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Posted at 10:00 AM ET, 10/14/2010

What's wrong with the ‘manifesto’ -- point by point

By Valerie Strauss

This was written by Anne Geiger, who served on the Orange County School Board in Orlando, Fl., from 2004-2008. A native of Virginia, she lives in Arlington and blogs at www.publicpolicyblogger.com, where this appeared.

In this piece, Geiger analyzes the school reform "manifesto" signed by 16 big city schools superintendents and chancellors, including Michelle Rhee of Washington D.C., and Joel Klein of New York City, and published this week in The Washington Post. I have posted this week a few pieces critical of the manifesto’s agenda, but this one looks at it point by point and offers an alternative vision of real school reform.

1) "Manifesto."
A curious, full-throated choice when it's really more of an op-ed written in real time, more disjointed than coherent, more hyperbole than fact. So, what is a manifesto? A document that lays out a catechism, a body of fundamental principles or beliefs to be accepted uncritically by those who sign it and those who afterward pledge to follow it. Most prominent examples: The Communist Manifesto and the Declaration of Independence. Putting aside the Communist one, although I'm tempted not to, our country's "manifesto," the Declaration of Independence, defines the founding principles of our Constitution and basis of our laws. So, I'll take them at their word and assume the writers and signers of the school reform manifesto seek to implant their "manifesto" as the basis for the founding principles of our nation's public education system and road map for its policies. This brings us to....


2) Six Tenets of the "Manifesto." The following sentences were highlighted in yellow in the print version of Sunday's Washington Post. Assuming the authors and signers agree with the emphasis, they must represent basic principles. So let's call them the "six tenets" of the "Manifesto," its yellow-brick road, of sorts. So, here goes:

Tenet One: "These practices are wrong, and they have to end now."

The practices they are referring to are the "entrenched ... practices that have long favored adults, not children." They say that our public education system is one that exists only to favor the adults in the system, i.e. teachers, principals, superintendents and school board members have systematically created a system that is intended only to benefit them and not children. They apparently are not in their jobs to teach children, manage schools or govern school districts. And they must be exposed, disciplined or removed. They tell readers that there are thousands of children languishing in this lumbering, selfish institution. If they meant only to refer to unions in these declarations, they did not say so. When they say "adults, " we are to assume all adults.

Translation: The American public school system is overrun with oppressive, selfish adults who do not care about children. We are in a crisis. We must now save the system from itself.


Tenet Two: "Yet, for too long, we have let teacher hiring and retention be determined by archaic rules involving seniority and academic credentials."

This is linked to the first tenet, that seniority and advanced degrees are the ONLY ways teachers are hired and retained. Superintendents and principals for years have used many ways for evaluating teachers. And like any profession, (and any business) advanced degrees are not just encouraged, they are required. Should union contracts be more flexible, should there be better ways to identify teachers who need more support and professional development, should there be more expedient ways to remove the minority who are not capable of improvement? Yes, yes and yes. Should multiple criteria be used for hiring, and multiple measures be used for retaining? Yes and yes. But, this "Manifesto" mentions none of this.

Translation: Experience is overrated. Advanced degrees are unnecessary. School administrators never work to improve, discipline or remove ineffective teachers.


Tenet Three: There isn't a business in America that would survive if it couldn't make personnel decisions based on performance."

Here we go again. Schools should be run like businesses (even though businesses choose their markets, customers, raw materials, etc.; public schools, at least traditional ones, do not). OK, for the sake of argument, let's use the analogy, but take it the next level.

First: Surely, they don't want to share statistics from the Small Business Administration that "two-thirds of new employer establishments survive at lease two years, and 44 percent survive at least four years." Is that a tolerable statistic for public charter schools, the kissin' cousin of small business? Oh, let's not go there? OK, then, let's look at it more broadly.

Second: Do the most successful of businesses, small, medium and large, have comprehensive ways to train and develop employees, give frequent feedback, fold them into teams, clearly define hiring criteria and performance measurements, give them opportunities for advancement and continuing education, reward and provide incentives in a variety of ways, ensure that evaluations follow legal and ethical standards? Yes to all of the above.

