Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity


Posted at 3:31 PM ET, 06/25/2010

Extremism in school reform is not a virtue

By Valerie Strauss

My guest is Mark Phillips, professor emeritus of secondary education at San Francisco State University and author of a monthly column on education for the Marin Independent Journal.

He wrote this in response to a spate of films coming out about school reform, including “Waiting for Superman,” which had a premiere this week in Washington D.C. and which positively highlights D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee, as well as the pro-charter school “The Lottery,” a feature-length documentary now playing in theaters and focused on the Harlem Success Academy.

Incidentally, my colleague Jay Mathews, the dean of American education reporters, is in both of those films. “Superman” will be in wide release in September.

By Mark Phillips
I have no definitive answers for the multiple challenges facing us in public education. What I do know definitively is that no one else does either. So it continues to surprise me that so many seem so clear in their extremely opposing perspectives. I don’t get it.

People are for and against charter schools, for and against performance pay for teachers, for and against teacher tenure. It’s time to recognize the complexity of these challenges, not hold to simplistic, extreme positions. We must find ways to build bridges and find consensual solutions.

Let’s take charter schools as the first example.

These schools provide educators, parents and children an alternative public school choice. Given their greater freedom, they can more quickly implement some of the latest research in psychology and the most recent developments in curriculum and instruction.

At their best, many of them are doing an excellent job of reaching and teaching at-risk and under achieving kids and are making a major contribution to improving public education in the U.S. Given my belief in and commitment to quality educational alternatives, I do volunteer work at an excellent charter school and serve on its advisory board.

BUT, charter schools are not panaceas and definitely not THE ANSWER to our educational problems.

First it is misleading to talk about charter schools generically. There are superb ones and terrible ones. Quality control, as for most of our schools, is erratic at best. The problems may stem from failures of conception, failures of leadership, fiscal mismanagement, the hiring of ineffective teachers, and/or the inability to effectively deal with the challenges of starting a new school. Greater quality control is needed and should come from statewide charter school leaders. It can also come from supportive local districts. The significant number of second-rate charter schools must be reduced.

Additionally, the perspective that poses charter schools as the saviors and struggling public schools as candidates for elimination creates a false and destructive choice. We need to put major resources into helping those schools that are struggling, not eliminate them to make way for more charter schools.

At the same time, those who categorically oppose charter schools tend to use the failing ones as a rationale for opposing all charter schools. Not infrequently there are self-serving motives for this. Teacher unions often oppose charter schools because most are not unionized. They also dislike the fact that seniority is not used to hire teachers. Many school districts also oppose them because they have less control over them and feel that they siphon funds away from other schools.

The continued battling between the two sides is counterproductive. School choice, a clear preference of parents, is far better served through charter schools and other viable alternatives, such as schools within schools, than through the voucher system, a real threat to public education. The more effective educational alternatives we provide to match the varied needs of children and adolescents, the greater the strength of our public schools.

We need to get beyond these polarizing positions and find ways to collaborate on providing more educational alternatives for parents and children.

There are equally divergent views on another major challenge, teacher quality. These are playing out in relation to both teacher tenure and merit pay for teachers.

There are increasing pressures on state legislatures to eliminate tenure, and most Americans support merit pay for teachers

Colorado recently tied both the granting of tenure and the continuation of a teacher’s tenure to student test results. Wisconsin eliminated tenure a few years ago. Louisiana has instituted a process of revoking tenure that is tied to test results.

There is also increasing polarization between teacher unions and policymakers regarding these issues. Both sides are approaching the challenging problems more emotionally than analytically. In the process they are making the search for effective solutions more difficult. Attacking and defending is a recipe for stalemate.

The primary argument against tenure is that it protects ineffective teachers. The secondary argument is that in other occupations no one gets tenure. They have to continually prove their competence.

But there are valid reasons for tenure. It provides security of employment that helps protect academic freedom, a major tenet in a democratic society. If not for tenure teachers could be fired for the wrong reason, particularly if their views challenged those of their administrators. This is not a myth. The examples are numerous. Tenure also provides some financial security in a profession with few financial rewards. Without this security even fewer qualified professionals would choose to be teachers.

The argument that other occupations don’t have tenure is hollow. Millions of workers are miss-treated by their employers. Increasing the odds that teachers could also be treated that way would be regressive.

But there is also a clear downside to tenure. It does protect ineffective teachers. It’s almost impossible to fire a poorly performing teacher unless he or she is also guilty of professional misconduct. The dilemma is how to preserve tenure, reward excellent teachers, and simultaneously insure higher teaching quality.

Here is where teacher unions enter the picture. Developed to protect professionals who are often treated unprofessionally, they are failing to provide quality control. Reacting defensively rather than pro-actively, functioning more like trade unions than professional organizations, they’ve been easy to cast as villains in the struggle for educational reform.

Tenure should only be awarded to teachers with well-proven effectiveness. The process of assessing teacher quality must be improved and applied to both the granting of tenure and performance pay based on periodic post-tenure review. Both processes should be developed and implemented by a team that includes teachers and the principal. Teacher unions should take the lead in this.

Teacher organizations haven’t promoted post-tenure review and have opposed merit pay, partially because they justifiably fear that the process will be tied to test results and controlled by state legislators. But with teacher leadership, this could be based on multiple measures of effectiveness, not solely test results. Teacher assessment should include student perceptions and observations by master teachers.

Tenured teachers who are evaluated positively should receive merit pay. Those who are not should be given additional training to increase their effectiveness. If after this training peer reviewers still assess a teacher to be ineffective, that teacher should be counseled to seek another profession and, if necessary, be terminated.

Teacher organizations have a responsibility to advocate and develop this process. If they don’t, there will be increasing pressure from the outside to eliminate tenure, however destructive that might be. If they do, they will raise the level of the profession and the level of public confidence in teachers.

I don’t think the right answers are hard to find. Implementing them in this present polarized climate of attack and defense is difficult.

-0-


Follow my blog all day, every day by bookmarking washingtonpost.com/answersheet. And for admissions advice, college news and links to campus papers, please check out our Higher Education page at washingtonpost.com/higher-ed Bookmark it!

By Valerie Strauss  | June 25, 2010; 3:31 PM ET
Tags:  charter schools and teachers, colorado and teachers law, eliminating teacher tenure, merit pay and teachers, teacher tenure, teacher tenure and reform, teachers and accountability, teachers pay and test scores, value of teacher tenure  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: The long-lasting power of a great teacher
Next: Scary things in U.S. report on school vouchers

Comments

Here's what I find confusing about teacher tenure and so I hope someone can enlighten me.

