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        In a state struggling to get better at teaching all students, every reform has a glaring omission. Some reforms want to pay special teachers more. As if there are Blackwater mercenary teachers out there, ready to storm the castle and kick down the achievement gap.  They even tried this to the extreme in New York, luring in teachers with $100,000 salaries to get the cream of the crop. It didn't really work. A University of Vanderbilt study, the most extensive on performance pay, concluded there was no correlation between closing the gap and performance pay. They value purpose more than profit. Teachers do not sit around all day brooding upon what their colleagues may or may not make. They deserve professional pay, but teachers are neither mercenaries nor missionaries some folks want to reform how we pay teachers. They pay no attention to reforming how they teach.

         Some leaders want to change how long we teach. What we are doing now is not working for all students. It's not working, so let's do it for an extra hour or all year round? The idea is ludicrous unless it is attached changing how we teach. There are very successful year round and extended day Saint Paul public schools right now, but their staff of teachers and principles changed how they taught as much as how long.  The modern reformers think changing how long will magically cure education, without changing the how.

        Some reformers want to change who teach, as if teachers are born out of whole clothe and not made through hard work. Again, they do not address how we teach. There are reform programs that take this to the ultimate extreme; giving recruits a five-week boot camp on how to teach, and then putting them in the classroom. Alternative licensure programs are rich in value. We have career engineers and business folks coming to the teaching profession. Brining a treasure trove of real world experience. The problem is that modern reformers want the credentials without the teaching. Again, they address who teaches, but not how.

        The reformers want to change where we teach. If we could just set up a system where there are winners and losers, things will improve. Instead of focusing on how  we teach, we'll just close down schools we do not like. Granted, those schools will always be in poorer neighborhoods.  The educations disrupted will always be those students with the least voice. Instead of fixing a struggling students school, we will tell them to start all over somewhere new. Build relationships all over. Travel to a new neighborhood. Ride a bus longer. This will improve your education.

        None of these modern reforms address, in the least, how we teach. I will let you in on a dirty little secret: This is intentional. You see, the folks making the rules benefited from how we have taught for the last two hundred years. For two centuries, we have had a model where teachers, working independently, shut their classroom doors and ruled over their own classroom kingdom. This model worked for the people who are successful. It has never, ever, worked for all kids, or even most kids.

         The leading reformers of this country had a twelve-year internship in an education style that worked for them. They now believe they are experts in how to teach. We don't even have to change how we teach because that part served them well. We just have to change where, how long, how we are paid, and who we hire. Forget about addressing how we teach.

          Obviously, real reform has to change how we teach. The teacher as independent contractor ruling over his or her own kingdom has to end.  The difficult thing is that the reformers reinforce this antiquated, dysfunctional model of teaching. At a time when teachers must come together, the reformers want to pit teacher against teacher in some sort of gladiatorial battle of test scores. I will state again for emphasis, the reformers want to reinforce a style of teaching that worked for them and few others. That is why teachers and principals are hardly ever brought into the debate on reform. The reformers already know how to teach. They just want to change everything else.

             What is working in schools is a complete paradigm shift from our past, teachers working together on all students. Instead of disaggregating my students versus yours, teachers are forced to get out of their classrooms and work together where my students are your students and all students are our students. No longer can we get our keys in September, go in and teach, and not see anyone until we turn our keys in June. This is a hard change to make for teachers who have been successful in the same broken paradigm as our leaders. It is even harder when our leaders try and keep us divided in competition instead of healthy collaboration.

            How does this paradigm shift work? Teachers are given time each day to get out of their classrooms and work together on students. There is a laser-like focus on student data. The reformers focus on data as if it is the end of a marathon and they are looking for winners and losers. The real focus on student data needs to be weekly or even daily.  Instead of just looking at the finish line, data needs to focus on the day-to-day training.

           When teachers work together on students in this way, they can make changes in time. If the data shows that my students didn't get a concept on Monday, my colleagues will see this immediately, and together we can work out a better way to teach it and do better on Tuesday. The alternative is to sit in my classroom by myself. Do the best I can. Wait until the test results come out in June and hope we meet AYP and that I "beat" the other teachers.  Instead, we know weekly what we need to improve, and we lean on each other to constantly change how we teach.

            Real reform like this is not flashy like closing a school. It is not big and bold like firing an entire staff. It is not heart wrenching like forcing a thousand students to find a new school. Real reform doesn't satisfy our cultural need for competition, with winners and losers. However, reforming how we teach works. If we want to close the gap, we have to change how we have taught for the last two hundred years. We have to let go of the silly idea that one teacher is the only one affecting a student.

  We have to support teachers working together, teaching each other. There can be no greater accountability measure than having to share student data with fellow teachers. Having to show my colleagues my student data every single week can be scary, but it is the professional thing to do. It holds us accountable, and makes us better. I trust my colleagues to help me when I falter, and I help them when they do. Set us in competition against each other and that goes out the window.

   The other reason why reformers do not focus on changing how we teach is that it is expensive. The reform I speak of is based on the very successful Lesson Study model used in Japan. It requires that teachers meet on a regular basis, during the school day. It costs money to staff classrooms while other teachers are meeting to discuss student data. It is not cheap, but it works. If we want to close the achievement gap we have to change how we teach. Changing where, when, who, how long, how we are paid, are all flashy rearrangements of deck chairs on the Titanic.  

Cross posted at MN Progressive Project

Originally posted to AlecMN on Sun Feb 05, 2012 at 06:48 AM PST.

Also republished by Education Alternatives, Teachers Lounge, and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  there are teachers working to make our voices (37+ / 0-)

    part of the discussion on schools and education

    we want to claim our profession as a profession

    this is independent of what our unions may or may not do

    we are not afraid to criticize the leadership of unions when appropriate -  I have posted pieces excoriating the leadership of my own union, the NEA, on several things

    Last summer saw the Save Our Schools March and National Call to Action -  several key members of the leadership were present or retired teachers -  Anthony Cody, Nancy Flanagan, me . . . .

    Valerie Strauss regular reposts pieces by educator voices in her Washington Post blog

    I have been encouraged to apply for a Spencer Fellowship at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism with a project on teacher voice

    increasing numbers of teachers are speaking out, are taking public positions against some of the worst of the education "reforms" including the idiotic expansion of testing at the expense of learning

    we also welcome more voices

    thanks for your post

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

    by teacherken on Sun Feb 05, 2012 at 06:55:04 AM PST

  •  I was fortunate to work (12+ / 0-)

    in schools where it was normal for teachers to confer and share ideas.  If I had a problem getting through to a kid or kids, I could and did ask others how they dealt with it and what they'd suggest I try.  Likewise, they would ask me for insights into what they might do to help the kids.

    I understand that this is not a universal experience, but it did and does happen informally in some places.  I'm not so sure that forced meetings are the best or only answer, but at least they give teachers the opportunity to get together.  (A twenty-minute lunch period isn't nearly enough time to discuss and resolve some/any problems.)

    -7.62, -7.28 "Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly." -Langston Hughes

    by luckylizard on Sun Feb 05, 2012 at 07:04:06 AM PST

  •  Ah, yes, Lesson Study (16+ / 0-)

    that particular well has been poisoned in LAUSD. Several years ago, the latest and greatest reform touted in our professional development was called "Lesson Study." The PR surrounding it was borrowed from the Japanese model. The practice was not.

    Instead of teachers collaborating we had one teacher designing a lecture to present to the staff on "best practices." The only nod toward actual Lesson Study was the lecture was supposed to be based on an actual classroom lesson. The staff was then instructed to work the technique into their own lessons, and report back if they had any success. Everything was overseen by administrators who wrote the agenda for the meetings and sat in on them, even the grade/subject level group meetings.

    Needless to say, this top down approach had the usual success of all top down educational reforms: almost none. After a year of pushing "Lesson Reform" and another year giving it lip service, another top down reform (Response to Instruction and Intervention) came along to replace it.

    C'est la vie.

    "The problems of incompetent, corrupt, corporatist government are incompetence, corruption and corporatism, not government." Jerome a Paris

    by Orinoco on Sun Feb 05, 2012 at 07:30:44 AM PST

  •  Why weren't turkeys consulted about Thanksgiving ? (6+ / 0-)


    •  Cooks had a different idea about what keeping (10+ / 0-)

      abreast meant (and who gets the 'wish bone'), and they were afraid to do anything to put the turkeys in a fowl mood or egg them on.  I suspect a number turkeys were fooled by the dangled promise of really great dressing opportunities...oh, if only it was legal for turkeys to form unions.

      Hey, anyone know why don't we eat turkey eggs?

      I too am amazed that 'school boards' and politicians all imagine they know so much better than teachers what 'reforms' are needed and where cuts must be made.  Where is our insistence that politicians, doctors, lawyers and MBA holders take equivalent huge pay cuts, and pay for their own pension and health insurance?  And to accept the 'reform' of their business by non-professionals outside their fields?  I also am really concerned what is going to happen to all the people in their late 40's, 50's and early 60's who have been and are still being dumped from employment in education and other jobs.  Finding new employment as an older person is extremely difficult.

      When life gives you wingnuts, make wingnut butter!

      by antirove on Sun Feb 05, 2012 at 11:11:32 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  School boards in California have very little (0+ / 0-)

        control of how much cash comes in, so when the budget is cut, yes, they (usually heavily guided by the superintendent and business manager hired by the school board) end up doing it.

        Ideally, it's a collaborative process with staff at least to some extent.

        Of course, ideally, the state would send the school the money that is owed, say Net 30. Then there might not need to be cuts.

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

        by elfling on Sun Feb 05, 2012 at 09:45:37 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  This teaching method sounds great, but... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kyril, tgrshark13

    ...we need to generate some evidence that it works. The Diarist writes:

    "What is working in schools is a complete paradigm shift from our past, teachers working together on all students."

    I would like some data showing that this method is better.

    Why not start a Charter School? Use Collaborative Teaching as your method. Recruit teachers who agree with you and market toward parents who agree with you.

    One of the few good things about NCLB and RTT is that your students will be required to take tests. These tests will show that your kids are doing better than kids of similar socioeconomic status in "traditional" schools.

    Once your approach is proven to work (or at least to not fail as bad as traditional schools) you will get more support from parents and policy-makers.

    •  Apples and oranges (21+ / 0-)

      Read this article on high poverty schools. Read up on what Japan or Finland are doing. There is zero evidence that Rhee-form works, but you are more than happy to take her at face value after her whopping three years of teaching experience. You are more than happy to take the Koch bros., Rupert Murdoch, and Scott Walker's view on Education reform with no evidence.

      One example of the success of what I am talking about

      Charter schools serve a completely different clientele. They have their place, but comparing them to public schools is silly. They do not serve large portions of English language learners. If they do serve the poor, it is the poor with the most engaged parents.

      •  I have run across... (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        justintime, kyril, FG, Linda Wood

        ...90/90/90 before.  I think their heart is in the right place, but their methodology is deeply flawed.

        Basically, they look at good schools and try to see what they have in common. The widely debunked In Search Of Excellence did the same thing for corporations. It's called sampling on the dependent variable and it's a textbook case of Bad Research.

        But still, this stuff doesn't refute what I'm asking for. All I'm saying is that those who advocate any educational method should submit to measurement.

        I'm willing to take a risk on the Michelle Rhees of the world because they (at least) are willing to show their test scores. I'll take a risk on any education idea that combines parental consent with objective measurement of results.

        Collaborative teaching sounds like a great idea. But it will never happen if we can't show people it works.

      •  I am baffled. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        kyril, tgrshark13
        "There is zero evidence that Rhee-form works, but you are more than happy to take her at face value after her whopping three years of teaching experience. "

        I'm also willing to take the Diarist "at face value". In fact, I'm advocating that the Diarist get taxpayer funding for a school to test these ideas!

        I am sick of talk. Open a Charter School and show me something.

