Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity


Posted at 6:00 AM ET, 10/12/2010

'Manifesto' should be resignation letter

By Valerie Strauss

My guest is Kevin G. Welner, professor of education policy and program evaluation in the School of Education at the University of Colorado at Boulder, and director of the National Education Policy Center. He can be reached at welner@colorado.edu.

By Kevin G. Welner
For a concise compilation of today’s fads and gimmicks in education, go read “How to fix our schools: A manifesto by Joel Klein, Michelle Rhee and other education leaders,” published in the Outlook section of Sunday’s Washington Post.

The sort of nonsense about education found in the new manifesto has become astoundingly commonplace, but this time it came not from a Hollywood filmmaker or a Washington think-tank advocate but from the leaders of 16 of the nation’s major city school districts.

According to the manifesto, “It’s time for all of the adults -- superintendents, educators, elected officials, labor unions and parents alike -- to start acting like we are responsible for the future of our children.” Absolutely. Members of each of these groups can do more – a lot more.

In fact, we should start by removing the irresponsible signers of this manifesto from any position of power over “the future of our children.”

Are the adults who signed this manifesto acting responsibly when they bash teachers, and only teachers? What about the “superintendents” and “elected officials” who are conveniently never mentioned again in the Manifesto but who actually have some control over the resources available to students and their teachers?

Are these adults acting responsibly when they advocate for even more test-based accountability and school choice? Over the past two decades, haven’t these two policies dominated the reform landscape – and what do we have to show for it? Wouldn’t true reform move away from what has not been working, rather than further intensifying those ineffective policies? Are they acting responsibly when they promote unproven gimmicks as solutions?

Are they acting responsibly when they do not acknowledge their own role in failing to secure the opportunities and resources needed by students in their own districts, opting instead to place the blame on those struggling in classrooms to help students learn?

As a researcher and a parent, I yearn for an end to the over-the-top propaganda, the slick think tank reports, the educational “leaders” more interested in blaming than in solving, the wasteful sinking of taxpayer money (and educators’ time) into reforms that have been shown not to work, and the stirring films that suggest that the heartbreaking denial of educational opportunities to innocent children can be miraculously solved by the latest fad.

Move money from neighborhood schools to charter schools!
Make children take more tests!
Move money from classrooms to online learning!
Blame teachers and their unions – make them easier to fire!
Tie teacher jobs and salaries to student test scores!

None – literally NONE – of these gimmicks is evidence-based.

Charters? Overall, they’re no better than other schools.

Tests? Twenty years of testing has bought us minimal improvement in scores but made learning less engaging.

Online learning? Sometimes it’s a good supplement for classrooms, but the research doesn’t support it as a widespread substitute – unless you’re an investor in one of the companies that stand to make a fortune courtesy of taxpayers.

Easier routes to firing teachers? Why do states, districts and schools (including charter schools) with few if any union protections have the same patterns of student learning?

Test-based merit pay, etc? Rarely has a policy been so vigorously pursued that so clearly lacks research support.

The manifesto and these facile “solutions” are built on little more than rhetoric, and it all begins with a patently incorrect factual assertion:

“So, where do we start? With the basics. As President Obama has emphasized, the single most important factor determining whether students succeed in school is not the color of their skin or their ZIP code or even their parents’ income -- it is the quality of their teacher.”

If the president did in fact say this, he is wrong. While no researcher could offer precise numbers, regression models tend to attribute a far greater role to out-of-school factors such as parental educational level and family income.

While teacher quality is, in my opinion, the most important in-school factor, there are many others: school leadership, class size, facilities (e.g, working bathrooms, heating, air conditioning, lighting, etc), learning resources (books, computers), and curriculum.

Teacher quality is critical, but the variance we can attribute to this one factor is probably less than 10 percent. This isn’t new – we have known about the high predictive ability of out-of-school factors since the famous Coleman study almost 45 years ago.

None of this means that in-school factors should be ignored. They should absolutely be addressed, including teacher quality. But they should be addressed based on evidence of best practices, and calls to address these needs should not be made as part of an attempt to downplay out-of-school needs.

It is disgraceful for these leaders who are in charge of 2.5 million students – disproportionately students in impoverished, urban areas – to act as enablers for those who dismiss the need to address issues of concentrated poverty.

Unemployment is high. More and more families are falling into poverty, and their children are showing up to school hungry, in need of health and dental care, and even homeless. Yet these “leaders” dare to suggest that everything will be just fine if we had fewer tenured teachers and more charter schools and online learning.

Think about that – the people to whom we have handed over responsibility for educating our children are engaged in scapegoating, offering bread-and-circus diversions while the children under their care see their life chances slipping away.

These are the people in power – the people who have overseen the system that they now seem to acknowledge has only gotten worse under their regimes and their policies.

They scapegoat and divert because they refuse to acknowledge their failures and to step aside.

How very, very sad.

