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Posted at 11:22 AM ET, 09/28/2010

The irony behind Obama’s Sidwell/D.C. schools remarks

By Valerie Strauss

There is some irony behind President Obama's comment that his daughters could not get as fine an academic experience in a D.C. public school as they do at private Sidwell Friends School: His education policies promote some practices that Sidwell wouldn't dream of adopting.

Obama sparked a heated debate when he said during an interview with NBC's Matt Lauer that schools in the D.C. public system were making progress but were not as good as Sidwell.

My colleague, Jay Mathews, wrote on his Class Struggle blog that Obama was wrong. Jay said that there are some D.C. schools that are “just as good in every important way,” and the important ways he cites are setting high standards and having excellent teachers.

There are indeed teachers in the city schools that are as fine as any teachers at Sidwell, and some D.C. schools set extremely high standards for kids. But high standards and fine teachers do not alone make a great school, not if the fine teachers aren’t given the support and resources they need to help the kids meet the high standards. And, some of these fine teachers have told me, they aren’t.

At Sidwell, a Quaker school, teachers don’t spend days drilling kids to pass standardized tests, and they aren’t evaluated by student test scores. Sidwell has small classes, a wide range of curricular and extracurricular options, tremendous facilities on two big campuses, etc. etc.

The irony is that Obama’s own education policies give standardized testing a central place in public education, though he chose a school for his children that wouldn't see that as a sound way to run an academic program.

In the Obama era, public school teachers feel like they have come under assault from officials who want to hold them responsible for a student’s achievement even when there are factors that the teacher can’t help. There is a big push to evaluate teachers based on standardized test scores (an idea that assessment experts say is a bad idea), which is part of the IMPACT evaluation system created by D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee.

One of the great D.C. teachers wrote to me this week, saying:

“Most of us are beaten to a pulp with IMPACT, hurtful accusations, and a constant refrain that we haven’t done enough to serve our school system. ... We have lost sight of the parents’ role in preparing students for success, and we have taken nearly all student responsibility off the table and put it all into the schools’ hands ...

When we vocalize our resentment at sacrificing more than a dozen days of instruction in order to administer yet another battery of standardized tests that aren’t even aligned with our curriculum or the DC CAS tests, we are branded trouble-makers. All the labels are negative -- and they are coming from the very people on the payroll whose work it should be to provide us support.”

Teachers get blamed when D.C. school kids do poorly on their tests. When Obama’s daughter Malia came home from school with a 73 percent on a science test, Obama didn’t blame the teacher. He said in a speech last year that he simply told Malia to work harder.

But his main education initiative for public schools to date, Race to the Top, is focused on common standards, the expansion of charter schools, teacher assessment through performance, data systems and standardized tests.

It doesn’t have much to say about parental involvement, early childhood education, afterschool programs, kids’ health and psychological needs -- all of the things that a student at Sidwell could expect to get.

Of course, comparing one of the world’s finest schools to other schools doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

But neither do policies that scapegoat teachers, make standardized test scores all-important, and embrace market-driven reforms as appropriate for a public school system, which is the country's most important civic institution. You'd think we'd treat it better.

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By Valerie Strauss  | September 28, 2010; 11:22 AM ET
Categories:  D.C. Schools  | Tags:  jay mathews, matt lauer, michelle rhee, obama and d.c. schools, obama and sidwell, obama daughters, obama school reform, obama schools, president obama and sidwell, sidwell, sidwell and d.c. schools, sidwell friends  
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Comments

Valerie, thanks for posting this. I'm thinking about pulling my third grade student out of DCPS. This child has a real love of learning, but the endless parade of standardized tests is making him dread school.

Of course I don't have the funds for Sidwell. I'm sure they wouldn't let my kids in anyway...

It's nice that the Obama girls get choices. Too bad the test-as-curriculum is all we're served up here in DCPS. While it's certainly a nationwide trend, Rhee made things much, much worse.

