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Union vs Emanuel
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mac



Joined: 07 Mar 1999
Posts: 4998

PostPosted: Thu Sep 13, 2012 10:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Techno--I'll assume that you haven't read Diane Ravitch's book "The Death and Life of the Great American School System." Beyond that, I don't know whether to thank you for doing holy work, or slap you upside the head for not realizing and acknowledging the difference between anecdotes and trends.

To start with, there is much to be done to improve, or reform, the American schooling system. But I doubt that it can be done from a top-down perspective; No Child Left Behind, despite the best intentions of many, has ended up being anti-reform. The problems are 1) lack of qualified, experienced and motivated teachers. About 40% of teachers leave the field before they are truly adept, for various reasons. It is hard to teach, it is hard to control a classroom, and it is particularly hard to control a classroom with poor and/or emotionally disturbed teachers. 2) the metrics we have used for training teachers in schools and then on-site are poorly suited to the actual suite of skills needed to predict successful teaching, and 3) there is a group of children that are hard to teach for various reasons--attention span, lack of parental support and emotional disturbances are the three biggest factors that I see.

I attended Catholic elementary school until fifth grade where the education in the classroom was fabulous--but the principal was a sick twisted bitch. I also attended excellent and average public schools. Most of my middle-class black friends put their children in parochial schools so they wouldn't attend poor quality public schools with disruptive, generally poor black students whose parents didn't share their support for education. Ravitch makes clear that the parochial school system has generally done a better job of education than public schools--but then goes beyond that to provide compelling analysis of the success and failures of private and charter schools.

The most difficult part of public education is teaching emotionally disturbed children whose parents are not involved in their education or emotional support system. You fail to mention the responsibility to educate everyone, even those hard to educate. Easy enough for private, parochial and charter schools--they don't admit them. If they do, they kick them out--for cause, surely enough. But it completely disrupts your pat narrative.

Every single great kid I've taught, in 9 years of volunteering as a mentor in classrooms, has a great mother who is involved in their education and emotional support. Every one. They are easy to educate. It is the boys that can sit still, kids with real learning disabilities, or emotionally so fragile that they fear failure to much to take risks, that are difficult to educate. They don't show up in your narrative--but they are in my schools.

Cherry-picking the easy to educate students and placing them in charter schools is the hidden dark side of the anti-public school efforts of the right wing. But even with that cherry-picking, objective comparisons of schools in this country and comparisons of US education with Finland and Great Britain show no significant benefits from the charter school efforts. Ravitch reviews the literature in detail if you are interested.

Now to a few of the right wing obsessions and blind spots. Of course I know about the rubber rooms. School teachers have tenure to protect them from witch hunts by school boards. The latest subject of witch hunts is teaching evolution, but over the history of public education there have been many efforts to arbitrarily fire qualified teachers for political or social reasons--sexual orientation for decades. The problem of the rubber rooms is actually a symptom of a larger problem in public employment--the lack of adequate documentation of work place problems. In education, this is largely because principals do not--and cannot with resources--spend enough time observing, coaching, and documenting the progress of their teachers. But I see press reports of review panels and courts re-instating public workers like cops not because they could not, and should not, have been fired, but because their bosses didn't do their jobs properly and fire them for cause with a sufficient record.

And then to the issue at hand in Chicago--teacher evaluations. Certainly better teacher evaluations and coaching, and societal respect, and longer training before tenure is granted, would result in better teachers. Picking one of those reforms, the value-added concept, and putting your stake in the ground to fight over that, is a mistake shared both by the Obama education advisers (Rahm and Arn Duncan) and the right. Having nearly abandoned volunteering in classroom that 8 disruptive first graders, I understand that there are other factors than teaching skill that affect what a teacher can accomplish in a year. I think it is essential to develop the statistical tools to use the idea of value-added teaching fairly as a part of teacher training and evaluation. But given the failures of Federal policy in NCLB, I don't think this should be done at the Federal level. And when it becomes, as here, a political football, all hope for meaningful discussion is gone.

Of course the assumptions of mrgybe that only money motivates people like teachers betrays a lack of understanding of people who perform public service, as well as a profound lack of empathy. The focus on pay for performance and privitization, writ large by right wing foundations, shows not merely this blind spot, but an even larger blind spot to the conflicts of interest and biases introduced as private businesses try to capture the revenues in public education.
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mrgybe



Joined: 01 Jul 2008
Posts: 2551

PostPosted: Thu Sep 13, 2012 10:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Chicago teachers demanded a 30% increase which would have increased their average salaries to double that enjoyed by their (full time working) employers......... Chicago taxpayers. Teachers benefit packages, of course, already massively exceed those enjoyed by their employers. The justification? Outrage that their work day would increase from 5 3/4 to 7 hours a day.......and, even worse, that their work would be evaluated. After all, who could doubt their performance? Shouldn't a 50% high school graduation rate and well below par achievement in every subject at every level be enough?

