December 18, 2007
None Of The Above?
Today, the Seattle Times gave precious op-ed space
to this column by
Seattle teachers Jesse Hagopian and Vicky Jambor. Hagopian and Jambor begin with this multiple
What is ailing public education in America?
A) Chronic underfunding of public education;
B) Diversion of public monies away from the public schools in the form of vouchers and charter schools;
C) Blaming teachers for problems in education that stem from underfunding and oversized classes;
D) The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), which promotes charter schools and overvalued tests that punish
underfunded school districts;
E) All of the above.
Some observations: The Washington, D. C. schools spend very high amounts per pupil — and
get very poor results. One of the states that spends the least per student, Utah, has
some of the highest SAT scores. Japanese schools typically have larger classes than American
schools — and get better results. Academic studies on the relationship between class size and
achievement have found, at most, a weak relationship.
All that is well known, so I won't add to it. But I will end by posing this question: Did
the Seattle Times publish this (rather poorly written) op-ed in order to discredit Hagopian and
Jambor? I don't know the answer to that question, but I have to say that it is an interesting
(Full disclosure: There have been many teachers in my family and I have taught at several
levels myself. I was even a member of a teachers union for a few years. I have enough sympathy
for teachers so that I might even be willing to give Hagopian and Jambor some help with their
Posted by Jim Miller at December 18, 2007
04:50 PM | Email This
1. What an annoying column that was. I don't normally get too worked up about stuff like that, but the arrogance of these two was simply disgusting. Besides which, they didn't have their facts right...but details.
What is ailing public education?
Well, dah, RESULTS.
Good Lord, are these two idiots so blinded?
Monopolies produce junk.
Well, then again, it's all about the children......
OOPS, it's all about job security, pensions, being a victim
Teachers decided 40 yrs ago that they were no longer professionals, but needed a union because they are victims. Losers.
Lot of good the UAW did for the auto industry.
Lot of good the Machinists local 751 did for keeping Boeing in WA.
Lot of good the WEA did for public education.
Oh! Oh! I know. I know.
I suspect we'd see better performing schools if the union cared more about teaching kids than clamoring for more money, protecting deadwood and running a thug-like monopoly.
In fact, I'd go so far as to suggest we'd get better results if less money was thrown into that bottomless pit.
And the inevitable class-size argument? Fffft. You could have a one-to-one student/teacher ratio and if that teacher sucks (or to be fair, that student is an uncontrollable demon who can do no wrong in the eyes of mommy and daddy) that student's education is still going to stink.
Whining teachers wanting more money, yet unwilling to accept any accountability. Wake me up when it's something new.
Since the 1982-83 school year, FTE student enrollment has increased about 38%.
In the same time period, expenditures have increased 304%.
Since the 1999-00 school year, FTE student enrollment has increased only 2.6% while expenditures have increased 27.6%.
Yep. Must be a lack of money.
A question for the authors, do teachers have any complicity in the lower results of our students, or is the fault totally with someone else?
What is wrong with public schools?
A) Federal and State laws and mandates that override local control
B) Trendy curriculum (diversity, radical environmentalism) that is more about indoctrination than teaching
C) Total breakdown of discipline
D) Too many non-teaching positions in schools and district offices
E) Heavy handed unions that have more authority than school boards and parents
F) All the above
In my mind, when something is failing, it usually isn't because people weren't trying. Raise your hand if you are a teacher, an administrator, a politician, or a parent and you haven't tried to make the schools work? See? No hands are raised.
The problem isn't effort. It isn't intentions. It is the system.
The system is broken! Let's admit that this experiment in socialist government-run schools has been a tremendous failure. We have to change the fundamental rules of the system if we want to see a difference.
Let's look at some systems that have succeeded. High-tech, for instance, is the one area in American life that has consistently outperformed everything else by a significant margin. Why is it succeeding? Why, government is all but absent from this area of life. Where are the regulators saying who can and can't start a high-tech company? Where are the politicians saying that we need more people to do X, Y, and Z and less of A, B, and C in high-tech?
Why don't we adopt the same system that made high-tech so successful in our schools.
