to a professional association, not a union.

        To set the stage as a dichotomy between 'two progressive constituencies', is too simplistic a characterization.  There are many constituencies.

      •  I'm a teacher myself (0+ / 0-)

        Or have been on an off -- at the tertiary level, not at public schools.  So sure, there is no profession in which the interests of the client and the professional are exactly aligned.  

        They are, however, aligned in many ways.  For example, cultural practices like the Hippocratic Oath in medicine cultivate an "esprit de corps" to work against the venal economic interests of the professional.

        Certainly this is true in teaching at all levels.  Many public school teachers go into the profession because they like teaching children, and many schools have great leadership that focuses on excellence.

        But when esprit de corps practices fail, there still have to be more bureaucratic practices, ways of rewarding success and punishing failure.  

        What bothers me about the diarist and many online bloggers like him is that they seem to resent the idea that those teachers who fail must be held accountable.  In the educational system our first priority always must be the children.

        I've also been a parent of a child who went through the public schools.  He had many excellent teachers and a few terrible teachers, and unfortunately, the public schools in this country for the most part do not hold terrible teachers accountable.  Why good teachers like the diarist are opposed to experiments in holding bad teachers accountable remains a mystery to me.

        •  I can see you don't read tk much. (7+ / 0-)

          What bothers me about the diarist and many online bloggers like him is that they seem to resent the idea that those teachers who fail must be held accountable.

          I imagine tk will be back to set you straight, as he did with the other commenter who mischaracterized his life's work.

        •  This is exactly why unions are needed (5+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          elfling, Albatross, miss SPED, Olon, m00finsan

          Any teacher reading your comment is sure to have a serious sense of deja vu.

          You say

          What bothers me about the diarist and many online bloggers like him is that they seem to resent the idea that those teachers who fail must be held accountable.

          Parents get emotional about their children and they are liable to say all kinds of things about you just did above.  Many times, these things are not true, as yours is not.  

          How is a teacher to focus on teaching while constantly defending their job from crazy accusations like these?  They do it by having a negotiated process for handling complaints, and investigating claims of poor performance.  This is what a union is for.

          Your comment about doctors seems to imply that doctors are more altruistic because they have an oath.  (Or more likely, because they don't have a union).  But there are bad doctors, as well as bad teachers.  It looks like you made the comment about doctors to draw some distinction between them and teachers, and to favor the medical model.  But there are more similarities there than differences.  If a doctor misbehaves, they are reviewed by a medical board.  Medical boards understand, in the same way teachers' unions do, that the situation is nearly always emotional, and that a dispassionate process is needed to navigate through it safely.

          •  commenter clueless about me (4+ / 0-)

            as union rep in our building I helped move out teachers who were harmful for the kids.  I did so by insisting that the administration document the problems, which were reported by multiple other teachers, and do the appropriate notification, counseling and the like.  That enabled them to legally remove bad teachers without having to wreck the protections for the rest of the teachers.

            There are many reasons we have teachers we should not have.  Some should never be certified, others should never be granted tenure. Many who could be successful are never given the support or mentoring that could have made a difference.  Some is policy, made not by teachers or their unions but by legislative bodies.

            I participate in some groups of highly skilled teachers who have for some time sought to clean up our profession.  But we are not responsible for the hiring.  In many cases we are not asked to mentor, or if we are not given relief from other duties or pay for the additional duties (disclosure -  I have been paid to mentor student teachers and I am paid to guide people through the National Board Process -  I also serve as an informal mentor to a number of teachers with no compensation for me).

            Again, we as teachers rarely have the authority to sit in judgment of peers -  in that sense we are not like a medical or bar association.  It is one way in which we are not viewed as equally professional.

            "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

            by teacherken on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 07:58:46 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  private vs public (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Silverbird, m00finsan

          and unfortunately, the public schools in this country for the most part do not hold terrible teachers accountable.  

          Neither do most private schools.

          The typical private school is worse than the typical public school. The fancy places are exceptions.

      •  Teach for America (0+ / 0-)

        Which is anti-teacher's union, found that their most successful teachers were the ones with the highest life satisfaction.

        IME, teachers aren't in it to make boatloads of money, but it's hard to have high life satisfaction if you're worried about whether or not you can pay your bills.

        Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

        by elfling on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 09:01:47 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  have you read Barbara Veltri's book (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          miss SPED, DruidQueen

          Learning on Other People's Kids?   She worked closely with TFA over a number of years, and had a great deal of direct contact with those in the program.   If you have not read it, you might find it a real eye-opener.  I did review it here a few weeks back:

          here's the link

          "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

          by teacherken on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 09:06:25 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  Apologies - shouldn't blog before drinking coffee (0+ / 0-)

      I shouldn't write about education before having my morning coffee because I write like an illiterate, which isn't very convincing when writing about educational issues.

      Sorry about the dropped words, all.

  •  That PBS report even got a charter (16+ / 0-)

    school teacher to say... Maybe I needed a union in the old days, but not now. And Vallas says teacher contracts are unncecessary.

    I hope they check back with that teacher in a couple of years.

    I fear we're on a slippery slope, thanks to RTTT, to public school oblivion.  

    •  I am one of the teachers (6+ / 0-)

      who would be targeted to be fired if it were not for the Union. I am returning in August to a classroom with double the number of students and adults than it housed last year. My students are 5th graders who have multiple disabilites and require a lot of physical equipment. The other class is kindergarten-1st-2nd graders, on the autism spectrum, some with need for intense behavior modifications. This is in a district with empty classrooms in middle schools and in an  elementary school with a GED program using 4 classrooms during the school day. Administrators are not seeing a problem with the combination of 2 very different groups of students-if students are disabled there is no distinction between ages or needs for these knowledgeable leaders. They won't take high stakes tests (I will have to administer alternative assessments, though) and won't do a thing for RTTT. So who cares if they get what they need. Pack 'em in like sardines. Then combine kids who are immobile with kids who react violently when agitated or frustrated. This is a recipe for success?? This is what happens in a district with undereducated, low-socio economic residents, the students who won't make administrators look good are treated poorly. I have been looking for help with this problem since May, but have had no success. I was told we will meet about the situation in August, but I should not expect anything to change. Without a union, I would have no where to turn, even though help from the union has been minimal, I don't worry about being fired (they will just make my professional life hell).

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

      by lilypew on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 05:18:26 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Vallas (0+ / 0-)

      My tenant is a TFA teacher in NOLA under Vallas.  She works from 7AM to 7PM and had 3 weeks off for summer.  Her pay is way below minimum wage when you tally the hours.

  •  logged in to rec (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    lilypew, Albatross, m00finsan

    ken, i have not logged into this site in over 3 months...this is an important piece. i do hope you will send it to Common Dreams and Alternet.

    going to plug my forthcoming book on the topic, and i do hope you will consider reviewing it. the closing piece is from's a compilation of his best work and i think it's brilliant. i interviewed diane ravitch for the text as well, but truth be told, i did a horrible job, and i cut the chapter...need to email her and tell her.

    great piece ken.

    I am here to help you realize your dreams.

    by DeweyCounts on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 04:55:19 AM PDT

    •  don't have time to follow multiple threads (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Ivan, semioticjim, miss SPED, Olon, m00finsan

      and I don't want to come across as being on the rampage against Merrow.  I am not.  A lot of what he does is useful.   But I have been bothered by the distribution of topics on which he has focused, and receiving the email about the program last night on top of a separate email through which I learned about his wife's employment I felt it worthwhile to at least raise the issue.

      "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

      by teacherken on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 05:32:20 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Ugh. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JuliaAnn, Desert Rose, miss SPED

    We moved specifically to get our daughter into an IB PYP public school and out of a public school with a curriculum directed by a overwhelmingly republican legislature and interpreted by Houghton Mifflin.

  •  We even get adulatory (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ivan, Clues, semioticjim, Olon, m00finsan

    Michelle Rhee diaries in this venue. "Chainsaw Michelle"? That's a good nickname :)

    Basically, the noise these types make, doesn't come down to concern about "unions protecting incompetent teachers."

    These "fearless" armchair educational reformers have some very personal motivations, often as not: They hate the very idea of anyone providing a direct service on the taxpayer's nickel. We see the same spite in the hostility towards social spending, generally.

  •  Much appreciated (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    miss SPED

    I follow your diaries on education regularly-they are a great resource along with "Left Ed" on Open Left.

    Many of these same people and groups are also pressuring higher ed for "reform" as well.

  •  I wouldn't trust Bill Gates with $0.01 (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ivan, OpherGopher, NWTerriD

    of my money, much less my kids.

    If he and his foundation were really interested in just advancing education, some grants to struggling school districts, which we have plenty of, would be more impressive.

  •  I'm concerned about kids (0+ / 0-)


    How come students were mentioned in this diary until the last sentence or two?

    It's so intense....what does this mean?

    by mim5677 on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 06:12:22 AM PDT

  •  Likewise, school board members concern me (4+ / 0-)

    I agree with your premises on potential inherent biases, but arguably, after reading or observing or dealing with local school boards for the past thirty-plus years, being "unbiased' is problematical as well.

    Local school boards members typically are neither wealthy, elitist or have much to do with any educational institution -- they are, presumably, unbiased and objective -- and likewise, responsible for educational policy at the local level effecting thousands of children.

