Politics and Substance Both Call For Dayton to Sign Teacher Seniority Reform Bill

I support teacher’s unions, but they are wrong to oppose reforming “last in, first out” (LIFO) teacher termination practices. Even great organizations sometimes are off-base, and Education Minnesota is wrong on this issue. The logic for changing this system is overwhelming, presented nicely here by an education reform organization called Students First.

The politics of the issue are as compelling as the logic. A statewide poll commissioned by Students First found that almost two-thirds (64%) of Minnesotants believe a measure of teacher performance should be the most important factor in deciding who to keep, while only 15% of voters say seniority should be the most important factor, as it currently is.

Looking at those numbers, it is clear that Education Minnesota is compelling DFL legislators to jump off a political cliff. Governor Dayton should save DFL legislators from themselves, and sign this bill. It’s the right thing to do, both substantively and politically.

As with most issues, I know that the devil is in the detail. I know that you have to do all you can to build a solid performance evaluation system to make the new system fair to teachers. I know that evaluating teachers is particularly tricky. But no performance evaluation system will ever be flawless, so waiting for a flawless system to be developed makes perfect the enemy of the good. Almost all large employers have performance evaluation systems in place, and there is no reason why school administrators can’t do the same, and continue to refine the system over time.

I’m glad Governor Dayton isn’t caving to Republicans on corporate property tax cuts, paid for by short-term accounting gimmicks. I’m glad Dayton is fighting Republicans to get a better bonding bill to repair the infrastructure, and put unemployed and underemployed Minnesotans to work. But even a stopped clock is right twice a day, and Republicans are right on this issue.

- Loveland

53 Responses

  1. My mother was a school principal, so I don’t come at this lightly. However, before you start a revision for teacher seniority, start with higher standards for school administrators and principals. They’re the bosses and most of them are political weasels who don’t want to deal with angry parents who these days blame teachers for little Johnnies inability to read. The principals are the first level of contact for angry parents. Why the parents are angry is always the teacher and almost never the teachers’ fault.

    When you can guarantee me that principals and administrators will stand up to the public and support teachers who have high standards, I am willing to see some changes. In the meantime, quit blaming the teachers for what is almost always the parents fault.

    • I’m not against teachers. I want to protect the best teachers form getting fired. I’m blaming a system that says the most senior teacher is ALWAYS the best teacher. If we have to get rid of teachers, and unfortunately some times we do, I want to protect the best teachers.

      • Who decides who is best? That’s the problem. Principals? Many of them are looking for fewer complaints. So, if one teacher with high standards generates the most complaints and is unwilling to lower his/her standards to meet some political graduation rate, is he/she going to be supported or seen as a major thorn in the principals backside. I know several teachers that were harassed out of schools by half-assed principals. One of them was a tough chemistry teacher who inspired my daughter to major in microbiology at the University of Minnesota. That’s ALL the biology courses and ALL the chemistry classes. He was seen as not being “a team player.”
        He was the chemistry teacher no one wanted, but was the one the smart students liked.

        There are already programs to get rid of truly bad teachers. The problem is this is done quietly to same the teacher embarassment. I know several teachers who were drummed out of teaching. One is now a state senator.

        Assuming that principals and administrators are the best arbiters of good teaching is like saying the fan with the most purple paint on them should coach the Vikings.

        Might as well have the parents vote for their favorite teacher.

      • A friend of mine who works with struggling schools in another state, emailed me this research. Among other things, it says:

        “Inputs currently used to measure and evaluate teacher quality – licensure status, degree, experience level – are only weakly linked with teacher effectiveness (Goldhaber, 2002, 2007; Kane et al. 2006)”

        So, why use last in, first out when making those tough decisions?

  2. Then that state should institute a different system. But that is not what we do in Minnesota.

    The only reason we have this bill is because a teacher who never earned tenure was elected a state senator, took offense at her lack of tenure and got a bunch of right-wing people who hate public education to support it.