-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 12, 2010; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  Charter schools, Guest Bloggers, Kevin Welner, Performance pay, Research, School turnarounds/reform, Standardized Tests, Teacher assessment, Teachers  | Tags:  charter schools, fixing schools, joel klein, klein manifesto, klein rhee, manifesto, merit pay, michelle rhee, obama and school reform, obama and schools, president obama, reform manifest, rhee manifesto, school reform  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: U-Md. marching band wins $25,000 challenge with 'Book em Danno'
Next: Teaching college kids to 'pilot their own helicopter'

Comments

Dr. Welner makes excellent points. The "manifesto" repeated the well-worn positions of the current school reform movement that ignore the larger social conditions that impede student learning. Curiously, despite the reform movement's emphasis on control of teachers, the chancellors and superintendents end the manifesto by extolling charter schools over which they have no control whatsoever. Charter school results are very mixed, but more important, are not viable options for most of the at-risk children in the poorest of neighborhoods. And, by the way, we all "care about the children" ... See my blogs on this topic at http://www.trinitydc.edu/offices/president/blog/index.php/2010/10/11/mission-v-manifesto/#respond

Posted by: TrinityPresident | October 12, 2010 7:21 AM | Report abuse

First off, I want to thank Valerie Strauss for continuing to represent the voice of reason in this so called "debate".

Dr. Watkins gives voice to the issues with these policies and claims that many of us are concerned about.

Superintendents of all people should understand and relate the complexity of schools, instead of advocating for simple and questionable "fixes" that research and results do not support.

I was also bothered in the "manifesto" by the way the superintendents denigrated teachers with experience or master's degrees. The implication (part of their "war" on unions, I suppose) is that those things aren't desirable for a good educator.

First off, I'm sure most of them have master's degrees or Ph.D's and I would guess the majority of the superintendents listed have years of experience that they draw on.

I have been an educator for 29 years and my practice only deepens as I constantly am learning how to be a better teacher.

Our district has a program which supports teachers getting their master's degrees in a partnership with a local university. I have watched teachers going through this program and have seen first hand how it has enriched their teaching and professionalism and knowledge; it's clear how many of them will be even better educators because of that experience. And I know how my own degree enriched my understandings as a teacher.

This blanket statement on their part is just as irresponsible as the other claims that they make.

As Chris Lehmann, Principal of the Science Leadership Academy, pointed out in an article on Huffington Post--this is not a "education debate", it is a "labor debate".
And as a teacher in one of the several non-union states, I'd like to add that our state also has problem schools like every other state, so surely it isn't the fault of just the "unions."?

We have to understand as educators, as parents, and as leaders that educational reform movements should not be blame games, but rather intensive conversations including parents, teachers, students, and leaders about what works, and then supporting our teachers and schools as they work towards those goals.

Teachers and schools across the nation deserve your support.

Posted by: technolib | October 12, 2010 8:08 AM | 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 description of the (now closed, shuttered)
3,500 student "CATO School of Reason"
with 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 these other informative
blogs too::

-THE BROAD REPORT
-THE PERIMETER PRIMATE

----------------------------------------

There 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: songbird272 | October 12, 2010 8:12 AM | Report abuse

Where is the "accountability" for...
> the CIA and other corrupt
govt. & Wall Street-affiliated players
involved with international drug smuggling
for decades (!)
-- deliberately inundating
communities & specific neighborhoods with heroin,
cocaine, meth, pills (MDMA/ecstacy), etc.
It is a documented fact that the CIA
& corrupt elements of the U.S. govt.
& freemasons have been involved in large-scale
heroin distribution operations and also
involved in the deliberately induced
crack cocaine epidemic targeting black neighborhoods (for the purposes of social undermining & political-economic control).

Where is the "accountability" for...
> The 'entertainment' industry
flooding our youth with heinously toxic,
cognitively poisonous VIOLENT VIDEO GAMES
and GANGSTER-THUG GLORIFYING music/videos
that promote
crime, substance abuse, disgusting conduct,
mistreatment & violence against women,
anti-educational achievement,
anti-positive values, anti-professional careers,
anti-healthy, responsible behaviors !

Where is the "accountability" for
self-proclaimed edu-profiteer BILL GATES & MICROSOFT
in producing & promoting VIOLENT, PATHOLOGICAL
VIDEO GAMES, including first-person shooter games,
such as HALO !!!??? --
which, unfortunately, too many of our country's
children, our country's students heinously waste
too much time messing around with,
messing themselves up with --
instead of healthfully, smartly & beneficially using that time for... productive experiences, studying, exploring/learning, participating in sports, teamwork, creative arts music, outdoor activities & nature, significant time with friends & family, engaging in community service !!

Where is the accountability for VIACOM
& other media corporations
(eg. instead of the "BET" channel being utilized
for positive, inspirational, educational
or meaningful programming --
it has mostly
broadcast the worst sociopathic, demeaning,
undermining junk -- promoting
gangsterism & exploiting our vulnerable youth
with pernicious mind-killing crap.