During my 42 years of teaching I had personal knowledge (occurred at my schools) of six tenured teachers and principals who were fired for misconduct (child molestation, drug possession, cheating, job abandonment -teacher went off to Russia in the middle of the year-). During this whole time (yes, all 42 years) I knew of only two permanent teachers who got bad evaluations. One got it the very day after she spoke to the board of education and the other got hers after she reported a principal for pressuring her to drop a child abouse charge. In one case the teacher appealed her poor evaluation and was exonerated by the State Court of Appeals (Yes, the district took it that far, courtesy of the taxpayers.) and the other teacher had hers reversed when the school board found out about it.

It is a fact that over 90% of teachers get GOOD evaluations from their administrators. This seems to be true at all schools across the nation.

Michelle Rhee had no trouble dismissing teachers with the legally sanctioned 90 day plan.

So, my question is: "If it is the job of administration to hire, fire and evaluate teachers and yet they fail to do so, why are unions blamed for this? Thank you.

Posted by: Linda/RetiredTeacher | June 25, 2010 5:34 PM | Report abuse

Here is one reason for good evaluations across the board (although when I think about it I only know specifically how a few of my colleagues are evaluated). In the first few months of the school year we inevitably have 1-3 new teachers leave. Either because they realize this is not for them or because the principal lets them go. These numbers do not get into the records and to me it means the system is working. I still acknowledge the problems with teachers in the system who have escaped that first year elimination and at my school at least there are only a very few. There are union proposals to deal with this problem but at least here in Florida where Unions are regularly demonized at the state level but generally work pretty well with the districts at the local level, there is no state wide plan to implement any proposals for something like peer observations and counseling. Our union does train master teachers to teach professional development courses that all our beginning teachers can go through in conjunction with district training before school starts. I know that the offerings are valuable as I have helped teach them as a National Board mentor. I know this is not the stereotype of unions only having the job of protecting "bad teachers" but in fact as Dr Phillips explains so well the reality of our educational system is so much more complex than the common view. I agree 100% that charters are good for experimenting with new ideas and for taking care of at risk children but we need more oversight and we need to plug the tax loopholes to keep hedge fund managers from gaming the system. I also agree that tenure is important not only to protect teachers but also to allow them to freely advocate for the children in their classroom. As a senior teacher I have been the one more than once who pushes for things we know the students need in a meeting while the young teachers with no professional contracts sit quietly by. I see that as part of the job I can do and tenure allows me to pursue it without the danger of losing my job. Teachers are what I call "working class professionals" in that we don't always get bathroom breaks when we need them, we buy our own supplies and get little respect from politicians and our pay is often quite unprofessional. Tenure does help give us the status we need to have some input into the system we work in, Input that is valuable to children and learning which is what this complex system is supposed to be about.

Posted by: kmlisle | June 25, 2010 6:39 PM | Report abuse

Tenure for public school teachers is very different from tenure for teachers in higher education. Tenure for public school teachers is simply the right to due process it does NOT mean teachers cannot be fired. If a supervisor/principal/assistant principal evaluates a teacher as unsatisfactory (notification) and the teacher fails to improve as a result of mentoring or whatever the remedy advised (due process), the teacher can be released/fired/forced to resign.

Teachers do not receive tenure until their fourth year of teaching. Before that, they can be dismissed without explanation.

Posted by: lacy4 | June 25, 2010 8:37 PM | Report abuse

Lacy4 is right: teachers can be dismissed.

If there is one thing Michelle Rhee has done for teachers, it is this: She's debunked the myth that teachers cannot be fired. The law mandates a process for this (90-day plan) and if it is followed, a teacher can be fired. We've seen proof of that in DC.

Teachers have "due process" like most government workers but it is not the same as tenure that college professors have. If I'm not mistaken, these people really can't be fired unless a crime is committed.

Debunking this myth might be Rhee's lasting legacy. This will be to teachers' advantage because they've been blamed for an administrative problem for a long time. Unions do not hire, fire or evaluate teachers. Administrators do.

Posted by: Linda/RetiredTeacher | June 25, 2010 9:19 PM | Report abuse

For 50 years every organization involved with DCPS, the mayors, the administrators, the teachers, and the unions, failed, failed miserably, failed utterly, failed inexcusably. Not only is extremism in the name of reform acceptable, it is the only reasonable approach. Rhee should continue to confront all the defenders of the status quo. She should continue to embrace extremism in everything she does.

Posted by: JVYost | June 25, 2010 10:14 PM | Report abuse

lol Mark Phillips is just another supporter of the status quo. The NEA needs to be disbanded. Teachers already have too much power and authority over students. The problem with our education system is that we've been so used to this corrupt system for over 100 years, it will take years for it to dissolve. The job of the teachers is to "educate" the students in a manner that's appropriate and respectful, not authoritarian. You keep talking about quality teachers, anybody can be a quality teacher. Schools should be handled by the FREE MARKETS with little government intervention; that means no tax-payer funded schools, no teachers union, and no compulsory education laws. Teachers that are abusive and fail to educate the students should be fired immediately, and if the whole school is bad, then that school needs to be out of business. That's how the market works. It’s obvious that public schooling is neither beneficial to most students, nor is it efficient. Education is an acquired good, a good that has to meet the needs of the consumers, or else face rejection in the free market.

Posted by: lockdeltz | June 26, 2010 3:28 AM | Report abuse

"Tenured teachers who are evaluated positively should receive merit pay."

The problem with that is - is that the principal's friends will be evaluated positively and get the merit pay. And those who are not the principal's friends, but work hard and are effective will not get merit pay.

Principals cannot be trusted to fairly evaluate teachers for merit pay.

Plus I as a teacher don't want to work for merit pay. I just want a decent salary.

Posted by: aby1 | June 26, 2010 8:19 AM | Report abuse

lockdeltz,

If you elimate tenure, why should anyone become a teacher?

If you elimate teachers, there will a teacher shortage. Teaching pays too low and is too stressful to go into unless you have tenure.

Sure, elimate tenure. But then you need to encourage young people not to go into teaching. It would only be fair to them.

Posted by: aby1 | June 26, 2010 8:24 AM | Report abuse

Principals fire effective teachers before they are tenured all the time. To even pretend that principals are fair is simply not the truth.

And when non-effective teachers stay, its with the blessing of the principal.

It's like business, they lay off effective workers all the time. There is no fairness. Working hard in business doesn't keep you your job, or ensure that you will get merit pay. The only people who get ahead and get merit pay in business are those who play the political game.

Posted by: aby1 | June 26, 2010 8:29 AM | Report abuse

lockdeltz said "and if the whole school is bad"

The schools that are "bad" are in the poor rougher neighborhoods. The schools that function well are in middle class and higher neighborhoods. Does that give you any clue as to why these schools aren't functioning well. Not only that, but no school is totally non-functioning.

Why don't you do a long term sub job in a "bad" school and come back and report to us on it? You obviously know nothing about these schools and this would teach you alot.

