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    When I taught science in Texas high schools, a principal once asked me how I would prepare my students to pass the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) exams.  I told him I would teach the hell out of the science curriculum and give exams of my own that utilized all the learning skills I was taught to include in my teaching.  He became somewhat uncomfortable, but wished me good luck - as if he were looking at a condemned man.

    The test results were such that my students scored higher on the tests than any other science teacher who were drilling the crap out of their kids for this test.  Yes, I'm bragging, but not about being such a great teacher, just one who did what he was supposed to for the benefit of his students.

    This essay starts a series I am writing to summarize, as best I can, the issues before us to try to save our children and their schools from the maw of irresponsible politicians, including Arne Duncan.

    Some herald the start of a new school year by celebrating the extra curricular ceremonies surrounding athletics, band and cheerleaders.  I love all those things too, but there are more important things to discuss.  In order to achieve or regain the ideals of Jefferson regarding educating our citizenry, we first have to discover how we lost our way and how our children have been allowed to flounder in the squalor of materialism and self-indulgence.

The task at hand is nothing short of rebuilding our moral compass as a society and a community.  Daily activities, known affectionately as the rat race have the rats winning.  Our parents are running around trying to keep their personal finances and families afloat in an ever increasing maelstrom of family dysfunction and career degradation.  These pressures affect us all whether or not we have children or are directly associated with their education.  Teachers all know that they are increasingly absorbing child rearing as part of their jobs.  We also see teachers being increasingly targeted as reasons for our children’s failures in school and in the workplace.  In some cases that is a valid concern.  In most cases it is a canard from those who don’t choose to take responsibility for raising their children or want to pay for their education.

Politicians have been exploiting the structural weaknesses of the parents’ lack of attention and the teacher’s organizations to further this avoidance of responsibility by their voters.  The natural tendency for teachers is to put their heads down and go to work doing what they do best:  caring for and about the children in their classrooms.  The teachers have, therefore, given de facto approval for the destruction of public education by political entities that see it as merely another source of revenue.  No Child Left Behind is the culmination of this attack on public education.  Its unholy stepchild, Race to the Top, follows to exacerbate the statements associated with the perception of "just throwing money at the problem".  I will illustrate for you in this series why that is and what we can do about it to achieve the lofty, yet practical goals necessary to return our nation’s vigor to the top tier.  

Thomas Jefferson did point out the need for educating our citizens:
"Every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone.  The people themselves therefore are its only safe depositories.  And to rend even them safe, their minds must be improved to a certain extent."

Horace Mann took it one step further:
"Never will wisdom preside in the halls of legislation, and its profound utterances be recorded on the pages of the stature book, until Common Schools ...shall create a more far-seeing intelligence and a purer morality than has ever existed among communities of men."

By the end of the 19th century the rural schools built half-century earlier were deteriorating and the flood of immigrants from Europe overwhelmed the urban schools.  The industrialists proceeded to bash the public schools, such as they were, for emphasizing intellectual development instead of preparing these kids for vocational jobs in their factories.  Sound familiar?  Indeed, in those days, one didn’t need to have a teaching license to teach children.  So, politicians placed their cronies in classrooms to prepare the kids for the industrialists.

It wasn’t until the agricultural "revolution" took place in the early 20th century with the advent of artificial fertilizer that more children entered school from rural areas than ever before.  This, coupled with the explosion of the industrial revolution created more needs from business and industry for people who knew how to read and write.  These series of events came in handy when World War II happened and we had to innovate like never before.

I graduated from high school in 1960, 50 years ago.  I would like to see our modern high school students receive the same, excellent education I did before I die.  It won’t be as difficult to do as one might think.  The model and methods already exist.  

It is saddening, in a way, that someone has to write these comments, but it is necessary if we expect to remain a viable nation.

Originally posted to dolfin66 on Fri Sep 17, 2010 at 06:27 AM PDT.

Poll

What is your best single way to save our schools?

