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Posted at 5:00 AM ET, 01/26/2011

Things I’m sick of hearing

By Valerie Strauss

It’s time for school reformers to find new ways to attack their critics. It’s getting tiring hearing the same old refrains, which go something like this:

1. People who oppose standardized test-centered school reform that judges schools, students and teachers on the basis of test results:

a) like the status quo
and
b) are in bed with teachers unions
and
c) are not properly data-driven


2. People who think that dealing with the effects of poverty should be considered in any school reform plan that has a hope of sustained success:

a) use poverty as an excuse to maintain the status quo
and
b) think kids living in poverty can’t learn
and
c) want to spend years solving a problem that needs fixing NOW

3. People who think that Teach for America is not the best model for improving the country’s teacher corps:

a) put the interests of adults before the interests of students (which is another way of saying being in bed with teachers unions)
and
b) are anti-innovation (which is another way of saying ‘like the status quo’)
and
c) don’t want the best and brightest teaching our kids

4. People who point out that most charter schools aren’t any better than the traditional public schools:

a) hate all charter schools
and
b) like the status quo a lot (meaning they are anti-innovation)
and
c) don’t want parents to have a choice

5. People who support education historian Diane Ravitch’s positions on reform are:

a) all her close friends
or
b) teachers, who like their tenure too much to care about students
and
c) quaint, well-meaning septuagenarians

6. People who don’t understand what all the genuflecting to Michelle Rhee is all about are:

a) anti-reform (in that big huge bed with the teachers unions)
and/or
b) wimps (and certainly not warrior people)
and
c) suffering from Michelle Rhee Derangement Syndrome

7. People who don’t think it’s a good idea to let the super-wealthy fund public education are:

a) socialists
and
b) jealous
and
c) want to waste gazillions more public dollars on loser schools and lazy teachers

8) People who thought "Waiting for Superman" was grossly unfair and a poor explanation for what is really going on in public education:

a) are lousy film critics
and
b) have no heart (don’t care about kids/like the status quo)
and/or
c) are American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten’s close friend


9) People who don’t understand how President Obama got education policy so wrong are:
a) status quo lovers
and
b) Obama haters
and
c) in that gargantuan bed with the unions

10) You tell me.

-0-

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By Valerie Strauss  | January 26, 2011; 5:00 AM ET
Categories:  Achievement gap, Charter schools, Laugh and cry, Michelle Rhee, Standardized Tests  | Tags:  charter schools, data-driven reform, michelle rhee, president obama, school reform, standardized tests, teachers unions  
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Next: How a single test can change a child's life --a must-see video from Rhode Island

Comments

For all the veteran classroom teachers who have seen a revolving door of "best practices" curriculum come and go every few years as of recent and don't jump for joy as a literacy or math coach or government-sponsored consultant comes into their classroom... "cheerlead" coaching the "latest and sure-fire successful" model...

A- You must not want to be an agent of change
B- You must like to take the easy road - regurgitating the same stale lessons year after year
C- You must be "old school" in your mentality.

Posted by: teachermd | January 26, 2011 6:36 AM | Report abuse

11) People who think that teachers and testing alone cannot fix all the problems in education are:

1) lazy teachers clinging to their cushy, high-paying jobs, or

2) doomsayers who want to blame poverty for their own inadequacies, or

3) Rhee haters who can't get over that whole "broom" thing, or

4) all of the above.

Please visit my blog at teachermandc.com for my take on this madness.

Posted by: dcproud1 | January 26, 2011 7:22 AM | Report abuse

Should we think the President is "educated" enough to understand education? He is reporting/responding to what Arne Duncan reports. Most of what he says comes from his cabinet. He's in a closed loop system.

Posted by: jbeeler | January 26, 2011 8:19 AM | Report abuse

Things I'm sick of hearing about:

1) School reform

Posted by: ericpollock | January 26, 2011 10:14 AM | Report abuse

People whose skin crawls when they hear the word "rigorous"
a)Don't care about intellectual depth in the curriculum.
b)Want to fill children's days with touchy-feely time-wasting self-esteem affirmations.
c)Are sentencing our children and our nation to the scrap heap of also-rans.