    And yet, I don't seem to have enough fingers and toes (or bones in my body for that matter...) to count the number of truly boneheaded decisions local school boards make -- because, arguably, of their collective non-education policy experience, they have no clue what they are doing.

    There's an elusive satisfactory middle ground somewhere but its not clear where or how its achieved for the better of everyone involved.

    Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect -- Mark Twain.

    by dcrolg on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 06:19:49 AM PDT

  •  Tip'd, rec'd, hotlisted, bookmarked..... (4+ / 0-)

    Valuable diary about a problem rampant in the media and Congress -- just who's paying whom to come up with these "reforms"?  Expose the players and you expose their lies.

  •  Doesn't it seem like the Grand Plan over the past (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JuliaAnn, Silverbird

    30 years or so ( no matter which party has been in power ) has been to make receiving a good education something that is just so expensive that most Americans simply can't afford it.

    After all what better way is there to create a workforce that will work for wages that are comparable to what the emerging economies are receiving.

    Indeed there has been no real increase ( in  fact an actual decrease ) in real wages in the heart of the American workforce for approximately the same period.

    The decline of the American Middle Class can trace its roots directly to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the subsequent decline of Communism.

    I do not believe for a second that the American Government has any interest whatever in creating an educational system that can compete with those in the rest of the industrialized world - except for those at the very top of the economic spectrum.

  •  Here (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    miss SPED, Olon

    one of the best things I've read on what's going on in a while.  Lois Weiner on Ravitch, from Doug Noon's blog Borderland, Borderland:

    The final thing I want to talk about is Democrats for Education Reform, and I’m sorry Diane isn’t here to hear me say this. Democrats for Education Reform now hosts, on tour, Rick Hess from the American Enterprise Institute. It’s now on their website. We all need to understand that Obama’s education policy comes from Democrats for Education Reform. There’s no difference. That means that the Obama education policy is lifted, from whole cloth, from what used to be called a far-right think tank. I think Diane flatters them, or fools herself by calling them a conservative think tank. You know. But now, they’re in the Democratic Party! They’re the leadership of the Democratic Party when it comes to education policy. Listen, we are in deep doo doo. We are in real deep doo doo.

    And I’m just gonna say that in Diane’s book, and I’m really sorry she’s not here to hear this. In Diane’s book, she has this quote from her book, The Revisionists Revised, and she says she’s still right, she argued that, “The public schools had not been devised by scheming capitalists to impose social control on an unwilling proletariat to reproduce social inequality. The schools were never an instrument of cultural repression, as the radical critics maintain.” That’s what Diane says in The Revisionists Revised.

    Well, you know what? Maybe we can argue about 150 years ago when the public schools were created, but there is no argument now; that is the agenda.

    Privilege is the greatest enemy of right. --Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach

    by mozartssister on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 06:45:07 AM PDT

    •  about Doug (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      miss SPED

      when several years ago I was approached by the NY Times to write for their Lesson Plans Blog, the editor asked me if I could think of others who should be included that might provide a range of experiences.  Doug was the first person I suggested, and he was included.  The second was someone who writes here under the name Joseph Rainmound, who is himself hearing impaired.  He too was included.

      "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

      by teacherken on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 08:00:58 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Educational reform in US like Groundhog Day (6+ / 0-)

    the movie. Except they never get it right, just keep cycling through ideas, forcing teachers and schools to make changes before being able to fully implement them...or assess their value.

    They just started a new "math" program in my husband's elementary school (about the 4th or 5th in the last decade), but now with new "Race to the Top" standards, they are going to have to start all over again.

    This kind of endless re-writing of the rules has created a totally chaotic approach to teaching with no follow-through from K thru 12. It serves no one except those who publish the textbooks and produce the workshops and teacher training for the next "new" program.

    Skepticism of all the elite institutions, not trust, is what required for successful leadership in this era. Digby

    by coral on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 07:08:31 AM PDT

    •  It is all about the $ (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      miss SPED

      These programs are fads that are pushed for an entity to make money.  Why we continue to fall for it all is the relevant point.  Just like the commercial for Little Einstein or whatever the name of it is, these programs are artificial constructs, marketed to sell.  And professionals fall for them.  Or perhaps they get a piece of the pie, I don't know.

  •  yes, it concerns me (7+ / 0-)

    conflict of interest is significant even if there is no bias shown.  But I honestly don't understand what the "public" means in public broadcasting.  Is it that they are funded by the taxpaying public, or that they are supported by members of the public, as private individuals (through individual donations) and through corporate and other kinds of big-money sponsorships.

    I don't think there is any expectation that public television or radio supports the government or big business, but there has to be a question about who is supporting public broadcasting and why.  It has never really made sense to me, although I have always enjoyed many of the programs, especially Bill Moyers, and other news shows.

    That being said, I don't know where you go (in mainstream media) to find strong support for public education, for unions in general, or even teachers, for that matter.  Teachers are battered, unions are battered and public education is beaten every day.

    These things are the bread and butter of our lives, so we hardly notice them and the good they do and the value they provide.  It is easy to ignore them.  But seriously, can you imagine if all we had were a handful of experimental boutique schools staffed by relatively unqualified Teach for America dabblers eager to please their corporate sponsors?  

    Why why why are people so eager to expand the education-administration bubble, squeezing teachers--and students--on the sidelines where they have to struggle for air, recognition and respect every day?  I like the idea of giving reign to interesting education experiments, but not by starving and mocking the public education system, which is really the foundation of our democracy.

    More and more, I think all these efforts to undermine the middle-class and regular employment and public education are really part of a much larger and suprisingly well-coordinated effort to undermine democracy and our government in general in favor of big corporations (not even small businesses), which are trying to suck the power and strength and credibility out of our democratic government which has been built and defended by generations.  Bill Gates, Google & Walmart are all suspect in my mind.  What are they doing for our democracy--what are they doing to support the democratic institutions of the United States?

    •  Well put. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I will contend that administration is killing public education.  They are definitely sucking the air out of students and teachers.  Our local schools seem like free-for-alls.  No structure, nothing interesting as far as learning goes.  It is why I am not teaching in the public school system.  The atmosphere is a dry as a desert and as blank as the face of a happy imbecile.

    •  And every Republican Senator except Snowe (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      has come out AGAINST the proposed legislation to require disclosure of who is financing campaign advertising.

      Their reasoning? "The Dems are politicizing this issue in the middle of a campaign season." "This is hypocritical, because in '08 Obama promised he would take public financing and he didn't. So why do they want to do something about this NOW?" (I kid you not -- Lindsey Graham, who is better than most of them, actually said that.)

      They are pretending that Citizens United didn't happen, or that it didn't change anything.

      Point of my comment being, of course, that this is only going to keep getting worse.

      Make. Them. Filibuster.

      by NWTerriD on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 10:30:21 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Poverty is crushing (8+ / 0-)

    During my long career in elementary education I've taught in a ghetto school... and in an upscale school that served the elite.

    The contrast was stunning.  It has convinced me that we live in a stratified America where poor children are dealt cards from the bottom of a stacked deck in a rigged game called "equal opportunity for all".

    If we are to comprehensively reform our schools of poverty, we need to improve the quality of life in those communities and impact the belief system of that local culture.  Throwing fresh teachers trained in a business model of accountability into  the meat grinder of educating a poverty stricken community is like throwing fresh troops into Afghanistan and expecting the local culture to magically change.  

    Some battles will be won, lots of money will be spent, success stories will make the news,  but the outcome will clearly fail. Providing quality education to the poverty class without taking on the causes of poverty is like polishing a rock with a tile to make a mirror.

    If cats could blog, they wouldn't.

    by crystal eyes on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 07:13:05 AM PDT

    •  The problem: unrealistic yardsticks (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      elfling, crystal eyes, NWTerriD
      I live in a city district with an embattled, highly political administration; schools that range from obviously terrible to obviously terrific; and parents in the e-mail-using socioeconomic class who tend to see the district as an undifferentiated blob of badness.

      I think that one of the huge enemies here is an unthinking, fake kind of "liberalism."

      One fake liberal idea is that all kids are born equally bright; that most children who go to a good pre-K program and are not poisoned by lead will arrive in kindergarten with roughly the same ability to learn; and that it's rude, if not despicably evil, to suggest that a third grader who's growing up in a scary housing project under the interstate highway might have a harder time at school than a third grader who has access to every kid book, educational toy, workbook and life experience known to parentdom.

      A second related fake liberal idea is that test scores for a school in the fancy suburbs mean the same thing as test scores for a school in the gritty city.

      People see that city schools tend to have lower scores than the suburban scores and say, "Bad city school! Bad city school! Start charter schools!"

      Then maybe parents see good test results from a charter school or magnet school that drills kids all day long and say, "Good school! Good school! Start more schools like that! Drill baby, drill!!!!!"

      And the Republicans are using this sort of thinking to pry big-city Democratic parents away from the Democratic party. Parents in big cities see Republicans as the people who want to help create more seats at decent charter schools, and Democrats as the people who want parents to move out to the suburbs. In local elections, why would I vote for candidates from a party that seems to hate me and hate my kid and wants me to move away?