FACT! --
Where is the "accountability" for Wall Street
& elite financiers,
such as MERRILL LYNCH and OPPENHEIMER,
previously the MAIN INVESTORS & SHAREHOLDERS
owning majority stock in the company
that produced the 'GRAND THEFT AUTO' video game
as its main product !!!

Also, what about the corporate soda-pop
& junk food pushers targeting children ?!

The reality is that ethical, caring, dedicated
public school teachers have been the
'good samaritans' courageously
teaching with tremendous effort daily
to educate & constructively help chidren --
to transcend, overcome hardship,
to cultivate wellbeing & achievement --
despite the grotesque obstacles
& destruction foisted on us by
irresponsible, unscrupulous, rapacious and
duplicitous corporate execs. & financial elites,
(societally-sabotaging/damaging,
corrupt oligarchs, such as Goldman Sachs,
J.P.Morgan/Rothschild scamsters et. al.
who've caused millions of chidren & families to be homeless.

Posted by: songbird272 | October 12, 2010 8:17 AM | Report abuse

At last, a voice of reason. I posted a comment about the so-called manifesto yesterday. I see Weiner has written about several of the same concerns I had. Thank you.

Posted by: sclarkd1 | October 12, 2010 8:27 AM | Report abuse

The Manifesto Motto:

Damn the facts, full speed ahead!

Posted by: shadwell1 | October 12, 2010 8:51 AM | Report abuse

Thank you, Dr. Welner; when I first read the 'manifesto' yesterday I was just dumbfounded; it looked and read like something a high school sophomore might have cut and pasted from the latest news on the internet. I just couldn't believe anyone with the experience and education of MOST of these people would sign their names to it.

Not only sad, but truly alarming.

Posted by: PLMichaelsArtist-at-Large | October 12, 2010 8:58 AM | Report abuse

Another lengthy diatribe filled with excuses and not a single solution. Look, I agree with some of what the author is lamenting--excessive testing, blind faith in charters--but this piece is similar to a number of Valerie's copy and paste posts that simply decry the current reform efforts, offer a multitude of reasons why they won't work and then just fade to conclusion without actually putting forward any proposals to improve the current situation. The reader is left with the impression that teachers should have little responsibility (maybe 10%)to teach until poverty, single parenthood, race relations, geographic inequity and leaky faucets are all fixed.

Posted by: horacemann | October 12, 2010 9:05 AM | Report abuse

Professor Weiner—

The Manifesto misrepresents the president’s thoughts on the role of teachers by leaving out essential meaning-changing words, such as “from the moment the students enter a school” and “from the moment they step into the classroom." Obama realizes that teachers’ major influence is limited to the time teachers spend with students IN SCHOOL. Here are complete quotes from Obama on the role of teachers, taken official documents:

“We know that from the moment students enter a school, the most important factor in their success is not the color of their skin or the income of their parents—it is the teacher standing at the front of the classroom.”
http://m.whitehouse.gov/blog/2010/07/29/president-obama-education-status-quo-morally-inexcusable

"The whole premise of Race to the Top is that teachers are the single most important factor in a child's education from the moment they step into the classroom."
http://m.whitehouse.gov/blog/2010/07/29/president-obama-education-status-quo-morally-inexcusable

The authors of this “Manifesto,” who present themselves as educators, should be seriously rebuked for misrepresenting the President’s words in this way and confusing his meaning.

How dare they. It’s dishonest, it’s unacceptable academic research methodology and it’s disrespectful to the President.

I sincerely hope that serious academicians confront the Manifesto signers about this and make them publicly apologize.

Posted by: efavorite | October 12, 2010 10:15 AM | Report abuse

As a former student, a child of a magnificent teacher, a current parent and newly certified teacher I think I have a unique perspective to all this.

Yes, the manifesto is simply a blamegame tactic devised by people terrified of losing their careers and jobs, hopeful of convincing enough desperate parents that the corporate direction (charter & online schools) will save their children. Riiigghht! Education as a business... Ha!

Their manifesto stinks of fear and anything operating on fear cannot be a good thing.
For anyone.

I would, however, agree with Obama that teachers, and I have read plenty research too, are the single most important factor to a child's education.
Yes, in school. Obviously.

You can't take a teacher home... Oh, wait maybe you can.
Teachers come home every day:
In the form of useless, busy homework, in the form of the remembered berating and emotional abuse and put downs, in the form of subjective grades given based on how much the teacher likes or dislikes a student, in the form of words that dishearten or discourage a student from going to college, in the form of having preconceived notions about a student based on other teacher's notions, in the form of poor teacher training from mediocre educational college, etc, etc, etc...

There are enough rotten apples out there that we need to consider they are taking up plenty of our students/children's time and energy and tax payer dollars and they should be gotten rid of. Post haste.

BUT you're not going to find these rotten apples with standardized testing or teaching to the tests or any other testing or merit initiatives. You are going to find them through STUDENTS EVALUATING THE TEACHERS!!!

No other way will work.
We need to put power back into the hands of the students and teach them how to be part of a democratic system.
Let students tell us which teachers to keep and which ones to toss.
Trust me, they know best and will never eliminate a warm, genuine, caring teacher who works hard and believes in them in place of keeping a hard nosed bore who's there for a paycheck.