Posted by: Title1SoccerMom | September 28, 2010 11:45 AM | Report abuse

Tuition for Sidwell: for the 2009-2010 school year are $29,842 (prekindergarten-grade 4) and $30,842 (grades 5-12).

Obama and his union crony friends did way with the limited school voucher program even though it is was fairly unique as a government program in that it INCREASED quality while DECREASING costs. Average cost of education in DC is ~$10,000. Giving parents $9,000 to pay for a private school won't get them into Sidwell but it sure would beat a failing public school bloated with administrators.

Posted by: GiveMeThat | September 28, 2010 12:09 PM | Report abuse

Since this administration is so big into "innovation," how about creating a program which tempts the Sidwell teachers to switch places with the "bad" teachers in a "failing" D.C. public school for a few years?

The arrogance and blindness of this elite, private-schooled reformer crowd is simply astounding. But that's what we get when we live in an increasingly socio-economically segregated society.

Posted by: pondoora | September 28, 2010 12:11 PM | Report abuse

The President of the United States, along with any parent in this great has a right to choose what's best for their child.

Best believe if my children were provided to attend one of the best schools in the country, we would enroll them in a heartbeat. No questions asked.

The problem with the current condition of the education is not created by parents nor students.

The crisis in the education system stems from elitist practice and for those "who have" will continue to receive easily, while those "who have not", have to scrape and fight for pittence available.

People who care about their kids academic success and access to decent-superior public schools, have a right to do so. We move to those areas and so do our friends and relatives.

BUT, people should be able to live anywhere in this country and have access to decent public schools. From low income to middle class. Unfortunately this is not "common standard" either when it comes to public education.


Keep Obama's children out of politics because children around this country are already academically suffering because of political nonsense.

Reform is here to stay and will move forward. It's a terrible thing to see Strauss wish for its demise.

Posted by: TwoSons | September 28, 2010 12:14 PM | Report abuse

Valerie, this DCPS teacher thanks you! Yesterday, I was administering yet another test to a few of my students. One 6th grade girl said, "I don't feel well. My head hurts." I thought it was because it was warm in the room. I said, "Yes, I know it's warm in the room." She said, "No, it's not the room. I'm tired of taking tests." That does not bode well since it's only the end of September. This young girl has 8 more months of test-taking. By the time we get to the DC CAS she will be worn out. That doesn't bode well for my IMPACT score either.

Enough already! I hope Vincent Gray throws IMPACT out with all the rest of the nonsense Michelle Rhee has brought into DCPS. She's run a great PR campaign but she's also run DCPS further into the ground.

"Drill and kill" is the name of the game anymore, not teaching and learning. When will the public realize this?

Posted by: UrbanDweller | September 28, 2010 12:31 PM | Report abuse

This post is excellent Valerie.

I taught for two years in Kansas City through Teach For America, and I noticed the same thing about the so-called "education reformers". They pursue and promote political policies that are nearly the opposite of those found in our nation's best schools.

If Sidwell suddenly began rigorous test-prep programs, tied teacher evaluations to test scores (thereby encouraging the teachers to engage in test-prep), and brought in market-based reforms such as merit pay (which did not work in the corporate world), then there would be an uproar of frustration from the parents. It wouldn't be allowed to happen because those policies aren't good for schools.

Here's a slogan people should start using: if it's not good enough for the kids at Sidwell, then it's not good enough for the kids in my district.

Posted by: william85 | September 28, 2010 12:36 PM | Report abuse

Let's face it, there are bad teachers. If they held a job in the private sector they would be fired in a month. These bad teachers are protected by the unions and we can't get rid of them. They should be made to take a test and if they flunk, oout the door.

Posted by: farmsnorton | September 28, 2010 12:39 PM | Report abuse

Valerie Strauss makes the only comment of this Sidwell Friends issue that is valid.

Race To The Top is really race to the bottom with "reforms" based upon the worst public school systems in the nation.

Massachusetts and a few other states have the best public schools in the nation while we have the absurdity of Race To The Top where these states have to accept and implement standards that are lower than the standards that these states currently have in place.