        •  Charter schools are the great panacea . . . (8+ / 0-)

          . . . of the ignorant.  Indeed you are baffled.

          Show us the performance data on charter schools.

          •  I think the poster (4+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            justintime, Laconic Lib, TexMex, JanL

            to whom you responded is being facetious....

            Charter schools are a joke.

            The banks have a stranglehold on the political process. Mike Whitney

            by dfarrah on Sun Feb 05, 2012 at 11:30:45 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

          •  Here in NYC... (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            ...Charter schools are excellent.

            Here is a study with the latest data.

            There are many bad ways to implement charters. But NYC does it the right way:

            - Lottery admission
            - Public funding
            - Schools can't cherry-pick applicants

            If it were not for charter schools, my daughter would have no educational options. We live in the inner city where the public schools are very bad.

            •  they all cherry pick (7+ / 0-)

              it's called self-selection

              please don't be such a dupe

              •  The CREDO study addresses this. (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                Basically, they point out that the families in Traditional Public Schools (TPS) who didn't go to charters also made a choice.

                Or, to hear CREDO say it (in the best Stanford University Academic style):

                "Further, the presumption of a positive selection bias may be speculative for other reasons. It implies that parents of TPS {Traditional Public School} students do not themselves exercise choice as to where their students attend school. While the proportion of “choosers” to “non‐choosers” among TPS parents is unknown, the notion of an entirely passive parental population in TPS schools seems inappropriate. In the absence of hard data, the best estimate is that the two groups are evenly split."

                Mind you, this is CREDO talking. They hate Charter schools. Their report bashing Charters is linked by every other anti-reformer on this site. But even they concede that the "selection bias" myth has no basis.

                If anything "selection bias" favors the Public School, because happy families don't move their kids. The families looking for options will be those who are doing badly and who are dissatisfied.

                The idea that self-selection benefits charters is a myth, myth, myth, backed by no evidence whatsoever.

              •  google Steve Perry's (0+ / 0-)

                Hartford, CT charter school.

                He has had much success- and with at risk students.

            •  Charters can self-select (7+ / 0-)

                My area has a charter high school that is considered an excellent school. Their main focus is "IB for all". That focus will ensure that weak students will shy away from them.
                 They are in high demand. They do not cherry-pick, still they have a much lower percentage of students with special needs or English-language learners. Their curriculum keeps out the riff-raff.
                 They do a good job with their kids, but let's not kid ourselves. My state touted charter schools as "experimental" or "laboratory" schools that would chart new paths that the public school could follow. There is no new idea there.

              •  Why are you not happy? (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                It sounds like many kids in your area who were not getting IB are now getting IB!

                Isn't this good news?

                If you think this is bad news, then is shows how low we've sunk, that we should wish things to be worse for a group of bright, motivated kids.

                Of course when the time comes to evaluate which schools are doing a good job, we need to be sensible. I favor using value-added measures to account for the fact that the IB school is attracting different types of kids.

                But seriously, isn't more kids taking better classes a success?

                •  Warslter, is that YOU? (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:

                  "Is that all there is?" Peggy Lee.

                  by jm214 on Sun Feb 05, 2012 at 03:40:40 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                •  "Experimental??" (3+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  elfling, Tonedevil, chipmo

                    I am very happy that the kids at the charter have that opportunity. They had a full boat of AP classes at my school. There was no lack of opportunity at my school. I have bragged about the great students I had.
                     The parents around here (I make no claims for elsewhere) see the charter as a place where their kids won't have to put up with "those" kids. They are correct.
                     If you wish to bleed off some of the good students from the public schools, charters are a great way to do it. It is no secret, it is not a new idea. In no way is it experimental. In no way does it inform the other public schools about what they should be doing. The claims that this type of competition will make the rest of the schools better is false.
                     We have had a set of charter schools in my state for decades. They are the vocational-technical schools. Their curriculum drew a certain subset of students, not the best, not the worst. Places were limited. Unmotivated students wound up back in the regular public school.
                     The new charters use the same model. I wish they would admit it.

        •  My point has already been proven in high poverty (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          justintime, BMarshall, JanL

          go check the link I sent you. I don't have to turn the most disadvantaged kids into lab rats to prove my point.

          •  That 90/90/90... (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

   doesn't prove a thing. It selects on the dependent variable and uses non-quantifiable independent variables.

            But despite that, I stated in my post:

            "One of the few good things about NCLB and RTT is that your students will be required to take tests. These tests will show that your kids are doing better than kids of similar socioeconomic status in 'traditional' schools."

            I am not comparing slums and suburbs. I am only asking for apples-to-apples here.

            Start a Charter School. Don't talk about collaborative teaching -- do it. You will be surprised at how much strong support you get from your community, parents, students, and local businesses.

            And, when the knives come out, you'll also be dismayed to learn who the real enemies of Good Schools are. Start a Collaborative Charter School. I promise both you and your students will be...educated.

    •  'Your kids will be doing better"... (0+ / 0-) taking tests.

      How is this a improvement in their education?

  •  Because teachers have delegated their advocacy (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ManhattanMan, angelajean, kyril the same organizations, at the local and national levels, that advocate for their wages and working conditions.  So their advocacy about meta stuff is tuned out, not unreasonably, because it's so intertwined with definitionally selfish advocacy of the sort unions are rightly about.  

    But nobody's buying flowers from the flower lady.

    by Rich in PA on Sun Feb 05, 2012 at 08:29:29 AM PST

    •  Ahhh, it's the unions fault (11+ / 0-)

      An Orwellian contortion of logic I did not but should have expected. It is the teacher's union fault that people don't listen to teachers. Brilliant!

      •  The unions do what... (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Rich in PA, sadpanda, angelajean

        ...the teachers want them to do. That is their job. The teachers pay them dues for this.

        The teachers tell the unions, "Go negotiate for us, get us job security, wages, and benefits". So that's what the unions do. There is nothing wrong with this.

        If the teachers instructed the unions to go and negotiate for, "Collaborative teaching, curriculum control, and paradigm shifts" -- well, things would look differently.

        But if you want to know what teachers really want, look at what they use power to get. Teachers don't strike because they aren't getting enough Collaborative Teaching. Teachers don't recall legislators over Curriculum. They do these things over wages and benefits. There's nothing wrong with this, and I support their efforts. But let's not be naive about it!

        Don't listen to what teachers say. Look at what they do and you will know what their priorities are.

        •  Please use more than Fox News for your sources (26+ / 0-)

          Teachers unions have always, and will always negotiate for curriculum and all the things you mentioned. My union almost went on strike, for the first time in 70 years, over classroom size and special ed caseload. Unions do fight to improve the classroom environment! People just don't care about that part.

          All the news reports about are wages and benefits, because that is what is sexy and sells.

          what happens in reality is not the same as you see on Fox. Sorry to say.

          •  It's a big country, Alec (4+ / 0-)

            Once in a while, a union goes to the wall about something like what you've described.  It's not the norm, though.

            But that's not the point.  The point is that you can't have one organization representing teachers both for narrowly employment-related issues and for the overall framework of what and how students learn.  Teachers are a vital missing voice in the latter discussion because no organization can do both things, credibly, at once.

            But nobody's buying flowers from the flower lady.

            by Rich in PA on Sun Feb 05, 2012 at 09:56:16 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  I totally disagree with you about teachers not (18+ / 0-)

              going to the wall about class size and other working conditions. The decision to go on strike is a very serious one, with possibly career-ending consequences. As a bargainer with 35 years of experience, I can tell you that when teachers in my county chose to go on strike, it was about more than wages and benefits. The conditions under which students learn are vitally important to professional educators - conditions we have been repeatedly been willing to place our careers on the line to protect. How many other professions have been willing to do the same?

              As to the topic of what students learn, that has been taken out of our hands. States, by virtue of their test regime, determine the curriculum. When curriculum is set at the state level, curriculum is not something that is typically an allowable subject of bargaining. How students learn is usually determined by the school board and administration. Increasingly, however, it seems that both what students learn and how they learn it is being taken over by a combination of the Federal Government and private groups such as W's leadership academy, the Gates Foundation, the Broad Foundation, the K-12 online school group, and Rhee's group, as well as the TFA types.

              There has been push back by the NEA, but in my view, not enough. Kudos to teacherken and others who have been so active in calling attention to the plight of both teachers and students in the public schools.

              "Experience declares that man is the only animal that devours his own kind, for I can apply no milder term to the general preying of the rich on the poor" - Thomas Jefferson "I don't care about the very poor." - Mitt Romney

              by bigrivergal on Sun Feb 05, 2012 at 10:47:29 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

          •  "Class size"... (0+ / 0-)

            ....and "special ed caseload" are just Wages and Job Security by different names.

            Low class size ensures the need for many teachers (job security) and reduces the workload on each teacher (job benefits). The same is true with reducing special ed caseload.

            These things are good ideas, sure. They benefit students. But they are, at their core, economic issues.

            Can you cite a single instance of a teacher's union demanding something that benefited students that did not increase teacher salaries, increase teacher job security, or decrease teacher workload?

            "Teachers unions have always, and will always negotiate for curriculum"

            Always? Show me a few instances. And remember, talk doesn't count. I want to see Strike Threats, Campaign Contributions, and/or Recall Efforts.

            Teachers are human beings. They like to get paid just like you and I do. I totally reject this myth that they are supposed to be magical angels who work for love.

          •  Having you seen Waiting for Superman? (6+ / 0-)

            It does a decent job of breaking this arguments down as is about as far from Fox News as possible.

            The problem with Teacher's Unions is that they are advocates for teachers not for students.  And like most unions they focus on quality and job security.  There is nothing wrong with that per se, but it's problematic because people see teachers and in turn teacher's unions are somehow vital to making things better for our kids.

            Would you rely on the auto industry unions to ensure that safety regulations on cars were top notch? It makes about as much sense to expect an organization focused on the workers in that industry to result in better products there too.

            I am the typo queen. Sorry in advance.

            by sadpanda on Sun Feb 05, 2012 at 12:08:07 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Exactly. (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              kyril, sadpanda

              I would not trust the Mortgage Bankers Association to write financial regulations.

              I would not trust the US Chamber of Commerce to write business regulations.

              I would not trust the Mineworkers to protect mountain habitats. I would not trust gas fracking companies to write water quality regulations.

              Why am I supposed to assume that a teachers' union is the best advocate for my child?

              •  good wages and benefits (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                justintime, Tonedevil, BMarshall

                usually attract good workers.

                it's called supply and demand.

                Unless you believe you can get smarter more accomplished people by paying lower wages ?

                •  Teach for America? Mostly j/k on that (0+ / 0-)

                  Good benefits = fine; good pay = better (although I know few teachers making what they should); job security = good for teachers, bad for students.

                  While it is in the teacher's and thus the union's interest to stay employed no matter how good or bad they are at their job, it's not in the students.  Union provisions that make it hard or impossible to keep teachers who are bad at their job are harmful to our children.  Maybe I'm the only one here who ever had a really bad teacher, but I had a lot of them. I want the best and brightest and most skilled person we can get teaching, but that is often not what's happening.  There are a lot of good teachers looking for work and a lot of bad teachers entrenched in the system.  

                  Supply and demand is undercut when product movement is artificially stagnated.  Job security for under-performers is antithetical to the market system you are espousing.

                  I am the typo queen. Sorry in advance.

                  by sadpanda on Mon Feb 06, 2012 at 07:31:18 AM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Teachers don't really enjoy working with slacker (2+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Tonedevil, justintime


                    What you see in some of the rules for dismissal is a hardening against unfair and arbitrary dismissals of good teachers. As they say, hard cases make bad law, and sometimes, in some states and some districts, it is too hard to remove a bad teacher.

                    But that said, I think what we need to do is hire good administrators (and I think we're better at that than we once were) and give them the use of their own judgement, with simple and quick appeals up the chain going through the school board and perhaps a labor relations board.