    This is another classic Republican solution to a problem that doesn’t exist in Minnesota.

  3. A different system IS being implemented. As I understand it, a new performance evaluation system was authorized in 2011. They’re now working on the details, including how much of the evaluation should be based on student performance. And under the bill in front of Dayton, the LIFO reforms wouldn’t begin until 2016-17, giving them plenty of time to finish with the performance evaluation details.

    Re: “Another classic Republican solution”

    I understand the temptation to jump to that conclusion, but it’s not true in this case. Tell the overwhelming majority of DFLers and indenpendents that joined with Republicans in the majority in the poll that this is a Republican-only idea. Tell that to DFL Senator Terri Bonoff, who had the guts to buck Education MN and support the bill. Tell that to MinnCAN (Minnesota Campaign for Achievement Now), a bipartisan coalition of leaders and groups supporting reform. Minnesota is one of only 11 states to use seniority as the deciding fact in firing. There are plenty of blue states that aren’t on that list.

    Re: “….to a problem that doesn’t exist in Minnesota”

    You really believe that the most junior teacher is always the teacher least effective in the district? If not, that’s a pretty big problem, because we’re systematically firing plenty of new teachers who are not the least effective in the system.

  4. No this is a solution to people who don’t understand the problem. Like you.

    • I’m not an expert on the issue, so I will certainly concede that I may be missing something. But if I am completely wrong about this, I have lots of company, such as the leaders of 39 other states, a bunch of education reform groups, and two-thirds of Minnesotans. This is a pretty mainstream position.

      And I do think it’s unfair of you to say that anyone who wants to make sure that the most effective teachers keep their jobs is “anti-teacher.” Fighting for the most effective teachers to keep their jobs is both pro-teacher and pro-student.

      • If you believe the problem with modern American education is the teachers, I define you as anti-teacher. You’ve bought into the conservative frame and message that our schools are the problem. This is one of the four biggest lies that the conservatives have pushed and the fact that two-thirds of Minnesotans believe this outright lie shows you how well they framed their message, how effective it is and how gullible the American public is. One of the many faults of modern American journalism is their inability to see through well-constructed messaging, usually be the conservatives who have the money to perfect it

        When I was in school, we saw the famous Bell Curve that showed a small number of students excelling, a lot in the middle that were doing OK, and a few that were failing. Today, we have the reverse Bell Curve, in which quite a few students excel, not too many who just get by and a lot of them fail. I’ll say it again, it is NOT the teachers. It is a societal abandonment of the education system that made this country great. That and a great apathy by, admittedly, over-stressed parents who spend their own free time on frivolous activities such as being uber sports fans, riding Harleys in complete costume or wearing camo 24/7 while their kids are playing video games, watching reality TV and excelling in skateboarding, Goth makeup application and hacky-sack.

        I have college education friends who have never taken their kids to a museum or a play. Our society has declared that education and intelligence are bad and we put our time and our money where our mouths are. We reap what we sow.

        But, it’s the teachers fault. Like blaming the sun for global warming.

      • Yes, I’m an anti-teacher nut-job. If name calling makes you feel better, go for it. I’m an anti-teacher nut-job who speaks out about the need for more teachers, better pay for teachers, and more early education and safety net to get kids and parents better prepared for teachers. Extremely “anti-teacher” I am.

        I’m a liberal who doesn’t believe that helping people ends with writing checks. Being a liberal includes insisting on stretching and managing dollars to ensure that kids actually get HELPED by the public investment. Personnel management is a big part of that, just as it is a part of any operation.

        There are incompetent doctors, nurses, plumbers, PR guys, dentists, lawyers, pharmacists, engineers, and psychologists, but there are no incompetent teachers? Those other professions all dismiss outliers based on performance evaluation, not seniority, but education is the one field where making merit-based personnel decisions are simply impossible? Call me anti-teacher, but I just don’t buy it.

