Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity


Posted at 12:03 PM ET, 10/ 6/2010

Down the education rabbit hole

By Valerie Strauss

David B. Cohen has been a teacher for 16 years, and is now in his 13th year of teaching in California public high schools. He earned a master’s degree in education at Stanford University in 1995 and achieved National Board Certification in 2004. He is a founding member of Accomplished California Teachers (ACT) and co-authored the group’s first policy report, which proposes a multiple-measure teacher evaluation system. Cohen is also a member of the Teacher Leaders Network and blogs at InterACT. This piece appeared there.


By David B. Cohen

“....but Alice had got so much into the way of expecting nothing but out-of-the-way things to happen, that it seemed quite dull and stupid for life to go on in the common way.”
Lewis Carroll - Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

I guess I’m not as adaptable as Alice. It’s only the end of Chapter One when she realizes that once she’s hit the bottom of the rabbit hole, nothing will “go on in the common way.”

Much of the education reform debate has been down the rabbit hole for a while, but I keep expecting people to act with some common sense.

Apparently, I’m clinging to a strange notion about education: if you want to improve schools, you need teacher leadership, and if you try to improve schools while alienating teachers, you will fail.

It was hard to avoid nausea the past couple weeks watching the parade of union-bashing alarmists tearing down public schools and teachers on the Oprah Winfrey Show and the NBC project “Education Nation” – shamelessly plugging the film “Waiting for Superman” – and all while the Los Angeles Times abuse of value-added measurement is still reverberating in the edusphere.

Earlier this year, Newsweak Magazine [intentionally misspelled by author] essentially blamed teachers for all the problems in education, and a magazine I’ve never heard of before this week titled an article, “Are Teachers Ruining Our Schools?” My ACT colleague Anthony Cody has called the overall effect “The Media’s War on Teachers” – and though I usually opt for less dramatic analogies, this one resonates.

The latest move that has me scratching my head comes from the George W. Bush Institute. Their ambitious proposal would train (or influence the training) of 50,000 principals in the next decade.

We certainly need to plan for the future and ensure that we have well-trained principals, but there’s a larger agenda here.

Dakarai Aarons of Education Week writes, “The initiative, called the Alliance to Reform Education Leadership, includes partnerships with business schools and with nontraditional providers, such as Teach For America and New Leaders for New Schools, as part of the Institute’s goal to ‘augment the pipeline’ of people pursuing the principalship, [Bush Institute Fellow James W.] Guthrie said.”

The Bush Institute press release on the announcement provides this additional information: ”Teach for America, New Leaders for New Schools, KIPP, The Rainwater Leadership Alliance in cooperation with the Rainwater Charitable Foundation, and the Council for Education Change are collaborating with the Alliance and contributing to its mission.”

So, what a surprise! Instead of nurturing the leadership of accomplished teachers and trying to grow leadership from within, the Bush Institute is looking to help non-educators (or minimally experienced ones) to leap into leadership positions.

Curiouser and curiouser,” as Alice would say.

Help me out here – what kind of success have we had with mayors in control of schools? Governors? Ex-generals and ex-admirals? What other profession would have people from the outside come riding to its rescue, with millions of dollars to solve the problems by bringing in people who barely understand the problem?

The paternalistic condescension of the business-minded education reformers is insulting and counterproductive. No matter how many times they display it, and expect us to get used to it, we need to call them out.

And does it even make business sense? I know that sometimes companies bring in CEO’s from different industries, but at least they’re industries! I don’t see them bringing in Air Force colonels or NFL coaches.

In his new book Good Boss, Bad Boss, Robert Sutton makes an argument that flies in the face of this approach from the Bush Institute. (Sutton is professor of management science and engineering at Stanford University and a professor or organizational behavior, by courtesy, at the Stanford School of Business. Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of the book from the author).

One section of his book bears the heading, “Understand the Work You Manage – Or Get Out of the Way.” Sutton names the top executives at Disney, Microsoft, Oracle, Apple, Pixar, McDonald’s, Xerox, Google, SAP, and The Men’s Wearhouse – and suggests that their success is partially due to the fact that “each had a deep understanding of the work they led.”

