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Posted at 10:15 PM ET, 01/25/2011

Obama’s faulty education logic: What he said and failed to say

By Valerie Strauss

Someone should have told President Obama that there were important contradictions in the education portion of his State of the Union address before he delivered it to Congress.

First, Obama rightly said that a child’s education starts at home:

“It’s family that first instills the love of learning in a child. Only parents can make sure the TV is turned off and homework gets done.”

Then why is his administration insisting on pushing policies that evaluate and pay teachers based solely on how well they raise the test scores of their children? How can teachers be responsible for what happens to a child outside of school?

Obama spoke about the $4.3 billion Race to the Top competition launched by his Education Department.

“Race to the Top is the most meaningful reform of our public schools in a generation. For less than one percent of what we spend on education each year, it has led over 40 states to raise their standards for teaching and learning.“

Well, not actually.

For one thing, if parent involvement were so important to the administration, you would think it would have been part of “the most meaningful reform” in a generation. It wasn’t.

And it is far too early to say whether states have really raised their standards for teaching and learning or whether they have simply changed them. Declaring victory before victory is actually at hand is generally a bad idea.

Obama also talked about the importance of local control of education.

“You see, we know what’s possible for our children when reform isn’t just a top-down mandate, but the work of local teachers and principals; school boards and communities.”

Really?

The federal government has been telling states and local districts what to do for nearly a decade, ever since No Child Left Behind was passed by president George W. Bush’s administration. Race to the Top just continued that pattern.

Obama also talked about the importance of teachers.

“Let’s also remember that after parents, the biggest impact on a child’s success comes from the man or woman at the front of the classroom. In South Korea, teachers are known as 'nation builders.' Here in America, it’s time we treated the people who educate our children with the same level of respect. We want to reward good teachers and stop making excuses for bad ones.”

Obama apparently doesn’t know that many public school teachers in the United States believe his administration is helping to demonize them. And the South Korean public school system isn’t exactly the model Americans would be happy emulating.

From an article in Asia Times Online:

"What the stats don’t tell is how drearily authoritarian classes often are. Flair and creativity are rarely rewarded. Instead, teachers drum into students a ton of stuff they must learn by rote so as to jump through hoops leading up to the all-important university entrance examination."

And then there was the subject that Obama did not talk about: the real reason that so many American public schools are troubled. It's poverty.

(Let me be clear: No, I am not saying that we don’t have a lot of lousy teachers who shouldn’t be in classrooms. We have too many, and they should be fired after a fair evaluation process. And I’m not saying that some great teachers don’t help lift poor kids into another world. But they are the exceptions, and as I’ve said before, exceptions don’t make great policy.)

The United States has a child poverty rate of 21 percent. That’s nearly 15 million children who live in families with incomes below the federal poverty level, now pegged at $22,050 a year for a family of four.

We can pretend all we want that great teachers can overcome the effects of poverty, poor nutrition, lack of sleep, bad eyesight, a lack of early exposure to books. But pretending won’t make it so.

I wish Obama had said that.

-0-

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By Valerie Strauss  | January 25, 2011; 10:15 PM ET
Categories:  No Child Left Behind, Poverty, Race to the Top  | Tags:  education reform, no child left behind, obama, obama education initiative, obama education reform, obama race to the top, obama speech, obama state of the union, president obama, public school reform, public schools, race to the top, state of the union, state of the union speech  
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Comments

Actually, I was quite pleased with the President's address. At least he acknowledged the critical importance of the family, instead of repeating that incredibly stupid mantra "No excuses."

I was also pleased that he pointed to a teacher-run school in Denver. The union representing the teachers was forced to make concessions to them so they could run the school in the best way possible. I believe this is the true reform that awaits us -- teacher-run schools with unions that represent the interests of teachers without limiting them. This will enable teachers to become truly professional in the same way that college teachers are; and their unions will evolve into the professional associations they were initially intended to be. The students will be the ultimate winners because the profession will attract talented people who want to be decision-makers and innovators.

The President also lauded the awesome achievements of the American people. This is the proud legacy of our great public school system and its dedicated schoolteachers.

Posted by: Linda/RetiredTeacher | January 25, 2011 11:35 PM | Report abuse

"The United States has a child poverty rate of 21 percent. That’s nearly 15 million children who live in families with incomes below the federal poverty level, now pegged at $22,050 a year for a family of four."

Ms. Strauss, what about the remaining 89% that are not within this catagory? That's a supermajority that should represent a much higher yield in postive academic performance.

Please, enroll your children in a public school that hasn't made AYP and then report on that. I didn't make AYP consecutive years (5+).

Parents that have choice are removing their kids from public schools for valid reasons and will continue do so. Bet on it.

And please identify, when during the history of public education, your aforementioned challenges NOT exist yet kids were at least prepared to live independently.

Posted by: PGCResident1 | January 25, 2011 11:49 PM | Report abuse

above should have read: "Please, enroll your children in a public school that hasn't made AYP 5+ consecutive years and then report on that."

But again Strauss...you don't seem to have a clue about what is actually happening in a majority African American school systems albeit urban or suburban.

