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I had the unusual experience of spending my freshman year in high school in one of the bottom 100 schools in the country, followed by spending the next three years at one of the top public 50 schools in the country (both in Augusta-Richmond GA.) As a student I didn't change. The teachers between the two schools weren't really THAT different, although the expectations at the "good" school were higher and I think the teachers were just grateful that we were well-behaved. Classroom sizes were about the same (20-30 students each) and the academic curriculum was the same (the "good" school had more emphasis on the arts, however, and the "bad" school included vocational classes.)

The difference was all in the students. The students at the "bad" school didn't give a crap. They didn't want to be there any way. They were only wasting time until they inevitably gave up and dropped out. The students at the "good" school wanted to be there - we had to pass tests and pass an audition, and if we ever dropped below a C average we were threatened with being returned to the "bad" schools we had come from.

You cannot fix the schools until you fix the students. You cannot fix the students until you fix their parents. You cannot fix their parents until you fix society. How do you fix a broken society?

When I say the teachers weren't really all that different, I say it with all seriousness.  The teachers at the good school and the bad school alike were all there because they liked teaching and were fairly passionate about their respective subjects.  How much different was my 9th grade choral teacher from my 10th grade choral teacher?  One had the luck of getting a job with a fine arts school, and the other one had the rotten luck of landing at a comprehensive high school. At least in our girl's chorus, we all liked our teacher and enjoyed being in there.  

How much different was my 9th grade biology teacher from my 12th grade anatomy and physiology teacher?  The former was a bassist in his church on Sundays, and also the baseball coach for the school.  Yet he did his best with our unruly, uninterested class of rural rednecks and poor black kids from the suburbs of South Augusta, even to the point of giving them a thorough lesson on evolution whether they wanted it or not ("You may not believe it, I'm not saying you have to believe it, but it's science whether you like it or not, so you better know it inside and out.")  I think the 9th grade teacher actually did a more exceptional job - the "bad" school had so little funding that every spare penny had to go for dissection labs, whereas the teacher at the "good" school had been given a grant someplace along the line and our labs also included food and pool noodles.  (The pool noodles became striated muscles, which we had to shove together across our desks while the teacher gleefully shouted "Calcium uptake! Calcium released!")

How much different was my 9th grade literature teacher from my 10th grade one?  Actually, my 9th grade teacher was better.  He was a cool guy, we loved him to bits - (even the less enthused students didn't give him as much of a hard time) and my 10th grade teacher came accross as a bit flakey sometimes.  I don't remember anything we read in 10th grade literature, but I still remember every single person in the 9th grade class having to get up and recite Daffodils, stumbling over the middle verses and looking desperately at the rest of the class or the single daffodil that had been placed in the middle of the class, searching for a clue.

And yet, the "bad" school is considered failing, because the graduation rate is so low.  The teachers are going to be punished for failing to improve, even though they did their damnedest with my classmates to try to get them interested in the subject matter.

The myth of the failing school is that it's somehow the teacher's fault.  I'd say it's the opposite - the teachers are victims of the failing school too.  They try so hard to help their students, to be the light in the darkness, but what are the odds of them actually reaching someone?  And yet, if you had asked any one of them whether it was worth it, knowing how difficult it was to make a difference, they would have said yes - if they can change one student, then it's still worth it.

So don't punish them for failing to reach the other 29 in their classroom.  The other 29 don't want to be reached, and giving the teacher a paycut isn't going to change that.

(I graduated high school in 1998.  I attended the "bad" school, Hephzibah High, from 1994-1995, before I was accepted to Davidson Fine Arts, a publically funded magnet school.)

Edit: Thanks for the rec list, everyone (first time!) I'm glad that I generated such a great discussion in the comments.  

Also, out of curiosity, I checked on the rankings for the two schools for the 2010-2011 school year (using the website School Digger.)  The "bad" school is no longer in the bottom 10 - it's moved up to 346 out of 399, barely scraping its way out of the bottom 50.  The "good" school is tied for first place with two other schools, with all students scoring 100 on the English and mathematics portion of the test used to evaluate the rankings.

Originally posted to catwho on Sat Aug 27, 2011 at 06:15 PM PDT.

Also republished by Education Alternatives and Community Spotlight.

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  •  Tip Jar (135+ / 0-)
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    Gooserock, houyhnhnm, bkamr, quill, cryonaut, elfling, Reino, K S LaVida, raincrow, fireflynw, Lh1695, moose67, Lorikeet, indybend, WiseFerret, blueoasis, Neon Mama, Nedsdag, Dark UltraValia, fixxit, Orinoco, ybruti, libnewsie, where4art, Cali Techie, TDDVandy, anafreeka, jjellin, NWTerriD, Cartoon Messiah, Aug6PDB, ladybug53, BenderRodriguez, bigrivergal, Purple Priestess, quarkstomper, dkmich, TexMex, clutch1, TheGreatLeapForward, Egalitare, ubertar, bobnbob, blue jersey mom, Azazello, Geenius at Wrok, Cassandra Waites, Josiah Bartlett, Tommye, grumbleberries, fba1a, bronte17, BMarshall, steep rain, vidanto, TexDem, Unitary Moonbat, concernedamerican, ruleoflaw, TexH, historys mysteries, h bridges, Kimball Cross, Sarella Sand, jcrit, michael in chicago, sandblaster, nipit, Mlle L, MomInMaine, mconvente, rsie, not this time, AbominableAllStars, Bob B, Above the Clouds, Powered Grace, bluesheep, sunny skies, The Hindsight Times, theunreasonableHUman, Shakespeares Sister, OregonOak, pino, Anne was here, eru, fiddler crabby, Teiresias70, Keone Michaels, wader, J M F, Sweet Spot, muddy boots, sd4david, illinifan17, TexasTom, DamselleFly, hungeski, mungley, ScienceMom, Jjc2006, Dave925, econlibVA, petulans, sidnora, Grassroots Mom, dsteffen, tofumagoo, melvynny, tin woodswoman, roses, Lily O Lady, vcmvo2, greycat, radical simplicity, Gowrie Gal, dannyinla, laurnj, AverageJoe42, mofembot, anodnhajo, jolux, lcrp, el dorado gal, watercarrier4diogenes, nonprofit jim, Bill Roberts, Albatross, esquimaux, JanetT in MD, Laborguy, dle2GA, anastasia p, JC Dufresne, CleanSlate

    Conservatives: They love America. They hate actual Americans.

    by catwho on Sat Aug 27, 2011 at 06:15:06 PM PDT

    •  When calling for holding students to account I ... (9+ / 0-)

      some implied I was being racist or classist. This is a great blog with more to say about education in the county than most written by "experts".

      I have taught basic freshman classes in a "ghetto" school and A.P. classes in a middle class school.  Your experience as a student matches mine as a teacher.  I would like to tie in my  previous diary as a comment here.

      •  so true (7+ / 0-)

        I retired from NYC after 37 years in ghetto schools--what you write is so obvious and so obscured.  Try thinking of it in the reverse--are Asian and Jewish kids smarter genetically?  No--they have a preponderance of parents who pushed their kids to succeed academically.  

        School failure reporting is more about bigotry and political correctness than about anything else.   Education started to fail in the media after Brown v Bd of Ed because white parents expected this--and because failing Black kids were now included in school stats.  Also, "Christian academies" popped up to avoid integration--and wanted funding from the government.  The child of this is the charter school trend.

        Political correctness comes into this because White pols don't want to criticize minority family circumstances--and ghetto poverty, crime, and drug abuse.  So, they talk around the problem of the child's home environment.  Racism is the cause of the problem--as is economic segregation--and until that's faced, the "cures" will never succeed.

        Apres Bush, le deluge.

        by melvynny on Sun Aug 28, 2011 at 10:04:11 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  They have a preponderance of parents (9+ / 0-)

          with free time, with college educations that make it easy for them to help them with home work, and the means to hire tutors.

          Of course it's a lot easier to teach at schools where parents do half the job of education kids.

          It would be shocking if it weren't.

          "I'm tired of hearing that it's "pragmatic" to support positions that most people oppose." RFK Lives

          by JesseCW on Sun Aug 28, 2011 at 10:18:46 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  yup (2+ / 0-)

            Family conditions depend on a lot of variables--including youth experiences of the parents.  In the 1960s, we were honest and called for compensatory education--that is no longer pc.

            Apres Bush, le deluge.

            by melvynny on Sun Aug 28, 2011 at 10:23:04 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  If companies were rated by client income (6+ / 0-)

              Then mass-produced auto firms like GM, Ford, Toyota, Honda etc would all be failing and the only "successful" firms would be Ferrari and the like.

              Rating schools by how wealthy the students are is just as stupid, and turning everything into multiple-choice tests assures that result.

              Thanks for the essay.  It says everything that needs to be said in a compelling way.

              A really great tagline appearing here soon! Watch this space!

              by madhaus on Sun Aug 28, 2011 at 10:49:01 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  You bring up an interesting analogy (0+ / 0-)

                However I would say this is more like if you compared the auto industry ratings for the rate of car accidents.

                It has mostly to do with the driver. However cars produced with various failures can be at least partially to blame.

              •  good students are created before they are 3 (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Minnesota Deb, melvynny, angelajean

                A number to remember in early brain development: 700 synapses formed per second in children under 3

                Ratigan Segment on Brain Development

                Single Payer: Healthcare Privately Delivered, Publically Funded &

                by ca democrat on Sun Aug 28, 2011 at 11:59:31 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

              •  Precisely (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Cassandra Waites

                Policy Matters Ohio published a study that showed an exact stair-step correlation between median family incomes and the ranking attained by a school district. The media family incomes in schools rated "Excellent With Distinction" were three times those of the schools rated "Academic Emergency."

                A blog here just published a list of Ohio's bottom 10 percent schools since our governor's new budget proposes to punish all the teachers by having them retake their certification tests. Of course, they are ALL in poor districts. They even include schools in juvenile correction facilities and schools for kids with behavioral and emotional problems. Seriously — you're going to blame the TEACHERS?

                Jennifer Brunner for Governor of Ohio 2014

                by anastasia p on Sun Aug 28, 2011 at 01:49:46 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

          •  Bigger issue is does the culture the child lives (0+ / 0-)

            in portray education as critically important to having high status and pride or something for nerds and social outcasts and doing well in school is "acting white."

            The children of recent east asian immigrants with lower incomes and who are not fluent in english, still impress upon their children the critical importance of education to their future and current status even though the parents can do little to help.  The do however provide the most important factor - encouragement to put the time and energy to meet high standard in school and expect all As for grades.

            Children who read quality material daily, and do their best in homework and studies and put the required time in to truly understand school material will overwhelming succeed - regardless of family income or race.  The bigger factor is do the parents and those around them encourage or discourage excellence in education in their children.

            The most important way to protect the environment is not to have more than one child.

            by nextstep on Sun Aug 28, 2011 at 01:05:53 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  No, that's not the bigger issue. (0+ / 0-)

              I went to extremely disadvantaged schools.  More than a few of my classmates were Cambodian, Thai, or Laotian.  Some of them were drugged out gang-bangers and some were in the top of the class.

              Just like, well, the black kids and latino kids and white kids.

              Poverty means higher rates of drug abuse and alcoholism and broken families for everybody .

              "I'm tired of hearing that it's "pragmatic" to support positions that most people oppose." RFK Lives

              by JesseCW on Sun Aug 28, 2011 at 03:23:04 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

  •  Answers to How to Change Society Are Known (56+ / 0-)

    in some specifics and many generalities. Society is opposed to fixing those areas, and conservatism is working on dismantling the several improvements that have been proven, such as Head Start.

    Way back in the 70's or maybe 80's I was seeing reporting on studies showing that Head Start participants were showing serious increased in HS graduation and persistent drops in prison incarceration.

    You have to get into the families when the kids are young with enrichment opportunities. Parents have to be assisted at this.

    All this costs money and requires YOUR tax dollars being spent on THOSSSE people.

    But as you say none of this has anything to do with school or teacher quality.

    --But those making the decisions know that perfectly well.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Sat Aug 27, 2011 at 06:37:27 PM PDT

    •  we must've been spending 10 times more (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Orinoco, tnproud2b

      on our schools in the 50s-70s... The answer is not always we need to spend more money on those schools/families.

      •  DId You Mean We Spend 10x More Now? (0+ / 0-)

        We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

        by Gooserock on Sat Aug 27, 2011 at 06:51:04 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  No (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Gooserock, houyhnhnm, tnproud2b

          I meant if you read your solutions, vs our current public school performance vs 50s-70s performance, you'd think we were spending 10 times more back then. What were we doing better then? More Head Start?

          •  Well of Course Partly, Better for Whom? (24+ / 0-)

            Things have stayed pretty miserable for inner city minorities.

            Don't forget we've been wrecking society for the white majority for almost 40 years now, since the middle class hit its all time economic high water mark.

            % of taxes paid by business dropped half or 2/3, many states and localities began in the 80's offering businesses complete freedom from property and/or income taxes when (as my friend in county government pointed out) it was business property tax that ran at a profit to local gov, while individual property tax ran a net loss considering services needed. So there's potential funding for schools and higher education ending up in new spinnakers at the yacht clubs.