  5. Every bad teacher hurts good teachers. And every teacher knows it. But this is just an excuse to get rid of expensive teachers or strict teachers. If schools are able to fire senior teachers, then the schools will save a lot of money by getting rid of someone who is making $50,000 a year instead of getting rid of cheap teachers who are first and second year teachers. Every year there will be a “crisis” in which good teachers are let go to save a few bucks. Superintendents are essentially bean counters.

    Three problems with this law.
    1. It is supported by every anti-teacher group and the Star Tribune’s idiotic editorial board. Both of those should be big clues as to its effectiveness.
    2. It doesn’t really address bad teachers. It just says if you are going to lay off teachers you can use something besides seniority. But it doesn’t really say what that is. So assume it’s going to be arbitrary.
    3. Minnesota Campaign for Achievement Now doesn’t have as single teacher on its board. How would you like to be judged for your journalism by a group of people who don’t know anything about journalism. None of them have any idea what it’s like to be in a classroom.

    I come from a family of teachers and this is exactly why my mother, who was regularly recognized for being an outstanding teacher, said she would help me get through college ONLY if I didn’t become a teacher. As far as she was concerned, it is the worst paying, poorest respected, most difficult and most important career in the world. We always talk about foreign schools being better in eduction than the United States and we treat our teachers worse than ANY other civilized society.

    The average person knows more about space neutron acceleration technology that they do about teaching, even though they spent years in a classroom. The problem isn’t the kids. It isn’t the teachers. It’s their parents and their lack of respect for the schools – unless involves some sort of ball.

  6. It’s like the old fable about belling the cat: it’s a really great idea except it can’t be done. The step and lane system, though imperfect, is based on the plausible notion that the better informed and more experienced teacher is the better teacher. However, it is also clear, simple and fair as well easy and cheap to administer; no alternative system I know of has any, let alone all, of these characteristics.

    The notion that if just given a little time somebody can come up with an easy and reliable way to discover who is the more effective teacher is a complete fantasy to anybody who has ever tried to do it.The notion that it can be done by principals just bucks the problem up a level. I can remember when a common resume for a principal was a failed coach who went hunting with the guys on the school board. A lot of principals have gotten a lot better, but not all. A friend of mine got squeezed out of a teaching job by a principal, who told him, “Steve, you’re the best teacher I’ve got for the down-and-outers [his name for low income students].”

    Even if we could find these miracle principals, districts would have to blow their budgets to hire enough. My daughter worked for a Minnesota company with a reputation for being well managed, and she had a job roughly equivalent in difficulty and need for initiative to teaching, and the company had very thorough and searching performance evaluations, and it also had one manager for every four professional employees. Go into the average junior high and look at the ratio, and it won’t be anything near that, and no district could afford to hire that many good principals, even if they could discover them.

    The other alternatives are relying on test scores or parent evaluations–both terrible ideas.

    And given that we have school districts which are going to four day weeks not because anybody thinks that’s a good idea but simply to save money on bus fuel, does anyone think that a district won’t suddenly discover that the junior teacher is better, not just cheaper.

    And whatever system they use better be scientifically and legally bullet proof because it will be the mother lode of age discrimination suits.

    • John, I very much respect your viewpoint. But because performance evaluation is complex, we continue to do something as mindless as “last in first out?” That’s really the best we can do for kids?

      Even if a performance system isn’t a precise measure, that can prcisely line up teachers from best to worst, it seems like it should be possible to have a performance evaluation system that identifies the OUTLIERS who should be the first and last to be spared.

      Most fields have such performance evaluation systems, usually guided by a bit of data and a lot of manager judgement. They’re all imperfect. But for getting rid of folks who just don’t have what it takes to succeed in the field, they’re better than LIFO.

      • I often hear that it’s impossible to fire bad teachers, and that’s not so. In fact it’s possible to fire, or at least squeeze out, pretty good teachers, and firing demonstrably bad teachers requires a bit of concentrated effort but it’s not that hard.