It’s not that I think business leadership has nothing to offer to the field of education – far from it. I wrote three blog posts (starting here) about the best business advice I could find for schools and districts to adopt. The problem is that those who come from outside of education tend to make the wrong arguments about making schools more like business. The lineup of organizations engaging in this principal leadership effort is hardly known for valuing teacher expertise in these matters.

And if you want some other lessons about the disconnect between bosses and workers, you might check out "Undercover Boss" on CBS, Sunday nights. Admittedly, I’ve only seen one episode, but the concept is this: CEO’s have a lot to learn about their own companies, and what better way to learn it than to try doing some of the entry level work while “undercover”? (They tell the other employees that the camera crews are there for some other purpose).

In the one episode I watched, the CEO of Choice Hotels came back from his undercover week quite humbled by the hard work and the dignity of workers he may never have even considered before.

His version of accountability follows the advice of W. Edwards Deming – putting management on the hook for worker effectiveness. I have a feeling that if we could get school boards, politicians, and district administrators to work as our school secretaries, custodians, special education aides, substitutes and classroom teachers, we’d be having some very different conversations about education reform. Maybe even conversations that don’t make seem to favor the Mad Hatters of education reform in Wonderland....

Oh, I’ve had such a curious dream!” said Alice, and she told her sister, as well as she could remember them, all these strange Adventures of hers that you have just been reading about; and when she had finished, her sister kissed her, and said, “It was a curious dream, dear, certainly: but now run in to your tea; it’s getting late.”

-0-

Follow my blog 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  | October 6, 2010; 12:03 PM ET
Categories:  Guest Bloggers, School turnarounds/reform, Teachers  | Tags:  bush initiative, bush institute, education nation, newsweek, principals, school reform, teachers  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Paper applications for tech schools: a harbinger?
Next: An education film that gets it (No, not 'Superman')

Comments

Ah, the Shanghaiing of the minds of the American people via the educational system - the voyage lasting about a generation until the mission is essentially complete. With the average citizens out of the way (no more elected school boards), and with the "appropriate mayors" in control of the vast majority of the schools, puppet chancellors will appoint principals who are plumped and groomed (thanks to such principal corporate farms) to further fulfill the missions of the elite, powerful, and well connected.

With distorted logic and seared conscience...."to hell in a handbasket."

Posted by: shadwell1 | October 6, 2010 2:15 PM | Report abuse

David and shadwell1, you both have the picture, and a gloomy one it is. I do like the reference in David's article regarding the 'undercover CEO' - what might be discovered?

My favorite education fantasy is to have one of the CEO's be a regular teacher for about 6 weeks, no secretaries to call on, no one to make his parent phone calls, and to have to 'wing it' on: bus duty, hall duty, arranging field trips, monitoring lunch, making accommodations for special needs' students, no strangling of 6'3" behavior problems that get in your face, figuring out the latest report card program on the computer, make 3-days' lesson plans for a substitute, order a semester's worth of art supplies, and, oh, right, teach.......

I get a grin like the Cheshire Cat just thinking about it.

Posted by: PLMichaelsArtist-at-Large | October 6, 2010 3:07 PM | Report abuse

I am truly afraid for the future of education with organizations like Teach for America, New Leaders for New Schools, The New Teacher Project, and KIPP setting the agenda and attracting the funds.

Posted by: ocisab | October 6, 2010 7:01 PM | Report abuse

crucial website for
background info. about
charter schools ==>
http://charterschoolscandals.blogspot.com/

The purpose of this Web site is to provide the public with a source of independently collected information about U.S. charter schools.

For instance, compare what you learn
from my entry for the (former, shuttered)
3,500 student "CATO School of Reason"
to the content provided by the
pro-charter Center for Education Reform
in their compilation:
"Closed Charter Schools by State: National Data 2009"

In the CER's document, the reason given for closure is "Management." The explanation is "Inadequate record keeping, suspect relations with private and sectarian schools." Well, the story is much bigger and dirtier than that, as you'll learn when you read the articles compiled in my entry for the same school.