Posted by: kc0896 | January 26, 2011 11:23 AM | Report abuse

Number 4: "People who point out that most charter schools aren’t any better than the traditional public schools:"

are stupid, dishonest, and missing the point.

Stupid or dishonest, because they are either lying about what the charter school studies show, or are too stupid to know what the studies actually say (Valerie is probably in this boat).

Missing the point because charter schools are still a good idea even if they aren't any "better" -- just having a choice is a good thing.

Posted by: educationobserver | January 26, 2011 11:56 AM | Report abuse

Ms. Strauss,

These consistent responses from school reformers shows the tight alignment among diverse business and political groups in moving education forward. Complaining about it does not help - the status quo is not an option. Proven business solutions will help us win.

Gordan P. Gekko, CEO of Corporate Reform And Policy

Posted by: dgodon | January 26, 2011 12:01 PM | Report abuse

Anyone who argues against cookie cutter curriculum where students and teachers alike are asked to perform like robots - no real dialogue as a teacher can only address the learning point in a 5-10 minute sound byte followed by 20 minute independent student work time where students demonstrate understanding of the teaching point... concluding in a 10-15 minute share out time.

A) should read the teachermandc.com blog as it reveals that there are teachers out there who still are inspiring students to love learning and are managing to teach despite the enormous influence of poor quality "top-down" curricular models.
b) Should read a good number of his entries that reveal the importance of socratic style teaching in developing critical thinking skills (and yes teachers need to hop off the "scripted curriculum" to engage students and make it applicable to their lives to enhance understanding.
c) In particular pay attention to the entry... "Sticky Truths" and then read the entry "Gratitude and Impact". Do we really want to stop unscripted but real classroom dialogue connected to curriculum such as we see here in teachermandc? Do we really want to stop this quality lesson planning in favor of scripted sound bytes that act more like a dog and pony show to show evidence of curriculum coverage for school district heads rather than evidence of real learning? Really? Real reformers should be angry at how scripted/mandated teacher methodologies are prevented good teachers from teaching - in fact de-professionalizing the teaching profession.. destroying education for students and then falsely blaming teachers!

Thanks dcproud1 creator of the teachermandc.com blog for such an insightful blog... brings me back to my own days as a student who loved to learn... I was fortunate enough to have teachers like you. And thanks to school closings for allowing me time to read the always insightful Valerie Strauss blog!

Posted by: teachermd | January 26, 2011 12:53 PM | Report abuse

Is this blog considered professional unbiased reporting?

Does Washington post have an ethics of professional responsibility panel or policy that permits this level of personal input on a national issue?

Strauss...I think you've crossed the line regarding some level of balance in your writing. You clearly support a one-sided viewpoint in support of professionl educators and teacher unions.

Do you have absolute experience in classrooms as an educator? hands on familiarity of the challenges within to provided informed reporting? Have you interviewed parents? Superintendants? Administrators, field trip, observe a HS (or any school) identified "poorly performing" within DC or inside the beltway? No?

You seem to only consistently provide special guests, reports, etc. that only support YOUR point of view. So how can anything you blog as it relates to the systemic education issues be taken seriously or with merit?

Posted by: PGCResident1 | January 26, 2011 1:00 PM | Report abuse

There should be a limit on the number of I-already-know-the-biased-answers-to-my-lame questions some people ask. I remember a few of my peers in school who were limited to one question per day. I guess no one ever put a limit on PGCResident1 so he could learn like they did.

Posted by: DHume1 | January 26, 2011 1:12 PM | Report abuse

DHume1,
Please excuse PGResident1.
He or she was up late this morning berating Valerie, myself and others on Valerie's previous posting.
So he/she is tired and probably irritated that PGCPS closed for today.