        You tacit assumption seems to be that the only thing wrong with the educational system is some of the teachers. Over the years I’ve known lots of teachers and inevitably some of them have left the profession, and I’ve never heard one complain about the students, but idiot administrators, dopey school boards and particularly small town politics turn up frequently.

        You really need to think about what you have in mind for “performance evaluation systems” specifically personnel costs. Pick a model you think is particularly accurate and then try to figure out how you would transpose it to the usual school district. Then there are variables–some teachers are very good with students at one end of the scale and not good with others; some teachers can do some things very well with some students, but are less good with other students and other tasks.

  7. Edukashun Minesota has directed Dayton to kill this legislation, and that’s what will happen. The system is organized around the needs of Big Labor. Students and learning are a distant second. Taxpayers are dead last.

  8. Kudos to the other John Sherman. I am a program evaluator who has worked with outcome based systems for the last 20 years. You really do need to think about the structural support you will need for the assessment of “bad” teachers. I would suggest that most of the models currently proposed make “no child left behind” look like the work of geniuses.

    To assess teachers effectively it is likely that the process will need an evaluation model that at a minimum compares individual student on progress within a student learning year, different learning styles,weighting of several years of the teachesr performance, factors including educational assets such as books, library resources, net and computer access, non -tested curriculums such as arts, sports and contents likesciences and social sciences, stability of student homes and available nutrition for the student. All these factors have been shown in some studies to bear directly or indirectly on student performance.

    Let us also add to the process a discussion of performance coaching and mentoring for new and mid-career teachers. Is the school system currently working with teachers to update skills based on more recent evidence based practice?

    Schools systems will have to make money and time available to make assessment anything better than “my opinion is better because I have the power”. And most school boards and administrations probably do not have the resources or the will to undertake the disciplined process which will be needed to develop a useful teacher assessment system.

    I am strongly in favor of LIFO being abolished when their is tested teacher evaluation and it is implemented and reached maturity in Minnesota school districts. But the current bill does not do that and is not worth signing. My old evaluation instructor had a motto, “A projectly badly started is a project badly ended – and usually the waste of a hell of a lot of dollars.”

    • Re: “I am strong in favor of LIFO being abolished when their is tested teacher evaluation and it is implemented and reached maturity…”

      Under this bill, LIFO would be changed 5 years after the performance evaluation system was authorized. Not enough time? How long is long enough?

  9. Why pick on the lowly school marms? — unless you’re proposing that similar rules regarding tenure and performance-based evaluation should apply to police, firefighters, all state and local government bureaucrats, all U of M bureaucrats, all members of AFSCME. Why settle for the easy target? Republican rhetoric soften you up?

  10. Joe, here’s a couple of direct questions.

    Do you (or did you) have kids in the public schools?
    And if so, as a parent who felt strongly enough about education to get an advanced degree, can you say they got a decent education or not?
    Did they have bad teachers?

    • I have had three kids in K-12 public schools in an inner ring suburb. Three very different kinds of kids with different personalities and different needs. So far, they’ve collectively been through 31 grades, and easily over 100 teachers…since they have multiple teachers per trimester in grades 6-12. (By the way, I went to public schools and my wife is a nurse in an inner city school system)

      As I tell people all the time, I’m blown away at how outstanding their teachers have been, given how little they are paid and how hard their job is. I argue all the time with people who criticize teachers, telling them how different my experience has been. At every conference and open house, I thank them for teaching. No lie.

      Of those over 100 teacher, I’d say my kinds have had 5-ish teachers who were not that good…teachers who I wouldn’t want fired, but could use some targeted help, because kids deserve better than they were able to provide.