12%4 votes
42%14 votes
3%1 votes
9%3 votes
3%1 votes
3%1 votes
0%0 votes
27%9 votes

| 33 votes | Vote | Results

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (17+ / 0-)

    "Have a beginner's mind at all times, for a beginner knows nothing and learns all while a sophisticate knows all and learns nothing." - Suzuki

    by dolfin66 on Fri Sep 17, 2010 at 06:27:41 AM PDT

    •  Tipped and recommended, and thank you (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Subversive, karmsy, dolfin66, trs

      Please keep them coming. We need more diaries from teachers. Thank you again.

      "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 Fri Sep 17, 2010 at 07:52:32 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Roger that. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        trs

        I'll try to publish the next two parts in the next two days.  I'm still working on subsequent parts to a rather length essay.  I hope it gets to those who need to read and learn.

        "Have a beginner's mind at all times, for a beginner knows nothing and learns all while a sophisticate knows all and learns nothing." - Suzuki

        by dolfin66 on Fri Sep 17, 2010 at 09:19:04 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks so much for this diary. (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Linnaeus, Lcohen, badger, dolfin66, trs

    Generally, we have a problem that discussions about "educational reform" we hear floated, are seriously biased in favor of those who want to run public schools like a business.

    We have got some know-nothing blowhards around here, spouting "reform" ideas that discount realities teachers face, which will score political points for somebody or other. How nice.

    •  I know.... (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      badger, ManhattanMan, TexMex, karmsy, trs

      I once wrote a manuscript about my 12 years in public schools.  Nobody was interested in printing it because, they said, "Nobody buys non-fiction narrative about public education from unknown authors."  I replied, "That's why I wrote it."  After much laughing and joking, the agents suggested that I fictionalize it and include all the sex, drugs and violence that the public expects in school stories.

      I hope you'll hang in there and read my subsequent essays and make comments.

      "Have a beginner's mind at all times, for a beginner knows nothing and learns all while a sophisticate knows all and learns nothing." - Suzuki

      by dolfin66 on Fri Sep 17, 2010 at 06:46:38 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  A striking ommission from (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Linnaeus, badger, dolfin66, trs, emilymac

      current notions of "best practices" for educational reform, is the acknowledgment of teachers' own ethic of service or vocational pride as reasons they took up the livelihood, and continue in it. The most disturbing critiques of education that I've run into, seem to regard the majority of teachers as leaches, uninterested in student welfare. These critics actually set up a dichotomy between teachers' interest in decent working conditions, and their concern with student well-being, as if one excludes the other.

      If we want real discussion to happen, we have to counter these RW talking points.

      •  Absolutely (5+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Linnaeus, burrow owl, badger, karmsy, trs

        The attacks on teachers unions are, of course, a canard from the right to de-humanize the enemy...as they see it.  If teachers were paid adequately all along, there wouldn't be a teachers union.  Teachers hate unions.  I was a union rep. for my school in the late 90s and was aghast at what a cupcake outfit it was.  Having worked in factories where Teamsters, or Machinists, or Autoworkers unions resided, teachers unions don't know hard-ass.  And that's OK.  Teachers have more important things to do.

        I will say, however, that about 10% of the teachers I encountered in two states should have nothing to do with children.  Generally, though, teachers WERE the dedicated, knowledgeable and caring mentors of children the profession requires.  

        "Have a beginner's mind at all times, for a beginner knows nothing and learns all while a sophisticate knows all and learns nothing." - Suzuki

        by dolfin66 on Fri Sep 17, 2010 at 07:04:44 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  The 10% figure sounds about right to me. (6+ / 0-)

          I had "chair-warmer" teachers when I was in school, and have encountered teachers since who exploit union protections. I agree that there needs to be better  mechanism for dealing with these people. But they aren't the brunt of the problem in education, which we can't seem to find the political will to discuss in a real way.

          •  Precisely.... (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            badger, karmsy, trs

            the point of my series and book - that didn't get printed.  

            I probably ought to try publishing it myself.

            "Have a beginner's mind at all times, for a beginner knows nothing and learns all while a sophisticate knows all and learns nothing." - Suzuki

            by dolfin66 on Fri Sep 17, 2010 at 07:14:31 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  The bad 10% is not the real... (5+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Linnaeus, burrow owl, badger, karmsy, dolfin66

            ...tragedy. The real loss is the best 10% who may never be recognized, learned from, or (without value-added statistics) even identified.