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

                    by elfling on Mon Feb 06, 2012 at 10:13:26 AM PST

                    [ Parent ]

              •  This guy sounds a lot like one Morgan Warstler, (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                JanL, Tonedevil

                noted whine merchant and digressor...

                One hopes nobody here is taking his stuff, redolent of the Breitbart label, seriously.

                "Is that all there is?" Peggy Lee.

                by jm214 on Sun Feb 05, 2012 at 03:43:08 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

            •  Actually (15+ / 0-)

              Superman was underwritten and promoted by the corporate, market based reformers. It featured Michelle Rhee, who has had cheating and scandal follow where ever she went. Waiting for Superman is unbiased in the same way that the Chamber of Commerce is unbiased towards labor.

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

                ...points about WfS being biased are true.

                But they don't change the truth that the movie is basically factual.

                Even a broken clock is right twice a day.

                Also, Charters are not a "market-based" reform. Charters give money to poor families and allow them to get to better schools. If it were "market-based", the rich kids would get the better schools. Oh, wait...that is the current system!

                •  You trust WfS, I'll trust DR... (5+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  justintime, elfling, JanL, Tonedevil, chipmo
                  Some fact-checking is in order, and the place to start is with the film’s quiet acknowledgment that only one in five charter schools is able to get the “amazing results” that it celebrates. Nothing more is said about this astonishing statistic. It is drawn from a national study of charter schools by Stanford economist Margaret Raymond (the wife of Hanushek). Known as the CREDO study, it evaluated student progress on math tests in half the nation’s five thousand charter schools and concluded that 17 percent were superior to a matched traditional public school; 37 percent were worse than the public school; and the remaining 46 percent had academic gains no different from that of a similar public school. The proportion of charters that get amazing results is far smaller than 17 percent. Why did Davis Guggenheim pay no attention to the charter schools that are run by incompetent leaders or corporations mainly concerned to make money? Why propound to an unknowing public the myth that charter schools are the answer to our educational woes, when the filmmaker knows that there are twice as many failing charters as there are successful ones? Why not give an honest accounting?

                  Diane Ravitch, that is.

                  Far more at the link - but it won't be too palatable to those who spread right-wing propaganda.

                  •  Think about it. (0+ / 0-)
                    "Why did Davis Guggenheim pay no attention to the charter schools that are run by incompetent leaders or corporations mainly concerned to make money? "

                    Because if you kid is in one of those schools, you have the CHOICE to leave!!!!

                    If your kid is in a bad public school you are STUCK.

                    That is why charters are better. Because you are not FORCED to attend them.

                    •  Doesn't address the blatant distortions, (3+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      justintime, Tonedevil, chipmo

                      half-truths, evasions, and deceptive use of statistics present in the film, which you claim is "basically factual".

                      A person can lie all day long while being "basically factual". So can a film.

                    •  What you say makes no logical sense (0+ / 0-)

                      If you can attend a charter in the first place, which you can, then de facto you have the ability to leave a traditional school. If your kids are forced to go to a traditional school, then how could they go to a charter? Do you even care that you make no sense?

                      •  But if they... (0+ / 0-)

                        ...close the charter (as the anti-reformers are advocating) then there is no choice.

                        CREDO claims that many charters score lower on standardized tests. But they neglect the fact that despite this, parents choose to still send their kids there.

                        Maybe these parents believe that Standardized Tests are not the most important thing in the world. Who knows? But the fact is the charter gave them a choice and they took it.

                        Why do you want to take that choice away?

                        •  Because in most cases it doesn't help, and (2+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:
                          justintime, Tonedevil

                          because it harms the entire concept of public education?

                          Yeah, that might have something to do with it.

                        •  And people choose to send their kids (1+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:

                          to low performing public schools, even when they get a letter saying the school has to pay their transportation to another school or district if the parent wishes.

                          I think what this tells us is that scores aren't really All That in evaluating schools.

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

                          by elfling on Sun Feb 05, 2012 at 09:55:09 PM PST

                          [ Parent ]

                        •  Straw man (1+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:

                          You have a choice to send kid to private school if you have the money.
                          Poor folks do not have this choice. Maybe they can move. Poor folks do not usually have this choice.
                          If the claim is that public schools suck (not proven) then make the public schools better. That is a choice.
                          Business is happy to have people given money (choice) because it is then available for them to get their hands on.
                          Do not believe in this sudden force of altruism.

                    •  "Stuck" is a matter of local policy (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:

                      In California, dollars follow the student, and there is some ability to move between schools and districts, when there is space.

                      I realize this is not true everywhere.

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

                      by elfling on Sun Feb 05, 2012 at 09:53:45 PM PST

                      [ Parent ]

            •  Bad analogy (4+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              justintime, TexMex, JanL, chipmo

              Auto assembly line workers are not experts in car safety. Teachers are the experts in teaching.

              We like to say teachers are professionals, even if we don't like to treat them as such. Professionals generally have a great deal to say about how their work is done - because their expertise and judgment is part of what we pay them for, and because they know better than anyone else.  Accounting standards are written by accountants. Medical associations set standards for the practice of medicine. The fact that they also advocate for the interests of their members doesn't mean that they shouldn't be doing these things.  Who else would we want setting these standards?

              Would you have more or less faith in your doctor if Michael Bloomberg told him how to practice medicine?

              We can treat teachers like factory workers if we want to. Without any doubt, we will get worse, not better, teachers if we do.

              We decided to move the center farther to the right by starting the whole debate from a far-right position to begin with. - Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay

              by denise b on Sun Feb 05, 2012 at 07:07:39 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  In many other advanced nations . . . (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                TexMex, JanL, Tonedevil

                . . . teachers are actually treated by society as professionals and honored for their service.

              •  My comment wasn't about teachers but about unions (0+ / 0-)

                There are great teachers out there and yes they should be involved in the talk about reform.  I jumped in because the conversation was turning to unions are fighting to better the conditions for students and I don't think that's true.

                Medical Associations and the like are and should be involved in setting standards, but those organizations aren't unions - they are professional organizations which a different focus then unions.  Unions, by there very nature are focused on their member's and student's aren't their members.  Any benefit through them in to students is incidental.  The idea I was objecting to is that the teacher's Unions are looking out for our students.  They are not.

                I am the typo queen. Sorry in advance.

                by sadpanda on Mon Feb 06, 2012 at 07:22:30 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

              •  I trust teachers. (0+ / 0-)

                I trust teachers to know how to teach.

                I trust teachers to know what to teach.

                I don't trust them to set their own salaries and benefits.

                I don't trust them to evaluate themselves.

                Just like I don't trust bankers, oil executives, stockbrokers, butchers, bakers, nor candlestick-makers to set their own pay.

                •  Straw man. (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Tonedevil, justintime

                  Nowhere in that comment was anyone advocating that teachers set their own pay.

                  If you are against teachers negotiating their pay, just say so and be done with it.

                  As far as evaluation goes - would you trust a baker to evaluate a banker? A butcher to evaluate a surgeon?

                  If you leave educators out of the mix in determining how to evaluate, you are advocating just exactly that.

        •  Um, have you been reading the papers? (6+ / 0-)

          What are the unions in NY clashing about these days? Hint: It's not wages or benefits.

          Santorum's OK. On a Saturday night. But on a Tuesday? Yecch.

          by Van Buren on Sun Feb 05, 2012 at 11:28:26 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  They are fighting... (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            ...over using tests as evaluations.

            Which is exactly what I posted.

            The teachers tell the unions, "Go negotiate for us, get us job security, wages, and benefits". So that's what the unions do. There is nothing wrong with this.

            The test-based evaluations threaten teachers' job security.

            I am not defending the NY proposal -- but let's be clear. Unions don't oppose it because it's bad pedagogy, they oppose it because it might get some of them unjustly fired.

            •  The test-based evaluations fail in their purpose. (4+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              elfling, justintime, La Musa, JanL

              That is why teachers don't like them.

              If they actually worked, if they actually allowed a teacher to genuinely measure what they were doing that worked and what didn't work - there would be very, very few teachers who would not support them.

              They don't. They are a waste of valuable teaching time, and break down the student's perception that school is useful - making the task of the successful teacher that much more difficult.

              The fact that you hold the views you do tells any teacher what you value, and it isn't pretty.

              •  I am still baffled why testing is causing all (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                ManhattanMan, Linda Wood

                these issues.  I was tested each and every year I was in school and then had comprehensive tests at various times in my educational history.  Teachers used tests to measure my progress and my grades were based on these tests.  How has that changed, other than they have standardized the tests?  

                •  When did you go to school? (NT) (0+ / 0-)
                  •  A long time ago but what difference does that (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Linda Wood

                    make, my point is that comprehensive testing has always been part of the program.  I happened to go to Catholic school and my guess is that the diocese controlled the year end testing so that Catholic students were comparable across the diocese.  How is that different?  There is an expectation that when you finish a grade there were certain things that you had mastered, the only difference I see today is that schools pass kids when they have not mastered the materials which has a snowball effect down the line.  Now at least we KNOW they have not mastered the subject and can possibly DO something about it before they drop out.

                    •  Because it's not the same testing (3+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      ManhattanMan, chipmo, Linda Wood

                      and the results are used differently.

                      I went to school a long time ago too.  But when we took the tests, our school wasn't punished by having their funding cut if we did badly on them, and they didn't base our teachers' entire careers on how well we did on them.

                      It was a different time then.  It seemed like people understood that some students were good at some things, and some at other things, and that some had "problems at home", etc.  It would have seemed really odd to blame the teachers for everything back then, and REALLY odd to see a school's budget get chopped if some of the test scores showed problems.

                      •  What would have happened is students would have (1+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        Linda Wood

                        been held back based on performance. What happens today is that students are pushed through and now they are failing in great numbers. Teachers cannot make up for years of students just sliding through, the system has hit the wall and everyone is panicking. All this testing has done is uncover the dirty little secret that we have been failing kids for years but the system of pass no matter what covered the situation. There is now no cover.

                        •  Possibly (0+ / 0-)

                          I don't recall any students being held back solely on the score of a standardized test. Students were given grades for classwork, for homework, for periodic tests...there were midterms and finals, and at the end of the year a student received a grade for each class. There was some sort of formula for passing/failing that determined whether a student was sent on to the next grade. I think, for example, that a student who had a C in every class, but received an F in Social Studies may have been able to pass. I'm not very sure about those kinds of specifics. What I do know is that a student who had good grades otherwise was not held back for failing the once-per-year (or less) standardized exam.

                          We also had a system that prepared students to either go on to college or to pursue a career "in the trades". The trades students spent half the day in classes related to preparation to become an electrician, a carpenter, etc.. Those students weren't required to take some of the more advanced classes in things like English Lit., and didn't need them to advance.

                          I wouldn't be surprised though, if today's system of standardized testing produced a large number of students being pushed through the grades. The model we've built practically demands that the schools do so, as we're holding the schools, the teachers, and the students themselves hostage to produce test results.

                          It's unbelievable to me that we'd take some poor kid who wants to be a plumber, push him into a college path of coursework, and then when he fails, we cut his school's budget, demerit his teachers, blame the unions, and use him as an excuse to open a charter school. Our new methods of measurement and the erroneous conclusions we draw from standardized testing don't match what we're trying to achieve, and those things we're trying to achieve don't mirror the real worlds the students live in. We've made a huge mess of it.

                •  Back in the day... (0+ / 0-)

                  ...they used student test scores to evaluate the student.

                  Today they are trying to use student test scores to evaluate the teacher.  There is a lot of opportunity for unfairness when they do this and teachers hate it.

                  But even when you make the system fair, they still hate it. They would prefer to be evaluated by their seniority and their credentials. They do not want much attention paid to whether or not they are actually producing results.

                  To be fair, it is hard to design a testing system that treats teachers fairly. The closest is the "value-added" metric. These systems give teachers more credit if the kids they work with come from (for example)  poor households or are non-English-speaking.