            The New Deal Anomaly [the one brief period our system didn't work as designed] forced the economy to be more democratic in the mid 20th century than it ever was before or since. That put a huge amount of the national wealth out among the people and their modest sizes communities that's not there now that the rich have taken back their country to where it always was.

            But the public school teachers in my immediate family have been long retired so I'm not up on whether and how middle class white schools may be failing. The diarist is commenting on failing schools for poor and inner city etc. and that seems to have remained a problem we never solved except in tiny experimental or narrowly targeted areas or ways more as proof of concept than anything else.

            Here in Ohio the courts found our system of funding schools unconstitutional a long time ago because being based on property taxes it has always since my 50's childhood ensured that the poor areas could never compete in education. There's never been a credible solution put forth and with libertarian Republicans holding so much power this problem will probably never be addressed in my lifetime.

            The more you let the economy work as it naturally does, the more society returns to its 10,000 year norm of a civilization of a percent or two and almost everything else complete wreckage. Wouldn't matter what area you're talking about, it can't work.

            We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

            by Gooserock on Sat Aug 27, 2011 at 07:09:53 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Even the test score data shows that (14+ / 0-)

              Schools do pretty well where the percentage of kids on free and reduced lunch is less than 30%. So the evidence suggests middle class white schools are doing pretty well.

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

              by elfling on Sat Aug 27, 2011 at 09:34:25 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  This data base supports this post. (13+ / 0-)
                The state released the latest round of top-to-bottom school rankings today for Michigan schools. This is the second year the state has created statewide rankings and the methodology has changed; therefore, a school's rank in 2010 is not directly comparable to its rank in 2011.

                Achievement and growth rankings are based on student achievement on the Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP) for elementary/middle school students and the Michigan Merit Examination (MME) for high school students. This year the top to bottom rankings also include achievement gap data for all schools and graduation rates for high schoools.

                The ranking gives the percentage of schools in the state that had lower achievement/improvement. For example, a percentile rank of 90 means that 90% of schools statewide scored below this school's result.

                State ranking scores and federal grant formulas are also used to identify the persistently lowest achieving (PLA) schools. Among the 98 schools that made PLA status in 2011 , more than half (53%) are located in Wayne County, while 14% are in Macomb and Oakland counties.

                Search this database to see how your school ranks.

                All the bottom/failing schools are in poor urban areas.   Meanwhile, state and federal politicians are destroying ALL public schools - even the top performing with their demonization of school personnel, cuts to wages and benefits, and cuts to education.  

                Until we fix the financial and human poverty in which children are raised, we will always have failing schools.  

                With Democrats like Obama, who needs Republicans.

                by dkmich on Sun Aug 28, 2011 at 04:29:47 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  Oops, bad link. Here is the correct one. (0+ / 0-)

                  With Democrats like Obama, who needs Republicans.

                  by dkmich on Sun Aug 28, 2011 at 05:09:45 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                •  PISA scores (5+ / 0-)

                  US data from the PISA testing administered by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (the oft-cited testing where the US fares so poorly against world competition) bear out the connection between poverty and test scores.  Analysis of the data using a school's participation rate for the free or reduced price lunch program as an indicator of the relative socio-economic status of the school's population yielded pretty profound results:

                  But data available now tells us that poverty, as usual, had a huge impact on PISA reading test scores for American students. American students in schools with less than 10% of students on free and reduced lunch averaged 551, higher than the overall average of any OECD country. Those in schools with 10 to 25% of students qualifying for free and reduced lunch averaged 527, which was behind only Korea and Finland.

                  In contrast, American students in schools with 75% of more of children in poverty averaged 446, second to last among the 34 OECD countries.
                  Schools Matter: Poverty has a huge impact on American PISA scores

                  Data also reveals performance differences based on ethnicity, but these can likely be linked largely to the increased incidence of poverty among the affected minorities.  There are likely also social behaviors linked to generational poverty and lifestyle circumstances - for instance high mobility among migratory laborers disrupting continuity of education - that impact results beyond the mere availability of resources that is noted in the linked article.

                  We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both. - Justice Louis D. Brandeis

                  by dsteffen on Sun Aug 28, 2011 at 10:13:40 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

            •  I can speak on this subject. (17+ / 0-)

              As a Latina I spent my freshman year of high school in a small town with only one high school and one middle school.  And I was one of the top students in my class that year which shocked many people because the majority of the latino kids just didn't try in school.  My teachers were pleasantly surprised but some of the latino kids accused me of "acting white" because I was a good student.

              In fact, I later found out that very few latino kids were ever among the top students.  And it was easy to see why.  For many of the latino students, being cool meant getting bad grades, skipping class, dropping out, never taking an advanced class, etc.  I was the total opposite which made me an even bigger outsider since I was also the new kid in town.  I was also a shy bookworm, another mark against me.

              It can't be argued that throwing more money at this school would have turned many of my latino peers into amazing students.  The white kids who attended the same school were mostly good students.  It was all attitude.  Most of the white kids came from families that valued education and expected their kids to go to college.  Many of the latino kids came from dysfunctional families that didn't see college as a priority, were not bothered by teenage pregnancy or dropping out, and just didn't care how their kids did in school.  Of course a few Latino kids made it out of this town, moved to the city, and are realizing that education is important.  I spent only freshman year in that small town before my family moved away and I was so happy to be away from that place.

          •  We didn't educate everyone (24+ / 0-)

            The mandate for special education etc only dates to the mid-seventies.

            Through the 80s it was common for kids of the wrong color or surname to have their course schedule changed from calculus to woodshop.

            There is no Golden Age of American education, and to the extent it existed at all, it was for talented white boys who were interested in school. (We still do great with those kids, BTW.)

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

            by elfling on Sat Aug 27, 2011 at 07:42:04 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  What is the actual evidence (15+ / 0-)

            that it was better then?

            Were graduation rates higher?  For all students including low income and minorities?

            I know the kind of testing that is being done today was not being done back then.  That's when I was in school.  I remember taking aptitude tests in eighth grade and that's all the standardized tests I can remember taking until I took the SAT and National Merit Test in high school. Do we know for certain that students would have done better back then if they'd been subjected to the kind of endless (so that they hardly have a chance to learn anything) high stakes testing that kids today are subjected to?

            I can remember some horrible teachers.  One made fun of a girl who'd been in a car accident and suffered brain damage, humiliated a Jehovah's Witness whose faith prohibited him from saying the Pledge of Allegiance, and was eventually fired for ripping a boy's earlobe loose from his head.

            I hated school.  I had intellectual college educated parents, however, who encouraged me to read and think.  I got into one of the top public high schools in the country (14 Merit Scholars in my graduating class).  I was in the honors program.  I didn't turn into a school girl so much as I couldn't help recognizing excellence and responding to it.  My high school experience wasn't typical, though, for the time.

            You mention the fifties, but if you go back to the beginning of the fifties (anytime before 1957, actually, in my part of the country) we were still living in the era of legal apartheid.  Hardly a golden age.

            I don't believe there was one. That's just part of the crock of lies that's been fed to a gullible public by the malanthropists.

            Go watch "Blackboard Jungle".

            Light is seen through a small hole.

            by houyhnhnm on Sat Aug 27, 2011 at 07:58:10 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  When I was in school in the 70's (12+ / 0-)

              We took standardized tests every year. EVERY year. It wasn't to evaluate the teachers although many took it as a personal failure if a student didn't pass, the scores were used as an independent verification the student was ready to move up to the next grade. If you didn't pass you repeated the grade. We usually took them about 6 weeks before school ended for the year.

              The real problem right now is we have a one-size-fits-all mentality when it comes to education. We expect children regardless of their background, mental capacity, emotional state, socioeconomic status, etc., to all learn the same way at the same rate. Any educator who has spent more than a millisecond in a classroom will tell you every student is unique. Yes there are broad categories of students - some who learn best visually while others learn best verbally and all points in between. Some students never seem to have to study (I was one of those lucky kids) while others have to cram every day and still have difficulty understanding. We've gone from a mostly monolithic society to an incredibly diverse one where people of different ethnic and social backgrounds have different cultural references. Yet most textbooks do not take this diversity into account.

              There is no one reason why some schools do better than others. The reasons are as diverse as the children who attend them. Private schools are not the answer either. Many are as bad if not worse than public schools. A good friend of mine teaches in a private school and he openly talks about the corruption and graft at the very top where grades are changed based on how much a parent is willing to pay to have that grade changed. They aren't subject to NCLB so many do not do standardized tests. If they did I think the results would bust a few myths about private schools.

              Don't get me started on church schools in this country. By and large the majority of them do not exist to educate but to brainwash.

              When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace. -Jimi Hendrix -6.0 -5.33

              by Cali Techie on Sun Aug 28, 2011 at 01:42:20 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Just FYI... my nieces & friends kids went to... (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                angelajean, Dave925

                Catholic schools for part of their school years and got a reasonably good learning environment and were not indoctrinated to become catholics.

                IMO even the standard public school curriculum has a lot of conventional wisdom built into its assumptions which some would say rise to the level of brainwashing.  The framing of history in the curriculum.  Even more so an authoritarian governance model which may "train" students to be obedient consumers of products and learn to respect authority figures without question, rather than to question authority and be active democratic citizens.

                Maybe its economic rather than religious brainwashing!

                Cooper Zale Los Angeles

                by leftyparent on Sun Aug 28, 2011 at 08:16:41 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

              •  I had 6 years of public and 6 years of Catholic (10+ / 0-)

                schooling, and I can tell you that the parochial schooling was much better than public except for poorly equipped laboratories for HS Chemistry/Bio classes.

                The High School I went to was in a wealthy community whose public schools were held up as national models.  Each year this school system's SAT scores were amongst the highest in the US.  It was a matter of pride for our little parochial school to out-do that public school, which we did year in and year out.

                The reason?  Ties right back to what the diarist is pointing to.  Attitude.  We were motivated by our successes.  Our success was supported by an atmosphere of learning.  The bar was set high.  We were expected to do well.  And we did.

                One of the biggest factors in our success was this atmosphere of learning.  The was no bad behavior...ever.  Private schools don't have to put up with bad behavior.   Three strikes and you're out.  Public schools not only have to accept every child within its district (including troubled kids, and those that are evicted from private schools), it also has to accommodate kids with special needs, and kids who don't speak English as their primary language at home.  

                I grew up in the 'projects.'  We were very poor.  My desire to learn came from my Dad.  He encouraged me from a very early age.  I wanted to learn, and I credit my Dad with that desire.  That desire was strong enough that I walked 3 miles from a neighboring town to go to that parochial school.  And I worked in a grocery store to pay for my own tuition.

                Today's parents are frequently unable to provide the support that their kids need to do well in school.  Perhaps parents have despondency brought about by feelings of hopelessness because they never really had a chance themselves.  And maybe they see that same deck is stacked against their kids.

                It saddens me because each child has potential, and education can help uncover and develop that potential.

                I fall down, I get up, I keep dancing.

                by DamselleFly on Sun Aug 28, 2011 at 09:47:56 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  Well said & an important story to share... (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Cali Techie, angelajean

                  about the value of "many educational paths".

                  Cooper Zale Los Angeles

                  by leftyparent on Sun Aug 28, 2011 at 11:02:04 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                •  I don't disagree (0+ / 0-)

                  I wasn't thinking about Catholic schools when I was talking about church run schools. Traditional Catholic schools as I understand are usually very good. The protestant schools tend to indoctrinate though, they have risen in response to restrictions on teacher led praying in public schools and they exist specifically to promote a very specific (and misguided) world view.

                  Parental involvement is key. From what I've seen the best schools public or private encourage a high level of parental involvement. The students do better because their parents are involved and encouraging them to do better. Schools where parental involvement isn't encouraged tend to do not as well.

                  There's no one single factor though.

                  When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace. -Jimi Hendrix -6.0 -5.33

                  by Cali Techie on Sun Aug 28, 2011 at 02:59:07 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  I agree - educational problems are complex (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Cali Techie

                    and there is no easy answer.  And I don't know where to begin to help.  Other than casting my vote carefully.

                    On a side note:  Evolution was taught in our science/bio classes.  And to my recollection creationism was never taught even in our religion classes, where we mostly read/studied the New Testament.  But I transferred to Catholic schools in middle school, so can't answer to what happened back then in elementary education.

                    This was back in the 60's BTW.

                    I fall down, I get up, I keep dancing.

                    by DamselleFly on Sun Aug 28, 2011 at 03:52:37 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

      •  Some of the existing funding can be spent better (11+ / 0-)

        It's hard for schools to reach parents, especially the parents who work 2-3 jobs and have other children they need to take care of.  They can't always get time off work to go to a parent-teacher conference at 7PM on a Thursday, or find a babysitter, or go in during the day at noon to see their child's teacher about a bad report card.  

