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Cross-posted at my blog MotherTalkers.

With the release of Waiting for Superman, which was made by the same filmmaker behind An Inconvenient Truth, literally, everyone is talking about the state of our public schools. According to every pundit and their mother, it's bad, and it's all the teachers unions' fault.

You know this movie -- and topic -- has made it to the public consciousness when HBO host Bill Maher and R&B singer John Legend are sparring over it on a Friday night. (Disclosure: My husband was on the show, too. This is what he contributed to the topic: "Teachers don't get paid shit.")

Aside from my husband's erudite comment -- LOL! -- Maher's and Legend's stances represented the extremes of this debate. Maher blamed the high dropout rates in certain high schools and low performance of minority students on the impoverishment of their parents. Legend blamed poor performing schools on poor performing teachers. Here is more detail on their perspectives: Maher's can be found at the Huffington Post and Legend's at the Daily Beast.

I am saddened that either the media or reality has pitted teachers against parents. From my experience as a mother, former AmeriCorps volunteer, and board member of a new independent school, you need both. You need energetic, knowledgeable and passionate teachers who are on board with the school's teaching philosophy and needs of the communities they serve.

You also need very energetic, passionate and involved parents, who at minimum, monitor homework, help teachers in the classroom, and donate what they can in time and money for classroom supplies, field trips, and those little things that enrich learning, but are unfortunately being slashed due to budget cuts. This is no easy feat when parents are working multiple jobs or long hours to make ends meet.

OTOH, this is no easy feat for teachers who must educate an increasingly larger number of students living in poverty and with special needs -- on less money.

Still, I am thrilled so many people, including those without children like Bill Maher, have taken an interest in education and are talking about it. Here are the latest education articles I have seen in the press:

The tough-on-teachers "accountability" measures in places like Florida has actually had an undesired effect, according to Newsweek. It's actually the best teachers that are leaving underperforming schools.  

In 2002, Florida became one of the first states to grade schools on student progress. But the result, the study shows, was a case of “accountability shock”: in the 60 schools deemed failing, about 30 percent of the workforce left—usually for jobs at higher-rated schools nearby. (The average school nationwide might see annual turnover of about 15 percent.) Since the best teachers were among the most likely to transfer, says Northwestern University professor and study coauthor David Figlio, accountability pressure may actually reinforce the gap between educational haves and have-nots; teachers, like athletes, want to play for a winning team. The solution, Figlio suggests, might be retainer deals for the best instructors at bad schools, something to compensate them for the rebuilding ahead.

On the flipside, Newsweek also ran an article on how the best principals can turn around failing schools. I was intrigued by this article on so many levels. In my experience, parents tend to judge a school by their child's teacher, but not the principal. I even had a friend comment to me that "principals don't matter."

But in my experience, our current head of school was very instrumental in turning around our uncertain start-up of 80 kids into a full-fledged school with 186 students. I often wonder why principals are not credited or even mentioned in the success or failure of a school.

Here's what Newsweek's Pat Wingert had to say about one experiment to place the best principals in the toughest schools:

By late spring 2009, a year after the initiative started, student proficiency on the state test had risen in all seven of the original SSI schools, with some school scores rising by more than 20 points, a remarkable achievement. Equally surprising, scores also rose in the second group of SSI schools, which were launched only four months before the tests were administered.

Among the most effective was principal Suzanne Gimenez. After two years at high-poverty Devonshire Elementary, she has boosted the reading score of her Hispanic students by 30 points and her school’s math score by 33 points. Her secrets? Posting a chart to track the performance of every student, plus instilling more accountability and discipline. Years of experience had taught her that “children of poverty perform better with a lot of structure,” she says. “Many of them don’t know where they’re going to get dinner or sleep. School needs to be the same for them every day.”

What do you think of your school's principal?

Lastly, Teach for America's Wendy Kopp got props in a Vanity Fair article. I did not know this but Teach for America, which places graduates from elite colleges into low-income districts to teach, is 20 years old. But here's my question to VF and all the publications out there singing its praises: Does it work? And yes, I have read individual studies in places like North Carolina. But what about a comprehensive study on its impact on a country as a whole. Do TFA teachers really match up or outperform credentialed teachers -- TFA's claim -- everywhere it teaches across the country? Also, what is the impact on students and a community of having such high teacher turnover since most only stay for the two years required of them? Now that's the story I want to read!

Originally posted to Elisa on Mon Oct 18, 2010 at 09:40 AM PDT.

Poll

Principals are...

51%19 votes
32%12 votes
10%4 votes
5%2 votes
0%0 votes

| 37 votes | Vote | Results

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Comment Preferences

    •  There was an interesting article (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Daddy Bartholomew

      (for a change) this morning in our daily paper, the Cleveland Plainly Republican (Plain Dealer). It looked at the median average income of families in districts with each of the six state ratings from academic emergency up to excellent with distinction. It was a perfect stairstep, with family incomes of $66,000 at the top, to $26,000 at the bottom.