                  •  When and where has the system been made fair? (4+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Tonedevil, joemac53, justintime, Clues

                    That case has not been made. There have been numerous attempts to reduce teaching to a quantifiable situation, and to apply assessment accordingly.

                    None have yet succeeded, because although the current trend is to reduce teaching to widget-making, students are not widgets.

                    What teachers want is not reconcilable with what MBAs want, and what MBAs want is not in the best interests of the students.

                    •  Please do some... (0+ / 0-)

                      ...reading on value-added metrics.

                      This idea is not perfect, but it is better than the current methods of (non) evaluation.

                      •  This has been one of the topics (3+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        justintime, Clues, Tonedevil

                        I've been following for some time.

                        Bottom line, it's not adequate. It's just another way to attempt to reduce essentially non-quantifiable factors into a formula for the benefit of those who want to reduce costs.

                        Even if there were significant merit to the idea, I would not rely on a faq from a school that has just been suffering from the Arne Duncan approach to learning.

                        Might as well use a Lehman Brother's glossy brochure as a measure of whether or not to invest with them...

                  •  I was going to recommend your comment (2+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Tonedevil, justintime

                    because I liked your observation that we used to evaluate students and now use the tests to evaluate teachers.

                    Then I read this -

                    But even when you make the system fair, they still hate it. They would prefer to be evaluated by their seniority and their credentials. They do not want much attention paid to whether or not they are actually producing results.
                    which is a blatant falsehood and a very nasty attitude with which to approach teachers. It's no wonder you're playing Don Quixote with your schools there if this is what you think of teachers.

                    I'm offended by your easily produced and generalized slam on an entire profession. Even a 6th grade student who fails their standardized test could explain where you've gone wrong there.

            •  It's because they have no control over the outcome (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              Teachers, like pretty much everyone, want to succeed at their evaluations. These "evaluations" using test scores end up being extremely arbitrary.

              Imagine you're a programmer and you maintain software that integrates several other pieces of software that - by the way - you don't choose. And one of those other development companies makes a change and breaks the workings of your website that worked perfectly well yesterday. I think you'd find it annoying and upsetting to be judged on your performance based on the competence of random people you don't choose and may not even know.

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

              by elfling on Sun Feb 05, 2012 at 10:00:09 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  I agree with you about those random people (0+ / 0-)

                forcing you to change if your website "worked perfectly well."

                The reason we're having this discussion is that nationally we have an Achievement Gap and an additional trend that more and more students have been graduating from high school unprepared to do college level coursework, requiring colleges to provide more and more of their entering students with remedial reading and math courses, costing the taxpayers big bucks for instruction that was affordable at the primary school level but isn't affordable or effective at the college level.

                Someone, somewhere, connected to the great points in this diarist's essay having to do with 200 years of unequal educational design, wants this country to be a Third World nation. Who decides how we change is, I agree, very important. I acknowledge that most American teachers are doing perfectly well with students who are well prepared in reading and math, but at some point we are going to have to decide whether or not we want to be a part of the Third World or the First.

                •  Just remember (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:

                  Part of the reason we have more kids graduating from high school and arriving unprepared to do college level work is because more kids are graduating from high school and attempting to go to college.

                  I suspect that the solution is not the one we're pursuing now, which is to eliminate all reading pull-out programs and reading specialists, to increase class sizes by 50%, and to cut 12 days from the school year.  

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

                  by elfling on Mon Feb 06, 2012 at 10:07:35 AM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  More students are graduating from (0+ / 0-)

                    high school unprepared for college level work in the top percentages of their graduating classes.

                    Cal State campuses overwhelmed by remedial needs...

                    The remedial numbers are staggering, given that the Cal State system admits only freshmen who graduated in the top one-third of their high-school class. About 27,300 freshmen in the 2010 entering class of about 42,700 needed remedial work in math, English or both...

                    The remedial problem is hardly confined to California...

                    Remedial needs at California State University
                    New freshmen in the 23-campus system, fall 2010: 42,738
                    New freshmen who needed remedial help, fall 2010: 27,298
                    Percentage of fall 2011 freshmen taking remedial math, Cal State East Bay: 73 percent
                    Percentage of fall 2011 freshmen taking remedial English, Cal State East Bay: 58 percent
                    Percentage of fall 2011 freshmen taking both subjects, Cal State East Bay: 46 percent
                    Sources: California State University; Sally Murphy, Cal State East Bay

                    My sense of what you're saying is that more kids are graduating who have English as a second language or who are poor, each of which lowers their achievement, according to the tests, and hence a larger percentage of students are at the lower level of achievement, even after graduating from high school.

                    If this is what you're saying, my feeling is that the schools are failing more and more kids. We are right back to a disagreement about whether or not schools can provide basic skills to children of all income groups and language groups.

                    If what you are saying is that there has always been this Achievement Gap but that now more of these kids find it necessary to pursue a college education, but they just can't cut it, then I question why, after 50 years of supposedly equalizing education in our schools for all children, fewer and fewer high school students, as a percentage, are equipped for college work.

                    I agree with you about the destructive effects of increasing class sizes or cutting days of the school year. But Reading instruction is one of the key areas where I think we have bought into destructive products over the decades that coincide with the decline in basic skills. If the Reading pull-out programs and specialists that are being eliminated are connected to the commercial products that have disabled so many American children, I hope they will be eliminated and replaced with better instruction.

                    •  What we actually have is an income gap. (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:

                      The PISA report makes it perfectly clear that when income levels are compared directly, the US is at or near the top in all areas of education. All the usual reports they show the US as being much lower when compared to other nations do not segregate the data, and simply report the mean results.

                      Terrible misuse of statistics.

                      •  I agree with you about the statistics, (0+ / 0-)

                        such that they can appear to show a direct correlation when what they show, in this case the Achievement Gap between U.S. educational preparation and Finland's, for example, is a result of a factor that is not being considered.

                        I think the factor you are not considering is the actual method of teaching. If all American children were receiving the same educational experiences and curricula, and the Achievement Gap was experienced by low income and minority children, then I would agree with you. But I question whether that has ever been the case or is even the case now in 2012.

                        I think what has caused a decline in crucial basic skills for American children has been a concerted effort by the most ruthless powers in our educational policy-making to disable American children in the public schools, forcing parents of upper income children to buy private schooling and essentially destroy the right to a good public education.

                        Higher income children in public schools are doing better, according to the tests, because their parents send them to private pre-schools that teach reading preparedness that our public schools do not provide, because their parents hire private tutors, and because their parents homeschool them in addition to public schooling. Statistically, districts with the most questionable curricula often have the highest level of Achievement Gap, the high end provided by higher income parents.

                        •  That is not at all incompatible with what I said, (0+ / 0-)

                          and I agree with you:

                          I think what has caused a decline in crucial basic skills for American children has been a concerted effort by the most ruthless powers in our educational policy-making to disable American children in the public schools, forcing parents of upper income children to buy private schooling and essentially destroy the right to a good public education.

                          But there is certainly more to the story than this:

                          Higher income children in public schools are doing better, according to the tests, because their parents send them to private pre-schools that teach reading preparedness that our public schools do not provide, because their parents hire private tutors, and because their parents homeschool them in addition to public schooling.

                          Poor economic conditions affect development, period. Lack of nutrition, an environment that is not conducive to cognitive development (whether due to simple lack of educated parents/siblings, lack of available books, or a necessary focus on simple survival over education), and so on, all place the lower economic population at a significant disadvantage compared to even the mid-levels, let alone the upper levels.

                          The current class war goes back a long ways, and the war on public education is just one front among many.

                          •  I agree with much of what you say here. (0+ / 0-)

                            I believe the conditions you list truly do affect children's ability to do well in school. I also believe those conditions affect most American children to one degree or another, for example, food quality, pollution, divorce, economic insecurity, alcohol and drug abuse in parents, housing insecurity, the threat of crime, stress over job losses, and health issues are experienced by American kids along a spectrum. It's not a dividing line between the haves and have nots determined by whether or not you qualify for the Free Lunch Program.

                            But I agree with you that poverty hurts kids drastically. What concerns me about attributing our Achievement Gap to poverty itself is that it ignores what happens in the classroom as a result of educational policy. It seems to say there's nothing we can do to mitigate the problems of poverty by providing the best education in the world.

                            Defenders of that point of view often assert that Finland doesn't have poverty. Well they did. Poverty in Europe after WWII was something that we in our time would have difficulty comprehending. It was at that historic point that countries of Northern Europe decided to provide ALL of their children with the same high level of education previously reserved for the wealthy. And I think that is the most important reason why they no longer have poverty, if in fact they don't.

                          •  What I'm actually saying is that the poverty (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            Linda Wood

                            is a weapon, not merely a primary cause.

                            Education, alone, cannot overcome the detrimental effects of poverty - unless, as you say, there is a genuine, widespread, determined effort to elevate education to the highest priority. Education can mitigate the effects of poverty, and it can provide a basis for changing one's personal situation. What happens in the classroom is immensely important to those suffering from the effects of poverty.

                            But it is not in the interests of the ruling class of this country to make a sincere effort to provide to everyone the kind of education they themselves can afford. When a genuine effort is not being made (quite the reverse), the effects of poverty are not overcome, and the relative positions of the rich and the poor are maintained.

                            The two elements are intertwined, to the benefit of the wealthy.

                            I don't think we actually disagree on the importance of education, at all. Particularly on the importance of a free, quality education for all, which makes the undermining of the public system such a dangerous, misguided act.

                          •  Thank you for saying this so beautifully. (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:

                            I wish everyone at DailyKos interested in education and the reform issue would read what you've written here. I think it would move our discussion forward significantly.

        •  Unions, forsooth (10+ / 0-)

            I took part in contract negotiations 3 times. Each time admin wanted more time from the teachers we would ask:
          What do you want to do with the time?
             If the answer was more meetings, we resisted. We wanted more kid time, teaching time.
             Then they decided that we wanted to teach an extra class: No! we wanted more time with the students we had, not more students!
             Once we said we wanted some more time to talk to parents, admin decided we wanted to come back to school at night. They were serious about that until a teacher in a nearby city was assaulted by a drunk parent at a night meeting.
          Admin always heard something different than what we said.
             In my state you did not really negotiate about money because the school committee had little control over the bottom line. Negotiations usually centered around time. Teachers would give time away to spend it with students. Admin wanted admin's agenda to control any extra time.
             Because I taught difficult courses and was in school before 5:30 every morning, I had a "breakfast club" of motivated students coming in by 6:30 to get extra help. I stayed after school any day that I did not have a meeting. I did not expect to be compensated for this: it was part of the deal. You get the good classes, you get the work that goes with them. Same for tough classes, except the hard work was during the class period (it was tough to get an unmotivated kid into school early, even if I told them I'd give them a ride).
             It is for these reasons I have zero patience with reform. Education involves so many variables, teaching is a very complicated endeavor and motivation is so hard to engender and I never hear how those things will be addressed.
             I hear you, ManhattanMan, but that is how this teacher worked for 35 years.

        •  Some unions do negotiate for those things (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          JanL, Linda Wood

          Also for smaller class sizes, and for more collaborative time, and for curriculum changes, and for calendar changes... and even to advocate for salary or benefit cuts to keep those things.

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

          by elfling on Sun Feb 05, 2012 at 09:49:27 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Part of the problem is that teachers (12+ / 0-)

    are often seen  (by some, who often happen to have power) as simply employees implementing the dictates of their betters.

    There is a vast negative power in the untruth so often spouted that those who can't do, teach.

    In my experience, often those who can do, and do well, can't teach worth a damn. A teacher must be able to both do and teach.

    How many of the academicians (or politicians, or theocrats) who come up with the "reforms," and the curricula, and the "one size fits all" perfectionist standards, actually teach in the classroom settings they are attempting to reform? Not many, I suspect.