      And out of all of those, one kid had one very bad teacher. It was a teacher who was overwhelmed by the duties, verbally abusive to kids, sent kids to the principal in large groups on a nearly daily basis, and taught the kids almost nothing. She was actually a nice person, but she was nearly as bad as I would be as a teacher. This same kid never had a bad classroom experience before this teacher or after this teacher, but it was a wall-to-wall nightmare that year. Parents fought to get their kids out of her room. But she had been teaching for a few years, so I’m assuming the system protected her. After spending several years in the school, she eventually moved on. I’m not sure if she is still teaching elsewhere.

      So, only one, which is a huge credit to the profession. But I’ll tell you what, that teacher did a lot of emotional and academic damage to a lot of kids. Every profession has to have a way of policing those outliers who do damage.

      • “…sent kids to the principal in large groups on a nearly daily basis”–that’s a managerial failure; any principal who couldn’t see that as crying out for massive intervention is as incompetent as the teacher and certainly should not be evaluating other teachers.

      • I don’t disagree. By all means, evaluate principals too.

      • 1 incompetent person in 100. That’s at least twice as good as the BEST company I ever worked for and about 20 times better than the worst.

      • Yes, and I said, I think that is is a credit to this honorable profession.

        I would guess that the percentage of most professionals who get fired is quite low, but the outliers in any profession can do a lot of damage if left unchecked.

        Even if I had never had a problem with an incompetent teacher, I would still want evaluation of teachers. After all, I’ve never had a problem with an incompetent physician, but I still want evaluation of doctors, and removal of incompetent ones. I’ve never had problem with a banker, but I still want oversight and removal of bad bankers.

  11. By the way, some folks have wondered about what the teacher evaluation would entail. In the law Governor Dayton signed last year:

    * A 35- member Teacher Evaluation Work Group overseen by the MN Dept. of Ed, and inclusive of many teachers, is fleshing out the model this year.

    * The system will go live in 2014.

    * The system will take into account student achievement and learning gains (35% of the total…MCA tests or other). There won’t be a one-size-fits all standard, as with No Child Left Behind. It will take into account the unique environment in a particular region, school and classroom. A teacher in North Minneapolis will not be held to the same standard as a teacher in Edina. But teachers do have to show learning gains.

    * Beyond that 35% focused on student achievement, the system will also take into account peer evaluations and principal evaluations happening on a 3-year cycle.

    * There will be improvement timelines set for ineffective teachers.

    * The state-formulated system will be the default model, but local districts can negotiate their own system. However, local districts must have 35% of the evaluation linked to student learning.

    I don’t know the dusty details of the system, but this is based on what an expert passed onto me by email.

  12. As for name calling, you bought the BIG LIE. The title comes with it free of charge. How can a PR person, who works with this kind of BS day in and day out not see it for what it is?

    Know any teachers – ANY AT ALL – who you respect and support this bill? Hmmm. The author of the bill, who is my senator, has yet to impress any of the other teachers I know in my area that she was a capable teacher.

    This isn’t labor management who is opposed to this bill. It is rank and file teachers. If labor management wanted to be greedy, more teachers working for less puts more money in the union coffers.

  13. I do respect your passion for education and the teaching profession, and very much appreciate your participation here. Thanks for the respectful exchange.

    It’s also worth noting that the National Council on Teacher quality regularly assesses the states on teacher quality. Their overall grade for Minnesota is currently a “C-.” NCTQ notes that MN has made progress in many areas since 2009. But in terms of dealing with ineffective teachers NCTQ gave Minnesota an “F” grade.

    Among the reasons for Minnesota’s failing grade:

    * Ineffective classroom performance is not grounds for dismissal, and tenured teachers who are dismissed have multiple opportunities to appeal.

    * Seniority, rather than a teacher’s performance in the classroom, is considered in determining which teachers to lay off during reductions in force.

    • Two teachers in the bunch, none spent more than a few years in the classroom. Funded by a bunch of rich people. You can tell from the way those two statements are phrased that they don’t like the laws in this state. There is nothing in that 200-plus-page report that shows any real problems in Minnesota, only that IF there were some, it would be harder than most too get ride of a bad teacher. There could be none, theoretically, and that organization would give Minnesota bad marks.

