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Posted at 11:00 AM ET, 02/27/2011

2 false claims that drive school reform

By Valerie Strauss

This was written by Paul Thomas, an associate professor of education at Furman University in South Carolina, and published in The Greenville News.


By Paul Thomas
"Accountability," "merit," "choice," and "competition" are compelling to most Americans because they speak to our faith in rugged individualism.

As South Carolina faces yet another year of budget shortfalls that jeopardize many aspects of the state budget—notably education—we must look especially close at new policies and proposals that are driven by ideology but not supported by evidence. Two ideas being considered now that deserve our skepticism are merit-based teacher pay and increased funding for charter schools.

From President Obama and Secretary of Education Duncan to the misleading documentary "Waiting for Superman" to the new reformers (Bill Gates, Geoffrey Canada, and Michelle Rhee), the public is bombarded by a false claim that teacher quality is the most important element in student learning and public education is failing because of an inordinate number of "bad" teachers.

Evidence, however, shows that teacher and school quality accounts for only about 10-20% of measurable student achievement and that out-of-school factors are the dominant source of education problems.

Yet, teachers do matter, often in ways that cannot be measured, and since teacher pay accounts for the greatest percentage of education budgets — which continue to dominate state budgets — political leaders and the public feel compelled to call for greater teacher accountability.

Reformers such as Gates and Canada have been beating the drum for teacher accountability and weeding out the claimed "bad" teachers, and this media-driven mantra is turning many states to consider dropping traditional teacher pay scales based on experience and degrees for merit-based systems that are linked to claimed objective data, such as test scores.

Again, "accountability" and "merit" are compelling concepts, especially when we are talking about adults who are charged with educating our children. But merit-based teacher pay should be rejected for the following reasons:

• Studies show value-added methods (a popular form of merit pay) to be statistically flawed as tools of assessing a teacher's impact on student learning. In short, research refutes the effectiveness or accuracy of merit-based teacher pay.

• Teaching and learning are not singular and direct relationships between one teacher and one student. Any measure of student learning is a reflection of that child's entire life and entire education experience (including all teachers and learning experiences in that child's life). The impact of one teacher on one student, in fact, can be hard to measure for many years.

• To identify a direct and thus causational relationship between teachers and students, all other factors impacting student achievement, including out-of-school factors, would have to be controlled, resulting in a process that would cost more money and time than the state can fund.

• Decades of research show that teachers are not motivated by merit pay. Teachers are motivated by better teaching conditions, administrative and parental support, and collegiality.

• Accountability must be connected to autonomy and to the behavior of the person being held accountable. Currently, teachers are mandated to implement standards that they did not create, and their students are assessed by tests that those teachers did not design. To hold a person accountable without honoring that person's professional autonomy is unethical and invalid. And to hold one person (the teacher) accountable for the actions of another person (the student) is just as unethical.

If we believe teacher pay should be tied to merit and accountability, we must first honor teacher autonomy, and then design a system that addresses teacher behaviors—not student outcomes.

Charter schools appear to offer the choice and competition—which we have idealized—we believe can raise the quality of education, but increasing funding of charter schools proves to be as flawed as teacher merit pay.

The overwhelming body of evidence on charter schools shows that they are essentially the same as public schools. Also problematic is the inequity common in charter schools:

"The analysis found that, as compared with the public school district in which the charter school resided, the charter schools were substantially more segregated by race, wealth, disabling condition, and language. While charter schools have rapidly grown, the strong segregative pattern found in 2001 is virtually unchanged through 2007," reveals a review from the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado at Boulder (NEPC).

Another review from NEPC cautions: "Federal policies that will strengthen charter schools in the longer run—rather than expanding the number of charter schools in the short run—need to be based on a more accurate and representative body of evidence." SC would do well to delay expanding charter support, especially in a difficult budget year.

The teacher merit pay and charter school movements are being driven by false claims, clearly refuted by the weight of evidence. SC's political leaders must be careful not to be swayed by our ideologies and to seek policies and funding that serve our students well.


-0-

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By Valerie Strauss  | February 27, 2011; 11:00 AM ET
Categories:  Accountability, Charter schools, Guest Bloggers, Performance pay, Teacher assessment  | Tags:  accountability movement, charter schools, geoffrey canada, merit pay, michelle rhee, performance pay, school choice, teacher pay, teachers, waiting for superman  
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Comments

"If we believe teacher pay should be tied to merit and accountability, we must first honor teacher autonomy, and then design a system that addresses teacher behaviors—not student outcomes."

Hmmmm... that kinda sounds like National Board Certification.

Oh, but Michelle Rhee said that is too costly... Silly me!

Posted by: MisterRog | February 27, 2011 11:18 AM | Report abuse

The White House should put us all on the mailing list for "White House Word of the Day!"

Posted by: jbeeler | February 27, 2011 12:11 PM | Report abuse

Paul Thomas states: "The teacher merit pay and charter school movements are being driven by false claims, clearly refuted by the weight of evidence."

That's an ideological view, not a fact. Any honest evaluation would state the evidence is mixed at this point. Why be so dishonest? It destroys your credibility.

Your ideology says: don't look here, we're doing fine. Don't make changes, that might upset people. Please look over there instead, the education establishment (and the teachers unions) would rather not have your input.

Valerie Strauss uses this blog to advance her personal ideology on these matters. It would be helpful if the Post had some balance (and more integrity) in its discussion of these important issues.

Posted by: frankb1 | February 27, 2011 12:22 PM | Report abuse

frankb1:

Over 50 studies of charter schools/choice (which are like public and private in that there is a range of success, as I stated): http://palmettoeducatorsnetwork.blogspot.com/2011/02/resources-charter-schools.html

The failure of merit-based pay: http://palmettoeducatorsnetwork.blogspot.com/2011/02/resources-teacher-evaluation-merit-pay.html

Posted by: plthomas3 | February 27, 2011 12:30 PM | Report abuse

As I've commented elsewhere, those who are driving current "reform" efforts believe in a corporate-model that is test-score driven, and assumes teachers and schools to be "accountable" for remedying the social, environmental and economic dislocation caused by their policies.

As they demand "accountability" for teachers and schools and students, they simultaneously run away from accountability for themselves, or seek to seriously undermine it. Courtesy of the taxpayer, corporations are sitting on $2 trillion in cash and bankers and hedge-fund managers are getting big bonuses. They want an even bigger slice of the public treasuries, and they are pushing for others, like teachers and students and public workers, to take a smaller share .

The Bush administration have us NCLB. We've seen its dismal results, which constitute a perfect picture of conservative ideology. Failure. But deny the failure, blame others, and push for more. It if weren't so wrong-headed (stupid), and deadly serious, it'd be funny.