      De-orangify Congress: Justin Coussoule for Oh-08 http://www.coussouleforcongress.com/

      by anastasia p on Mon Oct 18, 2010 at 11:26:28 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Although... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        princss6

        ...whenever any family in Cuyahoga County gets any money, the first thing they do is flee to the suburb with the best schools they can afford.

        (Chagrin Falls if they can afford it. Shaker Heights if they can't).

        I bet that good schools attract rich people as much as rich people make good schools.

        Here is a link to the article and the graph.

  •  I think the TFA discussion misses the point (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dar Nirron, princss6

    TFA is a good thing because its participants go on with their non-teaching and usually cushy lives, where they advocate as citizens for positive change in the education of underserved communities.  a huge structural problem in our politics is that most people don;t know what severe deprivation is like, so they have no urgency to address it through the mediation of government.  TFA addresses that.

    The most impressive thing about man [...] is the fact that he has invented the concept of that which does not exist--Glenn Gould

    by Rich in PA on Mon Oct 18, 2010 at 09:46:09 AM PDT

    •  And yet, the same people.. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      badger, Daddy Bartholomew, Azazello

      ...who make that argument for TFA - not a convincing one, in my opinion, as know-nothing TFA-ites like Michelle Rhee go on to have positions of power over teachers who do know something about education - are the very same people who say that one ineffective teacher will ruin - ruin! - their children's lives.

      So which is it? Is teacher quality important (in which case TFA needs to prove and prove conclusively that rich Ivy League kids with a six-week crash course and no classroom experience are more effective than the majority of experienced, educated teachers)? Or is the experience more important (in which case the education reformers would have to admit that individual teacher quality is less important than they suggest it is as a factor in educational outcomes)?

      I think TFA is bad for our society all around. Society loses because it gets a whole bunch of TFA graduates (like Michelle Rhee) whose extremely limited experience means they end up advocating for the worst kinds of anti-teacher reforms; the kids lose because they get teachers whose entire training in education consists of a six-week crash course; and teachers lose as TFA continues to undermine unions and promote the lie that any moron with a college degree and six weeks of quickie training is qualified to teach our kids.

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

      by mistersite on Mon Oct 18, 2010 at 10:21:51 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Your bar for TFA is too high. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        edtastic, princss6

        "TFA needs to prove and prove conclusively that rich Ivy League kids with a six-week crash course and no classroom experience are more effective than the majority of experienced, educated teachers."

        No, they just need to show that a TFA kid is as good as either:

        1. The worst already teacher in the school, or
        1. The fresh, untenured, Education Program graduate (who also has no experience).

        That bar is pretty damn low, imho.

        •  I'd echo tk's comment below - (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          badger

          At least read his prior diary on the subject.

          There's more involved than a single, temporary appointment in any particular school, even if it actually would be a replacement for either the worst teacher in the school or a fresh graduate with an education degree.

          I sure wish my government gave me as much privacy as they demand I give them.

          by Daddy Bartholomew on Mon Oct 18, 2010 at 10:38:11 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  If they are only as good as (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          badger, Daddy Bartholomew

          the fresh, untenured inexperienced Education graduate, I'd personally prefer to take the candidate who I thought would stay for 10 years rather than one who planned to go elsewhere after 2.

          I feel the same way hiring for nearly any job.

          That's not to say that TFA does not have a place. I can imagine getting a bright young TFA teacher and hoping to change her mind to stay.

          One critical issue is, is this TFA grad coming in with a group of inexperienced teachers in a school that is full of turnover, or is this TFA grad coming into a school with a stable staff and many opportunities for mentoring? I cannot imagine a principal having to cope with a significant percentage of new teachers every year, regardless of the SES status of the school. You'd spend the whole year running to stand still.

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

          by elfling on Mon Oct 18, 2010 at 11:07:32 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  Michelle Rhee. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        edtastic, princss6

        Whenever anyone criticizes the education system, it is fashionable to say, "XXX has no teaching experience! They should teach for a couple years, then they'll be qualified to have an opinion!"

        Well, Michelle Rhee and Geoffry Canada have taught for a couple of years. Is their opinion less valuable only because it fails to agree with your own?

        •  Rhe taught for only 3 years. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          badger

          It takes from 3 to 5 years in the classroom to learn how to do it effectively. The most difficult part is classroom management and many new teachers quit during the first 5 years because they can't get it down. In what other profession is it considered wise to throw out all the experienced people and put the noobs in charge ?

          •  Randi Weingarten... (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            edtastic

            From 1991 until 1994 she taught on per diem basis 122 days over the period at Clara Barton High School in Crown Heights. In fall of 1994 she taught history full-time at the school.[5][7][13][14] By 1995, after six months of full-time teaching, Weingarten was elected Assistant Secretary of the UFT.[15][16] She continued full-time teaching, from 1995 to 1997.[17]

            What's that about five years?  

            the most important factor whether students succeed is not their skincolor or their ZIP code or their parents' income - it is the quality of their teacher

            by princss6 on Mon Oct 18, 2010 at 11:20:34 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  The stories she tells about her time teaching (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          badger

          give her rather less credibility in my eyes. In our school district, use of tape on a student would get you fired.