      But, personally, as a parent comparing my local elementary school to the charter, I found that I had very little interest in the test scores, as such. What I cared about, and couldn't easily learn about, were answers to questions such as, "Are the lessons well-designed and well-written enough that typical children can learn the appropriate things?"; "Are the teachers intelligent and, adjusting for the general level of kid unruliness, good at classroom management?"; "Will my kid be exposed to the same material that kids in suburban schools see?"; "Will my kid get fun, reasonably well-designed gym, art and music classes?"; "Will my kid get outside for recess regularly?"; "Will the other kids beat up or otherwise mistreat my kid?"; "Will my kid like school reasonably well and feel challenged?"; and, "Given budgetary constraints and other constraints, will the school administrators and others make a serious effort to fix any problems?"

      To the extent that I care about test scores at all, what I honestly wanted to know was, "How well has the school done with reasonably well-prepared children of college-educated parents?"

      What would be great is if we could supplement the standardized test score yardstick with a quality of experience yardstick.

      I don't think it's realistic to expect city schools to necessarily have high test scores, but I do think it's realistic to expect city schools to have decent lesson plans; decent art, music and gym programs; and regular access to recess. I also think it's realistic to expect any school to give teachers support with classroom management, and to find ways to provide remedial instruction for kids who need extra help and advanced lessons for kids who need to be challenged.

      Why don't we have Zagat's come up with an experience rating to quantify the quality of all of those quality of experience factors?

      Right now, teachers come online and say, "It's not my fault the kids do poorly; the parents are terrible." I tend to roll my eyes and think, "Well, if the school were actually doing the things a school should do, maybe the kids would do better in spite of the parents."

      If teachers had a Zagat's school quality of experience rating they could quote, they could say, "Look, I'm smart, I work really hard, and Zagat's has given my school a rating that shows that the school is doing everything a school ought to do, and our scores are still low because of the parents being so rotten."

      In a case like that, being able to quote a quality of experience rating would give the teachers a much stronger position in the debate.

      The quality of experience rating might not reflect the quality of the curriculum very well, but at least the debate would be between whether the kids were doing poorly because of the parents or curriculum problems, not between whether the kids are doing poorly because of the parents or because the school is obviously poorly run.

  •  His wife's position is a positive (0+ / 0-)

    While I think it is valid to raise concerns about the influence of major funders such as the Gates Foundation, I would regard his wife's lifelong career in education as a positive. There is really no need to try to play off public school teachers vs. private school teachers and professionals. My experience with those involved in private school education has shown them to be people who are real intellectual lights for their students and people who are really strongly dedicated to their academic field and turning their students on to their field, and they are definitely people I'd talk to when discussing how to create good learning environments.

    •  I agree and disagree (5+ / 0-)

      I would agree strongly if we would listen to what is done to provide a quality education in such environments and THAT was the basis of reform, rather than insisting as we so often see that the punitive and reductive measures imposed on public schools that non-public schools do not have to address and which widen the inequality of education.

      Due caution - just because a school is not public does not mean it is providing a quality education.  Parents have a constitutional right to send their children to a non-public school setting or to home school.  That does not mean the choice made by the parent is necessarily the best thing for that child.

      "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

      by teacherken on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 08:03:46 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Well, I think you make an assumption of malice (0+ / 0-)

        You are making the assumption that the wife's schools do not provide a quality education and that her positions as head of school should be a basis for suspicion.

        The Dewey quote in your signature is a very good one: our schools should deliver to all students what a lot of the best schools provide for their students. I think it's unfair to make the implicit claim that private school teachers and officials want to enact punitive measures against public schools.

        •  excuse me????? (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          rufusthedog, NWTerriD, miss SPED

          there is NO WAY you can draw from my remarks that I think his wife's schools do not provide a quality education.   Nor did I suggest that she was in any way unqualified for her position.

          It is worthy of note that he is married to someone whose experience of education is very different than the kinds of places about which he writes.  Among the differences -  no unions, and thus no job protections for teachers;  no mandates imposed by national or state or local government;   no requirement to serve ELLs or homeless kids or SPED or disabled;  smaller class sizes . . .

          And no where will you ever find me saying teachers in private schools want to enact punitive measures against public schools.

          You will find me questioning the motives of some who want to privatize public education.

          You will find me me raising the question of whether given his wife's employment and some of the sponsors of his work whether Merrow's approach on some topics might not be fully balanced.  I am not saying it is unbalanced, although I find the number of stories on the likes of TFA, Rhee and Vallas to be at least problematic.

          "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

          by teacherken on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 08:54:38 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  You come off as hostile to new ideas (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        droy20, ManhattanMan
        I think the parents on the pro-charter school side of the fence can be mindlessly anti-regular-public school.

        But the teachers on the pro-public school side can also be very annoying. They whine about how terrible the parents are and how unprepared the students are, and, OK, sure, they're often right, but then they often have a lousy, woe-is-me-look-how-hard-I-work-for-so-little-money attitude; they don't make the effort to get kids outside for recess; and they don't make the effort to work with the parents and the administrators to make sure the kids have adequate recess periods; adequate art, gym and music classes; and well-designed, modern, non-faddish lesson plans.

        The ideas that Gates and Broad are pushing don't seem to be well-tested, but, as a parent, I find that just about all educational policy studies on the Web are hidden by pay-to-read screens. My impression is that the general state of efforts to verify whether any educational approaches work are in an embryonic state.

        Merrow might have an obvious ax to grind, and maybe PBS should pair him with someone on the NEA side of the issue, but I think that, as a Democrat, you should keep in mind that an unreasonable Democratic level of hostility toward charter schools is an issue that Republicans are using to pry Democratic parents away from the Democratic party.

        I understand that charter schools have roughly the same test scores as regular public schools, but the good charter schools are just plain nicer than nearby city schools. They have actually get the kids outside for recess, for example. They take music classes seriously. Etc.

        The goal should be to make the public schools stronger and find ways for successful schools of all kinds to share their success, not to take away existing educational options that people really like.

        •  tk, thanks (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          rufusthedog, NWTerriD

          for the many new ideas you have offered, documented, and brought to fruition. I'm a regular reader of your diaries - I find your work inspiring.

          To read a portrayal of you as a person who is hostile to new ideas - well I am still sitting here shaking my head in disbelief.

          •  Do you have a kid in a big city? (0+ / 0-)
            I've also enjoyed TK's diaries, and I'm sure that he's open to new ideas in many different contexts, and I think the principle that the Race to the Top ideas -- and all educational ideas -- is a good one.

            But I think the tack TK is taking here is the whole reason why charter schools are such a huge success in my community.

            Parents ask the public school administrators to try new ideas -- maybe good ideas, maybe bad ideas -- and the administrators won't even listen seriously. I tried to get the food service manager to agree, in future years when contracts were up for renewals, to serve whole wheat bread and whole wheat pasta, for example. The response I got was maybe the schools would serve a special ethnic meal every few months.

            In the public school, the cafeteria looked like a dungeon and still looks like a dungeon, even though the school has a vast army of maintenance people. The charter school cafeteria also looked like a dungeon -- and people went in and painted it.

            Maybe Obama, Gates, Broad, etc. have dumb ideas about education, but they have ideas. They're providing money. At least they're trying. And TK makes it sound like what these folks are doing is some kind of evil conspiracy.

            •  Many people have ideas (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              miss SPED

              that would work much better than the ideas being proposed by Gates and Broad. The research is in. We know what works.

              The problem is that there is no funding for the ideas that work. Gates and Broad are thought of as "the ideas people" because they are actually "the money people" who have the funds to bribe districts implement their ideas.

              Make. Them. Filibuster.

              by NWTerriD on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 10:19:44 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Post about what works, then (0+ / 0-)

                But post about what schools can and should do, and get the full text of the most important papers - on all sides -- out on the open Web.

                And the posts about what works ought to focus on what paid staffers can do and not a utopia where every kid has a stay at home parent available to volunteer.  

                There are actually regular public schools in my community that do fine at teaching academics to low-income kids with apathetic parents.

                And I don't think it should take parental involvement for schools to have art, music and gym classes. I'll bet the union that represents the teachers in my town has great papers on that sort of thing, but I see it mainly slamming charters and defending low student-teacher ratios. I don't see the teachers' unions in my area talking about other aspects of quality.  

                •  we have - (0+ / 0-)

                  U have done pieces here on Coalition of Essential Schools, Forum for Education and Democracy, the Broader Bolder approach, and quite a few others.

                  But I do not have the billions of Broad and Gates.  Nor do many of those who have worked on such successful models.  In educational circles people know the work of Deborah Meier, but her voice is not included among those labeled "reformers" despite the fact that unlike many of those so labeled she has actually run schools and turned around the lives of kids.

                  "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

                  by teacherken on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 04:24:50 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

            •  you are misinterpreting what I am saying (0+ / 0-)

              It is hardly a conspiracy that Broad and Gates are actively trying to drive education in a particular direction, although there is some difference between the two -  Gates has admitted when some of his initiatives have not worked, such as his very expensive small schools initiative.

              Broad has been very vocal about the direction he would like to see education go.

              The men have a lot of money, and use it to try to influence public policy in their direction.  They have every right to do so.

              My concern in this diary was not one of corruption -  I think I not only make that clear in the diary, but in several places in the now extended discussion.  Rather, it is the imbalance that one sees, the percentage of stories on topics that would be favored by the likes of Gates and Broad.   To be fair, Merrow has other funders that have not been as active in attempting to drive educational policy in a particular direction.