This site is a non-billionaire funded (and un-bought off !!!), non-union affiliated, one-person operation in the name of public service. I post the information as quickly as I can, but have a massive backlog due to the sheer number of stories. Please check back periodically for new additions.

And be sure to check out my other blogs:
-THE BROAD REPORT
-THE PERIMETER PRIMATE

------------------------------
These are a range of charter schools
(including non-profit and for-profit,
parent & community designed,
also corporate chain schools,
and scam schools (schools for scandal).....

view the website
listed below for crucial
behind-the-scenes info.
about the actual performance
& management of charter schools
in the U.S. =>

http://charterschoolscandals.blogspot.com/


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

Posted by: honestpolicy | October 6, 2010 8:35 PM | Report abuse

Ah, Mr. Cohen, you complain too much. We must remember who presided over and who populated the classrooms during the long and continuing decline in public education and results--PhDs in education and...wait for it...teachers! There are many others deeply implicated, to be sure, e.g., teachers unions that have barred the door to changes while pursuing job security and higher salaries, inattentive parents, some politicians, dumbed-down media, and too many ed-related special interests and nonprofit lobbyists to list. So, rather than shunning any responsibility and accountability, take your fair share, and then let's try to move forward together for constructive change.

Posted by: axolotl | October 6, 2010 8:35 PM | Report abuse

You complain too much, Mr. Cohen. Sure, there are many parties to blame for the steep decline in public education -- teachers unions still clawing for job security and pay raises, some politicians, inattentive parents, dumbed-down media, and too many ed-related special interests to name. But please try bucking the thrust of more than a few teachers' hollow complaints and take your fair share of responsibility and accountability for what has happened. That's not teacher-bashing, but rather reality. If you can acknowledge that, it will help us all move forward to strengthen public education.

Posted by: axolotl | October 6, 2010 8:50 PM | Report abuse

We wouldn't be in this mess if we were willing to pay for the best teachers and to provide them with good working conditions. That's what they do in Finland and other countries that are at the top of the heap in education (those countries also have strong teacher's unions). Instead, this country seems to think it can witch-hunt its way into attracting talent. Maybe if we burn a couple at the stake, all the rest will suddenly be able to make all children score perfectly on multiple choice tests.

You don't get something for nothing.

Teachers have no problem being held accountable for things that they are able to control. But they don't like being scapegoats.

Posted by: aed3 | October 6, 2010 9:35 PM | Report abuse

For many years administrators hired almost any teacher who was willing to show up. After that they granted everyone tenure and gave each teacher "highly effective" whether they were or not. This is a matter of record.

Even now, with all the money from philanthropists and the ability to hire the best qualified teachers, Michelle Rhee still hired inexperienced people right out of college. Why?

Administrators hire, evaluate and fire teachers. Teachers and their unions do not.

Here's a great quote from Diane Ravitch: "It's difficult to win a war when you're firing on your own troops."

Posted by: Linda/RetiredTeacher | October 6, 2010 10:02 PM | Report abuse

I just want to highly commend Valerie Strauss for being a voice of sanity in the crazy education climate right now and offering post readers a wealth of intelligent commentary on public education. I so enjoyed reading David Cohen's, "Down the Education Rabbit Hole". If only he would get together with the likes of Diane Ravitch, Alfie Kohn, Jonothan Kozol, Lisa Delpit etc.. and a host of public school teachers and administrators who know a heck of a lot about the "real deal" with respect to education. Could they ever convince Michael Moore to make a documentary to counter act the corporate attack on educators also known as "Waiting for Superman" ?

Posted by: teachermd | October 6, 2010 10:18 PM | Report abuse

RUPERT MURDOCH is planning to set up
an edu-profiteer, privateer ACADEMY SCHOOL.

"With Tesco selling books and Amazon selling bacon, it was only a matter of time before Rupert Murdoch started selling A-levels.
News International is in talks about sponsoring an academy school near its luxurious Wapping offices.