          On one particularly rowdy day, she said she decided to place little pieces of masking tape on their lips for the trip to the school cafeteria for lunch.

          “OK kids, we’re going to do something special today!” she said she told them.

          Rhee said it worked well until they actually arrived at the cafeteria. “I was like, ‘OK, take the tape off. I realized I had not told the kids to lick their lips beforehand…The skin is coming off their lips and they’re bleeding. Thirty-five kids were crying.”

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

          by elfling on Mon Oct 18, 2010 at 11:20:50 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  I think that idea has some merit (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      badger, Daddy Bartholomew

      And I think there's value in recruiting talented people to try to come and fill difficult to fill positions, and to hope that they'll stay. I have no objection to this kind of strategy.

      Where I am less happy is with situations where TFA teachers are chosen en masse over teachers (new or old) with a long term bond to the community simply because they are TFA. Filling a school with "tourists" has negative consequences that are not always appreciated.

      Stability has value. Knowledge of the local community has value. A long term interest in the school, the kids, and the neighborhood has value.

      We know that teachers even our best and brightest take 3-4 years to really get the skills they need to be high quality teachers. High turnover in schools, especially when the teachers are always young, prevents a long view from developing. It also is a significant drag on principal time and attention that might be better used to evaluate curriculum and to look for other opportunities to build a strong educational experience, like partnering with an afterschool program or planning school/community activities or recruiting volunteers or pursuing grant opportunities.

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

      by elfling on Mon Oct 18, 2010 at 11:01:40 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Great balanced... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ManhattanMan

    post.  Tipped and Recc'd.

    the most important factor whether students succeed is not their skincolor or their ZIP code or their parents' income - it is the quality of their teacher

    by princss6 on Mon Oct 18, 2010 at 09:49:36 AM PDT

  •  I Guess I'm Still Confused (5+ / 0-)

    About what the crisis is.

    All of the data that I look at says to me that academic success in public schools is most highly correlated to the race/ethnicity and income of the student's parents.

    Teachers cannot change this.

    The other thing I see is the idea that if every student had 99th quality percentile teachers and principals, all student "scores" would improve.

    The only way that our society would be able to convince all of these top 1% folks to become teachers is to radically increase teacher salaries.

    This flies directly in the face of one of the key goals of charter schooling:  To reduce employment costs for teachers.

    I think our teachers are just fine.

    If you want better students, give their parents access to some goddamned jobs.

    Government saved the markets and sacrified its people.

    by bink on Mon Oct 18, 2010 at 09:51:11 AM PDT

    •  Beyond This (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      badger, Daddy Bartholomew

      I'm really curious about the concern of private school parents about the quality of education in public schools.  They seem to be entirely driving the discussion.  I would like to know what motivates them to want to create the change for everyone else -- a change that they do not intend to suffer the consequences of.

      Is it lower taxes?

      Government saved the markets and sacrified its people.

      by bink on Mon Oct 18, 2010 at 09:53:14 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Private school parents don't care. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        princss6

        The nastiest thing that anti-reformers have done, the sharpest knife that they stuck into the backs of the poor is this: They let Public Schools get so bad that the upper-middle class fled.

        Where does that leave us politically? It leaves us screwed -- millions of somewhat-well-off-families have their kids in private schools or great public schools in leafy suburbs. They no longer have any incentive to care about the inner city. They have no political will to fund public schools.

        The long-term benefit of Charters is that Charters keep families invested in the public school system. If we close the Charters (and NY teachers' unions are attempting to do this) then those kids will flee to the suburbs or to private schools.

        Try getting a levy passed then! Try getting support for Public Schools when the Voting Class no longer has any kids there.

        •  I realize you do not want to be too specific (0+ / 0-)

          but I think you might consider some day doing a diary about what features you think your daughter's charter school has that have been so effective for her.

          I am not a fan of one-size-fits-all education, and I am supportive of charter schools when they are child-centered enterprises, ideally supported and developed from local parents and teachers. And part of the point of charter schools is to try out new ideas and to see if they can be useful either on a small or large scale.

          One thing we need to get away from is using charter schools as a club on neighborhood public schools, or using test scores as a club on either. The test scores from a few years' worth of students aren't nearly as interesting as seeing how those kids fare 5, 6 years down the road, when they're either taking advanced or remedial classes in high school, what options they had and choices they made for college etc.

          And I think that something that everyone needs to let go of is the idea that because one school is successful with one group that we should replicate that school everywhere. I am glad some kids do well with KIPP and I am happy it is available to them. But, it is not an environment I would choose for my daughter.

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

          by elfling on Mon Oct 18, 2010 at 10:40:23 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I don't want to... (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            princss6

            ...lay out enough specifics to do a Diary, but the main thing that attracted me is the vast power teachers have over curriculum and teaching methods at my daughter's Charter. The MBA-types run the business-side and they stay out of the classroom.

            This is why I am so baffled at teachers wailing that Charters will dis-empower them. No parent is going to send their kid to a school run by Suits. Parent choice protects teacher prerogatives.

            The Charter is also more responsive to me as a Parent. I have cell numbers for everyone in the "food chain" from teacher up to the director.