    "When will our consciences grow so tender that we will act to prevent human misery rather than avenge it?"--Eleanor Roosevelt

    by KJC MD on Sun Feb 05, 2012 at 10:32:56 AM PST

    •  It is worse than that. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      dfarrah, KJC MD, AverageJoe42

      Individual teachers are made to follow strategies dictated by Administrators and Politicians.

      Then when these strategies fail to produce results, we blame the teacher.

      I am all in favor of blaming teachers for bad results, but only if:

      - Teachers have control over curriculum,
      - Results are adjusted for kids' home environments,
      - Teachers with good results get rewards (perhaps money, perhaps other things).

      Any reform that demands "accountability" from teachers should also grant power to them.

    •  Part of the problem, unfortunately, (0+ / 0-)

      is that teachers, who, as you say,

      are often seen  (by some, who often happen to have power) as simply employees implementing the dictates of their betters

      sometimes act that way. This is such a difficult and contentious subject. I come from a family of several life long public school teachers, and I am totally supportive of their positions as dedicated advocates of children's well being. But we have to begin to realize that the diarist makes a vital point in this statement:

      You see, the folks making the rules benefited from how we have taught for the last two hundred years.

      Teachers carried out that system of oppression designed to keep low income people in their place. I should say, some teachers did. Others tried to make a difference. Most tried to make a difference. Perhaps it is asking the impossible of teachers to expect them to question the authority of curriculum design. But if that's true, then that's where the rest of us come in.

  •  In answer to the title of your diary, it is for (5+ / 0-)

    same reason the general citizenry are generally left out of the political process. Look what it took to (temporarily?) drown SOPA!

    The political machine isn't there to wholly address a problem, they are there to achieve a desired end.  Just ask the school superintendent here who stated (during our district financial crisis) who pledged to take a hit on her salary, but instead just got rid of a few people below her.

    It's a con from beginning to end.

    202-224-3121 to Congress in D.C. USE it! You can tell how big a person is by what it takes to discourage them. "We're not perfect, but they're nuts."--Barney Frank 01/02/2012

    by cany on Sun Feb 05, 2012 at 10:34:21 AM PST

  •  It's the class size, stupid! (5+ / 0-)

    Why doesn't this ever get discussed by the reformers?

    •  Because it costs... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      ...a huge amount of money to change class size. Consider:

      We have 4,000,000 teachers in the US making an average of about $70k/year each (this includes benefits).

      That's $280 billion in teacher salaries alone.  This doesn't include building new classrooms and facilities.

      And of course every 20-30 actual teachers require an Administrator, a HR executive, an "Educational Consultant", and a Bureaucrat or two.

      If we want to reduce class size by half, we need to find another $400 billion (my rough guess) per year.

      Taxing capital gains as ordinary income would so this. Ending a lot of corporate tax breaks would work also.

      The question is, if we were to spend another $400 billion or so on education is this the very best way to spend it? Does reducing class size give us the best bang-for-the-buck?

      Consider also:

      There are 14.7 million poor kids in the US. $400 billion/year is enough to give each kid a cash grant of $27,000!

      We could send every poor kid to Hogwarts for that kind of dough.

      Reducing class size is popular with teachers because it reduces their workload. There is also some evidence that it improves learning. But it is costly, costly, costly...

      •  You get what you pay for. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ManhattanMan, historys mysteries
      •  20 to 25 students per teacher . . . (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ManhattanMan, Tonedevil, elfling

        . . . is a workable, cost effective class size, according to most experienced teachers I know.

        If we want to reduce class size by half, we need to find another $400 billion (my rough guess) per year.

        No need to cut class sizes by half.
        Think about it.

        •  In that case... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          ...there is no problem! (just kidding)

          "American schools aren’t really much more crowded than educational institutions in other developed countries. An average of 23.1 students fill the typical American primary school classroom, which is just above the O.E.C.D. average of 21.4 students. In lower secondary schools, the average American class size is 24.3 students, compared with 23.9 across the O.E.C.D."

          Of course there is also that old bit of wisdom:

          "Whatever hits the fan will not be evenly distributed."

          I am willing to bet that the bad end of this "average" will be in poor mine.

          I am not saying that reducing class size is bad -- just that we need to judge it against other options. Free breakfast. After-school tutoring. More jobs/education/healthcare for parents. There are probably other ideas out there as well.

          We have got to take costs -- especially opportunity costs -- into account.

          •  Class size averages are bullshit (12+ / 0-)

            A special ed class might have 10 kids. A fourth year foreign language class might have 8 kids. That means a math class gets 42 kids. Boom, 25 kid average.

          •  The averages are created (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            justintime, Linda Wood

            by taking the total enrollment and dividing by the certificated staff. This is not a true class size. Some staff at the school will be dedicated to special ed or pull outs or other programs.

            Just as a college might have, say a 5:1 student to faculty ratio does not mean that classes are offered with 5 students each.

            So anyone who wrote "an average of 23.1 students fill..." was misled by the data and then with a bit of flowery phrasing, actually wrote a distinct untruth. 23 is a very reasonable elementary class size.

            A district near to us is packing all their classes 31 to a classroom, including mixed K/1 classes. If a 32nd student shows up, they were having to move all the kids around to make a new class. That's just poor management, but it's also a consequence of tight budgets, and it's got to be extremely detrimental to those kids in pretty much every possible way.

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

            by elfling on Sun Feb 05, 2012 at 10:08:21 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

      •  Politifact for a source? Really? (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        justintime, joemac53, chipmo

        Here's your top Google hit for "average teacher salary".

        Nothing more need be said about your tactics.

        •  Your link... (0+ / 0-)

          ...does not include benefits.

          Please provide a link including Healthcare and Pensions, and I'll plug in that number.

          Besides, even if we use your $49k number it makes little difference. Just take my numbers and cut off 30%. Corrections to my post are in {brackets}.

          There are 14.7 million poor kids in the US. {$280 billion/year} is enough to give each kid a cash grant of {$19,000!}

          We could send every poor kid to {Beauxbatons} for that kind of dough.

          Stop nit-picking, Jeezus.

  •  Why do we keep calling it "reform?" n/t (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    justintime, aliasalias, Laconic Lib

    The banks have a stranglehold on the political process. Mike Whitney

    by dfarrah on Sun Feb 05, 2012 at 11:18:11 AM PST

  •  Are all these reform efforts (7+ / 0-)

    initiated by people who remember the one (or two) bad teachers they'd had in their schooling? My children are in 9th grade and 7th grade. Between the 2 of them they've had approximately 50 teachers (counting music, art, facs, tech, computers, health), 35 of them "core" subject teachers. In all these years and over all these teachers there has only been one objectively bad teacher. A couple of teachers just didn't "click" with my kids, but that didn't make them bad.

    I CAN tell you that the culture of high stakes testing is what is making education uninspiring today. And, of course, the budget cuts that force enriching programs such as music and art get the axe. My public school district of 3200 children only has 8.5 music teachers and 8 art teachers. Sad.

  •  "You should feel glad we informed you. It was more (3+ / 0-)

    than the private sector would have done." I got this from my principal when the Superintendent announced a 10% cut our our budget including several teachers, aids, but non of the male administrators.

    Of course, I have spent more time in the community and teaching at this high school then all of the administrative team combined. That didn't matter. They knew where to move people. they knew whose lives to disrupt.

    They know best!

  •  I was luckly (7+ / 0-)

    I went to an extremely good private school for H.S. after years in a more normal Catholic school.  I always knew that the biggest difference (in terms of teaching) was the quality of teachers and their responsiveness.  
    However, looking back the Catholic schoolrooms where miniature fiefdoms.  That was sufficiently ingrained in me that I remember being struck in High School when one of my English teachers mentioned talking to a science teacher about how I processed new material.  I remember standing in the hallway staring after her unable to understand why teachers would be having discussions about a student like me for any reason other than disciplinary purposes.

    I am the typo queen. Sorry in advance.

    by sadpanda on Sun Feb 05, 2012 at 11:57:39 AM PST

    •  It's because we love you (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      justintime, baybelletrist, TexMex

      I got along with students because they knew I wanted them to work hard, have fun and grow up. I treated them as "my kids". They understood when I got on their cases and cut me some slack if I was impatient once in a while.
      This was the norm in my school. I was nothing special.

      •  yeah people don't understand that. (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        justintime, elfling, joemac53

        We belong to our students and they bekong to us.  That is why we say "my students" and "my teacher" and it is NOT like saying my auto mechanic or my butcher.

        Teacher/student relationship is real.
        The crazy rascals on my facebook prove that. They looked up and friended their old "teach".

        "How quickly these kids have affected the public dialogue. So proud of them." Clarknt67

        by TexMex on Sun Feb 05, 2012 at 07:51:02 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Early childhood education is a missed opportunity. (5+ / 0-)

    This is where educational funds are most cost effective.
    There are many studies that prove this.

    •  I want to see it offered evenly to all kids (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      justintime, Linda Wood

      not just disadvantaged kids. First, because not all families counting as "advantaged" really are, and second, because it's best to have a wide diversity of kids and families invested in the system.

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

      by elfling on Sun Feb 05, 2012 at 10:11:02 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Because R's hate teachers and don't want (4+ / 0-)

    to listen.

    Why listen to the expert when you can win an election by selling them and children out to the lowest bidder.

    tipped and re'ced

    The radical Republican party is the party of oppression, fear, loathing and above all more money and power for the people who robbed us.

    by a2nite on Sun Feb 05, 2012 at 12:03:02 PM PST

  •  Let's test educational administrators! (5+ / 0-)

    Educational administrators are charged with the responsibility of creating and maintaining the best possible conditions for the teaching staff to be successful in educating our children.

    An incompetent administrator can inflict far more damage than an incompetent teacher.

    But an effective administrator can inspire teachers and students to excellence.

    •  Better... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ladybug53 about we evaluate Administrators based on how much their kids' scores improve?

      Many on this board are anti-charter, but that is one thing the Charter movement excels at: Punishing Bad Administrators.

      If a charter school is bad, the parents leave. They take their funding with them. This gives administrators good reasons to keep and reward the strongest teachers. And also to help the weaker ones get stronger!

      At a Typical Public School, the parents have no options. They are stuck. So the administrator can play politics and favorites and screw up the teaching with no consequences. And, they often do.

      •  Another "free market" libertarian argument. (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ManhattanMan, Laconic Lib, BMarshall

        This argument fails (like many other libertarian arguments about market response) because the "administrator market" takes too long to respond in a practical way to my child's educational needs.  

        Honestly though, if I were in your shoes, living in a dysfunctional inner city school district, I might end up doing exactly what you did out of desperation by sending my child to a charter school.  But just because you found a better alternative in NYC doesn't mean

        But I might also consider "voting with my feet" and move out of the district.

        When I suggested testing administrators I would not mean using the simplistic approach of testing children to evaluate administrator effectiveness.  That's ridiculous.

        •  Charters aren't free-market. (0+ / 0-)

          This is a very subtle point.

          Free-marketism assumes that people who are rich are magically better-qualified to allocate society's resources.Our current system is free-market.

          Rich people bid up the price of houses in areas with
          good schools.

          Rich people bid up the cost of tuition at nice private schools.

          Rich people get the good schools because they can afford to put in the highest bids.

          Nobody opens good schools in poor areas because poor people have no money.

          Charter schools are the exact friggin' opposite of the Free Market. Charter schools let every family have an equal amount of power. It is the closest thing to Socialism we are ever going to see in education.

          Here in NYC the very poorest family now has $16,000 worth of POWER to choose a school. Before charters, only Rich Families had that kind of POWER.

          But giving Power to the People is scary -- for certain (cough, cough) entrenched interests.

          •  REALLY sounds like Morgan Warstler. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            "Is that all there is?" Peggy Lee.

            by jm214 on Sun Feb 05, 2012 at 03:48:29 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

          •  That sounds like utopian hogwash. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            The parents who have the best schools are the parents who pay attention to their child's development and are willing to help make the educational system better.

