Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Guest Post - Anonymous

Here's a Guest Post - a reaction from my "Under Pressure" post... I find other people's reactions to my writing interesting - I'm sure you all will too!!!



I find it interesting that when it comes to teachers and performance, an entire list of excuses fills the page. However, the reality is that it is their job to teach, and to demonstrate that this goal has been accomplished, you need to take a test. If the students are failing, then the teachers have not done their job. What is do hard to understand?

Everyday REAL people with REAL jobs face job loss, and we deal with it. Many people, especially in white color jobs, rely on teams of people to successfully carry out their job. In my profession, I lead very large projects that involve dozens of people across in many different roles. If the project succeeds, I succeed. If not, well guess what, in the REAL world this can lead to job loss.

And yet, every single person on the project is critical. If one or two do not do their jobs, we will ALL fail unless extra effort is taken to compensate for the situation. I cannot simply throw my hands up and say "Oh well, we failed, but you cannot hold me responsible because this person did not approve the budget in time, and this one did put forth enough effort, etc... It IS my responsibility to deliver the end result. End of story.

And, why should teachers be above accountability? Look, if they think it is the students fault for not learning, then get out of teaching or move to a new school where the students "want" to learn. Or better yet, find a new profession.

I am tired of teachers making excuses. You would think that every teacher was perfect if you listen to them. And yet, we all know teachers that were poorly equipped for the profession, or worse still, those who no longer cared. And what happens? They continue along drawing a paycheck, mean while the students suffer. And then when the results are demonstrated on test, the list of tired old excuses is wheeled out.

Give me a break

54 comments:

EDK said...

Hi MN Lady -

It's been a while since I've been on your blog. The new design looks good!

I think your guest (the one who posted this) is being a bit unfair. Oh, I see some merits in the argument and of course there are some teachers to whom this assessment may apply, but to make a sweeping assessment of all teachers doesn't seem right.

There are children who are simply without inate resources and are unteachable. If a teacher cannot reach such a child and produce test scores, should the teacher be punished?

And worse, since this child will not test well no matter how much attention she gets, should the poor kid be ignored so the teacher can spend more time improving the scores of children who can learn the relevant material?

Then you have children who are emotionally upset, children who live with alcoholics or drug users, children who are physically or mentally ill - and more. Does drilling facts into them work?

And do the tests measure the ability to think? Isn't critical thinking the MOST important ability a teacher can impart to her students? You can always look up a needed fact; you need to depend on yourself for thinking.

What, in the end, is the teacher's most important job? Better test scores or better little people?

For my child, I'd rather have a slightly less knowledgeable good, responsible citizen than a high-testing zombie or serial killer.

For the enlightenment of your readers, no I'm not a teacher nor have I ever been (though I think it an admirable profession) and no I don't have a slow-learner child.

I simply think that, though the teaching profession may have some incompetents who are too-well protected to the detriment of our children, we cannot fairly paint all with the same brush. And the problem cannot be solved with test scores alone.

After all, they are just teachers, and though some seem to achieve miracles at times, they are still mere mortals.

Cheers!

dbkliv said...

The anonymous guest poster (I'll call him Jill) talks about REAL people with REAL jobs, and notes that he carries out large projects that involve dozens of people across many different roles. When projects fail, people can get fired.

Jill talks about the investment that individual contributors have to each project: every single person on the project is critical. If one or two do not do their jobs, we will ALL fail unless extra effort is taken. Jill goes on to say that, as project lead, he has ultimate responsibility for the outcome of each project: he can't explain away a failed project by simply saying that he did his part but this other person didn't do theirs.

Great, yes, that's the way it works. Not in the so-called "REAL world", but in the exclusive world of adults working together. Now, consider the differences between any business versus teaching:

* In business, you hire top performers: when you have a job opening, you interview a pool of candidates, and hire the one that has the best education/experience/skills/fit. Once you've got a job, you can generally be fired at any point, and for virtually anything.

* Public schools, by contrast, have a legal obligation to teach every child who enrolls in the school. There's no recourse for exclusion, like there is during the hiring and firing process of any other workplace.

Note that businesses are not a public service: they are not obligated to provide a job to anyone who walks in looking for employ. Note that schools are not businesses: students do not need to perform to the best of their abilities on a daily basis.

If Jill gets fired, he faces real dangers: does he have a family that depends on his income? does he have enough money to make rent, or pay the mortgage? how will he pay for car insurance, groceries, and that credit card bill? I think most workers appreciate on a daily basis that they are at-will employees, and that their job is not a guaranteed paycheck. A little insecurity makes Jill a better worker.

If a student gets kicked out of a school, he faces none of these dangers: he still has parents that support him financially. He gets enrolled in another school- maybe the other good public school across town; maybe the dropout school. I think all children need to feel that their lives are completely stable: their parents will house, feed, and clothe them; the state will educate them.

Workers at a business have a higher personal investment in their immediate day-to-day performance than do elementary school students.

Jill, I think it's worth your time to try to understand the differences between business and education. How well do you think your projects would go if your team members weren't individually invested in the projects' success? How well would you be able to lead a team if you didn't have any effective tools to motivate underperforming team members, or to reward those that are performing well?

dbkliv said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
TeacherScribe said...

An interesting debate has arisen.

Nothing like stating the obvious, right?

As a teacher (and - gasp - co-president of our EA), I acknowledge that it is essential to evaluate our students. I don’t know that such a claim was every disputed by minnesotalady in any of her posts. Even more so, it is essential to evaluate teachers.

It is my job to teach - and I’m paid well to do that. The most important thing I do is get students to learn and show growth. That is what all of my parents expect of me.
And this is what I work very hard to do. I have zero problems with having my livelihood judged on that.

My first concern is not in being judged by my students’ growth. If I’m any good at all, a student who begins my class in September will know much more than what they began with when January rolls around. Growth must occur. However, my concern is how we measure growth.

Anonymous, I disagree with your statement “the reality is that it is their job to teach, and to demonstrate that this goal has been accomplished, you need to take a test.” There are numerous ways to measure growth; one does not just need to take a test. It just so happens that standardized tests are the quickest and easiest way to attempt to do this. I have serious doubts as to whether it is the best way though, and not because my employment may be tied to it. Really, where in the REAL world do any employees work in complete isolation on ONE test that determines everything? If this is what the REAL world wants, then why is the business sector clamoring for schools to teach team and group work as well as communication skills? Students get to use zero of that on their tests. How often do your employees get to work in groups and communicate on projects?

Some other effective ways to evaluate students are projects (you state that “In my profession, I lead very large projects that involve dozens of people across in many different roles. If the project succeeds, I succeed” and this is exactly right. Do any of your employees take a test after the project to determine if it was a success? Further more, do they take the test months after the project is successfully completed? Do they take the test (and do their best on it) when what they are evaluated on has been a success and the test really has no bearing on them?). How would you feel if you had a group of strangers (just like test companies) come in and evaluate your employees on their tasks while you only have a slight indication of what they will be evaluated on?

TeacherScribe said...

Part II

I’m just weary of one form of assessment when there are so many others that could be used in conjunction with a test. Teachers observations are another excellent tool for assessment. Essays and presentations are also sound assessments. Discussions, questioning, and conferencing are also great. Tests - if they are good - also work well too. My fear is that just one of these is employed by the state.

George Madaus makes an interesting point in a podcast from “Educaction Podcasts with John Merrow | PBS” (available for free from iTunes). He notes that in the medical field, if his cholesteral level test comes back with some alarming results, he is not simply rushed into surgery. Instead, the specific results are evaluated. He might be given a different test. He might be referred to a specialist or search for a second opinion. But this doesn’t happen often enough in American education.

If a student does poorly, analyze the results. Look for a sample of the student’s work. Talk to parents and teachers. Don’t just judge the student on one test on one day.

I’ve been in contact with a student of mine who was alarmed at his ACT score. He is now worried that this one test score will determine his entire fate for the next five years. But even colleges aren’t stupid enough to judge human potential on one fill in the bubble test.

TeacherScribe said...

Part III

Please do not mistake these concerns about evaluations as excuses. They are not. It is far too dismissive - not to mention foolish - to simply state that questioning high stakes testing is ridiculous. Do your kids take high stakes tests? How do they feel about them?

