Sunday, February 5, 2012

Improving Education: Getting to the Real Problems

Today the Seattle Times ran a big editorial sharply criticizing State legislators who failed to support charter schools and teacher assessment efforts.   The Times is mistaken and in this blog I will tell you why.

The Seattle Times, the Gates Foundation, the Broad Foundation, and their allies, including the Alliance for Education and the League of Education Voters, have an agenda to "reform" education through a misguided approach based on unproven fads, trendy ideas, and free market concepts.  An agenda that will undermine meaningful improvements in K-12 education by preventing us from dealing with the real problems.  The sad thing is that these folks mean well, but are harming the very educational progress they long for.

The essential idea of the "education reform" movement is a free-market, competitive model of education, and one with a deep distrust of teachers and unions.  Teachers need to be continuously assessed, so that bad teachers are removed, middling teachers are improved, and good teachers are rewarded.  Independent charter schools are the darlings of this movement, since they are allowed to escape normal "bureaucratic" rules, can try experimental approaches, and often do not have to deal with a unionized teacher corps.  Ed reformers also push the "Teach for America" program where university graduates, often from elite schools, are thrown into the classroom after five weeks of training.  The trouble with all of these approaches is that there is absolutely no proof that they work or are applicable to the huge problems before us.

Take charter schools.  Objective evidence shows that charters are NOT superior to public schools.  For example, the Stanford Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) completed a study that showed that 17% of charter schools outperformed the traditional public schools. But 46% performed about the same as the traditional public schools, and 37% performed worse.  And charter schools are generally far more costly than public schools and often select the most motivated students, while rejecting the most difficult youth.  Bottom line:  charters offer little for solving the State's or national educational problems.

Teacher assessment is also problematic.  The "education reform" movement believes that more teacher assessment is critically needed to improve the teacher corps.  That is, advancement or even keeping their jobs will be dependent on their students showing significant improvement on assessment exams. The underlying assumption is that there are a number of bad teachers that need to be pushed out of the field, and a lot of underperforming teachers that need some carrots and sticks to insure better performance. As in any field, there are certain to be a few problem performers, but I can find no evidence that this is a major problem.  I am acquainted with quite a few teachers and they are some of the most altruistic, hardworking people I know.  Individuals that work very long hours, often use their own money for supplies, and do their best with the students and resources they are given.

If there is one fact that it is clear, from a number of studies, it is that the background of  students (family education,  family income, cultural/ethnic group, etc) is that most significant indicator of student success.  Students from advantaged backgrounds have high scores on assessments and show rapid improvement in skills, while students with challenging backgrounds often have problems.  I know this is not politically correct, but folks it is the truth, and it bears heavily on the viability of assessment (e.g.., teachers assigned to students from a problematic demographic may be penalized if their students don't improve sufficiently).
But problems with assessment don't end there.  Many assessment measures are flawed (remember the WASL?), poorly written, and don't properly measure key skills.  Furthermore, most assessments (MAP, NAEP, etc.)  are narrow (e.g., reading skills, math) and don't examine other important topic areas (e.g., history).   Thus, a fixation on assessment leads to narrow curricula and teaching since teachers will obviously teach to the test if their livelihoods depend upon.  A viral video is going around now showing poor geography, politics, and history knowledge in one of the State's strongest high schools-- shows you what happens as we stress fewer topics in our schools:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=MHtDF-z77wk

Teach for America is another hot approach of education reform advocates.  The whole premise of this program is flawed--that there is a need for scantily trained (five weeks!) college graduates from elite colleges to be thrown into our most difficult schools.  The truth is that are plenty of education-school graduates and other with extensive educational backgrounds clambering for teaching positions in our urban schools. Professors of education Julian Vasquez Heilig (Univ. of Texas, Austin) and Su Jin Jez (Cal State, Sacramento), in a comprehensive research study, found that TFA teachers perform significantly less well than those of credentialed beginning teachers. TFA doesn't work, nearly all of the temporary teachers leave after two years, and our kids are guinea pigs for enthusiastic, but untrained instructors.  Really bad idea, with folks like Susan Enfield and her predecessor being enthusiastic supporters.