The reality is that many public school systems are doing well and have good teachers yet the "reform" of Race To The Top is almost totally based upon the idea that the majority of teachers in the United States are doing a poor job and there is a need for expensive computer systems to analyze test results to make teachers better.

Meanwhile this idea at Sidwell Friends would be considered absurdity just as it is considered absurdity in the majority of public schools that have fine teachers.

To gain admittance to Sidwell Friends a child must pass a test. Yet there is nothing in Race To The Top for public schools system in large urban areas to test children upon entering the school system and place them in schools based upon their ability. Apparently teaching children basically on the same level with abilities works well for Sidwell Friends but for public schools we should just throw children into schools and classes by chance so there are multiple levels of abilities in the same class room.

Time to recognize that to improve public education in the United States it is necessary to adopt method of the public school systems that are performing well and the methods of private schools that perform well instead of the ideas that come from the worst performing public school systems.

Posted by: bsallamack | September 28, 2010 1:10 PM | Report abuse

Here is one where the President Obama is correct.

Obama: Democratic voter apathy 'inexcusable'
By BEN FELLER, AP White House Correspondent

Admonishing his own party, President Barack Obama says it would be "inexcusable" and "irresponsible" for unenthusiastic Democratic voters to sit out the midterm elections,

It is true that Democrats should not be apathetic or without enthusiasm.

Go to the polls in November 2010 and vote for any Democrat that pledges to work for selecting a new Democratic candidate for President in 2012.

In the area of public education it should be obvious to most Democrats that this President is no better than the previous President.

If Democrats are concerned about public education work for selecting a new Democratic candidate for President in 2012.

Posted by: bsallamack | September 28, 2010 1:20 PM | Report abuse

One major thing that lacks in American public school which cost nothing and save money which is DISCIPLINE. Many American families lack DISCIPLINE in the home. The draft taught many DISCIPLINE. No wonder our country is going down the tube when the dogooders want to award people that lack DISCIPLINE. The key to success starts with DISCIPLINE.

Posted by: usapdx | September 28, 2010 1:26 PM | Report abuse

This was right on the money Valerie.

Continually blaming hard working teachers for the poor outcomes in impoverished inner city schools is like parachuting doctors into a plague zone with a baggie of band-aides, then blaming those doctors for the unusually poor health of the population.

Do schools in terrible areas have trouble hiring and retaining the best and the brightest teachers? Undoubtedly. What do you think it would be like to be one of those teachers? You try and try and try your heart out... you have some small successes here and there... but overall you can't overcome the surpassing weight of the poverty.

Education is a parent/school relationship in which the parent plays an equal if not greater role. If the parent is not up to their role as co-educator, then the other partner is in deep trouble.

We could certainly do a much better job of turning these inner city schools around, but it will take a whole lot of money to do it. They need increased staffing, good facilities, and parental outreach. The truth is that voters are not willing to pay for it.

Wealthy parents/taxpayers/voters would rather spend their money on their own kids.


Posted by: Geot | September 28, 2010 2:37 PM | Report abuse

Reform is here to stay and will move forward. It's a terrible thing to see Strauss wish for its demise.

Posted by: TwoSons
..................
Yes we should accept poor policies.

Why not bring back a draft and send 500,000 American troops to Afghanistan since nation building is our policy there. Let us repeat Vietnam?

But we all know by now that the President has sent 30,000 troops to Afghanistan simply as political expediency for his reelection on 2012.

And Americans also know that Race To The Top is simply more political expediency for his reelection on 2012.

As for the children of the President, yes they should not be in politics, but it is the President who brought them into politics with his comments regarding his children. Americans really do not need a President that simply drags his children into their comments about public issues.

Time for the supporters of this President to recognize that there are a large number of Democrats and also independents who are, by the definition of this President and his press secretary, members of the professional left.

Remember that "I hear these people saying he's like George Bush. Those people ought to be drug tested" is a test of being a member of the professional left.