              Ravitch points out that some of the Billionaire Boys Club also give extensively in areas like medical needs, but there they do not attempt to dictate policy to the degree they seem to do in education.

              As far as ideas -  many of the ideas being advocated have been tried before WITHOUT SUCCESS -  that is what is so frustrating.  People here rightly accept the criticism that the proposals of the Bush administration were based on a non-existent so-called Texas miracle.  What Duncan is trying to do now is similarly based on a chimera -  there is now a wealth of evidence that the things done during his watch in Chicago and under his predecessor Paul Vallas did NOT result in significant improvements, even by the metric he prefers of test scores (which have all kinds of other problems).  The so-called improvements under mayoral control in Chicago and now in New York are being shown to be inaccurate, and not by teachers unions, but by independent groups.  In Chicago the Tribune, which supported Duncan, has come to the conclusion that might be described as Gertrude Stein once described Oakland, that there's no there there.  In New York there is now strong evidence that the claimed gains in the city in fact are not real gains at all.

              There are ideas that have a track record, but this administration has not been funding them, and until recently neither Gates nor Broad was supporting them.   Gates is now funding a study of a different approach on teacher evaluation based on the model used to obtain National Board Certification.  That is in my mind a positive use of money.

              "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

              by teacherken on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 04:22:34 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  But are metrics other than test scores used? (0+ / 0-)

                I really think people need to develop a Zagat's rating system to rate educational process and parent and kid satisfaction before we can even start to have meaningful questions about what's working.

                Maybe the studies you know about considered Zagat factors, but my impression, from what I can glean from abstracts, that standardized academic test scores tend to be what everyone focuses on.

                For society, maybe test scores are everything. For a parent, I think the questions are, "Does the school give a reasonably well-behaved kid a fair shot at learning how to learn?", "Will the school teach my kid to cuss like a sailor?", "Will the music teacher be drinking vodka from a water bottle during class?"

                •  a quick comment in response (0+ / 0-)

                  the "reformers"  (note the quotes) put so much on test scores I am of the mind of those who think it legitimate to use those test scores to destroy their arguments.   Even by their chosen metrics they cannot support their proposals.

                  There are other ways of evaluating schools -  but remember that Americans seem addicted to rankings.  If you know how a ranking is calculated it is easy to manipulate.

                  Let me offer two examples.

                  US NEWS rating of colleges -  a college can boost its rating by encouraging more people to apply so that can it can be more "selective" by rejecting a higher percentage of applicants.  Unless it is planning to expand its freshman class, does a college that is already accepting less than 1/3 of applicants really need to encourage enough additional to get its admission rate to less than 1/5?

                  CHALLENGE INDEX created by Jay Mathews of Washington Post.  The simple form is the number of AP tests taken divided by the number of graduating seniors.  Doesn't matter whether or not the kids all get 1s (out of 5).  As a result high schools began (a) expanding their AP offerings and opening up admission to them, and (b) in some cases paying for the kids to take the exams.

                  In the case of (a) that led directly to the college board instituting a course audit process because there was real question of the quality of what was being offered.  In the case of (b) we now see schools showing an index of 1 or greater even though their pass rates (at least a 3)  are less than 20%.

                  I note that the school at which I teach used to have an index of around 1.6 which put us in the top 100 schools in the nation.  Now we have an index of around 2.6 and we are not in the top 600.  For what it is worth, for the 2008-09 school year we had the greatest number of African-American kids passing several of the science and math courses of any high school in the nation.

                  Guess this was not such a short comment, eh?

                  "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

                  by teacherken on Thu Jul 29, 2010 at 05:28:48 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

      •  We need to show more respect for Parents. (0+ / 0-)

        "Parents have a constitutional right to send their children to a non-public school setting or to home school.  That does not mean the choice made by the parent is necessarily the best thing for that child."

        True. But saying so is not good politics. This is the sort of elitist attitude that turns people off about Public Schools. Worse, it sometimes turns people off about Democrats.

        We should be thinking of ways to give parents more choices, not fewer.

        This is also the key to survival for Teacher's Unions. For years, the Autoworkers were a powerful union with high wages and benefits. The fact that the Automakers are privately owned didn't hinder this fact. Some degree of privatization/vouchers/charters is going to happen -- but it doesn't need to be the death of Teacher's Unions, not by a long shot.

  •  What are the next steps? (0+ / 0-)

    When are teachers going to say, "enough is enough?"
    Action needs to be taken.

  •  Teacher Layoffs (0+ / 0-)

    I know this excellent diary is about the outside influences in the messaging about public schools from the corporate (and semi-corporate) media but has anybody discussed the impending threat of massive teacher layoffs once the stimulus money runs out?

  •  I'm pretty sure the Gates foundation is motivated (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ManhattanMan, DruidQueen

    by the right reasons.

    Believe it or not, Gates wants to be hiring American engineers and issuing fewer H1-B visas. And he knows there's a lot of ideas that sound good on paper but don't work in practice.

    So, if the Gates Foundation is supporting the wrong policies this year, then somebody should help them find the right policies (that really work) and they'd quite possibly support those instead.

    Gates Foundation withdrew a large grant to Seattle Public Schools a couple of years ago (I forget the specific details) but it was because they didn't think they were getting results. So they've already pivoted away from earlier approaches.

    The thing that's needed is to bust the bubble around Bill Gates himself and bend his ear.

    In a democracy, everyone is a politician. ~ Ehren Watada

    by Lefty Mama on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 08:01:27 AM PDT

    •  IIRC, there was an ethos among Microsoft managers (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      that hiring new employees was about hiring people with the best SAT scores. I do not know if that was completely true. But even if it was just a little bit true, it was kind of stupid.

      If you are older than 55, never take a sleeping pill and a laxative at the same time!

      by fredlonsdale on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 08:13:11 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  your mileage may vary (0+ / 0-)

        They definitely make the interviews a tough oral exam. But we've noticed in recent years that many of them seem to be asking the same questions over and over, like "write code that reverses a sequence of letters" (aka a string, strrev())

        My take on it is that some groups are high pressure and others are not - the low-pressure groups, ironically, may care more about SAT scores. Microsoft Research group wants pure academics. The whole company mellowed and became more of a 9-to-5 place.

        In a democracy, everyone is a politician. ~ Ehren Watada

        by Lefty Mama on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 09:11:13 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  but their influence is spreading (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Lefty Mama, miss SPED

      our former superintendent went to Gates as #2 in education after only a few years with us.  He did some good things here, some not so good.  Now he has gone to LAUSD, orginally as #2 (since Cortines was refusing to retire) although now apparently he will be #1.  Less than a decade ago he was running a district with less than 12,000 total students  (we have well over 130,000, and LAUSD may now be the largest district in the US).  He got on the fast track going to the superintendent academy run by Eli Broad, and now he is also well connected with Gates.  

      "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

      by teacherken on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 08:27:30 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  yeah, so Gates needs to hear from more people (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Seriously, Gates is a guy who wants results, he's good with stress, and he knows a lot about failed and successful products. I sure wish he'd stack his Education foundation with "balls-to-the-wall" managers complete with shouting matches in meetings and whatnot (because the passion spills over when the deadline looms) but I fear that the field of Education isn't really used to that. Can you imagine some of those guys like Dave Cutler as a school superintendent?
        The link on wikipedia doesn't give a good picture of Cutler's management style, but he was very involved, very strongly opinionated, but also willing to admit he was wrong if the proof was incontrovertible.

        In a democracy, everyone is a politician. ~ Ehren Watada

        by Lefty Mama on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 08:58:50 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  JPPSS (0+ / 0-)

        The superintendent in Jefferson Parish LA makes $254,000 a year plus benefits, private luxury offices,  police detail, car, cell etc.  Her salary is more then the parish president and sheriff.  JP just cut 500 teachers.  

  •  In every direction you look, privatization (7+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    elfling, JuliaAnn, eru, JanL, chigh, NWTerriD, miss SPED

    is being shoved at us full force.  Now public schools are the target of the Shock Doctrineers.  The leadership in this country is trying to dispose of public schooling for the most part and give tax dollars to private corporations to run whatever education exists.  Regardless of the data existing that shows charter shools are not improving the educational outcome over public schools in any way.

    Another consequence I forsee is the raising of a generation of cheating students, once they adopt the cheating increasingly practiced by teachers and principals who want to get good ratings and keep their jobs.

    I don't know of any professional group held to such a standard.  Look how hard it is to get rid of bad doctors or lawyers?  This threat over teachers will make anything but teaching to the test impossible for any but the best. All this, however, has little or nothing to do with improving education and teaching standards and has everything to do with further breaking everything citizens have built up in the commons of our communities to make sure profit in king.

    We know how to fix education -- smaller class size, attention to behavior problems, restore the arts and humanities.  There is no political will to do that.  Why not?  Is it time to ask that question?  Why don't our political and school leaders want to do what would provide students with a better education?    

    What is worse than wondering why the disinterest in effective olutions from politicians, I don't see anything on the scene yet likely to change that direction.

    2.5 trillion dollars have been "borrowed" since the [SS] system was "reformed" in the 80s and they simply don't want to pay it back. - dKos Blogger -

    by Silverbird on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 08:04:46 AM PDT

  •  Where are the hip-hoppers and gang-bangers (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    in the advertisements for those two private schools?
    Can the childrens still learn despite this deficiency?