We constantly hear how teachers don't do it for the money.......it's all about the kids. That may well be true for some. However, the evidence of our eyes is clear. Screaming crowds in capitol buildings and red shirted marchers leaving the kids to fend for themselves for days when their pay and work conditions are challenged, indicates that large numbers most certainly do it primarily for themselves. The decades long resistance to an merit based pay also reveals a lack of interest in giving their pupils the best. There is always something wrong with any proposed evaluation system yet this massive body of academics can't come up with an acceptable alternative.

Judge people by what they do, not by some sympathetic notion of what motivates them.
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isobars



Joined: 12 Dec 1999
Posts: 13857

PostPosted: Thu Sep 13, 2012 11:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

MrGybe, where do you get this right wing crap? Don't you know that federal unions exist just for the kids' sake, that without them we'd have bad teachers running rampant, declining student knowledge and graduation rates, and teachers getting paid measly survival salaries like the engineers who put man on the moon and 100 gigs of music in your shirt pocket?

I will never forget my college education major's GF's senior project: a paper mache dragon. I also haven't forgotten the high school chemistry teacher who was outraged that a younger teacher was promoted ahead of her; it made no matter to this idiot that her two courses in "chemistry education for teachers" didn't compare to the younger teacher's BS degrees in chemistry, mathematics, and physics plus experience and certification in teaching those subjects. "I'm more senior!", she kept insisting.

Anyone who respects the federal teachers' unions MUST be a graduate of our public education system. Nothing else would explain that degree of brainwashing.
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pueno



Joined: 03 Mar 2007
Posts: 2586

PostPosted: Thu Sep 13, 2012 1:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

isobars wrote:
MrGybe, where do you get this right wing crap? Don't you know that federal unions exist just for the kids' sake, that without them we'd have bad teachers running rampant, declining student knowledge and graduation rates, and teachers getting paid measly survival salaries like the engineers who put man on the moon and 100 gigs of music in your shirt pocket?

I will never forget my college education major's GF's senior project: a paper mache dragon. I also haven't forgotten the high school chemistry teacher who was outraged that a younger teacher was promoted ahead of her; it made no matter to this idiot that her two courses in "chemistry education for teachers" didn't compare to the younger teacher's BS degrees in chemistry, mathematics, and physics plus experience and certification in teaching those subjects. "I'm more senior!", she kept insisting.

Anyone who respects the federal teachers' unions MUST be a graduate of our public education system. Nothing else would explain that degree of brainwashing.

There's something about this that bears resemblance to someone "deserving" disability payments just because blah...blah...blah...blah..
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techno900



Joined: 28 Mar 2001
Posts: 1442

PostPosted: Thu Sep 13, 2012 1:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

mac,

No I didn't read the book. As long as public education continues to have problems, especially in the large metropolitan systems, then independent schools will thrive because there is a market demanding better schools. Yes, most cherry pick the kids and why not, as long as there is a line of applicants waiting to get in. It's called the free enterprise system.

Most independent school are parochial, but not all. My experience was in two Episcopal schools, which were inclusive of any faith or religion or ethnicity. The religious component of the schools varied from very little (weekly chapel) to a 20 min. daily chapel in the other. No one was required to participate in any service other than being in attendance. Muslims, Jews, Catholics, atheists, etc. all were welcome.

The school with less emphasis on religion is one of the best schools in the country. I suspect that few parents make application because of the religious component, they just line up because it's a great school.

The schools I was in were at the top of the market and paid very well. It was easy for them to cherry pick students, teachers and administrators, so the kids were the ultimate winners.

The issues resulting in poor performing public schools are vast and are nearly impossible to solve. It's the crumbling family unit, especially in poor communities that is the biggest issue in my opinion. Unmotivated, undisciplined kids with little or no support at home will struggle no matter how good the school may be. Fixing this is almost impossible. In the younger grades, progress seems reasonable, but as the kids move into middle school and then high school, other influences sink almost all but the most motivated kids.

Chicago teachers want security without accountability. Don't we all. They must think they live in a fairyland, or as some may say, a liberal society.
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keycocker



Joined: 10 Jul 2005
Posts: 3235

PostPosted: Thu Sep 13, 2012 2:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Techno ,
You pointed out the best school in nation and stated that folks may send kids there without religious reasons.
Likely true but the other church schools without that distinction are surely filled with kids who are there because momma is catholic.

I like the part where you are required to attend services without fail but don't have to participate if you are another religion.
Most Christians would be very upset if their kids were required to attend every Jewish or Muslim church service held for four to eight years growing up.
Some would think that upbringing would train susceptible children to another faith.