      I think I should start a organization to critique banks. THEY ALL SUCK. That was easy.

      Going to ask any of those great teachers of your kids if they support this law?

    • You give away the whole shebang there, Joe. Do you know ANYTHING about NCTQ? it’s a right wing hit job operation on teachers.

      http://thecuckingstool.blogspot.com/2010/05/disseminating-propaganda-national.html

      http://dianeravitch.net/category/national-council-on-teacher-quality-nctq/

      This whole conversation shows how in-over-your-head you are, and how resistant you are to the notion that you really don’t know what the hell you are talking about with this teacher bashing bullshit. Can’t you just admit you are wrong about this?

    • Oh and by the way, the NCTQ are actual CRIMINALS. That’s who you hang your rhetorical hat on Joe.

      http://www.schoolsmatter.info/2005/09/more-corruption-at-ed.html

  14. Re: Teachers support being the determining factor of whether teacher reform has merit.

    Should we set banking reforms solely based on whether or not bankers approve of them?

  15. I feel that seniority ought to play a role, but not be the sole criteria. The other John Sherman’s 9:19am comment was a wonderful inventory of items needed in evaluations.

    I agree that the “teacher crisis” is in large part, a manufactured issue that was first promoted in the 1980s. Public schools, and especially teachers, were routinely criticized and demeaned. Decades of derision and shaming can erode any profession. Right-wingers view public education as a threat precisely because it is(was) well done, teaching the student the skills necessary for critical thinking and evaluation.

    That vile mistreatment of teachers, coupled with massive cuts to the resources available to schools, has wreaked havoc on the entire nation’s system of public education.

    I taught school in rural South Dakota 1976-82. We were treated with respect, dignity, and courtesy. Parents supported our disciplinary actions, believed us, and openly praised us. The local newspapers always included stories on new teachers, telling a bit about us, and always including best wishes and a grand welcome.

    Contrast that with the way teachers are treated today.

    Would you expect the Lynx to win any more national championships if they were faced with frequent headlines about how bad they are expected to be? Do you think the Twins will get any better if only a few dozen people show up at the ball park, and all they do is boo? Seriously. Think about the climate teachers work in. It is an incredible testimony to their bravery, strength, and love of the students that there are any success stories. They face mountainous obstacles to well-done work.

    Another place I am in agreement with an earlier commenter, is that there needs to be stringent principal and superintendent evaluations. I support an administrator evaluation program that includes a teacher-input aspect, perhaps 35%. The teachers know better than any how effective the administration is.

    Thanks for the topic and all the thoughts on a subject that is near and dear to my heart – Nope, I don’t mean teachers, I mean educating our children as a tool in building wonderful people and rebuilding a great nation.

  16. This whole discussion reminds me of what a complete waste of time this focus on teachers is. The best research says that family income and educational levels accounts for 60 to 70 percent of student attainment on standardized tests. Thirty to 40 percent is attributable to everything else – school, classroom, teachers. The school itself controls about half that 15-20 percent of attainment. That leaves teacher and classroom accounting for 15-20 percent of attainment. How much of that 15-20 percent has to be divided between the classroom and teacher. If, as you say Joe, that in your experience one in 100 teachers was bad, how will changing that one percent improve education? Even if the teacher bashers were correct, changing a small percentage of an input (teachers) that control at most 20 percent of outcomes will yield small improvements. OTOH if the teacher bashers are wrong, we will fire many competent and quality teachers, making the whole system worse. In a nutshell, Joe, you have bought a load of crap, and you really don’t know what the hell you are talking about.

    • Erik and a lot of my conservative friends say the Buffett Rule is wasted energy and a silly distraction. After all, it doesn’t, as a stand alone tactic, solve the debt or inequality problems. That’s a pretty easy argument to make, because it’s true.