It isn't pleasant to see the Obama administration, against all good advice, siding with the charlatans on both financial and education "reform."

Michelle Rhee's most recent lie is that teachers unions are "driving "education policy" and have done so for the last thirty years. Clearly untrue. Testing, pushed by conservative politicians, has driven education "reform." There is no question about that.

The corporate-"reform" types, like Rhee, and Wendy Kopp, are talking vouchers. The goal is privatization of public education.

Make no mistake. This is crass power politics.

It is not really about education. It isn't about "the kids."

It's far more about ideology, power and money.

Posted by: DrDemocracy | February 27, 2011 12:31 PM | Report abuse

DrDemocracy,

I just published this today about Rhee's latest misinformation; you may find it interesting: http://dailycensored.com/2011/02/27/celebrity-common-sense-reform-for-education-legend-of-the-fall-pt-vi/

Posted by: plthomas3 | February 27, 2011 12:35 PM | Report abuse

I highly recommend two excellent compilations of studies from the UK on poverty and education:

http://www.jrf.org.uk/publications/experiences-poverty-and-educational-disadvantage

http://www.jrf.org.uk/publications/educational-attainment-poor-children

The first shows school/teacher quality accounts for only 14% of measurable outcomes, FYI.

Posted by: plthomas3 | February 27, 2011 12:46 PM | Report abuse

Should all studies be given equal weight? I don't think so.

PEN is an advocacy group, with an ideology to advance. Here's a point of view from an educator, not an ideologue.

Paul Peterson Director Program on Education Policy and Governance at Harvard Kennedy School:

"The best studies are randomized experiments, the gold standard in both medical and educational research. Stanford University's Caroline Hoxby and Harvard University's Thomas Kane have conducted randomized experiments that compare students who win a charter lottery with those who applied but were not given a seat. Winners and losers can be assumed to be equally motivated because they both tried to go to a charter school. Ms. Hoxby and Mr. Kane have found that lottery winners subsequently scored considerably higher on math and reading tests than did applicants who remained in district schools.

In another good study, the RAND Corp. found that charter high school graduation rates and college attendance rates were better than regular district school rates by 15 percentage points and eight percentage points respectively.

Instead of taking seriously these high quality studies, charter critics rely heavily on a report released in 2004 by the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). The AFT is hardly a disinterested investigator, and its report makes inappropriate comparisons and pays insufficient attention to the fact that charters are serving an educationally deprived segment of the population. Others base their criticism of charters on a report from an ongoing study by Stanford's Center for Research on Education Outcomes (Credo), which found that there are more weak charter schools than strong ones. Though this report is superior to AFT's study, its results are dominated by a large number of students who are in their first year at a charter school and a large number of charter schools that are in their first year of operation.

Credo's work will be more informative when it presents findings for students in charters that have been up and running for several years. You can't judge the long-term potential of schools that have not amassed a multi-year track record.

To identify the long-term benefits of school choice, Harvard's Martin West and German economist Ludger Woessmann examined the impact of school choice on the performance of 15-year-old students in 29 industrialized countries. They discovered that the greater the competition between the public and private sector, the better all students do in math, science and reading. Their findings imply that expanding charters to include 50% of all students would eventually raise American students' math scores to be competitive with the highest-scoring countries in the world.

What makes charters important today is less their current performance than their potential to innovate."

http://www.hks.harvard.edu/news-events/news/commentary/charter-schools-student-performance

Posted by: frankb1 | February 27, 2011 1:00 PM | Report abuse

Here's another non-ideological view:

From the Center for the Study of Teaching and Policy: A National Research Consortium (University of Washington, Stanford, Columbia, Michigan, University of Pennsylvania)

"Using data from a 50-state survey of policies, state case study analyses, the 1993- 94 Schools and Staffing Surveys (SASS), and the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), this study examines the ways in which teacher qualifications and other school inputs are related to student achievement across states.

The findings of both the qualitative and quantitative analyses suggest that policy investments in the quality of teachers may be related to improvements in student performance.

Quantitative analyses indicate that measures of teacher preparation and certification are by far the strongest correlates of student achievement in reading and mathematics, both before and after controlling for student poverty and language status. State policy surveys and case study data are used to evaluate policies that influence the overall level of teacher qualifications within and across states.

This analysis suggests that policies adopted by states regarding teacher education, licensing, hiring, and
professional development may make an important difference in the qualifications
and capacities that teachers bring to their work. The implications for state efforts to enhance quality and equity in public education are discussed."

http://www.politicalscience.uncc.edu/godwink/PPOL8687/WK11March%2029%20Teachers/Darling-Hammond%20Review%20essay%20on%20teacher%20quality%20and%20outcomes.pdf

Posted by: frankb1 | February 27, 2011 1:19 PM | Report abuse

Board certified does not necessarily mean quality.

In middle school, my son was placed in a remedial reading class. He did not belong in this class, but the Principal had decided that any student scoring below a certain level on a particular test in sixth grade belonged in this class. (His other reading test scores were good.)

I contacted the teacher and she responded to me. She admitted that my son did not belong in this class--he was, in fact, far superior to the other students. However, since the principal had "placed" the children in the class she could not get him out at that point. (First week of class.)She made it clear that she was not going to challenge the principal.

My point: The teacher who would not challenge the principal (even though she knew the student did not belong in the class) is one of the Board Certified teachers in Fairfax County. Yet, she did not have the guts to challenge her principal on what was right for a student.

The teacher was not Board Certified at that time. I read later that she had achieved that status. Is this why she would not challenge the Principal? I can't help but wonder.

Posted by: mmkm | February 27, 2011 1:29 PM | Report abuse

frankb1,

The site where I list the studies doesn't discount the studies. . .It just makes it easier to reference. . .The Hoxby work is INCLUDED in the list I offered, BTW. . .which suggests you didn't bother to look. . .The CREDO/Hoxby exchange is very important

Charter schools to date are about the same as public and private schools. . .That's the state of what we know. . .That is what I have said. . .

I also feel comfortable with the body of research that shows out-of-school factors dwarf teacher impact. . .

Posted by: plthomas3 | February 27, 2011 1:32 PM | Report abuse

mmkm - did you challenge the principal? If not, why not -- you had nothing to lose.

Posted by: efavorite | February 27, 2011 1:37 PM | Report abuse

frankb1,

Also, you reference a commentary and one study from 1999. . .