            Why didn't you join a parents' advocacy group . . . team up with other parents to fix the broken public school system in your neighborhood? . . NYC just gave up fixing the public schools and out of desperation started handing out $16,000 vouchers? . . what a shame!

            What's the name of the charter school you sent your daughter to? . . How's that working out? . . are the kids performing up to snuff? . . do the teachers get paid a decent living wage for NYC? . . budget cuts?

            •  Because his child needs education now (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              Something like a parent's advocacy group or teaming up with other parents may or may not improve a school to any significant degree, depending on other factors in a community. And even when change is finally effected it might not come until after your child would benefit. Using a substantial voucher is more likely to produce immediate results. The guy has a child that needs a good education now. Charter schools and vouchers, if implemented correctly, could be analogous to single payer healthcare in that there are a lot of independent practitioners but most people are given the means to choose which one they will use.  

            •  Why do we need single-payer... (0+ / 0-)


              Shouldn't we just work with our insurance companies and make them better?

              Didn't you write letters to Aetna Healthcare's Complaint Department?

              Didn't you put notes in their online suggestion box?

              I know you are sick, but before we try Single Payer, we need you to spend a few more years attending our Insurance Improvement Committee meetings.


              There's one thing the US Education system and the US Healthcare system have in common, though -- they both involve customers having to hold Bake Sales...!

              Seriously. There are parent committees in NYC. They have no authority. No (significant) budget. No teeth. They are 100% advisory.

              There is also the political process. There is no elected school board in NYC. NYC schools are under the control of the Mayor, who is a billionaire. I am not in a position to run against him.

        •  I hear you. (0+ / 0-)
          "This argument fails (like many other libertarian arguments about market response) because the "administrator market" takes too long to respond in a practical way to my child's educational needs."

          How long does it take a big-city bureaucracy to respond?

          With charters, the response is instant. You move your kid and they immediately get a better education.

          Also, there are the benefits of self-selection. My kid may respond well to Curriculum A. Yours may thrive under Curriculum B. With school choice, we can each pick our school.

          •  Instant response, better education? (0+ / 0-)
            With charters, the response is instant. You move your kid and they immediately get a better education.

            How many different schools can I choose from?
            And they're all private?
            Let the public schools go to the dogs!
            Where's my voucher?
            •  Only 17% of charters do better, 37% do worse (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Lisa, justintime, TexMex

              Stanford conducted the most comprehensive study on Charters. Even with all their built in advantages, very, very few Charters outperform traditional schools. You have less than a 2 in 10 chance of picking a charter that would do better than a regular school.


              •  thank you! (0+ / 0-)

                "How quickly these kids have affected the public dialogue. So proud of them." Clarknt67

                by TexMex on Sun Feb 05, 2012 at 07:52:17 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

              •  So don't choose... (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Linda Wood

                ...those schools in the 37%.

                The choice is yours.

                Besides, when we try to use standardized tests to evaluate teachers, we are told that these tests are not reliable. Funny how they suddenly become reliable...when they are used to smear 37% of Charters...!

                •  And it's so incredibly easy to tell in advance (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:

                  which schools are which!

                  Not to mention, with only 17% of the charters being better than the average public school, there's always going to be one within a short distance!

                  It's so simple!

                  •  CREDO was able to tell... (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Linda Wood

                    ...which was which.

                    They just looked at the scores.

                    Parents can do the same thing (if they think scores are important).

                    Will there be a charter, "within a short distance"? That depends. If the anti-reformers shut down the charters, then no.

                    That is why we cannot let the anti-reformers win.

                    •  Point is, you make claims that don't (2+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      justintime, elfling

                      exist in reality.

                      'If you don't like your public school, you can just go to a charter! There's one right down the street!'

                      Yeah, right. They're like cockroaches or something, everywhere you look - and they're all fantastic!

                      Trying to deflect by suggesting that closing charters will produce the state of affairs that statistically must exist right now is just as much a lie as Waiting for Superman is.

              •  That report is more nuanced than that (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                ManhattanMan, Linda Wood, Tonedevil

                According to the link you provided charter school performance varies around the country and it's not just hit or miss.  From the article you linked to:

                "The report found that the academic success of students in charter schools was affected by the individual state policy environment. States with caps limiting the number of charter schools reported significantly lower academic results than states without caps limiting charter growth. States that have the presence of multiple charter school authorizers also reported lower academic results than states with fewer authorizers in place. Finally, states with charter legislation allowing for appeals of previously denied charter school applications saw a small but significant increase in student performance."

                "The report found several key positive findings regarding the academic performance of students attending charter schools. For students that are low income, charter schools had a larger and more positive effect than for similar students in traditional public schools. English Language Learner students also reported significantly better gains in charter schools, while special education students showed similar results to their traditional public school peers."

                "The report also found that students do better in charter schools over time. While first year charter school students on average experienced a decline in learning, students in their second and third years in charter schools saw a significant reversal, experiencing positive achievement gains. The report found that achievement results varied by states that reported individual data. States with reading and math gains that were significantly higher for charter school students than would have occurred in traditional schools included: Arkansas, Colorado (Denver), Illinois (Chicago), Louisiana and Missouri."

                "States with reading and math gains that were either mixed or were not different than their peers in the traditional public school system included: California, the District of Columbia, Georgia and North Carolina."

                "States with reading and math gains that were significantly below their peers in the traditional public school system included: Arizona, Florida, Minnesota, New Mexico, Ohio and Texas."

                •  Everybody... (0+ / 0-)

                  ...who links that report should actually read that report.

                  There are many ways to implement charter schools. Most of them are bad. There are a lot of things that can go wrong.

                  The failures create horror stories that are used to smear all charters.

                  But there are ways to do it right. NYC does a pretty good job.

                •  Thank you for this! (0+ / 0-)

                  This is a very important key finding:

                  "The report found several key positive findings regarding the academic performance of students attending charter schools. For students that are low income, charter schools had a larger and more positive effect than for similar students in traditional public schools. English Language Learner students also reported significantly better gains in charter schools, while special education students showed similar results to their traditional public school peers."
            •  Don't confuse Charters with Vouchers. (0+ / 0-)

              Charter schools are not private schools.

              You write:

              "Let the public schools go to the dogs!"

              That comment proves you are thinking about this the wrong way.

              Stop thinking about what's good for schools.

              Don't worry about what helps schools.

              Don't ask me for tax money or perks or laws to help schools.

              Start thinking about kids.

          •  Your charter responds well. My public school (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            responds well.

            Who is right? Who is wrong?

            Maybe the real answer is merely that NYC needs to be divided into many smaller school districts, so that there is less big-city bureaucracy in play.

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

            by elfling on Sun Feb 05, 2012 at 10:18:38 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

      •  I know you're frustrated (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        but I think you're very focused on your exact local situation and do not have a good view of issues in other cities, regions, and states.

        I agree with you that parents should have options. Creating charter schools is not the only way to create those options.

        In some cases, charter schools take away options from parents, when a neighborhood school is converted to a for-profit charter.

        I also suspect that some of the issues you face are specific to a school district becoming just too large to effectively represent parents or really know and manage its schools well.

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

        by elfling on Sun Feb 05, 2012 at 10:15:57 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Speaking as a former middle school teacher (9+ / 0-)

    I taught middle school for 15 years, beginning in 1992, in the Bronx, New York City, for my first 7 years, then 6 years in the suburbs, followed by 2 years in the suburbs of San Francisco.  

    The training that new teachers get, versus the training I received during the 1980's, while earning my Master of Science degree in Secondary Social Studies Education, doesn't even compare.  Today's teachers are far better prepared than teachers from years ago.  Of course, there are always opportunities for older teachers to improve their craft, and I certainly took advantage of them.  As far as teachers working together, collaborating on lesson planning and actual teaching, it is up to the administrators to give schedule time for us to work together.  However, my colleagues always stayed after school to work with students, or to work with one another on collaborating.  This was true both in the city and in the suburbs.  

    All of these reforms will take years to have an effect.  

    I have also noticed that the principal totally sets the tone for the school.  A principal that is visible and who knows both the teachers and the students makes all the difference.  For example, just standing outside the school each day, greeting teachers, students, and parents sets a powerful tone.  A principal should also pop in and out of classrooms, he or she will always know right away whether or not any learning is going on.  A principal who hides in meetings all day is a waste of time.  

    The other big challenge we have is that there are huge amounts of non-English speaking students entering our schools.  It takes 5-7 years to become totally proficient in English.   These children do learn, but, as they are learning, newcomers are always coming in, usually to the poorest  neighborhoods, and as their parents meet with success, they move on, and new students come in.  Thus, some schools with always have lower average tests scores, which is why ranking schools and teachers by test scores is so flawed.  

    What should be done instead is to track the progress of individual students.  

    Finally, in most schools, especially middle schools and high schools, a very small percentage of the students, often just 2%-4% of the students, cause a lot of disruption and the administrators spend the bulk of their time with these children.  While some disruption is caused by poor teaching, much more is due to the immaturity of these select few students.   What would make more sense would be to remove them from school, and let them get out and work for a living.  After 6 months or a year, most of these children would realize that they need to come back to school and get an education so that they can get into more rewarding careers.  This might sound harsh, but, so much time is spent with a small group of students who can often ruin  school for so many others.   Why not put the resources into those who want to learn.

    Lastly, for the most part, students nowadays are learning things a full year sooner than when we were going to school.  This is working great for many students, but a huge number just need more time to grasp basic concepts.   Holding a child back a year is often frowned upon because it with stigmatize the child, but, in fact, they will be more likely to meet with success and will realize it.  Just pushing a child along for years is a waste of time and is far more damaging.  

    Just a few thoughts, imagine how much more we could learn if we talk to teachers.

  •  My experience is mostly substitute teaching, (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    justintime, baybelletrist, Linda Wood

    my public school teaching experience that is, but I can say this much: bringing the teachers into the reform debate needs to ask the critical question: how do teachers prepare the next generation through teaching?  

    The "reformers" in power operate through public appeal to a simplistic mythology about teaching.  People are allowed to believe that anyone can teach and that teaching is the mere conveyance of content.  This is what motivates the testing regime and the political sales-pitch for charter schools as places where the conveyance of content can be super-charged.  Peddling the mythology is what earns the "reformers" their positions of power.

    The next generation of human beings is going to have to confront a world substantially altered by the blunders made by this generation.  We know the "reformers" are uninterested in how this next generation confronts that world.  The teachers, then, can make a difference by addressing how education confronts the future.

    "And magnificently we will float/ Into the mystic" -- from van Morrison's "Into the Mystic"

    by Cassiodorus on Sun Feb 05, 2012 at 02:16:12 PM PST

  •  A number of thoughts (5+ / 0-)

    First I have worked at all grade levels, in poor demographical schools and districts and up through middle class and affluent schools and districts, plus regular ed and special ed.

    I also am a career or industry changer and about to return back for many reasons but primarily that I see two things, my efforts and the efforts of my colleagues are not self-determinate and I only see the total collapse of the system to be the path to rebuilding it.

    Further I was one of the many house party hosts of Sen Michael Bennet's summer time "kitchen table" discussions regarding Public Education where we and other dozen or so homes throughout CO had collected groups of collegiate administrators and instructors, high school central and school administrators, teachers, para professionals, and lay persons. In our group we happened to even have state legislative leadership who was the chair of the education committee. We discussed these and more detailed questions and reported them back to the Senator who then conducted a conference call style meeting.

    We developed consensus that indeed educators have been left out of reform designs, instruction has fully morphed to teaching to the standardized tests, teachers are scapegoats, are on islands where they are able to improve their skills and methods, and necessary resources like books and supplies are being cut while fancy things like smart boards installed. Computers are available but networks are broken. Finally class discipline is so challenged, especially in poorer schools where also there is too much pressure from special education needs without available funding.