  •  I'll accuse him of bias for you (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    and have no problem pointing out that, once again, neo-liberal (pro private sector) economics and education do not mix, rather, they further stratify the haves from the haves not and insure that public education is perceived as parasitic and ineffectual, neither of which should be true but for the oligarchy that controls America.

    "History is a tragedy, not a melodrama." - I.F.Stone

    by bigchin on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 08:12:13 AM PDT

  •  You should read Outliers by Malcom Gladwell (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    elfling, ManhattanMan

    which has some very interesting things to say about education.

    1. Poverty-stricken schools do a better job than is often realized, but the environment of inner-city kids is toxic over the summer compared to the activities of the wealthy kids.  Duh...
    1.  Stats show that there is much less of a gap in learning during the actual school year.

    These stats and the more general ideas in that book make one wonder whether the extra money makes as much difference as might be assumed without the study.

    There is also a chapter specifically about Gates and other tech "geniuses."

    Educate yourself. Think for yourself. Be yourself. Act for others.

    by DHinIA on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 08:24:35 AM PDT

    •  I have found not that much of value in Gladwell (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      and much of what is of value was readily available in other sources.

      The issue of summer learning loss is well-documented.  I wrote about it at this site several years before the publication of Outliers.  I would also note that when reviewing the education proposals of those Democrats contending for the nomination, the one good thing I noted about Obama's first set of plans was his recognition of the summer learning loss.

      Sorry, not a Gladwell fan.

      "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

      by teacherken on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 08:30:25 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Here is what real reform would look like. (9+ / 0-)

    If you want real reform, study what works.

    Notice the country at the top of the list. Finland.
    They must have all sorts of charter schools and private schools right?
    BZZZZZZT! Wrong!

    The Finnish education system is an egalitarian Nordic system, with no tuition fees for full-time students. Attendance is compulsory for nine years starting at age seven, and free meals are served to pupils at primary and secondary levels, where the pupils go to their local school. Education after primary school is divided into vocational and academic systems....

    There are few private schools. The founding of a new private comprehensive school requires a political decision by the Council of State. When founded, private schools are given a state grant comparable to that given to a municipal school of the same size. However, even in private schools, the use of tuition fees is strictly prohibited, and any private school must admit all its pupils on the same basis as the corresponding municipal school. In addition, private schools are required to give their students all the social entitlements that are offered to the students of municipal schools. Because of this, existing private comprehensive schools are mostly faith-based or Steiner schools...

    Compherensive school students enjoy a number of social entitlements, such as school health care and a free lunch everyday that covers about a third of the daily nutritional need.[2]  In addition, pupils are entitled to receive free books and materials and free school trips in the event that they have a long or arduous trip to school.

    •  I've been thinking about Finland (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Fixed Point Theorem, miss SPED

      and my conclusion was that they're not doing that much in their schools that is different from what we do.

      And then I realized that they do some things quite differently:

      In Finland, every worker gets 5 weeks paid vacation.
      In Finland, every child has access to the health care she needs.

      Imagine if all American children had 5 weeks of concentrated vacation time with their parents, paid vacation time that would give parents time to be with their families with no worries.

      So that's my challenge to the Gates Foundation: Let's do a study where we take two groups of parents, one ordinary and one with 5 weeks paid vacation, and then compare the educational outcomes for those kids. I suspect you'll see better results from that than from any other "educational reform" that has ever been tried.

      Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

      by elfling on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 10:05:31 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Excellent info. Link please? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      miss SPED

      Make. Them. Filibuster.

      by NWTerriD on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 10:08:24 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Do they have tenured teachers? standardized tests (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      miss SPED

      I support 100% everything that is done in Finland.

      But you haven't talked about their union situation over there. Do they have teacher tenure? Are their teachers' performance measured by standardized tests?

    •  Canada does almost as well (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      miss SPED

      as Finland and Canadian schools teach in English and French.

      Australia and New Zealand also get good results using the English language.

    •  The Finland system sounds like charter schools (0+ / 0-)

      Despite the anti-reform propaganda, in many jurisdictions, charter schools are public schools that parents and community groups are empowered to create.  Your description of Finnish private schools sounds a lot like non-private charter schools.

      •  The point is (0+ / 0-)

        they have very few of these private schools.  They get these results with traditional government-run schools.

      •  very different than most charter schools in US (0+ / 0-)

        for one thing, the schools in Finland are unionized, which charter schools in this country by and large are not

        for another, the preparation of the teachers is much longer and more thorough, and the teachers are paid as professionals and not burned out by overwork as happens in SOME charter schools. Many charter schools in this country have very unstable teaching staffs, whereas in Finland they have very stable staffs.

        Sorry, but trying to equate Finnish public schools to American Charter Schools as a whole simply is not accurate.

        "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

        by teacherken on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 04:28:04 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  There are teachers who do harm (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    droy20, HamdenRice

    With all due respect, there are teachers that are not competent and who are doing harm.  I fully support teachers and better funding for public schools, but we must be realistic that not all teachers are good, and some need to leave the profession.  We left our local public school for a private school after a miserable 1st grade year.  It took two years for my oldest son to recover from a punitive, incompetent teacher.  (He is now 16, attending a public math / science magnet, completing university classes concurrent with high school)

    My two sons attended private school through 6th grade, then returned to public school.  My youngest just lost a year of math due to a bad teacher.  Poor instruction, using hand written, poorly edited worksheets and tests, not teaching from the text, and no feedback until the day the grades were due.  We could not help our 7th grader since the teacher used unconventional methods and we had no text to provide examples.  We are now filling in the gaps this summer with intensive tutoring.  She also made racist statements (pro-asian, anti-everyone else).  My point is that there are clinkers out there.

    Unions should not protect these bad teachers -- it damages the teaching profession and makes more work for the great teachers to mop up after the poor ones.

    •  there are doctors who do harm (5+ / 0-)

      there are congressmen who do harm

      there are lawyers who do harm

      there are policemen, and soldiers, and any other group of millions of people.

      You do not in any of the others shape the entire program on the basis of the few who are harmful -  rather you take the appropriate actions within a framework that protects others from abuse but deals with those that are problems.

      Those tools exist now.  In many cases they are not used because ADMINISTRATORS fail to do their jobs -  in hiring, in allowing someone to continue before they have tenure, in counseling, in documenting -  so because they failed to do their jobs some want to take away protections from all teachers to make it easier to get rid of the bad ones.   That does not help the students.  

      Unions do NOT protect bad teachers.  Unions protect the legal and contractual rights of all teachers.  And if you want unions or teachers to take greater responsibility in getting rid of bad teachers, then you need to empower us in the hiring process, the supervisory process, and pay us for the additional responsibility.  

      "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

      by teacherken on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 08:58:43 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Unions don't protect bad teachers? (0+ / 0-)

        Your statement is simply not true.  Here's the now well-circulated rubber room article from the New Yorker that documents those efforts in New York.  Fortunately, of course, the rubber rooms are dead (or at least on their death bed).  But the fact is that one of the things unions for teachers do is to try to protect bad teachers from losing their jobs.  (My father is a retired union official who did the very same thing for his members.)  I don't blame the unions as much as I do the foolish districts that enter into labor agreements that, in some instances, make it nearly impossible to terminate a truly bad teacher for poor performance.  That said, it is more than a little silly for you to suggest that unions representing teachers have no role in keeping bad teachers in the classroom.

        •  I am well aware of the rubber rooms (0+ / 0-)

          I am aware of people whose presence there is about as accurate as the reasons we are holding people in Gitmo.

          If administrators did their jobs in the first place, the kinds of problems to which you and others refer as "proof" would not exist.  Unions can and should insist the rules be followed whether the teacher is good or bad.  Just like we should for our own sake insist that constitutional protections be afforded even to those obviously guilty, lest we see the gutting of the protections for the rest of us.

          "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

          by teacherken on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 04:30:21 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Hang on (0+ / 0-)

            First, equating people being held with Gitmo with teachers sitting in the rubber room and drawing a full salary for doing nothing but sitting there all day is (and I apologize for using this word again) silly.  Or maybe laughable would be the better word.  No, silly.  

            Second, my point was simply that your statement that teachers' unions don't protect bad teachers is just false.  Which it is.    

            Third, it's not about "following the rules" -- of course, the rules should be followed.  The problem is we have the wrong rules, mainly at the union's insistence (although, again, I blame the districts for agreeing to them).  If a teacher is bad, there ought to be something in the rules that says he or she isn't in the classroom anymore.  And the rules should say that if, for example, layoffs become necessary, it's done based on teacher quality and not purely seniority.  At least, that's what I want for my kids (and for all kids) -- the best teacher, not just the one with the most years of service.

            Thanks for writing about education issues.

            •  back up - (0+ / 0-)

              the comparison to Gitmo is far from silly -  in both cases there are people in that situation improperly.  In both cases there is a level of confinement.  In both cases the rights of people are being abused.  Yes what is happening at Gitmo is worse, but there is a commonality of principle, whether or not you choose to accept it.

              Bad teachers are getting their due process rights.  So are people arrested by cops who have seen them commit their crimes.  The purpose of the Bill of Rights and the purpose of teachers unions is in neither case that of protecting bad teachers or clearly guilty wrong-doers.  They may get afforded rights because the purpose of both is to protect the rights of all.