            Try calling P.S. xxx in NYC District yyy at 5pm and asking for the Principal. Good luck!

            When I messed up some paperwork, they EMAILED (emailed!) it to me. And they accepted the completed form by Email! (E-Mail! Did you ever hear of an NYC Public school with E-mail!??!)

            The local Public School had a bored-sounding admin who told me I had to come in, "Between 10AM and 11:30AM on Tuesday only", to hand-deliver the paper. Public Schools don't give a damn about the fact that Parents have Jobs, and we need these Jobs to pay those Taxes that support their asses. Public Schools think nothing of making you miss a day of work, or blowing off a half-day for "staff meetings" so that every parent in New York has to find a babysitter on the same day or lose their job in the middle of a recession.

            Parents don't have tenure, you see. They gotta be at work at 8AM, and cannot deliver paper to paper-pushers "Between 10AM and 11:30AM on Tuesday", because the paper-pusher is too lazy to check their Yahoo account for it.

            /flame off.

            •  Good principals make a huge difference (0+ / 0-)

              They treat teachers like professionals and give them a lot of control, autonomy, and feedback.

              My daughter's non-charter ordinary public school has many of the same features. I have cell numbers, and the teachers have a great deal of autonomy and respect.

              "Charter" is a word that covers too many different situations, and I think confusion over that is part of the problem. The same is true for "local public school."

              I personally am inclined to give schools more local control and am suspicious of the value of megadistricts. But, that said, the megadistricts have some resources and options that our small district does not.

              I would also like to see more use of email, though in my area, few parents have access. I was sad to hear that some influential groups are advocating that teachers not use email. There was concern about confidentiality issues, misunderstandings, etc.

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

              by elfling on Mon Oct 18, 2010 at 11:16:02 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

        •  More pointedly, many want public schools to fail! (0+ / 0-)

          Certainly the GOP seems to be working 24 hrs a day to instill a lack of confidence in public schools, then deny public schools the funding it would take to succeed. And if high-performing teachers tend to leave low-performing schools, so much the better (for the GOP position). And if low-performing public schools are only left with the high-needs kids who can't get into a charter school (because the law permits them to discriminate), so much the better, because it "proves" that public schools can't work.

          Not to say charter schools as such are bad, but they've been used as a tool by the right to kill governmental programs.

    •  Read the KIPP and Credo Study (0+ / 0-)

      All of the data that I look at says to me that academic success in public schools is most highly correlated to the race/ethnicity and income of the student's parents.

      Teachers cannot change this.

      This is not true.  

      the most important factor whether students succeed is not their skincolor or their ZIP code or their parents' income - it is the quality of their teacher

      by princss6 on Mon Oct 18, 2010 at 09:54:09 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Teachers Can Change (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        badger, Daddy Bartholomew

        The race and income of students' parents?

        Or do you mean that the race and income are not highly correlated factors.

        Government saved the markets and sacrified its people.

        by bink on Mon Oct 18, 2010 at 09:55:18 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  No... (0+ / 0-)

          teachers can not allow race and income of students parents as a crutch not to do their job for which they are paid.

          the most important factor whether students succeed is not their skincolor or their ZIP code or their parents' income - it is the quality of their teacher

          by princss6 on Mon Oct 18, 2010 at 10:13:00 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Not admitting that those factors are highly (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            badger, WiseFerret, Azazello

            significant and cannot be ignored is essentially lying, in the sense of omitting part of "the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth".

            Teachers don't use those factors as a crutch - teachers recognize that it is an integral part of the situation they are tasked with, and they recognize that they cannot overcome those factors all on their own.

            I sure wish my government gave me as much privacy as they demand I give them.

            by Daddy Bartholomew on Mon Oct 18, 2010 at 10:18:52 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  I am willing to let them use... (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            badger, Azazello

            ...socioeconomic as a crutch.

            If Teacher A raises scores by 20 points and Teacher B raises scores by 5 points who is the better teacher?

            I say there is no way to tell. We need to look at the socioeconomic status of the kids. If Teacher B had a class full of poor kids, all born to single moms who don't speak English, then there is a strong case for rewarding her over Teacher A.

            There are a million studies correlating socioeconomic factors to achievement. We just need to back out the regression coefficients and apply them. It is not hard to do.

            •  So which comes first... (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              ManhattanMan

              socioeconomic factors are a proxy for poor teachers.  It is no secret that the best teachers eshew teaching the most difficult kids.  

              the most important factor whether students succeed is not their skincolor or their ZIP code or their parents' income - it is the quality of their teacher

              by princss6 on Mon Oct 18, 2010 at 11:14:47 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  THAT I would REALLY like a source for. (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                badger

                It is no secret that the best teachers eschew teaching the most difficult kids.

                I sure wish my government gave me as much privacy as they demand I give them.

                by Daddy Bartholomew on Mon Oct 18, 2010 at 11:43:30 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  Here ya go. (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  princss6

                  In LA, they had to lay off teachers. The Union wanted to do it by Seniority. The ACLU sued, because that would hurt inner-city kids more. Why does laying off by Seniority hurt inner-city kids?