That system would be a policy of complete government non-interference in education. Education would be left up to the people to run. They would decide with their tuition dollars and charitable donations which schools keep going, which schools open up, and which schools shut down. Parents would choose which schools to send their children to based solely on the value for the effort required to attend that school. Teachers would be free to teach their classes anyway they like, provided they can find a school willing to allow them to. You can have a hundred different schools experimenting with a thousand different schools, and all the rest doing only what those hundred have proved to be successful.
Folks, it's time we chased government out of the education business and let free market forces work to improve our schools.
7. Ummm...silly question, I'm sure... but how exactly how "public monies" being diverted by charter schools and vouchers when they AREN"T allowed in this state?! Every time someone has come up with an even modest proposal to allow parents and taxpayers to have ANY say in where their money goes, the OSPI and the WEA screams bloody murder about how it will RUIN the public schools and the panic stricken electorate votes it down!
8. I agree--this was not a particularly flattering piece, and could very well be a calculated move on the Times' part. If you've noticed, Boardman has deliberately steered the paper to the right in recent weeks. For instance, the weekly monkeyboy cartoon belittling President Bush with reader captions has been replaced with more neutral panes; Brodeur's recent column questioning the benefit of homeless camps; Turnbull calling undocumented workers "illegal immigrants" a few weeks back. It's an obvious attempt to draw a line of distinction between the Times and the PI.
9. I agree--this was not a particularly flattering piece, and could very well be a calculated move on the Times' part. If you've noticed, Boardman has deliberately steered the paper to the right in recent weeks. For instance, the weekly monkeyboy cartoon belittling President Bush with reader captions has been replaced with more neutral panes; Brodeur's recent column questioning the benefit of homeless camps; Turnbull calling undocumented workers "illegal immigrants" a few weeks back. It's an obvious attempt to draw a line of distinction between the Times and the PI.
None of the above. Especially the charter and voucher thing--where is it even happening in this state?? We could only wish. I think it's the emphasis on a crummy curriculum (which doesn't have to be the case, but they seem to choose to have a crummy curriculum) and not teaching the kids anything, really (my 2nd and 5th grade kids told me as much, right after they started private school after suffering through public school for 2-5 years). Also, not having high standards and expectations for behavior. I've observed that public school kids get away with a lot more than would ever be allowed in our private school.
So to sum up---not teaching the kids anything much, coupled with a zoo-like behavior atmosphere. What do you expect??
11. My recollection is that in the 80's a "Hagopian" was the local leader of the Socialist Workers Party. Is this teacher the same fellow?
What are these teachers other affliations in the interest of full disclosure? Are they for example, shop stewarts or union officials? Have they ever taught in a private or charter school? Every one is entitled to their opinion, it is just a question of what weight that opinion should be given and are there any hidden biases which should be disclosed so that the reader is clear they are nor getting an objective factual piece. Opinion is presented all over newspapers these days and not just on the editorial page.
I agree with most posters.
The mention of the McKinsey consulting firm and Minneapolis sounded like something Google could help with. Sure enough, there's a recent article
about the effort in Minneapolis.
Could this be one of the things about Minneapolis that frightens the writers of the op-ed? "Like schools and principals, underperforming teachers could be replaced."
How did I manage??? I was one of a class of 67 students (yes, students, not the year!!) and learned plenty. It was in the early 1960's
It was expected of me by my parents, who paid $25 a month to send me to the parochial school! This at a time when my mother earned $1 a hour as a private duty registered nurse! It was a huge investment in me and that point was made quite clear.
Discipline in school wasn't a problem. Parents expectations were high.
Unfortunately, today it seems few parents think of school as a foundation of their child's future success....it's just free day care.
Public education stinks, but I blame it on the parents! I've met high school graduates WITH DIPLOMAS who never learned the 6 times table...let alone long division. I have more respect for those who have earned a GED nowadays.
It can be great if the parents demand performance from their children instead of blaming teachers, funding etc.
"It's the parents, stupid."
15. @ 5--badda bing--give that guy a diploma!! i agree...
It's so simple. Remove the government. Which in turn will remove the union monopoly. Then push everything towards vigorous competition.