              Your phrasing is that somehow teachers unions are at fault because bad teachers get the due process to which they are contractually and legally entitled.  That's bullshit.   It is exactly the same kind of argument used by Ronald Reagan about welfare queens.  Only at least Reagan was talking about people who deliberately abused the system.  So-called bad teachers -  and we have not yet heard from you any criteria that establishes that they are bad - can be discharged if administrators properly do their jobs.

              Oh, and by the way -  the rate of discharge of teachers is HIGHER in unionized states than it is in places like MS and AL which have no union protection.

              "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

              by teacherken on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 06:47:26 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Ha! (0+ / 0-)

                This is satire of the highest order.  Equating torture at Gitmo with getting paid to sit around and do nothing all day?  Hilarious.  And edgy.  A classic way to illustrate how so many in the education establishment choose to portray themselves as victims.  I loved it.      

                And, dude, when you said a union CBA that makes it impossible to fire teachers no matter how incompetent they are is on par with the Bill of Rights--devastating and chuckle-worthy.  Yeah, chuckle-worthy.  I said it.    Life, liberty, and the right to keep your job even if you're drunk and incompetent in a classroom full of kids.    

                For a second there, I thought you were serious about all that.  But then I recognized it as the Colbert-level satire that it is.  Because nobody who has an ounce of sense would say what you did and be serious about it.

                P.S.  I'm thinking of going by the moniker "farmerbob" so people will think I'm an expert on agriculture.  What do you think?  

  •  This is concern trolling (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I realize that you will just attack anybody who wants to try anything other than the existing model, but your basic solution is to move to the suburbs or ignore the problem.

    Moving to the suburbs is private school, and ignoring the problem isn't acceptable.

  •  The connections do not per se bother me. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Someone with his views on education would likely both cover it with the emphasis that he does and would get involved in establishing/managing particular types of alternative schools.  I think it is important to know that this is the perspective he is coming from and make sure he is upfront about his own biases, as it were.

    It is true, I think, that the traditional teaching model is no longer given much respect, and this is a real loss.  I also think teacher's unions have been guilty of harboring inferior teachers and placing their own interests above those of students sometimes.  I am fully supportive of some of the reforms that I know you are very skeptical of, but I think they will fail if they are implemented in a hostile/either-or fashion with respect to unions and established methodologies.  It should not be set up as an oppositional/competitive situation.  For sure, the kids lose out then.

    "Put your big-girl panties on and deal with it." -- Stolen from homogenius, who in turn stole it from a coffee mug.

    by Mother of Zeus on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 09:18:07 AM PDT

  • started in 1981 with PATCO.. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    it continues apace with New Market Tax Credits, exposed by Juan Gonzalez: of the things I’ve been trying now for a couple of years is to try to figure out why is it that so many hedge fund managers, wealthy Americans and big banks, Wall Street banks, have—executives of Wall Street banks, have all lined up supporting and getting involved in the development of charter schools. And I think I may have come across one of the reasons: there’s a lot of money to be made in charter schools. And I’m not talking just about the for-profit management companies that run a lot of these charter schools.

    It turns out that at the tail end of the Clinton administration in 2000, Congress passed a new kind of tax credit called a New Markets Tax Credit. And what this allows is it gives an enormous federal tax credit to banks and equity funds that invest in community projects in underserved communities, and it’s been used heavily now for the last several years for charter schools. And I focused on Albany, New York, which in New York state is the district with the highest percentage of children in charter schools. Twenty percent of the schoolchildren in Albany are now attending charter schools. And I discovered that quite a few of the charter schools there have been built using these New Markets Tax Credits.

    And what happens is, the investors who put up the money to build the charter schools get to basically virtually double their money in seven years through a 39 percent tax credit from the federal government. In addition, this is a tax credit on money that they’re lending, so they’re collecting interest on the loans, as well as getting the 39 percent tax credit. They piggyback the tax credit on other kinds of federal tax credits, like historic preservation or job creation or Brownfields credits. The result is, you can put in $10 million and in seven years double your money.

    And the problem is that the charter schools end up paying in rents the debt service on these loans. And so, now a lot fo the charter schools in Albany are straining paying their debt—their rent has gone up from $170,000 to $500,000 in a year, or huge increases in their rents, as they strain to pay off these loans, these construction loans. And the rents are eating up huge portions of their total cost. And, of course, the money is coming from the state.

    So, one of the big issues is that so many of these charter schools are not being audited. No one knows who are the people making these huge windfall profits as the investors. And often there are interlocking relationships between the charter school boards and the nonprofit groups that organize and syndicate the loans. And so, there needs to be sunlight on this whole issue. And the state legislature right now is considering expanding charter school caps, but one of the things I press for in my column, there has to be the power of the government to independently audit all of these charter schools, or we’re not going to know how public dollars are ending up in the coffers of Wall Street investors.

    TAX THE RICH! They have money! I'm a Democrat. That's why!

    by ezdidit on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 09:28:43 AM PDT

    •  Britain has something called (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      the Private Finance Initiative.

      Pay dearly later.

      By October 2007 the total capital value of PFI contracts signed throughout the UK was £68bn[1], committing the British taxpayer to future spending of £215bn[1] over the life of the contracts.

      The high cost of hospitals built under PFI is forcing service cuts at neighbouring hospitals built with public money.

      The report said that the building also constituted a fire hazard, as it was constructed without proper fire protection materials in the wall and floor joints. In addition, mattresses and chairs used below-standard fire-retardant materials. Patients were allowed to smoke in rooms where they could not be easily observed. The fire-safety manual was described as "very poor", and the fire-safety procedure consisted of a post-it note marked "to be provided by the Trust". Unsurprisingly the report concluded that "every section of the fire safety code" had been breached.[16]

      PFI is said to be "like a corporate welfare scheme"[2] because projects are on average 30% more expensive under PFI than if publicly funded.[34]

      Although supporters claim that the majority of PFI projects come in on budget and on time or early[citation needed], a number of PFI projects have cost considerably more than originally anticipated. In his book Captive State - The Corporate Takeover of Britain, George Monbiot discusses the Skye Bridge, which was completed in 1995 and is regarded by some as the first ever PFI project in Britain. The Skye Bridge infamously cost £93m (and required the closure of the existing ferry to prevent competition), although it was supposed to cost only £15m.[22]

      •  Britain's Building Schools for the Future (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Building Schools for the Future (BSF) is a project for improving the infrastructure of Britain's schools. Of the £2.2 billion funding that the Labour government committed to BSF, £1.2 billion (55.5%) was to be covered by PFI credits.[44]. Some local authorities were persuaded to accept Academies in order to secure BSF funding in their area [45].

  •  No concern at all (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    droy20, HamdenRice

    I am glad that organizations like Gates and other private sector entities and foundations are investing in education.  

    I continue to see you advocating so strongly for the status quo and completely resistant to "reform" as you define it.

    I think this site is overdue for real discussion on educational reform.  Over and over again you don't address the key facts that our students in this country are FAILING in record numbers and are falling further and further behind other countries.  You fail to address the piss poor conditions in urban schools.  You fail to address that it is a FACT that the worst teachers are in the worst schools serving the poorest students.

    I don't accept this status quo and I don't see you putting ideas out there to improve the system for our kids.  I don't believe 55% graduation rates are acceptable.  I don't believe that low income students should be disregarded for the sake of the adults and that we should tolerate matriculation rates to college for these students that are in the single digit range.  You fault Vallas but he brings up student scores and results.  You fault Rhea yet she has been fighting corruption in DC.  You victimize teachers but ignore the system.  It's stale argument and disregards fact.

    You attack the very people and funders who are trying to help our kids.  So am I concerned?  Hell no - I hope more people get clued into the state of public education and get out and fight for our kids.  

    •  boy are you off-based (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Clues, rufusthedog, semioticjim, miss SPED

      since I am very much on record for far more radical reforms.

      I object to the lack of dialog, that the voices of those other than those advocating a particular set of changes WHICH HAVE NOT BEEN DEMONSTRATED TO MEANINGFULLY IMPROVE EDUCATION are not allowed into the discussion, that the word "reform" is only being used for that set of proposals which do not necessarily work.

      IF you plan to attack me, perhaps you ought to pay attention to what I have (a) written on the subject, (b) presented in panels at the first two conventions when they were still known at Yearly Kos.

      Because I raise questions about certain things therefore I am opposed to change?  Oh really?  Then why would I be an early signer of the Broader Bolder approach,  a support of the Forum for Education and Democracy and of the Coalition for Essential Schools.

      You are like far too many who (a) have swallowed hook line and sinker the rhetoric being offered, rhetoric which often offers "facts" out of context.

      One reason for the dropout rate is because we have made school deadly dull.  IN some states, notably Texas, their supposed greater rigor resulted not in improved education, but in higher dropout rates.

      And as I have said multiple times on this thread, charters are neither inherently good nor bad, the evidence to date is that on the whole they perform no better than public schools (which in effect means they perform worse since they can exclude ELL, SPED and other difficult to educate children).  I am opposed to the federal government insisting that states lift caps on charters without any evidence that such an approach is beneficial.  I am opposed to the federal government insisting states eliminate bars to basing teacher compensation on teacher test scores because (a) there is no evidence that such a connection in any way improves education; (b) many teachers are in subjects like art and phys ed and music for which there are no tests (and we do NOT need more low-level tests and more time taken away from instruction) and (c) test scores are far too often more the artifact of things that are outside the teachers' control.