Critics of Mr Murdoch are reported to be “alarmed” at the possibility of him entering the sphere of education, and leading the resistance is the go-to guy for anti-Murdoch quotes at the moment, Labour MP Tom Watson.
“Some people will say they are not telling people what they should think through their newspaper but teaching our children what to think in our schools,” he says. I'm a big fan of Watson. I bought Batman: Arkham Asylum on his recommendation, and it's a cracking game. But I think he's being silly here.

Are we really to imagine some sinister factory, churning out prematurely wizened republicans with A-levels in cross-media plugging and an interest in offshore tax arrangements?

There used to be a thing called the antinomian heresy, which said if you were one of the Elect, pre-selected for heaven, nothing you could do was sinful. An inverted version of this applies to Murdoch. He is seen as such a scoundrel that anything he does is deemed evil.

Faith schools — which are by their nature openly ideological — go through on a nod; yet when Murdoch suggests sponsoring a secular secondary school the assumption is it's in order to spread the abominable creed of Murdochism.

.......Of course there are many things to find unattractive about Murdoch. His companies avoid countless millions in tax and he is a foreign national who exercises a disproportionate amount of power over our political process. The law as it stands makes both these things possible, and elected politicians are reluctant to change things because — chicken-and-eggily — Murdoch is too powerful.

But that power is a means to an end. Some proprietors are in it for the pomp: dinner with Cabinet ministers; swanking around at Buckingham Palace when they get knighted; having their half-baked ideas about the world canvassed with apparent interest by powerful people.

Murdoch doesn't seem all that interested in ideology, though. Inasmuch as he wants to reshape the world, it's to make it a better place for his own businesses. He's personally Right-wing, sure; but if the big bucks for Fox News were in replacing
Glenn Beck with Tariq Ali, he'd probably do it.

The chances are that Murdoch is taking an interest in running
an academy because he reckons he can make money out of it. And given what tends to happen when
any private company sees a buck to be made out of
public services, it's that that we ought to be alarmed about."

see source =>
http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/standard/article-23877192-lets-not-get-so-paranoid-over-a-rupert-murdoch-school.do


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

Posted by: honestpolicy | October 6, 2010 11:48 PM | Report abuse

RUPERT MURDOCH is planning to set up
an edu-profiteer, privateer ACADEMY SCHOOL.

"With Tesco selling books and Amazon selling bacon, it was only a matter of time before Rupert Murdoch started selling A-levels.
News International is in talks about sponsoring an academy school near its luxurious Wapping offices.

Critics of Mr Murdoch are reported to be “alarmed” at the possibility of him entering the sphere of education, and leading the resistance is the go-to guy for anti-Murdoch quotes at the moment, Labour MP Tom Watson.
“Some people will say they are not telling people what they should think through their newspaper but teaching our children what to think in our schools,” he says. I'm a big fan of Watson. I bought Batman: Arkham Asylum on his recommendation, and it's a cracking game. But I think he's being silly here.

Are we really to imagine some sinister factory, churning out prematurely wizened republicans with A-levels in cross-media plugging and an interest in offshore tax arrangements?

There used to be a thing called the antinomian heresy, which said if you were one of the Elect, pre-selected for heaven, nothing you could do was sinful. An inverted version of this applies to Murdoch. He is seen as such a scoundrel that anything he does is deemed evil.

Faith schools — which are by their nature openly ideological — go through on a nod; yet when Murdoch suggests sponsoring a secular secondary school the assumption is it's in order to spread the abominable creed of Murdochism.

.......Of course there are many things to find unattractive about Murdoch. His companies avoid countless millions in tax and he is a foreign national who exercises a disproportionate amount of power over our political process. The law as it stands makes both these things possible, and elected politicians are reluctant to change things because — chicken-and-eggily — Murdoch is too powerful.

But that power is a means to an end. Some proprietors are in it for the pomp: dinner with Cabinet ministers; swanking around at Buckingham Palace when they get knighted; having their half-baked ideas about the world canvassed with apparent interest by powerful people.

Murdoch doesn't seem all that interested in ideology, though. Inasmuch as he wants to reshape the world, it's to make it a better place for his own businesses. He's personally Right-wing, sure; but if the big bucks for Fox News were in replacing
Glenn Beck with Tariq Ali, he'd probably do it.