        I think if some of the "wasted" money was channeled into better ways to reach parents through new technology, we'd have some more positive results.  Almost everyone carries around cell phones and may be allowed to use them during breaks at work - why not try a texted "conference" via cell phone?  What about maintaining a web portal system where a parent can log in from someplace with internet access (again, a phone or a public library) and provide feedback directly to the teachers?

        I believe the majority of parents try to care, but they're so exhausted from their own lives and dealing with the immediate problem of survival that the long term problem of motivating their children to complete their education gets pushed aside.  Then when the child reaches high school and is academically disinterested, it's too late.

        Conservatives: They love America. They hate actual Americans.

        by catwho on Sat Aug 27, 2011 at 06:59:38 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Sounds like the perfect solution (3+ / 0-)

          for reaching those farmworker parents picking strawberries 10 hours a day.

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

          by elfling on Sat Aug 27, 2011 at 07:43:37 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Sorry, that was overly snarky (14+ / 0-)

            But I think that sometimes we come at the problem too tightly tied to our own personal experiences rather than recognizing the diversity of the problem.

            I do not think there is much 'wasted' money in education. Frankly, the dollars are very tight.

            There are a lot of innovations, and ways that more innovations could make things better.

            I wish I had better answers for reaching the parents who don't participate in our school. It's important, especially to reach our ESL parents, and to get their feedback and assistance.

            One thing the school did recently was that a spanish-speaking administrator set up a tour of the school campuses with as many ESL parents as she could get. It sounded like the result was very positive and that this will help bring these parents to other events. Fingers crossed that a stronger relationship will develop there.

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

            by elfling on Sat Aug 27, 2011 at 07:50:01 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Most of the waste is at the administrative level (11+ / 0-)

              Even then, I'm not sure how much of it is truly "waste" - beside the obscene amount of money paid to the stupid testing companies.  

              I was a great student, and even I hated the tests.  Hated them all.  I can't imagine what kids today go through with those tests occurring twice a year. Testing days were terrible, especially since back then the kids never actually learned the results of the test unless they failed or scored so astronomically high they were tested for the gifted program.  The school system considered it none of our business, but I really would have liked to have known at the time.  

              Conservatives: They love America. They hate actual Americans.

              by catwho on Sat Aug 27, 2011 at 08:21:10 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Some districts probably do waste at the admin (5+ / 0-)

                level, and probably more so the larger the district. However, administrators do a lot of important tasks, and good ones work as hard as good teachers do.

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

                by elfling on Sat Aug 27, 2011 at 09:37:20 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

              •  Since teachers generally don't run their schools.. (5+ / 0-)

                the people with the real decision making power are at the district or even state level.  They require an entire infrastructure between them and the actual teachers and students in the school that they are managing from afar to give them feedback and carry out the decisions that they make on that feedback.  I think there is a lot of money paid to maintain those degrees of separation.

                Also I think this separation and resulting standardization creates the needs for standardized textbooks rather than teachers having the power to set their curriculum based on more local, more natural, less formal and expensive curriculum resources.  The billions spent on ever changing textbooks takes away from the money spent in the schools themselves on the learning environment including teachers' salaries.

                Finally the separation between far away decision makers and the recipients of those decisions created the need for all the standardized testing, which also sucks billions out of the school environments.

                Cooper Zale Los Angeles

                by leftyparent on Sun Aug 28, 2011 at 08:25:06 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  Different problems in different places (4+ / 0-)

                  For example, some districts (including LAUSD) have the problem of lots of kids that move frequently. In those cases, having a set curriculum and having every grade in every school on the same schedule is very important to supporting those (generally low achieving) kids.

                  I hate the idea of a fixed curriculum everywhere and I value choices, but in some places it's being done for a significant and important reason.

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

                  by elfling on Sun Aug 28, 2011 at 09:26:00 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  My kids were in LAUSD & my concern... (0+ / 0-)

                    was that it seemed that only half the kids were interested in that sort of pre-digested standardized curriculum, while the other half were not, did not want to be in class and tended to drag down the energy of the classroom for the teacher and the kids who wanted to be there.  That other 50% needed other options than the conventional instruction.

                    Cooper Zale Los Angeles

                    by leftyparent on Sun Aug 28, 2011 at 11:05:02 AM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                  •  I would argue exactly the opposite... (0+ / 0-)

                    with kids that move a lot, the teacher would better be able to serve his/her class if the curriculum was flexible. It could change to the needs of that classroom that year.

                    •  The issue is that you might have the same child (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:

                      in 4 different classrooms during the year.

                      The idea of all the classrooms in lockstep is personally distressing to me, but people I respect tell me that for these kids, who get very lost in the system, this change has made a positive difference.

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

                      by elfling on Sun Aug 28, 2011 at 06:08:42 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  That's actually part of the problem, isn't it? (0+ / 0-)

                        I was a kid that was jumped around like that.

                        We moved from England to California. I was ahead in reading and behind in math.

                        When I arrived they put me in 1st grade. Teachers felt I was not well served. They skipped me to 2nd.

                        The second year they decided that I wasn't ready for third so they kept me in 2nd.

                        The third year they decided that I needed to be in 4th grade so they had me skip 3rd.

                        I learned how to write cursive and do my multiplication tables at home because I missed them in 3rd grade.

                        What a mess. If the school would have had a system designed where kids could progress as needed with mixed age students, the process would not have been anywhere near as painful.

                        And, yes, my own experience as an elementary student and military kid lead to my decision to homeschool my boys as we moved around from base to base.

                        Schools that experience large populations of moving families should adapt.

              •  Or in areas that have been privatized (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                i like bbq, Neon Mama

                E.g. janitorial services. These things "save" a penny at the expense of poorer quality work, which then falls onto the teacher to make up for, degrading the quality of the school and the morale of the teachers.

                There was a great diary on this a month ago, I don't have the link :(

                "What could BPossibly go wrong??" -RLMiller "God is just pretend." - eru

                by nosleep4u on Sun Aug 28, 2011 at 08:28:15 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  That's the problem with having guilds in place (0+ / 0-)

                  of Unions.

                  All over the country, through the 80's and 90's, the unions the maintenance and janitorial staffs of our public schools belong too were broken, and the Teachers Guilds did nothing.

                  "I'm tired of hearing that it's "pragmatic" to support positions that most people oppose." RFK Lives

                  by JesseCW on Sun Aug 28, 2011 at 10:27:14 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

            •  Have you been to Texas? (5+ / 0-)

              School districts spend millions of dollars on, get this, football stadiums.

              27, white male, TX-26 (current), TN-07 (originally), liberal-leaning independent

              by TDDVandy on Sun Aug 28, 2011 at 01:21:37 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  And in our school district it's spent on (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                angelajean, i like bbq

                new school buildings. Doesn't sound bad except they close community schools which results in reducing the number of teachers and increasing classroom size.    

                -if there is hope it lies in the proles.

                by nipit on Sun Aug 28, 2011 at 08:18:08 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  Often buildings are funded out of different (0+ / 0-)

                  (one-time) money that cannot be used for operations.

                  Also, don't underestimate the need in many cases. School buildings take a lot of abuse and for example may not be able to accommodate the extra wiring needs for computers and the like.

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

                  by elfling on Sun Aug 28, 2011 at 09:30:15 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  The schools were built with (0+ / 0-)

                    money from bonds. Voters actually voted for it thinking their kids would get a better education because they were getting a new school. After the older schools were shut down, the communities where schools closed deteriorated and property values sunk. Their kids were bused instead of walking to school and the classroom size increased. The school board put forth another school bond last year and the voters voted it down soundly. The school board and superintendent are out of touch because they are trying to pass another bond. It's not going to happen. I believe they could pass one if they used the money to upgrade existing schools and fund more technology initiatives.

                    -if there is hope it lies in the proles.

                    by nipit on Sun Aug 28, 2011 at 12:54:06 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

        •  We have those technologies in my district (7+ / 0-)

          and the majority of parents still don't care to involve themselves. Yes, some work multiple jobs but so do I and I still manage to input grades for 130 students on my own time as well as raise my child, so why can't they check up on their one child? This it the best year I've ever had in terms of parent communication and I still only have 20 parents who have logged on to our system in the three weeks we've been in school.

          •  Teacher time to reply to parents? Not in my world (4+ / 0-)

            I came to teaching from private industry.  In my private job almost half of my time was used preparing to do, or analyzing, my work.  As a teacher if I have a spare moment it is assigned to supervise study hall, fill out info for the administration, answer tens of emails and voicemails from staff and admin each day.  What is left of my "prep and conference" time is often spent tutoring struggling students. Having time to maintain a web page and interact online seems improbable.

          •  We've had an online grading program (5+ / 0-)

            for many years now. Teachers can login and see how many times and when students and parents have logged on. It's amazing how few of them take advantage of this. I think some  of it has to do with access. When you ask students if they have computers and internet connection, most of them raise their hands. If you talk to them privately, it is a different story.

            -if there is hope it lies in the proles.

            by nipit on Sun Aug 28, 2011 at 08:24:07 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Our parents have computers and they are spending (0+ / 0-)

              a shitload of time on them, they just aren't checking their kids' grades. We also have a bank of computers at school in a parent room and a library around the corner with free internet access. It just isn't a priority for them.

        •  Arts. Science Fairs. Plays. Band. (18+ / 0-)

          Parents that come to a school on a week night to cheer their kids on as they play the recorder in the 3rd grade tell kids they are important.

          Going to a Science Fair through Jr. High tells kids that the world wants to see what they think, and all parents would walk by every kids display and shake a kids hand.  It told them that the community wanted them to succeed.

          Parents standing and cheering at a school play, whether it's 5th grade, 7th grade, or Jr. High School tells kids that they are appreciated and their work pays off.

          High School band teaches kids a life long skill and lets them feel proud of their accomplishment every time people watch them.

          I think part of why it's hard to get parents to get really involved is because we aren't providing them the kind of things they can do and feel both relaxed and rewarded about it.    I went to a recent HS play, a local school put on "Dr. Horrible" I think a year ago or two.. I knew -nobody- in the HS, my kids aren't old enough.   But it was a packed room and everyone cheered... most of all, it was fun to attend.  

          I think you have to give the community things they can cheer, because then they will show up.  They are desperate to show up.   The problem is, schools have slowly resorted to giving them only one thing like that.. sports.  And we've sent the message to kids that sports and sports alone matter and really get you respect.

          Which is too bad.   I like HS sports too; it's fun to watch and I will root my youngest son on.  But I would be just as proud if he came to me and said "I want to try out for 'Our Town'" as I would if he told me he was trying out for the basketball team.

          Because a parent, I just want to root my kid on ;)

          Having Hope and using action to give people hope are different things. Make a difference for someone.

          by Chris Reeves on Sun Aug 28, 2011 at 06:54:08 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  This would make a great diary... (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            would you be willing to write one?

            •  Maybe later in the week :) (5+ / 0-)

              I'm too busy working on a different one, which is about evidence based sex ed...  Hmm.   I will have to do that though.

              But I have a draft of one I've worked on off and on for a while, about a local high school speech/drama teacher & a Special Education Speech Therapist and the work they do.  

              I don't know, I do need to get to some of those things ;)

              Having Hope and using action to give people hope are different things. Make a difference for someone.

              by Chris Reeves on Sun Aug 28, 2011 at 08:31:23 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Sounds like you just need to publish with (0+ / 0-)

                us :)  Those are all great education topics!

              •  send me a message (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                when you get your diary done so I don't miss it.  I am a speech-language pathologist (work with children but not in schools).

                •  Our son (6+ / 0-)

                  Is a seriously autistic student.   We've had ups and downs, good and bads.. I blogged about some of the worst moments (you can go back through some of my blogs) and some of the best.. but I've had some great OT/PT people, some I really came to care about.  

                  My wife is a Speech degree, I'm a speech minor.. though in different areas.   And seeing kids who really struggled with speech work with a ST/PT manage to get in front of an audience...

                  If that can't put a tear in your eye watching parents cheer for their kids.. that's what great education is all about.   There is no test or metric evaluation of what it means to see a kid who has struggled for years out of fear to talk to people get up and belt out a laugh or a line in front of a group of people.  

                  There are four moments in my life I will always remember as "great".

                  Watching a physically disabled family member become valedictorian at his HS when the school fought so hard to keep him out.

                  Seeing a friend's child with Down Syndrome race to the finish of a Special Olympics race and wait at the finish line, without finishing, so he could hug his friend and cross together.

                  My wedding to my wife and best friend of fifteen years.

                  Seeing my autistic son speak sentences in front of a (small group) of people, and accept the school district's math accomplishment award - he had the highest score on the tests in the district.

                  Him winning the math award wasn't what got me.  It's that he stood still in front of a group of people and said "Thank You" and to shake someone's hand.

                  I'll give credit to the math teacher too, but that moment, for him to get up in front of people and tell them thanks and to then be a ringbearer for his teacher's wedding that summer.. THAT is what got me.  There isn't a test in the world that can show how big of an accomplishment that was for him as a student.   But the fact that in three years we got there.. or that his OT/PT had managed his issues with handwashing and use of a restroom..

                  There is not book on what that means.  