Posted by: aby1 | June 26, 2010 8:39 AM | Report abuse

JVYost said: For 50 years every organization involved with DCPS, the mayors, the administrators, the teachers, and the unions, failed, failed miserably, failed utterly, failed inexcusably.

That's not so. Many schools in DC have done well. It's the ones in the poorer economic areas that haven't done well. Do you have any true interest in helping the schools in the poorer economic areas?

Posted by: jlp19 | June 26, 2010 8:52 AM | Report abuse

The dumbest, most arrogant people you'll find, are school administrators. The idea that they know what's good for your kids' education is laughable.

Posted by: physicsteacher | June 26, 2010 9:22 AM | Report abuse

I, too, agree with Dr. Phillips and it is so frustrating to continually read articles that tout one reform or another as the end all, be all, to "fixing" public schools.

It appears, that since the early 70's, there has been one reform or another being introduced into public school instructional delivery. I can remember open classrooms, creative spelling, longer school years, year-round-schools, etc. They haven't worked....but public school administrators keep changing the curriculum and delivery...sometimes it is something that was tried before, but only the name has changed.

Linda/Retired Teacher is right...it is the colleges that graduate and the administrators that hire and the Principals who oversee...not the teacher union. It is the downtown types who keep changing the the instruction and the politicians who keep passing the bills and reducing the funding. Those of us in the trenches are so far removed from the decisions being made, that it is laughable even to THINK we have that much influence. (If only!!!)

But what really ruffles my feathers about charter schools is the bragging about how they can do this, or that, while public schools are held to a strict standard of achievement. We have state mandated standardized tests and in many charter schools, the teachers don't need certification, and in many cases the students are "selected."

In my school district all teachers must adhere to curriculum pacing guidelines and your evaluation depends on keeping up with those guidelines...and it doesn't matter the general make-up of the class (high, low, average). Hardly the flexibility teachers in charter schools are allowed.

Therefore, let there be school choice, but just allow it to happen in the public school setting. School reform advocates are missing the most important and relevant contributor to the discussion...the classroom teacher.

Posted by: ilcn | June 26, 2010 9:36 AM | Report abuse

to lockedeltz: What planet are you living on? Teachers have NO power and control over students whatsoever! I'm a teacher in DCPS and I know. Principals and parents have the power and teachers submit to whatever it is they want. This has been the case for decades. Even when we want to retain a student because they aren't ready for the next grade, most principals make us pass them on to the next grade anyway.

And as for the a free market driven school system with no government intervention: look at Wall Street the last couple of years. Is that what you want for our school children?

Posted by: UrbanDweller | June 26, 2010 9:59 AM | Report abuse

I don't think the teachers have any more authority over the students than teachers in public schools - which is none.

They are both under the control of administrators who may or may not be corrupt, and the whims of politicians.

The only difference is that teachers in charters schools have no protection. Of course, untenured teachers in public schools have no protection either.

Posted by: resc | June 26, 2010 10:53 AM | Report abuse

I don't think the teachers have any more authority over the students than teachers in public schools - which is none.

I meant to say:

I don't think the teachers IN CHARTER SCHOOLS have any more authority over the students than teachers in public schools - which is none.

Posted by: resc | June 26, 2010 10:54 AM | Report abuse

aby1 you have to be joking right? I lived in S.D California, I lived in a nice middle-class neighborhood, and in the middle of the area is a prison-like school. Many of my classmates (who were also middle-class) either dropped out or barley passed high school. Public education is a failure whether it's in a poor neighborhood or a middle-class neighborhood. The problem with tax-payer funded schools it's unmanageable. The funds either go to overpaid teachers and school administrators, or unions. Who the **** knows where the funds go, but it's not improving the education of the students, and you know that.

As for those ghetto schools you taught at, of course you had a hard time there idiot, but what about the students? What about the students who have to put with all the distractions such as gangs, violence, sex, and other social issues? Environmental and social issues are obviously reasons to why schools fail, but those schools shouldn't be there in the first place, and a standardized public-education system DOES NOT HELP. If public education is so great then why does Barack Obama send his kids to a private school in Washington D.C. It couldn't be that private schools are so better right? Next time before you respond, use your brain idiot.

Posted by: lockdeltz | June 26, 2010 1:26 PM | Report abuse

lockdeltz, you're the idiot. The only reason private schools are "better" is because they can cherry pick students. If all education is privatized then that advantage will be completely diluted.

Let me give you an analogy. If you're leaving DC on a weekday afternoon heading west you'll encounter severe traffic. You can mitigate this somewhat by taking the toll road 267. The 267 is somewhat less congested because many people prefer not to pay the toll. In keeping with the so called thinking of the privatization zealots we can reduce congestion by making all roads toll roads.

Posted by: physicsteacher | June 26, 2010 1:58 PM | Report abuse

lockdeltz: Charter schools also receive public taxpayer money and are not held to the same rules as are public schools.

You said it yourself....

"What about the students who have to put with all the distractions such as gangs, violence, sex, and other social issues?"

And that's the difference....plain and simple. Charter school and private school adminitrator's determine who walks through the door....Public schools are required by law to take everyone...and thank God they do. Becuase if it was left to people like you to determine who became educated in this country....our education system would still be in the dark ages.

But, what we need to do is to minimize the problems and maximize student achievement.

Posted by: ilcn | June 26, 2010 3:36 PM | Report abuse

I agree we must find a way to build bridges and consensual solutions.

Coming from a state (FL) where teachers appeared to be under frontal assault, you may understand why this divisiveness has reached a fevered pitch.

I am not a teacher. I listened to legislators in Tallahassee publicly support egregious legislation harmful to public education and educators. It gave me cause to wonder if they were trying to fix the quality of education or seek revenge on unions?

I also listened to several brave legislators oppose SB6. They offered reasonable amendments, reasonable revisions. Across the board, all amendments were voted down across party lines. They were not even given time for discussion. There were clear violations of State Constitutional law which didn't seem to matter to those driving this legislation. This toxic Sen Bill 6 was being rammed through the State of Florida in order to meet the criteria for this Race to the Top contest.

So while I agree with you in theory, I do not know how to accomplish building bridges or forming consensual solutions (which I absolutely believe can be formed) when those in power refuse to deliberate or have authentic dialogue. What do we do? We protest, we rally, we threaten votes just to get the attention of those in power.

Incorporating input from all stakeholders in this process (teachers, parents, those villainous unions legislators love to blame, researchers, business leaders) and noted education experts such as Diane Ravitch must come from the DOE.
They set the tone, be it cooperative, frenzied, combative, partnering.

In my opinion, the DOE must stop the Race to the Top contest (dangling $4.3 B over the heads of underfunded State Depts of Education) and have a Summit of sorts.