                  "The ACLU  said students were being denied their state constitutional right to a fair and adequate education. It won a temporary injunction in May that prevented more layoffs of first- and second-year teachers who form the bulk of faculties at these schools in impoverished areas, which more experienced teachers tend to avoid."

                  •  Most of the usual suspects won't admit that "more (0+ / 0-)

                    experienced" = "best".

                    They are usually in favor of getting rid of the old, bad teachers that have entrenched themselves via the noxious unions, preventing the younger, better teachers from getting a foothold.

                    Nice to see that someone agrees that experience counts.

                    Or was that your point?

                    I sure wish my government gave me as much privacy as they demand I give them.

                    by Daddy Bartholomew on Mon Oct 18, 2010 at 01:10:05 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  Experience counts. (0+ / 0-)

                      If I don't know anything else about two teachers, I want the one with more experience.

                      Of course this is true only if I don't know anything else. If I have good test data, I will go with the test data. But we usually don't have good tests or good data.

                      •  Interesting, then, that the source you cited (0+ / 0-)

                        above does not mention anything about "best" teachers - which is what I was looking for a source about.

                        It is no secret that the best teachers eshew teaching the most difficult kids.

                        Since you clearly understand the difference between good teachers and experienced teachers, you might want to clarify why you provided a link that does not address my original concern.

                        I sure wish my government gave me as much privacy as they demand I give them.

                        by Daddy Bartholomew on Mon Oct 18, 2010 at 04:04:59 PM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

              •  If we give... (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                princss6

                ...teachers extra points for taking tougher kids, maybe some of the best teachers will try the inner-city classrooms.

                As it is, tenure and seniority let the most experienced teachers flee to the schools with the easiest kids. Our current system pulls our best soldiers away from the battle.

                If we are going to get teachers to take responsibility for the inner-city (which is full of problems beyond their control) we need to offer some serious carrots.

                •  I've no problem (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  ManhattanMan, Uncle Milty

                  paying teachers more to teach in inner cities.  Will it make a difference is definitely up for debate?  Will the unions support it?  I doubt it.

                  the most important factor whether students succeed is not their skincolor or their ZIP code or their parents' income - it is the quality of their teacher

                  by princss6 on Mon Oct 18, 2010 at 11:49:18 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

            •  But... (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              princss6

              If the scores are 20pts and 5pts higher than those SAME KIDS scored last year, than A did a better job.  The longer they teach, and the more A does better than B, the more certain we are that A is a better teacher, right?

              How can that not be?

              The problem is that the teacher unions resist those kinds of comparisons...because they most clearly point to who is a better teacher.  

              It is interesting that there are a million studies correlating socioeconomic factors to achievement and so few looking at the SAME student's progress year-to-year.  

              For a profession that gives trillions of tests every year to determine how much students have learned over a given week/semester/year, it is odd that they suddenly claim tests are so unreliable when they are aimed at assessing their own performance.

              •  Watch out! (0+ / 0-)

                The math here is tricky.

                Rich kids with educated parents will have score gains no matter what the teacher does. Rich kids even get smarter over summer vacation, because they get exposed to better life experiences.

                It is not enough to just measure September-to-June. We still have to allow for home environment.

                •  Too tricky, even for teachers? (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  ManhattanMan

                  Of course it's tricky, just like my performance evaluation at my job is tricky or the evaluation of mutual fund performance is tricky.  But, over long periods of time, it doesn't take a genius to figure out that teacher A who consistently takes poor performing kids and makes good gains is doing a better job than teacher B who consistently takes good performing kids and gets poor results.  Teacher A should get paid more than teacher C.  Teacher C is the new recruit who replaced teacher B when they were fired.

                  I'm not saying we use it to split hairs.  But it's a lot better than just throwing up our hands like Barbie and saying, "Gee, math is hard."  In fact, evaluating teachers should be a whole lot easier than evaluating me at my job or mutual fund performance.  They have dozens of measurable data points move through a pretty controlled environment every year.

          •  And nurses and doctors can't let... (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            badger, Daddy Bartholomew, WiseFerret

            ...the health or habits of their patients as they come in, or their patients' willingness to keep healthy or go through the treatments prescribed, as a crutch not to do their job for which they are paid.

            Doctors and nurses should simply be judged on the basis of how many of their patients die. Don't give me that lousy excuse of "I'm a trauma surgeon!" or "I work in a hospital in a poor neighborhood with less access to preventive care!" or "That guy has a knife in him!" If their patients die, for whatever reason, they should be fired.

            Right?

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

            by mistersite on Mon Oct 18, 2010 at 10:25:32 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  and... (0+ / 0-)

              ...the health or habits of their patients as they come in, or their patients' willingness to keep healthy or go through the treatments prescribed, as a crutch not to do their job for which they are paid.

              And thinking like this directly leads to disparate treatment for minorities.  I suggest you do some research before you offer speculative unfounded justifications.  It has been shown and studied that doctors and nurses routinely prescribe less aggressive treatment for minorities because they perceive that minorities patients won't follow through on treatment regiment.  It leads to shortened life-spans for minorities but hey, who gives a shit, right?

              the most important factor whether students succeed is not their skincolor or their ZIP code or their parents' income - it is the quality of their teacher

              by princss6 on Mon Oct 18, 2010 at 11:13:25 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

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

                ...it was a snarky reminder of what your perspective on teachers would look like if it were applied to doctors and nurses.