Posted by: teachermom2 | October 12, 2010 10:29 AM | Report abuse

What horacemann calls cut-and-paste posts, I call an opportunity to hear from educational experts in their own words in a national newspaper.

I just wish Strauss’ experts had as much access to the editorial and news sections of the Post as the so-called “reformers” have.

Posted by: efavorite | October 12, 2010 10:38 AM | Report abuse

It is with great disappointment that I read the “manifesto” by public school chancellors and educators for our nation’s schools in the Washington Post Outlook section today on “How to fix our schools.”

I do acknowledge that the educators who signed off on this manifesto believe that “the task of reforming the country’s public schools begins with us.” And that’s the problem. Real change doesn’t happen because we threaten professionals who are dismissed if their students don’t score high enough on tests. The educators note, “There isn’t a business in America that would survive if it couldn’t make personal decision based on performance.” And that’s another problem. Education is not a business. It’s an experience. The “clients” are students, their families, and society and the intricate web of interconnections and demands among them. As a teacher, I am insulted by the current reform movement. There is no easy “fix” or one set of tools to measure children’s learning. We are professionals, not technocrats. We are problem-solvers and innovators.

To complicate matters, how do we “fix” anything by getting rid of teachers who are willing to teach in the most challenging schools where raising students’ test scores is complicated and complex? How do we attract the “top students” to be “top teachers” by simply increasing the pay as noted in another Post article? How do we support teachers’ ongoing professional development in “quality” programs that do make a difference in their professional development?

And how do we make all charter schools attractive for families or how do families make charter schools attractive? Simply saying “charter school” does not mean a charter school is better. As Gail Collins with the NY Times reports...only about a fifth of American charter schools “produce amazing results.” In fact, a study by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes found that only 17 percent did a better job than the comparable local public school, while more than a third did “significantly worse.”

It’s the village.

It’s families, it’s community, and yes, it’s teachers – but teachers who feel they are respected – not because they make lots of money – but because they are motivated to change the one thing they can change, themselves and for their students’ learning.

Yes, even those who have given up and deserve to be booted are candidates for change. To “fix” the nation’s broader economic problems as augured by the educators, begins by not punishing or rewarding teachers like they are animals who earn the treat of continuing bashing and disrespect. But by bringing teachers into the conversation to discuss solutions by studying their practice with colleagues because they choose to “fix” their own classrooms. Chancellors cannot “fix” anything without teachers. Complex structures are built with a firm foundation from the bottom up. We better get started.
Anastasia at teaching-insideout.com

Posted by: asamaras | October 12, 2010 10:53 AM | Report abuse

Herr Dr. Weiner and Cheeleader efav: you are shocked by the lack of research basis for the Manifesto. OK, well, are you shocked by the gajillions of dollars spent and applied on studies since the Conant study? Where has that gotten us? Waiting for your "research" will mean no change, just what the unionistas and certain subgroups of teachers want. What stares us all in the face is bad, weak-kneed management. The reluctance to fire bad teachers, to invest enough in good teachers, to close excess schools, to bar discipline of unruly students, to cave in to teacher pressure not to evaluate teachers. If more politicians, including board of ed members, ed PhDs in executive and system management, and principals, and supervisors, we could have massive change. But you'd rather wait for the research. Nice. We won't wait the decades you require. We will treat the weak links in the education delivery system as soon as we possibly can so that the massive forces against change will not rob yet another generation or two of the education that they deserve.

Posted by: axolotl | October 12, 2010 10:54 AM | Report abuse

It is with great disappointment that I read the “manifesto” by public school chancellors and educators for our nation’s schools in the Washington Post Outlook section today on “How to fix our schools.”

I do acknowledge that the educators who signed off on this manifesto believe that “the task of reforming the country’s public schools begins with us.” And that’s the problem. Real change doesn’t happen because we threaten professionals who are dismissed if their students don’t score high enough on tests. The educators note, “There isn’t a business in America that would survive if it couldn’t make personal decision based on performance.” And that’s another problem. Education is not a business. It’s an experience. The “clients” are students, their families, and society and the intricate web of interconnections and demands among them. As a teacher, I am insulted by the current reform movement. There is no easy “fix” or one set of tools to measure children’s learning. We are professionals, not technocrats. We are problem-solvers and innovators.

To complicate matters, how do we “fix” anything by getting rid of teachers who are willing to teach in the most challenging schools where raising students’ test scores is complicated and complex? How do we attract the “top students” to be “top teachers” by simply increasing the pay as noted in another Post article? How do we support teachers’ ongoing professional development in “quality” programs that do make a difference in their professional development?

And how do we make all charter schools attractive for families or how do families make charter schools attractive? Simply saying “charter school” does not mean a charter school is better. As Gail Collins with the NY Times reports...only about a fifth of American charter schools “produce amazing results.” In fact, a study by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes found that only 17 percent did a better job than the comparable local public school, while more than a third did “significantly worse.”