The JRF study from the UK is from 2007 and a compilation of many studies. . .Also see Berliner (2009), http://nepc.colorado.edu/publication/poverty-and-potential

Posted by: plthomas3 | February 27, 2011 1:37 PM | Report abuse

frankb1,

Peterson's work has been identified as ideological on many occasions:

http://nepc.colorado.edu/thinktank/review-on-public-private-school-achievement-debate

http://nepc.colorado.edu/thinktank/review-expanding-choice

http://nepc.colorado.edu/newsletter/2010/03/report-advocating-universal-choice-lacks-evidence-its-equity-claims

Posted by: plthomas3 | February 27, 2011 1:40 PM | Report abuse

A franb1 and others

Below a good overview of the merit pay research, given in testimony to Congress in March of 2007 by Jeffrey Pfeffer from Stanford business School:

http://www.evidence-basedmanagement.com/research_practice/commentary/pfeffer_congressional_testimony_08mar2007.html

As Pfeffer notes, the research on merit pay is mixed, AT BEST.

Merit pay proponents must think that because money motivates them more than anything else, that's what must be true for everybody. But it's not...by far. Money can and does diminish performance. It can and does cause people to make foolish decisions, their minds clouded by greed. The last three years are littered with examples.

Douglas McGregor, the organizational psychologist, discussed two general types of management philosophies and policies, Theory X and Theory Y. Theory X are those that are more authoritarian and punitive and controlling, and that assume that people don't like work and they have to be accorded carrots and sticks to be productive. Theory Y are those that incorporate more shared decision-making, that are supportive and respectful and collaborative, and that assume people like work and they can be trusted.

A team can be coached, or a company managed, or an education reform model implemented under either management style (or variations thereof), but one is clearly superior in its recognition and application of what motivates people, what generates commitment and loyalty, and what creates authentic learning and nurtures creativity.

A good example of a private company's use of Theory Y policies can be viewed here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N-ebIGpZIWI

Management policies and practices, or reform policies and practices, that are based on Theory Y principles make good sense. They are humane, They assume that people have dignity and worth. They reduce fear and stress and they promote confidence, creativity, problem-solving and achievement. They work. Well.

Conversely, we can do things the same old way. Top-down, externally controlled and directed, autocratic, behavioristic (rewards and punishments)...

A team can win games that way...Bobby Knight did.
But John Wooden did it better.

The current "reformers" fit in the Theory X mold, and they are touting Theory X ideas.

Increasingly, however, we are living in a Theory Y world.

Posted by: DrDemocracy | February 27, 2011 1:41 PM | Report abuse

I'm not sure I'm following the writer's train of thought.

If teacher quality is only a very small component of education quality, then wouldn't it make sense to get the cheapest possible teachers, even if they weren't very good? It wouldn't make much difference in achievement, but it would save a bundle.

Posted by: dhartmanva | February 27, 2011 1:53 PM | Report abuse

plthomas3: Teacher quality is the most important factor in student achievement that schools can control.

Alleviating poverty is an extraordinarily important cause. It's great that you've devoted your life to that cause.

Posted by: frankb1 | February 27, 2011 1:58 PM | Report abuse

The problem with these two initiatives (charters and merit pay) is not only that they lack a strong evidence and research base. The most important problem is that they demand we spend educational dollars on them without a merit base. This is the *real problem* in education today. It is perfectly ok for legislators to set up systems where taxpayer money flows to various projects without accountability.

We have been at the charter business for a long time in many districts and they aren't the answer to the problem of educating the most challenging students. They simply don't do it. I believe charters can play a role, but when they are being compared to regular public schools, there is little discussion of their limitations. This is nothing more than a game being run on taxpayers. These schools receive public funds but do not have to do the job that public schools do.


Merit pay has even less of a track record of ensuring achievement and, in some studies, has actually reinforced the inequities we find among teachers in higher and lower income schools. See the FLA merit pay results from 2 years ago. The majority of merit pay recipients were at the more middle class schools. Now what exactly does that prove? Answer: the exact same research we have been studying for decades in the United States. Socioeconomic status is by far the strongest predictor of achievement than any other factor.

Posted by: Nikki1231 | February 27, 2011 2:00 PM | Report abuse

DrDemocracy stated: "As Pfeffer notes, the research on merit pay is mixed, AT BEST."

That sounds eminently fair.

Paul Thomas stated: "The teacher merit pay and charter school movements are being driven by false claims, clearly refuted by the weight of evidence."

That sounds eminently dishonest.

Posted by: frankb1 | February 27, 2011 2:03 PM | Report abuse

frankb1,

"That's an ideological view, not a fact. Any honest evaluation would state the evidence is mixed at this point. Why be so dishonest? It destroys your credibility."

I would also agree that the charter school movement is "mixed at best." However, he does not really attack charters. He attacks the argument that "The Power of Charters Will Compel You." Essentially, he just says that they are "the same as public schools." And they are. Yes, you will find good charters. But you will also find bad ones, Frank. Try not to sidestep next time.

I must admit that I do fully agree with his point about merit pay. The evidence for teacher merit pay systems is rather overwhelming. Despite the plethora of evidence for why merit pay does not work for teachers, it is has been constantly regurgitated since the early 20th century as a miracle cure all. I have personally hit a brick wall trying to understand why that one keeps being unnecessarily resuscitated.

And lastly, all positions are ideological in nature and rhetorical in argument, Frank. To suggest that "It would be helpful if the Post had some balance (and more integrity) in its discussion of these important issues," tells me that you WANT only what you WANT, too. From what I've read on the Post, I've seen a prism different views. It's all about perspective, Frank. Try it out.

Posted by: DHume1 | February 27, 2011 2:07 PM | Report abuse

DHume1 stated: "..tells me that you WANT only what you WANT, too. From what I've read on the Post, I've seen a prism different views. It's all about perspective, Frank. Try it out."

Come on, that's not fair. I read Valerie Strauss' blog (and links) daily, disagreeing with her point of view 99% of the time. If I read only what I agreed with I would be reading just eduwonk and the NYT.

And Valerie Strauss does NOT offer a "prism of different views"; please try and prove me wrong on that. Who else at the Post are you reading that writes regularly on these important issues?

Posted by: frankb1 | February 27, 2011 2:28 PM | Report abuse

@dartmanva:

It's clear that socioeconomic factors have a far greater influence on achievement in the US than other school-based factors. However, that doesn't mean that the teacher doesn't play an important role in achievement, particularly during the student's school time hours. It just means that any study of achievement and teacher-effectiveness will be skewed by outside forces (such as family instability, poverty, transience and homelessness.)

The problem then is not that we shouldn't be looking for good teachers, it's that we are stating whether teachers are good or not based on student test scores.

Teachers who work at high poverty schools (like I do), do far more than teach during the day. Our time is taken up with paperwork for behavioral referrals and requests for evals due to learning needs. Parents phone calls for absenteeism (which WE are held accountable for). In fact, teachers at schools where achievement is low are usually being called upon to do far more in their routine school day than their suburban peers where achievement is quite high.