      On this thread I have pushed back at those who say all standardized tests are bad.  My concern is the same as those who are psychometricians -  that we are misusing the results of standardized tests.  IN point of fact, many of our high stakes tests are NOT standardized.  

      I raised the question about Merrow not as a direct criticism -  I like John, and I think some of his stuff is very good.  But I have been bothered for some time and the balance of things on which he focuses and how, and found the information in the two recent emails caused me to at least consider if it were a problem.  Hence this diary.

      "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

      by teacherken on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 10:10:18 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Broader Bolder is not really education reforms (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        I just read through the Broader bolder approach statement. I agree with everything they say. However it is not education reform. Taken as a whole, it's mostly finger pointing by teachers to offload their responsibility.

        Now the Coaltition for Essential Schools is a much more interesting proposition. I read through their principles, and I do see a lot of good high-minded principles there. I would call this real school reform. However I notice that it is largely focused on the failing kids in failing schools. Which is not a bad thing obviously. But currently one of the most tragic things occuring in public education is not necessarily the failing kids in failing schools; it's the good kids in failing schools. What is to be done about the good, studious kids in failing schools? The parents who can afford it transfer teir good kids to private/ charter schools. This leaves behind a shrinking number of good kids in the public schools whose parents are too poor to send them anywhere. This is bad for the kids and bad for the public schools. What should the public schools do to retain these good kids?

        •  bullshit! (0+ / 0-)

          BBA lays out a sensible set of priorities and directions.  FWIW, Arne Duncan signed it while still in Chicago.  Most of those who signed were NOT classroom teachers.  Many were people who are professionally involved in education.

          Your entire line of argumentation is flawed on many levels.  

          First, how are you defining a failing school?  I know of schools listed as not successful by standards such as a set of test scores which are in fact serving their kids quite well -  here I think of TC Williams in Alexandria.  

          And you'd be surprised how much kids willing to work can get from teachers even in so-called failing schools.

          "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

          by teacherken on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 04:33:26 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  Ok (0+ / 0-)

        Come on - I am not attacking you.  I am challenging you because I see you advocating a position which I strongly disagree.  

        I have read your work and I take time to post because I see you advocating a single position which is pro-union and pro-status quo.  "Unions are for truth and justice :) " so I don't see you advocating change and I see you hammering charters and other programs that do happen to work.  You are highly selective about your facts - for instance many charters do have special education students.  Our program actually has a higher percentage of both SE and ELL students in our community than other schools.  

        I will agree with you that NCLB and standards and RTT may be advocating trends that are not proven which I have stated to you before.  However - what is the answer?  What do we try?  

        I am part of a program that does work.  It works for the kids, the parents, the teachers, and the community.  We see transformation - not just improved test scores - in character development and our kids are getting to college.  It's not perfect, but the program works.  

        On this site there are plenty of know-it-alls who are always recommended but never seem to take time to outline what should change.  You should, and I am not being sarcastic, take the time to outline what you think should change in education.  My position is clear.  I have seen what works and am very biase.  Longer day, shorter summer, highly independent but governed school leadership, strong focus on academics, safe disciplinary environment, and an aggressive performance management system to produce effective educators.

        I am certain - again not being sarcastic - that you have a host of ideas which I would be interested.  I do apologize if I haven't read your previous material and maybe it's just a matter of referring me to these posts.

        •  boy you are wrong (0+ / 0-)

          I am pro-union, because i have seen too many administrators and school boards who would be abusive absent union protection.

          But I am very far from status quo as anyone who reads me regularly or who heard any of the three panels on education I ran at the first two Yearly Kos conventions can attest.

          You can scroll back through my user page if you want.   Or you can subscribe to my diaries where you will see how often when I write about education I offer alternative views.

          I have spent 15 years teaching in public schools.  I was studying them for a good decade or more before that, and was one of the first non-parents on an Arlington County school board advisory committee, in my case on gifted education.  

          And let me dispel a couple of your misconceptions

          1.  Not everything I write gets recommended.  Simply scroll back through what I have posted in the past week or see to see the truth of what I have just said.
          1.  Not every diary has the same focus.  Sometimes I write in a way where I both criticize and offer alternatives.
          1.  I managed an effort here a few years ago, in preparation for Ykos 2007 in Chicago, in which a group of more than a dozen offered quite a few different ways of approaching and implementing education.
          1.  Right now we face a crisis.  What this administration is doing has the real potential of destroying public education for a generation.  That is not just my opinion.  It is not for nothing that Diane Ravitch (a) has described Arne Duncan as Maggie Spellings in drag, and (b) has gotten such a huge response to her book, because she nails a number of key issues.  She worries in that book that we might be destroying public education.  

          Because of the immediacy of the crisis, it becomes important to stop the steamroller.  That is, before we can hope to have anyone listen to alternative ways of reform convince people of the damage that will be done by the current approach.  I am doing that constantly, much of that not being visible - it is in face to face communications with people on the Hill, it is by participating in groups of people who understand the nature of the crisis, etc.

          "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

          by teacherken on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 04:42:10 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  My 2cents (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      blue jersey mom, miss SPED

      Is that the main problem in our public schools is poverty, not teachers, educational funding, unions, or standardized tests.  Children who are malnourished, and neglected don't perform well.  Children who don't receive basic dental and medical care don't perform well.  Children who are left alone without supervision for many house per day don't perform well.  Education requires healthy kids who get enough sleep and have parents who care.  

      As a paramedic, I come at this from another direction.  Most people would be very surprised at the environment that many urban children grow up in.  I work in a poor area, and I see their environment first hand.  When mom has to work 3 jobs, and dad isn't around, kids are raising themselves.  Not surprisingly, young children often fail to understand the importance of education,and don't make it a priority.   Without parental encouragement to continue and engage in their education they are destined for failure.

      If we want to get better results from our educations system, I strongly believe that our most effective use of money is to provide a stronger safety net for children who are born into poverty.  (examples:  clinics/nps at school to attend to medical needs, dental care after school, nutritious meals at school, quality after school care. )

      •  To some extent (0+ / 0-)

        Ok but the worst leaders and teachers are supporting these very kids who have these social issues.  And the results showcase this fact.  Identify the teachers who attended lower quality prep programsand those that scored low on certification exams (or had to take them more than once) and you will find most of them in lower performing schools.  That's a fact. Google Whitney Tilson and you can find his presentation on a recent study that extrapolates this data.  Fascinating and tragic - but many of the poorest students are not getting a quality education.

        But there is hope.  Our program serves 99% free and reduced meal students and, despite all the social-economic issues, our kids are in the top tier of academic growth and performance.  High performing schools can work in high poverty areas.

    •  Authoritarians control current U.S. Ed. System (0+ / 0-)

      What do you mean by fight for our kids? Have you asked the kids lately what it is like to experience learning in the education system you defend?

      We have a catastrophic Katrina-like problem with the education system in the U.S. Using behaviorism to brainwash children so they can remember enough information to pass high stakes short answer tests is not going to make the wicked problems currently experienced in U.S. society go away.

      Merit pay based on a behaviorist pedagogical framework is not going to eliminate the problems faced by the U.S. education system.  

      It seems the folks who are most responsible for the economic collapse have undue influence dictating the terms of our education policy and initiatives.

      Consider children begin learning about their world after birth through play and discovery when they are non consensually dropped into a boiling pot of oil in our behaviorist/authoritarian/non democratically oriented public school classrooms.

      This is the system your policymakers have authorized, retooled and employed against Americans since the 1930’s, a system originally designed in Prussia in the 18th Century to brainwash and keep the peasants in line.

      The definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing over and over and over and expecting different results.

      Let's check the facts.

      Kids are fed up with this horrible inhumane education system and it is no wonder we don’t have more drop outs than the 25% average this system is responsible for.

      You will end up with more or the same amount of apathetic hurried children who tune out and drop out as we had with NCLB. Check out the latest results from the High School Survey of Student Engagement:

      Nearly 70% of students who graduate from U.S. high schools are not engaged in their learning experiences!

      What does that tell you about the conditions and structure that teachers must teach in, and children must learn in? Teachers are compelled to teach to the test, lest they be fired or their schools not make AYP....

      Here we are, the most technologically advanced nation on the planet (well, we used to be...), and we are assessing our children’s educational progress with pencil and paper standardized tests....

      After looking at "Race to the Top" guidelines on the DOE website, it appears President Obama's major education initiative, will result in nothing more than an escalation of the sad state of affairs NCLB has generated within the majority of our public school classrooms.

      American children are going to receive massive doses of the same old behaviorist industrial based mechanistic approaches to learning driven by anti public education reformers who gave us NCLB, who are more interested in efficiency then they are on individual children's unique cognitive makeup and development through individualized differentiated learning pathways.

      The vast majority of our students across the U.S. endure a curriculum driven by high stakes, selected response/short answer paper and pencil assessments will continue to drive behaviorist/authoritarian pedagogy.

      This non-consensual approach to behaviorist learning activities where students will be compelled to engage in order to better "achieve" or close the "achievement gap" will do little more than score more points on standardized tests.