Time for the die hard supporters of this President to recognize that Democratic and Democratic leaning independents will not be voting in 2010 because of the policies of the President who once promised change and has simply given in almost all cases the policies of the previous President.

Time for Democrats to select a new candidate for President in 2012.

Posted by: bsallamack | September 28, 2010 2:49 PM | Report abuse

And of course the President is really concerned about public education and not using it as an issue for his reelection or simply as an issue to detract from the problem of this nation that he has ignored.

Obama: Education key to economic success
By CHARLES BABINGTON, Associated Press Writer

A high school principal read a letter that he said was from a class in his school.

"What assurance will we have that we will be rewarded for good work?" the students asked. "There seems to be less money that banks lend our families, and most of all no jobs."
...................................
See it is not the policies of the government and the President that are important but education.

Meanwhile Americans since the start of the government allowing the offshoring American jobs in 2002 are no longer enrolling in the sciences, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Fields that Americans dominated in 2000 are no longer for Americans and the enrollments of American have dropped in the key fields of the 21st century. No sense in spending $50,000 to $100,000 for education in a field where there are no jobs for Americans.

But of course education is important and not a policy of the President to prevent the offshoring of American jobs to cheap foreign labor that is destroying our economy.

The House Committee on Science and Technology June 12, 2007

As Dr. Alan Blinder, one of today’s witnesses testified, these examples seem to be only the tip of the iceberg. Dr. Blinder has estimated that more than one in four American jobs are vulnerable to offshoring. More striking is his finding that most American technical jobs in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields are amongst the most vulnerable to offshoring.

Posted by: bsallamack | September 28, 2010 3:05 PM | Report abuse

This post is excellent Valerie.

I taught for two years in Kansas City through Teach For America, and I noticed the same thing about the so-called "education reformers". They pursue and promote political policies that are nearly the opposite of those found in our nation's best schools.

If Sidwell suddenly began rigorous test-prep programs, tied teacher evaluations to test scores (thereby encouraging the teachers to engage in test-prep), and brought in market-based reforms such as merit pay (which did not work in the corporate world), then there would be an uproar of frustration from the parents. It wouldn't be allowed to happen because those policies aren't good for schools.

Here's a slogan people should start using: if it's not good enough for the kids at Sidwell, then it's not good enough for the kids in my district.

Posted by: william85

Amazing, a TFA alum who escaped the cult. Bravo!

Posted by: mcstowy | September 28, 2010 4:11 PM | Report abuse

This is going to seem counter to previous comments I have made questioning the excessive standardized testing each year in DCPS, but, come on people, dial back the whine a little. Even if there are 20 school days taken up by testing and test prep (a ridiculously high number I agree), that leaves 160 to do something other than drill and kill.

Posted by: horacemann | September 28, 2010 4:16 PM | Report abuse

This has nothing to do with the president's children. The president made stupid remarks about DC public schools vs a high-ranking DC and he should pay for them.

How should he pay? By taking Valerie's advice and looking at the difference in policies and practices between Sidwell and DCPS. By taking poondora's (and my) advice and seeing how "great" teachers do in not-so-great teaching environments. By taking Diane Ravitch's advice and stopping this ridiculous RttT and NCLB business.

Maybe the President's stupid remark can actually make a positive difference.

Posted by: efavorite | September 28, 2010 4:20 PM | Report abuse

Reform is here to stay and will move forward. It's a terrible thing to see Strauss wish for its demise.

Posted by: TwoSons

But "reform" as promoted by Rhee, Duncan, Klein, TFA, etc. is a move backward and doomed to fail (unless the "reformers " consider creating a permanent underclass to be feared, and punished a success, and based on their policy prescriptions, that seems to be their goal). Not only does RTTT and the "reform" cult promote policies that are exactly the opposite of great schools like Sidwell and Georgetown Day, they are also the opposite of the polices working in successful public schools in poor, urban areas. Richmond, VA public schools now outperform wealthy Fairfax County on the state's SOL's at nearly every level, yet they employ none of the policies the "reformers" promote. Instead they concentrate on curriculum, teacher retention and development, and accountability to the community through an elected school board. No charters, no TFA's, no mass firings, no standardized tests on teacher evaluations. What works is the opposite of RTTT.