All of the above half-baked reform ed ideas are based on a flawed premise.  That the current education system is basically ok, and that the lack of inspired or skilled teachers is preventing adequate student performance.  Often "teacher's unions" are singled out as major villains. The truth is otherwise:  there are major and systematic deficits in the organization of the educational enterprise that must be fixed (more on that later).

The Seattle Times editorial page and Crosscut opinion pieces frequently repeat education reform ideas and attack those with different viewpoints. And when the public or our elected representatives don't follow the ed reform party line, the response is often vicious.  For example, today, the ST came out swinging at our representatives who dared to stop charter schools and mindless assessment.   When Seattle voters threw out two school board members on the "reform ed" bandwagon, the ST, Crosscut, as well as "ed reform" sponsored groups went wild, criticizing voters and blaming the new school board members for the loss of their beloved School Superintendent Susan Enfield  (an individual who not only supports "reform ed" but tried to remove an independent principal at Ingraham HS, and has maintained a terrible math curriculum in city schools.).  The ST began running several editorials about school board "micromanagement" as soon as the new school board members were elected and strongly supports an effort by long-time school board member Michael DeBell to greatly lessen the powers of the Seattle School Board.   And take a look at who provided a large proportion of the support for incumbent, "ed reform" school board candidates in Seattle:  rich folks from the eastside.  It's kind of scary.


Ed reform folks spend most of their time worrying about issues that are side shows.  Even if they got everything they wanted, we would still be in trouble. So what is really wrong with education and how do we fix it?  I will spend an entire blog on this, but some elements are:

1.  We need clear curricula that describe what students need to know when they graduate high school.  And such curricula should not be the product of ed school Ph.Ds, but disciplinary college/university experts and future employers, among others, with strong involvement by parents and other critically interested parties.  Discovery math curricula is an example of ed-school driven material that is undermining our kids education.

2.  We must insure teachers know the material they are teaching...in fact, they need to know it at a far deeper level than they are teaching.

3.   Ed Schools spend too much time talking about social change and too little on disciplinary knowledge and instruction on best teaching methods.  This has to change.

4.   Education research is a national embarrassment, with most "research" not meeting minimal standards for scientific research (the National Research Council said this, not me).  Randomized research should guide the development and selection of the best curriculum and teaching approaches...it does not now.  Education has to move away from unproven fads and use robust, rigorous research to guide teaching approaching and curriculum choices.

5.  The implications of student demographics needs to be accepted and dealt with.  One approach is to give high priority to early education (2-5 years).  You can't wait until kindergarten to deal with impoverished learning backgrounds...it is to late for many students.

6.  Students should not move to the next grade unless they prove they have the requisite skills.  And grade inflation has made report cards nearly meaningless measures of performance.  

An Example of Anti-Voter Comments by People Who Think They Know Better

From the League of Education Voters Online Newsletter Right After the Election

"We are but a weekend away from the silly season – Seattle voters got a jump start on silly, ... Seattle voters may have turned the school board inside out last week. ...While some think this is just great news, many of us believe otherwise. Two other incumbents were retained, which is good news, but with significant decisions on the horizon – like hiring a permanent Superintendent ... – losing these two couldn’t be more ill-timed"

Seattle Times Editorial

"Now we enter 2012 and Enfield has her feet pointed toward an exit. Knowledgeable speculation is that her departure was spurred by division on the board about her leadership goals and plans. If true, it is no small thing. Students of district history know how quickly school boards in Seattle can go from smart oversight to unhelpful meddling."

30 comments:

Woodroe said...

Right on! I think maybe your last point about not passing kids on if they don't know the required material is a key point. That's all we do in elementary and middle school ed, is pass them on. Ridiculous. I try to challenge my students in science and I get quite a bit of blowback from parents that my class is too difficult. I'm not changing what I do because I believe that we need to raise the bar, not lower it.