                  Everyone wants to cheer for their kids.   I'm proud of mine.  But the biggest accomplishments by some of the best teachers I know will never appear on a test.   But there isn't a math score in the world that will make me feel like I need to sit out in a car and weep because I'm so damn proud of my son.   No test will give me that.   Seeing a ST get him to start really talking to people years ago?   I'm on the edge of crying now thinking about it.   The math ribbon is still in a drawer.  Him coming and asking me for his kind of food now or talking to me about a game he likes?  PRICELESS.

                  Having Hope and using action to give people hope are different things. Make a difference for someone.

                  by Chris Reeves on Sun Aug 28, 2011 at 11:44:44 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                •  If you follow Education Alternatives (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Leslie in KY

                  tmservo433's diaries will show up in your stream as they publish. So will other education diaries. Just click on the heart next to the name Education Alternatives :)

                  Or, if you want just tmservo433's diaries, click on the heart next to that name and those diaries alone will show up in your stream.

          •  great comment n/t (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

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

            by elfling on Sun Aug 28, 2011 at 09:33:37 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  This is a great blog about school finance: (8+ / 0-)

        In particular, you might find this interesting, about past vs. present spending and international comparisons:

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

        by elfling on Sat Aug 27, 2011 at 07:54:06 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  good (0+ / 0-)

          I want to know, in particular, what the standard deviation is in terms of spending on schools? Yes, maybe we spend more on average per student. However, if it is because Beverly Hills High is spending a million dollars per student while Podunk High gets by on newspaper coupons, can we really say we've been spending "more" on education?

          •  Also those numbers don't reflect it all (0+ / 0-)

            Because usually those are just official money - they don't count PTA money and they certainly don't include the money spent by parents on tutors and summer camp and the like. So the wealthy districts have thousands more per student spent on education that we don't even track.

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

            by elfling on Sun Aug 28, 2011 at 08:32:58 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  Best info (0+ / 0-)

          One can find on education funding! Highly recommend. Bruce Baker is amazing!

          " The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams"-Eleanor Roosevelt

          by Lh1695 on Sun Aug 28, 2011 at 04:04:04 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  The myth of the golden days (7+ / 0-)

        The notion that public schools were better in the old days is a persistent and pernicious myth.  Drop out rates were much higher in 1960 than today, for example.

        The truth is that, until recently, our society did not deem it necessary to educate every student.  The bottom quarter (or thereabouts) of students either dropped out or were given a diploma for showing up.  These students went into factories or other blue collar jobs, or were part of the nation's poorest class.  

        I graduated from high school in 1973 in a leafy suburb with an excellent high school.  Fully half of my graduating class, including me, were 'vo-ed' students.  We did not have to pass 'college prep' classes to graduate, nor did we have to pass a standardized test.  We did not take algebra, chemistry, biology.  We did not have to learn to write or analyze literature.

        Now, things are different.  Society demands that every single student be prepared for college.  But no society has ever done that before.  If no one has ever done it, can it fairly be called failure?

    •  I don't disagree that head start is a great idea, (13+ / 0-)

      in fact I am in favor of "wrap around' schools especially in "at risk communities" but parents have to show up.  They have to go to teacher meetings, they have to make sure their kids do homework and they have to impose rules that say being disruptive in school is unacceptable.  These are the rules that we grew up with and it does not take money to do any of those things.  

      •  It doesn't take money if the parents are doing it. (11+ / 0-)

        If the parents aren't doing it, it takes money to try to contact/engage/reach out to/persuade them, and it also takes money for the teachers in the classroom and the administrators in the school office to counteract the effects of that parental neglect.

        If I had a population of students whose parents uniformly (1) made students do their homework, and (2) instilled in their students the value that disrupting school is unacceptable, it would literally cut my workload in half. Since that isn't the case -- either for my student population or for the student population of most teachers in today's world -- the education system costs a hell of a lot more to run.

        "These are not candidates. These are the empty stand-ins for lobbyists' policies to be legislated later." - Chimpy, 9/24/10

        by NWTerriD on Sun Aug 28, 2011 at 02:42:44 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  But some parents want to be friends. (3+ / 0-)

          I currently know one family where the son is a discipline problem in school.  He doesn't want to do his work and is constantly disrupting class.  But mom doesn't want her precious angel to be disciplined.  It doesn't bother her at all that he disrupts the class and stops the learning process for other kids.  She only cares about her kid and not what his actions do to his classmates.  What is a teacher supposed to do in this situation?  The other kids are being hurt by this one kid who keeps disrupting class but mom doesn't care about that.

          •  I have a friend in this situation but she does not (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Mlle L, Cassandra Waites, angelajean

            want her son in class, she wants him tutored(one on one is the only environment, he seems to learn in).  He has severe ADHD(even when medicated) and oppositional defiance disorder, he is so far behind that in class he clowns or lays his head on his desk. The law and the school insist that he should be mainstreamed.  This has been going on for years. It is not always the parents that are at issue, the system has a limited number of options and many of them rely on teachers as babysitters.

          •  Doesn't matter why it happens. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            The point, for the schools, is that it DOES happen, and we teachers are now supposed to be "accountable" for teaching kids whose parents don't do their jobs, and at the same time they're raising our class sizes, reducing the support we're given, and cutting our salaries and benefits.

            And then people complain about how the damn teachers' unions are ruining education.

            "These are not candidates. These are the empty stand-ins for lobbyists' policies to be legislated later." - Chimpy, 9/24/10

            by NWTerriD on Mon Aug 29, 2011 at 07:34:49 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  You made some great points (0+ / 0-)

          -if there is hope it lies in the proles.

          by nipit on Sun Aug 28, 2011 at 08:27:44 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  Good luck with that! (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Sarella Sand

        Let's face it - no one can "make" parents do the things they need to do to help their children succeed in school.  We have to be ready to tolerate teh fact that some children will fail.  

    •  AMEN Re Head Start! (7+ / 0-)

      I am an Early Head Start teacher and I see the results of  EHS now in that the 3 year olds we send on to Head Start are better socialized, have greater vocabularies, are more intellectually curious and on the whole have fewer behavior issues than those who  begin HS at 3.  We have a Nurse Family Partnership program that partners first time Moms with a nurse who follows her through her pregnancy and for the first 2 years of the child's life.
      Family support, involvement of  fathers, medical homes for children all go into making this a successful program.

      Sunlight is the best disinfectant

      by historys mysteries on Sun Aug 28, 2011 at 06:46:03 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  there's a lawsuit (5+ / 0-)

      in CO right now to force the government to properly fund the schools, in accordance with our state's constitution. I've been following it with interest, crossing my fingers, but not holding my breath.

      "There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them." - Joseph Brodsky

      by Shakespeares Sister on Sun Aug 28, 2011 at 08:02:59 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  What was your elementary school (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Kimball Cross, angelajean, Albatross

    experience like?  And middle school?

    Light is seen through a small hole.

    by houyhnhnm on Sat Aug 27, 2011 at 06:40:03 PM PDT

    •  Elementary and Middle were public schools (12+ / 0-)

      My older sister Carol had been able to go to pre-school on the Head Start program, when my parents were going to college on the GI bill in Montana.  When I was born on Fort Gordon a few years later, my family was above the poverty line, so my mother scraped up the money to send me to a private pre-school for two years (primarily to act as daycare.) After that, I went to a normal elementary school (which had a state school and hospital for the mentally disabled attached, earning it the unfair stigma of the elementary school also being for "short bus" students) and a public middle school.  

      The middle school was an exceptional situation - at the time, it was the school that serviced the Army base, so it became the home of a lot of pet projects for the soldiers doing community service.  The base gave us some really nifty computer and technology labs, and built an circuit exercise station on the grounds. Also, because so many of the children were from military families, we were pressured to perform well and we knew severe disciplinary action awaited us at home if we were ever in serious trouble at school.  

      (Heh, now I remember the preferred method of punishment for minor infractions that weren't reported to parents - "The Box."  It was a desk in each class room isolated by filing cabinets, in which students being punished sat and had a view of the board and could hear the lesson, but were completely cut off from peers.  An isolated version of the dunce cap, and it worked quite well for the Army brats.  I think some of the kids cut up on purpose to go into The Box for some  privacy.)

      Conservatives: They love America. They hate actual Americans.

      by catwho on Sat Aug 27, 2011 at 06:53:35 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  We also had a punishment (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        called 'The Box' at my high school.

        My high school was different, because it was a test 'left-wing' school in London.

        The Box was a single-wide prefab that was parked in one of our playgrounds, and was run by a teacher we swore was an ex drill-major.

        If you were a discipline problem in class, you could be sent to The Box, where you were forced to sit and do absolutely nothing.  No talking, no reading.  Nothing.  And woe betide any kid that didn't follow those rules - the teacher had a way with words, let us say.

        You couldn't do that nowadays.  You'd be accused of being 'mean' to the kids.  

  •  Thank you for your insights. It's important to (13+ / 0-)

    hear from students themselves about their experiences, and given your diverse experience, I found your comparison interesting and compelling.

    Plutocracy (noun) Greek ploutokratia, from ploutos wealth; 1) government by the wealthy; 2) 21st c. U.S.A.; 3) 22nd c. The World

    by bkamr on Sat Aug 27, 2011 at 06:41:38 PM PDT

  •  A+ - excellent "compare and contrast" essay! (26+ / 0-)

    This is awesome:

    You cannot fix the schools until you fix the students. You cannot fix the students until you fix their parents. You cannot fix their parents until you fix society. How do you fix a broken society?

    My partner has taught at some of the worst public schools in Baltimore, and among the best public schools in Portland Oregon. Her experience as a teacher mirrors yours as a student: there are vast differences in expectations and attitudes of students, parents, and communities towards education that drive academic outcomes. That, and the environmental effects of poverty vs. wealth on learning.

    The reformists claim that they can control for these differences by holding teachers accountable for kids' progress rather than absolute performance, but that assumes that kids in low performing schools will learn as fast as kids in "better" schools. As you point out, though, kids who don't give a crap (or are too sleepy, or hungry, or whatever) aren't likely to learn at the same rate as those who do, so they will show worse progress. Progress measures create an obvious bias against teachers in "bad" schools.

    •  Also, in this economy, teachers go where they can (14+ / 0-)

      I understand there are some monetary incentives for graduating teachers to go into "bad" schools for a few years - but once the student loans are forgiven, I'm sure many of them would love to leave the "bad" schools and go to a permanent home at a "good" school. Unfortunately, jobs for those positions are super competitive, and for every "good" school there are a dozen mediocre and bad ones.  

      My husband, who is an education professor, has said he'd never want to teach at the high school level again unless it was at a school like the "good" school I attended, one where the children were engaged and the parents participated in the education process.  It's something he also tries to prepare his own students for, although it will be a few years after they pass his classes before they get thrown to the sharks (he teaches Foundations and Diversity, which are sophomore level programs.)  Things are not all roses and sunshine in the land of the elementary school teacher, let alone the middle or high school teacher.

      Conservatives: They love America. They hate actual Americans.

      by catwho on Sat Aug 27, 2011 at 08:15:37 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Excellent points (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      One of the fundamental insights of John Dewey was that education was a social process. It takes place within the context of a community. Strengthen the education community--that small society of students, parents and guardians, neighbors, extended family, teachers, administrators, etc--and you strengthen the education of our children.

      Education reform--in its current corporatist manifestation--is destructive of education communities. "Solutions" always come from the outside, and achievement, as Dewey once wrote,

      comes to denote the sort of thing that a well-planned machine can do better than a human being can, and the main effect of education, the achieving of a life of rich significance, drops by the wayside.
  •  Give yourself a real treat and insight into (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    angelajean, Leslie in KY

    education at ForaTV website. Among the most useful historical perspective and introduction to ideas about education is at this link:

    Robinson's presentation is not completed in this segment but it is on ForaTV's site. He also refers to a book called Break Point and Beyond which might be of help in looking at where we have been and where we could go in education. As a teacher of high school and college students and as a state university administrator, I saw the downward trend in education over many years. Most of the so-called help so many want to give will not fix it until we change our approach. Meanwhile a growing percentage of kids get their diplomas after years of homeschooling, charter schools, and online courses from which they get their actual diplomas. They all are equally successful in college - in fact, those who leave the current system or find ways to augment it have a decided advantage. In my community, we have volunteers going into our school district to help create new approaches in math and other subjects. We can be part of the solution.

    •  This implies that the system can make a difference (6+ / 0-)
      Meanwhile a growing percentage of kids get their diplomas after years of homeschooling, charter schools, and online courses from which they get their actual diplomas. They all are equally successful in college - in fact, those who leave the current system or find ways to augment it have a decided advantage. In my community, we have volunteers going into our school district to help create new approaches in math and other subjects. We can be part of the solution.

      I know kids that, once taken out of a 'bad' school, do succeed. It isn't always the students though it can be the atmosphere created by placing a whole bunch of students that don't want to be in school together.

      We need more ways for kids to get an education other than traditional school and our public school system needs to find ways to integrate them into all school districts.