And once the system is private, those running the schools will see the teachers as the product. The executives of the schools will pay teachers more, and minimize overhead. The same as in the high tech sector noted above by Jonathan Gardner. Teaching positions will become valuable, and then they will attract real talent.
Kids will be inspired by the discipline of a results and product oriented culture. Teaching will go from a second income job to a highly sought after profession. And in a private system, any teacher who is not performing will be fired, just like in the private high tech sector.
Let me give an example. I have a friend who taught high school in a neighboring state. He's a PhD, and twice one teacher of the year award in his state. He wanted to believe in public schools, but he could not make ends meet for his family. He left teaching for high tech, and now he makes much more money. He is the kind of dynamic and engaging person that our kids really need in education. But all of the money (12k per year per student in WA) goes to the unions and massive government bureaucracy and not the teachers. Good people are driven out of the system.
The sooner we get government out of education, the quicker we catch up with our international peers on test results.
17. It might be worth noting that good public education started going down the tubes once unions gained a chokehold in the educational process. This applies to teachers and administrative staff as well. The best way to fix this mess is to allow parents to send their children to schools of their choosing, be it public, parochial or private. The second thing that needs to be done is to eliminate all pc garbage and concentrate on real western values education. Drop all the touchy feely courses and start dealing with reality. No more passing on students who fail courses. No more teaching to the tests....if you teach subject matter correctly, the students will pass the test.....it is called learning. These are just a few of the ideas that I and others have talked about over the last several years. They will work. By the way, I did teach HS and college. Its not that hard if you like and have in depth knowledge in your subject matter.
18. Is this Hagopian fool related to the other Hagopian fool Amy, who was once a School Board member AND who wants to run the military out of the schools?
Yeah, I would add that Saltherring's comment @5 is one of the best ever. Those five points should be silkscreened on to T-Shirts and worn proudly throughout this state.
Correction: that's won, not one @16.
A little research shows that Jesse Hagopian is heavily involved in the "Green" party politics and Vick Jambor is a peace activist. Together they have written many articles for socialist organizations and have been involved in bringing socialist speakers to Washington to give speechs.
Are we really surprised by their proposals?
22. Thank you Ken. It was what I expected. So much of public school education is really secular progressive indoctrination. The reason that homeschooling is growing among all demographics even in areas where the schools are decent is values. Many parents want to decide the values for their child and there is a secular progressive agenda in schools.
Just a couple of comments, even though in general I support public education, I find it strange that:
1. Teaching Certification and Teacher "education" seems to be so focused on "how to teach" that they often forget about actually learning about the subjects they are teaching. Why don't continuing education credits go to more in-depth studying of subject material instead of the lastest fad on "how to teach."
2. Something needs to be done with the textbook publishing industry and its strangehold over curriculum. It would be nice to see an "open-source" alternative where experts in subject matter can develop and publish free and open material instead of publishing monopolies controlling the flow of textbooks and making them obsolete every few years so that they can make a buck.
Just a couple of comments.
While subject area knowledge is an important element of teaching - particularly at the secondary level - the "how to teach" part is critical.
Specific subject-area knowledge is not an indicator that the person who has it is capable of teaching.
Good teachers are able to help students develop learning strategies that can be applied to the subject area.
The research is is quite clear that the quality and skill of the classroom teacher is the single biggest factor in whether a child will achieve academically. Believe it or not, it trumps class size, spending and even socio-economic status.
Teaching is a serious profession that requires continuous learning and professional development. The landscape teachers face changes frequently - the growing population of students who have little or no proficiency in English because it is a second language - is one example. In fact, because all children learn at different levels and struggle with different issues, the landscape for a classroom teacher changes with each new group of students. Knowing how to manage a classroom of 25 (or more) kids, group students appropriately in a classroom setting based on their learning needs and styles, accurately assess their progress on an ongoing basis and act appropriately on those formative assessments are all skills that need to be continuously learned, practiced and developed.
Most of us would never trust a doctor who left medical school and decided he or she had learned all that was needed to be learned. The needs of patients continuously change - and the methods and techniques for treating them change and evolve. The teaching profession isn't that different.