The chances are that Murdoch is taking an interest in running
an academy because he reckons he can make money out of it. And given what tends to happen when
any private company sees a buck to be made out of
public services, it's that that we ought to be alarmed about."

see source =>
http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/standard/article-23877192-lets-not-get-so-paranoid-over-a-rupert-murdoch-school.do


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

Posted by: honestpolicy | October 6, 2010 11:48 PM | Report abuse

And yet another load of happy hen manure from the self proclaimed "Accomplished California Teacher" David Cohen.

Getting teachers involved in the ed reform debate may sound like a good idea on the surface but I would caution, be careful what you wish for.

Wasn’t it teachers who championed constructivism? Teachers were the ones who hailed this model as the pedagogical "holy grail" for US classrooms? Teachers as facilitators proved to be yet another in the long line of the progressive mindsets bordering on the precipice of an instructional holocaust for America's students. Young children constructing their own curricula fortunately proved to be a questionable practice in the minds of many rational adults.

And weren’t teachers the ones who emphasized the superiority of whole language over phonics? In the 90's California adopted whole language as their mantra for teaching reading and the federal NAEP results showed California students had plummeted to the bottom on their reading results, behind Mississippi.

Then there were the math standards, hailed by National Council of TEACHERS of Mathematics, where the "new" math or "fuzzy" math became the contemporary mantra of progressives. Here teachers abandoned the notion of grounding their students in a solid foundation of knowledge of the subject matter sacrificed at the altar of developing an appreciation for math and becoming confident in their problem solving strategies.

And how about the English standards with little or no regard for grammar, correct spelling, or classic literature? Teachers put this disastrous document together as well. This piece of rubbish was deemed so anemic its funding was terminated.

Then there were the original history standards with their blatant disregard for names and dates of critical events in US history, all developed by teachers. This was US history with no mention of prominent individuals such as Paul Revere, Thomas Edison, the Wright Brothers, etc. Instead this panel of experts decided to stress such events as the spread of disease across the Americas by carpet-bagging European monsters from Columbus to Lewis and Clark. Important facts and dates of US history suddenly became anathema to America's classrooms. All this occurred under the guise of allowing our students to become active learners who would be better able to "appreciate" what actually happened during the first four hundred years of our country. This single document perhaps set back national standards for US schools more than any other event since A Nation At Risk launched education reform over a quarter century ago. It was so deplorable that the United States Senate issued a resolution condemning the document, 99-1. As well, this single document set back US public education by an unimaginable degree relative to what was going on in other industrialized classrooms around the globe.

Posted by: phoss1 | October 7, 2010 7:30 AM | Report abuse

aed3 and Linda/RT -- best to avoid the trap that all we need is more money to pay for more effective teachers.

DC is a monument to it's-not-about-money, but rather about good management, community will and involvement, and getting serious (or not) about teacher quality.

That said, there is obviously some validity to Linda's point about hiring relatively inexperienced teachers. However, to make that point stick, we have to compare what we are actually getting from DCPS's experienced teachers. Teachers themselves seem to bridle at being measured in terms of effectiveness, so the point can't be made here with any social scientific validity.

Rather, the point tends to be made by some teachers who post comments on WaPo in terms of demographics and job security.

Many stakeholders across the District would claim that those two attributes of teachers are not as important as educators' professional quality and actual effectiveness in "delivering" education in the classroom.

Posted by: axolotl | October 7, 2010 7:49 AM | Report abuse

Teachers are the ones in the classrooms with the students. They are the ones who know what students need to learn and know what creates obstacles to learning. Of course their opinions should count when reforming schools.

Money does matter. When teachers move or change school districts, they will look at salaries and benefits packages, as do new teachers coming in. Later they may move to where parents are more supportive or administrators are fair and class sizes are small. However, unless they are independently wealthy, teachers need to pay bills and will initially seek out the potential for higher salaries. Top candidates and experienced teachers are likely to find jobs in higher paying districts.