      •  I wasn't implying that the system can make (4+ / 0-)

        a difference - my point was that in the case of our community was that we are taking what measures the district will support. People are making the difference. We go into the school to do reading with the kids and we feed our kids through the entire summer - free lunches to all kids 18 and younger. We help the kids grow the food that is cooked in the cafeteria - the garden beds are are on the campus. We also have a school based health center with a pediatric nurse practitioner on duty twice a month and mental health counselor twice a month as well. Our kids get lots of scholarship dollars each year for college education.

        The next step for our district will probably be the creation of the district as a charter school in order to save it. Or our children will be bused over 25 miles to another district. We turned down a Montessori charter school to reserve the right to go charter if the district fails. The state allows only one charter school in an area so we have reserved this option. Understand that our area is rural to the point of being called a "frontier" area such as AK.  We have high unemployment and a 45% drop in housing prices - we are not an overall wealthy community. But we are giving our kids the best shot we have to give with good old people-power.

        •  I think we are making the same point. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          For you, people make the difference.

          For me, people are the system. When we can wrap our heads around that concept, more districts will find solutions. They are the solution!

          I think it is great that your community is pulling together to find solutions. I personally would like to hear more about why creating a charter school has become the answer. We have had lots of conversations about charters at Education Alternatives and many believe the existing public school system should be able to fix the problems without turning to charters. Some of us see charters as a part of the solution. Would you be willing to write a diary (or more than one) about this process?

          I'll send you an invite to write for the group :)

          •  I agree with you - people make systems and it's (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            sometimes all too easy to forget that in our thinking.  I think we get overwhelmed with the weight of that which is and find it hard to go to that which could be. In any case we are that system and can make change happen with intelligent and patient intervention coupled with supportive interaction.

            I really can understand the comments here that are negative based on the ways that some charter schools apparently are established and divert funding and create division. It's unfortunate that charter schools have gotten a bad reputation as a result.

            I am honored that you would me to write for the group. Perhaps we can be in touch on that. I have served on the board of a charter school, again in a very remote area including the second largest Indian reservation in California. It is one of the memorable experiences of my education service.

            •  I would love to read more about that experience. (0+ / 0-)

              I have also served on a charter school board in CA.

              I wrote about it here:

              It garnered 442 comments but no recommend list :)  The conversations were well worth it!

              We need to hear more about the positive charter schools... some states have nothing but negative and their only answer is to wipe out the system. If they could take what works and scrap what doesn't, they might actually find some solutions in there. Only by writing about the successful ones can we help people change their minds.

        •  I'm sure you've looked at your options (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          another might be to make your own school district to avoid consolidation. Local laws, conditions, and funding will indicate the best option.

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

          by elfling on Sun Aug 28, 2011 at 09:41:42 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  We do have a district of our own now. We have (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            angelajean, elfling

            consolidated our elementary and middle school at one site and have the high school at another. We previously had two elementary school buildings but have one for sale. An interim step as enrollments decline would be to do one more consolidation of all grades at one site. Then the only option after that is to go charter which the state of Oregon will allow us to do to stay separate. We are losing many children due to lack of employment locally so our funding decreases each year.

            The district north of us that would become a regional district is actually a fine district and if the day comes that a regional school is our only option, that may be what is needed to offer the best education opportunities. Meanwhile we try to help our young families make it here because it is a great place for children to grow up and the families who have lived here for generations can continue to call it home. I should mention that we have a mostly elder population - those active volunteers span ages from 30's 'and 40's to late 70's and early 80's. Our kids get significant time with lots of stand-in grandparents!

  •  Cat - thanks for an excellent perspective.... (5+ / 0-)

    "Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the universe." A. Einstein

    by moose67 on Sat Aug 27, 2011 at 07:20:41 PM PDT

  •  NCLB --- Designed to FAIL. (18+ / 0-)

    NCLB Bushscam was designed to leave ALL the kids behind.   Think about it --- all the children had to be 100%  proficient in about a decade?  

    It was always an unrealistic goal.  It will never be reached.  I doesn't allow for individual differences in humans.  

    Even plutocrats' best admired businesses, touted as models of effieciency, don't have 100% proficient employees and they have the advantage of being able to fire poor workers.

    The filthy rich want to piratize our public schools.  Their end goal is to suck up all those tax dollars we waste actually trying to educate.

    The tests they are making big bucks on --- are designed to cause failures.  Have you ever seen the prep books they also sell the schools?   I can't help my grandkids answer some of the questions --- in my best subjects --- with my college education.    There are some deliberately weird questions in which not enough info is supplied to gain a correct answer.

    Too bad the parents are not smart enough to go on strike all across the nation. What if they refused to let any of our students  take the tests this year?  

    Then we could go back to learning instead of test practice.  

    De fund + de bunk = de EXIT--->>>>>

    by Neon Mama on Sat Aug 27, 2011 at 09:12:17 PM PDT

  •  The key is the Arts (17+ / 0-)

    Schools with good arts programs attract the smarter kids. I see this in action as the school where I volunteer has cut arts to the bone. No longer is band and choir offered below the high school level - as the new band/choir teacher puts it, "I have no feeders so we'll be done here in a year or two. I can't put too much into it because they're only paying me 60% and I need to find another job to pay my bills." There are no drama teachers. None.

    All this because the entire district is in its third year of a NCLB improvement program. The high school at one time was a "California Distinguished School" known for its great arts programs. It had one of the best show choirs in the state as well as a top performing band and a fantastic drama program. It's all history now.

    The kids who go there are demoralized. Their days are filled with drudgery with most attending two periods of either math or English, many take two periods of both. I was on campus last week to talk to the new band/choir teacher to let her know I'm here to help her when she needs it. There were a lot of students on campus that day getting registered for classes, having their ID photos taken, etc. I overheard one student talking to another saying, "This looks like Russia, man." I would have to agree. Schools are often drab places, but this one goes beyond drab to decrepit. Peeling paint, leaking roofs, graffiti, and vandalism are evident everywhere you look. Yet when I do the math, this school should represent about $20 Million a year in education expenditures. That's pretty sad when $20 million a year isn't enough.

    The smart kids, the ones they need to raise their test scores are leaving the district in droves. Many of those who left are now home schooled. Most are in private or magnet schools that emphasize the arts in another nearby district. It's not unusual at all for parents to go through the trouble of moving or the expense of renting an apartment in the district where there's a teacher who is known for her or his abilities or to get in a high quality arts program. Others will simply commit outright fraud claiming to live in the home of a friend who lives in the district.

    The sad thing is this particular HS isn't the worst in the Bay Area, not by a long shot. Many of the students who go here are "refugee" students from another nearby school district located within spitting distance of one of the best universities in the world.

    We are in a race to the bottom. It's a long downward spiral where those who have the economic means find a way out leaving those who cannot escape to deal with the aftermath.

    When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace. -Jimi Hendrix -6.0 -5.33

    by Cali Techie on Sun Aug 28, 2011 at 01:17:52 AM PDT

    •  In one of my kids' schools (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Cali Techie, elfling

      the Arts & Music program is paid for by the parents via fundraising.  Without moderately affluent parents, the Arts program would disappear form the school.  What is more disconcerting is that there doesn't seem to be enthusiastic support for the Arts/Music program from the other teachers or the Admins. Why? Because (despite being a "California Distinguished School") the arts don't matter when it comes to the vicious spiral of teaching to the test/test scores/funding.  In fact, the arts & music program occasionally cuts into "teaching" time and test prep, thereby earning the ire of the other teachers - not because they hate the arts but because they are expected to improve test scores and they can't do that when their class is rehearsing for the spring performance.

      •  We're starting a similar program (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        In the past parents were mostly ignored or even locked out. We started a "pay to play" system like the sports teams do and interestingly enough there are parents threatening to go to the ACLU, which is causing some of the organizers to pause.

        When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace. -Jimi Hendrix -6.0 -5.33

        by Cali Techie on Sun Aug 28, 2011 at 03:53:06 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  If I'm reading this right... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Cali Techie

          the pay to play is sort of the opposite of what our kids' school did.  In our case, the parents flat out pay the teacher's salary and it's open to all.  Somehow, the admins just push the salary off to the parent organization and fundraising covers it. Same thing with the school nurse.  

          •  Something like that (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            Basically what's happening is the band parents organization in response to the schools ending the instrumental music programs in the elementary and middle schools have decided to start an afternoon program where everyone who participates pays a small fee. This fee covers materials and modest stipends for the contracted instructors who do it more for the love of it than for the money.

            There's also talk of the parents simply raising the money and opening it up to anyone who wishes to participate.

            Oddly enough at the district where I'm working on this there is a threat from a parent to ask the ACLU to sue. I don't think the ACLU will take it on since learning how to play a musical instrument at no cost isn't a constitutional right. However it's enough to give organizers pause and with school starting tomorrow there is no program in place for any kids who wish to learn how to play an instrument.

            When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace. -Jimi Hendrix -6.0 -5.33

            by Cali Techie on Mon Aug 29, 2011 at 03:48:00 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  We similarly had one parent (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Cali Techie

              who tried to muck things up by complaining that the school auditorium was being used without charge for a for-profit afterschool drama program.  They wanted to get more money for the school and, in turn, nearly wiped out the program. There's always one in the bunch.

            •  Some people are unreasonable (0+ / 0-)

              I would try to sit with this person and try to understand her goals. Surely giving money to lawyers is not among them.

              I would also build your program on what I call the NPR model - that is, suggested donations rather than required. The whole program will be stronger, the more kids who participate, and no child who wants to be there should be denied.

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

              by elfling on Mon Aug 29, 2011 at 08:36:24 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Turns out (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                it's a tempest in a tea-pot. The ACLU suit is over paying for required courses and materials during normal school hours, something that should be paid for with our tax dollars. After school elective programs are not affected by this. We're charging ahead.

                When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace. -Jimi Hendrix -6.0 -5.33

                by Cali Techie on Mon Aug 29, 2011 at 11:45:49 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

          •  And the reason why we have to do it this way (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            is because the district is in it's third year of a NCLB improvement program. The kids must spend most of their day learning English and math which leaves no time during the school day for electives like music. Because of that it has to be an after school program and the district isn't going to hire any teachers for that no matter who pays for it.

            When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace. -Jimi Hendrix -6.0 -5.33

            by Cali Techie on Mon Aug 29, 2011 at 03:50:11 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Our school is on a 4 1/2 day schedule (0+ / 0-)

              The kids go a bit longer Mon-Thurs and then get out early on Fridays, but the bus runs at the regular time on Friday so that the kids can participate in the afterschool program activities (which are free to all). (The activities include music, art, gardening, cooking, PE, and science and whatever else can be cooked up among an interested adult and kids.) A lot of districts have a short day one day a week for staff meetings and the like - perhaps this is the case at your school and it can be turned to some educational advantage.

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

              by elfling on Mon Aug 29, 2011 at 08:39:51 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  There are two short days (0+ / 0-)

                And I mean SHORT! Wednesdays and Thursdays they get out at 1:30 pm. They're on a 4 day schedule. Frankly I don't see how they learn anything.

                We plan to use those days to our advantage. There are no school buses (local mass transit is pretty good actually) and I know parents would be happy to have a couple of extra hours before they had to pick up their kids.

                When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace. -Jimi Hendrix -6.0 -5.33

                by Cali Techie on Mon Aug 29, 2011 at 12:37:34 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

        •  The problem with music for our school was (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          we could only afford to pay for one period a day, and no credentialed music teacher could travel to our (rural) school to teach one class every day.

          We put together a partnership with our afterschool program. The school owns instruments but had no teacher. There are lots of musicians in the community and finding one who could come for three hours once a week to teach was possible. So the afterschool program now has a music option on Friday afternoons (our short day) with a very good teacher, and the program is thriving. There's the equivalent of a varsity and JV rock band for the older kids, and an elementary program for the younger ones.

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

          by elfling on Mon Aug 29, 2011 at 08:33:50 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  This. A thousand times. (9+ / 0-)

    The problem that those who want more teacher accountability forget is that some teachers get stuck with a classroom full of bad students.

    It's far more difficult to get every student in a classroom full of bad students to pass a state-mandated test than it is in a classroom full of good students.  If you stake a teacher's pay and even her job to how well her students do, you're almost guaranteed to see teachers flock to the good schools; there, the students (who want to learn) will learn even if the teacher's half-assing it.

    So the rich get even richer, and the poor are screwed.

    27, white male, TX-26 (current), TN-07 (originally), liberal-leaning independent

    by TDDVandy on Sun Aug 28, 2011 at 01:18:52 AM PDT

    •  Teacher accountability doesnt mean same metrics (0+ / 0-)

      Some of us who want merit pay for teachers do not believe in teachers in different schools paid on an equal basis for the same student metrics such as test scores. We think a variety of factrors should be taken into account including neighborhood metrics and even something similar. If a teacher is that good, sooner or later, he or she should be able to find a school that recognizes his  or her talents. Teachers in demand deserve better pay.

      you can call me praveen.

      by pravin on Sun Aug 28, 2011 at 04:08:29 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  The two best teachers I know (8+ / 0-)

        One was a calculus teacher.   A brilliant teacher, he would move through the room and everyone would grasp it.   He had been a former engineer for years and the way he would explain things, cute stories about when math meant something and what it meant to him - changed the way a lot of people I knew viewed math.