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

                by mistersite on Mon Oct 18, 2010 at 11:14:47 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  No, it is reality nt (0+ / 0-)

                  the most important factor whether students succeed is not their skincolor or their ZIP code or their parents' income - it is the quality of their teacher

                  by princss6 on Mon Oct 18, 2010 at 11:16:19 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  No, it isn't. (3+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    badger, elfling, Daddy Bartholomew

                    We don't determine whether doctors or nurses should keep their jobs or get fired based solely on patient outcomes.

                    When someone who's been told time and time again that he needs to eat better and exercise more continues to get unhealthier until he has a heart attack, we don't blame his doctor.

                    When someone who's prescribed medications for a condition doesn't take them, we don't blame her nurse.

                    We don't judge the trauma surgeon treating gunshot victims by the same measure as we judge the dermatologist freezing off moles. We don't judge the nurse in the inner-city hospital based on her patient outcomes and compare them to the nurse at Cedars Sinai.

                    I'd imagine that you would agree that such a perspective would completely discount the professionalism, training, and experience of good doctors or nurses, and completely discount the effects of their environments and their patients on their patient outcomes.

                    Yet, with teachers, you have absolutely no problem disparaging their professionalism or suggesting they be replaced by people with very little actual training and no experience in education, and you suggest that any appeals to environmental factors are just "excuses" for "not doing their jobs."

                    Why do you have so little respect for the profession of teaching?

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

                    by mistersite on Mon Oct 18, 2010 at 11:21:49 AM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  I know... (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      Uncle Milty

                      because doctors don't lose their license for medical mal-practice, right?  That is based on what, not making more cofffee after taking the last.  

                      the most important factor whether students succeed is not their skincolor or their ZIP code or their parents' income - it is the quality of their teacher

                      by princss6 on Mon Oct 18, 2010 at 11:24:14 AM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  Sure they do. (3+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        badger, elfling, Daddy Bartholomew

                        But malpractice (a) has to be proven before a board of a doctor's peers (due process!) and (b) is based not on patient outcomes but on whether or not the doctor has followed the procedures and best practices of the medical community, as determined not by administrative bean-counters or state legislatures but by doctors themselves.

                        Whereas the remedies for our education problems seem to be exactly the opposite - giving districts more leeway to fire teachers without any due process (by eliminating tenure and other worker protections), and basing teacher evaluation not on a set of best practices and standards but on the basis of outcomes, the majority of factors for which are well outside an individual teacher's control.

                        The procedures for doctors respect their professionalism, training, and experience. The procedures being proposed for teachers reduce their job security and disrespect their professionalism, seeking to treat them more like the fry cook at your local McDonald's than like the experts and professionals they really are.

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

                        by mistersite on Mon Oct 18, 2010 at 11:30:28 AM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  Fighting cognitive dissonance is hell, isn't it? (1+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:
                          badger

                          No matter how rationally you argue, no matter how apt your analogies, it all sinks between the cracks like pissing on river rocks.

                          Oh, well. Stay in the trenches, and keep fighting the good fight.

                          I sure wish my government gave me as much privacy as they demand I give them.

                          by Daddy Bartholomew on Mon Oct 18, 2010 at 11:46:26 AM PDT

                          [ Parent ]

                        •  A few differences... (1+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:
                          princss6

                          If I don't like my doctor, I go to a new one.  If everyone stops going to a doctor, he loses his job.  If he is incompetent, he loses his license.  If he makes a mistake, he gets sued.

                          If my kid gets a bad teacher, can I file a law suit and take that teacher’s assets?  Can I choose to get another one?  What if that teacher is competent, but a jerk.  Can I go find another one the next day?  Only if I'm rich enough to go private or lucky enough to get into a charter.

                          Furthermore, doctors don't have unions.  They don't get jobs for life.  There's a good reason doctor's don't get tenure.  If they get a job at a hospital or a private practice they get fired just like the rest of us do...when our bosses don't like us or the way we treat our customers.

                          We're not saying we should fire a teacher because they have lousy students.  We're saying measure each kid’s progress.  Fire teachers that consistently don't get progress and give more money to the ones that do.

      •  KIPP (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Uncle Milty

        In sum, the evidence suggests that prior to enrollment, KIPP students are more likely to score
        below the district average.
        Compared to their counterparts in feeder elementary schools, however,
        there is no consistent pattern of differences between the elementary school achievement levels of
        KIPP and non-KIPP students across schools in the sample.

        link

        the most important factor whether students succeed is not their skincolor or their ZIP code or their parents' income - it is the quality of their teacher

        by princss6 on Mon Oct 18, 2010 at 11:33:31 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  I like the Montessori Method. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    princss6

    It was designed around the street urchins in the slums of Rome 100 years ago. India has effectively adopted it although it is becoming yuppified like it has here in America.