The "Manifesto" defines teacher performance as "effectiveness in the classroom" and "increasing student achievement." OK, but if the writers believe in a broader business model, they say little. They vaguely state that district leaders must be able to provide financial incentives (Aha, signing bonuses, subject-area supplements and performance pay) and effectiveness should be mainly measured by "how well students are doing academically" (Aha, test scores tied to teacher's pay). That's it? Amazingly, they go on to declare that "rules" must change to "professionalize teaching." Excuse me? Current teachers are not professionals?

Translation: Use the business analogy to imply inefficiency and ineffectiveness. Reinforce the perception that the system is backward and ignorant of best practices, and that current teachers do not deserve to be called professionals. Signing bonuses, subject-area supplements and performance pay will transform the system.


Tenet Four: "We need the best teacher for every child, and the best principal for every school."

This is the one that we can all agree with. It's what we already believe, or at least most people do. So, if this is re-affirmation and re-focus, fine.

BUT, it's sandwiched between criticism that the system ignores "basic economic principles of supply-and-demand" (Not enough public charter schools?) and doesn't instill a performance-driven culture in every school (Not enough tests? Not enough competition? Not enough pressure?) They mention "meaningful teacher training" as sort of an extra little thing that's needed (really?), BUT then throw in a sour zinger, "let's stop pretending that everyone who goes into the classroom has the ability and temperament to lift our children to excellence."

Apparently, the writers do not believe that there are many good teachers currently in our schools since they keep saying in a multitude of ways that schools are overrun with ineffective ones.

Translation: Reinforce the perception of incompetency. The system must adopt supply-and-demand principles and every school must have a performance-driven culture. Schools must be run as businesses. It is the only way to bring in smarter, better adults to teach our children.


Tenet Five: "Just as we must give teachers and schools the capability and flexibility to meet the needs of students, we must give parents a better portfolio of school choices."

After a build-up describing a failed, broken system and some vague solutions, they add a few, surprisingly specific, solutions. They start with "the best technology available" as the primary means to meet the needs of diverse students and "make instruction more effective and efficient."

Tied to that is their call for more virtual learning, "reducing seat time," even though, paradoxically, it usually means replacing the all-important teacher with a computer program. Then, they go on to school turnarounds and school choice, saying that replacing and restructuring struggling schools (i.e urban schools in low-income neighborhoods) and providing more public charter schools (i.e. in those same neighborhoods) are the two ways to rescue children served in those communities. They end with, "Excellence must be our only criteria for evaluating schools."

Again, we can all agree with that. Of course, it is. Superintendents, principals, teachers, and parents work to define and refine excellence all the time. But nothing is stated about how THEY define excellence nor how WE should define excellence. Reading through the "Manifesto," it possibly is "best teacher for every child and best principal for every school," but that's not clear since this proclamation is in a paragraph about more technology, closing and restructuring schools, and more public charter schools.

Translation: (Add to signing bonuses, subject-area supplements and performance pay), more technology, virtual learning, school turnarounds and public charter schools comprise the Manifesto.


Tenet Six: "But it's a problem for all of us -- until we fix our schools, we will never fix the nation's broader economic problems."

The schools they're really talking about (the 16 writers and signers are all urban school superintendents, CEO's and chancellors; this is out of 60+ cities) are the ones located in low-income neighborhoods in our nation's cities. Their solutions do not address the unique challenges in rural school districts, and they ignore the majority of schools across the nation that are effective and successful.

Translation: Leave a final impression that all public schools, no matter where they are located, are failing. We must follow this "Manifesto" to rescue the American dream.


3) The beginning and concluding paragraphs.
The authors and signers start off by saying that they (alone???) are working hard to move their students along and gush over the Obama administration's competition, Race to the Top, as an unprecedented catalyst for reform. They then proclaim that recent media-hyped events--- the depressing, misleading movie, "Waiting for Superman," "tidal wave of media attention" (i.e. the equally depressing, misleading Education Nation series on NBC), vaguely-defined $100 million gift of Facebook wunderkind Mark Zuckerberg to Newark City Public Schools, and surprising defeat of Washington, D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty----are the long-awaited sparks for finally addressing "the crisis in public education."