However, PGResident1 will like Dr. Hite's new proposal. In two years, Dr. Hite plans to use the new Maryland teacher evaluation system to take teachers who do a really good job and put them in schools where the teachers are doing, to borrow a phrase from Miss Rhee, a sucky job.
So PGResident1, who has made sure his/her children attend a school that doesn't suck, will see those great teachers be sent to Cora Rice Elementary to raise their test scores.

But then, PGResident1's children might get sucky new teachers.

Such a dilemma.

(See Dr. Hite's plan here:
http://www1.pgcps.org/employeeperformance/

By developing a comprehensive, fair and functional system for the district to assess the effectiveness of our teachers, we will enable:

* Our most effective teachers to be identified, recognized and strategically placed in front of students with the greatest needs)


Posted by: phillipmarlowe | January 26, 2011 1:52 PM | Report abuse

It's just you and me against the World, Valerie. I'm feeling a bit shell shocked as well. Medical attention might help.

Posted by: frankb1 | January 26, 2011 2:28 PM | Report abuse

I've now been in two charters schools that are dirty, filthy and airless. Who is the world is monitoring these schools?

I have seen 3 other charters schools that are clean.

But why is any city allowing any charter school to be dirty?

Posted by: educationlover54 | January 26, 2011 6:13 PM | Report abuse

Ms. Strauss, you are wonderful. You tell the truth when others try to hide it.

Posted by: educationlover54 | January 26, 2011 6:14 PM | Report abuse

People who are sceptical of new educational practices:

are baby boomers who remember the "new math" era, when teachers who didn't understand the concepts gave students endless problems that were supposed to allow us to discover mathematical concepts on our own and make us fall in love with mathematical research, and that actually left us confused and hating math.

In an accounting course recently, I understood the concept but got the wrong answer. When the professor asked if I really needed a calculator to do the problem and I answered, "I'm part of the new math generation," he immediately replied, "Oh, that explains it. None of you understand any math."

Posted by: sideswiththekids | January 26, 2011 7:23 PM | Report abuse

Why the same ole wry nonsense, Professor Dave? You like it one-sided as much as she does, so why complain about the PGC person?

Posted by: axolotl | January 26, 2011 8:01 PM | Report abuse

Why the same ole wry nonsense, Professor Dave? You like it one-sided as much as she does, so why complain about the PGC person?

Posted by: axolotl | January 26, 2011 8:04 PM | Report abuse

IDK. I really don't know. I was bored. . . maybe. Or I didn't want to read another research report and file it. Or I found his tone too condescending and abrasive. Or I really hate that type of argumentation (using questions to imply points and not being man enough to just state them). Or some of his points were just superduper lame-O for a blog post that is nothing more than a teacher vent session (geez, just let them vent and have a good laugh).

Yeah, it could be any one of abovementioned reasons.

Posted by: DHume1 | January 26, 2011 10:03 PM | Report abuse

The answers to number 5 may be cliched, but they're also true. People certainly aren't following Ravitch because she suddenly became an expert on areas that are far outside her historical expertise.

Posted by: educationobserver | January 27, 2011 9:46 AM | Report abuse

Oh, sorry, I just read your other post about PGCResident1. I had assumed that your questions were really questions and not vacuous rhetorical attacks. Yep, you and he have a lot in common, I see.

I also didn't realize until just right now that you were smitten with him. Yes, your adoration for him speaks volumes. He reminds me of teacher6452 in his superior knowledge of blogs and their integrity. I can see why you are taken with him so. You do make a nice couple: you are the flatulent utterance to his Frebreze "breath of fresh air."

Posted by: DHume1 | January 27, 2011 9:54 AM | Report abuse

Some new criticisms for you then:

"1. People who oppose standardized test-centered school reform that judges schools, students and teachers on the basis of test results:"
d) Offer no credible alternative to tests to evaluate and compare student performance.