A summit would produce sound, practical and implementable decisions on accountability, school closings, etc. More important, it will produce buy-in from the very people you expect to embrace this change, implement this change and crusade for this change.

Again, I am not a teacher nor am I a union member. I am not red nor blue, Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative. I am a business woman, a parent, and one who sees the direction of public education headed rapidly down the wrong path.

I agree with you, Mr. Phillips. However, I believe, as a change mgmt consultant, the onus is on Mr. Duncan & the DOE to reach out, to rectify, and in fact perhaps to apologize for creating such hostility with a well intended but misdirected contest for funds.

Your letter was outstanding. Thanks for submitting it.

Posted by: rsolnet | June 26, 2010 5:04 PM | Report abuse

physicsteacher you're the idiot here. And why should schools accept criminals, illegal immigrants, or any other type of person that is disruptive to someones education? Going by your logic it's okay to accept those type of people. The results speaks for itself which is why we have 50% high-school dropouts in cities in San Diego, L.A, and Detroit. If all education was left to the free-market, there would be hundreds of alternatives because COMPETITION is the only way for schools to get better. You're a physics teacher but you are retarded when it comes to economics. Look it the school buses we use in public schools, it's the same piece of crap for the last 50 years.

According to a recent article by the CATO institute, the cost of public education per pupil is $24,600 per year. That is $10,000 more then the average private school in Washington D.C. Just imagine if we completely eliminated tax-payer funded schools and left everything to the market, can you imagine the amount alternatives there would be? Prices would be so cheap even delinquents and poor families can afford a decent education. The best alternative right now is to get the government out of the way as much as possible, and the Unions need to be eliminated too.

http://www.cato-at-liberty.org/2008/04/07/the-real-cost-of-public-schools/

Posted by: lockdeltz | June 26, 2010 5:21 PM | Report abuse

Ah, the Cato Institute. The pie-in-the-sky "think" tank for libertarian dreamers.

Criminals belong in prisons and illegal aliens belong in the countries of their origin. That said, there are plenty of students who belong to neither group who are nonetheless less than stellar students and their presents degrades the education of higher achievers. Private schools can explicitly filter out these students while public schools cannot. These students will still end up somewhere.

If you were to run a private school it would be in your best interest -- especially given your libertarian leanings -- to appeal to the wealthiest of parents so as to be able to charge the highest of tuition bills. The wealthiest of parents will gladly pay to get away from the "riffraff".

Similar things happen with real estate. As the wealthy flock to an area the phenomenon drives up real estate prices in adjacent areas and the average wage earner has to pay a fortune just to reside in a marginal area.

Unless you're a millionaire, in a world with nothing but private schooling you'll be paying a fortune just to send your kid to a school that's little different from an average public school today.

If you really want to improve education, listen up. Education is the way it is because it's a perfect storm of some really stupid ideas all of which originated in education schools. Not "public" schools, mind you, but prestigious institutions like Teachers College of Columbia University.

Rid the education world of the influence of places like education schools and you'll improve things to the satisfaction even of the Cato Institute.

Posted by: physicsteacher | June 26, 2010 5:43 PM | Report abuse

lol physicsteacher you accuse me of supporting nothing but the rich, which isn't true. The fact is there is many private schools that are run similar to public schools, but they do better, and there is less school violence.

If you think government isn't a problem just look at the tuition costs for universities like UCLA and Harvard. It's $20,000 a year to attend UCLA and $80,000 to attend Harvard for a year. Now why is that? It's because of government financial aid programs that have given universities the green light to spend excessively. Since many students can get loans or grants to cover the cost increases, college costs are no longer subject to free-market economics, which generally causes prices to be low.

There needs to be more options in secondary education just like there is in college. The fact of the matter is not everyone is meant to be in school for 8-12 years, no one should be forced to go to school and that should be said for any person of any age. Compulsory education laws should be abolished. You are right about public schools, but again look at the costs of funding some of these schools, many students are not getting what their paid for.

The origins of compulsory education started during the early days of our republic by a group of socialists and educational reformers in the New England States particularly Massachusetts and Connecticut. Getting into that would be a long story, but if you ever get to know about it, it would make you sick.

Posted by: lockdeltz | June 26, 2010 7:19 PM | Report abuse

The author says, "[Tenure] provides security of employment that helps protect academic freedom, a major tenet in a democratic society. If not for tenure teachers could be fired for the wrong reason, particularly if their views challenged those of their administrators."

What kind of la-la land does this nut inhabit? There is no such thing as academic freedom in government-run elementary and secondary schools, nor should taxpayers tolerate any form of insubordination on the part of government employees. The author, apparently unwittingly, underscores the urgency of outlawing tenure and instituting rigorous performance management for these employees.

But ultimately the only thing that will bring desperately needed reform is the total and absolute separation of school and state. Education won't improve until we accept that truth. Families — not politicians, not bureaucrats, not social engineers, not so-called "experts", not union goons — are responsible for a child's education and must decide for themselves what is in that individual child's unique best interest.

Posted by: thebump | June 26, 2010 8:05 PM | Report abuse

Tenure DOES protect academic freedom for teachers in higher education, but teachers in K-12 do not have tenure (although the word is often used loosely). What elementary and secondary teachers have is "due process" after a probationary period of two to five years, depending on the district or state. What this means is that in order to dismiss a teacher, the district must show "cause," basically provide a good reason to dismiss the teacher. So in that sense the teacher IS protected against such arbitrary and capricious charges as disagreeing with the principal or giving the board member's son an F. "Due process" protects teachers from being dismissed for such things as making room for the principal's niece, speaking at a board meeting, arguing with the principal's girlfriend (yes, that happened at my school) reporting child abuse or getting pregnant out of wedlock. However, she can be dismissed for "moral turpitude," most crimes, insubordination, failure to carry out her duties, and incompetence.

Does anyone want less for our teachers? If so, why?

Posted by: Linda/RetiredTeacher | June 26, 2010 9:18 PM | Report abuse

lockdeltz said: "Next time before you respond, use your brain idiot"

My response to you is: "what a stupid thing of you to say!"

Posted by: jlp19 | June 26, 2010 9:29 PM | Report abuse

Linda, the author supposedly is an expert and did use the term tenure. Moreover, it's clear he would give the employee a much bigger cocoon than what you describe.

In any case, the question remains, what exactly is the justification for treating the termination of teachers differently from any other occupation? The arguments seem exceedingly weak.

Posted by: thebump | June 26, 2010 10:06 PM | Report abuse

thebump wrote: "In any case, the question remains, what exactly is the justification for treating the termination of teachers differently from any other occupation? The arguments seem exceedingly weak."
-----------------
One could ask why other occupations aren't afforded some sort of due process. To take it away from one profession simply because others don't have it seems regressive. One could say that some countries make their children work in sweatshops. Why should ours be protected? No occupation should allow people to be laid off for reasons having nothing to do with job performance or budget issues.