            We need objective standards so we can reward the best. Punishing or eliminating the worst is just a happy side-effect.

            I still think 10% is high, though, based on my unscientific experience in NYC.

            •  Yes. (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              karmsy, trs

              Of course, you're right about the top 10%, but I think it's more like 25% of the best who are leaving for all the reasons we know all too well.

              "Have a beginner's mind at all times, for a beginner knows nothing and learns all while a sophisticate knows all and learns nothing." - Suzuki

              by dolfin66 on Fri Sep 17, 2010 at 07:27:16 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  I'm with you here (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              burrow owl, dolfin66

              How we determine who is the best is, of course, up for discussion, debate, etc.  But I agree with you that the driving goal should be to recognize who the best teachers are, reward them, and perhaps help other teachers learn from them.

              I worry sometimes that so much of the discussion about teachers centers around the "bad teacher" theme that we forget about what to do with good teachers.

              Procrastination: Hard work often pays off after time, but laziness always pays off now.

              by Linnaeus on Fri Sep 17, 2010 at 07:29:41 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  LOL. (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Linnaeus, Ivan, badger

                Yeah.  It's like how we all have to be screened when we write checks at a store when only 0.1% of them bounce.

                As both a former industrial engineer and a retired school teacher, I am totally befuddled by this peculiar notion of "incentive pay".  WTF?  Any teacher who is in it for the inherent satisfaction of helping our kids grow has all the incentive needed.  To put up some poxie test that some "private" contractor gins up to measure student performance without ever stepping inside anyone's classroom is pure political bullshit.  Measuring teacher performance must be done by teachers and educators.  Lesson plan quality, classroom management, student-teacher relationships and teacher-parent relationships are all NOT measured on standardized tests yet contribute greatly to success relative to the socio-economic environment that teachers work in.

                I need to be in a padded room with Arne Duncan for a couple hours.....

                "Have a beginner's mind at all times, for a beginner knows nothing and learns all while a sophisticate knows all and learns nothing." - Suzuki

                by dolfin66 on Fri Sep 17, 2010 at 07:40:38 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  I am going to ask you... (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  nextstep, dolfin66

                  ...as an engineer, a somewhat technical question. You state:

                  "Lesson plan quality, classroom management, student-teacher relationships and teacher-parent relationships are all NOT measured on standardized tests yet contribute greatly to success relative to the socio-economic environment that teachers work in."

                  If there is not standardized measure (i.e., a test) that captures these relationships, how do you know that these soft fuzzy things are important -- or that they even exist?

                  My fear is that a teacher whose kids consistently score highly may be spiked by a politically-motivated Administrator because he doesn't have good "Lesson plan quality, classroom management, student-teacher relationships...etc."

                  Once the soft-fuzzies are introduced, politics becomes supreme.  As an engineer, do you care about the psi that the structural concrete can withstand? Or do you care about the "architect-mason relationship quality?" I realize that the latter is not unimportant, but I think that the main focus should be on the Numbers.

                  •  Children and teaching (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    trs

                    is not like pouring concrete, but your point is understood.  I have found that the "product" of schools is only really measurable by the ultimate outcome:  contribution to society.  And even that gets pretty subjective.  

                    Also, I don't see those things as "warm fuzzies"; rather they are the backbone for keeping order and an optimum learning environment in the classroom.  You'd be amazed at how quickly a kid will respond positively when you get the parent on the phone.  Of course, there has to be a parent who cares.

                    If you've ever done multi-variant analysis, you know that anytime you introduce a variable to the equation, that variable has to be statistically validated before it has any meaningful contribution to the picture you're trying to measure.

                    Furthermore, if the supervisor is measuring lesson plan writing only and not the moving target of how it is implemented, he/she is not being fair in evaluating that teachers SKILLS.  Sometimes teaching skill isn't as important as what the children get to do in class for them to teach each other - another highly successful strategy.

                    Anyway, I just don't think the business/industrial model of evaluation works in schools.  It may seem to politically, but scientifically, no.