      Your argument strikes me as similar: Teacher evaluation reform is wasted energy and a silly distraction, because it doesn’t, as a stand alone argument, solve the achievement gap.

      I agree that the Buffett Rule and teacher evaluation reform both don’t solve the entire problem themselves. They don’t come close. They’re only one piece of the puzzle. But they’re both part of the solution, so why not do the right thing?

      It’s awfully easy to argue against ideas based on the undeniable fact that the idea isn’t a stand alone panacea for our most intractable problems. But why not work to chip away at the problems from many different angles with many different ideas?

      If wanting to keep good teachers in the classroom during layoffs is a sin against liberalism, then I’m unrepentant.

      • That comparison of us and our pet issues I suppose stands to reason. I have little knowledge of the education system. But whereas they argue on practicality and efficacy and you argue for change for its own sake, I have been thus convinced that you’ve counter-intuitively come down on the wrong side of an issue once again.

        With both, you’re poo-pooing the wasted time and money to be on the side that is “doing something”. If policy isn’t adopted for efficacy, then the motivation that remains is feel-goodism. That’s not good enough, not compelling enough. You should be not at all surprised that sensible people object to that thought process.

      • I’m curious, Erik, how would you improve education outcomes?

      • I’m not sure. Perhaps nothing. Mind you, I’m not a dystopic starve the beast libertarian on public education.

        I do think the primary practical goal of k-12 should be that kids can (w/o a college education) be prepared by say age 20 to step into jobs that pay modest adult wages. Wage growth / work success is correlated to experience. Experience is correlated to …. age. If you can get the kids ready for work, things will end up alright for them. The kids seem prepared. It’s the jobs that are lacking. The ‘education problem’ always seemed a bit overwrought to me insofar as I have no sense the educators are failing.

      • Pardon me for saying so, but that is a ridiculous analogy. There is ZERO evidence that implementing a costly replacement to LIFO will improve the teaching ranks. Conversely, the Buffet Rule WOULD reduce income inequality and budget deficit problems.

        Look at the plan the Minnesota legislature passed last year – that 35 percent of teacher evaluations is to be based on student test scores. This is an absurd, politically driven policy. Even the makers of student tests say this is wrong – the tests are not made to grade teachers – they are made to grade students. Secondly, the tests only measure math and language. Now with the push to Common Core, we are certain to have MORE testing. Ask any teacher today about testing and they will tell you what a clusterf*ck it is. Schools literally spend months a year preparing for and administering tests. Pretty soon that’s all they’ll be doing. And his whole debate about testing assumes the tests are valid measurements of learning, which isn’t close to being true. Did you follow the pineapplegate this week?

        Secondly, where is the proof that newer teachers who will replace the fired teachers will be better? The problem with the teaching corp is NOT that too many bad teachers are retained, the problem is that too many leave the profession. We should be doing things to help and retain teachers, since research has unequivocally shown that that the first two or three years of a teacher’s career are his/her least productive. This is why Teach For America is so pernicious – most are gone by the third year. We are literally getting the worst years, and only the worst years, or their careers.

      • “I’m curious, Erik, how would you improve education outcomes?”

        How about taking all that money spent on testing and spending it on wraparound services such as health care? This was done in a high-poverty school in Brooklyn Center by a principal, and guess what, 70 percent of students seen in the clinic had untreated vision problems! Please do tell me how replacing a teacher will help a student see better. After the health clinic was implemented the school had a noted drop in behavioral problems and a rise in test scores. But not enough for NCLB, whose rules required the visionary principal be fired and half the school’s teachers also be fired.

        http://thecuckingstool.blogspot.com/2010/06/no-child-left-behind-destroying-success.html

        There are plenty of other things we could do that would help. Attacking and de-professionalizing teachers is counter-productive.

      • Would reduce inequality in no way shape or form. Would not be a meaningful offset to deficit spending. You’re wrong.