Dave Sailer said...

For anyone interested, check out Alfie Kohn: http://www.alfiekohn.org/index.php

"Kohn's criticisms of competition and rewards have been widely discussed and debated, and he has been described in Time magazine as 'perhaps the country's most outspoken critic of education's fixation on grades [and] test scores.'"

Unlike celebrity experts like Rush Limbaugh, Barack Obama, and Bill Gatees, Kohn has been in the business for decades, and bases his thoughts on research.

Related: If teachers shoud be judged on "performance", let's do the same for everyone -- legislators, administrators, taxpayers, voters, citizens, parents -- and remove anyone who doesn't "perform". Whatever that is.

Sysiphus said...

My son's math curriculum is outrageous. This is in Issaquah. Touchy-feely math simply does not work.

Unknown said...

Thank you for posting this, you provide a very logical counterpoint to what is going on in Olympia right now. You respect the kids and the teachers. I hope people are inspired to think positively and support the premise of public education with the system that we have today.

RMS said...

Why is everyone putting so much importance on the teachers' performance? Teachers do not have the power to change the behavior of their students. If the most motivated teacher's students are unmotivated, uninterested, or otherwise distracted from their education, whose fault is that? I place much of the blame on the parents for any underperformance by the students. Teachers are to blame to some extent as well but the ball is really in the parents' courts.

If you go to a school with a high proportion of Oriental and Indian students, the performance of the school is off the charts. When you go to a school with a high proportion of blacks and Latinos, the performance is despicable. The key difference is in the parents and the socioeconomic strata that they belong to. If a double blind study could be performed, it would be shown that teachers are not much of a factor in any school's overall performance. It is the parents and the socioeconomic factors that explain most of the performance or lack thereof.

What should be done? The developing countries provide some great case studies. Our high schools are the best in the world but if the students enter high school unprepared, no amount of money or best teachers can bring these students to perform to the level expected by colleges and universities. Therefore, the focus should be at the elementary and pre-school level. We should import the rote learning and focus on the hard fundamentals from the developing countries. For example, in India, children start going to school by the age of 3 and by the age of 5, they are expected to know addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. By the 9th grade, they are to be well-versed in trigonometry and algebra so that they can start calculus by the 10th grade or earlier.

Whatever we are teaching at the high school today does not need to change. We should continue to teach liberal arts at the high school level and we can do this because our students will be well-versed in advanced math and English skills by the time they enter high school. Rote and rigorous learning has its place in our schools but only from pre-school to the 6th grade.

dan dempsey said...

The Seattle Times rarely considers evidence, its guide is politics. There is scant evidence that charters when financed at the same levels as public schools perform better.

Check out this animate video. It was adapted from a talk given at the RSA by Sir Ken Robinson, world-renowned education and creativity expert and recipient of the RSA's Benjamin Franklin award.

The Times is hardly an agent of positive change.

There are definite problems in education. Unfortunately the Times advocates for changes that are not solutions to the problems.

Unknown said...

Thank you Cliff for sorting out the arguments about ed reform. However, you state "it is that the background of students (family education, family income, cultural/ethnic group, etc) is that most significant indicator of student success" yet you did not address this in your ways to fix education. Let's have the real conversation about ed reform. Parents have a responsibility to send their child ready to learn. I hope you discuss in your blog about ed reform.

Scrapycandy said...

I tutor as a school volunteer. I found this posting to be very interesting. I have learned that my greatest value has been the emotional encouragement I provide each student. By the time I see them they are very discouraged. They tend to be shy quiet types. Parents/teachers may not even be aware until very late in the game that there is a problem. How can this issue also be addressed?

Unknown said...

Your suggestions at the end of the article are great, and certainly needed. But the situation with some of the "reforms" is more complicated than you describe.

We had a good experience with a Charter School for a few years, when the school was new. There was a motivated, innovative Governing Board and great teacher buy-in. Over time the founding Board members and teachers left, and the new ones weren't so good. Over time the school went from excellent to bad, and if you only use average statistics you might say it was "no better than" our neighborhood school. But our kids certainly benefited from being there for a few years before we moved them out.