I don’t think the mass of public educators are throwing their hands up and saying we failed but it’s the students’ faults. You state that you cannot do this either because “Oh well, we failed, but you cannot hold me responsible because this person did not approve the budget in time, and this one did put forth enough effort, etc... It IS my responsibility to deliver the end result. End of story.” It is my responsibility to teach them. But the private sector has one huge advantage over public education . . . you select the best possible person for the job. If they do not perform, they are fired. Plus, your employees get a sense of immediate reward - a paycheck over two weeks. The payoff for students - graduation and access to a university of their choice or skills that will allow them to succeed in the workforce, aren’t readily distributed twice a month like paychecks. Business simply doesn’t operate on the same reality as public education.

You also state that “Look, if they [teachers] think it is the students fault for not learning, then get out of teaching or move to a new school where the students "want" to learn. Or better yet, find a new profession.” This is interesting. It’s not solely the student’s fault for not learning. There are plenty of boring, unmotivated, uncaring teachers who do not make their curriculum interesting or applicable to students. However, there are some students who do not choose to learn. Is it fair to judge a teacher on their lack of concern for school? Think back to your own education.

In Texas the special education teacher of the year - who taught in a wealthy school district - wanted to help out those less fortunate and left to teach in a high poverty school district. Guess what? His students struggled and he was fired because of test scores. What accounts for his failure? The teacher? The students? The school?

Michelle Rhee - who is currently overhauling the atrocious schools in Washington, DC, is all for high stakes testing and teacher accountability as a result of those tests. So we’ll see if she has success. If so, that may well prove as a model for school reform across the nation. Again, I’m not making excuses, I’m just raising concerns. In various interviews on what comprises superb teaching, Rhee has given an example of sitting in on a veteran teacher who was knocking her kids out with Greek mythology. Rhee said it was one of the highlights of her year. Now my concern is what if the students in that class do poorly on their tests? Rhee has gone on record as saying that was an excellent lesson from an excellent teacher. But what if they test only has two questions on it about Greek mythology. What happens when a student is used to discussing and contributing in class has to sit alone in front of a computer screen and click the ‘right‘ answer on a high stakes test?

Rather, let the tests be one element of teacher evaluation. Let parent satisfaction and involvement be another part. Let administrative evaluations be another. Let student involvement be another.



Thanks for the interesting debate.

Anonymous said...

There is so much to comment on here, so forgive me if I miss a point or two.

First off, how about some respect. Jill, is that really a guys name? Go ahead and use it, but realize it paints you as petty and unimportant.

I see a lot of similar comments about "what about this particular child that either cannot or will not learn". Well, let me just say this, "what about the students who excel regardless of the teacher". It is an easy excuse to pick out a single isolated item (in this case a under performing child) and build a case around it. But, I believe the idea of evaluating the teacher is to evaluate ALL of the children he or she teaches, and we know that without question that they will not all be equal. But, the overall average of the class should be a good indication, especially if compared to the success of the same students in previous years.

But, on to a bigger point. The idea that either a system has to be perfect, or it cannot/should not be used is not how the real world works. Using this approach we would no longer enforce speeding tickets since even with our best efforts, some people still speed and get away with it. More to the point, most every teacher will face the same challenges (not identical) and it is valid to compare their outcomes against other teachers.

Is a test the best way to determine success, maybe... maybe not. But, it is what is in place today. Besides, all of this feel good non-sense and judging student based on how they feel about themselves is how the United States has arrived at some of the worst test scores amongst advanced countries.

Something else to think about. How do we decide whether or not to accept a student in a particular college. Test scores. How about for passing their classes, test scores. How about to get a medical license? To pass the bar? Nearly every qualification I can think of relies on a test. Testing is used to evaluate ability. If a student is being prepared to participate in this type of a society, then how is it unfair to evaluate them via a test? And, why would it be unfair to judge those who teach them based on this outcome? Again, yes they may have a bad student, but they will also has good students. And every teacher will have a similar mixture of students, so comparing them against each other is perfectly valid.

And please spare me the one off special cases.

Do teachers make a difference? If so, then show us by making failing students successful and then claim your reward. At the same time, those who are not good at teaching should be redirected into a new profession. Why would we want anything less for our children?

I am intrigued by the idea that in a real world job we have the luxury of co-workers who are all the best. After all, companies interview and hire only those who have the best education/experience/skills/fit. So, does that mean that you have never had a less then perfect co-worker? And the idea that students are not individually invested in their success shows a complete disconnect between reality, or a willing departure simply to try and defend the indefensible. And spare me the singular example and try to highlight that as evidence of the behavior of the majority.

-- continued --

Anonymous said...

The clear fact of the matter is that some students are highly invested in their success, and some are not, but in general most students have a very real interest in doing well. Most students I know are aspiring to get into the best school possible, which motivates success. In other cases, the student's parents push them towards success, for example when children are young. This does not cover every student, but your attempt to paint them all as little mindless animals who do not care a bit about their own success is very sad. What does that say about you?

I submit once again. It is an elitist attitude to think that somehow the challenges of a teacher are unique. So unique that nothing could compare, and certainly impossible to judge the success of a teacher. That is nonsense. And trying to defend otherwise results in logically void arguments, i.e. one student may not be as smart as the others so it is unfair to test. Or in arguments that attempt to slide in premises that are demonstrably false. For example, that somehow all employees are the best and the brightest in what ever role the fill. Or that students do not have an investment in their own success. Or my favorite, that an employee can be fired at will for practically anything. Sorry my friend, all of the faulty premises you come up with result in an overall argument lacking any credibility what so ever.

Don't even get me started on the ridiculous idea of having a union for teachers. Talk about a way to breed incompetence.

How about this challenge. Let any parent who wishes to send their student to a private school opt out of public education and use their dollars to pay for an education of their choosing. If the system we have in place today is so good, there should be no worries about a little competition with the "real" world.

ME said...

EDK - oh how I've missed ya!

I thought my guest was unfair too. What a sweeping statement! "A REAL job?"

To Quote Winnie the Pooh, "Oh Bother."

Guest, Anonymous, Or Jill - Your writing is very strong. One pointer for you though is that you could do with a thesis statement. I'm having a hard time following your writing. You have strong opinions - so that will help you as you progress as a writer. You seem to use your mechanics well- good spelling, grammar, and punctuation. It's a good idea to sign your name to your thoughts - it does give you more credibility. I hope you continue to write as your concerns in the world are always valid. B+ - Mrs. Aakhus

Anonymous said...

Thank you ME for the writing pointers, I will do my best to take them to heart.

Jason, you are an interesting blend of confusion and irony. I am fascinated that you actually put together the sentence "Many (dare I say most) of us do not feel the need to insult people in order to get our point across."

Actually, I suspect your previous post was simply what psychologists call "reflection" and that you are an experienced troll. But, I will forgo my better judgment and respond anyway, simply because you seem to be interested in the right pursuit, but clearly confused how to get there.

So, using the earlier suggestion, here is my premise. Education has suffered dramatically from group control, i.e. government and unions. And the remedy is to wrestle control of this institution from these entities.

Yep, that is it in total. The fundamental problem is that government and unions are both very good at what they do, but neither is interested in kids or education. Government is really just concerned with getting elected again. Unions are interested in getting higher pay and benefits, even the teachers union. This is a little cloudy for many since their favorite ploy is to hold up the children when begging for more money for education. Never mind that there is absolutely no connection between more money and better education.

The result of this mess is a very expensive education system that delivers terrible results. And they are declining. Do good teachers exist? Of course. But, on the flip side, are all teachers fantastic? Again, of course not.

A very unfortunate casualty of government and unions is competition, and that is the key ingredient in driving out efficiency (economic) and effectiveness (results). In this regard, I believe that education and business react identically.

Jason, you are close to getting it right when you articulate that control has to be relocated. But, to put it in a different level of government, well that is really not a change at all. Schools need to be a product of the community, and if they are private, well now we are talking. Without question the cost of education would drop, the process would become much more efficient, and the students would have better outcomes. My proof? Why do you think teachers union fight so vehemently against real change?

One last point for Jason. Your comments really do not insult me, so fire away if they make you feel better. Or call me names. Or, maybe even try to find an original way in your attempt to marginalize me. There is no clearer indication that my points are spot on and you cannot respond intelligently to defend your position.