I've long held that if teachers at high poverty schools could primarily focus on instruction you would see a change in the achievement-wealth connection. The fact is that schools in high poverty areas tend to *reinforce* inequities that drive low achievement instead of ameliorate them.

Example: too-large classes for k-3 where students may need more intensive, small group or individual learning supports to bring up their skills. Bear in mind that students come into kindergarten with often wildly varying skills sets. In poorer communities, students are often way below kindergarten readiness and have behavioral issues in addition to learning needs.


Posted by: Nikki1231 | February 27, 2011 2:31 PM | Report abuse

Okay Frankb1 let's "assume" what you say about students entering school lotteries in this quote is true (even though the evidence suggests that the majority of charter schools are doing no better than public schools):

You say...
"... Winners and losers can be assumed to be equally motivated because they both tried to go to a charter school. Ms. Hoxby and Mr. Kane have found that lottery winners subsequently scored considerably higher on math and reading tests than did applicants who remained in district schools".

You seem to ignore that charter schools are highly selective in who stays in their programs (often weeding out special education, and esl students as well as students with high absence rates or exhibiting behavioral issues). Non-charter title one public schools have high numbers of special education and esl students as well as students with behavioral issues as well as a revolving door of students whose families are constantly on the move and they do not weed these students out. Don't you think these issues effect all the students at a school with these issues? If these factors had no impact, our title one schools would look more like their well-to-do suburban counterparts! Shouldn't charter schools be doing a heck of a lot better than the public schools as they don't face these classroom challenges? But the fact is... they are not doing "a lot better" at all!

Posted by: teachermd | February 27, 2011 2:46 PM | Report abuse

plthomas3 wrote in the Daily Censored: "Now is the time for educators and scholars to speak against celebrity PR and raise a public voice of expertise to and for a public that is crying out of common sense and being manipulated by a ruling elite that is neither common nor making any sense."

Like any hardcore ideologue, you want to go to war with those that disagree with you. Calling people names, challenging their ethics, and using extreme (dishonest) rhetoric is not the best PR strategy, but the left will love you forever more.

http://dailycensored.com/2011/02/27/celebrity-common-sense-reform-for-education-legend-of-the-fall-pt-vi/

Posted by: frankb1 | February 27, 2011 2:50 PM | Report abuse

The ideologies proposed for education are no different from ideologies proposed for the business world. The reality is that they don't work. Accountability and merit based pay don't work because there is no objective way to measure the merit. I used to work for a large well known company where a large scale attempt was made to apply these policies. The concept was that everyone was supposed to make business commitments each year and those commitments were supposed to cascade down the management chain to the technical employees at the leaves. Each year people were graded on their performance against their commitments. The way this worked in practice was that managers did their best not to commit to anything that could be clearly evaluated. Managers had quotas to how many of their employees could be placed in each scoring category. Employees were profiled according to age, whether or not they were in a category that benefited diversity, and whether or not they were younger employees on a fast track. Political connections within the organization played a large part on who was chosen to satisfy the quota for lower grade employees. Major failures in the business did have a much higher potential for upper level managers to lose their jobs. But there was little visible logic in who was let go. One situation that particularly annoyed me involved a large scale project that was critical to the success of the business I was involved in. The primary role had been given to a different organization than the one I worked in. But I was being asked to do some work to support their effort. It was obvious to me that the other organization had not really made a serous effort to do the work and that there was little prospect that the project would ever get done. So I wrote my fourth line manager a note and asked him if he was committed to the project. Almost instantly my second line manager made his first visit to my office to let me know that my disruptive behavior was not welcome. The outcome was that the project failed, the second line manager soon was gone and not too much later the whole business area failed. But the fourth line manager held on to his job with the company. So, I believe, did the manager who was directly responsible for the failed project. Even as an older employees with a low grade, so did I.

Posted by: dnjake | February 27, 2011 2:52 PM | Report abuse

plthomas3 states: "Peterson's work has been identified as ideological on many occasions"

Hmmm, if I HAD to choose between the two:

-Director Program on Education Policy and Governance at Harvard Kennedy School

-associate professor of education at Furman University in South Carolina

Maybe it's my Northeast bias, but I'd have to go with Peterson.

http://furman.academia.edu/PaulThomas

http://www.people.fas.harvard.edu/~pepeters/index.htm

Posted by: frankb1 | February 27, 2011 3:11 PM | Report abuse

Better yet do away with tenure and collective bargaining. Then school districts would be allowed to lengthen the school day and the calendar year to help educate our kids. Being able to fire the incompetent and unmotivated teachers would greatly improve education today.

Remember when Michelle Rhee wanted to dramatically increase salaries in exchange for these conditions? The unions wouldn't even bring it in front of their teachers for a vote. Our kids are more important than collective bargaining rights for unions. The current method rewards and encourages lazy and unmotivated teachers to remain in their professions. The prevalence of charter schools and what they can achieve shows the system is broke not the kids.

Posted by: Desertdiva1 | February 27, 2011 3:13 PM | Report abuse

There are some legitimate points in this editorial. However, if it weren't for Rhee and Gates and other reformers we wouldn't be having this conversation. And that is important.

I agree with Thomas that some teachers are not motivated by money, but others are. Certainly, I am a teacher that is motivated by additional money making opportunities. However, others are more motivated by additional resources, collegiality, more planning time, etc. But, there is no reason why these incentives can't be offered as well.

I also agree with Thomas that some impact that teachers have on students isn't reflected for years. And that there needs to be more accountability on students who do not do well to take the class over rather than be promoted socially.

However, as a witness to some of the dangers of complacency an unaccountability, there has to be some percentage of autonomy that's left to principals to make adequate changes in staff without overcoming seniority or unfair, lengthy and arbitrary processes. There are far too many teachers who walk out of faculty meetings before they are done, refuse to come to school on time or fail to complete lesson plans and collaborate with other staff members because of contractual limitations.

Educators can't have it both ways. We can't argue that we're against test score measures for accountability because teaching is too subjective and then make the converse argument that evaluations by principals need to be totally objective tools that treat everyone the same with no subjectivity by the principal because we fear bias. It's a Catch 22 that doesn't make sense.

Posted by: teacher6402 | February 27, 2011 3:14 PM | Report abuse

@Desertdiva1: I think what you really mean is to get rid of tenure and collective bargaining so that districts can lengthen the school day and school year without paying staff additional salary for the additional work. School districts can and do lengthen school days and years even with collective bargaining. The difference is that staff is payed their per diem rate of pay for the additional days. I guess you are implying that it is wrong to pay employees for their work. Good luck with that.

Posted by: musiclady | February 27, 2011 3:20 PM | Report abuse

See, this is the problem with many of your points, Frank. You only see what you want to see.