Posted by: musiclady | June 26, 2010 10:23 PM | Report abuse

musiclady wrote:

One could ask why other occupations aren't afforded some sort of due process.

============================================

I've worked for the federal government and then in private industry. I even worked in retail before becoming a teacher. In no other industry have I encountered such knuckleheaded supervision as I have in education. It's far less necessary in other professions.

Posted by: physicsteacher | June 26, 2010 11:40 PM | Report abuse

TheBump:

Almost everyone uses the word "tenure" to describe the due process that teachers have but it is still not the precise term. Tenure is what college and university teachers have because their speech is fully protected and they really do have a job for life once they gain tenure. I believe they can only be ousted for crimes, academic misconduct (plagiarism) or job abandonment. They can't be dismissed for incompetence or insubordination but a teacher can be.

I know this is a cop-out answer, but you'd have to be a teacher to know why due process is needed. A teacher's life would be hell without it. There is a reason that every state has it. When Georgia rescinded it a few years back, it was quickly reinstated by the next governor.

You might want to find out why almost all government workers have due process. Partly it's because of their modest salaries. The other part is to protect these jobs from political patronage. Before government workers had due process, newly elected mayors (board members, etc.) would fire old workers in order to award city or school jobs to all their friends and relatives. This is history.

I know there is a surplus of teachers right now, but for most of my career it was extremely difficult to hire teachers for "inner-city" schools and so we were promised all kinds of benefits. The only reason people are trying to deprive teachers of it now is because of the recession (Fire expensive Miss Jones and hire young and inexpensive Mr. Smith).

Ask yourself: Would you want to teach seventh grade to thirty-three students in a low-performing school in DC? If your answer is an emphatic NO you have an idea of why teachers are offered job security. Not too many people are jockeying for these jobs in good times.

Here's a question for you: Why wouldn't you want to give public school teachers due process like other government workers? I suspect that you don't know what "due process" for teachers is, so why don't you read about it before you answer.

Posted by: Linda/RetiredTeacher | June 27, 2010 1:35 AM | Report abuse

Linda, I was responding primarily to the above article by the putative expert. On balance he is in favor of the tenure system, but he nevertheless acknowledges that "It does protect ineffective teachers. It’s almost impossible to fire a poorly performing teacher unless he or she is also guilty of professional misconduct." Against that reality, his arguments for preserving the basic tenure system are thin. The article cites three states that have in fact abolished or curtailed tenure.

As for your concern about political patronage and the author's concern about interference by legislators, both those concerns actually are arguments in favor of my position that teachers should not be government employees, and government should not be in the business of running schools.

Posted by: thebump | June 27, 2010 2:32 AM | Report abuse

thebump,

I've seen principals fire good teachers before they were tenured for unsavory reasons. I've also seen principals protect bad teachers for unsavory reasons.

Why does the union always get blamed for what the principal does? It's like the persecution of the Jews in Hitler Germany.

Posted by: jlp19 | June 27, 2010 5:59 AM | Report abuse

People are fired unfairly in business all the time. Just because business managers get to put knives in the backs of good workers in order to increase their own profit doesn't mean the same dishonest practices should be practiced in schools.

Posted by: jlp19 | June 27, 2010 6:03 AM | Report abuse

thebump,

Are you an unfair business who has sacked good employees? Is that why you want to import this dirty unfairness into schools? If so, no one will become school teachers.

School teachers are not going to let people like you turn them in slaves. They will leave the field and go elsewhere. They are not staying to stay around for your type of abuse.

Remember slavery is no longer legal. And if teachers lose tenure they aren't going to stay, and young people aren't going to go into it. When that happens, what are you going to do? Force people into teaching so you can then fire them?

Posted by: jlp19 | June 27, 2010 6:07 AM | Report abuse

Hey thebump,

If you get your way and you take tenure away from teachers - most people will not become teachers anymore.

I bet you aren't willing to face that fact because you want power over teachers so badly. But the country will face a shortage of teachers if you gain the power you so desperately want.

Posted by: aby1 | June 27, 2010 6:29 AM | Report abuse

jlp19: "They will leave the field and go elsewhere."

Good. When they go elsewhere they will learn a valuable lesson, namely, how the real world works. They will be held accountable for their performance and there won't be a corrupt system in place to perpetuate mediocrity.

A person who would leave a position solely to avoid accountability has no business anywhere near young minds and won't be missed.

How on earth could parents trust somebody with such a twisted and immature attitude to teach young people about the world, and about being accountable themselves?

And yet we have putative grownups actually equating accountability with slavery and Nazism? No wonder government-run schools are such a disaster.

Posted by: thebump | June 27, 2010 8:25 AM | Report abuse

thebump:

It's quite clear that you're arguing from a position of total ignorance. Teachers, in general, aren't running from accountability, but the form that so-called accountability takes. It is the only profession that I've experienced in which my bosses were totally ignorant.

Yes, there are teachers out there who've never experienced "the real world", but, guess what, it's usually these teachers who seamlessly fit into the school culture and are the administrators' darlings. If you think that you might like some ex-NASA rocket teaching your kid then you'll be waiting for a very long time. Many administrators out there were too dumb to do much of anything else so they tend to be quite hostile toward people who were/are good at things like mat and science. Consequently, the ex-rocket scientist will be forced out -- ACCOUNTABILITY -- because they're not quite the baby sitter the principal wants them to be.

Posted by: physicsteacher | June 27, 2010 9:46 AM | Report abuse

Another thing: When Napoleon made the boneheaded call to invade Russia who should be held accountable, the troops, or the little Corporal himself?

Comments here suggest that 1) teachers have total autonomy, and 2) they independently do all the wrong things in concert. One helluva coincidence, don't you think? It's like suggesting that Napoleon's troops independently, and to a man, suddenly decided to march on Moscow for no reason.

If you want to practice accountability you need to aim your guns at the target that originates the educational stupidity, namely education schools.

Posted by: physicsteacher | June 27, 2010 10:06 AM | Report abuse

bump:

Here's what goes in business:

Merit pay: Pay that goes to the bosses friends

hiring the most qualified person: hiring the most experienced person who will work for the least amount of money

layoffs: something that ruins and destroys the lives of thousands of people, but puts money in the bosses pockets (something some people want to force on teachers)

no union: the ability of the boss to fire good workers because some personality fault of their's annoys him

Business are totally corrupt and cruel to the people that work for them.

You are totally cruel inhuman person who wants to persecute teachers. You are evil.

Posted by: resc | June 27, 2010 10:53 AM | Report abuse

thebump,

I worked for 27 years in business. I saw the brutal way business managers treated their employees. I KNOW WHAT THE REAL WORLD IS LIKE. I understand that you want to import that brutality into schools.