What these school leaders who signed the manifesto do NOT do is tell readers that:
--The schools they are really talking about are ones located in the most impoverished, unstable communities in the cities where they collectively serve.
--That those schools have the most challenges because they have the most children in need and at risk.
--That education, especially in those most challenged and most challenging schools, is complex and that there are no easy solutions or simple answers.
--That education is the most dynamic, human-driven enterprise on earth.
--That it is the most vulnerable to political manipulation and experimentation by those who know little about education.
.
They do, however, ramble on to intensify the doom and gloom, and weave in a curative cocktail of vague generalities and a sprinkling of specific "reforms."

And they conclude with dramatic flourish: "Until we fix our schools, the gap between the haves and the have-nots will only grow wider and the United States will fall further behind the rest of the industrialized world in education, rendering the American dream a distant, elusive memory."

So now, boys and girls, the yellow brick road has taken us to the Emerald City. And the great Oz has given us a "Manifesto" that should be our call to arms, our body of principles, our road map. (Don't look behind the curtain, now.......)

Maybe the real lesson here is that it IS time we create a REAL manifesto of lasting strength and enduring impact. (A more democratic sounding word such as declaration would be a better choice, though.) Something like............

In knowing the great strength and legacy of public education in the United States, we the American people seek to implant these principles ....(this is where "best teachers," "best principals" and "excellence" come in...)

#1 Principle: Children are our most important treasure. The education of children in our public schools will be based on egalitarian, democratic principles, and built on community, not "supply and demand."

#2 Principle: Teachers are our most important human resource. We will develop, empower, support, and sustain the best teaching force on the planet. We will ensure that they are highly educated, led by exceptional instructional leaders, and evaluated in fair and comprehensive ways.

#3 Principle: Public schools are our most important avenues for creating and sustaining a healthy society and vibrant economy. Our public school system in partnership with families and communities will work to educate our children by meeting their individual needs, unleashing in them creativity, resourcefulness and their own unique abilities, instilling in them rich knowledge across subjects and expertise in the arts and world languages, and equipping them with the skills needed to think, innovate, contribute, and lead fulfilling lives. Standardized testing will be one tool among many, NOT a singular, disproportionate way of measuring success.

#4 Principle: Community is our most important civic framework for protecting, supporting, engaging and empowering our children. To provide the conditions for success, we will work to ensure that all children and their families, no matter where they live, will have access to green parks, nutritious food, high-quality health care, bountiful books, robust communication networks, safe transportation, vital commerce and strong community infrastructure.

It could be a document that most or all school leaders would readily sign. Teachers, parents, and students would sign too, as would national, community and business leaders. It could be an encouraging shot in the arm for teachers, saying: "We are behind you, we value you, we want to make sure you succeed. We are all in this together. This IS all about our children, their future and our future."

It could create a healthy buzz, a positive energy, a rocket to the moon .... We then could TOGETHER create the road map, the "how," of putting those principles into action.

President Obama, are you listening?

-0-

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By Valerie Strauss  | October 14, 2010; 10:00 AM ET
Categories:  Guest Bloggers, School turnarounds/reform  | Tags:  joel klein, manifesto, michelle rhee, reform manifesto, school reform, washington post  
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Comments

I agree and have a few more questions:

If public schools are to be managed like a business, then those who are chosen to lead these organizations need to be better trained managers. If we are going to point a finger at university education programs for graduating unprepared teachers, we need to point a finger at the poor training in orgainzational behavior and management school superintendents and administrators receive. I can't think of one reputable business school that would promote the type of school management model evident in the DCPS and others.

If advanced degrees are dismissed as viable for teachers, why are they considered a premium for administrators? In other words, we not only want to maintain control over what students learn...but what teachers know.

The low high school drop-out rate is shameful. But how can we encourage kids to stay in school when they are tested to the point of boredom and frustration? Should we be surprised that large numbers of young people chose not to continue their education beyond high school when for 12 years they have experienced nothing but testing, testing, and more testing?

How can Obama, et al, promote job's creation and innovation when those kinds of courses are being dropped in our public schools because of the emphasis on testing and core courses? There are many opportunites available to these kids and they don't have a clue...because all the emphasis has been on those courses that are tested and mandatory.