                    "Have a beginner's mind at all times, for a beginner knows nothing and learns all while a sophisticate knows all and learns nothing." - Suzuki

                    by dolfin66 on Fri Sep 17, 2010 at 08:04:21 AM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                  •  Care about the significant numbers (2+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Subversive, dolfin66

                    The one single number that is most significant is teacher-student relationships.  Studies have found that the most consistent factor in student success is where the teachers form significant relationships with the students.  Test results on multiple choice tests are far less reliable.  I'm not one to discount metrics but they are blunt instruments and in Obama's current format simply obscure the reforms needed.

                    •  Spot on (0+ / 0-)

                      I learned that from day one in my teacher ed. classes and found it to be confirmed when I started teaching.  This is especially true for kids classified as "at risk."

                      "Have a beginner's mind at all times, for a beginner knows nothing and learns all while a sophisticate knows all and learns nothing." - Suzuki

                      by dolfin66 on Fri Sep 17, 2010 at 11:27:15 AM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

          •  Yes, that does happen (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            burrow owl, dolfin66

            I agree that you will find people who shouldn't be teaching who take advantage of the job protections that they have.  I also agree that there needs to be an appropriate mechanism that minimizes this as best we can.

            That said, I also found your observation that there's a false dichotomy between teachers advocating for decent working conditions and good educational outcomes for children to be a good one.  The two don't have to be in opposition, but I worry that the view that they are is going to predominate.  And if that's not good for keeping good teachers around, that won't be good for children either.

            Procrastination: Hard work often pays off after time, but laziness always pays off now.

            by Linnaeus on Fri Sep 17, 2010 at 07:27:15 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  We can't ignore the fact... (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Linnaeus, burrow owl, nextstep, dolfin66

        ...that many teachers have a vested financial interest in blocking certain reforms.  Even though we don't like to talk about it, if we are being "reality-based" we need to recognize that fact.

        If you think a particular reform is a bad idea, please prove it with facts and data. Saying, "Trust me with the taxpayer's cash, because I really, really like kids", is not good enough. Not anymore.

        Every organization resists change. The CIA howled when Obama set Leon Panetta over them. The bankers are howling about Elizabeth Warren, and the Insurers whined and cried about healthcare reform. Oil drillers threw a tantrum when we said they couldn't drill their holes unless the holes were safe. Every group naturally resists change.

        Now the Teachers are wailing about Education Reform. Many of the criticisms are valid. Many deserve debate. But this debate should be fact-based.

        Saying, "Don't disagree with Teachers because Teachers are nice people who love kids!" is an attempt to shut down debate and ignore facts. We shouldn't do that...it is a tactic unworthy of Progressives.

        •  I am simply not convinced (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Linnaeus, badger, trs, Azazello

          that full consideration of the self-interest of teachers somehow precludes real discussion of educational reform. I see this as one of the RW's favorite talking points.

        •  Not exactly... (5+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Linnaeus, Ivan, badger, karmsy, emilymac

          the point here.  What Duncan and the goobers before him are doing/did is NOT reform.  It's a business model that doesn't work for educating children.  You simply cannot provide the same kind of simple incentives to teachers and kids that you do in the workplace.

          This comes under the same heading as saying schools have to be "competitive".  Why?  Why can't they all operate to the standards you suggest at a very high level.  As Ravitch points out, kids who are being sent to "other" schools are being separated from their community.  If ALL the schools were doing ALL the right things, this canard about competition would go away.  Same with health care.  Why should doctors and hospitals have to compete.

          Competition is these two areas of interest demand failure.  I don't see how that benefits anybody except the rich and the moneyed interests.

          "Have a beginner's mind at all times, for a beginner knows nothing and learns all while a sophisticate knows all and learns nothing." - Suzuki

          by dolfin66 on Fri Sep 17, 2010 at 07:32:43 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Testing is important (5+ / 0-)

    The Diarist points out that his students scored well on the TAKS exam.  This is a good thing.