        The second was a speech and drama teacher.   Every year, our school would put on two main productions, and drama would put on several more.   She managed to get more kids to come out of their shell and get up and speak or act in front of a large group... and because of her, that small school produced kids who: were national collegiate speach/debate champions, went on to be national directors, and one writer for SNL.

        It's really easy for me to look at test results and see how great the calculus teacher was.

        But you can't really quantify in a test how amazing a teacher is when the result is giving a kid confidence to stand in front of a room and deliver a speech, to read lines from a play and make people want to watch.

        There isn't a test or metric that can tell you what that means to the life of that kid.    But it changed their lives, all the same.

        Having Hope and using action to give people hope are different things. Make a difference for someone.

        by Chris Reeves on Sun Aug 28, 2011 at 06:47:05 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I agree (0+ / 0-)

          But so what?

          The tests do the best they can.

          The real good teachers will continue to do an amazing job.

          Let me ask you how many amazing teachers do a great job at helping their students personally develop but fail on the academic? My personal guess this number is next to 0.

          With any kind of promotion system there is always some wiggle room.  But you just deal with it and try and minimize it.

          •  Meet teachers in Special Education (4+ / 0-)

            Which is getting slaughtered nationwide.  

            The absolute best teacher I know of is a Special Education teacher K-2.   She runs a special classroom for autistic and challenged students.

            Most of those students will NEVER perform well on a test.   But I have seen absolute miracles come out of that classroom.   I've seen kids start in (K) who couldn't speak or keep eye contact.   I've seen her develop books and programs to help those kids do everything from talk to people to not hit people.

            She'll never get recognized on any test score.   Anywhere.  But there are families all across our city who would sell their house to be in a district just close to her because that's how good she is.

            I'm not saying this as a joke, I did it.   We moved just so we could be within 2 blocks of that school.   This year, two houses on our block sold - above asking price - just by parents desperate to get their kids into her classroom.

            She'll never have test scores to prove that she does a great academic job.   But I have -never- met a teacher who works as hard and accomplishes as much as she does.  

            I say this as someone who TA'd in college, met some great HS and Middle School teachers.     I have never met anyone anywhere who works as hard as that woman.   At anything.  

            Even though my son is too old to be in her classroom now, if there is one standout achievement of the elementary school he's at, it's teachers like her.

            Having Hope and using action to give people hope are different things. Make a difference for someone.

            by Chris Reeves on Sun Aug 28, 2011 at 12:15:02 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  So your telling me (0+ / 0-)

              you think that special education teachers would be/are graded on the same scale as regular ed?

              •  I'm saying (0+ / 0-)

                Your argument was that it's hard to be a great teacher without showing academic achievement on a test.  

                There are other examples.  Have a good test for


                Having Hope and using action to give people hope are different things. Make a difference for someone.

                by Chris Reeves on Sun Aug 28, 2011 at 04:58:57 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  Ill (0+ / 0-)

                  concede your point that there are a variety of sub professions within teaching where it would be hard to come up with a test of any kind.

                  However I would argue that those besides vocational ed and special ed are not core subjects and are thus not really what this debate is about.

                  •  But the problem is you have this move (0+ / 0-)

                    to value added tests... and the only teachers who are the sole input for their students for a year, for whom there is a previous year to compare, is grades 3-6. (In CA we have a 2nd grade exam.)

                    It seems kind of ridiculous to build this infrastructure to use a metric of dubious merit that can only be applied at best to less than 1/4 of the teachers.

                    I think using the scores informally as an input to an evaluation is valuable. I think you always need to look at the scores and then ask yourself what they tell you.

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

                    by elfling on Mon Aug 29, 2011 at 08:44:29 AM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                •  Those kindergarteners are slackers (0+ / 0-)

                  never show any achievement on the bubble tests.

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

                  by elfling on Mon Aug 29, 2011 at 08:40:56 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

              •  Schools have already failed on the performance (0+ / 0-)

                of the special education kids.

                I wouldn't be surprised if special education teachers were graded on the same scale, since NCLB apparently does so for the children.

                Prayers and best wishes to those in Japan.

                by Cassandra Waites on Sun Aug 28, 2011 at 05:05:34 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

        •  the metric is teacher evaluation (0+ / 0-)

          The mistake is to use just one metric. One cna have three or four different metrics, with the understanding there is no perfect metric here. One metric to capture the intangible is teacher evaluation. If the parents and students are too dense to recognize a great teacher, the publuic school system should be flexible enough to encourage teacher movement.

          you can call me praveen.

          by pravin on Mon Aug 29, 2011 at 06:07:50 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  I totally agree. (4+ / 0-)

      An aquaintance of mine attended one of the richest public school districts in Texas.  In high school he had an idiot for a biology teacher.  However, the students still did well on their exams.  Why was that?  Because these were good students who wanted to go to college.  So despite the bad teacher, they studied and did well on their exams.

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

        Honestly, my calculus teacher in high school was terrible, but this didn't affect whether I learned calculus or not.  (I got a 5 on the AP calculus exam.)  A lot of that was because I went out and learned calculus on my own.

        But some of the students in my class didn't do so well.

        27, white male, TX-26 (current), TN-07 (originally), liberal-leaning independent

        by TDDVandy on Sun Aug 28, 2011 at 03:13:38 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Cut work hours in half and double wages or more. (0+ / 0-)
  •  One Size Fits All Doesnt work (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    vidanto, Sarella Sand, angelajean

    I think administrators and school boards have to do a better job of helping teachers in these disadvantaged areas. Teachers unions should be spending more time finding ways to help teachers in these type of schools than gettting defensive about charter schools or whatever. If you spend time helping improve the system, you eliminate most discussions about alternative systems. I hear a lot of complaints about administrators. So the unions should be helping teachers fight back at these administrators for common sense unreasonable conditions. Show the students who is  boss.

    A good teacher in one setting may not be the same effective teacher in another. A teacher in a school where kids dont give a damn deserves a higher salary for combat pay. Hell, maybe some schools could use ex-military drill insructors to instill discipline in kids who are being a disciplinary mess. Maybe it won't help certain kids with such a strict regimen, but it will prevent the atmosphere from affecting other kids with potential. They need to make it tougher to sue schools for experimental programs.

    you can call me praveen.

    by pravin on Sun Aug 28, 2011 at 04:01:20 AM PDT

  •  Anti Evolution schools must lose funding (5+ / 0-)

    Seriously, if I lived in a neighborhood where the idiot parents dont believe in evolution and they apply pressure on the local school not to teach evolution, I would ask the government to put my kids in a school that did not entertain such ignorant nonsense or refund my school property tax allocation. It is amazing how dumb so many families are even in this day and age.

    you can call me praveen.

    by pravin on Sun Aug 28, 2011 at 04:05:21 AM PDT

  •  I appreciate your perspective and I love the (9+ / 0-)

    conversation that you have started.

    Kids in the public school system are failed long before high school. We push kids into a false world, one that doesn't exist outside of school. They are taught along side only kids of their own age, usually of their own social class, and have very limited experience because of it. They are taught many things that are unimportant to them because connections are not made between real life and between book learning. We focus heavily on reading, writing, and math long before many kids are ready to focus on those subjects and do well. We test them, not to learn how well they are doing as individuals, but to find out how well they are doing as a group. We do very little to foster independent thinking. We set unrealistic goals for both teachers and students and then are punish them when they aren't met.

    I say WE because I think the public school system is a WE. It is our society at work. I chose, for the most part, not to participate within it because I didn't feel it would work well for my kids. We withdrew from society and created our own for a while. I wish more people had the opportunity or the desire to do the same. But, for most people, the current system works because it provides what they are looking for: enough education to get by and place for children to be during the day.

    Until I and the people who agree with me can convince more folks that public education can be done in a different way, we will keep the current structure and very little will change. Because, let's face it, making society change for kids at the high school level won't happen until we start helping those kids at the kindergarten level or younger - when they are excited about playing and learning isn't about memorizing, it's about discovery. When we stop killing that instinct in public school, I will be ready to say we don't have a failing public school system.

    •  Worthy of Best Comment status (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      historys mysteries

      Thanks, and I wholeheartedly agree.

    •  Actually if you read (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      historys mysteries, Albatross

      Fareed Zakaria's Post American World 2.0, you will see that our educational system is geared to teaching kids to think.  If you search page 210 of the book, you will read that our system is admired outside of the US because we foster individuality and produce entrepreneurs.The first edition of the book (which is the one I have read) states that if you remove the bottom third of the schools, US students jump to the top of the international achievement charts.  Which fits in with what this poster observed.

      It's a shame that one third of the schools have severe problems, but it a republican talking point to condemn all public schools.  The republicans want for profit schools so they keep up a barrage of negative publicity against the public schools and have done so for 30 years.

  •  This (5+ / 0-)
    You cannot fix the schools until you fix the students. You cannot fix the students until you fix their parents. You cannot fix their parents until you fix society. How do you fix a broken society?

    Great quote, and that's the key. Closing failing schools is stupid, a) it's wrong and b) it doesn't work.

  •  Bad schools exist, and it's not about the teachers (5+ / 0-)

    First, I'm going to say that the vast majority of teachers I've dealt with have been truly great people.   But, unfortunately, like all professions I've also had the misfortune of meeting those I wish I hadn't as well.

    But the problems with "bad schools" is rarely about the teachers, it's mostly about the administration and what they do to a school.

    I have been part of some great accomplishments with schools and I've worked with schools I love.   I was also there for moments I wish I could just forget.

    I remember administration in a small, rural school telling a super-bright student that she was "destroying their school" and refusing to grant her a diploma as at 15 because their school "isn't designed to get people ready for university.. you should go to a JuCo and stay here.."

    I was there when we had to sue administration.. twice... for blackballing a physically disabled student.

    I've been a technical advisor and a resource to a school district that outright stole money (I mean -stole money-) from students by using their spending to line the pockets of friends and cronies and make expensive equipment "disappear" off the grounds of the school.

    You're correct that a lot of that is about parents.   But I've seen great kids go into some schools where I knew, going in, they were not getting the opportunity they deserved.  And it's not their parents fault they couldn't afford to go to a better school.

    I live right next to a school district that, if I lived there, I have the resources and my children would NEVER EVER attend (KC, MO).   And it's not about the teachers (though, their policy of allowing people without a college degree and only a HS diploma teach longterm as "substitutes" who rotate around is a bit icky), it's about what repeatedly has happened in administration.

    This week, they lost their superintendent, again.  What happened?  He was so upset with board members that he filed an Open Records Act request to get the documents on where $85M dollars disappeared from his budget and new levels of administration were hired in who were basically just cronies of board members.   He protested because the supposed construction wasn't really happening.

    What has happened is that an unacreditted school district has lost two of it's most valuable options.. because as we're seeing, greater administration through the board changed funding, altered spending, inserted fake jobs..

    There are truly bad schools.   Schools I wouldn't want my kids to go to.    But it's rarely about a bad teacher.    Unfortunately, bad teachers do exist (I will never think well of a teacher who took every effort to shame a student who had an abortion by openly referring to her as a whore in front of a classroom on a nearly daily basis).   But a bad teacher doesn't make a bad school.

    A bad administration makes a bad school.

    The problem is, people with money and resources avoid them like the plague.... for their kids.   They just use that same money and resources to get on the boards to milk bad school districts for money and to setup a situation that may help their pocketbook but outright crushes students futures.

    Having Hope and using action to give people hope are different things. Make a difference for someone.

    by Chris Reeves on Sun Aug 28, 2011 at 06:39:53 AM PDT

  •  My mother taught elementary school for two (6+ / 0-)

    decades. She was always going on and on about the "poor home environment" of some of her students. The teachers really aren't to blame.

    For relevant sci-fi and fantasy, go to

    by Kimball Cross on Sun Aug 28, 2011 at 06:54:14 AM PDT

  •  Good diary... (3+ / 0-)

    the schools are reflective of our society at large. Privatizing them won't solve the issue, but it will mean less transparency, lower wages and benefits and unhappy teachers.

  •  How hungry we are (3+ / 0-)

    for a simple straightforward common sense perspective on schools and students and parents with the authority of personal experience; and without the g-dawful politics and lies and propoganda that infects everything that comes out of the mouths and from the pens of the school "reformers", that makes honest commentary almost impossible.

    Testing and accountability and charter schools and proficiency and value-added analysis and goals and assessment and reform itself - all words that have been corrupted beyond redemption. Those that came to help with good intentions have found their movement hijacked by politicians and fraudsters and greedheads and opportunists and exploiters at every turn and from every profession. These have tried to demonize teachers, they have tried to tarnish the hard, exhausting, sacred work of adopting 100 children and trying to guide them and motivate them to learn, to work, to think, to understand, to appreciate. They campaign every day in the media and in government, while teachers every day go to work and do their jobs and try to stay unaffected. These lying sabatoeurs have covered themselves in mud and ugliness and the public is learning not to trust any of them.