With that, I do enjoy your posts. It is a good read when one sentence professes your support of the Libertarian party, and the next suggests more government. Makes me think you just don't get it.

But, I will stop. This is getting snippy, and I really don't mean to insult you needlessly.

-anon

TeacherScribe said...

Anonymous,

I've enjoyed the debate, the personal barbs aside from both sides.

"Schools need to be a product of the community, and if they are private, well now we are talking. Without question the cost of education would drop, the process would become much more efficient, and the students would have better outcomes. My proof? Why do you think teachers union fight so vehemently against real change?"

This is interesting because the nation's biggest change agent in secondary education - Michelle Rhee - is a major advocate of high stakes testing to hold her teachers in Washington, DC accountable. She is hammering out a contract with the DC union that could possible do away with tenure. Teachers can choose the 'green' track and forgo their tenure. If they do this, they will get an automatic increase in pay of around 20 percent. If their students' scores go up at the highest level of achievement, their pay could go up even more. In the end, a teacher at the top of the scale now - making around 70,000 could - if they forgo tenure and get the highest test scores - they could easily double their salary.

But this deal is three years in the making, so we'll see how it all comes out.

I mention Rhee not only because she is a high stakes testing advocate, but she absolutely argues that control of a school must rest not with a community elected school board but be in control of the mayor. She argues that when you have a good mayor (as she supposedly does with Adrian Fenty) you don't have to worry about any personal agendas that clutter up school boards from getting anything done.

She too supports charter schools. They serve as good competition for her public schools. What I really like about her approach here is that she realizes (and this is something not covered by high stakes tests or national standards) that variety is the key. If your child wants an excellent technical education, find a school that works for you. If you want a total language immersion school, there are options. If you want a liberal arts education . . . well, you've got the idea.

I guess we'll see how the DC schools do. Maybe they'll be a blue print for true school reform.

Besides these observations, though, I have a question - could you clarify private schools accomplish all of the things you claim. I'm not saying that they can't. I just would like to know more about this.

ME said...

Good question Teacherscribe!

By the way, we had a Catholic private school in town, and it closed down due to lack of funding and students. It's sad to see it go because both schools worked well together, and there was a certain amount of competition.

As a new teacher, I was constantly being evaluated. I bet my principal was in my room at least once a week. Teaching is my second career. This has been only one of my REAL jobs. This career has been the most scrutinized evaluation I have ever received... and it should be of course.

I've had some real lemons as teachers. I mean - real lemons - If I wrote about them, I would write forever. Anon, I bet you had some real lemons too?

As a new teacher, I wasn't too active in the union, but the one thing I liked about the union is that it gave the administration accountability. Instead of one lonely teacher bringing up an issue - we could put out the question without ramifications of being fired or poorly evaluated. - I've never seen our particular union protect ineffective teachers - but we were a small union - Our administration and union had great communication and common sense was always common.

I remember when I first heard about "No Child Left Behind." I thought "What a marvelous idea! Keeping our youth in step to a high standard."

The reality of it set in though when I saw all the tests my girls were taking. Bummer.

Usually, I write about happy little things. I'm not the most controversial writer. I don't like "No Child Left Behind." I guess that's the most controversial I get. I was taken off-guard when Anon implied I didn't have a REAL job. I got a bit snippy.

ME said...

But you didn't answer Teacherscribe's question.

dbkliv said...

Jill - I don't understand why you post from behind the cloak of anonymity, instead of owning your opinions.

I don't see any need to respond further to Anonyjill. Take this a polite refusal to pepper my friend's blog with vitriol, or as abdication of my rhetorical position: whichever you prefer.

TeacherScribe said...

Just looking for some clarification. Not looking for a fight or duel. Just looking for lively debate (which this most certainly has been).

"Besides, all of this feel good non-sense and judging student based on how they feel about themselves is how the United States has arrived at some of the worst test scores amongst advanced countries." (I submit, where is your evidence? This is a generalization. United States students are tested more than any other kids on the planet - particularly by the fact that we attempt to educate all students - something China and India conveniently avoid).

"Something else to think about. How do we decide whether or not to accept a student in a particular college. Test scores." (Not true. GPA is a huge factor. Letters of recommendation and college entrance essays are vital too. In a PBS doc on higher ed called "Declining by Degrees" a crew looked at Amherst's admissions. They said if the applicant came from a wealthy background, SAT's were vital. These kids had access to everything and better show a high score. But if students came from less than ideal circumstances, then SAT's were not nearly that great of factor when compared to their body of work as students).

"Do teachers make a difference? If so, then show us by making failing students successful and then claim your reward. At the same time, those who are not good at teaching should be redirected into a new profession. Why would we want anything less for our children?" (couldn’t agree with you more here)

TeacherScribe said...

"And the idea that students are not individually invested in their success shows a complete disconnect between reality, or a willing departure simply to try and defend the indefensible. And spare me the singular example and try to highlight that as evidence of the behavior of the majority." (this is incomprehensible to me. What exactly are you trying to claim here?)

"The clear fact of the matter is that some students are highly invested in their success, and some are not, but in general most students have a very real interest in doing well." (not true. Students often view high school simply as a social gathering. Hence the popularity of the Facebook fan page “I don’t go to school to learn; I go to school to be with my friends.” I’m not blaming kids for this. But many don’t show up eager to learn or even challenge themselves. Because of our tired education system (where teachers lecture instead of challenging kids to actually think) kids tend to be conditioned to just show up and zombie-walk through their classes. But that is a component of testing more than anything).

"In other cases, the student's parents push them towards success, for example when children are young." (there is no example just a phrase)

"This does not cover every student, but your attempt to paint them all as little mindless animals who do not care a bit about their own success is very sad. What does that say about you?" (them all as mindless animals? This is silly hyperbole).

"Don't even get me started on the ridiculous idea of having a union for teachers. Talk about a way to breed incompetence." (generic claim. Submit evidence.)

"Never mind that there is absolutely no connection between more money and better education." (offer proof. Check the college apps for the kids from Edina verse the ones from Mahnomen. Money doesn’t solve everything, especially in education. But when budgets are continually slashed and programs cut (especially to the liberal arts), then education does suffer. A wealth of healthy programs simply offer kids a greater chance to tap into their passions. Finding one’s passion tends to lead to a richer, fuller life (see the work of Ken Robinson or the psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyl)

"The result of this mess is a very expensive education system that delivers terrible results. And they are declining."

How so? Many think of the 1950s as a golden age for education in America, yet the graduation rates were about 50%. People slam schools for low literacy rates today, but when about half of your student body graduates, you can’t tell me literacy rates were off the charts! A person - such a my father who never graduated high school - could quite easily find a labor intensive job and provide for their family. That is not the economic reality we live in today. The world we need to prepare kids for is far more complex than what existed even 25 years ago (search engine optimizers, new media consultants, data analysts, e-marketing all are new fields). That’s not an excuse on the part of schools, though you might claim it to be. Rather, it is the call for more money needed to fund ever increasingly technical programs at the high school level. There is one reason so many of my friends out in this mythical ‘real’ world have to go to more training or schooling as part of their jobs (and it’s not that they weren’t equipped with a decent education), rather it’s because their jobs are so technically demanding. If anything, schools cut back on programs that might aid in this because the high stakes tests focus on the basics. Show me a high stakes test on the skills needed for search engine optimizers or e-marketing and I’ll reconsider my stance on them.

Anonymous said...

This is not the best format for a discussion of this type, it is difficult to comment on each and every point.

First, money and education. Every study comparing dollars spent per student vs grades shows that increasing money does not improve scores. You raise the issue about Edina vs. Manohmen, but this analogy is meaningless here. For example, why do Asian kids do better in school on average? The point is that there are many factors, like parent participation, that affect the outcomes. So, the most valid way to test money vs. results is to take a class, note their test scores, increase the spending on the same students, and look at the outcome. Each time this has been done, there is no improvement.

http://simplecomplexity.net/education-achievement-data/

Onto the singular argument explanation. It may be better to just call it an error in composition. (i.e. logic) When a group of test scores is offered to evaluate a teacher, to point out one under performing student, and then to implicate that result back to the group, is an error in composition. Any group will have some under performers, some over achievers, and many that fit in the middle. To say it is an unfair sampling because one person is under performing is a classic error in composition.