The reformers like to focus on unions, and in my experience sometimes there are issues there. But in my old school district in Colorado what really ruined the schools was the School Board, which came in with a partisan agenda and changed the district into a party campaign machine. That set up conflict with the union, which was bad enough. But since the Board isn't focused on education, they don't even know what reforms to ask for in negotiations - they simply think the union is evil. The Board is worse than useless if they can't even think of what they want to ask for in negotiations.

There are a couple of big cultural problems. Teachers aren't treated and paid as professionals. But teacher contracts don't position teachers as professionals, so in that sense the problem perpetuates itself. If the teacher feels it's necessary to go home precisely at 3:12pm, then there's no professional ethic there - parents see that and react just as they would with the clock watchers in their own companies.

One of the things that makes a teacher's life miserable is bad behavior of the kids. It's easy to blame the parents but that doesn't solve the problem. A second adult in the classroom would really help solve the problem. Our old charter school welcomed this (in fact, mandated a minimum number of hours from each family), but our conventional schools over the years have uniformly discouraged or prohibited it. This was probably the single best reason why our Charter School was so good for a few years, and there's no good reason why a conventional school can't do this.

Targhee said...

Great comment Cliff! As a scientist and engineer myself, and who is married to a professor, I see all too well the real life issues you've raised. Our daughter, who is very smart, and doing very well as a junior at a private university in Connecticut, was totally turned off from math in the tenth grade, and hasn't done any since then. I couldn't understand the homework enough to try to help her, and I had university math courses through differential equations and boundary value problems.

blackcap said...

I really got a laugh when the Seattle Times crowed about how approximately 20% of charter schools do better. My very first thought was "well, that means that approximately 80% must NOT do better".

Does the Times editorial board really think innumeracy amongst the public is so bad they don't know basic set theory, understand what a percentage is, and cannot subtract 20 from 100?

Unknown said...

I agree with much of what you say and notice that you've eaten the proffered red herring in one gulp. Yes, the key indicator of success in school is family situation. You suggest it's about the money, but I disagree. Having enough family money is essential to educate children. Being wealthy is not. Kids who are exposed to lots of interesting ideas and are engaged with by lots of caring adults thrive in our schools just as they are. Kids who don't receive healthy adult attention (poor or wealthy alike) struggle with enormous identity and emotional issues that impede their learning. All of the remedies you mention, whether you support or oppose them, ignore this basic understanding of what it is to educate a child. Our education system is driven by an apartheid logic designed to put as few adults as possible in proximity to kids, so the rest can live an essentially childless lifestyle. Kids are messy, unpredictable, challenging and transparent in ways that contradict the too-cool-to-care, self-absorbed, lifestyle neat nicks we call the American middle class. The NW version of this class is especially toxic to kids. Lets admit that the primary purpose of our education system--for which it receives a solid A--is to hold young people at arms length and lecture them without loving them, precisely when they need to embraced and cared for. Grunge started in Seattle for a reason: we loath our kids here and they know it. There's no centralized solution for this issue. In fact, the search for centralized solutions distracts us from any truly actionable approach. If you look at the social support networks of kids who thrive at school, you will find better answers. These kids have lots of unpaid adults who are working with them because they find the relationship with children itself enriching enough to be worth the effort. These kids are the ones who always seem to receive that teacher report card comment "a pleasure to have in class". They are loved, they know it, and they are teachable because of it. Without addressing this issue, and I mean really talking about it, none of the arguments about reforming schools are valid. Go ahead and ask your own students. You'll see the pattern.

Ferdi said...

I think one of the real problems that needs to be addressed more vigorously is the learning environment in our schools. I cannot stress enough the impact that a hostile social environment has on children's ability to concentrate and learn. While the victims of bullying may add up to a minority of students they are at high risk for academic failure and dropping out of school.