Posted by: celestun100 | October 7, 2010 9:51 AM | Report abuse

phoss1: as a victim of the "new math" in the 1960s, I was agreeing with you until you wanted to go back to the old historical standards of dates and "facts." As a historian, I agree that students should have a grounding in basic facts, but which facts? Our textbooks told us about Washington kneeling in prayer at Valley Forge, that the Emancipation Proclamation ended slavery throughout the country, and that the Mexican War was fought to free the oppressed Mexcan residents of the area that later became Arizona and New Mexico from an oppressive Spanish government and make Mexico free. And I was lucky--my high school teachers liked and knew history. I talk to others whose history classes consisted of reading the text or doing homework while the coach who had to teach something showed game films or talked sports with some of the boys.

I'm not in favor of more businessmen running the schools--for one thing, with all the recalls, I wouldn't say business are all that concerned with quality--but I wouldn't say we have ever had good schools.

And Linda/Retired Teacher shouldn't be too hard on the schools for hiring "almost any teacher who was willing to show up." I went to school during the baby boomer years, and when a school discovered in late August that the people moving into the new subdivision had pushed the number of 5th-graders from 30 (the fire department's limit on the number of desks allowable in the room) to 40, the administrators had no choice but to hire a second 5th grade teacher in a hurry.

Posted by: sideswiththekids | October 7, 2010 10:21 AM | Report abuse

celestun100: if you believe higher teacher pay will solve our DCPS problems, you would be in a tiny minority of stakeholders in the success of DCPS, except for some -- not all -- teachers, that is. But you are not a DC teacher, tho u must be aware we spend quite a lot per student. As much as our officials will ask for and taxpayers will pay.

Just for kicks, what do you think we would get in the way of improved, more effective education for our children if we raised teacher pay yet again, into the stratosphere, say, by adding 25%? You would not notice much change, almost anyone would surmise, except nicer cars in the school parking lot, and perhaps a few more teachers actually living here. Again, it ain't a money issue.

Posted by: axolotl | October 7, 2010 11:36 AM | Report abuse

@axolotl
I agree that it is not just a money issue.

My guess is that a lot of money in DCPS has gone not toward teacher salaries, but to supervisory positions and perhaps administrative costs at least in the past.

The reason I think it is about money at least a little bit is based on personal experience. When I moved to the DC area aabout 10 years ago I had been teaching for about 10 years already. I had my pick of Prince George County, DCPS and Montgomery. I chose Montgomery County because the pay was higher. I also met many teachers in that district who moved there from PGCS and DCPS.

Any big school district has some good points and some bad. My point is that those teachers who have a choice are going to go where there is a chance that they will do better financially, at least initially, after that it becomes a matter of having administrative and parental support.

I don't think money will solve all problems. I think we need good administrators who understand teaching and learning and staff who are willing to involve parents.

Posted by: celestun100 | October 7, 2010 12:52 PM | Report abuse

It isn't just the money. It's also the working conditions. Being stretched to the limit with little support and inadequate supplies (and inevitably using part of your salary to pay for classroom supplies), and then being blamed for things out of your control = bad working conditions. Oh, and not being able to go to the bathroom when you need to is degrading.

But, like any other profession, the money does matter. Part of the problem with finding more great teachers is that so many talented people opt to go into careers that make it more likely they will have a comfortable retirement instead of having to work two jobs to make ends meet.

That's why most teacher quit within 5-7 years. That's why I point out that one of the reasons countries like Finland have such great teachers; they pay them well and understand that proper support enables them to be good at what they do. Being treated like an adult instead of like a criminal goes a long way in making a job attractive.

I can't think of another profession in which people are demonized for wanting to make more money. Teachers are not clergy.

Posted by: aed3 | October 7, 2010 1:05 PM | Report abuse

axotol--Please note that we are talking about better working conditions in conjunction with better pay. The system as it exists places unrealistic expectations on teachers. That factor probably runs more people off than the pay issue, but put together, it's a wonder anyone wants the job.

Posted by: aed3 | October 7, 2010 1:09 PM | Report abuse

sideswiththekids;

Great description of the supposed "golden age" of education before those nasty "teachers unions" ruined it. I recall the same sanitized history taught by "history" teachers named "coach." (Although one of the, my hockey coach, also had a Phd in Eupropean history, he was a teacher 1st and coach 2nd). Another important factor in those days was a professional teacher corps made up largely of bright and educated women. This was before they had the opportunity to go to Law, Medical and Business schools. Once women had other opportunities, it became harder to provide quality education on the cheap.