    What many anti-reform people don't understand is that testing empowers teachers to teach. Because the Diarist delivered measurable results his unorthodox methods were beyond reproach.  His methods could not be criticized because he delivered good outcomes for his kids.

    Every teacher must have the flexibility to run their class the way they see fit, based on particular needs of their students.  By holding students, teachers, and administrators accountable to an objective standard we eliminate the need for:

    + Top-down daily lesson plans imposed by districts

    + Dumbed-down textbooks picked by bribed administrators

    + Inflexible, creativity-killing mandates such as "1000 words of writing per month" or "30 minutes of silent reading per week".

    If we measure results, we don't need to nag teachers on a day-by-day basis. (Here in NYC, it is hour-by-hour!). Just let teachers TEACH and judge their results.

    Of course, we can't expect teachers with poor or special needs kids to deliver the same results as those with rich suburban kids. We need to make allowances for these differences. But the micro-management must stop.

    •  Interesting confluence.... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Ivan, karmsy

      of issues.  I'm reading Diane Ravitch's book about NYC education before and during the Bloomberg era.  You guys must all be running around like scalded cats with that kind of "leadership".

      It's my studied philosophy that we, as a species, are hard-wired to be teachers as well as small community organisms.  Teaching skills requires practice of technique from knapping spear points to building cabinetry.  Teaching knowledge requires all special senses and cognitive avenues in the brain to be exposed to information.  When those two things combine, we have the outcome desired for the benefit of all students.  When politics begins to lose sight of those outcomes we get what we have.

      Thanks for the critique.

      "Have a beginner's mind at all times, for a beginner knows nothing and learns all while a sophisticate knows all and learns nothing." - Suzuki

      by dolfin66 on Fri Sep 17, 2010 at 07:09:32 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Read Ravitch carefully...! (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        burrow owl, karmsy

        Her book has been touted as a refutation of many of the new "reform" proposals.

        But when you read it you find that when it comes to the actual data the results are mixed. Ravitch honestly cites all of these studies, but arranges them in each chapter so as to de-emphasize those that might refute the anti-reform theme of the book.

        Her denouncement of how millionaire philanthropists are funding education reforms is especially amusing, considering she herself received an excellent education from a college that was founded by a millionaire philanthropist.

        She is not dishonest, though. The facts are in the book, but you must strip away the sugar coating and rhetoric.

        •  I am indeed doing this.... (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Ivan, ManhattanMan, karmsy

          as I have read other stuff and am trying to sort it all out.

          My early conclusion is that "reform" is becoming less the operative word and more of a catch-all for disparate ideas.

          The bottom line is that our kids need to be able to learn at THEIR  leisure, not some politicians's.

          "Have a beginner's mind at all times, for a beginner knows nothing and learns all while a sophisticate knows all and learns nothing." - Suzuki

          by dolfin66 on Fri Sep 17, 2010 at 07:35:35 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  controversial view (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          dolfin66

          Is it your view that Ravitch's overall approach is anti-reform or that she is simply opposed to the particular "reforms" now on the table?  I certainly have thought that she wants substantial reform in school governance and management but not the reforms Duncan is espousing.  I would like to see better management of schools and a more coherent curriculum that takes account of the actual students in the classroom rather than simply using a formula approach with the exact same fact patterns.

          •  We are singing from.... (0+ / 0-)

            the same hymnal.  Somebody sent me one of those e-mails of an 8th grade one-room school house test from 1916.  The questions were so well structured and required careful thought and reasoning as well as recall.  The 8th graders I taught would all fail it because our "curriculum" wasn't nearly as rigorous.

            I also had an 8th grader transfer in from Guam.  He told me that the science I was teaching he had in the 6th grade there.  

            ...and it's getting worse.

            "Have a beginner's mind at all times, for a beginner knows nothing and learns all while a sophisticate knows all and learns nothing." - Suzuki

            by dolfin66 on Fri Sep 17, 2010 at 11:30:37 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  BTW... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      burrow owl, ManhattanMan

      those "unorthodox methods" were taught to me by my 12th grade trigonometry teacher in 1959.  I see them as "correct methods".