Posted by: mcstowy | September 28, 2010 4:20 PM | Report abuse

The bottom line here is that:
a) the President is a parent like any one of us and free to send his children wherever he deems best and is financially able. He would not do anything different if he were a private citizen.

b) The difference in learning environments aside, DC has a solid reputation of spending the most per student despite having some of the worst schools in the country. Rhee has set about to change that but, by her own standard, the change is not yet near complete. Teachers evaluations have been tied to test scores because these schools are so bad and there is no other reasonable way to evaluate their effectiveness.

Posted by: sassafrasnewport | September 28, 2010 4:26 PM | Report abuse

"Teachers evaluations have been tied to test scores because these schools are so bad and there is no other reasonable way to evaluate their effectiveness."

What poor logic.

Let's see, "Doctors' evaluations have been tied to patients' blood pressure because these patients are so ill and there is no other reasonable way to evaluate doctors' effectiveness."

Or maybe, "Farmers' evaluations have been tied to crops because the land is so arid and the irrigation is so poor and there is no other reasonable way to evaluate their effectiveness."



Posted by: efavorite | September 28, 2010 4:41 PM | Report abuse

The bottom line here is that:
a) the President is a parent like any one of us and free to send his children wherever he deems best...

...Teachers evaluations have been tied to test scores because these schools are so bad and there is no other reasonable way to evaluate their effectiveness.

Posted by: sassafrasnewport
............................
The problem is the President.

The President decided to send his children to Sidwell in 2008. Nobody cared.

The President was the one who created the problem recently by his comments about D.C. public schools and Sidwell. Blame the President for not having common sense.

You mention "teachers evaluations have been tied to test scores because these schools are so bad" in D.C.

At the same time you fail to recognize that the majority of public schools are doing well so why is the President forcing on them through Race To The Top what is needed for the worst schools in America?

Why do states have to spend billions on local standardized tests and computer systems to analyze test results when most of their schools are not having problems?

It makes no sense for large amounts of money to be spent on what is not needed in most public schools in the country.

It does not really take much intelligence to recognize that you spend money where it is needed and not where is not needed.

You would think very poorly of any President that said all Americans should get food stamps since their are American families without food.

Time for the loyal supporters of this President to understand why so many Democrats and independents are not happy.

Some may make lemonade when they get a lemon but my answer is for Democrats to select a new candidate for President in 2012. That is change we can believe in.

Posted by: bsallamack | September 28, 2010 5:17 PM | Report abuse

"Time to recognize that to improve public education in the United States it is necessary to adopt method of the public school systems that are performing well and the methods of private schools that perform well instead of the ideas that come from the worst performing public school systems."

bsallamack, I couldn't agree with you more.

I have to scratch my head when the "reformers" promote charter schools as the panacea to public education, but do not allow public schools the same freedom to try new ideas and force specific and narrow curriculum down teachers and kids throats.

I cannot understand how a reform movement mandates that every child be taught the same though they recognize all is not fair and equal in the world of education.

I guarantee Sidell Friends or any other private school doesn't have pacing where the teacher must be on a specific page at a specific time on a specific day. Or, that their field trips have been cut....or like others have said...test, test, and test again....or their teachers teach from scripted curriculum. And I won't even attempt the other areas where our hands are tied and how OUR administrators are really not interested in individuals.

Posted by: gabby2 | September 28, 2010 5:22 PM | Report abuse

Reform is here to stay and will move forward. It's a terrible thing to see Strauss wish for its demise.

Posted by: TwoSons
..................
I love how we use the word "reform" instead of improvement in regard to education. Just imagine trying to sell standardized testing as improving education.