If competition is the key...why are public school teacher's provided with scripts and pacing schedules so strict that their evaluations are lowered if they are not strictly following the arbitrary schedules set by the school district? Where is their ability to be flexible and creativity encouraged?

Posted by: ilcn | October 14, 2010 11:08 AM | Report abuse

My manifesto:

Professional development and a respectful, positive, supportive school environment for students and teachers are critical for school improvement.

Getting veteran teachers to change is not difficult if they are treated as professionals and their experience is appreciated. Schools need to decide on specific goals for each school year, provide rationale for the change, teach it to teachers, have them practice one thing a month (as they teach), while providing feedback.

I think school culture could be changed but it would take leadership who knew what it means to teach effectively. Teaching effectively is not just about test scores. Teaching effectively means providing opportunities for students to practice something new and providing them with feedback on their learning before they are tested. Schools need to teach the teachers if they want major changes.

The temptation is to try too much too fast. Unfortunately, that doesn't work. For a best practice to become a habit, it has to be practiced again and again.

That is why the first year of teaching is so difficult. There are 50 things going on at the same time and new teachers have to develop routines and practices for all of them, while they teach. Enthusiasm helps, but retention rates show that strong, positive school cultures are lacking. New teachers need people who will listen, help and support them without evaluating them at the same time.

Teachers, staff and school leaders should work together, not be pitted against one another. This idea that the two groups are somehow separate is incorrect. Both kids and teachers matter in education. A good teacher is demanding (has high expectations), caring and respectful of her students. School leaders be demanding, caring and respectful and know how to teach.

There seems to be a belief among some reformers that you can skip professional development and just fire your way to a better school. But change is constant. What will these schools do when new changes are needed? It seems to me that the insistence upon one way of doing things is what leads to "entrenchment" in the first place.

A good school would constantly improve by providing staff with ongoing training of important best practices. This should be done in a way that is respectful of all teachers and students.

Teachers should never use "put downs" on students. If they do, the students will put each other down. They copy what they see. This is basic knowledge. The manifesto mentioned above contains "put downs". What does that tell us about the value system of the people signing? Their own knowledge of professional behavior? The awareness that they are role models?

I want my child's teacher to be relaxed and efficient. I want her to have materials and a supportive principal. I don't want the teacher blamed for a child's misbehavior. I want her to use best practices in her own style. I want respect to be modeled by all school personnel and to be taught to students.

Posted by: celestun100 | October 14, 2010 11:20 AM | Report abuse

No, Obama is not listening. He will not listen until someone gets through to him that he is losing votes.

Until then, Arne Duncan and the billionaire boys club are going to manipulate education.

Posted by: jlp19 | October 14, 2010 12:33 PM | Report abuse

If the business model is so wonderful, why are so many people in business losing jobs?

Posted by: jlp19 | October 14, 2010 12:34 PM | Report abuse

President Obama doesn't have to listen because he already knows and understands the complexity involved in educating a child. In the March issue of Essence magazine he said,

"It remains absolutely true that you can have all the money in the world, you can have the fanciest classrooms in the world, the best computers in the world, nicest textbooks in the world, but you are not going to succeed if parents aren't instilling in their child at a very early age - 'We are going to set high standards for you. I'm going to check that you do your homework. I'm going to read to you until you get to the point where you're reading on your own, and then I'm going to make sure that you're reading books instead of watching TV and playing video games. I'm going to constantly talk to your teacher. I'm going to look at your report card and make sure that you are not settling for Cs when you could be getting As.' Without that, we're not going to be high peformers. And frankly we have lost that sense of urgency in a lot of our schools. And this is something that I will not shy away from talking about. Sometimes when I talk about it, it's made people uncomfortable. My attitude is that we know that's what it takes to succeed, it would be a crime - I would be committing political malpractice - not to say the truth. I know in my own life it's only because I was pushed and prodded by my folks that I was able to succeed."

There it is, the "secret" to a good education from the President of the United States. So he already knows what he needs to know.

The question is, why has the president turned his back on the truth? Why has he placed the entire responsibility for the education of the child on teachers? Surely he knows that they can't do it without the cooperation of parents, students and community.