      "Have a beginner's mind at all times, for a beginner knows nothing and learns all while a sophisticate knows all and learns nothing." - Suzuki

      by dolfin66 on Fri Sep 17, 2010 at 07:10:58 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  And it should be obvious. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ManhattanMan, dolfin66

        I've always found it bizarre that teachers complain about having to teach to the test; if they just taught well, the kids should pick up the information and skills necessary for the test.

        •  Exactly. (0+ / 0-)

          When I first saw one of these damned things, I threw it in the wastebasket.  The TAKS tests in Texas are made up by a private company in MA.  Oh, the politicians say there was teacher input from Texas BOE, but since they have the ultra-right political and religious agenda, you can imagine how well that worked out.

          "Have a beginner's mind at all times, for a beginner knows nothing and learns all while a sophisticate knows all and learns nothing." - Suzuki

          by dolfin66 on Fri Sep 17, 2010 at 07:42:50 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Misses the point, as usual (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Subversive

          Teachers aren't being ALLOWED to teach well, do you get it? They are being told from the start to teach to the test.

          "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 Fri Sep 17, 2010 at 07:51:12 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Yes, I get it! (0+ / 0-)

            And I "got it" for 12 years after a successful 22 year career in business and industry.  The business/industrial model for incentive and reward does NOT work in schools.

            Do you still get that?  

            "Have a beginner's mind at all times, for a beginner knows nothing and learns all while a sophisticate knows all and learns nothing." - Suzuki

            by dolfin66 on Fri Sep 17, 2010 at 08:07:19 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Please read again (0+ / 0-)

              I was responding to burrow owl, and reinforcing the point that you made.

              "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 Fri Sep 17, 2010 at 08:31:57 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Sorry. (0+ / 0-)

                When I'm answering so many responses, I lose track of who is saying what to whom.  

                "Have a beginner's mind at all times, for a beginner knows nothing and learns all while a sophisticate knows all and learns nothing." - Suzuki

                by dolfin66 on Fri Sep 17, 2010 at 09:10:14 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

    •  Industrial model (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      dolfin66

      Whether you know it or not, you're advocating an industrial model of education production, where you have a product specification (learning objectives) and you test the finished product (students) for conformance to spec.

      There's nothing wrong with an industrial model, IMO, if you actually follow it all the way through. Since I have roughly equal amounts of experience in both industrial testing and teaching (vo-tech level), I'll give you a run-through.

      The fundamental principle of testing in industry is that you can't test quality into a product - it has to be designed in and manufactured in. So no matter how much you test for "results", that in itself will not improve the educational system. Testing only measures whether the system produces success or failure.

      If you build a product, say a computer, then there are 4 components to the process flow: design, purchased parts, manufactured parts you make yourself, and product assembly.

      Testing begins in the design phase - an engineering lab builds prototype assemblies which are then tested against specs and the process is repeated until either the product is demonstrated to meet the specs, or the specs are adjusted to what can be achieved. When the product is released to manufacturing, the process is repeated - you do a prototype run (or several), adjust processes, do failure analysis, do re-design, until you have both a product and a process that meet specification. Then you go into production.

      Most of what goes into a computer is purchased parts. Every purchased part has a specification and approved vendors, and every purchased part is subject to incoming inspection to some degree, which can include more testing.

      Every part or subassembly that you manufacture on your own is subject to some kind of inspection, control charts, or more testing.

      When you go to assemble the final product, you have a high degree of expectation that all of the parts that go into the product are functional and meet their individual specs.

      After the product is assembled, it gets some kind of final test before going in the box and getting shipped to the customer (and the box and packing have also been subjected to testing).

      The process doesn't end there in a lot of cases, because you get field failures and product returns, and since you usually offer a warranty, you also do additional testing. measurement and failure analysis to keep returns and warranty costs under control.

      I have never seen an advocate of standardized testing suggest or be willing to pay for anything more than what corresponds to "final test" in a manufacturing process.

      When I taught (electronics, post-secondary), all of my students went through "incoming inspection" - they had to provide high school transcripts, aptitude test scores, and interview with the counselor who was assigned to our department (who had more than 10 years of experience in selecting students for our program).