Also what is great is that "reform" was the word you used when you were spoke of government and chasing out the crooked and corrupt politicians.

Of course how many remember that when "reform" was used in regard to education it was when speaking of reform schools.

I guess we have made real progress when we will reform public education by chasing out the crooked and corrupted politicians, oops I mean teachers.

Oh by the way the Progressive Party in this nation was the party of the extreme left, or member of the professional left. That was at the time of when Democrats were liberals. Now the liberals are the members of the professional left while the progressives are to the right of liberals.

Posted by: bsallamack | September 28, 2010 5:41 PM | Report abuse

Fire Obama. He has shown he has no interest in taking responsibility for education. He has shown no accountability.

Posted by: educationlover54 | September 28, 2010 6:41 PM | Report abuse

Great posting, Valerie. Right on the target. However, I disagree that school "reformers" like Rhee, Duncan and company pursue misguided policies. They are in fact the fifth column in the public school system, pursuing a specific goal - sabotaging and then privatizing it. Everyone knows that drilling for standardized testing and classroom micromanagement makes education process worse not better, yet they insist on them. Why? Because it is a sure way to finally break the system, make it intolerable to both teachers and students.

This method has been successfully tried in this country (the dismantling of the mental health care system under the guise of "patient rights") and elsewhere. The strategy is very simple: let the well meaning bleeding hearts and "reformers" create enough noise how bad the system is to create a sense of urgency - for "public good" of course - and then send the wrecking crew to dismantle the system, privatize what is profitable, kick the unprofitable elements out into the streets, and laugh all the way to the bank. Perhaps Rhee, Duncan and other "reformers" have good intentions, but given the current political climate, they play the role of useful idiots who give the human face to privatization drive of the last predominantly public industry in this country.

If you want our education going the way our mental health care went some thirty years ago - vote Republican. They make an excellent wrecking crew.


Posted by: wsokol52 | September 28, 2010 8:30 PM | Report abuse

Excellent points Valerie.

As soon as I read the comparison, I thought, I wish they had asked President Obama to explain specifically what was exceptional about Sidwell Friends.

And then I wish they had followed it up by asking him what in the current "reform" policies was like Sidwell's programs?

It seems to me hypocritical to suggest on the one hand "No excuses" for classroom teachers but then to serve a clearly inferior curriculum and methodology and call it reform. If it can be done at Sidwell, why can't it be done in DC?

Obama sends mixed messages on education. On the one hand, he and the first lady actually visit poverty area city schools, something I don't remember many presidents doing. The first lady went to a school in Silver Spring and to Detroit. I mean, when has a the First Lady ever gone to Detroit and spoken to a crowd of students at Wayne State? Never, ever, it is like they didn't exist. It does seem like he wants real reform. However, the policies lack any real credibility, it is all data reading, playing with numbers and testing, and firing teachers. Obama appears to be really smart so I don't get it.

As Valerie points out, he doesn't blame teachers personally, but Duncan's policies certainly seem to. Duncan's messages are mixed as well. He gave an award to Alverno College last year, because their graduates have the highest retention rate once they become teachers. But Alverno has a real education program ( I know I went there for a certification program years ago). I'm sure they teach teachers to use data, but not to use it above all else. I mean, their philosophy is as far from what I hear of TFA's as I can imagine.

Is the press manipulating the message?

I think the press is publishing the flashy stories to get more clicks, or to push a Republican agenda or that Obama and Duncan haven't figured out which way to go with the education thing. I'm sure Michelle Rhee did some good for DC, but to push that as some sort of model for the country, I just don't get it. Her claim to fame seems to be firing people.

Posted by: celestun100 | September 28, 2010 10:40 PM | Report abuse

My last statement is ambiguous. I am saying that I think the negative "Fire the teachers and Kill the Unions" type stories are popular, because people like to find scapegoats.

I am also saying I think this current administration doesn't have a clear plan about education. Like they have been listening to testing people instead of teachers.