Here's an example: I never said Strauss offers these views, Frank. I said the Post does (it has its own in-house competition of perspectives). I believe that you also said the Post (perhaps you only meant Valerie, though).

And now I will list the names, O the names of Christmases Past and Present, Frank: Kumar, Anderson, Klein, Glod, Turque, Mathews, the editoral writers, Crites, Labbé-DeBose, and Keating. I'm sure I missed a few. Sorry to all those who have expressed an educational view on the Post in the last five years and are not on my list. Not all of them regularly write on these "issues" and one or two may no longer be at the Post, but they have done so at some time. And Frank, Mathews and Strauss have openly disagreed on the charter issue for some time now. Although, if my memory serves me, they agree on the merit pay issue.

So now I have a new question for you: What exactly are you expecting Strauss to do?

And here's a rhetorical one to consider: Do you expect that people should be hired at the Post to solely divorce themselves from their own ideological point of view just to offer the counterpoint to all of Strauss's posts so that it will feed your own ideological point of view?

Posted by: DHume1 | February 27, 2011 3:20 PM | Report abuse

I was particularly struck by one statement in the article: "[T]eachers are not motivated by merit pay. Teachers are motivated by better teaching conditions, administrative and parental support, and collegiality."

And I'm sure this is true, but they'd better be able to make a decent living. And it would be very nice if they weren't the budgetary punching bag every time something goes wrong in City Hall. I know several very competent people who left teaching because they were tired of making so little -- okay, okay, so they weren't Devoted Enough to Teaching, a fatal flaw no doubt, but they needed to make enough money to support their families.

And the studies that show which people are likely to be most motivated by what -- well, there are some people who are hot-wired to their paychecks and will do ANYTHING to increase them. Why do we assume that the overall amount in everyone else's pay packet is not important?

Posted by: CalypsoSummer | February 27, 2011 3:22 PM | Report abuse

plthomas3: As a frequent writer for the Daily Censored, it is clear you don't aspire to NYT type impartiality. You're not a fan of US corporate media, or anything remotely mainstream for that matter.

At the Daily Caller you operate in the shadows of leftist luminaries such as Noam Chomsky, Susan Faludi, George Gerbner, Sut Jhally, Frances Moore Lappe, Michael Parenti, Herbert I. Schiller, Barbara Seaman, Erna Smith, Mike Wallace and Howard Zinn.

Valerie Strauss would feel quite at home there as well.

Posted by: frankb1 | February 27, 2011 3:28 PM | Report abuse

Just to make it clear, frankb1 is promoting ideological research from Paul Peterson’s Program on Education Policy and Governance (PEPG).

The chair of its advisory committee is Jeb Bush.

The advisory committee includes uber-conservative Republican counsel C. Boyden Gray; Terry Moe of the Hoover Institution; conservative financier Roger Hertog (also on the board of the conservative American Enterprise Institute); venture capitalist and voucher supporter John Kirtley (who doesn’t think accountability measures should be applied to choice schools); banker and former Nixon aide and Olin Foundation board member Pater Flanigan; private equity partner Steve Klinsky (who likes the idea of for-profit schools and thinks he should not have to pay more than 15 percent tax on his income); former for-profit Edison Schools executive and charter advocate Deborah McGriff; conservative Manhattan Institute fellow and former Olin Foundation board member James Piereson; former Heritage Foundation flack, Dick Cheney aide, George W. Bush education department appointee, and current VP at for-profit Knowledge Universe Nina Reese (think Michael Milken); and conservative Republican Virginia governor Bob McDonnell’s secretary of education Gerard Robinson ( a charter and voucher advocate who is lauded by the Foundation for Excellence in Education, which touts standardized testing and school choice, is chaired by Jeb Bush, and which also recognizes “reformers” like Chester Finn, Eric Hanushek, Fred Hess, and Joel Klein).

Interestingly, Fred Hess, former Manhattan Institute conservative Jay Greene, and Caroline Hoxby (who did the New York City charter study trumpeted so much by conservatives) are among the “research affiliates.”

Sponsors and affiliates of PEPG include THe Thomas Fordham Foundation (Chester finn), the Milton and Rose Friedman Foundation, the Olin Foundation, the Walton Foundation (WalMart), the Heritage Foundation, the Hoover Institution, and the Alliance for SAchool Choice.

The people and the organizations are so interconnected that it’s virtually incestuous.

There is an ideological agenda. The “research” is skewed to fit that agenda.

This is what frankb1 passes off as “non-ideological.”

And the tobacco industry used to say smoking was GOOD for you.

Frankb1...if you really believe this malarkey, I have for you the opportunity to secure some really nice beachfront property in Nebraska.

Posted by: DrDemocracy | February 27, 2011 3:33 PM | Report abuse

DHume1: Mathews is about to retire. Turque is a DCPS political reporter. No one else you list weighs in (or reports) regularly on education issues.

Maybe the Post could hire April Witt or Richard Whitmire to offer a "counterpoint to all of Strauss's posts.".

Valerie Strauss seems very tired, so hopefully she will retire soon too. Some newer, younger, fresher voices at the Post writing/reporting on education issues & policy would be welcome.

Posted by: frankb1 | February 27, 2011 3:59 PM | Report abuse

musiclady wrote: I think what you really mean is to get rid of tenure and collective bargaining so that districts can lengthen the school day and school year without paying staff additional salary for the additional work. School districts can and do lengthen school days and years even with collective bargaining. The difference is that staff is payed their per diem rate of pay for the additional days. I guess you are implying that it is wrong to pay employees for their work. Good luck with that.
-----------------------
No if that had been my intention I would have said it. NY spends 100 million dollars a year just dealing with the issue of bad teachers. Imagine if that money was spent educating kids. Removing tenure and having the flexibility to make longer days and a longer calendar at the same time PLUS being able to fire bad teachers will free up more money. I know when Michelle Rhee offered to almost double teacher's salaries (about 40% pay raise) in exchange for those concessions the unions wouldn't allow members to even vote. You know it, I know it, bad teachers are killing our educational system. Wherever the idea of tenure came from it's a bad one. By 2020 Bill Gates estimates we will be 85 million people short for technology jobs. When schools have 70% dropout rates something is wrong. I'm saying bad teachers and tenure are the primary issue why education is broke today. I'll be glad to pay you more but it's going to be proven that you are teaching and that kids are learning. Right now many of you are carrying the dead weight of other teachers and you know it.

Posted by: Desertdiva1 | February 27, 2011 4:20 PM | Report abuse

Thanks Ms. Strauss!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by: jlp19 | February 27, 2011 4:21 PM | Report abuse

plthomas3: So you're for "restructuring the whole of American society"?

Sounds like you're calling for a revolution. No more water bills indeed. Nope, not an ideologue at all!