      Contrast that with a K-12 public program, which has to accept every student coming through the door (and should), where students are assigned to teachers on what's more or less a random basis, and where teachers have no ability to
      reject the raw materials they have to work with.

      Unless you're willing to address those problems and institute something similar to the "cradle-to-grave" kind of test and measurement a real industrial program has, along with the kind of process improvements and re-design an industrial program incorporates, you're not advocating any kind of solution or improvement to the educational process by advocating standardized testing.

      You can't test knowledge into students any more than you can test quality into a product, and abdicating the responsibility for the rest of the process with some nebulous "let teachers TEACH" is no contribution either.

      Either take some courses in what constitutes educational technology, spend some time in a classroom on the teaching side so you have an idea of what's involved, get your performance evaluated, or else be willing to listen to people who have that kind of knowledge and experience in guiding the ways the process needs to be reformed.

      If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the administration.

      by badger on Fri Sep 17, 2010 at 10:31:45 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Nice job. (0+ / 0-)

        As a former principle industrial engineer for a variety of industries, I concur with your "model".  The difference is that the industrial/business model expects the product to be finished as it leaves the door.  With kids up to 18 that doesn't necessarily hold.  

        If we don't provide practical applications for what they learn in school, the product isn't even vectoring toward completion.  That's why I don't think you can measure success of public schools until you can measure the effect it had toward the benefit of the society.  Anyone who knew me in high school would NOT have picked me to be successful.  But after many years of finding my way, I was....in 3 different fields.

        Don't forget that the people responsible for putting us on the moon were educated in public schools maybe 20 earlier.  Who knew?  

        "Have a beginner's mind at all times, for a beginner knows nothing and learns all while a sophisticate knows all and learns nothing." - Suzuki

        by dolfin66 on Fri Sep 17, 2010 at 11:36:13 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  The Operations Management analogy... (0+ / 0-)

          ...doesn't hold.

          We are not giving a pass/fail test. We are testing a range of skills and offering teachers a range of rewards.

          When we find a good or bad teacher we can then (a la Deming) study that person and learn how to improve the process.

          Right now we cannot "design quality into the system" because we have No Frickin' Clue what kind of teaching produces quality. You do not know this until you actually measure what students learn and which teachers help them learn it.

          The red herring counter-argument is that teachers can't reject incoming students. True, but if incoming students are weak learners, or have special needs we can reduce the expectations that the teacher must meet. This is not hard to do.

  •  Well done! (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Subversive, karmsy, dolfin66

    I hope teacherken has a chance to read and comment on this after he's done teaching for the day.  You two have similar philosophies.

    Don't let the folks that are sure to slam you on this get you down... you have the right idea.

    •  Thank you very much. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Odysseus

      As a matter of fact, teacherken and I have been communicating for quite some time on these and other education-related issues.  I write a weekly column for a local newspaper and send him my stuff.  This and subsequent essays are a digestion of our communication plus independent experience and research on my part.

      I hope you continue to enjoy the series.

      "Have a beginner's mind at all times, for a beginner knows nothing and learns all while a sophisticate knows all and learns nothing." - Suzuki

      by dolfin66 on Fri Sep 17, 2010 at 07:13:13 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  It's the culture. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    badger, Subversive, dolfin66

    Our television-driven consumer culture is what makes Americans stupid. The current wave of "reform" is more about privatization than learning. Education starts in the home and we'll never get anywhere until we have a culture that respects and encourages lifelong learning.

    •  Absolutely. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      badger, Subversive, Azazello

      As a science teacher I spent more time "un-Disney-fying" kids before I could introduce them to the facts.  There was still resistance.  And, of course, here in the bible belt the preachers do the rest of the job of institutionalizing ignorance.  It broke my heart to see so many, bright, eager minds get flushed down the tubes of greed and idiocy.

      "Have a beginner's mind at all times, for a beginner knows nothing and learns all while a sophisticate knows all and learns nothing." - Suzuki

      by dolfin66 on Fri Sep 17, 2010 at 07:44:55 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  thanks for this diary!!! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dolfin66

    As a science educator, I agree with you.

    http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/206488-1 at 1:31:20

    by TexMex on Fri Sep 17, 2010 at 07:49:36 AM PDT

  •  What? No poll option for (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Cofcos, dolfin66

    Expelling Texas from the Union, before their new textbooks infect the rest of the country?