I really think people like Diane Ravitch are telling the truth about education and hopefully someone will listen before more damage is done.


Posted by: celestun100 | September 28, 2010 10:48 PM | Report abuse

"Not only does RTTT and the "reform" cult promote policies that are exactly the opposite of great schools like Sidwell and Georgetown Day, they are also the opposite of the polices working in successful public schools in poor, urban areas. Richmond, VA public schools now outperform wealthy Fairfax County on the state's SOL's at nearly every level, yet they employ none of the policies the "reformers" promote. Instead they concentrate on curriculum, teacher retention and development, and accountability to the community through an elected school board. No charters, no TFA's, no mass firings, no standardized tests on teacher evaluations. What works is the opposite of RTTT."
-posted by mcstowy

WHAT, THIS IS CRAZY!!! mcstowy is trying to say that students from Richmond City (about 90% Black) do better than wealthy Fairfax county (about 60% White and Asian) on the SOL tests. This is a totally incorrect. I do not know where mcstowy gets his data from but the failure rate in Richmond is about three times higher than in Fairfax (and the failure rate on the SOL is set ridiculously low so as not to fail too many Blacks) and the rate of advanced scores is about three fold lower. Proficiency level scores might be lower in Fairfax but that is just because a big fraction of the smart Fairfax kids are scoring in the higher advanced level category.

People who deny the truth about racial IQ differences are always trying to show that somewhere there is some school district where Black students are not performing at a lower level, but alas their claims invariably turn out to be wrong (like mcstowy's current claims) or based on fraudulent scores obtained through cheating by teachers and/or principals. Of course when we link teachers' salaries to test score results we can anticipate that there will be a huge increase in cheating by teachers in order to avoid losing out on the extra cash that will be waved in front of their noses. But none of these reform efforts and cash incentives to teachers will ever change the solid reality that African American Blacks as a group have an IQ distribution that is centered on an average IQ of only about 85. Thus there is just no possible way that as a group Blacks will ever do as well in academic achievement as Whites (average IQ about 100) or Asians (average IQ about 106). Until people accept this reality they will always be hoping for an unattainable goal. Face up to reality folks, the racial academic achievement gap is a permanent reflection of racial diversity in mental ability. Racial IQ differences are simply an enduring fact of human nature that can not be wished away.

Posted by: rifraf | September 28, 2010 11:22 PM | Report abuse

@rifraf
I disagree.

Posted by: celestun100 | September 28, 2010 11:27 PM | Report abuse

Interesting slice at the cake, but I think the author has it backwards. The irony is that Obama has been re-empowering unions, but is unwilling to accept the damage that causes to society. One of the main reasons schools are failing around the country is the Teachers Unions (I am specifically familiar with CA and DC). Where the unions are extremely powerful, they inevitably drive standards and results toward mediocrity. Job retention, protection, and benefits of the members (i.e., teachers) is the first priority in that paradigm, not the education of children. Now that Obama has empowered DC's teachers union, they have gotten their man elected Mayor. Obama sees the writing on the wall, as an enormous Union supporter, he should be giving his children a union education. But Obama knows have seen the best we are going to get here in DC, and it looks like it's going to be downhill from here. He shouldn't want to put his children in front of the coming collapse. Rhee was not afraid to hold the teachers to standards - and it was clear 5 years ago that major housecleaning needed to be done. Now all of the improvements that have been achieved, which the Teachers Union and Gray fought every step of the way, are going to be lost. Rhee will inevitably be replaced with some Teachers Union hand puppet: Gray's pay back for being put in the mayor’s job. Obama is right to support Rhee, right to want good schools, and he knows that his policies have failed to deliver it for his children. That's the irony.