You are so sick with your hatred of teachers that you are insane. For some reason you have desire to harm teachers.

Posted by: jlp19 | June 27, 2010 11:01 AM | Report abuse

the bum,

I know you don't like the truth. But between working in the business world and the education world there is actually more accountability in the education world than the business world.

Again, I know you are not interested in the truth. You are only interested in harming teachers.

Why don't you go after doctors instead? They make huge mistakes all the time. But I guess you won't do that because they have a heavy male population, and they make lots of money.

You only go after the mostly female, lower paid workers. Just like a business owner.

Posted by: jlp19 | June 27, 2010 11:08 AM | Report abuse

"Good. When they go elsewhere they will learn a valuable lesson, namely, how the real world works. They will be held accountable for their performance and there won't be a corrupt system in place to perpetuate mediocrity."

==============================================

Let me propose an "accountability" scheme for doctors. We fire the doctors who have the most patients die on them. Sounds good to the ignorant mind, no? But certain specialties, like trauma surgery, will naturally have higher death rates than plastic surgeons doing nose jobs. Over time medical students will make note not to go into serious specialties like oncology and over time you'll find yourself in short supply of someone to deal with a serious accident you may have. Is this finally starting to make sense to you, or should I start using smaller words?

Posted by: physicsteacher | June 27, 2010 11:25 AM | Report abuse

Dr Phillips, you say that most Americans support merit pay for teachers. Is this the result of a national survey? If so please cite it. Also, can you cite a survey on teachers' views of merit pay? My understanding is that teachers don't like it and that it hasn't worked well in places where it's been tried. Certainly teachers' view on how they are paid should be considered, don't you think?

Also what does it mean that "most americans" support the idea? It could be that they like the idea of good teachers being paid more ( but haven't given a thought to how to assess merit). We don't know and it makes no sense to support a policy based on a vague notion of people who are not directly affected by it.

Posted by: efavorite | June 27, 2010 11:45 AM | Report abuse

Dr Phillips, you say that most Americans support merit pay for teachers. Is this the result of a national survey? If so please cite it. Also, can you cite a survey on teachers' views of merit pay? My understanding is that teachers don't like it and that it hasn't worked well in places where it's been tried. Certainly teachers' view on how they are paid should be considered, don't you think?

Also what does it mean that "most americans" support the idea? It could be that they like the idea of good teachers being paid more ( but haven't given a thought to how to assess merit). We don't know and it makes no sense to support a policy based on a vague notion of people who are not directly affected by it.

Posted by: efavorite | June 27, 2010 11:56 AM | Report abuse

TheBump:

You are entitled to your opinion that the schools should be privatized. Michelle Rhee, the Super Rich, and many others share that view. There is a whole lot of money to be made for private enterprise if this becomes reality. And these people won't even have to teach. They'll be the "managers."

For many of us the public school system, although definitely imperfect, is the bedrock of our democracy. It led many of us, children of immigrants, to realize the American Dream and represents one of our greatest institutions. It belongs to the American people and that's worth fighting for. Do we want better schools for the poor? Yes, but not by destroying what has been so good for most of us. Most Americans approve of the schools they attended and also that of their children.

England has had a two-tiered system for years, with the affluent attending independent schools or selective government schools (grammar schools). The poor mostly go to the non-selective schools. This has caused great social resentment and division, and the country is presently trying to make schooling more democratic, as in the USA.

As for "tenure," Michelle Rhee has proved this to be a myth. A teacher CAN be fired if the administrator chooses to follow "due process" as defined by law. Yes, it is time-consuming and expensive to dismiss a teacher, but surely you wouldn't want less for our teachers, would you? If so, why?

As you can see by most of the comments on this blog, "the people" will not allow the destruction of our great public school system. We have come to a bump in the road right now, but people are waking up to what is happening so I think we'll see significant changes in November.

Posted by: Linda/RetiredTeacher | June 27, 2010 12:08 PM | Report abuse

Comment: "Business are totally corrupt and cruel to the people that work for them."

Let us hope and pray that the individual behind this terrifyingly ignorant and breathtakingly idiotic comment is not a school employee. Such a sick, twisted ignoramus has no business whatsoever anywhere near young minds. If she or he is indeed employed by a school, then the need to clean house is even more urgent than many already fear.

Comment: "There is a whole lot of money to be made for private enterprise if this becomes reality."

Good. If that's so, it means there is widespread recognition among the public that there is a big problem to be fixed, and people are willing to put capital to work fixing it. That's called progress. It's called can-do. It's called American ingenuity.

Comment: "It belongs to the American people and that's worth fighting for."

To the contrary, it is absolutely NOT worth it to cling to a hopelessly antiquated, dysfunctional, and unjust system just for the sake of some misty-eyed little-schoolhouse-on-the-prairie nostalgia. This is the 21st Century, and we have an incredibly complex population of 300 million in a shrinking world. We need to move forward, not look back to the 19th Century.

Comment: "As you can see by most of the comments on this blog, 'the people' will not allow the destruction of our great public school system."

First of all, the destruction of the "great public school system" occurred long ago, so you're a bit late for that. Second, you know as well as I that the preponderance of comments here represent the self-interested and the moonbat fringe, not "the people".

Posted by: thebump | June 27, 2010 12:59 PM | Report abuse

physicsteacher,

Your basic point seems to be that there are too many administrators and they are incompetent. It should go without saying that administrators must be accountable first, and to an even greater degree than their subordinates. An incompetent or unaccountable manager cannot effectively manage the performance of others. Accountability starts at the top.

On your doc analogy, with respect, you seem to lack a grasp of basic economics. If there is a shortage of a particular kind of specialist, then that specialty will command a premium and attract new entrants until an equilibrium is restored.

We do in fact have several accountability systems in place for physicians, not least junk lawsuits. I don't think anybody seriously is suggesting that teachers should be liable for malpractice suits. (Although come to think of it...)

Posted by: thebump | June 27, 2010 1:29 PM | Report abuse

Thebump:

You need to do some research. According to yearly polls, the majority of Americans are satisfied with their own public schools. Also judging by the phenomenal achievement of the American people, most of whom attended public schools, many of us would not consider them a failure. Our colleges and graduate schools are among the best in the world. Many of our "dumb" fourth graders end up in these great institutions of higher learning. My own son got C's in elementary and high school but ended up with a Ph.D. in engineering from Stanford. Many of his friends followed the same pattern. Americans tend to stress tough academics for the older child and young adult, whereas many countries stress it for younger children. It's interesting to note that in some countries, (Japan) the students start to coast once they get to college whereas many of our people start to buckle down at this time.