Has anyone talked to someone in the Obama administration about this? Do you know why the president has turned from the truth as he defined it? Valerie, please see if you can find out and then write about it. I'm certain that I'm not the only one who'd like to know.

Posted by: Linda/RetiredTeacher | October 14, 2010 1:03 PM | Report abuse

I would also like to know about the contradiction in what the President has said ( I agree with him) and the type of reform his administration is promoting.

I understand that teachers should be constantly improving, but I don't see how the current reform movement does that. I also don't see them saying anything about encouraging parents and guardians to get involved.

Schools have got to be positive places for parents to feel welcome in, students to learn in and teachers to be free to teach and not settle for the status quo imposed upon them by checklists of dos and donts.

How then, does promoting teacher bashing in the press help improve education? Why do they think this is helpful?

Why should anyone think they will learn from someone who is "entrenched" , a "defender of the status quo", "lazy" or any of the other terms that have been thrown around about teachers lately? Again, what is positive about this approach? How does calling teachers names help improve education?

Posted by: celestun100 | October 14, 2010 1:22 PM | Report abuse

Guest column is a verbose set of traditionalist, teacher-centric views. Could have been written by any unionista. Nothing new. Demands respect for teachers because, er, they demand respect. Too bad it says nothing about what responsibility and accountability they will shoulder. Other than that, it was very thoughtful.

Posted by: axolotl | October 14, 2010 1:26 PM | Report abuse


All people deserve respect.

Posted by: celestun100 | October 14, 2010 1:58 PM | Report abuse

Ms. Geiger and those who agree with her points misunderstand the manifesto and for that matter the fundamental principle of American democracy and capitalism- competition. Yes, businesses fail, but it is failure and competition that lead to more innovation and production. Our current school structure are halls of failure that require no competition, no innovation to remain in business and therefore they are failing every day. The Manifesto does not presume to suggest that schools won't fail if they are held to measurable standards or competition. These reformers recognize that many will fail, but those schools, like failed businesses, would close and with them the administrators and teachers would have two choices: to creative innovative approaches to teaching and learning or leave the industry and allow more innovative and productive schools to be created and educate the kids--of course, this premise is foreign and horrible if you want a job for life-- SEE Rhode Island school for proof of that.

The issues that this manifesto confront are being dismissed by unions and non-reformers...why? Because the minute they concede that student achievement can happen in spite of economics, etc. the accountability factor changes- God forbid...right?

Posted by: teacher6402 | October 14, 2010 1:59 PM | Report abuse

teacher6402 needs to go back to school. Capitalism has nothing to do with democracy and neither have anything to do with our current form of government or our current economic system. If this poster really is a teacher (which I doubt, I'm guessing a TFA cult intern) we certainly need to rid ourselves of such uneducated, uncritical sheep in the classroom.

As to the "Manifesto," a classis example of the ininite monkey theorem at work; but while an infinite number of monkyes might produce Hamlet, a finite number of "reformers" produced this. If they keep it up, they may even develop opposable thumbs.

Posted by: mcstowy | October 14, 2010 3:24 PM | Report abuse

I have sent the WaPo editorial staff a communication asking for this column to be printed in full in next Sunday's issue of the Outlook section on page 1 above the fold, the same position as the "Manifesto".
I ask that all interested readers here do the same ASAP. Among other reasons, it is in fairness to the issues and balanced coverage of important topics that the Post should do this very soon.
Thanks to Valerie and all who participate in this.

Posted by: 1bnthrdntht | October 14, 2010 3:32 PM | Report abuse

Usually when I get to talking about education reform, I become vituperative to the extreme.

I'll tend to express bitter thoughts and passions, such as: "The 'reform' movement advocated by Chancellor Rhee is, not only misguided because it wont work; but even worse, it's misguided because it's terribly counterproductive.

If children were piggy banks and the standards were nickles, teaching and testing would, both, be much easier.

Many years ago, a candidate for president campaigned with the slogan "In your heart you know he's right." He lost.

But the whole nation will win, if we the people recognize in our hearts that there is a science of human development.