    Charter schools on an anecdotal level are good but on the majority is simply a sham to what has been purported.  When I was a business executive we would never have stood for this dysfunctional model but we also would have decentralized things and allowed the professionals to find their ways.

    Lastly I will say the one thing that must be top down are standards. In Wisconsin all educational standards emulated from U of WI system as what were the eventual standards an incoming freshman from WI must know to be successful at UW-Madison. Everything went from there down through the entire state public school system. Local districts might add to the standard but the state standard stood paramount and it was not political.      

    They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither safety nor liberty~Ben Franklin

    by RWN on Sun Feb 05, 2012 at 03:46:06 PM PST

    •  I recommend your comments because (0+ / 0-)

      of the U of WI standards issue. I am interested in whether standards of that kind are valued by teachers in this discussion who oppose standardized tests. I know it's a complex issue, but I thank you for raising it with such assertiveness.

  •  One might also ask about why nurses and billers an (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    justintime, TexMex, Linda Wood

    d coders and medical assistants and such are left out of the debate on reform of the world's almost most screwed-up "health care system" (sic)...

    All those "little people" who, like teachers, bust their butts every day to give comfort and learning and care to so many of Our Vulnerable Fellow Americans. The people who know what the dysfunctions are, and how to fix them. People who damn near kill themselves in low-paid jobs doing vital service for little to no thanks, with demands that they "produce more" for "less money" and "longer hours."

    "Is that all there is?" Peggy Lee.

    by jm214 on Sun Feb 05, 2012 at 03:54:38 PM PST

  •  Blackwater mercenary teachers. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Linda Wood

    Love it. A very simple way to express the absurdity of the currently fashionable crap ideas on education reform.

    "It's called the American Dream because you have to be asleep to believe it." George Carlin

    by psnyder on Sun Feb 05, 2012 at 04:07:41 PM PST

  •  One of my kids' teachers constantly bullies and (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    humiliates kids in front of their peers. She's unhappy, never smiles, is always yelling, allows no noise or play. When other elementary school teachers hold parties at Halloween or Christmas her room is deathly silent as kids aren't allowed to talk, no parents come to help.

    She's 62.

    She has been doing a shitty job and messing up kids lives for 40 years and makes a good living doing it.

    Yet she keeps her job.

    When someone figures out a way to can people like her I know we'll be on our way.

    "Slip now and you'll fall the rest of your life" Derek Hersey 1957-1993

    by ban nock on Sun Feb 05, 2012 at 04:27:08 PM PST

    •  Easy, and already in place (7+ / 0-)

      You can, and always have been able to fire crap teachers. It takes an administrator willing to do the paperwork and follow through. Nothing magical. Just a good leader.

      •  I've seen 2 principals in 4 years and she's still (0+ / 0-)

        there. Both principals seemed pretty good to me, first left for a better job, second seems to be smart, self assured, lots of energy, practical.

        I thought teachers are there forever, tenure.

        "Slip now and you'll fall the rest of your life" Derek Hersey 1957-1993

        by ban nock on Sun Feb 05, 2012 at 05:44:41 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Tenure is a huge, right wing myth (7+ / 0-)

          Tenure just means that after three years you are no longer "at will" and you get due process.

          Tell the principal the teacher needs to go. If a principal won't do their job, parent pressure almost always works, especially if it is more than one.

          This idea that you cannot fire bad teachers is just a red herring ruse. It is a lie. Big time. I suggest you meet with the principal.

          •  I probably will. I feel comfortable being (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            up front with the principal, she's pretty easy to talk to. I'd think she already knows the score and can't do much.

            I sure do wish there were ways to have not so great teachers do other jobs at a school.

            Both my folks were tenured teachers and they were life long Dems, no right wing memes amongst them.

            "Slip now and you'll fall the rest of your life" Derek Hersey 1957-1993

            by ban nock on Sun Feb 05, 2012 at 06:08:56 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Sometimes part of the problem is (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              ban nock, justintime

              that there are no formal parent complaints for the principal to work with.

              Also, the ability to send a teacher on his or her way is somewhat different district to district. One side effect is that your principal may not know that it is possible to fire a teacher because it hasn't been tried.

              When someone is near retirement age, that can be a very tough situation, because teacher pensions are separated from Social Security and there really aren't other jobs they can go to and keep their vesting. On the plus side, perhaps this teacher is ready to be counseled out with early retirement.

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

              by elfling on Sun Feb 05, 2012 at 10:27:36 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

          •  I've thought on it overnight and I think you're (0+ / 0-)

            part of the problem.

            Until we find a place to put teachers who can't do the job all the looking for new methods in the world won't help. Calling something you don't like a lie and a right wing meme is a cop out.

            I'd rather this teacher have a good job for life, she put in her time, but she is very bad at what she does and has been for a long time. If the system were working she wouldn't be there. There would be an easy way to shuffle her somewhere with similar pay and benefits but without having to teach.

            This is why charters are gaining such popularity.

            Teachers are more important than anything.

            "Slip now and you'll fall the rest of your life" Derek Hersey 1957-1993

            by ban nock on Mon Feb 06, 2012 at 02:30:01 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Bad teachers can and are fired (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              justintime, ManhattanMan, Tonedevil

              Why is that so hard to understand? I think New York might be dysfunctional in this regard, but in general, bad teachers are not held onto.

              •  It varies around the country (0+ / 0-)

                Reasons for firing a tenured teacher generally don't include them being a generally unpleasant person who makes kids feel bad about themselves. At least in NY state that doesn't seem to be the case.  When my son was in fourth grade he got an absolutely terrible teacher.  I was unable to have him moved to another classroom because the school principal said all the other classes were at capacity.  He ended up having a terrible year.  The following summer I was at a picnic at which several teachers from our school district were present.  They all agreed that the teacher my son had was terrible and all of them would have acted before the school year started if their child was scheduled to be in that teacher's class.  I asked why the teacher was still around, and they said it was because it was too difficult to get rid of her.  If she had exhibited her current behavior before receiving tenure she never would have been retained. I guess talking to children in a belittling and sarcastic manner didn't rise to the level of conduct unbecoming of a teacher or whatever criteria they use for determining when a tenured teacher can be fired.

                •  Maybe nobody... (0+ / 0-)

                  ever made any effort to fire her.  I work for the State of California and 9 out of 10 of the managers I talk with complain they can never get rid of the bad employees. When I ask if they have documented the problems I am told that it wouldn't help yet I know of at least 6 State employees that have been let go because their manager took the time to document the process.  When I worked as a fast food manager we had the same procedure three warnings with solid documentation and the manager was able to tell the employee bye bye. Many of my fellow managers told me it was too hard to fire people then as well.

                  This makes about as much sense as Mike Huckabee on mescaline. - Prodigal 2-6-2008

                  by Tonedevil on Mon Feb 06, 2012 at 12:56:59 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

            •  I am pro-tenure. (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Linda Wood

              Teachers are government employees.

              If there was no tenure, whoever wins an election could fire good teachers and hire cronies.  They could also make teachers' jobs conditional on political support.

              If you think Tenure sucks, wait until your kid's teacher is hired by Boss Tweed!

              I do not believe that there are tons of "bad teachers' that need to be fired. They just need an incentive to be better. Your principal needs to have a talk with this teacher. But, since you are trapped in your school, the principal has no reason to rock the boat.

              If a charter school opened across the street, you could threaten to leave. Then you would get more attention.

  •  Because it's not about the teachers. (5+ / 0-)

    Most of the education "reform" is not about making the schools better.  It's about destroying the teachers' unions.

    What's more, "teacher performance" measures generally do nothing more than reward teachers who teach white, middle-class students and punish teachers who teach poor children and minorities.  So guess where the best teachers are going to go?

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

    by TDDVandy on Sun Feb 05, 2012 at 05:25:02 PM PST

  •  I want to correct one oversight. (7+ / 0-)

    Excellent piece, and the discussion is both illuminating and enraging. The forces of simplicity and soundbite solutions are many (although here, mostly one) and stupid.

    However, you've left out any significant mention of the elephant in your classroom. You see the argument clearly, in the context of your experience (which I hasten to respect) and what you believe will help. I agree with your general sensibilities, but the game is unfortunately caught in a larger entropy.

    Let's start with the obvious. There is a lot of money on the educational table. More money than in any other single industry in the country. The same kind of money as sits insecurely in the Social Security funds. And the greed around us cannot tolerate money they cannot touch. Schools represent one of the last sources of free money (as it seems to appear to some). There is a portion of the country that is constantly obsessed with any money spent on public purposes, and with eliminating such spending, mostly with an eye towards paying no tax whatsoever on anything. Except guns, of course. There is another portion of the country, a small percentage (without mentioning 1), that want that money. And they're working hard to take it.

    That group does not give a damn about education. They do not care a fig for kids, parents, neighborhoods, or any future beyond the next quarter's balance sheet. They are working constantly to privatize, under any color they can make us imagine. And a prime mover in the effort is the slimy underbelly of graft and secrecy in politics, ALEC.

    They call it 'charter schools', because that even with a public imprimatur over it is the first step to taking funds out of the public school system. The 'charter' scam (and it IS a scam in most places) simply sequesters money from the public system to support some fantasized magic kingdom where everything will work just because. You know it doesn't work. The numbers, when they're fairly rendered, prove it. The occasional success is a limited thing to singular situations. I am willing to bet on the costs being 'discovered' in the not-too-distant future to be well beyond what has been shifted, and an immediate following demand for more public money to make it all better.

    When they have defunded public schools and the majority that cannot go elsewhere, they will insist that ALL public schools are broken (when in fact they're just broke, and not of their own hand). With broken schools, they demand closing, chartering, or selling them outright to .... something. And the selling (or giving away) meme sounds good to the no-tax crowd, because anyone that promises them no tax is godlike and infallible, because St. Ronnie said so.

    Dumping the public schools to avoid taxes comes with a powerful incentive. Without a public school, the teachers can be dumped too, and along with them their pensions and costs and that nasty union stuff. Because teachers are just so damned uppity for wanting a fair wage for professional work, decades of education and specialized training, and always wanting it to be better. Can't have them public employees acting like real people. And of course the new masters of education can make their deals for teachers on the free market, and all the old rules disappear. (See also: Scott Walker).

    Just one point in that scenario is the implication of the competitive model on the very notion of teaching. If you think it is bad now, after NCLB and Arne, that the very people entrusted with the future of children are reduced to competing for test scores to secure next years' contract, think what it would be when raw greed becomes the only functional motivator in the system. Competition between staff (I would hesitate to imagine them as actual teachers in that world) will be (perhaps literally) bloody. When reducing costs -- such as paper usage, or gallons per flush -- is the only measurement that really matters. Newt's Dickensian dystopia of  children scrubbing toilets becomes all the more real. Regardless of what pious pronouncements are given to the afunctional 'press', the bottom line is the bottom line.

    ALEC has a complete program for the dismantling of public schools, and putting all that money directly into private hands. Education will become a component of industrial process, based completely on No Profit Left Behind. You just know that the test scores will go up... Michelle Rhee-Form proves we can have the best scores money can buy. And what money can buy is all that matters in the Brave New World.

    I realize putting this crass overlay on your well-ordered intentions to improve what we have -- and again, I could not agree with your goals or methods more -- just makes it messier than it already is. But without facing the underlying push to destroy the very system you serve and support, all the best intentions are doomed. You could build the most impressive school system in the universe, and if they're not exposed and stopped, the tide of money will wash it all away.

    The furnace of Affliction produces Refinement, in States as well as Individuals. John Adams, 1776.

    by semiAdult on Sun Feb 05, 2012 at 05:55:16 PM PST

    •  Of course, and spot on (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      justintime, mommyof3, TexMex, Linda Wood

      I do what I can in my own little world. If I don't think I can change it, I would have to quit. Sometimes I have to have a really, really big imagination to still believe it. I have to believe it none the less.