I am a retired teacher from CA whose only interest is in protecting and improving our public school system, which I consider to be one of our greatest institutions. I will not gain anything out of it, except to preserve and improve the system for my grandchildren and my fellow Americans. If you follow your line of reasoning, you will see that the people who will benefit from privatization are the business interests. If most of our people want the schools privatized, then they will be, but I don't believe this will come to pass. In my state, we've already had lots of "fiscal mismanagement" with charters run by "charter chains." I am not against charters but they must remain in the public domain (no profits) or we are just asking for another Wall Street fiasco.

One thing we can all agree on is the fact that many of our most disadvantaged children are not getting a good education. Let's look at the children who DO get a good education and explore ways to pass the good stuff around. We can do it.

One suggestion: If you value education and "revere teachers," try to use positive language. You'll score more points that way.

Posted by: Linda/RetiredTeacher | June 27, 2010 1:50 PM | Report abuse

Linda, just one comment re: "[T]he people who will benefit from privatization are the business interests."

If politicians let the marketplace work, then "business interests" cannot benefit unless everyone benefits — i.e., unless businesses provide a service that people actually need and want. Indeed, businesses that fail to provide any benefit simply disappear (unlike government bureaucracies). It's a much more productive way to allocate resources than politics or nostalgia.

In all sincerity and with all respect, I truly am terrified for our future if certain comments posted here in any way reflect the level of comprehension on the part of people in the classroom with regard to the free enterprise system that has made this the greatest nation in history. If that is the case, may God help us.

Posted by: thebump | June 27, 2010 2:40 PM | Report abuse

"then that specialty will command a premium and attract new entrants until an equilibrium is restored."

Two things here: before equilibrium is "restored", as you put it, you may be in need of a trauma surgeon and there won't be enough around.

Second, out of whose pocket will this premium emerge?

Let's examine your logic in greater detail:

1) let's treat teachers like crap, increasing their job insecurity in addition to crappy paychecks, and blame them for everything.

2) Fewer people go into teaching.

3) We restore "equilibrium" by reaching deeply into our pockets and paying a "premium" for teachers.

Does this really make sense? Why treat teachers like crap to begin with? (There's a reason why economics is known as the dismal science)

I'll tell you something. I'm no longer a teacher. I left for far more respect, a better boss, and a nicer paycheck. Having people like you on the sidelines trashing me didn't make me want to stay either. And, if you ever decide that you wanted me back in the classroom because I can offer something to your kids, then you're going have to pay me a helluva lot more than I was willing to work for initially.

Economically -- I know how much you love this vantage point -- you'd be a lot better off treating us with more respect to begin with.

Posted by: physicsteacher | June 27, 2010 4:03 PM | Report abuse

"Your basic point seems to be that there are too many administrators and they are incompetent. "

This is part of my point, but not the main one.

If I may, I'd like to to return to a medical analogy.

A century and a half ago you could die very easily from an infection at a hospital. Doctors routinely exited autopsies and went straight to surgery with little more than a wipe of their hands.

If you could go back in time and fix this problem would you:

1) blindly fire all doctors
2) close and burn all hospitals.
3) buy some soap and bleach and focus the staff's attention on hygiene

Our education problems differ little from this scenario.

Posted by: physicsteacher | June 27, 2010 4:11 PM | Report abuse

physicsteacher,

You accuse me of "trashing" teachers and advocating that we treat them poorly. Where exactly did you find this?

Here's what is most telling about the discussion: The mere suggestion that teachers ought to meet performance standards, as everybody else in the grownup world must do, has yielded unhinged vitriol and plenty of straw men, but not a single substantive argument against.

Typical attacks on yours truly include:

"You are totally cruel inhuman person who wants to persecute teachers. You are evil."

"You are so sick with your hatred of teachers that you are insane. For some reason you have [a] desire to harm teachers."

And of course comparisons to Nazism and slavery.

But we still don't know as a matter of policy how we can afford to give these employees a pass when so much depends upon their performance. Nor do know how we can set an individual's pay when we don't even know how well or poorly the person performs.

And if teachers in the classroom hold such twisted and immature views, what kind of nonsense are they passing on to kids? How can they possibly teach kids about accountability when they refuse to be accountable themselves?

So, yes, even if we had to replace every teacher and pay more, it would be worth it to get an accountable, higher performing workforce. But the reality is this: Those who have nothing to fear from accountability will stay. And the poor performers won't leave of their own volition, because they know wherever they go they'll be found out.

To respond to your analogy, nobody's suggesting we "blindly fire all doctors" or "close and burn all hospitals". But the hospital personnel should be accountable for standards of hygiene, and those whose performance demonstrates they are unwilling or unable to conform to the standards should be disciplined, up to and including dismissal. That's leadership 101, and if that really is a foreign concept in our schools, no wonder we're in trouble.

Posted by: thebump | June 27, 2010 6:11 PM | Report abuse

"You accuse me of "trashing" teachers and advocating that we treat them poorly.
Where exactly did you find this?"

AND

"The mere suggestion that teachers ought to meet performance standards, as
everybody else in the GROWNUP world must do,"

That right there is an insult suggesting that the entire corp of teachers
is too immature to understand performance standards. This inspite of
repeated and entirely rational explanations of why many CURRENT performance
suggestions are inappropriate. Again, just as "death rate per doctor",
regardless of specialty and circumstances is inappropriate and damaging, so
are suggestions like giving more authority to administration, performance pay,
and NCLB testing as a metric.

"Typical attacks on yours truly include:"

From your comments it's clear you haven't been around the block and that
you draw your information from people who haven't been around this block
either. Yet you dismiss those who have been around the block.

"But we still don't know as a matter of policy how we can afford to give these
employees a pass when so much depends upon their performance. Nor do know how
we can set an individual's pay when we don't even know how well or poorly the
person performs."

No one ever suggested a pass. I recently spoke to a retired science teacher
from Canada who asked me whether I had enjoyed my gig teaching. I replied
that I didn't enjoy having a completely physics-ignorant-ex-English teacher
evaluating me and holding my entire future in her sweaty little hand. The Canadian
replied that in Canada it's the department head, a teacher with experience in YOUR
field, who does evaluations and Canadians would apparently never do what we do
here.

This is an entirely doable fix that doesn't require mass firings of teachers, or
even adminstrators, and certainly not the dismantling of the public education system.
Yet it's likely a suggestion that would go a long way.
In Finland, from what I understand, teachers have a great deal of influence as
to teaching, textbooks, etc, very different from the situation here. Look at the
results.

"And if teachers in the classroom hold such twisted and immature views, what
kind of nonsense are they passing on to kids? How can they possibly teach kids
about accountability when they refuse to be accountable themselves?"

These are not the views they hold, but the ones YOU attribute to them.

"So, yes, even if we had to replace every teacher and pay more, it would be"

replace...with?

"poor performers won't leave of their own volition, because they know wherever"

You still don't get it. WHO is a poor performer, and who makes that call?