    I would guess there are few Montessori schools in the Barrios of America.

    After all is said and done, a lot more is said than done.

    by Brahman Colorado on Mon Oct 18, 2010 at 09:55:27 AM PDT

    •  My son... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Brahman Colorado

      spent four years in Montessori.  Yes, great methodology.

      the most important factor whether students succeed is not their skincolor or their ZIP code or their parents' income - it is the quality of their teacher

      by princss6 on Mon Oct 18, 2010 at 10:13:31 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  The current testing paradigms (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Daddy Bartholomew

      which absolutely require that kids get particular concepts in a specific way and a specific time, preclude the use of Montessori techniques if you have any concerns about scoring well, especially if you are working with kids that are not already above grade level.

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

      by elfling on Mon Oct 18, 2010 at 11:23:26 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  (shrug) They can both be true. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    princss6

    Maher's and Legend's stances represented the extremes of this debate. Maher blamed the high dropout rates in certain high schools and low performance of minority students on the impoverishment of their parents. Legend blamed poor performing schools on poor performing teachers.

    It has always amused me, watching people implicitly treat that as a zero-sum scale, rather than a non-zero-sum vector space.

    (Though it shows one of my cards, that's one quick way I know to disregard anything else a person says on the topic.)

    I'm gonna go eat a steak. And fuck my wife. And pray to GOD - hatemailapalooza, 052210

    by punditician on Mon Oct 18, 2010 at 09:59:41 AM PDT

  •  Teachers vs. Parents (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Azazello

    Parents have much more impact than teachers on performance. Every study confirms this.

    But we cannot control parents! We can't legislate that Mom reads to her kids. We can't legislate that Dad lives at home with Mom and helps raise the kids.

    Teachers are not the most important factor -- they are the most important factor that we can control. That is why anything that rewards the best teachers is a good idea.

    •  Here we go again... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      badger, anastasia p

      This may just be the most ridiculous argument I've come across yet, and it keeps popping up from the same people.

      You can't legislate that parents help their kids - but that doesn't mean we can't address the factors that prevent parents from being able to help their kids.

      Similarly, we can control the teachers - but if controlling the teachers is not going to address the root causes of poor performance, what's the point?

      I sure wish my government gave me as much privacy as they demand I give them.

      by Daddy Bartholomew on Mon Oct 18, 2010 at 10:15:04 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I am all in favor... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        princss6

        ...of curing poverty, reducing unemployment, reducing crime, getting parents off drugs, and ending teen pregnancy.

        Those things will make student achievement skyrocket!

        But doing those things will take a long time, huge funding, and (sad to say) a political mandate that we Just Ain't Got.

        So, we need to go for achievable solutions. We cannot Cure World Poverty this year, but we can retrain the worst 10% of teachers. We can hold principals accountable for performance. We can let parents choose schools that fit their children better. We can do this TODAY.

        Let's not ask kids to wait for a Big Fix that may never come. Let's fix what we can now.

        •  Which brings up the whole "How do we determine (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          badger

          who are the worst 10% of teachers" argument, along with the arguments for and against charter schools and private schools, and how do you measure principal performance in order to hold them accountable, and so on ad nauseum.

          Fruitless.

          Furthermore, a quick fix may be more detrimental in the long run. "Fix" the current generation, "break" the next five. Not a good trade-off.

          I sure wish my government gave me as much privacy as they demand I give them.

          by Daddy Bartholomew on Mon Oct 18, 2010 at 10:30:09 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Training and professional development is valuable (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Daddy Bartholomew

          for all teachers, regardless of test scores.

          One of the problems with the budget crises is that collaboration time among faculty members has been among the first cuts made. This sounds reasonable and prudent - cut this time before class time - but I think that in fact that cutting this collaboration time substantially hurts staff morale and effectiveness. That time is when the 4th grade teachers all realize that there's a segment in the curriculum that none of the kids are getting that has to be addressed differently, or that the 6th graders are having trouble with a concept that was not truly grokked in 5th grade when expected, or that, oh, yes, try this with Jonny Smith.

          And evaluations are important, for finding weaknesses in even the strongest teachers, for acknowledging the excellent work of good teachers, for acknowledging progress from improving teachers, and for detecting teachers who are unskilled or burnt out.

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

          by elfling on Mon Oct 18, 2010 at 10:50:54 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Battering and disrespecting teachers (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          badger, Daddy Bartholomew

          is no solution. I am seeing it in the complete lack of young people I know planning to teach and in the anger of dedicated teachers who feel like they are nothing but punching bags and like they are being made punching bags in order to have an argument to defund and dismantle schools and turn teachers (of families not rich enough for an escape hatch) into minimum-wage grunts. The Republican gubernatorial candidate in Ohio, John Kasich (Please keep clicking on his ads that are all over this site to cost him money) said just the other day that the local schools in his are "aren't getting the job done." They are rated "excellent with distinction" because he, of course, is in a wealthy area. But he has an agenda he has already laid out: he wants to take resources from the public schools and pour them into charters, probably the failing, for-profit charters that fund Republican candidates here in Ohio.