      These kinds of learning experiences go into one ear and out the other....

      In the mean time, inculcating the joy of learning and opportunities to develop individual student intelligence through inherent giftedness, interests and educational passions will be flushed down the drain

      Where is the project based learning?
      Where are the electronic portfolios?
      We are loosing our edge.

      Children should fall in love with their learning experiences.

      •  "electronic portfolios" (0+ / 0-)

        Adobe Flash presentations created by often very tedious work are fine for corporate marketing.

        •  There are many digital platforms.... (0+ / 0-)

          One could use many, many platforms to create electronic portfolios...if you want learning to stick long term into memory, then assessments with electronic portfolios are the way to go....
          Electronic portfolios could easily replace highstakes testing....

          What is more tedious? Test prep, or electronic portfolio development?

          •  Electronic and software platforms (0+ / 0-)

            change quickly, while basic knowledge is often good until the last gasp here on Earth.

            Much work is very tedious, such textbook creation, hand surgery, wood carving, computer programming, law creation, lesson planning, etc.

            Test prep doesn't create any additional burdens since the material to be learned by youngsters is generally pretty standard stuff. I have review books copyrighted in the 1960s in my home.

            Fancy electronic bells-and-whistles are an added burden that students in the 1960s didn't have to worry about.

      •  Actually (0+ / 0-)

        I do actually speak to and FOR lower income kids in my community who are getting screwed by the current system.  They can't read or write when they enter the 5th grade.  Most have been in schools where bullies rule and there is real violence.  

        We provide them with a real learning environment which is safe.  We impose a longer school day. We make learning challenging and fun.  We set a high bar for character and integrity.  We set high expectations for staff.

        In the end, we have higher achieving students - and NOT just students who can take a test well.

        These kids will attest to the difference in our program vs the status quo and they are happy to do so because before our program they had no hope, future, or chance.

        •  Really? (0+ / 0-)

          Where are their voices?
          So far you have spoken for them, and I haven't heard from them yet?
          Where is the link to their voices?
          Here is mine.

          You are just peddling the same old behaviorist drill and kill, test prep crap...

          Those kids don't know any better...

    •  Just what we need (0+ / 0-)

      Hell no - I hope more people get clued into the state of public education and get out and fight for our kids.  

      A bunch of people who believe, as you do, that the severity of the problem dictates the solution to it, and that the answers change because of how much one cares about the issue.

      You also believe that the diarist has not provided any ideas for reform.  You get a D- in reading.

      Also, it should be clarified that

      Gates and other private sector entities and foundations are investing in education.  

      They are not investing in education.  They are investing in groups which are attempting to enact a certain set of reforms, many of which have been shown not to work.  The funding this diary talks about isn't funding for schools, or school programs.  But these are reforms which make people feel good viscerally.  There is a "truthiness" about them, which helps people feel that they are "fighting for their kids" against a menacing enemy, which is, oddly....teachers.

      I'm surprised more teachers don't just throw up their hands and walk away with the treatment they get from uninformed parents, government officials, and people like you.  They must really like teaching..or something.

      •  What? (0+ / 0-)

        You are making me laugh.  Seriously:  

        "A bunch of people who believe, as you do, that the severity of the problem dictates the solution to it, and that the answers change because of how much one cares about the issue."

        What does this even mean?  I know these people and they are not making investments because of some corporate agenda which is the popular tin foil theory.  We are engaged in reform because the system is failing our kids.  Do your research, go visit a failing school, and then come debate my position.  

        I am ENGAGED in the solution and it's actually working.  Our kids are learning.  They are safer and have more hope.  Our teachers are more motivated and deliver higher results.  The culture is positive and fun.  Again - results.  Not just test scores but higher performing young individuals who want to attend college and do something to get out of poverty.

        And these people are investing in education and the programs are working despite claims to the contrary.  

        Your response gets a D-.

        •  This is what it means (0+ / 0-)

          The answers to the problems in education are not based on how severe the problem is, as you indicated in your comment:

          Over and over again you don't address the key facts that our students in this country are FAILING in record numbers and are falling further and further behind other countries.  You fail to address the piss poor conditions in urban schools.  You fail to address that it is a FACT that the worst teachers are in the worst schools serving the poorest students.

          I don't believe 55% graduation rates are acceptable. I don't believe that low income students should be disregarded for the sake of the adults and that we should tolerate matriculation rates to college for these students that are in the single digit range.

          So much of your comment is dedicated to pointing out how severe the problems are.  (In addition to making unsubstantiated claims like the worst teachers being in the worst schools, but that's another topic)

          None of what I've bolded above has anything to do with choosing solutions to the problem, yet you state all these (obvious) things like they support your choice to back a certain set of reforms.  Objectively, those things have nothing to do with the solution.

          Again, D- in reading comprehension.

          Oh, and if you want to debate specifics, then instead of supporting your theories by stating how bad the problem is, explain what solutions you are favoring, then show some facts to support them.

          •  and actually is wrong on international comparison (0+ / 0-)

            a point that I have made in multiple diaries.  Hell, I even nailed Obama once when he made an erroneous statement on international comparisons, although Bob Somerby did it far more powerfully.  

            And here's what's interesting -  we are moving towards more seat time, more proscriptive and rigid education at the time countries like China and Korea are moving away from such approaches, and trying to reshape their teaching and schooling to encourage creativity.

            "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

            by teacherken on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 04:45:26 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  Let teachers port seniority and tenure. (0+ / 0-)

    I know of one way to change schools: let teachers port their seniority and tenure.

    People are unique.  People change.

    One of the difficulties with the current system is that teachers lose much seniority and, possibly, tenure if they choose to change districts.

    If teachers could bring seniority and tenure with them to a new job - not often possible - then there would be greater incentive to change and grow.

    People seem to want a national school system with nationalized standards.  If that is the case, then why not have national credentials and centralized seniority and tenure so that teachers can choose the location that most needs their talents?

    by DingellDem on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 11:26:42 AM PDT

    •  Japan rotates teachers (0+ / 0-)

      between schools to level out overall teacher quality for each student during the school years.

      Having the best teachers in Detroit jump ship to affluent suburbs is a far more likely result than the reverse if your suggestion became law.

  •  I tend to think many here (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    would like the Hewlitt School:

    ....The boundless enthusiasm of the children is fostered well by the professional faculty and staff at Hewitt. Looking for ways to help personalize the education process, faculty members carefully monitor the growth of each student using observation methods, written assignments and class work, as well as formal and informal assessments
    Emphasis at this level is placed on the process of becoming independent readers and writers; decoding and comprehension skills are incorporated into all activities.  Our goals are to encourage a love of reading and an appreciation of all literary genres as each girl gains the ability to express her ideas clearly in both oral and written forms of communication
    Girls explore topics in earth, life, and physical science every year.

    All students are introduced to French and Spanish with emphasis on oral expression and comprehension. From classroom conversation, interactive games, singing songs and listening to stories and tapes, the children gain an understanding of basic French and Spanish vocabulary, syntax, and related cultures.

    Hewitt Afternoon is an optional program of supervised fun beginning daily at 3:15 p.m. and featuring a variety of extracurricular activities. Typical offerings include Mini Chefs, Mandarin, Art Majors, Soccer, Show Stoppers and Around the World.

    •  and some things might (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      upset a few people here.

      Upper School students have a pivotal year in Grade 9.  An interdisciplinary curriculum from previous grades begins to include more rigorous examinations, increasingly complex projects and academic electives
      Students have learned to think both within and beyond the classroom, understanding the rewards of service, and the importance of character
      The Upper School curriculum offers courses in English, history, foreign languages, mathematics and science, as well as technology, music, drama, photography, art and physical education.

      We guide students toward intellectual and emotional growth, but also realize the importance of solid standardized test scores.

      The Hewitt School is located in New York's very affluent Upper East Side at 45 East 75th Street.

      "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

    •  I'm not knocking the school (0+ / 0-)

      anymore than I knock Lab School of Chicago where Duncan himself attended and where the Obama daughters used to go or Sidwell Friends where they now go.  I am friends with a number of Sidwell teachers -  I am a Quaker, and have sat on the board of Quaker institutions with some of them.  

      Many independent schools do a wonderful job.  So consider my sig as I again point out to me what is obvious -  how is what Obama and Duncan advocating moving public schools towards the kind of education the two daughters are getting?  Is it not moving public education further away from that kind of human educational experience?

      "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

      by teacherken on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 04:48:07 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  The public system is an industrial product (0+ / 0-)

        and it always has been.  The Obama-Duncan approach is to encourage non-profit charters that are more like independent schools, but it's being fought tooth and nail by the entrenched interests.

        A far simpler solution, as you say, is this: bust up the big districts, fire the Arlene Ackermans and Lagreta Browns, and take the money to launch a bunch of smaller, more focused schools that don't resemble prisons.

        I haven't seen you promoting that idea.

  •  The Castilleja catalog (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    blue jersey mom

    gives a good description of what is taught at the school for sixth to twelfth-grade girls:

    •  I took a look at the program. (0+ / 0-)

      Our local public school has a broader curriculum and more stringent graduation requirements in many subjects. Our students also have the option of taking courses at the local community college (for about $400 a course). The cost is almost as much as your would pay for a year at a top-ranked private college or university.

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