Final point. I find it fascinating that you take aim at schools from the 1950's for only graduating 50% of the students. (I have not confirmed that fact, but for now lets assume it is true.) But, a high school diploma in the 1950's meant something, and it would open doors for a variety of jobs. And not just manual labor. The graduation rates are higher today, but we have so watered down education that a high school diploma means nothing. It is not even a guarantee that the person can read! But, the graduation rates are higher. Is this really better?

We are teaching our kids about global warming and earth first, but they cannot do math. They learn how to put a condom on a banana, but they don't understand basic economics.

Maybe we would be better off sticking to reading, writing and math and graduating only those who can pass the test.

Kriss said...

Anonymous,
I do not understand your view of majorities in a school. That it is only the odd person in a group who does not care to try their hardest on these standardized tests. This conversation has pointed only to those who care and those who don’t. Or that those who can not perform are rare enough to leave behind as ‘natural selection.’
The situation isn’t so simple. What ever the motive for not performing in school, or for succeeding, there are more categories than can or won’t. It is seeing the school systems as percentages and majorities that we are failing to boost scores in the first place. I listen to all of the people so intent on reforming the educational system, but how deep is their research going? The standardized test scores? The percentage of students dropping out? Fine. Not once have I heard the question: why? Many assume, as you have, that there exist only two major categories. The Can Nots and Will Nots. You have stated that those who Will Not should be left to natural selection. Fine. A part of me agrees. But then, we are supposed to be the country of opportunities. We are not China, focusing all our energy on those who show promise and leaving the other children behind. Our system attempts to educate All. Lately, this plan seems to be failing. And no one seems interested in asking the reason. People among those who care about those who “don’t” have come up with some answers.
School is not for everyone. Why? Because, like yourself, a lot of people believe we should be focusing on Reading, Science, and Math. The staples of all life. There are those, like Ken Robinson, who believes we should be focusing on more. We can not invent the future without the creativity to think outside the box. Where does Science and Math teach you to think outside the laws of what has been decided? It is the band freaks, the choir cults, the theatrical lovers and artists that have been given this power. And yet, every day we cut funding for these classes, we turn on them and say, what have they done but allow the misfits to find an outlet? Robinson discusses the need of the creativity that spawns from the ‘optional’ classes(See his books The Element and Our of Our Minds).

Kriss said...

True, more people graduate from college now than in the 50’s, but this has also caused the job market to be a lot more competitive. Creativity sets a person out from the rest, whether their love for reading ten different newspapers a day, painting a picture, or an expertise in hacking computers, it inspires what will shape our future. Cutting these programs is a direct line to cutting into those who ‘Will Not’ learn. There are students who don’t do well in core classes because they do not connect with the subject matter. There are kids who don’t find school worth the effort because they haven’t been shown that, once finding something to care about, it is easier to work harder in other areas. To take away language classes, dance classes, creative writing and music classes is to take away the lifeline of those who will drop out. Of those who haven’t found their element, their reason for continuing education.
It was Steve Jobs that took a class on hieroglyphics in college to inspire the new look for computers when Apple first began. John Lennon was told in his band class that he didn’t have any musical talent. Gillian Lynne, creator of Cats and Phantom of the Opera was going to be put in to an institution because her teacher believed she was sick. She couldn’t sit still during class, while being taught her core classes. Turns out, all she wanted to do was dance. It was how she learned. By moving. We all learn different ways and from different sources. There is no majority of students. But maybe you are right. Maybe we should can ‘extra-curriculars’ and focus on science and math. After all, we need to catch up in the race to beat India. Right.
Getting back to the original point, I wish to provide a different point of view. Despite my disbelief, I will indulge this view of majorities for a moment. I have just graduated high school this past May, and I have to say that if memory serves, the ‘majority’ of kids in my grade never held much stock in state testing forced on us every year. Those who cared about school, myself among them, were not cheering when testing began. I can not begin to count the number of students complaining about missing a class discussion or an introduction to a new chapter in Pre-Calc. During lunch, after the tests, the halls would be filled with competitions of who managed to finish first and what they managed to catch in class. As for those who were less academically inclined, they cheered the interruption of class only to sit in the stifling hot (or mind numbingly cold) computer rooms with glazed looks. Alphabetically forced to sit next to one such person, I usually caught them playing the ‘roulette’ game. Hold down an arrow key, let go after a few rounds of A-B-C-D, and press ‘enter.’

Kriss said...

Getting back to the original point, I wish to provide a different point of view. Despite my disbelief, I will indulge this view of majorities for a moment. I have just graduated high school this past May, and I have to say that if memory serves, the ‘majority’ of kids in my grade never held much stock in state testing forced on us every year. Those who cared about school, myself among them, were not cheering when testing began. I can not begin to count the number of students complaining about missing a class discussion or an introduction to a new chapter in Pre-Calc. During lunch, after the tests, the halls would be filled with competitions of who managed to finish first and what they managed to catch in class. As for those who were less academically inclined, they cheered the interruption of class only to sit in the stifling hot (or mind numbingly cold) computer rooms with glazed looks. Alphabetically forced to sit next to one such person, I usually caught them playing the ‘roulette’ game. Hold down an arrow key, let go after a few rounds of A-B-C-D, and press ‘enter.’
And to represent that ‘odd’ person out, the one who cares about doing well no matter the test or situation, but still manages to fail, I give you . . . me. I’ve never been a fan of the government choosing to use multiple choice questions to judge the ability of students and the reflection the results hold to teachers. I am one of those who can know material like the back of my hand, but as soon as a multiple (or T/F) test is set in front of me, the silence of the room becomes unbearably loud and all I’ve ever learned deserts me. ‘A’ could just as well be ‘Z.’ I am a good student. A 4.0-GPA-college-class-taking- student. Knowing that my inability to conform to this type of test lands me with a less than desirable score that is being judged by the educational system irritates me. Knowing that my teachers are being judged on people like me (there are a lot more of us than you seem to want to acknowledge. I refuse to be left to natural selection), those who just want to get back to class, and yes, those who just don’t seem to care, makes me furious.

Kriss said...

You mentioned that students are capable of teaching themselves. I did when I took a class with a teacher who decided teaching wasn’t worth the effort anymore. Happily, the class was mostly common sense, and when this teacher handed out impossibly long packets of work, I spent hours to complete them outside of class. I then learned, after all my hard work, that we would be grading ourselves. Needless to say the worst grade of the class was a ‘B.’ That’s the kind of unruly teacher we need to get rid of. And because I taught myself all the material, as did many other students in the class, to be tested and then to give the results to someone saying, ‘look at what a great job that teacher is doing!’ is ridiculous. No where on a standardized test does it ask if I had a teacher gutsy enough to spend their tenure not teaching me what I needed to know.
Teachers need to be evaluated. But to do so through blindly relying on a group of students scores is not the best way. Yes, this way is probably one of the cheapest. But the price of educating today’s youths shouldn’t be. We need teachers worthy of teaching. We need a more personal look into the issue. We need more people.
The only way I know how terrible that teacher was, the one who gave up on us, was because I sat in the classroom and listened to the words, “I don’t care what you do in this class. I barely know the subject myself,” on a daily basis. I watched the head disappear behind a computer, the feet on the desk and the guitar in the hands. This teacher wasn’t with us, mentally or physically. I propose a solution: reviews. College professors in the area, the administrators, or government officials will do. These qualified people will sit in on a few classes per teacher, once a year or so. They will watch for how engaged the students seem (I propose more than one class per teacher so as to see if the teacher is inadequate or it is the group of students), see how much the teacher is willing to perform. So what if X amount of kids aren’t handing in tests or perform lousy on a computer state test? While evaluated, the official can see if the kids are taking anything away from the class, teacher, or lesson. Are they learning?
You want to grade a teacher? Make it personal. Majorities will only get our system so far. Everyone is different. We need to learn to focus on an individual before we can learn where the true problem with our education lay.

Kriss said...