I think the single thing that would make our school tops in the nation would be the ability to cherry pick the best students. Techno has given us an accurate description of the school student bodies.
If we take out the losers...
Our school teachers drive the streets picking up those very losers and dragging them into class. They need us. The other private schools turn up their noses at these kids.
As techno points out- this is perfectly legal in a free enterprise system.
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mac



Joined: 07 Mar 1999
Posts: 4998

PostPosted: Thu Sep 13, 2012 2:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Techno--your and my values couldn't possibly be more different. I find it disgusting that you exult in abandoning the hard to educate kids and celebrating your belief in the free market system no matter what the cost.

I also don't find it surprising that you haven't bothered to read Ravitch's book, or that you couldn't stomach the public school system. As my dad used to say, some people know the cost of everything--and the value of nothing.

Mrgybe continues to strive for talking points instead of understanding. But he's turned my stomach for a while.
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keycocker



Joined: 10 Jul 2005
Posts: 3235

PostPosted: Thu Sep 13, 2012 3:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Tech was pointing out the reality of things.
You know it too,Mac, you been there.
I don't see him exulting,maybe ranting a little but that is usual here.
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techno900



Joined: 28 Mar 2001
Posts: 1442

PostPosted: Thu Sep 13, 2012 4:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

All of us as taxpayers have the option of sending our kids to public schools, parochial, or non faith based independent schools. All three options are available in my city, and all three have successes. However, the public system successes are only in the magnet schools, where they cherry pick their students. Yes, public schools do it too.

If we can't afford a private school, and our public schools are abysmal, then there are three options. Move to where there is a good public school system , pay the price for a private school or suck it up and do the best you can in the current system. Also there is another option, generally, private schools offer scholarships based on both academic potential/ability and need. Where I was, over 20% of the student population was on financial aid. The problem is that the economically disadvantaged are stuck will almost no options.

The hard to educate kids are being abandoned by their states, cities and communities, not the private schools or me.

Keep in mind that all the private school families are not reaping any benefit from their educational tax dollars, but their taxes do help the public schools both financially and through smaller enrollment/costs.

Look, I wish all the public schools systems were top flight, but the are not, so independent schools offer an alternative. I went to a public school in Los Angeles, but believe me, there were some schools in the system in the 60's that were horrendous. My family choose to live in an area where the schools were good.

If you guys have some solutions to the public school / educational crisis in this country, go for it.
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mac



Joined: 07 Mar 1999
Posts: 4998

PostPosted: Thu Sep 13, 2012 7:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Techno and KC--this is the line that absolutely appals me:

Quote:
Yes, most cherry pick the kids and why not, as long as there is a line of applicants waiting to get in. It's called the free enterprise system.


so techno, you succeeded at teaching the easy to teach kids, and got paid well for it. And when faced with the far more difficult problem of uninvolved parents, damaged kids, and povery, you wash you hands and reaffirm your quasi-religious belief in the free enterprise system. Pardon me, but its a little like learning to rce windsurfers, winning the sport fleet--and then continuing to race in that fleet rather than tackle more difficult challenges.

None of us have been in the 2 years of negotiations in the Chicago school system, so none of us know the different items on the table and which are the most important and which are the most expensive. Nor do we know which are traded and which are largely symbolic. Neither do we know the salary structure in the surrounding communities. I have been part of the management team in extended negotiations, and with that background would not pontificate on the various issues. Many here seek to embarass Obama and his friends, or are besotted by their hatred of unions, and will twist and spin stories. It is children that are forgotten and further damaged by this chatter.

I commented on two points. First, management comes from the top, not reform. I don't trust Obama's politically appointed reformers any more than Bush's, and that includes Rahm. Second, it is nearly impossible, at this time, to devise a fair system to evaluate teachers based on the idea of value added. Let me compare techno's class--people whose parents are wealthy enough to pay for private school, and are required by the school to be involved in the education of their students. Those students succeed in any system, and generally do well even with sub-standard teachers. I enjoy teaching advanced math--word problems, logic and simply algebra--to motivated fifth graders. But it is easier than teaching simpler math to fourth graders who are struggling. Anyone with any integrity and knowledge of basic statistics knows that the fourth graders in techno's private school and those in a Berkely, Oakland, or indeed Chicago fourth grade represent different populations. You simply cannot make a direct comparison of teaching results (added value during the school year) for those two groups--they are different populations and cannot be combined. Now let's add in 6 or 8 disruptive students. They never get into techno's school, and if they slip through they get kicked out.

There are ways to adjust statistical analysis to reflect different populations, and apply the value added concept. Unfortunately it takes a lot of data, and we don't collect enough data on student progress to support such a system. Further, with the high rate of teacher turnover, most of the research shows that greater investment in teacher training (but not in Universities) is a more cost-effective approach.

It is just nonsense to suggest that the Chicago teachers want to avoid accountability, or that bad teachers cannot be fired. Bad teachers should be fired--but they represent only about 5 to 10% of the overall teachers--and there are about 4 million of them. The way to improve teachers is to have principals and master teachers spend more time training and coaching them. By the way, that makes it much easier to fire the bad ones.
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