It’s the village.

It’s families, it’s community, and yes, it’s teachers – but teachers who feel they are respected – not because they make lots of money – but because they are motivated to change the one thing they can change, themselves and for their students’ learning.

Yes, even those who have given up and deserve to be booted are candidates for change. To “fix” the nation’s broader economic problems as augured by the educators, begins by not punishing or rewarding teachers like they are animals who earn the treat of continuing bashing and disrespect. But by bringing teachers into the conversation to discuss solutions by studying their practice with colleagues because they choose to “fix” their own classrooms. Chancellors cannot “fix” anything without teachers. Complex structures are built with a firm foundation from the bottom up. We better get started.
Anastasia at teaching-insideout.com

Posted by: asamaras | October 12, 2010 10:55 AM | Report abuse

Herr Dr. Weiner and Cheeleader efav: you are shocked by the lack of research basis for the Manifesto. OK, well, are you shocked by the gajillions of dollars spent and applied on studies since the Conant study? Where has that gotten us? Waiting for your "research" will mean no change, just what the unionistas and certain subgroups of teachers want. What stares us all in the face is bad, weak-kneed management. The reluctance to fire bad teachers, to invest enough in good teachers, to close excess schools, to bar discipline of unruly students, to cave in to teacher pressure not to evaluate teachers. If more politicians, including board of ed members, ed PhDs in executive and system management, and principals, and supervisors, we could have massive change. But you'd rather wait for the research. Nice. We won't wait the decades you require. We will treat the weak links in the education delivery system as soon as we possibly can so that the massive forces against change will not rob yet another generation or two of the education that they deserve.

Posted by: axolotl | October 12, 2010 10:55 AM | Report abuse

Thank you for this post.

It drives many of us crazy to have to spend time speaking out against the vapid, ridiculous, whining "manifesto". This is time we could be spending reprogramming our kids after they sacrifice their day preparing to "achieve" on the tests. Again, I thank the contributors.

Posted by: dcparent | October 12, 2010 11:34 AM | Report abuse

Is this the infinite monkey theorem at work? But instead of Hamlet, the reformers produced this. Before you know it, they'll develop opposable thumbs.

Posted by: mcstowy | October 12, 2010 1:18 PM | Report abuse

Thank you for posting this piece. I read the "manifesto" in Sunday's paper, as I read all education stories...with an open mind as to how the purported reforms would make school-life better for my two daughters.

They attend a DC public school that's just a short walk from the U.S. Capitol building. The girl's bathrooms on the 3rd floor have no working doors on most of the stalls. The school is sweltering hot in the winter from an out of control furnace. The window air conditioning units barely keep the building tolerable in the summer.

But what the building lacks in physical attributes, it makes up for with exuberant and talented teachers, engaged parents, tireless volunteers, gorgeous gardens where our children grow food and flowers, and children eager to learn.

Ms. Rhee and her contemporaries have missed the mark for my kids and her "manifesto" is waste of the ink it took to print it. My kids don't need more tests - especially when the testing process is so deeply flawed. My kids, like all their classmates, have changing needs. They need help reading. They need a little help with tricky math problems. They need time to think about how their science lesson applies to their work in the garden. You can DIBELS test my daughter all you want but you can't make her chose to read instead of draw before bedtime.

Where do we join the movement to put teaching and learning back into the curriculum?

Posted by: jillcashen | October 12, 2010 1:57 PM | Report abuse

What a bunch of CRAP! This editorial by Professor Weiner, no pun intended, is precisely why our teachers continue to exit education programs without the prerequisite skills to succeed in the classroom- especially the urban classroom, where so many of our students come with academic deficiencies. Professors, who couldn't make it as teachers, continue to fill our colleges and universities with little knowledge of the classroom or practical application. I know--I graduated college from an education program that didn't prepare me for squat- certainly, not the challenges of urban teaching. And more and more of our teachers are coming to schools without the prerequisite knowledge- Teach for America, DC Teaching Fellows and the traditional college route are all failing to prepare teachers for the challenges in the classroom- in part, because of professors like Mr. Weiner, who dismiss the quality and importance of teaching in favor of the excuse of a lack of "resources" and supportive parents. This is what these idiots do- they spew this argument that outside factors cannot be overcome so they can't be held accountable to student learning. My question for Mr. Weiner is this- what should teachers be held accountable to producing-- if not student learning? What the hell do we get paid to do--just show up?

Students learn in classrooms that have highly effective teachers. Students thrive in schools that are supportive, positive and dynamic. You know a great teacher the minute you hear one because they never blame the factors for which they have no control. They are problem-solvers, innovators and excited about increasing student learning. They know their students learning style and areas for growth. They encourage and communicate often with students. They rarely have to contact parents at all--this is because their students trust them, respect them and work hard for them- this is called "dimension one of learning." There are 5 dimensions if you are curious- google them. A great teacher doesn't need a white board or LCD projector to engage students. A great teacher doesn't check students at the door to see if they have health insurance or cavities. A great teacher inspires students to see more, think deeper and overcome obstacles.