After three decades in the classroom, I'm ready to point the way to reform that works:

http://medicine.yale.edu/childstudy/comer/

Posted by: mrottman | October 14, 2010 4:44 PM | Report abuse

@mcstowy: I would like to respond to your blog; however, it is difficult because it is so incoherent; however, I will give it a shot. Capitalism and democracy are very much in tune- the belief is that when people compete it leads to the most innovative ideas and production. It is messy, however, and often in an effort to develop the most creative ideas people fail and get fired and businesses close- but, with competition comes innovative ideas where people thrive and experience unimaginable success. In addition, when a business fails to change and innovate their product it may also become obsolete and lead to failure. The education reformers believe that teachers and schools must change and innovate to meet the challenges of our time. They must fail at times in order to develop more innovative ways to support students of low economic means. This makes teachers' unions very uncomfortable because many people enter the profession for the job security. They often teach the same way for 30 years--ignoring new research, innovative approaches and data. They refuse to change because they get to remain in their jobs regardless of the results. This leads to a culture of student failure and this must change. Schools need to be competitive ventures where teachers and principals innovate, alter strategy and change with the times and produce student learning results. If they fail, like many enterprises do, they should be dismantled or reorganize with new and innovative ideas for teaching kids.

Posted by: teacher6402 | October 14, 2010 5:59 PM | Report abuse

teacher 6402
You are right that change is needed. But teachers are not the enemies of school reform. They are the heroes. I do not find current school reform to be innovative or creative. It is more like "back to the basics", something that was rather retroactive when it first came up.

Our students need real innovation. Not change that insists on insulting career teachers.

Posted by: celestun100 | October 14, 2010 6:27 PM | Report abuse

teacher6402 wrote: This makes teachers' unions very uncomfortable because many people enter the profession for the job security. They often teach the same way for 30 years--ignoring new research, innovative approaches and data. They refuse to change because they get to remain in their jobs regardless of the results. This leads to a culture of student failure and this must change.
_____________________
Most people enter the profession because they want to teach. Teaching is incredibly hard work. I know of no one who entered the profession for job security only.

I'm curious, teacher 6402, as to how long you've been teaching. As a 35 year veteran, I can honestly say that the majority of long term teachers I have worked with over the years continue to work on improving their skill in the classroom. Most teachers consider themselves to be life long learners and as such, they strive to learn new teaching techniques and stay abreast of current research. Quite frankly, I would have been bored to tears years ago if I continued to do things the same way over the years.

I think what is often thought to be a refusal to change on the part of veteran teachers is actually something else. After 35 years, I've seen the pendulum swing back and forth a few times. I've seen all sorts of educational fads come and go. The latest trend--the very thing that is supposed to revolutionize education--will be brought to light, everyone will be trained in it and a few years later something else takes its place. It becomes a matter of reinventing the wheel. Often, those of us who have been around a while may have already experienced the same trend under a different name. Institutional memory is an important asset in improving any organization. This is why reorganizing schools with entirely new staff can often be a waste of a lot of work. It is an advantage to hear from people who have been around as to what has been tried in the past and what has proven to be successful or unsuccessful.

If, as an older teacher, I appear to be less than enthusiastic about some "new" way of doing things, most likely it is because I have tried it and found it to be less successful than something else. Teacher personality and content area play a big part into what techniques work best in different situations. Most of us work in an environments that strive for continuous improvement. Just because our idea of what works best doesn't jive with yours doesn't make it wrong--especially if our students have proven to be successful.

I believe this is one reason why many of the new "reformers" want to get rid of experienced teachers in favor of younger teachers with alternative certification. The older ones push back against things that have been unsuccessful in the past whereas the inexperienced ones will simply buy into whatever they are fed because they don't have the experience to know the difference.

Posted by: musiclady | October 14, 2010 6:44 PM | Report abuse

Reformers also may feel threatened when the older teachers have more experience than they do. That is part of how I read the Manifesto and the dismissiveness about teachers having advanced degrees. I also feel it is a way for them to save money.

I do believe teachers don't need a master's degree if they keep taking courses. But a teacher who takes good courses and has experience is likely to be innovative, while someone who doesn't ever try anything new is what I would consider to be "entrenched".

This Manifesto almost asks for teachers who don't have ambition or interest in the profession (teaching students). I don't understand how they can call this reform.