The only way I know how terrible that teacher was, the one who gave up on us, was because I sat in the classroom and listened to the words, “I don’t care what you do in this class. I barely know the subject myself,” on a daily basis. I watched the head disappear behind a computer, the feet on the desk and the guitar in the hands. This teacher wasn’t with us, mentally or physically. I propose a solution: reviews. College professors in the area, the administrators, or government officials will do. These qualified people will sit in on a few classes per teacher, once a year or so. They will watch for how engaged the students seem (I propose more than one class per teacher so as to see if the teacher is inadequate or it is the group of students), see how much the teacher is willing to perform. So what if X amount of kids aren’t handing in tests or perform lousy on a computer state test? While evaluated, the official can see if the kids are taking anything away from the class, teacher, or lesson. Are they learning?
You want to grade a teacher? Make it personal. Majorities will only get our system so far. Everyone is different. We need to learn to focus on an individual before we can learn where the true problem with our education lay.

ME said...

Thanks for the comments Kriss! Very fun to read. Looks like you'll have a good start in college in the fall!

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Kriss-

When I referred to getting back to the basics I was not advocating getting rid of music, the arts, or computer science. What I am proposing is rid the schools of an indoctrination driven agenda where we teach absurd ideas like global warming or the theory of evolution. Or circumvent parents by teaching sex education and actually explain homosexuality, cross dressing, and transvestites to grade school children.

But sadly, our public schools are all about indoctrinating our youth with a liberal agenda. Want more proof, why do schools fight tooth and nail to keep out Intelligent Design or prayer? Don't waste my time with the usual shibboleths, instead do some research on your own and learn what is really behind this agenda.

I am also sorry that you are much smarter then most other people, but you cannot do well on a test because it is the tests fault?

When I went to school A's were only handed out to the very best student(s) in the class, and they were hard to get. Achieving and maintaining a 4.0 GPA was even more difficult, which made it impressive and therefore desirable. However, education these days is all about lowering the bar to make everyone feel good. When I attend graduation ceremonies and scan the class roster, there is always an entire list of students with a 4.0 GPA or BETTER! If the scale is 4.0, then how can you do better then a 4.0? I have heard the non-sense about college equivalent classes and so forth, but it makes no sense. If it is high school, and the scale goes to 4.0, then that should be the highest grade. If the student does college work, put it on his college transcript and grade it there.

This is a lot like the idea of giving 110%. We hear that all the time and my first question is, Did they ever have a math class? Does this mean those who give only 100% are slackers? Again, it is all about making people feel good.

If you eliminate the indoctrination in public schools and concentrate on the basics, and then give 110% on the tests, maybe your score will match your grades.

-anon

ME said...

Anon may not know Kriss - But I wonder if Anon knows me?

Personally, I don't know Kriss either.
Kriss did not say she was smarter than anyone else- but I can see from her? writing that she is a 4.0 student. She backs up her opinion with research - very methodically.

I'm thinking that Anon wasn't a 4.0 student because he (must be a he because he was insulted by the name 'Jill') is a little miffed about Kriss getting a 4.0 and puts that down to quote "When I went to school, very few people got A's, and even fewer were able to achieve and maintain a 4.0 grade average. Now when I attend a graduation, 20% of the class has a 4.0 or BETTER. What does that mean? Is this generation that much smarter? Hardly, it is another example where we have lowered the bar to make students feel better about themselves."

18 years ago I graduate with a 3.49. I wasn't in the top 50% of my class. I had a class of high-achievers. They all do very well in their professions and are valued members of the community.

The bottom half? Those other kids? They are doing well in the world too! Some of them went to trade school while some went right to work.

The grade scale didn't matter much to their "real" world jobs. Some of those kids graduated with a D average and make about $50,000 a year or more. (probably more - I don't ask)

And oh... out of a class of 50, we have at least four who are teachers. Out of those four, three are English teachers.

TeacherScribe said...

Anon,

It’s kind of hard to miss your ‘context’ when you have the subtlety of a Howitzer. Where to begin? Or have we concluded? Which it seems to me we have since you’re mind is set as stone. Always has been and always will be.

Or am I missing your context?

In the spirit of true discourse and not just ranting (where people with opposing view points cannot concede or compromise. They’d rather just dig in and not concede anything. This, unfortunately, passes for discourse in our culture today).

TeacherScribe said...

Here is where I agree with you -

First, teaching needs to be improved. As Michelle Rhee has stated again and again, most recently in the documentary “Teached” - “if a student has three highly effective teachers in a row, their life outcomes are drastically changed.” The more highly effective teachers who challenge and engage students - rather than just lecture and have kids regurgitate information on tests - the better off students will be.

Second, grade inflation is a problem. I was part of a group called “RU Ready” (never liked the title, but I didn’t come up with that) that included high school writing teachers and college professors. Our task was to analyze several hundred high school sophomore papers to see if they were ‘college’ ready. While doing this, the group highlighted some of the problems why college freshman writers were struggling. The first thing we discussed was how ‘the C is the new D.’ The next problem was ‘helicopter parents’ who - as the title suggests - hover over both teacher and student (I see this at conferences when I hand out grade reports and parents gloss over all the high marks on their child’s report and they focus on the one D or F (or even C) that is on there. I happen to think that it’s perfectly natural for students to NOT earn A’s on every thing. But parents don’t see it that way). Schools are to blame for this, but not solely (that’s not a cop out either).

Third, students need to master the basics. As you concluded at the end of one post, “Maybe we would be better off sticking to reading, writing and math and graduating only those who can pass the test.” And that is exactly what we do. There are basic skills tests in place for written composition, reading, math, and science. Students must pass these in order to graduate.

Fourth, teachers have to be held accountable for student learning. If teachers aren’t getting students to learn and grow, then they have to be terminated.

Fifth, our society as a whole has indoctrinated people to believe that just because they try, they deserve or trophy or reward (that’s how I view your comment on “all about making people feel good.” I’m not one to advocate just because you attend class that you earn a grade. So just because you put in the effort, doesn’t mean you have to feel good or be given an A). One of my favorite lines on this comes from the film “The Incredibles,” where the mother tells her son, who is incredibly fast, that he cannot show of his superior powers because everyone is ‘special’ - and he laments, “that is just another way of saying that no one is.” I agree that we’ve become so worried about making people feel bad or offending them, that we like to make everyone feel good. Hence, elementary and middle school graduations (I think President Obama was spot on when he criticized such things). Hence, trophies for third, fourth, and fifth place at elementary athletic events.

But is this the school’s fault? The ‘make people feel good’ thing certainly surfaces there, but is it the sole entity to blame? 60 Minutes ran a great piece on this new generation, called Millennials, and they delve into how they gained this attitude of “Me First” (such as believing they automatically should get their birthdays off and have their work schedule revolve around their personal schedule - you won’t believe how many parents have no problem with their children missing school around prom to go shopping, tan, and get their hair done) and “You have to like me and make me feel important” (such as having parents (mainly mothers) call to argue with bosses (or professors) over job evaluations). Never once did 60 Minutes mention schools as a cause. But this attitude has seeped into schools. This is a complex problem and just blaming the schools is not going to get us anywhere.

I think it’s quite sad how we have focused just on success. This is flawed, for we don’t learn nearly as much from success as we do from failure. But failure is stigmatized in our culture. Who’s to blame for that one?

TeacherScribe said...

Here is where I disagree with you -

* Evaluation should not rest solely with basic skills (fill in the bubble) tests. Neither teachers nor students should be held accountable just on these. As stated in a previous post, no where in the REAL world are workers held accountable just on one test or task. Even the businesses in the REAL world are telling us that students must work as a team and have the ability to adapt and think outside the box. Tests don’t take that into account. For minimum proficiencies, I have little problem with these cheap bubble tests. But let’s not end the evaluation there.

* A high school diploma means nothing. I hope you’re striving for hyperbole here. Just try to find a job without a high school diploma. My father never graduated from high school (late 1950’s), but because of a simpler work force at the time, he was able to provide for his family just on his lone salary. But that is not the knowledge based economy that we live in today. It’s getting to be that a college degree is necessary for the majority of jobs. And it’s impossible to get the latter without the former. So the ‘means nothing’ I think is hyperbole.