Schools that don't address the issue of bullying are more likely to under perform. But more importantly, as the recent spate of teen suicides has shown, there are life and death consequences when we fail to ensure a safe and supportive learning environment for ALL students.

Personally, I think this issue trumps teaching methods when it come to having a real impact on the success of education.

dairmuid said...

I wonder if you've heard of the Tools of the Mind curriculum, which is very effective in children who are 'underperforming' (it's been especially effective in ESL and low income students), and meant for preschool/kindergarten aged children to help develop their cognitive skills.

http://www.mscd.edu/extendedcampus/toolsofthemind/

MaryAnn K said...

I see education as a two-pronged issue: first, there's the question of how children learn, and the need to foster that process. Like one of my profs used to say, the problem is "schools don't teach how to think". Then there's the matter of content, and how best to teach certain subjects.

Early childhood education should have a high focus on fostering the ability to learn. Scrapycandy's comment about emotional support to students speaks to part of this.
Little kids are like sponges; if you can instill a love of learning that's half the battle. But it seems a large number of parents are not engaged in supporting their childrens' educational process, and it goes without saying that children from troubled homes will be disadvantaged in their learning process.

As far as content goes, experts in the field (like Cliff) ought to be given more credence for what they know about how best to teach things like math concepts.

What to teach, how much and when is up for debate. I'm reminded of George Carlin's "American Dream" riff - that "they" don't want an educated populace; they want "obedient workers".

Someone else commented that India puts 3 year olds in school. We don't know what kind of social context goes with that; if I had a 3 year old there's no way I'd put them into that much social stimulation. But then I'd never trust my 3 year old to a day care either.

Check out Gabor Mate's book, "Hold on to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers"

Keep up the debate, Cliff, and thanks for this article.

TimVashon said...

Cliff, another great post about education!

Teachers are now scapegoats. They are expected to cure all social ills and overcome problems that have direct origins that are economic and political.

Education Departments in Universities are no help either, and now days are more often that not another source of educational obstruction and failure. Discovery Math is a classic example.

Your expositions and illuminations of the big picture here, and your suggestions to change things for the better are SPOT ON!

Unknown said...

Well said. I think those who might pigeon-hole you into a particular political camp are badly mistaken.

It is a complex issue whose solution does not involve magic bullets.

The fact that our K-12 teachers have become political whipping boys is one of the worst aspects of the current debate.

Zoredache said...

> RMS said...
> Why is everyone putting so much importance on the teachers' performance?

Because everyone seems to want more money for education, and teacher/staff salaries is where that money goes. It would be nice to be able to get some kind of ROI numbers.

C.P.O. said...

"unknown" makes a great point. The 40 asset program is one way of illustrating the same idea.

I like much of what is written here but I would take exception with the simplicity of #6. Holding kids back sounds great in abstract, but in reality creates complex issues of its own. My 5th grade son has this giant kid in his class who has failed the 5th grade twice. That kid is far advanced into adolescence compared to his peers. Two classes of friends have also left him behind. He has some discipline issues in the classroom. If students cannot master the requisite material something must be done, but holding back students is not a great solution to the problem either.

GaryP. said...

Hi Cliff,
You can read more on this whole abomination about charter schools here: http://www.gregpalast.com/no-child-behind-left/#more-5664

Unknown said...

Crosscut gets significant funding from the Gates Foundation and frequently runs articles by reporters who are allied with the "reform" organizations (without acknowledging that fact).

Vaughn said...