"2. People who think that dealing with the effects of poverty should be considered in any school reform plan that has a hope of sustained success:"
d) are going beyond the experience and capability of education reformers and the scope of education policy

"3. People who think that Teach for America is not the best model for improving the country’s teacher corps:"
d) Are ageists that consider young teachers incompetent by definition and ignoring an extremely effective method for getting smarter people into the schools

"4. People who point out that most charter schools aren’t any better than the traditional public schools:"
d) Are ignoring the fact that this is fine because the key aspect of charters is that they give the opportunity for new ideas to be introduced without constraints and that unsuccessful models can be discontinued. Also, by saying this, you admit that some, (for example KIPP?), are better, and those are models others can emulate. Finally, you obviously contradict yourself here, because how are you able evaluate whether a charter is any better if you hold belief number 1?

"5. People who support education historian Diane Ravitch’s positions on reform are:"
d) Offerring no credible positive ideas on reform.

"6. People who don’t understand what all the genuflecting to Michelle Rhee is all about are:"
(actually, a, b and c are right (for you) on this one)
d) many of the people opposed to her are simply racists.

"7. People who don’t think it’s a good idea to let the super-wealthy fund public education are:"
d) ignoring a productive source of funding.

"8) People who thought "Waiting for Superman" was grossly unfair and a poor explanation for what is really going on in public education:"
d) missed the point, which is that it is an inspiration for us to be better teachers.

"9) People who don’t understand how President Obama got education policy so wrong are:"
d) People who don't understand how the policy sausage gets made. Look at NCLB, the idiotic brainchild of GW Bush and Ted Kennedy, failing schools because kids that showed up two weeks ago don't speak English. The law itself is mentally challenged!

Posted by: staticvars | January 27, 2011 11:42 AM | Report abuse

i'm don't count myself as one of those who makes a business of regularly attacking critics of reform -- certainly not their character or motives -- but i DO have some ideas about how critics could move beyond criticism and win broader support -- ideas which, alas, VS seems to perceive as mere criticism:

http://scholasticadministrator.typepad.com/thisweekineducation/2011/01/ideas-the-anti-reform-wrecking-ball.html

my main point is that just as well-meaning progressives are sick of being torn down all the time (the war on teachers) so are well-meaning reformers (and the public). in addition to having money and momentum, reformers have compelling characters and hopeful stories.

Posted by: alexanderrusso | January 28, 2011 6:11 PM | Report abuse

"Stupid or dishonest, because they are either lying about what the charter school studies show, or are too stupid to know what the studies actually say (Valerie is probably in this boat)."

What charter school studies show? How about this one, http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Education/2010/0629/Study-On-average-charter-schools-do-no-better-than-public-schools, which says that, on average, charter schools perform no better than public schools? How about when a study by Stanford University’s Center for Research on Educational Outcomes (CREDO) found that 37 percent of charter schools produce academic results that are worse than public schools, while only 17 percent perform significantly better?

For a smaller sample size, there was little difference between the test scores of most charter schools compared to traditional public schools in Genesee County, according to a Flint Journal review of the average percentages of students who met or exceeded standards on the 2008 Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP) test.

In its evaluation of charter schools released in 2003, the U.S. Department of Education found that charter schools were out-performed by traditional public schools in meeting state performance standards.

Have some studies shown charter schools perform better? Yes. But if the advantage was so clear cut, ALL the studies should show it.

"Missing the point because charter schools are still a good idea even if they aren't any "better" -- just having a choice is a good thing."

Really? If the executioner offers you a choice between hanging or beheading, that's better than just being beheaded because you were given the choice? The end result is the same: you die in a fairly quick manner.

How about if the government wants to seize your property under eminent domain to build a freeway and offers you a choice between accepting their payment offer or taking them to court, footing the entire bill for your lawsuit, still ending up taking their money? End result: you lose your property, you're just a lot poorer after choosing to resist.

Merely having a choice is not, in and of itself, a good thing, if the end state is still undesirable. After all, what difference does it make having a choice between a public school and a charter school if your test scores - and, by inference, the quality of your education - will likely be little different?

Posted by: SeaTigr | February 1, 2011 5:28 PM | Report abuse

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