Currently, teacher professional development takes the form of a few "seminars" or "workshops" a few times per year. However, some of the best researchers on teacher effectiveness (Google Shirley Hord, Linda Darling-Hammond or NSDC) have data that indicates teachers who are engaged in learning about their craft and developing their skills in an environment that is collaborative, ongoing, embedded in their job and sustained over time, develop the skills necessary to increase student academic performance.
The current public school system is plagued by many troubles - some of them beyond the reach of teachers themselves. Finding, promoting, training and supporting better school leadership - from building principals to district superintendents to school board members is something that needs to be addressed. Giving school principals and teachers greater flexibility in addressing individual student needs requires political and community involvement. Funding will always be an issue on some level.
But, getting good professional teachers in the classroom and giving them the tools and supports they need to meet the evolving needs of the kids in their classrooms is paramount.
I don't disagree that "how to teach" isn't important, however, we also don't require teachers to have degrees in the subject matter they are teaching. While fine for elementary age, by the time the kids are middle school/junior high, and especially with High School, it is a lot better to have teachers that not only know how to teach but also know the subject matter and can bring in outside theory and examples of its usage, instead of having to rely on the curriculum to provide all this information. In Math, teachers should have to take the equivalency of a Math minor to teach this subject. In taking Calculus, one discovers how pi*r^2 = area of a circle is derived. It is the same with Science and most likely English. The best teachers are ones that not only know how to teach, but also bring the subject matter alive to the students. Every student asks, how am I going to use this, if the teacher doesn't have the background in the subject matter, they can't really answer this question.
1.There is plenty of research about what makes a quality teacher. The primary component is in-depth knowledge of the subject area.
2. The other factor is graduating from a rigourous program at an accrediated university. There is a corollation between subject matter knowledge and rigorous training. There is no corrollation in student achievement results with the certification or licensure of the teacher. certification and licensure is simply a barrier to entry which protects a monopoly. Many indivudals who would be quality teachers don't attempt to teach at public schools because of the certification requirement.
3. Teachers want to be considered professionals. One of the hallmarks of a profession is a degree of autonomy regarding how the individual performs their job. Union contracts and state regulations not related to health, safety, or measuring academic achievement limit this autonomy and make teaching in the public sector less attractive.
4. Here is the theory:
Give different schools their state per pupil allotment and see how they handle it. Remove the restrictions and if they want to go charter and kick out the union, let them. My theory is they would have better student achievement results with the same per pupil allotment.
27. Education has been destroyed by the everyone having a new way to teach. If they went back to the three 'R's. It would be better. Back to the Basics. But everytime the government mandates some no training less and less time is spent teaching real subjects instead indoctrination into the Politically correct way of thinking is more important than teaching the kids to think and analysis.
I am very tired of the way the education is being taught. Instead of teaching to understand and be able to build on the basic foundation. Teachers spend more time teaching test techniques to pass the WASL. If they taught students the basics and the WASL was correctly administrated you would not have to teach to pass the test. Again the politicians with thier wisdom is only making our youth dumber because instead of teaching basics and get them to learn to build upon the basic foundation. They teach test techniques. Another generation has been lost to this education system. How many more generations will be allow to be destroyed by these politicians who always claim it is for the children. Teach to the lowest level. And keep everyone at the bottom. We have some very bright students. Those lucky enough to get out of the broken State run education system have a chance to be successful. And only a handful will make it from the state run school system to be successful and independent. Those are the ones that are so bright and have learned to love studying that they will succeed no matter how poorly they were educated.
Is the Times readership capable of distinguishing the fact that Hagopian and Jambor are engaging in a rather pathetic political exercise? I tend to the position that allowing blathering socialist idiots a chance to demonstrate their ability to stuff their feet in their mouths isn't a bad idea but did the Times demonstrate the absurdity of their positions with a counterpoint piece?
Is the "Seattle Education Association Representative Assembly" the union shop? An appeal by shop stewards to the rank and file to save their sorry selves through political action isn't unheard of but it would take a rebuttal piece to point out the absurdity of listening to the feather bedders crying to be left unexamined.
I agree that these two are shining examples of the unbounded assininity of the left but I remain unsure as to the Times actual motive in publishing their brainless braying.