Cliff, great article!
I have been a teacher for 13 years in the southwestern part of Washington State. I mostly work with students from low income households with the associated issues that are more common in this group. Dan Dempsey, thanks for bringing up the Sir Ken Robinson video. I highly recommend it, it's "right on" and I have shown it to my students.
There are several points I would like to make:
1. I agree that teachers are not the problem. The teachers I know are highly trained, dedicated, work long hours and know the material they are teaching very well.
2. One thing that is very difficult to do is to teach students who do not show up for school. About 20% of the students show up most every day. Among the rest many show up about half the time and the bottom 20% show up once in awhile...possibly just enough so they or their guardian/parent(s) can collect a welfare check. One solution I have suggested is to charge the parents of students $50 per day that student is absent except for documented medical conditions and unusual family emergencies, etc. If they don't pay it then garnish their wages or welfare check.
3. For math, get rid of the calculators except for the students in the most advanced math classes. The students can remember how to punch the buttons on the calculator...to a point...but have no idea what they are doing. Students need to learn what they are doing, why they are doing it, and where they can use it before even thinking about using calculators.
4. We also need to provide more incentives for parents to send their kids to school besides a $50 a day fee, such as requiring people on public assistance to work for the money they get. Also, when I see students on public assistance with a better cell phone than mine I know we have a problem. I am not suggesting taking money away from those who really need it to get back on their feet, just those who have made it a way of life.
5. The tests in high school are counter productive. Many students who are "on the edge" give up when they can't pass a test. Consider also, I have seen a number of students who have never actually gotten credit for a single high school class pass these tests.
6. Classes which offer students practical skills also seem to have gone out the window as well, wood shop, horticulture, animal science, metal shop, etc. This has not happened everywhere...certain schools have maintained and even increased these effective programs.
7. If charter schools are better and "bad" public school employees are furloughed...consider this: they will probably be able to teach in a charter school.
Also thanks to Dave Sailer: I also highly recommend Alfie Kohn.

RMS said...

@Zoredache:

Are we paying the teachers to teach AND to discipline?

It is the parents' job to discipline their children and ensure that their minds are focused on education and nothing else.

It is the teachers' job to teach the children and nothing more.

When one party to the deal fails to live up to their obligations (the parents), why do we expect the teachers to pick up the slack? Because we pay the teachers?

I measure the ROI of the teachers by their performance in teaching the students who are already disciplined and ready to learn.

It seems that others are attempting to measure the ROI of the teachers' ability not only to teach the students but also to discipline them and ensure that they are ready to learn without any distractions. THAT is the problem.

Alex said...

I agree with much of this post, but you may have gone a bit too far speaking beyond your expertise at the end there... I'd ask you to cite your research regarding your suggestion we use grade retention more often. If you take the time to look into that topic, you'll find that grade retention is rare for good reason.
http://www.nasponline.org/resources/handouts/revisedpdfs/graderetention.pdf

JeffB said...

A fantastic post Cliff. Thanks for keeping the discussion going.

But I am surprised that your post, nor any of the comments have discussed where all of the failed new ed curricula come from, the NEA. And the NEA is inextricably linked to Teacher Union leadership. The problem isn't necessarily that teachers are in a union, but that the leadership of the unions is corrupt and driving the NEA agenda. And this agenda is part of the entrenched Left leaning Olympia culture and the current Administration in DC. Start at the top. Your ideas of rigorous curricula from industry and experts in the disciplines is a long way from the Ed School mill indoctrinators the NEA churns out.

Second, the problem with certain under-performing students and their poor family environment isn't money. It is the horrific culture they've been steeped in, which is constantly glorified by Hollywood. Gangster Rap with its messages of misogyny and disdain for education has become a cultural force. As has the single parent, and too busy to care parent cultures created by Great Society entitlement.

Yes, let's expect more from everyone. A return to nuclear families focused on education. A return to teachers from specific disciplines. A return of great curricula. But with current Seattle and Olympia leadership, we've got no chance.

Patrick H said...

Teachers demand higher compensation and insist it's because it helps the students. Then deny any blame when schools fail or responsibility for students that don't learn.

Cliff points to, "ed-school driven material that is undermining our kids education."

That's supported by the next comment, "Ed Schools spend too much time talking about social change and too little on disciplinary knowledge and instruction on best teaching methods."

But it's undermined by his support for ed-school produced teachers that often support such social experimentation or have at least been taught to believe in it.

It's reform destined for failure because it will leave the foxes in the hen house.

Ulrika O'Brien said...