You DON'T know because you have not actually experienced what IS happening to these kids.

Posted by: PGCResident1 | January 25, 2011 11:54 PM | Report abuse

Obama needs some serious one-on-one time real education experts like Diane Ravitch. He takes way too much advice from a lot of pseudo education experts... you know wolves (business folk) dressed in sheep's clothes (educators)! All the words and rhetoric in his speech on education sound like a lot of hype and spin. It was so disheartening to hear him say that he is thrilled under RTTT to be able to offer money to school systems ... as if school systems (with this money) have freedom to do what they feel is necessary to make changes! RTTT has cash-strapped school systems engaged in wasteful "jumping through government orchestrated hoops"... How many school systems spent untold time vying for this RTTT money only to be denied it anyway because they weren't pro charter, or weren't in favor of linking student test scores to teacher evaluations? RTTT money should go toward societal reforms aimed at reducing poverty. When Obama talked about parents being so important to a child's education... I could only think..."well let's have a living wage so that lower income parents don't have to work three jobs and can spend more time with their children. Let's have a real nationalized health insurance so that parents can importantly take care of their health. Let's have affordable housing so that parents do not have to shuffle their families from place to place as rental rates go sky high. Let's put RTTT money into quality after-school programming so that poor children can have music, dance or fencing classes after school like their wealthier counterparts have"! Poverty makes it extremely challenging for low income parents and their children. This is the word that has to get out and that has to become linked to the education policy in this nation.

Posted by: teachermd | January 25, 2011 11:59 PM | Report abuse

"I am not saying that we don’t have a lot of lousy teachers who shouldn’t be in classrooms. We have too many, and they should be fired after a fair evaluation process..."
They tend o self select out of the system, the real judges of teachers, students, usually let them know pdq they aren't up to the job.

To PGCresident1, I work in a "Universal Free Breakfast & Lunch" school. These are the kids living in privation and they are the kids that people speak of when they mention "lousy" teachers. Teachers in leafy suburbs don't get branded as "lousy" because their students have the support they need at home. Mine don't, they are living in cars, 3 families in a one bedroom apt., incarcerated parents, etc. Its my fault, blame me. Pin global warming on me, too.

Bush was intentionally killing the public education system. Obama's worse, he's hunting like Cheney, shooting his friends.

Posted by: SactoKen | January 26, 2011 12:27 AM | Report abuse

Linda, I value your opinion because at least you have experienced the challenges of public schools.

But NOT ONCE did President Obama ever state that parents were not part of the solution.

We are here in PGCPS, yet our school system rates the lowest in the state. A school system that IS majority minority middle class famalies and citizens that are VERY involved in their offspring education.

WE represent the remaining 89% where students are not receiving adequate education services.

That's what President Obama was primarily focused upon and what tax payers are funding yet not receiving return of our financial investment and future which ARE our children.

At some point, valid and realistic solutions should be focused upon. There were ALWAYS poor, middle, and upper class famalies but we were at least a competitive academic society that produced students that WERE college ready via public school education.

Not anymore. It is not because of the current population of 21% low income famalies to blame for the current condition of our public schools across the nation.

Famalies that were/are in a position explored academic choices for their children. That's the "gap" that will increase.

It most certainly will be for my own once they become of age and need to explore the same for their children one day. It will NOT be a government ran public school system. Too much focus is on blame or presumed conspiracy/threat of "big corporate" heads taking over public education. Never the same toward solution.

Who gives a D*** about a movie not recieving an Oscar??? Seriously, strauss, do you really think PARENTS care about an award given to a director, producers, PR firm and the same determining what's best for their child? You must really think parents are just that stupid.

Well, we're not. So please give us some level of credit for critical thought abilities when it comes to our children and their educational needs.

Posted by: PGCResident1 | January 26, 2011 12:40 AM | Report abuse

@SactoKen I'm very sorry that you're within a school with the level of challenges you've mentioned.

But...the majority of schools within the U.S. do not house the majority population of students or overall community.

Yet national overall academic levels continue to decline. The US is (or was) the richest nation in the world. We were LEADERS of the global academic society. Something happened and it's not because "parents didn't read books" to their child between the ages of 3-5.

The academic rigor levels changed and became more costly. Majority speaking, "type" of students did not but funding didn't reach the classrooms to meet the needs and demands of academic rigor, i.e. Superintendants and administrators making HIGH six figure $$ but technology not adequately increasing to meet the needs of current (academic) demands. Some School Superintendants earn more then the President of the US.

Investigate WHY that is Strauss.

Posted by: PGCResident1 | January 26, 2011 1:02 AM | Report abuse

PGResident1:
@We are here in PGCPS, yet our school system rates the lowest in the state.

No, Baltimore City is the lowest.
But what does that mean?
That all students in PGCPS are not getting a good education?
That whenever you place a PGCPS students against any other Maryland students that the PGCPS student will always be in 23rd place?

BS PGresident1 , and you know it.

Explain why Tulip Grove Elementary School scores near 100% proficient and advanced.
Why do the schools in Bowie score near the top, over 80% proficient and advanced?