          I'm pretty much a hardliner on charters. I feel that once we are adequately funding ONE public school system, then we can enjoy the luxury of a second — nonprofit community charters that are held minutely and tightly accountable both financially and educationally. Until that time, they are an extravagance I will oppose with every ounce of my being. And no, I don't owe anyone's child that choice. I only owe them a good, local, public school.

          De-orangify Congress: Justin Coussoule for Oh-08 http://www.coussouleforcongress.com/

          by anastasia p on Mon Oct 18, 2010 at 11:35:13 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  So because you can't change the world ... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Daddy Bartholomew

          there's nothing you can do.

          You can't challenge people who bash teachers, or worse, bash any kind of education or learning in general? Because that's just the culture we live in and there's nothing you do that influences it?

          You can't set up a tutoring program outside your school, locate funding to support a full-time adminstrator, recruit and schedule volunteers, get the program moved into the school (so kids didn't have to travel to attend) and help the school secure even better, longer-term funding? That's a nearly immediate solution for over 100 kids in our school system - about 15% of the total K-12 enrollment, more than half Latino, some with parents who don't speak English.

          You can't help set up a teen center that provides nutrition for kids who need it, a haven outside of an abusive home, motivation to stay drug free, keeping kids out of gangs, or just keeping kids off the street and keep them from getting busted or at least hassled by local cops? All of which increases the probability the kids helped will be able to learn better.

          You can't donate money or time to help kids who can't afford it participate in field trips or other activities in and out of school - science presenters, school plays, band and choir, etc.? You can't advocate with the school administration for kids who have problems? You can't arrange collection and donation of winter coats for kids who can't afford them, and didn't need them in Mexico?

          You can't come up with better ideas than that, more specific to your area and environment? You apparently live in a red state or area dominated by conservative Republicans and fundamentalists, where the median household income is below the poverty line and the number of college-educated people is well below the average in most places. Oh wait - that's where I live.

          That's stuff we can fix now. Instead, you favor turning the entire educational system upside down so a few kids don't have to associate with other kids who have those kinds of problems or have those other kids interfere with their education. And your excuse is that you can't change the whole world?

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

          by badger on Mon Oct 18, 2010 at 12:37:02 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Who needs to do all that? (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            edtastic

            In our neighborhood, we have a Charter school now! The charter school costs the city the same amount of money, and does better.

            It is open to all kids, and free to all kids.

            You are trying to delay change. You want parents to waste time trying to fix everything so that we don't have time to fix anything.

            We aren't falling for it. Families are moving to schools-of-choice and leaving the bureaucracy behind.

            All of the things you cite need to get done. They will get done. The just won't be done within the bureaucratic cage of the inflexible NYC Department of Education.

            •  And the 87% of charter schools that (0+ / 0-)

              do no better than public schools? Are they part and parcel of this magical change you are promoting, at the expense of abandoning the public school system?

              Fossil-fueled cars was a change that appeared to be an improvement over the status quo. Delaying that particular change for a bit, till the inherent flaws were more apparent, might have been a good idea.

              Change for the sake of change is not necessarily a good idea.

              I sure wish my government gave me as much privacy as they demand I give them.

              by Daddy Bartholomew on Mon Oct 18, 2010 at 04:10:54 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

  •  If you are really interested in TFA (6+ / 0-)

    I strongly suggest you read Barbara Torre Veltr's Learning on Other People's Kids:  Becoming a Teach For America Teacher  Barbara actually worked with TFA recruits for a number of years, and thus had excellent access to those in the program.  If you want a snapshot, you might look at this diary where I explored the book.

    "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 Mon Oct 18, 2010 at 10:11:41 AM PDT

    •  I was waiting for you... (2+ / 0-)

      to chime in! Thanks for the excellent article, which I posted in a comment on my blog. I also got a little thrill seeing that Jumpstart was singled out in your piece. I was a Jumpstart Corps member for two years in Boston. I was glad to read so many Jumpstart members go on to teach in the classroom beyond college. Awesome.

  •  The numbers on TFA: (3+ / 0-)

    Barely a third make it past 5 years.  

    "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White

    by zenbassoon on Mon Oct 18, 2010 at 10:40:25 AM PDT

    •  Yah - the folks who run it should try to change (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      princss6

      that.

      Need to get incentives in place so that we're not left with only-those-who-have-no-other-options are teaching.

      There's a study out showing that TFA folks perform on average as well or better than the typical education major, in the classroom. But yah, definitely need to have better retention.

      I'm gonna go eat a steak. And fuck my wife. And pray to GOD - hatemailapalooza, 052210

      by punditician on Mon Oct 18, 2010 at 10:46:21 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  That is, those that make it to 5 years perform as (0+ / 0-)

        well.

        "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White

        by zenbassoon on Mon Oct 18, 2010 at 11:28:31 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I don't think that's what the study I saw (0+ / 0-)

          said, but it could be. It was like a month ago that I looked at it - such details could easily have escaped my memory.

          I'm gonna go eat a steak. And fuck my wife. And pray to GOD - hatemailapalooza, 052210

          by punditician on Mon Oct 18, 2010 at 11:34:56 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

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