From Paul Thomas:

"From Yet, questions remain, and I cannot improve upon King’s similar charge from “Where Do We Go from Here?”:

“I want to say to you as I move to my conclusion, as we talk about ‘Where do we go from here,’ that we honestly face the fact that the Movement must address itself to the question of restructuring the whole of American society.

There are forty million poor people here. And one day we must ask the question, ‘Why are there forty million poor people in America?’ And when you begin to ask that question, you are raising questions about the economic system, about a broader distribution of wealth.

When you ask that question, you begin to question the capitalistic economy. And I’m simply saying that more and more, we’ve got to begin to ask questions about the whole society. We are called upon to help the discouraged beggars in life’s market place.

But one day we must come to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. It means that questions must be raised. You see, my friends, when you deal with this,

“• You begin to ask the question, ‘Who owns the oil?’

“• You begin to ask the question, ‘Who owns the iron ore?’

“• You begin to ask the question, ‘Why is it that people have to pay water bills in a world that is two thirds water?’

“These are questions that must be asked.”

http://dailycensored.com/2011/01/12/21st-century-segregation-inverting-kings-dream/

Posted by: frankb1 | February 27, 2011 4:29 PM | Report abuse


"Also problematic is the inequity common in charter schools:"

Students and families are not equal. The charter schools allow some who are motivated to escape a system that holds them hostage to the disruptive offspring of dysfunctional families that plague many public school classrooms.

Posted by: edbyronadams | February 27, 2011 4:40 PM | Report abuse

More extreme (dishonest) rhetoric from Paul Thomas:

"President Obama and Secretary Duncan have abandoned democratic principles and the promise of public education for a free people; they have abdicated those principles for the lure of corporate ideology."

http://dailycensored.com/2010/12/02/the-education-celebrity-tour-legend-of-the-fall-pt-ii/

Posted by: frankb1 | February 27, 2011 4:58 PM | Report abuse

Frankb1,

Mathews hasn't retired yet. His contradictory and vacillating voice can still be heard.

Besides, why must Struass have a counterpoint when most other major media outlets are doing a fine job of countering her positions? Think of applying your argument to those other media players who already disagree with Strauss. I read Time magazine, the NYT and the LAT regularly, and I certainly would not expect the same from them. If I can live with their positions and their biases, then you can live with the lone voice of Strauss at The Washington Post.

And can the ideologue stuff. You and I and everyone else is who posts comments are guilty of being one. It only makes you sound like the hypocrite who hasn't yet realized that he's laid a big stinker in his own pants.

Posted by: DHume1 | February 27, 2011 5:05 PM | Report abuse

Desertdiva1--DC teachers who were rated "highly effective" were indeed given the choice to accept large merit bonuses in exchange for job security. Some of them chose to keep the job security in lieu of the pay increase.

News Flash! Tenured teachers can be dismissed for poor job performance. That is a fact. There are procedures for doing so and any administrator worth their salt will see to it that ineffective teachers are removed. I've personally witnessed this happen in my school. Tenure insures due process, not a job for life.

Just look at the fired teachers from DC that have won their jobs back. Why did this happen? Because Rhee fired them without following proper procedures which basically meant that they had to be given a reason in writing. Why didn't she do this? My guess is that she wanted to make a spectacle out of firing them. She was more concerned about her image than following the terms of the contract which, given that those teachers were non tenured to begin with, required very little on the part of the administrator to dismiss them. It was a big public display of power. Anyone who asks a film crew if they want to come and film while they fire someone has questionable motives. Teachers, and anyone for that matter, working under such a climate of fear will not produce their best work.

The irony is that teachers who treated their students this way would be disciplined. Why is it acceptable to treat teachers with such a lack of respect?

Posted by: musiclady | February 27, 2011 5:25 PM | Report abuse

Teachers can't be objectively evaluated? Baloney. Every occupation could make the same claim, yet just about every job out there gets objectively evaluated. Maybe not perfect, but it's doable.

Lack of merit pay drives good teachers out of teaching. If you got the same raise every year as the worst performer at your job, how long would it take you to get frustrated and leave? That's what's happening to our teachers. (My wife is a teacher.)

Posted by: kfk3 | February 27, 2011 5:47 PM | Report abuse

plthomas3: You cite several nepc reports/studies. NEPC is funded in large part by several teachers unions, including the National Education Association. For me, that raises additional questions about your credibility.

Posted by: frankb1 | February 27, 2011 7:08 PM | Report abuse

From Matt Bia and the New York Times Magazine:

"What the union’s leadership seems not to have considered is that public sentiment around budgets and public employees has shifted in a fundamental way. For decades, as Keshishian and Giordano were rising up through the union, it probably made sense to adopt a strategy of “no surrender,” to dig in and outlast the occasional politician who might dare to threaten the union’s hard-earned gains.

But over the last 10 years or so, most American workers have come to expect less by way of benefits and security from their employers. And with political consensus building toward some kind of public-school reform, teachers’ unions in particular have lost credibility with the public. Forty-­six percent of voters in a poll conducted by Stanford and the Associated Press last September said teachers’ unions deserved either “a great deal” or “a lot” of blame for the problems of public schools.

And so, when the union draws a hard line against changes to its pay and benefit structure, you can see why it might strike some sizable segment of voters as being a little anachronistic, like mimeographing homework assignments or sharpening a pencil by hand. In a Pew Research Center poll this month, 47 percent of respondents said their states should cut pension plans for government employees, which made it the most popular option on the table."

Read the full NYT article at:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/27/magazine/27christie-t.html?pagewanted=7&ref=magazine

Posted by: frankb1 | February 27, 2011 7:19 PM | Report abuse

err....Matt Bai

Posted by: frankb1 | February 27, 2011 7:20 PM | Report abuse

frankb1,

Instead of attacking and demeaning me over and over, could you please address the credibility of the evidence I have offered?

Or, download EVERY report on the SAT and note that despite the pool of students taking the SAT being uniquely superior to the general population, and likely in the best classes with the best teachers, the strongest correlation with scores every time is parent income and parent level of education--out-of-school factors. . .Response?

Also, see this about the truth about PISA scores: http://nasspblogs.org/principaldifference/2010/12/pisa_its_poverty_not_stupid_1.html

With all due respect, address the evidence and avoid attacking the person.

Posted by: plthomas3 | February 27, 2011 8:27 PM | Report abuse

kfk3

"Lack of merit pay drives good teachers out of teaching. If you got the same raise every year as the worst performer at your job, how long would it take you to get frustrated and leave? That's what's happening to our teachers."