Posted by: celestun100 | October 14, 2010 7:49 PM | Report abuse

All of this makes sense when you realize that the "reform" movement is actually about business. The idea is to privatize public schools and deprofessionalize teaching so that salaries can be kept low and profits high.

Posted by: Linda/RetiredTeacher | October 14, 2010 8:53 PM | Report abuse

If you look at the faculties of the elite schools that the "reformers" send their children to, you will see that all faculty members have advanced degrees. In the high schools many of the teachers have doctorates. And of course, the class size is always small.

Posted by: Linda/RetiredTeacher | October 14, 2010 8:56 PM | Report abuse

I always get confused... in the business analogy, are the students consumers or products?

Plus, haven't we already seen where school choice and competition get us? Isn't it called College? Doesn't it fail to educate 75% of people?

Posted by: someguy100 | October 14, 2010 10:49 PM | Report abuse

@ someguy100--I've always thought in the business analogy that the students were the products and society at large are the consumers. This is why business minded "reformers" want to fire teachers when students don't score well on standardized tests. The teachers have produced an inferior product and thus the teacher needs to be replaced by someone who will produce a better product. The solution to this, of course, is to replace an experienced teacher with an inexperienced one who may have little, if any, background in education. That person will be given the same raw material (students) and they will be expected to work miracles. If they don't then statistics will be "tweaked" so as to appear to have improved the product because "reformers" want to show that such miracles can be worked by employees that aren't paid to be professionals.

Posted by: musiclady | October 15, 2010 12:01 AM | Report abuse

I don't think Valerie Strauss, or any of her "guest bloggers," have ever walked into a failing, inner city school. It's pretty obvious. Which makes me wonder why she thinks she knows how to fix them.

Posted by: RL68 | October 15, 2010 2:17 AM | Report abuse

Take a look at another article in The Post today, the one that interviews a child who moved from a "bad" District school (her words) where the teacher swore at kids to North Bethesda Middle School, where the standards were much higher (her grades dropped at first) and the teachers helped her at lunch time to catch up.

To all of you who play the "blame the parents" game: I assume this child didn't trade in her parents for new ones when she moved. This was about outstanding teachers and a rigorous, scaffolded Montgomery County curriculum that enshrines high standards for all. And because of this, her future will be much, much different than if she had stayed in DCPS.

Posted by: trace1 | October 15, 2010 7:17 AM | Report abuse

If a teacher swore at the students they would be fired...and no... the 'union' could not do anything about it other than request proof. It's called being fired for cause. I've seen a teacher fired for just such a situation.

Explain to me what is so different in the curriculum of the MoCo schools? This sounds like a story written by a journalist that already had the story angle in mind. It's the old, tired narrative without any real meaning. Are we supposed to be surprised that wealthier students attending schools in Bethesda (and a wealthier school district, better able to distribute materials, manpower, ect.) would create a better learning environment??

Dr. Gardner at Harvard developed a formula a few years ago---Jay Matthews should really look at it. If you tell Gardner the median income of the parents in your child's class, he can show you what the median test score of the class will be. This should be what we focus on in this country. For too long we've had the idea that education will cure poverty.

Let's be honest and grownups, though. Until we seriously tackle the issue of poverty itself (and all the ills and challenges that go along with it), urban schools will continue to struggle under it's weight. Being poor doesn't mean you can't learn, but it does mean that you often start well behind wealthier peers. Leveling the playing field works just as well as teaching to the test (the other, and much less intellectually honest way to raise scores).

Posted by: harryfuchs | October 15, 2010 8:56 AM | Report abuse

harryfuchs,
Have you spent much time inside the classrooms of DCPS? If so, tell me where and when. Because I have, and I can tell you for a fact that the union would absolutely protect a cursing teacher from termination. Look at the facts: in the 1990s, probably fewer than 10 teachers were fired from DCPS.

My daughter volunteered in a DCPS school, where the teacher routinely threatened to "jack up" kids. My daughter was only 13, but she came away from that experience with a profound sadness, despair, even, that these kids were stuck with a teacher who should never have been in the classroom. And, yes, the union absolutely protected this teacher.