A small problem: if the quality of education research is a joke in this country (and I think there's compelling case to be made that it is) then, er, why should we (or you) put any faith in the education research studies you're quoting to support your arguments against the reformers?

Renee said...

Thank you for this Dr. Mass. I am a National Board Certified Teacher in Science, and had been working in Policy work on Education in WA State. I taught for 7 years, was involved in science leadership in SPS and at my school, but these past few years helped drive me out of education. I have gone back to graduate school in science (which is not as hard as teaching was, nor as many hours).

It was this EdReform that helped drive me out and their focus on standardized testing as some kind of a good measure of education. I especially agree with your statment about the bad state of EdResearch, and I went to Teachers College at Columbia, one of the top Education schools in the country. I have never felt so disrespected as a professional as I did these last 2 years under the EdReform people at SPS. If you want good, well educated teachers, you need to give more autonomy, and you must use multiple measures for teachers, and not insist that tests like the WASL/HSPE/MSPE are valid (Research on VAMs also shows that these tests may not be good measures of "good" teachers). I personally wish we would just use the NYS Regents Exam if we use a standardized tests - it is actually matched with the standards and we get the results right away and can show students the tests. (I used to teach in NYS, and unlike WA, they let us see the test, give examples to students, released tests after they were given, and we graded our own tests using a clear rubric - part of the reason the prices for the WASL are so high is the way it is graded). I wanted to be evaluated as a teacher, but by multiple measures like student/ parent feedback, videotaping of lessons, teacher-developed tests, student work, etc.

I taught Genetics at Garfield High School, which the Seattle Schools said would not count for Science Graduation Credit last year (along with Marine Science, Earth Science, Anatomy/Physiology, Astronomy). They eventually backed down after we got parent support, but NOT when teachers provided clear articulate evidence as to why this change would not work and how we had made the courses to keep student interest in science. I have never felt so disrespected as I did as a professional as I did under the Broad Foundation people in SPS. The version of Reform that these groups are pushing is scary - they hold up Finland as an example, but then ignore almost everything that Finland does - giving teachers more autonomy, letting teachers develop their own tests, giving time for collaboration, etc. Instead, we are going with standardized tests that narrow our curriculum, don't measure what they say they do (at least not the HSPE which I would not get the results of until after my students had left, and I could NEVER look at the test) and are graded by people who may be from out of state. I emphasized critical thinking, and wanted my students to be scientifically literate and critical consumers of knowledge understanding bias (which all went out the window when I had to prepare my students for the HSPE)

bonner83856 said...

I disagree, 100% actually. Even if every assertion in this blog is true that does not suggest we should not experiment with alternatives. Here is the truth: Government schools survive as the only providers (generally) of education. With their sanction and the ability to tax with little regard for public opinion, there is no incentive to provide education inexpensively. And we all know the union goon mentality in the schools - violate law and contract terms; harrass teachers with a penchant for straying. Private schools, which I believe can somehow be constitutionally financed with public dollars, provide both quality and cost competition. If they fail, super, then the entrenched have nothing to fear and should encourage the experiments; you know, just to show the stingy public the union teachers are unsurpassable. If they succeed then the legislature will have to allow the public schools, currently seen as "too big to fail" to do just that - fail. And fail they will. I have personal exprience as a member (past) of the firefighters' union and as a manager in a union operation and do believe that the unions will strangle an organization rather than make necessary concessions and work for cost reduction and improved production. And, I want my kids taught subject matter that prepares them to cope in a complex society and an unrebutted Al Gore movie and teary-eyed anecdotes from american indians will not help my kids be productive or obtain a mortgage. The opportunity has never been better. Fortunately, Washington state is hurting from poor revenues; a Republican Congress will make sure criminally irresponsible states and cities and schools will not get bail outs. Time for real experimentation and change...not Obama's of course. I believe that opening education to opportunities for apolitical and cost-effective improvement is at hand. Thus it is my wish that the economy remain poor. The only way to reduce the size of government is to deprive it of money. Believe me! I know what I am talking about after having worked for the state for 18 years.

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