    • No, the Buffet rule would not. You have insufficient appreciation for math in this instance.

      • “The Buffett tax would raise $47 billion from 2012 through 2022 ”

        http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/04/16/us-usa-tax-buffett-idUSBRE83F05H20120416

        I suppose in your world $47 billion is small change. It might be a small percentage of the overall budget, but it’s still $47 billion.

      • Right. It’s $47 billion. So there’s $47 billion worth of accounting utility to be had. But it’s small on a relative basis. Which is what I said.

        What about the mitigation of wealth inequality? How does it do that?

      • It’s a drop in the bucket, to be sure, but a drop in the right direction – the money only comes from people earning more than $1 million/year – easily the one percent.

      • No, it’s not a figurative drop in the bucket. It’s not an atom of a drop. It doesn’t literally mitigate the wealth gap or the income gap. At all.
        The rich still maintain the asset base, still accrue wealth faster, and still earn more income.

        They just pay a little more taxes on the income. Which isn’t without merit. But it doesn’t do anything for economic inequality of any sort, insofar as we measure this by math.

        Do you understand this? Or am I misunderstanding that we should measure this by math as opposed to something else? Rainbows, unicorns maybe.

      • All true, but still $47 billion is a lot of money – more than the State of Minnesota’s two year budget. Just because it doesn’t come close o solving our problems isn’t a reason to be against it.

      • Focus, Rob. It doesn’t mitigate economic inequality. I’m against it as a tool to fight economic inequality. Because it isn’t one. As a Marxist you should be against it for the same reason.

        I think its as effective a way to raise $47 billion as the next, and I’m not ideologically against it.

        Now we agree in two places.

      • I’m a Marxist? First I’ve heard. And yes, focus. I really don’t care about the Buffet Rule. My concern is education.

      • Fair enough.

  17. One other thing – if we REALLY wanted to improve educational outcomes we would focus on reducing inequality throughout society, in effect trying to move the needle on the 60 to 70 percent of outcomes attributable to family attributes. But that would mean addressing the extreme inequality in our society. Instead the plutocrats and their apologists blame teachers, thereby demonstrating their “concern” for students while distracting everyone else from the very real factors hurting the underprivileged. It’s a great jujitsu move aided by deluded, self-serving, and misguided “liberals.”

  18. What else could be done instead of bashing teachers? This op-ed in the Miami Herald says that Florida will spend $250 million administering the FCAT test. Think about it: that $250 million could hire 5,000 teachers at $50,000/year.

    http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/05/04/2783911/whos-accountable-for-the-fcat.html#storylink=cpy

  19. Rob: Doesn’t the name FCAT seem like a dangerous abbreviation? How do you pronounce that? FAH-cat? FUH-cat?

  20. Class sizes are getting too big.
    Standardized testing is stupid and ridiculous..I don’t think that’s a measure of how teachers perform.
    For us as students, it doesn’t affect us so we don’t care about the test.
    People who don’t have kids or don’t have kids anymore don’t care/ Teachers blew past my cousin’s ADHD..thought he was just disruptive. Teachers who put questions on tests that they don’t talk about are obnoxious.
    It’s become too much about the “system” versus about really learning things.

    These are direct quotes from my university students about their K-12 educations.

    Notice that for students, it all comes down to the classroom and the relationship teachers have with them. Society should do everything possible to encourage, nurture and fund those relationships – as we did in the 50s, 60s and 70s.

    I’ve taught for 30 years and have loved doing so. I believe I truly have made an imprint on my students during that time.

    However, I can also say unequivocally that education starts in the home. Do parents read? Do they read to their children? Do they attend conferences and get involved in their children’s school year? Do they teach their children that teachers deserve respect? These sound like such fundamental questions but they are the key to it all. By the time a student hits kindergarten, so many of the decisions above will have framed what happens to that child for the next 13 or 17 years.

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