    Yes, this comment illustrates itself. The state of discourse regarding education is terrible, and it will be a long road back to where objective commentary becomes possible again.

  •  Not only did we spend more money (0+ / 0-)

    when I went to school in the 60's and 70's, there was one other difference.  A large swath of the female population stayed home with the kids.  Economics have forced many women into the work force.  Sure I grew up in the era of Women's rights, but really what right did I gain?  The right to work or the need to work?  When I think of kids struggling in school or uninterested for a variety of reasons, I look for the underlying problem.  Sure, parents need to shoulder their share of the blame, but people need to understand why parents are unable to give their kids all the support they need to succeed in school.  Many parents do try very hard even those who work full time, but there are many others that don't have the energy, the skill or the focus to help their kids.  Some work hard just to keep a roof over their kids head and keep them safe and have nothing left after that.

    Loyalty to petrified opinion never yet broke a chain or freed a human soul in this world--and never will. Mark Twain

    by whoknu on Sun Aug 28, 2011 at 07:52:18 AM PDT

    •  I'll tell you what you gained. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      whoknu, Minnesota Deb, elfling
      The right to work or the need to work?
      You lost the need to get married in order to live. Personally, I don't want to ever be married, and I appreciate the fact that I do not have to either do that, teach, become a nurse, or prostitute myself in order to earn a living.

      Oh, and the women's movement that grew up in parallel with women's expansion in the workforce has also brought along changes in laws about sexual harassment and rape. Yes, we've slid backwards, but young women today can at least put a name to these things, instead of calling them just "part of life."

      So, yes, you've gained an awful lot, and, quite frankly, it irks me to see women whine about how they wish we were still back in the '50s in social-justice terms.

      •  Uh, I think you are reading (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Minnesota Deb, elfling

        WAY too much into my comment.  I am not suggesting IN ANY WAY that we go back to the 50's or that women should not work.

        What I am suggesting is that we recognize what has changed since the 50's and how it has impacted our children in school.  Women working is not at all something I am against.  What I am against is women working without decent wages, decent hours, time off for family, healthcare, paid maternity leave, flexible/affordable good daycare... I could go on and on.  

        The American family has changed from the 50's in that in those days a family could actually live on one salary.  Today, most families need two salaries just to survive.  Women often don't have a choice whether they want to work during the time that they are raising a child.  I did not have that choice because I could not afford NOT to work even in a two parent family.  I had to take both my kids to daycare at the age of 6 wks.  Some people don't even have that minimal choice.  If they were to take 6 wks off, they would be destitute by the time they went back to work.  

        I remember when the law allowing 6wks maternity was passed and I remember when I found out it didn't apply to me if my boss could prove that my job was so 'critical' that they didn't have to hold it open.  Oh sure, I kept my salary (they couldn't take that), but lost the job I had worked towards for many years.  My boss said she dropped her kid off at daycare at 6:30 in the morning and picked him up at 6:00 at night.  Her meaning was that I was expected to do the same.  I rejected that idea and quit.  I was lucky.  I could have not had the option to quit.  

        Thanks for the insult btw based on words you put in my mouth.   Show me where I said this; irks me to see women whine about how they wish we were still back in the '50s

        As someone who has been alive through much of the woman's movement in the 60's and 70's and beyond; as someone who realizes exactly what I have gained and what I myself have fought for, and for someone who understands exactly at what price and how far we have yet to go, it's always appreciated when I am called a whiner...

        Loyalty to petrified opinion never yet broke a chain or freed a human soul in this world--and never will. Mark Twain

        by whoknu on Sun Aug 28, 2011 at 11:27:42 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Oh, and I might add (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      catwho, Cassandra Waites, whoknu

      that poor women and women of color have always worked. It's only middle-class white women, and only for a relatively short period of history, who had the option not to.

      •  And didn't we see (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        i like bbq

        a gap in learning in the children for that group too?  Many studies have proven that low income students perform worse.  Isn't it a fact that the 'women of color' who have always had to work, have also been historically considered low income?

        AGAIN, this does not mean that I support going back to the 50's.  You are missing my point.

        The point is, if we understand that when both parents or a single parent work it may be a contributing factor to their child's performance in school, then we work to;

        1- Improve support for working women with children starting at maternity leave through daycare, sick time, and school functions.
        2- Improve wages for all workers so that a family has more options, and more family time
        3- Figure out new ways to address achievement gaps that does not just blame the parent (or the teacher) for poor performance.

        Loyalty to petrified opinion never yet broke a chain or freed a human soul in this world--and never will. Mark Twain

        by whoknu on Sun Aug 28, 2011 at 12:07:18 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Good diary. (5+ / 0-)

    I teach in a "failing" school which is high poverty, with a generally low interest on the part of students. Our parents, while they wish they could help, are either working too much, or at a total loss for how to reel in their out-of-control students who became that way as their parents were working to provide a better life for them.

    Your quote about fixing society is perfect. I wish more people would listen to us. I wrote a diary just this past week about testing and how teachers are held accountable for something we can't even see - so thanks for sticking up for the "little guy" :)

    "There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them." - Joseph Brodsky

    by Shakespeares Sister on Sun Aug 28, 2011 at 08:01:34 AM PDT

  •  Excellent dairy, T&R. (4+ / 0-)

    I live with a teacher, and you have nailed it. Her high school sent several kids to top colleges, in fact some are coming over for dinner once they get organized and feel comfortable in their new surroundings. What am I to believe? That somehow the kids that went to college managed to get all of the same great teachers, while the rest of the students at the same school got stuck with terrible teachers? Give me a f'in break.

  •  Our entire culture teaches anti-intellectualism (10+ / 0-)

    Kids learn from movies, TV, and the music they listen to that doing well in school is stupid, that learning is for nerds, that thinking is for geeks. In the meantime, athleticism is exalted as the single most important thing in high school. It is very hard to get kids to care about education in this cultural climate. Apparently, the wealthier strata of our culture are able to overcome these messages. But the general culture is saturated with them. We need to change these cultural expectations.

    Anyone who has ever called someone a geek or a nerd because they were good students has contributed to creating a culture that devalues learning and exalts ignorance.

    •  This country was always anti-intellectual (0+ / 0-)

      but, to be blunt, it has gotten worse in the last several decades, since education stopped being the private preserve of rich white men. When men no longer have exclusive dominion over a field, such as being a secretary, that field becomes devalued.

      So, now, intellectual pursuits are "gay" or "metrosexual" or whatever other terms the groin-scratching trogs can come up with. Yet they whine about their GoldenSons being "discriminated against" in the classrooms by evil man-hating schoolmarms, and insist that the boys can't be expected to sit the fuck down, shut the fuck up, and listen, because... they're boys, and they should be out playing, and they shouldn't have to listen to mere women, anyway.

      •  I actually think it's better (0+ / 0-)

        we actually have geeky heroes today, like Steve Jobs and Stephen Colbert and Bill Gates... and even Barack Obama. Celebrities openly display and admit to geekitude.

        Much better than the 1970s, when science fiction was something to be ashamed about.

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

        by elfling on Mon Aug 29, 2011 at 08:48:48 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Exactly right. (4+ / 0-)

    You cannot force or inspire a student and her parent to achieve if they perceive they have not benefitted from public education in the economy.

    This is to say, if the parents do not PERCEIVE they have gained any measurable advantage from their own schooling, they will transmit this attitude to their students.

    This "perception of bad education" has been created, managed, reinforced, talked up, propogandized and made a priority of every fundy and some mainstream church groups, think tanks, private philanthropy and saucepan headgear "reformer" since the 1980s.

    There is great profit in doing so, because it shifts people away from affordable quality public education into expensive, uneven, narrow, technical, and for-profit education at every level.

    This "perception management" of the Wall Street and Madision Avenue Class, which every major city now has both of, a Wall Street Limo Liberal Class and a Madison Avenue Psychology Manipulation Class with Free Market Dreams of Glory, somewhere in their Downtown Area, thanks to free flowing credit bubbles and gambling derivative scams of the last three decades, is about the money grab for education funds, which everyone is willing to spend as long as they get personal benefit from.

    People, even middle class and lower middle class people, want a high paying job on Wall Street USA, and Madison Avenue USA, and a capital advantage over someone else in the economy. This has been the Republican meme since Reagan, where I have spent my entire teaching career.

    It does not matter if it is true. In fact, in many ways, it is better if it is NOT true to capitalize on the American Dreamlike Fantasy Economy we love to spend our dreams on so much. American Dreamers love this vision because it IS a vision, no matter if it is based in reality or not, and it can be "perceptually true" individually, it is believed,  if one has enough "faith" and "hope." If you didn't make it by age 35, its because you lacked the true faith and the true hope, so, tough on you. It is a spiritual problem for you, and you should fix that.

     Like all else Republican, it only matters if people PERCIEVE it to be true, because the effect on money and the distribution of wealth is the same. Its all about managing people's beliefs and attitudes to move money upwards and into the hands of people who already have very much, and it works with everything else in the economy, so why not education?

    They have managed individual belief that Public Education is worthless, to profit themselves. The people who suffer the most are the people who need quality education the most, and the most funding. They are merely going for a bigger slice of the pie for themselves at the expense of people who will be generationally trapped in poverty and ignorance. How strangely, backwardly, American. How Jefferson and Madison would have howled to see this come about in their Republic.

    Figures don't lie, but liars do figure-Mark Twain

    by OregonOak on Sun Aug 28, 2011 at 08:24:03 AM PDT

    •  I love this paragraph (0+ / 0-)

      and especially the part I bolded:

      This "perception management" of the Wall Street and Madision Avenue Class, which every major city now has both of, a Wall Street Limo Liberal Class and a Madison Avenue Psychology Manipulation Class with Free Market Dreams of Glory, somewhere in their Downtown Area, thanks to free flowing credit bubbles and gambling derivative scams of the last three decades, is about the money grab for education funds, which everyone is willing to spend as long as they get personal benefit from.
      Lots of overlap between the limo liberals and what are commonly known as "marketing pukes." The former and many of the latter are socially liberal, which of course I agree with, but jesus, do they fucking ooze with unquestioned class privilege.
  •  What a great explanation of (6+ / 0-)

    some basic facts.   A teacher friend of mine frequently says,  "The teachers and the school are held accountable, but where is the accountability for the students?  They are the only ones not held accountable."

    I hope your diary gets wide acknowledgement.

    •  It's not politically popular (0+ / 0-)

      to tell the students and the parents (a.k.a. the voters) that it's their fault.  So the teachers and the schools become a convenient scapegoat.  "We're going to fix our broken schools" wins votes.

      27, white male, TX-26 (current), TN-07 (originally), liberal-leaning independent

      by TDDVandy on Sun Aug 28, 2011 at 03:18:19 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I have forwarded this diary to my teacher friends (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    catwho, Shakespeares Sister

    Thank you!

    -if there is hope it lies in the proles.

    by nipit on Sun Aug 28, 2011 at 08:30:43 AM PDT

  •  Using a Critical Pedagogy curriculum... (5+ / 0-)

    a school can organize itself as an organization for community transformation.  Rather than studying the standardized curriculum that may have no relevance to urban at-risk youth and their neighborhoods, the curriculum becomes their struggle to understand the forces that adversely affect their community and how to take action against those forces and to build the positive components of community.

    For many kids and their families, that may be a very compelling curriculum that would draw them to come to school.

    With all due respect, since I am not a formal educator myself, I would submit Critical Pedagogy as an approach to education to help transform a community and not wait for some sort of transformation by other means.

    See more about Critical Pedagogy...

    Cooper Zale Los Angeles

    by leftyparent on Sun Aug 28, 2011 at 08:31:55 AM PDT

  •  Still about the teachers (0+ / 0-)

    My perspective: I teach in a so-called 1st tier university. I have tutored high school and junior high school students for nearly 30 years.

    The vast majority of my college students are from comfortable, middle-class, white suburbs. And the vast majority of those students are extremely poorly prepared to do college-level work. About 70% are incapable of reading on a college level, cannot write a competent essay, haven't got the least inkling of basic historical information, are hobbled by limited vocabulary and, all-in-all, are profoundly mediocre students.

    When asked, I discover that their schooling didn't require them to write much, long ago gave up on trying to teach anything with depth (no Shakespeare, no Dickens, no Federalist Papers). Their teachers asked little of them, and they rose to that non-challenge. Not a semester goes by that I don't get some indignant freshman in my office, complaining that I gave them a B-, wailing, "But I was a straight-A honors student in high school."

    Surely some of this is attributable to the indubitable point of contact between their minds and the curriculum. We call that person the teacher. And all I see here is a perpetual nodding agreement that the one true thing is that the teacher can't possibly be any part of the problem. I emphatically disagree.

    If I, as a tutor, fail to help the kid master the material, they fire my ass. As would only be right—the buck stops with me.

    One of the best teachers I ever met told me his belief that the failure of any student reflected the teacher's failure to figure out how to to properly teach that student. And I saw this guy do amazing things with a class of uninterested (at first), African-American students in a crappy school in Watts (L.A.) in the 70s.