"But the hospital personnel should be accountable for standards of hygiene,"

Once again, you miss the point. A century and a half ago THERE WERE NO
STANDARDS OF HYGIENE!. Currently the various "standards", or rather
the various practices that teachers are TAUGHT to follow are what create the
problems.

Posted by: physicsteacher | June 27, 2010 6:47 PM | Report abuse

Thebump:

The first person to hurl insults (lack of comprehension, stupid, can't understand, idiot, etc.) is the one who lost the argument. Of course teachers almost never resort to name-calling. Even HappyTeacher, who has opinions that differ from other teachers, is polite. A teacher who is not is probably in the wrong profession.

But don't listen to me. Do a little reading and you will likely discover that all advanced countries, including our own, leave their most important institutions (military, the courts, health, welfare and education) to heavy control by the government ("the people"). Study the countries with the best systems of education (Finland, Germany, Canada)and find out how much involvement the government has.

We all have our opinions as to why our schools are less than ideal. Many blame "the unions" and "the teachers." I blame the citizens who hold schools and teachers in low regard. Gratefully, this doesn't represent the majority of our citizens, but there are enough of you to have a huge negative effect on public education.

As important as education is, there is something more important that needs to command our attention. In the District of Columbia, the very rich people, as represented by their foundations, are trying to use their money and influences to make changes that the people may or may not want. Whether these changes are advantageous or not, we can't allow the privileged few to make decisions for all of us. That's called "oligarchy," not democracy.

The next time you say something negative about "the schools" and "the teachers," look around you. There's probably a young person thinking "Teaching is not for me."

Posted by: Linda/RetiredTeacher | June 27, 2010 6:54 PM | Report abuse

Bump-
Trying to follow your line of reasoning is next to impossible. You change tack every time you are caught in a contradiction, ignore any comment made by a teacher that does not fit with your view that we are all criminals who refuse to be held accountable for what we do, and generally spew forth a tangle of vitriolic nonsense.

Posted by: aed3 | June 27, 2010 7:39 PM | Report abuse

In case some of you haven't figured it out yet, thebump is a troll. Ignore him.

Posted by: nunovyerbizness1 | June 27, 2010 9:19 PM | Report abuse

thebump worte: "Here's what is most telling about the discussion: The mere suggestion that teachers ought to meet performance standards, as everybody else in the grownup world must do, has yielded unhinged vitriol and plenty of straw men, but not a single substantive argument against."
---------------------
Teachers have no problem meeting performance standards. Standardized tests were not designed to assess a teacher's performance. That is what we take issue with. A number of comprehensive evaluation systems for teachers have been piloted around the country. To really assess a teacher appropriately requires time and personnel which costs a bit more money. The problem here in the US is that we want to do everything cheaply, not necessarily the best way and we want results immediately.

Posted by: musiclady | June 27, 2010 9:39 PM | Report abuse

Linda: "Whether these changes are advantageous or not, we can't allow the privileged few to make decisions for all of us."

Whether decisions are made by a privileged few or by the tyranny of a majority is immaterial. Neither should have that power. Every family has the right to make its own decisions based on each individual child's unique best interest.

Posted by: thebump | June 27, 2010 10:11 PM | Report abuse

Right, thebump is just a troll barging in on an otherwise sober-minded discussion about whether education reform is more like Nazism or slavery.

However imperfect an interlocutor thebump may be, the fact is that many fair-minded people will be shocked by the other side's comments and by the evident lack of good faith. The unmistakable message in these comments is that the usual entrenched interests will continue to put up a wall of implacable opposition to any and all meaningful reform, and will fight savagely to protect their power base against the public good and against the demands of simple justice. I can only hope that this attitude is not representative of the majority of government school employees.

I don't know how long it will take, but I do know the opponents of reform will fail in the end, because they are on the losing side of history and the issue is too important.

Posted by: thebump | June 27, 2010 10:15 PM | Report abuse

Thebump is a troll because he argues only for the sake of argument. He'll eventually contradict himself and then run away, calling those who oppose him "barracudas".

His strawman argument, that teachers and their unions are opposed to reform or to meeting standards, is just that: a straw man. No teacher opposes any such thing, nor does any union. But that won't matter to the thebump, because it is inconsistent with his view of teachers lacking experience in "the real world".

He is, as I have already stated, a troll.

Posted by: nunovyerbizness1 | June 28, 2010 7:09 AM | Report abuse

bumpy: What kind of la-la land does this nut inhabit? There is no such thing as academic freedom in government-run elementary and secondary schools, nor should taxpayers tolerate any form of insubordination on the part of government employees.
-----------
It's you who is living in la-la land if you think that academic freedom doesn't exist in public schools. What do you call it when a teacher is given the latitude to choose what materials and methods he/she believes are best for the particular group of students in the class, as long as the class is succeeding? And what, pray tell, does "insubordination" have to do with academic freedom? Unless you believe that it is insubordination when a teacher stands up to a principal who has no background in the subject she/he teaches and refuses to allow that principal to ignore guidelines and sound educational practices in service of convenience and expedience.

Do you think teachers should simply blindly "follow orders" without thinking and advocating for the students they teach?

Probably you do. You think teachers are basically idiots. It shows in your every post.

Posted by: nunovyerbizness1 | June 28, 2010 7:30 AM | Report abuse

bum: But the hospital personnel should be accountable for standards of hygiene, and those whose performance demonstrates they are unwilling or unable to conform to the standards should be disciplined, up to and including dismissal. That's leadership 101, and if that really is a foreign concept in our schools, no wonder we're in trouble.
---------
Since I've been teaching, I've seen 6 teachers who were not competent, even though they were experienced educators, placed on peer review and eventually dismissed. So much for the idea that this is a "foreign concept" to education.

Guess you can rest easy, now.

Posted by: nunovyerbizness1 | June 28, 2010 7:34 AM | Report abuse

the bum: However imperfect an interlocutor thebump may be, the fact is that many fair-minded people will be shocked by the other side's comments and by the evident lack of good faith. The unmistakable message in these comments is that the usual entrenched interests will continue to put up a wall of implacable opposition to any and all meaningful reform, and will fight savagely to protect their power base against the public good and against the demands of simple justice.
--------
"Lack of good faith"? Are you kidding? If anyone lacks good faith, it's you and your ilk. You assume that all teachers are opposed to being fairly evaluated, that being tenured means having a job for life regardless of competence, and that teachers are "against the public good and against the demands of simple justice"! Do you need a roller in addition to your broad brush?

What utter nonsense. Your extremism is the very idiocy the author is describing, and is of no use in the debate.

Why don't you tell us all something constructive, like what methods, exactly, you would use to determine whether a teacher is competent?

Posted by: nunovyerbizness1 | June 28, 2010 8:27 AM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company