      A.L.E.C. (not to be confused with me), are totally part of this. It is no accident that Bill Gates funded "studies" support "Right to Work" teacher policies even though those states have crappy education outcomes, and Bill Gates also funds A.L.E.C.

      •  Jesse Jackson . . . (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        justintime, Linda Wood

        . . . gave us all one phenomenal thing.

        Conceive it.

        Believe it.

        Achieve it.

        I have to say, Gates does come out one of my the most confusing players in the game. He knows so much, and has (notwithstanding the wildly drooling partisans who attend to his every breath, pro and con) given us the world we know, by imagining the platform that transformed it and delivering it over 30 years. I should have thought he would known Rhee for the sham she is within ten seconds. I'm truly disappointed that he sees things in such detached terms.

        I'm involved, in a relatively tangential way, with research on ALEC for various points. I have their current education document, "17th Report Card", which contains all their misrepresentations and outright lies in one tacky 42 page pdf. All you need to know about it is that the whole farce is constructed under the aegis of the ALEC "Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force", who's mission statement is "to explore policy solutions that reduce excessive government spending, promote sound tax policy, and enhance the transparency of government operations." Oh, and author is a constitutional lawyer, the ALEC 'public sector chairman' for the TFPTF is an Indiana political hack, and the 'task force director' is a graduate of a school you never heard of, with a degree in economics, banking and business and a long history writing pap about 'free market fiscal policy for the states'. You just know when they appropriate the term 'free', in fine Orwellian form, it means anything but. And not a clue of a teacher in sight.

        Keep the faith.

        The furnace of Affliction produces Refinement, in States as well as Individuals. John Adams, 1776.

        by semiAdult on Sun Feb 05, 2012 at 06:53:43 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Where can I see a copy of ALEC's . . . (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          TexMex, theunreasonableHUman

          . . . 17th Report Card?

          Bill Gates is a smart guy alright, smart like a fox.
          He's more of a shrewd businessman with an exaggerated sense of self importance - not that creative, not an innovator and certainly not a leader in education policy.
          Gates is at the stage in his life where he seeks to justify his obscene wealth to feel important.

          Great posts, semiAdult.

          •  Here are some links . . . (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            . . . to ALEC stuff. Protective clothing recommended.

            First up, as requested, the Report Card, direct from the ALEC site:

            ALEC Report Card (pdf)

            And here's a link to their current project, which is not touted on their own site, but ferreted out and publicized (not something I would think ALEC likes, having their supersecret parties outed) by the Center for Media and Democracy in Madison:

            ALEC Education Academy

            The 'Academy' is the sort of thing that ALEC does regularly, and one can only imagine the impact these freebies might have on the weakminded they target.

            You might want to bookmark the CMD site. Good reference point.

            Right now I'm digging into another ALEC mission, one to essentially destroy the US Constitution by ramming through amendments via a never-before-used option from Article V:

            Article V Handbook (pdf)

            The gist of the ruse is to get enough stooges in state legislatures, then generate enough demands for a  convention to consider amendments (some say wholesale rewriting, but that's not likely for several reasons) to enshrine their tripe where it can't easily be cleaned. As with most everything ALEC touches, the distortions and outright lies are stunning. Messing with the Constitution should be only a last resort in a desperate emergency, and these doofuses want it to be simplified and common.

            And here's the link to the main ALEC page:


            I suggest meditation before and after reading any of this stuff, if not chemical assistance.

            I must say I'm probably more sanguine about Gates than most, as a career geek (ret). He's done some awful things, he's used his obvious business skills and technical insights to hammer the competition and in some cases to overwhelm it (or simply buy it out), and he certainly is a difficult person for many to deal with. But I have to give some credit in that, too. He, almost single-handedly, simply invented the first reasonable operating system for personal computers. I know, he bought (some say with unfair knowledge of the needs of IBM, but that's business, and the seller bears no notable ill will towards him) the software that became the original basic DOS, but he completely revised it to suit the need (of the IBM PC), and from there on built it over ten years into the strongest product available. And once he saw the work of the Xerox PARC labs, he immediately recognized it and set out to build a similar functionality, which became Windows. Also he created (or bought and integrated) the most pervasive application software in the world, and (not well known) made such a deal with IBM that he walked away with Windows code when IBM (in a major blunder) had allowed him to construct a contract for development that made him co-equal owner of it all... something IBM never had done before... which is the source of where he is today. He may be a bastard, but he's the bastard that literally built the foundation of the computers we're using. Which does not mean I like, or even understand, his embrace of ALEC and the Rhee phenomenon.... just that I'm a bit conflicted.

            The furnace of Affliction produces Refinement, in States as well as Individuals. John Adams, 1776.

            by semiAdult on Sun Feb 05, 2012 at 10:37:01 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  Excellent diary. Believe it or not, (0+ / 0-)

    before Bill Gates and the Billionaire Boys came along with their privatization schemes, we had a fairly good education system.  Because it has be so drastically underfunded for decades, the filthy rich can make criticism and demands by dangling a bit of their cash.  All revenue streams flow to the rich as more and more of our education is outsourced to plunderers who know nothing about how to teach and everything about how to divert cash to their pockets.

    Not everything that can be counted counts. Not everything that counts can be counted. Albert Einstein

    by annie em on Sun Feb 05, 2012 at 09:47:58 PM PST

    •  There were no "good old days" (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      justintime, ManhattanMan, Linda Wood

      There is no golden era where you can say that a young black girl or a young hispanic boy got a better education than we offer today. (Well, better than 5 years ago, before the economy collapsed and school budgets were slashed by nearly 20%).

      We ask far more of the kids, and we ask it of more kids.

      Can we do better? Yes. But, we are doing better than any of our imagined good old days.

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

      by elfling on Sun Feb 05, 2012 at 10:31:10 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Gates is not the beginning of . . . (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Linda Wood

      . . . the privatization schemes. He's just come along with his own interests, which by and large are pretty phenomenal (serious world health initiatives and massive third world education projects come to mind), and put a relatively small investment into the process of US education. Put in on the worst possible horse in the race, yes... but I'm not ready to blame him at the reason for any of it. The mindless hysteria about Gates and his growth is just that; there is some bad in the history, but we should not let the frothing hate of the fanbois become the whole picture. It's just a cognitive dissonance, like when a Koch funds PBS programs such as Nature.

      But the hatred of public schools, in fact all things public, is an old story. You could trace the evolution of it easily to the New Deal. In those tender years, the vitriol and denunciations and overall nastiness of the opposition to everything is pretty stunning, even compared to today.

      What we're witnessing now is the culmination of a decades-long coordinated effort to loot the public treasury, using bribery and propaganda as primary tools, and using the undereducated as the grunts to do the work.

      Sunlight is still the best disinfectant.

      The furnace of Affliction produces Refinement, in States as well as Individuals. John Adams, 1776.

      by semiAdult on Mon Feb 06, 2012 at 08:59:17 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  What's ironic in all this (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    justintime, Linda Wood, Tonedevil

    Is that teachers ARE changing the way we teach.

    What's amazing to me is that even if the midst of all this stupid test fixation and vigorous attacks on their profession and support system, teachers and teacher workshop presenters (who are usually also teachers) all seem to be moving slowly in the same sorts of directions, continuing the same expansion of techniques that we started in the 1970's, 1980's and early 1990's, though at a bit slower pace, due to this huge testing stone, which, like Sisyphus, we must backpack everywhere.

    And by the way, if there are any foreign language teachers out there, if you haven't allowed yourself to be challenged by the techniques of TPRS, you're missing something!

    Yeah, why are teachers left out of the debate, indeed. Nobody in power has anything to gain from a truly educated citizenry, or a truly creative teacher.

    And I agree with the idea of teacher collaboration, too, by the way. Look into Japan's system of lesson study, sometime. It's basically a massively coordinated teacher collaboration, and it lies at the heart of the slow reform that grew them from a rigid Confucian education at the end of world war ii to the dynamic system they have today.

    It's mind-blowing to think what might happen here if teachers were similarly empowered.

    None of this makes a bit of difference if they don't count your vote.

    by Toddlerbob on Sun Feb 05, 2012 at 10:50:07 PM PST

  •  So instead of whatever approaches proposed (0+ / 0-)

    by reform advocates, you propose your own approach. And the evidence that it works is apparently your word b/c I don't see anything else here. How are you different from the reformers you're criticizing?

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

    This diary could have been the title alone Why are teachers left out of the reform debate?

    My guess. It's not about educations, it's about what employers demand out of new hires.  And it's about cutting state and local school budgets so taxes can be lowered.

    It's phony "reform".

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

    by TarheelDem on Mon Feb 06, 2012 at 04:34:02 AM PST

  •  Easy question, and an easy answer... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    justintime, Linda Wood

    Because most of the "reformers" are more concerned with neutering the teacher's unions and undermining public education than they are with actually improving the outcomes for kids.

    "A lie is not the other side of a story; it's just a lie."

    by happy camper on Mon Feb 06, 2012 at 06:43:41 AM PST

  •  because no one wants to hear what they might say! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Linda Wood, Tonedevil

    They are left out because they just might explode the meme the reformers are pushing.

    they might tell you what they really need to teach.

    they might tell you exactly why johnny can't read.

    they might tell you why susie can't do science.

    they might tell you that babies, druggies, gangsters, and the mentally challenged having babies is not
    such a good thing.

    they might tell you that the lack of respect for them shown by the school board and the principals who are supposed to support them leaves them exposed to parents who don't respect them and their children who respect no one.

    they might tell you they are sick and tired of shelling out their own wages for supplies for their school room.

    they might tell you they are tired of being afraid of students.  just today our newspaper ran a story about
    a teacher who quit because a student threatened her
    life and the kid got a 3 day suspension.  i know of other
    horror stories from teachers who must deal with the personal issues of their students that would curl your

    they might tell you that mainlining the handicapped and mentally challeneged students has been a disaster. it
    might make the parents feel all gooey inside, but it
    all but eliminates teaching the other students.  

    they might tell you they are not doing such a great job
    for the good students much less the ones who might excel
    because they are too busy with the disruptions, and
    needs of the lazy and pre-occupied.

    they might tell you that state and federal interventions
    have stolen teaching hours away from the classroom.

    they might tell you that thanks to modern technology
    they can't reach students who have the attention spans of

    they might tell you that until the whole concept of a public school system is returned to the high esteme it held in the past, that it is the only way this nation has to share knowledge equally at every level of society, that an educated citizenry is the only way our country can prosper they will never be able to comply with everyone else's expectations.

    i might add that i am old enough to remember living in the mortal terror of disappointing my teachers.  i knew that if i was reprimanded by a teacher, my ass would be grass when i got home.  a little fear is a good thing.  and that PERMANENT RECORD.  that hung over our heads like a domocle's sword.  every student knew it would follow us to our graves.  our future depended on it.  jobs, marriages, mortgages and home loans, the repect of the world depended on that.  perhaps its time to reinstate that old fashioned concept.

  •  Honestly, this doesn't tell me much. (0+ / 0-)

    It all seems like generic vagueries to me.

    Give me a break down of the how a typical day will play out in elementary and middle school.

  •  The problem we are having (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Tonedevil, Linda Wood

    is that Americans want two things:

    1) a bad school system, and
    2) not to admit that Americans want a bad school system.

    It is very important to a lot of Americans that other Americans not have good schools.  In addition, we've collectively turned our schools into prisons, because we are training our children not to aspire to middle class status.

    Anyways, scapegoating teachers is a twofer on the Class War: not only can we get middle class people to turn on one another, but also by focusing on irrelevancy, we can avoid making schools the places of growth that they could be.

    The two things Teabaggers hate most are: being called racists; and black people.

    "It takes balls to execute an innocent man." -- anonymous GOP focus group member on Rick Perry

    by Punditus Maximus on Mon Feb 06, 2012 at 01:20:48 PM PST

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