Lack of merit pay is NOT driving teachers out of education. I have several family members who are teachers, including my spouse, and they NEVER complain about their wages. But, around the dinner table, I have heard of numerous other reasons for their frustration: no administrative support; lack of parent support; being expected to do more with less money; student behaviors; in a competitive environment, no collegial support; although they don't want to, the environment forces them to teach to tests; and poor working conditions.

This is not to say that they wouldn't like being paid more. But they wouldn't really change what they did if they were paid more. They would still put in the extra hours over the weekend grading. They would still run a club. They would still help out their school if the need arose. When I hear their complaints, and I hear it often having a family of teachers on all sides of me, it usually has to do with administrative decisions and parent attitudes toward teachers/schooling.

Here's a nice break down for you: http://www.ernweb.com/public/902.cfm

And, ask your wife what she thinks. If she cares about children and education, then money is a marginal matter entirely.

Posted by: DHume1 | February 27, 2011 8:41 PM | Report abuse

For the record, since frankb1 has persisted in attacking me, I taught public school for 18 years in the rural South, and have been a strong advocate for school reform from day one.

The current calls for more bureaucratic reform are misguided, and since they are receiving the bulk of the press, I feel compelled to refute what is wrong, but in no way does that imply that I am for keeping things as they are.

My professional life is dedicated to education with a specific focus on children living and learning in poverty--which I suspect is not the focus on the new reformers. I also know that the central problem with our schools is social inequity and not teacher quality or a lack of charter schools.

As an educator in SC, I have taught my entire career in a nonunion state, BTW. . .We have no union contract for teachers and no tenure, and I have never been a union member. . .for the record.

Posted by: plthomas3 | February 27, 2011 9:01 PM | Report abuse

plthomas3: I completely agree that poverty, "parent income and parent level of education--out-of-school factors", has a huge impact on educational outcomes and subsequent economic prosperity in life. Doesn't everyone agree with that?

And as I said before: Alleviating poverty is an extraordinarily important cause.

But teacher quality is the most important factor in student achievement that schools can control.

Your plea to "avoid attacking the person", with all due respect, rings hollow. A cursorily review of your writings on the Daily Censored demonstrates that you engage in personal attacks with regularity. The quote from you about Obama & Duncan is a perfect example.

The really odd thing is that you've written on the need for teachers and researchers to partake in a PR effort to win broader public support (to counter the lies and omissions you see in reporting by corporate and mainstream media).

But you don't seem to understand that by using extreme (dishonest) rhetoric you're irreparably harming your credibility and cause.

Posted by: frankb1 | February 27, 2011 9:26 PM | Report abuse

frankb1,

My work doesn't have personal attacks. I address claims and policy. And my discourse is research based.

Posted by: plthomas3 | February 27, 2011 9:53 PM | Report abuse

plthomas3: From reading your bio it is clear you know (far, far better that I do) the power of words, and the importance of choosing words carefully (particularly the written word). Why go with extreme rhetoric then, when a more measured choice of words would be so much more auspicious?

Posted by: frankb1 | February 27, 2011 9:58 PM | Report abuse

A number of decades back one of America's most prestigious art schools (college level) decided that it would be a good idea to experiment by painting with bananas.

They lost some of their cachet and never got it back.

Many "charter schools" organized around a focus on less than universal appeal have ended up teaching with "bananas" ~ with the same result.

Posted by: muawiyah | February 27, 2011 10:04 PM | Report abuse

plthomas3: We obviously disagree on what constitutes a personal attack.

I think this is one:

"President Obama and Secretary Duncan have abandoned democratic principles and the promise of public education for a free people; they have abdicated those principles for the lure of corporate ideology."

Is that statement research based?

Posted by: frankb1 | February 27, 2011 10:09 PM | Report abuse

Why all this talk about Driving School?

Posted by: bal503 | February 27, 2011 10:09 PM | Report abuse

mmkm-
Please challenge the principal regarding this ridiculous policy. The teacher might well be in a position in which she could jeopardize her career if she rocks the boat.

I used to be critical of teachers who did not question flawed decisions until I had a principal who did not hesitate to write up anyone who disagreed with her for insubordination. It doesn't take much to ruin the career of even a teacher with a previously flawless record.

In many cases, the parent needs to be the child's advocate and press the principal about this issue. The teacher would probably like to thank you, if she didn't get in trouble for being on your side.

Posted by: aed3 | February 27, 2011 10:20 PM | Report abuse

plthomas3: Sorry, but I think this is a personal attack as well.

Paul Thomas wrote:

"For me, the new reformers—Rhee, Duncan, Gates, and others—are without credibility because their messages are factually inaccurate, historically blind, and ethically challenged (reflecting a “do as I say, not as I do” mentality of the hypocritical authoritarian).

"The agenda of the new reformers is clearly about using education as a political capital to move themselves further along—this is not about reforming schools, but about advancing careers (and brands) within a corporate model."

Is that research based?

http://dailycensored.com/2010/12/17/fire-teachers-reappoint-rhee-legend-of-the-fall-pt-iii/

Posted by: frankb1 | February 27, 2011 10:20 PM | Report abuse

mmkm-

Please challenge the principal regarding this ridiculous policy. The teacher might well be in a position in which she could jeopardize her career if she rocks the boat.

I used to be critical of teachers who did not question flawed decisions until I had a principal who did not hesitate to write up anyone who disagreed with her for insubordination. It doesn't take much to ruin the career of even a teacher with a previously flawless record.

In many cases, the parent needs to be the child's advocate and press the principal about this issue. The teacher would probably like to thank you, if she didn't get in trouble for being on your side.

Posted by: aed3 | February 27, 2011 10:21 PM | Report abuse

Been a fractious day on this blogue, I see.....

frankb1--keep up the good work. It is clear the anti-changers, or just those sitting on their hands and seeing nothing wrong or waiting for the next ed research study are in the overwhelming majority here. As always.

DHume1--am impressed with your wife's profession and her service. I'll bet she's a fine educator.

That ought to give you more insight, but you've also claimed to think small. So be it.

Suggestion to the prof.--every once in awhile read the WSJ (news, skip the editorial page), The Economist, and the New Yorker.

Posted by: axolotl | February 27, 2011 10:38 PM | Report abuse

Wife?

Posted by: DHume1 | February 27, 2011 11:56 PM | Report abuse

You are much smarter than this article makes you appear. Regardless of what public school a child goes to the per pupil funding for that child should be the same. How do you divine that some taxpayers' children should get more for their education than others'?

I hope you do continue to explore education reform, but until you actually run a school, YOU cannot just depend on a few people selected by you for reprints here, be your sole guide.

Clearly, your reported statement that "teachers" only account for 10-20 percent of the value of student achievement is foolish on the face of it.

Invite some others into your inner circle, some who will broaden your view of the world.