    Ok, I was just joking there (at least partly), but in reviewing your poll options, I cannot say that I like many of them.  You want to reduce extra-curricular activities?  Seriously?  (Admittedly, some schools overdo sports just a tad.)

    What I would like to see is less emphasis on testing and social promotion, and higher emphasis on both academic achievement and also on vocational learning.  Some kids really should be making fries at McDonalds for the rest of their lives and we should not be wasting everyone's time and effort trying to send them to a university, where their first year will be spent taking remedial classes in every subject.  Because many of their peers, who would have learned more with less dumbing down of their education, will now be there with them.

    And I'd like to see schools get a better grip on what is a serious behavior problem and what is not, and handle the situation more appropriately.  Smoking, having a nose ring, giving a friend an Aleve for their cramps, etc., does not require suspension.  (On the subject of suspension, suspensions should be in school, not at-home-partying-it-up days.). On the other hand, serious acts of bullying or violence or for instance telling a teacher, "I'm going to f-ing kill you, you fat b-!" should result in immediate transference to field or factory labor if not police intervention as well.

    Of course, that's just my opinion.  

    We would be just a little bit closer to world peace if everyone would just grow some f-ing skin!

    by Subversive on Fri Sep 17, 2010 at 08:18:03 AM PDT

    •  They haven't arleady? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Subversive, dolfin66

      You mean they can get worse?!

      My Mother mentioned to me how my sister's new history book, which she got last week, had the following in it: "...the 12 states of the union rebelled against Great Britain..."... When my Mother pointed it out to the teacher said she knew and pointed out many other errors in the book. Stating that she mentions them to the students when they come up.

      As for my books, after going back to college for the first time in 10 years... I think they are clearly in scam territory, now. They aren't even trying. Several of the examples in my math book are outright wrong. Though, the bigger problem is that the book does a horrible job explaining-- teaching-- anything. To the point it's just a glorified syllabus; that cost 150$.

      Because I basically just use it to know what to I'm supposed to learn and look it up online. It's so bad, I brought it up to professor and she agrees but has no choice in book selection. I warned the rest of the class and told them to look everything up online and two of the people having trouble thanked me profusely.

      It's just one facet. But the textbook industry is probably the most corrupt faction of education and would probably have the fewest, though most powerful, defenders.

      "All I have left is pain and hope-- Hope that the pain will fade away..."

      by Cofcos on Fri Sep 17, 2010 at 11:02:47 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I live and taught in Texas (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Subversive, Cofcos

        and had to do the textbook review for my district's science text purchase.  The 3 choices the state BOE gave us to review had one thousand page biology book with over 300 errors of various types.  The best of the three had 91 such goofs.  The district science coordinator (read: overpaid bureaucrat) picked the worst one because she said the others were too hard for the special needs kids.  Now, this book was also going to be used for AP and honors classes.  You get the idea.

        Textbook publishing is a political racket.

        "Have a beginner's mind at all times, for a beginner knows nothing and learns all while a sophisticate knows all and learns nothing." - Suzuki

        by dolfin66 on Fri Sep 17, 2010 at 11:45:28 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  I like most of your opinion. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Subversive

      The "acting out" stuff used to break my heart.  I'd get madder when a kid cheated (pre-req. to being a financial analyst)than when he/she cursed me.  I couldn't get mad at their pain, just their lack of character or personal discipline.  Even then I had to not show anger and frustration.

      One principal described my classroom management style as a cross between Sgt. Hardman ("Full Metal Jacket") and Mr. Rogers.  But just yesterday I found out that Mr. Rogers was really a Navy Seal and a bemedaled war vet. from Viet Nam.  Yikes!  

      "Have a beginner's mind at all times, for a beginner knows nothing and learns all while a sophisticate knows all and learns nothing." - Suzuki

      by dolfin66 on Fri Sep 17, 2010 at 11:42:11 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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