Posted by: DCguy8 | September 29, 2010 9:46 AM | Report abuse

How many teachers at Sidwell Friends have bachelor's degrees in the subject they teach? How many have more advanced degrees? How many DCPS teachers have degrees in an academic subject as opposed to education degrees? Are they teaching those subject or other subjects? Do any of them have advanced degrees in the subject they teach? How many foreign languages are taught in the DCPS kindergarten? How many in Sidwell Friends? How many Sidwell Friends students elemntary students are taking junior high or high school math? How many DCPS elementary students can? How many days does DCPS close so teachers can prepare lesson plans or attend a conference on the best way to assign homework? How many days does Sidwell Friends close for these purposes? How many times each day in each school are lessons interrupted by public announcements? How many times are classes cancelled for pep rallies or rallies to sell magazines? How many Sidwell Friends students are beaten up or bullied by classmates for doing their homework or making the honor roll?How often does this happen in the DCPS schools?

The fact is that the good private schools exist to educate. Since the Great Depression, when the age of leaving school was raised to keep teeagers from competing with adults for scarce jobs, the public schools have existed to keep students isolated from society. (By good private schools I am excluding the ones that exist only to teach that African Americans are inferior or that Jews use Christian blood in religious ceremonies--the ones that are the reason we can't have vouchers.)

By the way, Title1SoccerMom, most well financed private schools offer scholarships, and these are often much easier to get than scholarships to college. Have you applied at Sidwell Friends?

Posted by: sideswiththekids | September 29, 2010 1:14 PM | Report abuse

How much you want to bet that Sidwell Friends would not blink at firing a non-performin teacher? I'm guessing the faculty at Sidwell Friends is top notch, and monitored and evaluated by the school administrators.

Parents and students are clearly responsible for their achievement, or lack thereof. But quality education won't be achieved until bad teachers are pushed out of the system. That will not happen as long as the teacher's unions continue to prop up second and third-rate teachers, many of whom I bet have tenure in the D.C. school system.

Posted by: hokie92 | September 30, 2010 12:41 PM | Report abuse

Education is a freedom,a grossly abused freedom.There is no consistency across the entire 50 states, we see this as the top student of one school gets a scholarship and ends up in remedial classes when she entered college. We can list all the problems, but in the meantime our children continue to slip further down the line and our country with it. Many households don't even make 31,000 a year or have the ability to even save that much towards for college 18 years later. Great minds and talents are being lost everyday. We are trying to teach in two languages, forgetting the resiliency of how bright young minds are with the ability to adapt and achieve. Military children learn untaught languages by exposure alone for no other reason than to communicate. Multiple languages are an asset to any country, yet English speaking students are heavily influenced towards Spanish to be able to communicate with those who don't. Stop making victims of these children, without being proficient in the language of the country how are they to ever get into a school of higher learning? Oh I forgot we haven't gotten them through high school yet. Some of our children don't even have a safe environment to learn in, which is the right of every student. Nor do they have quality food in the cafeteria, some children can't even name vegetables or have enough milk for every student.When you have 3rd generation welfare families, I would say the system has been falling for awhile. You can't blame the teachers if a child isn't academical, do we have an option for vocational-schools? Do special need students get what they need to reach there full potential? Why not devote a state of the art facility to special needs per district instead of trying to make each school try to accommodate on a need to be basis. I am all for inclusion, but at a certain point we should know enough to set a reasonable goal of expectancy for special students. If they can't master the objective, lets find a skill where they can shine. Combine school allowances so more versatility is offered as an option. As far as recommendations for the teachers themselves are they educated in the 4 distinct learning styles so every child gets taught in there learning style? To teach is to touch one's life forever, but after all a teacher does (parent, counsel, discipline, referee,evaluate for abuse, receive verbal and sometimes physical abuse from students and non-supportive parents)get told your best isn't good enough. We wonder where have all the good teachers gone? Piled under all the layers of dysfunction of today's present chaos. Go back to the basics, stabilize the foundation, take back to school from the students, give the students full use of the gyms and let them play. Athletics had there turn, share and share alike. Year round school with equal breaks-uniforms for all-it's not a fashion show.No the kids won't like it,since when did they become educated to know what is good for them?

Posted by: eqauityforall | September 30, 2010 2:16 PM | Report abuse

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