Posted by: topryder1 | February 28, 2011 6:12 AM | Report abuse

frankb1,

Final effort on my part here.

Commentary/Op-Ed writing is not scholarship, BUT I feel an obligation to merge the two as much as publications will allow. Frank, you cherry-pick from my pieces to attack ME, but leave out the many citations I include; so, yes, my claims are supported by evidence.

Second, you keep attacking ME and not addressing the evidence I provide (such as offering multiple reviews of Peterson's work). I have made no attack on you or your credibility. I have offered evidence on multiple occasions and directly addressed and contested (with evidence) the evidence you presented. I think we all would benefit from addressing the evidence in online discussions.

If anyone here would kindly refute Berliner's work (http://nepc.colorado.edu/publication/poverty-and-potential) or the powerful studies at JRF (http://www.jrf.org.uk/publications/experiences-poverty-and-educational-disadvantage), I will gladly shift my position on out-of-school factors. But I have been in education almost 30 years and have dedicated myself to poverty studies, concluding that my stance is accurate. From the JRF study: "Just 14 per cent of variation in individuals’ performance is accounted for by school quality. Most variation is explained by other factors, underlining the need to look at the range of children’s experiences, inside and outside school, when seeking to raise achievement."

Posted by: plthomas3 | February 28, 2011 8:24 AM | Report abuse

I also stand in good company, I think, considering Diane Ravitch's commentary: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2010/nov/11/myth-charter-schools/

Posted by: plthomas3 | February 28, 2011 8:28 AM | Report abuse

From Ravitch: "The movie asserts a central thesis in today’s school reform discussion: the idea that teachers are the most important factor determining student achievement. But this proposition is false. Hanushek has released studies showing that teacher quality accounts for about 7.5–10 percent of student test score gains. Several other high-quality analyses echo this finding, and while estimates vary a bit, there is a relative consensus: teachers statistically account for around 10–20 percent of achievement outcomes. Teachers are the most important factor within schools."

Posted by: plthomas3 | February 28, 2011 8:44 AM | Report abuse

DHume1--I apologize for my hallucination or confusion as to who wrote a particular comment. Unintentional.

Posted by: axolotl | February 28, 2011 7:54 PM | Report abuse

plthomas3: Wow...so then we all agree.

From Ravitch: "Teachers are the most important factor within schools."

Teacher quality is the most important factor in student achievement that schools can control. School should focus on that which they can control.

Posted by: frankb1 | February 28, 2011 10:35 PM | Report abuse

plthomas3: "Frank, you cherry-pick from my pieces"

I didn't read everything you wrote, but those quotes did jump out at me. I looked but didn't see any citations.

You proudly stand by your most extreme rhetoric. Good for you. For me that destroys your credibility.

Posted by: frankb1 | February 28, 2011 11:01 PM | Report abuse

frankb1,

re: credibility

If you claim to have seen no citations in my work, you didn't read; thus, I find your arguments against me lacking credibility.

I taught 18 years in public schools and have been in education almost 30. I feel that credibility is superior to repeated posts in online discussions that skirt evidence to promote an unwavering position (you pick out one sentence from the Ravitch evidence and do not acknowledge the central point she reinforces in my position)--especially since all of my work is with my NAME and identity clearing standing behind my commentary v. screen-name screeds.

Posted by: plthomas3 | March 1, 2011 8:34 AM | Report abuse

plthomas3: You're extremely thin-skinned for a person writing Commentary/Op-Ed. Perhaps you would be better off not reading comments in the future.

Posted by: frankb1 | March 1, 2011 3:49 PM | Report abuse

There are many ways to improve education, but from my perspective merit pay is not one of them.

I have a PhD in Biomedical Engineering from The John’s Hopkins School of Medicine, am Nationally Board Certified in mathematics, and teach math to mainly 7th grade students in a middle class neighborhood. I teach six classes a day; one of essentials, student performance two to five years below grade level, four of regular, performance slightly below to slightly above grade level, and one of advanced, students performing at least one year above grade level.

My essentials students have much stacked against them. There are reasons why they are two to five years below grade level and most of those reasons will, if not addressed, undermine their chances for meaningful participation in adult society. To them I offer a real and positive relationship with a responsible adult. I am the representative of the “system” and I need them to buy into the system if they are to benefit from it. I use math, but I teach responsibility and the importance of daily constructive interaction.

With my regular students I work on “habits.” I teach them to take notes, finish homework daily, take tests weekly and finals each semester, and maintain a regular math notebook. These students have already bought into the system but need good work habits to be successful.

Students in my advanced class are required to learn through investigation( see math.buffalostate.edu/~mcmillen/Fluster.pdf), create their textbook, and shoulder increasing responsibility for their own advancement.

What should be clear, and it’s what I told those who hired me to teach in this school district, is that math is my medium, not my message. I target what my students truly need to be successful in the real world, let alone academia, make a difference in their lives, but, if judged by any of the prevailing merit pay measures, would pale in comparison to a teacher who merely taught by the book. In addition, I have had my share of incompetent administrators who were happy to demean my efforts any time my approach did not fully agree with the educational motifs of the moment.

What this country needs is not a merit pay system for teachers. What this country does need is to decide to make K-12 teaching into a profession. Making teaching into a profession will not guarantee success, just witness our present problems with medicine, but it will be the necessary first step.

Matt Fluster, PhD

Posted by: MattFlusterPhD | March 1, 2011 4:31 PM | Report abuse

frankb1,

Thin-skinned? Sorry, I have had much worse tossed at me and I am not in the least concerned about your attacks since you haven't offered a single credible one.

My main point, and the reason I do read and participate in online discussions, is that most debate fails basic expectations for argument--as your comments routinely do.

Ad hominem attacks, cherry picking, switching topics, misrepresenting the other person's point and then refuting that mis-characterization--all of these are evidence that someone doesn't have credibility or evidence on his/her side.

It would have been better for all if you could have addressed even once whether or not the extensive evidence I have offered here is somehow flawed (re: you never even looked at 50 cited studies on charter schools). peace

Posted by: plthomas3 | March 2, 2011 7:31 AM | Report abuse

By any common sense measure, Charter Schools are Private schools. They don't operate on a public budget, they have boarding and 24 hour care. Any study of failing schools or high achieving schools should start with an examination of what the schools in each category have in common. If you have a failing school, the question must be asked 'has the school been failing since its inception and, if not, what changed'? Education starts with children's first days at school. To have 'business managers', without any teaching experience, attempt to fix a problem by starting closer to the end of the product than the beginning, can only result in the predictable misdiagnosis you would expect. It would be like covering the Gulf Oil leak with a chemical that sinks the oil to the bottom and declaring the water clear and safe.

Posted by: psdo51 | March 3, 2011 3:31 PM | Report abuse

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