You state, “We are teaching our kids about global warming and earth first, but they cannot do math. They learn how to put a condom on a banana, but they don't understand basic economics.” Now the global warming and condom on a banana foolishness aside, one reason students don’t understand basic economics is that we are spending too much time focusing on the basics (again, because of the high stakes testing and the fact that too much emphasis is placed on them). Economics - as curriculum is currently set up - is an elective. What are the first things to get cut so we can have more basic classes to keep the test scores up? The electives. We had a phenomenal business elective here called DECA. Students studied business and competed with other schools. Yet, this was cut several years ago because there wasn’t enough money to fund it. But you’ll never see basic classes cut.

TeacherScribe said...

It just seems to me (and I could be way off here), but all of your prejudices and axes to grind just distract from your main points.

First, you unwisely dismiss any comparison that you cannot easily explain away or rebut.

Second, you make absurd claims . . . such as “every study comparing dollars spent per student vs grades shows that increasing money does not improve scores.” Really. Every study. You and Arnie Duncan must stay up at night crunching those numbers, eh?

Third, don’t even get you going on the idea of unions. Why? Are you and Glenn Beck having a conference call on union bashing and you have it all figured out? I’m not saying unions are not without their faults (I actually think tenure for teachers is not the best option for achieving excellence). But if unions breed mediocrity, then why aren’t the states without unions blowing the others out of the water? Why is Finland, a country with a very, very strong union, among the best in terms of education in the world?

Fourth, where does your axe grinding about a liberal agenda fit in? Global warming and evolution? Really. I suppose you posit that the earth is but a few thousand years old and that Noah’s Ark was large enough to house the dinosaurs? Please wow us with your theories on how “these can easily be shown to be cover for pushing a liberal agenda.” Please show us this supposed proof or knowledge at your disposal that you are just waiting to unleash on us. We are waiting.

TeacherScribe said...

Fifth, are you a victim of the myth of nostalgia where everything was better when you were younger? Where is your proof for this? We all - at one point or another - fall victim to this. I mean we can find quotes from Plato lamenting how the younger generation is causing the world to go to hell in a hand basket. It sure has hasn’t it? If you are really into this, check out Mark Methabane’s recent book “The Dumbest Generation.” I used it in my College Comp II course last year. Honestly, I think you’d really like it.

I don’t know what graduation you attended, but 20 percent of our graduating class did not earn 4.0’s. In fact, out of a class of 150, 12 had 4.0s.

I don’t know if one can claim that teaching is superior to what it was 30-50 years ago. But that’s exactly what a local businessman did when I was talking with him the other day. Having visited several schools in the area over the past few years, he noted how the teaching he saw was far superior to the high school education he was offered in the late 1970’s (teachers just didn’t lecture or throw kids around). That’s just one person’s opinion. I won’t attempt to pass that off as a fact. But blindly saying the schools are failing is not the entire story.

A lot has been improved. Just ask a parent at your place of work what it’s like helping their kids with their math home work. I think you’d be quite surprised at the advanced math being taught. “I never even had this in high school!” is what I often hear from parents of middle school and early high school students. Likewise, there is a far greater emphasis on teaching reading than there was even 10 years ago. Grade inflation is a problem. But I’d rather deal with that than half the class dropping out to work (as was common up through the 1970’s).

Sixth, schools are lowering the bar to make everyone feel good? Please. Stop this now. Or please elaborate with more than your “I know this for a fact” reasoning. Students need more credits than ever to graduate from LHS. Not only that, but there is more emphasis than ever on computer and language skills, something that was not in place even 20 years ago. And what do you have against a 4.0 GPA or 4.0 plus GPA? I was just listening to a podcast featuring the admission director for Amherst. Granted, it’s an elite liberal arts college, but the first place they look is for students with those 4.0 plus GPAs. It’s not the only thing they look for, but it’s the start. I can’t imagine Amherst being alone in this.

Plus, why should a student who chooses to take the most advanced classes (AP, College in the High School classes, and College Prep) be rewarded when compared to students who just played it safe by taking basic classes to maintain their perfect GPAs?

TeacherScribe said...

Seventh, your belief that somehow teaching is not a ‘real’ job and that we are elitists for questioning the high stakes evaluation method is simply unfair.

I guess this is the main point where we differ. You want to hinge everything on one test; I have no problem with testing, I just want a wider view of a student and their abilities to hinge everything on. Judge me on my students growth. Fine. Just don’t limit that judgement to one finite test (that they may or may not have tried their best on). Look at student samples of work (this is one reason the ‘portfolio’ method of writing is popular in composition). Look at their engagement (are they talking about the class at home. Are they retaining what they learn through engagement as opposed to route memorization? Be honest here - how many tests in college or high school did you ‘cram’ for and then have all that information ooze out your ear as you walked out of class. That’s not learning. It might get a great score on a test, but I don’t think it passes for learning.) Look at community involvement through the class (one major mistake we make in schools is not adequately allowing students to see how the skills they learn in our class will help them in the real world. This means working with local businesses. We are currently working with “Impact 20/20” (a group of business people and community members) to do just that. I’d love, for example, in my College Comp II class to have my students do technical writing for Digi Key or Arctic or Bergan Travel. All of this can be used to judge their skills and my ability. And it has real world impact. I’d take this over the 9th grade BST writing test any day.

I have enjoyed the debate here. It has been lively and quite entertaining.

Anonymous said...

ME, maybe we should just have you hand out grades to everyone based on a few paragraphs of writing. But, I wonder what kind of a grade your own writing or arguments would receive?

"Kriss did not say she was smarter than anyone else-"

Really? I am sure I read;

"I am a good student. A 4.0-GPA-college-class-taking- student."

Gee, kind of sounds to me like she is saying she is at the top of her class, a 4.0 is the top right, which is saying she is smarter then a lot of people.

Funny how tests are unfair in some instances, yet when Kriss wants to establish her intelligence in an argument, she jumps right to "I am a good student. A 4.0...."

It is not enough to say, "I am a good student". Why is that? I think we all know why, because throwing in the 4.0 reference is an attempt to bring credibility to the argument. Instead, this usually shows concern that the argument cannot stand on its own. Or, is this an indicator that I am supposed to jump in with my GPA? My credentials? Accomplishments?

And I am really intrigued that you are able to deduce my GPA, not from my writing like you did with Kriss, but from statements about GPA's that exceed 4.0 on 4.0 scale. And, you try to impune my argument by remarking that my GPA must have been less then 4.0.

I really hope you don't grade papers or schoolwork. But I digress.

My point still stands. How can you get higher then a 4.0 on a 4.0 scale? You cannot, the scale is actually 0 to 4.5 or whatever the highest achievable GPA might be. Which means, if you receive a 4.0 on a true 4.0 scale, that is a better accomplishment then a 4.0 on scale that really goes to 4.5. Right?

I am also well aware that grades do not equate with money. And that should be obvious to everyone. And equally obvious, simply being a teacher does not make one smart either. You state that of a class of 50, 3 or 4 went on to be teachers. What is the point?

And before I get your rath, being a teacher obviously does not make one dumb either. It simply makes them a teacher.

Anonymous said...

TeacherScribe-

I really enjoy your posts even though the sheer volume is difficult to digest in this forum. Maybe you and I should start a point/counter point blog and address each item one at a time. ;-)

You are clearly passionate about your profession, and as best as I can tell, care about your students. I wish every teacher had those traits. I also wish that education was in the private sector so that you could teach and evaluate in a manner that best suited your particular students. And that ideas and approaches could be evaluated by parents by how they chose to spend their educational dollars.

But the unfortunate fact is that education is controlled by the government, who I do not trust, and teachers unions who do not have the best interest of the students. The result is an education system that is broken.

I really think that much of our disconnect may be environmental. I am assuming that you teach in a smaller school vs. a large inner city school. Is that the case? I apologize if this is an errant assumption.

Most of my positions come from looking at inner city schools who spend nearly $15,000 per student per year, and yet have graduation rates below 50%. The schools have violence and guns, drugs, alcohol, and we hand out condoms and hold classes to teach student deviant sexual behavior and call it sex education. But mention the word God and the entire government apparatus will come down on you along with the ever complicit media. Strange world.

Which brings me to your Noah's Ark statement. Are you trying to imply that if I believe in God, that I am intellectually deficient? I hope not. I would issue one challenge to you. Have you ever heard about a educational course called "Surprised by Faith"? It is a course written by a scientist who set out to prove that God did not exist using his scientific methodologies. An attempt to put and end to this nonsense once and for all. (his words, not mine). However, his journey lead him down a surprising path (thus the title) and he documented every step. I know it is easy to pull out a Noah's Ark reference, and that is your choice. But, if you want to be intellectually honest, then you should spend the time to explore this information.