    One of the things I took away from this guy was the belief that expertise (which he had in spades) and common sense eventually trumps any amount of "education" school pseudo-science. So I guess the one excuse for the poor teaching is like Jessica Rabbit's: "I can't help it; they made me this way."

    •  IMO high school is becoming more boring... (4+ / 0-)

      and more and more kids check out, just jump thru the hoops and as John Holt famously said, "The good students forget the material after the test".

      Cooper Zale Los Angeles

      by leftyparent on Sun Aug 28, 2011 at 08:57:48 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I think the idea that (7+ / 0-)

      "the failure of any student reflect[s] the teacher's failure to figure out how to to properly teach that student" is a useful paradigm for teachers to internalize, but is ultimately not useful when it comes to evaluating teachers and dealing with the problem of students' failure/refusal to do their work, learn, and behave properly.

      If a teacher adopts this as a normative principle, for herself, she will remain vigilant in developing a pedagogy that has a better chance of reaching more students. However, if administrators and parents adopt this principle, it eliminates the role of the learner in the learning process. Put simply, a student has little to no incentive to do his work and learn if he knows that the teacher, and not he, will be blamed for his failure.

      A teacher cannot directly control the everyday decision-making process and moment-to-moment risk-benefit analyses of 170 adolescents whom he sees for 45 minutes per day each. As I always put it to my students, I can give you the car, the keys, a road map and a tank full of gas, but you've got to get behind the wheel and drive. A teacher can create incentives for students to make intelligent, reasonable decisions, but ultimately the students have to be accountable for their own choices.

      When I was a teacher, 99% of the time, the first three words out of any student's mouth when she found out she failed because she did not submit required work, missed a deadline, broke a rule, &c. were, "I didn't know." Likewise, just as often, the parent's first words were, "She didn't know." This despite the fact that I put assignments on the board, on paper, on my website, and spoken aloud in class on a regular basis, and had all rules, requirements and standards published online and in a class Handbook, with a lot of them on posters on the classroom walls. Yet if the student "didn't know," the presumption is that I failed to take sufficient measures to make sure that she "knew," and I am therefore required to abrogate the requirement and the consequences of the student's action or forbearance. No expectation is placed on the student to "know" what she is required to do, let alone take steps to find out, and there are no consequences for "not knowing." As a result, students not only fail to "know," they actively try to not know.

      This is what I mean; I put the onus on myself to make sure students knew what was required of them, and took all reasonable steps, everything I could think of, to make sure that happened; that they had no reason not to "know." But at some point my responsibility ends. At some point it becomes unreasonable to blame me for students' recalcitrance and negligence. At some point, we have to turn to the student and say, this is now your responsibility. You have a duty to know what you're supposed to do, and if you don't, to find out.

      Whenever I had a student and/or parent complain, usually two months into the semester at Open School night, that he was "completely lost" or "confused" and had "no idea what's going on in class" and "doesn't know what he's supposed to do," I would ask one simple question:

      What have you done about it?

      At that point, usually, silence. Or evasion. Or an immediate change-of-subject. Because the answer was always "nothing." Because students, and parents, don't believe that they have to do anything in that situation.

      The learner has to participate in the learning process; the learner has to play a role in his own learning. The learner has to do things in order to learn.

      There are things teachers must do, and there are things learners must do. Learning cannot occur without both.

      •  oh how I feel your pain... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Even if I make all the students in the room repeat due dates and assignments back to me, they still try to say they didn't know...

        this year has seemed a bit better than the rest, so far. we're two weeks in, and I'm trying to be optimistic with a brand new administrative team and several new teachers in the English department (including some from Teach for America that are on my 12th grade team).

        Education has always been a team endeavor...and all members of that team need to be working cooperatively to make sure it happens as it's supposed to.

        "There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them." - Joseph Brodsky

        by Shakespeares Sister on Sun Aug 28, 2011 at 10:06:26 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  maybe (0+ / 0-)

      Your personal experiences as an educator kind of prove the opposite of what you are trying to say. I have also taught, TA'd, and tutored at a couple of tier 1 universities. Some of the courses in which I have been involved were taught by truly exceptional and dedicated teachers, and the students were, of course, supposed to be the cream of the crop. Despite this, a lot still got C's, D's, and F's, even after being generous with the curve. I was shocked to discover how purportedly the brightest and most dedicated students, given the best teachers and the best resources, could still fail so miserably.

      My explanation for this is that most people are lazy morons. True, given direction people can achieve things, but the better the results we want, the better the teachers we need (and I bet the correlation is not linear). It would be nice if all teachers were as dedicated as the teacher you cite as an example. The reason why people on here don't point this out more is because this problem has such an easy, obvious fix: make the career of an educator a whole lot more attractive. Increase the pay and decrease the workload, and allow more teacher freedom. That way our best go into careers in education, and not to careers in Wall Street.

      Furthermore, we have to be realistic. We are not going to find exceptional teachers for every classroom; there aren't that many exceptional people out, in total. So I hate to be a downer, but I think we should be realistic in our expectations.

      •  I was one of those kids. (0+ / 0-)

        I did great in high school and then failed miserably in my first year in college, specifically in math and science which I tested in very well on the SAT and ACT.

        As a much older adult I have taught my own kids at home and I realized something about my own education. Many times in school, I memorized without understanding, especially concepts in math. It hurt my later understanding in more advanced mathematics classes. I also learned that I am a whole brained learner; my kids are right-brained learners. Most teachers and curriculums are aimed at left-brained learners. What a shock to find that out after all these years. I understand math better now at 44 than I did at 18. I might even tackle calculus again knowing what I know today.

        My point is - not everyone is lazy. Some of us just don't understand how we learn and we find it very difficult to learn in a standard setting. Once we find the key, life is so much better. But so many of us never find that key. Especially when we are labeled stupid at some point in the process.

  •  Wow, what a nicely reasoned, well written post! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    historys mysteries, catwho

    I taught for many years before I retired in many public and private schools, prisons, and group homes.  You are one hundred percent right it is about the skill set and emotional attitudes of the students  primarily.

    Thank you for taking care of yourself.  Someone taught you how to do that most likely, but you are managing quite nicely it seems to me.

    Nice post.  Thanks.

    •  It was definitely my mother (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Keone Michaels

      I had the advantage of a mother who was 1. an early childhood education graduate herself and 2. able to work only part time, allowing her to be with us after school. She and my father were never rich (retired army = good health care but not much else, and even that's changed a lot these days) but they had a rule that if it was for school, they'd find a way.  She also helped me with my homework when she could, although by 7th grade I'd outdistanced her in mathematics and I was on my own.

      Conservatives: They love America. They hate actual Americans.

      by catwho on Sun Aug 28, 2011 at 10:24:21 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I was teaching in a low (7+ / 0-)

    socioeconomic neighborhood school when W was elected the NCLB cr*p began.  By 2004, I was so sick of admin coming down to wag their fingers in our faces telling us how we HAD to improve scores.  
    Sure they denied blaming teachers, or blaming students, or blaming parents.  Once I sarcastically asked, then who's at fault?  The walls of this building??   No one was ALLOWED to mention things like poverty, the high transition/mobility rate of our families (some kids in their 5th school by 3rd grade),nutrition, parents' education status.  No one was allowed to even mention things like the high amount of kids whose first language was not English...or the amount of special needs kids.   "EXCUSE NOT ALLOWED" we were told.

    It so happens that a school about six miles up the road in the same district was the highest scoring school in the district.
    Their free lunch program (under 10%), ours (over 80%).  Their transition rate was negligible. Ours was over 50%.  
    They had two children who qualified for ESL (two Chinese girls adopted when they were four or five).  I had a friend who taught there then...and I sub there now that I am retired.  It's near my home.   I am on the edge of what is considered the most upscale part of town though I am solidly middle class.  Two blocks from my house, the houses double in size and the majority of residents are college educated (doctors, lawyers, college professors, dentists, architects).
    So anyway, I was in my last year as I  had put in for retirement and had no fears about speaking out.  I said I had an idea at one of those meetings.....where we were being berated about scores.  
    "How about this?" I queried.  "S school has the same number of students as we do.  How about we switch the staffs of the two schools.  And we will see if next year A school suddenly becomes the highest scoring school, and S school drops to the bottom."  
    Everyone nervously giggled while the deputy superintendent gave me dirty looks and said, "Now that's just silly."  
    "Yea, I said, it is because we know there are no magical teachers, or solutions, or fixes......that the issues related to education are complex and cannot be viewed in a vacuum."

    Still many years later, same old, same old.  Duncan and friends somehow want schools to compete for money, because somehow they still think that liars and fakes like Michelle Rhee have that magic scheme to fix the urban schools that struggle by simply blaming the teachers and offering money so "good" teachers can fix it all.

  •  I very strongly (0+ / 0-)

    Agree that there is much blame to be put on the students and their families. However the way you are arguing this seems to act as a way to completely protect any teachers from criticism.

    You are right most teachers are decent hard working people. However sometimes decent hardworking people suck as their jobs.In that case you need to get rid of them and hopeful they find something else they can perform better at.

    •  Oh, I've had some shitty teachers too (0+ / 0-)

      My second grade teacher was terrible.  It was essentially my mother who taught me second grade, since the teacher wasn't capable of doing anything more than calling me names (I was "Miss Piggy" for eating my entire lunch) and being incredibly traditional in how she taught spelling and handwriting.

      I've had some teachers who were good teachers and just incompatible with me - 7th grade geography.  I liked the subject, but he was too fuzzy with his instructions and I hated being expected to keep up with worksheets for more than twenty four hours (the only reason I can do this today at work is because I have a desk and a corkboard!)

      And then there was 12th grade calculus.  An award winning teacher, a very nice person, but what she said just went in one ear and out the other.  She had had throat surgery and her voice was very soft and scratchy.

      Come to think of it, I've always done poorly with soft-spoken teachers, and fabulous with loud, confident teachers.  I hung onto every word of my 8th grade literature teacher's voice, not necessarily because she was yelling (she definitely wasn't) but because she projected authority and commanded respect.  When she stood up front and paced and talked to us, it was as if something grabbed me by the collar and said, "This is important you MUST listen."

      I don't disagree that there are some pretty bad teachers out there - I avoided band in 9th grade because my older sisters had had some run-ins with the band teacher, and between that and my desire to not march, I figured I'd skip it and just stick to chorus instead.

      Conservatives: They love America. They hate actual Americans.

      by catwho on Sun Aug 28, 2011 at 04:36:57 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Boots on the ground (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    catwho, Cassandra Waites, elfling

    The great thing about this diary is that it is reporting specifics and done so, not from 35,000 feet above the problem, but with details and first-hand experience.

    It brings to mind a brilliant anecdote that I've read recently. In her quest to improve the quality of the DC school system, Michelle Rhee set out to fire the principals and admins who weren't providing certain "deliverables." And, yes, she used the term "deliverables."  One principal, John Merrow, ran a school where the 10th graders were reading at a 3rd grade level. Based on my empirical evidence, 3rd graders learn to read when taught with 3rd grade level books. They then advance to 4th grade level reading via 4th grader level books. And so on.  The problem with this particular school is that they didn't have any 3rd grade level books for their 10th graders. Shocker!  

    So what did Michelle Rhee do? Did she solve the problem? Did she act like a leader? Did she figure out how to get 10th graders to learn to read? Was it boots on the ground? No. She looked at numbers... or "deliverables."  Merrow didn't meet the level. He was fired. Apparently, the next best option in the upside-down world of Michelle Rhee was to provide erasers not text books.  With some actual leadership, Merrow's school may have been given the tools to get its 10th graders to read at a higher level, but no one thought to give the 10th graders 3rd grade books.

    Bob Somerby has consistently been writing intelligently about the failing of our schools. He's a link to another comment from another thread which relates directly to Merrow's firing.

  •  I am a teacher (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Minnesota Deb, seabos84, catwho

    in Seattle Public Schools, and I want to thank you for your article.  You conveyed a serious message, and you did it in an upbeat tone. In a time when so many teachers around the county feel disrespected by the blame-the-teacher ed reform movement, you reminded us that there are good teachers everywhere.

    In Seattle, we've endured a blame-the-teacher administration for four years. This year we have a chance to change that with the upcoming School Board elections. Out of a seven-member Board, four vulnerable incumbents are up for reelection, and each of them has a viable challenger. I have been thinking about coming out of my Kos retirement and posting a diary on it. Perhaps when the time is right.

    I am so tired of being disrespected for something I've put my heart and soul into. As a teacher, I know I'm not alone. We have to stand together and fight the ed reformers. Many of them have good motives, but they are dupes of a wealthy political elite who are driving public schools to privatization. The teachers I know want an education that works for all children--a public education, that great defining American institution so central to a democratic political culture.

  •  friend of mine shared this... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    and if I'd had it earlier I would've included it in my diary from earlier this week. seems so appropriate for this diary, though:

    "There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them." - Joseph Brodsky

    by Shakespeares Sister on Sun Aug 28, 2011 at 01:19:22 PM PDT

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