Professor Weiner should not be teaching our next generation of teachers. He should be nowhere near a classroom of any kind.

Economics does not reveal that some kids learn more because they come from more affluent families and better resources, quite the contrary, what it actually exposes is that kids from affluent areas learn in spite of bad teaching because of additional resources. Teaching is bad all over--unfortunately, it has been economics that has saved some and condemned others because those who are more affluent can get their children additional resources to make up for bad teaching (i.e. Sylvan tutoring, SAT prep classes, language labs) and those of less means must pray they have good teachers!

Posted by: teacher6402 | October 12, 2010 2:07 PM | Report abuse


What I find ironic is the idea that these districts want good teachers, but continually criticize their own work forces and disparage teachers who try to improve (through courses and training).

It seems to me that in those districts, the more educated the teacher is, the more likely they will get a low evaluation. As if it is good to be dumb. Probably not that bad, but that is how the manifesto makes it sound.

Posted by: celestun100 | October 12, 2010 2:27 PM | Report abuse

@teacher 6402
I agree with you that great teachers teach all kids and don't make excuses. However, do you feel that charter schools will solve the problems?

I also agree with you about the schools that are supportive helping students to thrive.

I am concerned also that some teachers say or think that students with certain backgrounds won't do well.

I am not so sure how you read Dr. Weiner's post as disagreeing with you. I think he was responding to the manifesto (published a few days ago)in which superintendents are pushing for less teacher training and more testing and more charter schools as a solution to urban school problems. The manifesto strongly supports Teach for America style fixes. You argue against that. Can you explain?

Posted by: celestun100 | October 12, 2010 2:42 PM | Report abuse

Hey teacher6042:

At least Professor has the guts to tell us the truth. Why don't you tell us who you are? Why don't you tell us where you teach? And show us what en effective teacher you are? Talk is cheap. If you have no research or facts to support yourself just like Michelle Rhee, don't waste your time.

Posted by: salukiindc | October 12, 2010 2:57 PM | Report abuse

Richmond PS and Brockton MA HS, both poverty-stricken inner-city schools, have gone from among the worst in their states to the point where they are outperforming schools in the wealthy suburbs. They have done this by implementing research-based curricula and methods and without any of the fads suggested by the monkey manifesto. The research works, you just need someone smart enough to read and understand it. None of the "authors" of this claptrap qualifies.

Posted by: mcstowy | October 12, 2010 3:12 PM | Report abuse

The "manifesto" gets an appropriate "emperor has no clothes" treatment here. We need more superintendents to join in here, to talk back to the damage this type of rhetoric does to their efforts. Many thoughtful education leaders read this stuff, shake their heads, and say "tsk tsk" - but they need to have the courage to call out their ideological colleagues whose agenda would drive plenty of money and people out of classrooms. If you're a superintendent or school board member, consider taking a stand and showing support for your schools, teachers, students and community.

Posted by: DavidBCohen | October 12, 2010 3:43 PM | Report abuse

to jillcashen: This DCPS "highly effective" teacher thanks you for your post! We can do nothing without the parents. People don't believe us when we show evidence that what Rhee is doing is doing absolutely no good. We are voiceless and powerless. The only people who can change the game are the parents. Please continue to speak out. Parents and teachers need to work together and join forces to battle the mess in public education and allow teachers to teach again. All we do in DCPS now it test, test prep, re-test and test again. It's complete madness!

We all want reform in public education, yes, even the teachers! But the kind of reform Rhee and those who signed the manifesto are attempting to usher in is nothing more than the privatization of public education. Market-driven strategies have no place in such an egalitarian institution as public education.

Posted by: UrbanDweller | October 12, 2010 5:11 PM | Report abuse

UD -- no, it is not privatization. Public charters are not privatization. Improving the management effectiveness of principals is not privatization. Putting teachers in a position where they must be responsible and accountable for their share of the education workload only makes good sense. Why must we wait decades to learn the output of the perennially off-target academic theorists and truly ineffective professors of education, especially pedagogy? Swollen with fat federal and other grants over the years, they have produced little we can use in operating school districts. I agree with you that we need to reduce teaching to the tests, improve the validity of tests by altering their target and segmentation, and also continue to improve ways to evaluate teacher performance.
All of this requires a reduced level of chaos. The WTU is promising and threatening continued chaos from the "body language" of its pestilent unionistas. Other special interests and revered rabble rousers will join in. When Rhee goes, these mice will play, and if not countered with the strength and good will of parents, elected officials, and those who want change, these self-centered, anti-change forces will make change impossible.

Posted by: axolotl | October 12, 2010 6:42 PM | Report abuse

The key point is made very well in this article:
Why do the people who control the system causing all the problems in education get to be called the reformers?

We've tried their ideas for many decades. They don't work.