Anonymous said...

On to your final point about where we differ. I don't think one test is the best way to judge a student. But, I am very concerned that bad teachers are allowed to churn out under equipped students year after year, and there is seemingly no recourse. In smaller towns and schools, this is not the epidemic type problem that it is in inner city schools. The unions insulate the teachers, so they don't care. The parents are either out of the picture, or strung out, so they don't care. The government simply wants to fill out forms and go through the motions so they get their money, so they don't care. We spend more and more money, the union grows and teachers salaries increase but the results continue to decline. This is a serious problem. It is systemic, and it is ingrained.

How can we compete in the world if our students are not well educated? How can we improve education without accountability? And why do we continue to throw more and more money at a system that is quite simply broken.

The real solution is to privatize the schools. Competition is good, and it will yield better results. Good teachers can excel, and good schools will reap financial rewards. And we will all benefit from a better caliber high school graduate.

So, I am not so keen on a single test. I am keen on the idea of evaluating teachers as a first step to reintroduce accountability. It is not perfect, but we have to start somewhere.

-anon

BTW- I don't live in the past, and I am unsure why you think that I am the "victim of the myth of nostalgia". I will freely admit that some things were better, and some were worse. The biggest concern in my day was some kid bringing a bottle of booze into prom, now I see metal detectors at the doors. In that regard, they were certainly simpler times. On the flip side, the educational tools were simply books and blackboards, now schools have computers and smart boards with instant access to staggering amount of information instantaneously.

ME said...
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Anonymous said...

Anon said:

"How can you get higher then a 4.0 on a 4.0 scale?"

You can by using than rather than then.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
TeacherScribe said...

Anon,

I too enjoy this. I think we're going to set a record for the longest response ever to a blog post. That's a good thing though. Discourse - intelligent discourse - is often hard to come by.

I couldn't agree more with you on inner city schools. They need massive reforms. This is but one reason I am fascinated by the reform efforts of Michelle Rhee in Washington DC and Paul Vallas in New Orleans, as well as the efforts of Teach For America. I urge you to check out the podcasts on them at Learning Matters.com. Quite interesting stuff there.

Rhee, especially, is all for high stakes testing to hold teachers accountable. And I can't fault her for that one, given some of the horrors that occur in such a large urban district (she shares one account where her 'team' of administrators found two errors on the part of a special ed teacher that wound up resulting in two students being sent out of the district. The teacher didn't fill out a form correctly. Those two errors resulted in a $250,000 bill for the Washington DC district! And because of tenure - as well as administrative procedures (such as failure to observe and document teachers) - she was unable to fire this teacher. So she put her on paid (yes, ‘paid’) leave. Rhee figured that paying her $40,000 to stay home was cheaper than allowing her to make errors that amounted to millions of dollars!

Now, I think we can all safely say a system like this is nuts. And has to be changed (and I honestly believe that before she’s through, Rhee will have changed it. And her system will serve as a model for school reform across the nation).

TeacherScribe said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
TeacherScribe said...

I - like you - once thought that the privatization of education was the answer. I thought that way for a good three or four years, but I’ve swung the other way on this one. I certainly don’t object to private schools or charters for that matter. Competition is good. Both Rhee and Vallas are charter supporters (Rhee because if a charter does it better, than she wants what is best for kids; Vallas because, well, he’d close all public schools and make them all charters if her could - and given the poverty and low abilities of his schools in New Orleans, who can blame him?).

I agree with Rhee here. I’m all for variety. Let’s have public schools, but let’s give kids options to go to small liberal arts private/charter schools. Or if theres’ a school that is a total language immersion school, and parents want to send their kids there, awesome. Or if there’s a great technical school (public, private, or charter), then that’s great too.

I put in the comment on nostalgia because it seemed to me (as a generalization) that you seemed to always reflect on your past experiences, and I wrongly assumed that you might be one of us who constantly think things were better in our past (Leon Botstein discusses how the older people get the more removed the obviously come from their own pasts, and, as a result, they tend to romanticize the past. Thus, I hear a lot about how ‘my generation’ worked so much harder that this new generation and how ‘my generation’ had better values and on and on and on).

TeacherScribe said...

I did not mean to imply that you are intellectually deficient. That is not the case. I was just wondering - since you dismissed the issues of global warming and evolution - that you might be - oh, I don’t know the word for it - an ‘extreme fundamentalist’ so to speak. Such as my friend who recently graduated from Liberty and who believes that Noah’s Ark was large enough to house dinosaurs.

I’m not dismissing God. I am Catholic and believe in God. But I don’t discount the theory of evolution any more than I discount the idea that there is a God. The book you mentioned sounds intriguing and I’ll add it to my SSR list for the school year. Thanks.

In fact, I’m all for teaching evolution in our schools, and I’m also for teaching religion. I actually teach quite a bit of religion when I get to teach British Lit. I mean how can you talk about England without the Church of England and Henry VIII? How can you not talk about Henry VIII and not talk about his divorce which resulted in Henry breaking away from the Catholic church? How can you read The Canterbury Tales without knowing religion?

Neil Postman in his wonderful book, The End of Education (I’ll read “Surprised by Faith” if your read “The End of Education”), actually calls for teaching religion. In fact, he thinks all major religions should be taught. But that’s a subject for another post (I’m writing it now for my blog, actually).



I do not teach in a large urban school. I teach in a local school of about 700 kids. And I am passionate and have the best job in the world.

This has been a most enjoyable experience. I wish I got close to this type of feedback on my blog. And I’d love to have each student have their own blog and come close to an educational experience like this one.

ME said...

Bummer - I published a comment and deleted it. Sometimes, the high road is very hard to take.

Just so you know, anon, anyone can use your name since it's so vague and pretty much post anything on here and claim it's you.

And they have.

Teachersribe said...

enure should not protect terrible teachers. Instead (and I don’t know what it’s original intent was - well, yes, I do - it was to protect teachers . . . as a teacher, I’m all for that, but somehow it has also come to shield terrible teachers and to reward the most senior of teachers. I’m not sure those are right, and I’d be open to see changes to that part of tenure) it should give them a certain level of protection so that they can’t simply be fired because a principal or parent has a grudge. However, even with tenure, administrators can - through observations and documentation - work to remove a bad teacher. It’s not easy and it’s not pleasant. But it can be done.

The problem comes when a principal is in charge of a giant school. How could he or she have time to observe their teachers properly enough to evaluate them correctly. Even in our relatively small school, our new principal came into my room, pointed at his evaluation sheet, which revealed that the last time I had been evaluated by the former principal was 2006. Then he asked, “This has to be a joke?” I had to tell him that it wasn’t.

Another problem that Rhee found was that a majority of her administrators were - in her words - ‘conflict averse.’ They just didn’t want to get teachers mad at them. That is as ridiculous as a teacher stating that they weren’t going ahead with a certain lesson or novel because they didn’t want to make a parent mad.

Rhee has replaced dozens upon dozens of principals. Once that leadership is in place, she now has worked hard to really hold her teachers accountable through principal evaluations and test scores.

Honestly, I can live with that reform in miserable schools (rural or urban). I mean it can’t be worse than what was already in place.

(accidentally deleted) oops


Posted by TeacherScribe to Minnesotalady at August 4, 2010 3:56 PM

Anonymous said...

Anon said:

"How can you get higher then a 4.0 on a 4.0 scale?"

Anon2 said:
You can by using than rather than then.

Anon said:
Touche'

Anonymous said...

ME said:
Bummer - I published a comment and deleted it. Sometimes, the high road is very hard to take.

Just so you know, anon, anyone can use your name since it's so vague and pretty much post anything on here and claim it's you.

And they have.

Anon:
Thank you for the heads up. I appreciate it. Even so, sometimes it is better to remain unknown.

Anonymous said...

TeacherScribe said:
Neil Postman in his wonderful book, The End of Education (I’ll read “Surprised by Faith” if your read “The End of Education”), actually calls for teaching religion. In fact, he thinks all major religions should be taught. But that’s a subject for another post (I’m writing it now for my blog, actually).