Posted by: mcstowy | October 7, 2010 3:44 PM | Report abuse

mcstowy is right that job opportunities for women, when they finally opened up, drew a lot of quality away from public school teachers. We should pay adequately or better for teachers in the District. Arguably, we do, but the fat compensation of the government workers in the area (about 350 thousand of them), diminishes the relative attractiveness of teacher pay.

I also agree that working conditions are important. No matter what happens here, some stalwart unionistas have ensured we will have maximum chaos for a few years. A lot of the bad environment is self-inflicted by teachers. Some refuse to be managed, to be evaluated, or to accept change. They have lost the respect of so many parents and others because they come across as supremely self-interested.

Of course, those who are like that, and those who are just plain ineffective and uncommitted to their students, will always drive out the good ones. Rhee had to face a teacher corps that had never been screened for quality. And she got beaten up for getting a lot of that screening done. But the forces of roll-back, plus the possibility (not the probability) that our mayor will be intimidated by the union, makes the subset of uncommitted, uncooperative, and in some cases, unskilled and ineffective, teachers believe they can thwart change.

tend to believe that parents, other taxpayers, and the Council, as well as the US Dept of Ed and a slew of upcoming court cases will show the anti-changers that they cannot win.

Posted by: axolotl | October 7, 2010 6:20 PM | Report abuse

Question for those who seem to think paying the teachers we have more will lead to better teachers: If money alone will do it, why don't we just pay the students to get them to be better students?

Posted by: sideswiththekids | October 7, 2010 9:43 PM | Report abuse

Sideswiththekids:

I do understand why districts hired any teacher who would show up, as I was one of those teachers. My point is that it is the job of administrators to hire, evaluate and fire teachers. If the teachers were less than qualified, whose fault was this? Was it mine for accepting the job? I don't think so. Was I qualified to teach the poorest of the poor in Cleveland? No, far from it, and no one cared either.

It's time we stopped the shameful practice of placing the least experienced teachers in our most challenging schools. Shame on Michelle Rhee for continuing this practice when she could have used philanthropic money to hire experienced teachers with proven track records of success.

"Reformers" need to ask themselves why she hired underqualified and inexperienced teachers.

Posted by: Linda/RetiredTeacher | October 7, 2010 10:07 PM | Report abuse

Sideswiththekids:

The point about money is not to throw more money at bad teachers with the idea that they will suddenly become good. The point is that better salaries will attract and retain more good teachers. It would increase the pool of good candidates, just as it does in any other profession.

I personally know several people who left teaching to go to law school and into banking because they couldn't see spending the rest of their lives working so hard for so little, not to mention being treated like stupid criminals because they chose to teach. Now they work hard but are treated with dignity and make a lot more money. They were great teachers, and it's a loss to the schools.

Paying more now would stop the drain of good teachers. As I have stated before, but you chose to ignore, most teachers are gone after about 7 years of experience because of the pay and lousy working conditions. In many cases, it's the best and the brightest who leave when they realize that their salaries are leveling off and they are falling way behind their college friends who have much better 401-Ks and more rapid salary increases.

In every other line of work, it's understood that it's worth paying for quality and experience. Why the objection to paying for quality in teachers?

Posted by: aed3 | October 7, 2010 11:19 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Hoss,

I would submit that you have offered a lot of correlation without causation, attributed all of it to teachers and none of it to others who influence education, and for some reason saw fit to aim insults at me - all without digging deeply into the substance of the argument. Are you supportive of the Bush Institute approach to put non-educators in charge of education? Will we make strides in the professionalization of teaching with such an approach. Will we improve schools by turning them over to people who barely understand them? Please try to address the issues and not concern yourself with me personally. It diminishes your argument, and I am truly interested in debate if you have something to bring to these specific proposals.

Posted by: DavidBCohen | October 8, 2010 5:55 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company