Posted by: neaguy | October 12, 2010 7:03 PM | Report abuse

Very simply, thank you, Kevin Weiner. Thank you so very much. Please keep writing and speaking out. We need voices like yours out there. You have voiced a position that guarantees we will not hear from you in the mainstream media, which means you are making much sense.

Thank you, Valerie, too, for continuing to provide us with the saner side... even though the establishment tries to pretend it doesnt exist by exercising extreme control over the message (in a way I havent seen since the roll out of the Iraq War - and this enjoys even more bipartisan support).

Hey, gotta keep on keepin on!

PS - I added a few posts to Colbert's and Stewart's websites, after reading your pieces on it. Folks, you can comment there... wouldnt hurt to do so. (Colbert wasnt as off the mark as was Lewis Black - I viewed both videos, as I hadnt caught those shows - but he didnt skewer Guggenheim, which he certainly deserved.)

Posted by: NYCee | October 12, 2010 7:43 PM | Report abuse

The "unionistas" ... so snarls one of the dissenting ranters in these comments.

Lol and oh my %&^$#! god...

It just really gives me pause. I mean, what other "developed" country (we soon will not be, partly because of this anti union mindset) do we know of where people actively and obsessively whinge and moan over the "bloody awful" unions, the "horrible, hurtful, hateful" unions?

Even the rich in other nations, even those folks, for the most part, have made peace with the fact that unions exist; they dont see them as a target for takedown, certainly not to the degree we see here. And there is far less of an earnings gap, on average, between the rich and the workers in other developed countries, compared to the US, yet the rich there "get it" - they accept that their working people need some protections so they can have a just a decent, not luxurious, life.

Most curiously, it is not just the wealthy Americans who are obsessed with stamping out unions. Many of our working class and middle class folks are bamboozled into chewing off their own feet in pursuit of some addled notion of anti-union nirvana. One would think they would want to cheer on strong unions and cheer other unions on to strength, spur on more union growth... to make a stronger middle class, a more secure workforce, a better future for their kids. (How ironic that the "reformistas" go on endlessly about our precious children's future - thus we MUST enact these reforms - yet the very reforms they are enacting are ensuring a far bleaker future.)

So here we have these toe chewers, these folks who want to hack away at their own life rafts, at a middle class foundation, who want to destroy the already diminishing unions (shrinking and in need of better leadership).

What is up with that? Why are our people so dumb? Why are they such suckers?

Really. It just fricking boggles.

(Listen to Guggenheim go on - as on Colbert - about The American Dream. Uh oh. One of those... pushers. Talk about the lottery having only a few slots for winners... That's what he's selling when he pushes this notion of a "chance" for everyone to get where he did, when he plugs "The American Dream"...

That American Dream line is pure fantasy, pure bunk. What this limousine liberal director, Guggenheim, and his ilk, is doing is harmful to our future workforce, is making less of a dream for the many (many would be happy with just a comfortable life, SEE: Unions make that happen!) They are assisting in our devolution as an advanced, democratic nation. (As if it isnt already bleak enough for the lower and middle wage earners.) They talk a good game but they are either conning or they are stupid.

Ahh, but some believe millionaires like Guggenheim and billionaires like Gates and Oprah will get us all there. Didnt you hear Oprah? "YOU get an American Dream, and YOU get an American Dream, and YOU get an American Dream!!!

As if! These people are so toxic, they need to be quarantined.

Posted by: NYCee | October 12, 2010 9:23 PM | Report abuse

Fantastic article!

One thing that Dr. Weiner didn't mention: if we need to find THE VERY BEST teacher for all of our students, that poor soul will have one heckuva large classroom. What, 50 million students?

Posted by: TexasIke59 | October 12, 2010 11:04 PM | Report abuse

Terrific, Dr. Welner. You told it truthfully - something the writers of the manifesto failed to do.

Posted by: jlp19 | October 13, 2010 11:30 PM | Report abuse

A good way to ensure that your young kids are on the proper track is to set aside at least 30 minutes a day to read aloud with them.

Vary your books, find ones that interest your kids and don't forget that their listening age is much above their reading age.

On my blog you can find children's book reviews, based on my daily read alouds with my twins.

Read Aloud ... Dad

http://readalouddad.blogspot.com

@readalouddad (on Twitter)

Posted by: ReadAloudDad | October 14, 2010 5:32 PM | Report abuse

A good way to ensure that your young kids are on the proper track is to set aside at least 30 minutes a day to read aloud with them.

Vary your books, find ones that interest your kids and don't forget that their listening age is much above their reading age.

On my blog you can find children's book reviews, based on my daily read alouds with my twins.