Anon:
That sounds fair to me. I will look for the book and give it a whirl.

I hope you understand that I know education is difficult and that there a lot of good teachers. I unfortunately had only one, and that includes all of my high school education and many years of college.

I am very concerned for our youth. Our schools need to be better, but all I hear is that more money will make it better. And it does not. I see education drifting from the things that are important, to things that I think are political in natures only. This includes global warming and earth day. It includes evolution, and the prevention of intelligent design. It include sex education, and the need for schools to teach my children that things like homosexuality or cross dressing are as normal as heterosexuality.

I do not agree with these things, and those that do, would be equally offended if I decided that student had to learn my positions. I get that. The real solution is to get that stuff out of the schools and back into the parents hands. Instead, I spend all my time deprogramming my kids from the "education" they are getting at school. When schools operate in this realm it is no longer education, it is indoctrination.

How long would I last teaching kids that homosexuality is a sin. That cross dressing is wrong. That the idea of the world originating from a big bang requires faith, even more faith then believing in a God. To me, and many like myself, the existence of God is irrefutable, and there is proof all around us every day. And further, evolution is nothing more then a way to comfort those who have not, or have chosen not to find God.

Those views are mainstream in many households in America, but what would happen if I tried to teach these ideas in a public school? Yet evolution, global warming, and perverted sexuality is freely taught and discussed.

Schools need to get on track with education, throw out the indoctrination, and get teachers and staff that are accountable.

Is that too much to ask for?

-anon

Kriss said...

Right. Didn't think this would be taken out of context, but here goes. My only reasoning in stressing my 'good student, "4.0 GPA college class taking student"' had a point. I am aware of grade inflation. There you are. I stated that I take college classes because I sat through a senior awards banquet where half the kids took classes like knitting to get their high grades. I wasn't indulging in my ego, nor was I attempting to convey that I hold myself higher than anyone else. It was a point I didn't want to go into because I didn't want to detract from my original point. I'm sorry for the confusion.

Also: it is possible to achieve higher than a 4.0 because of taking AP classes while in high school. I know that if I had passed my pre-calc class with an A rather than a B, I would have had a 5.0. AP classes have a higher scale of ranking.

Anonymous said...

Kriss:

Right. Didn't think this would be taken out of context, but here goes. My only reasoning in stressing my 'good student, "4.0 GPA college class taking student"' had a point.

Anon:

Right again. I expected my words to be mischaracterized and you have not disappointed.

Now, do this discussion a favor by going back and reading my entire post. I understand how a GPA of 4.0 can be exceeded with AP classes. I stated as much, but I still think it is wrong. Score the high school classes on a 4.0 scale, and hand out a separate report card for AP classes. If you are still worried about ranking, then have the school rank the difficulty of each class to set the class ranking.

Oh, and save the "I bragged about my grades and how tough my classes were simply to convey a point, not to brag". Your need to establish credibility anyway you can is understood, so stand by your words and try not to bore us with transparent arguments.

TeacherScribe said...

You make a very good point with the paradox in schools - popular culture has infiltrated our schools (as you point of with homosexuality and cross dressing). I see your point when you claim that if you taught your values in school, that would raise an uproar.

That’s a legitimate point. I too often have to ‘deprogram’ my daughter from her school. Maybe ‘deprogram’ is a bit strong. We certainly discuss what she learns and then I often bring up other arguments about the info she has been taught. But I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing.

One of my more enjoyable teaching moments was having a pastor’s daughter in class (who is now in graduate school to become an English professor). She was telling me how she enjoyed The Da Vinci Code.

“What does your father thing of that?” I asked.

“Oh, he thinks it’s foolish,” she said with a smirk

“What do you think?” I asked.

“I think it’s important to question our beliefs.”

It was hard for me to argue with that. I think at their best - schools should challenge us to question our beliefs (and through questioning either strengthen or alter them).

I’m sad to hear that such a type of learning doesn’t occur with your kids in their public school.

But I also don’t think parents should have to do it on a regular basis, as it seems you do. You make a valid point.

I think to a great extent, public schools become a reflection of the public, popular culture. Right or wrong. Hopefully, through parent involvement and discussions, a common ground can be had.

But that doesn’t stop debate or painful experiences.

I’m still for a tolerance of various view points and ideas. Postman makes this point too in his book, “The End of Education.” But I never thought about it in terms of indoctrination. But I will now.

However, you do make a good point with your statement - “The real solution is to get that stuff out of the schools and back into the parents hands. Instead, I spend all my time deprogramming my kids from the "education" they are getting at school.”

Final question - you mention having one good teacher in school and later in college. May I ask what you found good about this teacher? I’d like to know more about this individual.

Thanks

ME said...

I'd like to know about your one good teacher too.

I'm confused because when I read some of your comments it seems like we agree on a lot of things... I think you're saying you don't like big government, but in actuality, standardized testing has big government written all over it - I'm assuming you know that the "NO Child Left Behind" act was a bipartisan effort led by Kennedy and Bush.

I also agree with you that teachers shouldn't be so quick to preach ideology to students.
I don't tell kids what I believe because that's not fair, is it? I have twenty years (and more) on them... The teacher in the room has the advantage of age - I simply insist on students respecting each other - which is really hard -

Look at how hard it is for adults to show respect to others' differing opinions.

We've had a time of it ourselves.

Anonymous said...

I had many memorable teachers, but only one "good" one. Your question is an interesting to answer, namely what was it that made this teacher good. My first thought was that this would be a quick easy answer. But in reality there are a lot of facets to this answer.

First and foremost, he seemed to really care about the students and that we understood the material. He personalized the lesson with stories from his own life experience, many were embellished I am sure, but they were entertaining. It had a way of distracting the student into actually learning the underlying material. He taught history so this approach worked.

He also taught the material fully. He expected a lot from his students, and he believed that we could do ALL the work. And guess what, we did. And we all learned a lot more for it. I found it refreshing to be taught at the highest level possible, rather then slowing the pace of the material to a crawl so that those who did not care about learning could keep up.

And walking away with a good grade in his class felt really good because you knew that you had accomplished something. And he did too. He gave us respect, and a chance to earn his. And when you did, it was very rewarding.

I expect that my educational experience was very unique. I hope that having only one "good" teacher in all my years of school is very unusual. (including 10 yrs of college at 3 very respected universities) I guess I never really connected with any of my other teachers.

The life lessons I learned in those history classes have proven extremely valuable through out my career, and my work could not be further removed from history! But one lesson crosses all boundaries, mainly that getting respect is all about giving respect. And as a leader, respect is golden.

I know the obvious point to hop out of here next. I would be the first to admit that some of my dialog on this thread has been less then respectful. And in some/all cases it was intentional. I get frustrated with name calling (Jill) and other diversionary tactics instead of addressing points head on. Reading my comments, I think it is clear where this manifested itself.

I am not trying to open up any sore spots here, and I am not saying that all the dialog here was diversionary. Most of it has been enlightening, and I have enjoyed this conversation.

ME, you are right. I am not a fan of big government in any way shape or form. I would rather see private schools setting their own curriculum with input from the community and parents. And testing as they see fit. If the program falls short, then the parents can take their children (and dollars) elsewhere. To often a one size fits all distills down to covering the lowest common denominator. And that is not a good way to educate.

But, we do not have private schools. And parents cannot vote with their dollars and students. So we are forced into schools whether we like the agenda or not. In this environment the least that we should do is recognize good teachers, and weed out the bad ones. Standardized tests are a means to that end. I hate standardized tests, but I feel compelled to go along with them simply to have some way to evaluate educators.

-anon

dbkliv said...

Jill -

You say you get frustrated with diversionary tactics. Your occasional refocus on how I originally characterized you comes off as a diversionary tactic.

I've snipped a very long comment about how I came to name you Jill, and what I hoped combining that with the pronoun "he" would convey. Either the reader understands the choice I made there or she is offended. In the first case, explanation is extra words that need not bother the reader; in the second, an explanation of my choice will simply fall on blind eyes.

Feel free to solve the "Jill" problem by suggesting some other name that you like. I'll happily use it. Personally, when reading unthreaded responses like these, I find it helpful to know who is talking to whom.

Anonymous said...

dbkliv-

Yawn.

-anon