I had a kid in 8th grade at Deal MS in DC, and a friend with a child in North Bethesda MIddle School['s 8th grade. Deal's classes were ridiculously easy (and there was no real writing instruction). Montgomery County's program was very rigorous. Let's put it this way: the same paper turned in for credit in both schools? An "A" paper at Deal would probably get a "D" or worse in North Bethesda.

You want to talk curriculum? My kids were not assigned a single book to read in 6th grade in a Ward 3 DCPS school. Whose fault is that? That's when I pulled my younger two and put them in private schools. Believe me, they had quite a shock with the sophistication of the material and the heightened standards at their new schools.

Posted by: trace1 | October 15, 2010 9:49 AM | Report abuse

trace1 wrote: This was about outstanding teachers and a rigorous, scaffolded Montgomery County curriculum that enshrines high standards for all. And because of this, her future will be much, much different than if she had stayed in DCPS.
_____________________
I'd say that curriculum is not the big reason for the improvement. MCPS has a completely different culture than DCPS. As a MCPS teacher, I can honestly say that I've been shocked at some of the things coming out of the mouths of DCPS leaders starting with Michelle Rhee's comment about collaboration being overrated.

MCPS doesn't blame teachers. All through the bad budget process last year, we regularly got emails from Dr. Weast thanking us for our hard work and recognizing that without our efforts MCPS would not be the success it is. Whether or not those emails were sincere, they still went a long way toward making us feel somewhat appreciated.

Our past few union contracts have also granted more opportunities for teachers to collaborate in teams within their schools and in broader learning communities.

The decision making in MCPS schools is left to Leadership teams comprised of administrators and grade level/ content area representatives that represent the teaching staff of the school. Decisions are made collaboratively.

MCPS utilizes a nationally recognized peer review teacher evaluation system.

MCPS has also put additional funding in poorer schools, reducing class size significantly over the years and employing additional support personnel.

I'd say curriculum, while important, is not the main reason for an improved educational experience. I would suggest that having a teaching force that is held to high standard and treated with a modicum of respect, involving them in the decision making process of school governance has everything to do with it.

Posted by: musiclady | October 15, 2010 1:27 PM | Report abuse

trace1 wrote: This was about outstanding teachers and a rigorous, scaffolded Montgomery County curriculum that enshrines high standards for all. And because of this, her future will be much, much different than if she had stayed in DCPS.
_____________________
I'd say that curriculum is not the big reason for the improvement. MCPS has a completely different culture than DCPS. As a MCPS teacher, I can honestly say that I've been shocked at some of the things coming out of the mouths of DCPS leaders starting with Michelle Rhee's comment about collaboration being overrated.

MCPS doesn't blame teachers. All through the bad budget process last year, we regularly got emails from Dr. Weast thanking us for our hard work and recognizing that without our efforts MCPS would not be the success it is. Whether or not those emails were sincere, they still went a long way toward making us feel somewhat appreciated.

Our past few union contracts have also granted more opportunities for teachers to collaborate in teams within their schools and in broader learning communities.

The decision making in MCPS schools is left to Leadership teams comprised of administrators and grade level/ content area representatives that represent the teaching staff of the school. Decisions are made collaboratively.

MCPS utilizes a nationally recognized peer review teacher evaluation system.

MCPS has also put additional funding in poorer schools, reducing class size significantly over the years and employing additional support personnel.

I'd say curriculum, while important, is not the main reason for an improved educational experience. I would suggest that having a teaching force that is held to high standard and treated with a modicum of respect, involving them in the decision making process of school governance has everything to do with it.

Posted by: musiclady | October 15, 2010 1:27 PM | Report abuse

jlp19 wrote:
If the business model is so wonderful, why are so many people in business losing jobs?
================

Because failure has consequences in the business world. Shouldn't failure have consequences in the government world?

You'll notice that successful businesses are still around, and often are hiring and expanding. Successful schools also wouldn't be affected by the business model.

The only schools that would be affected by the business model are failing schools. They need competition, and now.

Funny. People are against monopoly control in almost every other area of life. Why not schools? Where is the argument that an entrenched monopoly is a good thing when it comes to schools? That argument can be made when it comes to the military but it doesn't work on schools.


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