Read Aloud ... Dad

http://readalouddad.blogspot.com

@readalouddad (on Twitter)

Posted by: ReadAloudDad | October 14, 2010 5:33 PM | Report abuse

Professor Kevin G. Welner, for me it has always come down to a law, (NCLB) that lacked any moral compass from the start. The sole indicators to measure academic success under NCLB are test scores on standardized measures.
In a bizarre manner NCLB claimed to be focused on closing the achievement gap while effectively taking the focus off equity issues, and shifted the focus to outcomes on standardized testing as public schooling savoir. Policy makers, politicians, and many of our educational leadership are no longer focused on issues of race, poverty, and those “Savage inequalities that Jonathon Kozal so effectively wrote about. Testing is seen as the means to ending inequality. So rather than deal with the real issues leadership points fingers of blame to everyone, but themselves.
This lack of any moral compass is what moved me outside my academic role into the arena of activism. This past summer I walked 400 miles in 40 days as part of protest against NCLB/RTTT. I started walking in Connecticut, and ended my walk in Washington DC at the American University. Along the way I met with parents, teachers, administrators, authors, and community members. Not one person along the way felt the current education reform policy is having a positive effect on learning and teaching in their local schools. Educators reported that up to 3-months of the school year is being spent on testing. Testing is not teaching, and this merely results a major loss of instructional time. Parents reported the pressures of all this testing is increasingly resulting in children who no longer like school. This is why I will return to Washington DC next July 30 & 31 2011 to participate in the SOS Million Teachers March and Teach-in at the American University.
Thank you and the National Education Policy Center for taking a stand against this insane reform policy.
Sincerely,
Dr. Jesse Turner
Creator of the facebook group Children Are More Than Test Scores.

Posted by: readdoctor | October 18, 2010 8:58 AM | Report abuse

Numerous lines of evidence support the following generalizations: 1) As institutions take from individual parents the power to determine for their own children the choice of curriculum and the pace and method of instruction, overall system performance falls. 2) Political control of school harms most the children of the least politically adept parents.

Further: a) Abundant evidence supports policies which subsidize parent choice of school. See Gerard Lassibile and Lucia Navarro Gomez, "Organization and Efficiency of Educational Systems: some empirical findings", Comparative Education, Vol. 36 #1. "Furthermore, the regression results indicate that countries where private education is more widespread perform significantly better than countries where it is more limited."
See also Joshua Angrist, "Randomized Trials and Quasi-Experiments in Education Research" NBER Reporter, summer, 2003.
b) Considerable evidence (e.g., Herman Brutsaert's comparison of govenment and parochial schools in Belgium, and various studies of homeschoolers in the US)indicates that parent SES matters less in an institutional environment which supports parent control.
c) No research supports policies which restrict the teaching profession to College of Education graduates.
d) Teachers' advanced degrees have little relation to measured student performance.

The case for State (government, generally) subsidization of school is weak and the case for State (government, generally) operation of schools is weaker still.
See E.G. West, "Education Vouchers in Principle and Practice: A Survey", The World Bank Research Observer 1997-Feb.

It does not take 12 years at $12,000 per pupil-year to teach a normal child to read and compute. Most vocational training occurs more effectively on the job than in a classroom. State provision of History and Civics instruction is a threat to democracy, just as State operation of newspapers would be.

In the US the term "the public school system" names the policy which restricts parent's options for the use of the taxpayers' pre-colege education subsidy to schools operated by government employees. This policy originated in theocratic indoctrination in the religious colonies of British North America (search "That Old Deceiver, Satan, Act"), thrived on anti-Catholic bigotry, and has become an employment program for dues-paying members of the NEA/AFT/AFSCME cartel, a source of padded construction and supply contracts for politically-connected insiders, and a venue for State-worshipful indictrination. If this is not so, why cannot any student take, at any age and at any time of year, an exit exam (the GED will do) and apply the taxpayers' age 6-18 education subsidy toward post-secondary tuition at any VA-approved post-secondary institution or toward an employment subsidy at any qualified (say, has filed W-2 forms on at least three sdult employees for at least the previous four years), private-sector employer?

Posted by: malcolmkirkpatrick | October 18, 2010 4:08 PM | Report abuse

(Weiner): "Are these adults acting responsibly when they advocate for even more test-based accountability and school choice? Over the past two decades, haven’t these two policies dominated the reform landscape..."

Depends on the meaning of "dominated". What US State empowers parents to determine for their own children which institution, if any, shall receive her child's share of the taxpayers' K-12 education education subsidy?

(Weiner): "...and what do we have to show for it? Wouldn’t true reform move away from what has not been working, rather than further intensifying those ineffective policies? Are they acting responsibly when they promote unproven gimmicks as solutions?"

School choice works.
Here's J. P. Greene on empirical evidence for school choice.
http://jaypgreene.com/2010/06/03/new-florida-study-makes-it-18-0/

Posted by: malcolmkirkpatrick | October 18, 2010 5:55 PM | Report abuse

Post a Comment

We encourage users to analyze, comment on and even challenge washingtonpost.com's articles, blogs, reviews and multimedia features.

User reviews and comments that include profanity or personal attacks or other inappropriate comments or material will be removed from the site. Additionally, entries that are unsigned or contain "signatures" by someone other than the actual author will be removed. Finally, we will take steps to block users who violate any of our posting standards, terms of use or privacy policies or any other policies governing this site. Please review the full rules governing commentaries and discussions.




characters remaining

 
 
RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company