@ "There were ALWAYS poor, middle, and upper class famalies but we were at least a competitive academic society that produced students that WERE college ready via public school education."
Oh really, the kids today get a worse education than they would have gotten 60 years ago?
Do you want to go back to segregated schools?

What failure school do your kids attend in PGCPS?
Quite often, those making such a claim are full of it.
So, please, name the school.

Posted by: phillipmarlowe | January 26, 2011 1:07 AM | Report abuse

@"You DON'T know because you have not actually experienced what IS happening to these kids. "

That would be difficult as Ms. Strauss is an adult Caucasian.

Posted by: phillipmarlowe | January 26, 2011 1:10 AM | Report abuse

no phillipmarrow, PGCPS ranks lower then Baltimore in 2009. check your facts.

Tulip Grove?

How about Cora Rice instead??? matter of fact, pick a few that didn't make consecutive AYP:

http://mdreportcard.org/ImprovementIntroEMH.aspx?AypPV=41:0:16:AAAA:2:000000


Kids were definately getting better education services, with academic options, 10-20 years ago.

My kids are not in a failing school. WE made sure of that.

where in my post did I use the word "ALL" I did not.

PGCPS is a $1.67 schools sytem in Improvement Status....that is what's total BS.

Posted by: PGCResident1 | January 26, 2011 1:24 AM | Report abuse

@"You DON'T know because you have not actually experienced what IS happening to these kids. "

That would be difficult as Ms. Strauss is an adult Caucasian.


Posted by: phillipmarlowe | January 26, 2011 1:10 AM | Report abuse

______________________

phillipmarlowe, I was speaking from a PARENT'S perspective with children of school age enrolled in a predominantly African American school system.

Yes, we do have caucasion parents with children enrolled in the PGCPS school system.

and my above post should have read "$1.67 BILLION school system that is what's total BS"

Posted by: PGCResident1 | January 26, 2011 1:29 AM | Report abuse

"The United States has a child poverty rate of 21 percent. That’s nearly 15 million children who live in families with incomes below the federal poverty level, now pegged at $22,050 a year for a family of four."

"Ms. Strauss, what about the remaining 89% that are not within this catagory? That's a supermajority that should represent a much higher yield in postive academic performance."

Actually, the remaining children equal 79%. And I've never seen any reported evidence that middle class kids aren't achieving in school. All of the individually "failing schools" are high poverty schools.

Posted by: bhorn1 | January 26, 2011 1:41 AM | Report abuse

Can't anyone on this blog subtract. 100-21 is not 89!

Posted by: chicogal | January 26, 2011 1:45 AM | Report abuse

thanks for my repetitive typo...it's late (too late as a matter of fact)

but the fact remains. our great nation's educational system is academically declining. and it's pretty scary that our children are going to be less competitive which effects the economic future and foundation of this nation.

and the tug-of-war of placing blame continues and on the taxpayers dime.

Posted by: PGCResident1 | January 26, 2011 1:52 AM | Report abuse

t’s family that first instills the love of learning in a child. Only parents can make sure the TV is turned off and homework gets done.”

This is a just a platitude to sound centrist. But if if the kid “ain’t got no parents”?
You say “why is his administration insisting in pushing policies that evaluate and pay teachers based solely on how well they raise the test scores of their children? How can teachers be solely responsible for what happens to a child outside of school” EXACTLY SO.
Let’s also remember that after parents, the biggest impact on a child’s success comes from the man or woman at the front of the classroom. In South Korea, teachers are known as 'nation builders.' Here in America, it’s time we treated the people who educate our children with the same level of respect. We want to reward good teachers and stop making excuses for bad ones.”
Obama apparently doesn’t know that many public school teachers in the United States believe his administration is helping to demonize them.
FEW TEACHERS I KNOW believe Obama is a friend to public education.

And the South Korean public school system isn’t exactly the model Americans would be happy emulating. AGREE

SMARTEST AND TRUEST THING YOU SAID:
The United States has a child poverty rate of 21 percent. That’s nearly 15 million children who live in families with incomes below the federal poverty level, now pegged at $22,050 a year for a family of four.
We can pretend all we want that great teachers can overcome the effects of poverty, poor nutrition, lack of sleep, bad eyesight, a lack of early exposure to books. But pretending won’t make it so.

OBAMA AVOIDS TALKING ABOUT MAKING TOUGH CHOICES. HE IS JUST A GLAD HANDER FULL OF TELEPROMPTING PLATITUDES. HE WOULD NOT KNOW HOW TO RUN A KINDERGARTEN CLASSROOM LET ALONE A HIGH SCHOOL>


Posted by: AuldMUNRO | January 26, 2011 1:57 AM | Report abuse

t’s family that first instills the love of learning in a child. Only parents can make sure the TV is turned off and homework gets done.”

This is a just a platitude to sound centrist. But if if the kid “ain’t got no parents”?
You say “why is his administration insisting in pushing policies that evaluate and pay teachers based solely on how well they raise the test scores of their children? How can teachers be solely responsible for what happens to a child outside of school” EXACTLY SO.
Let’s also remember that after parents, the biggest impact on a child’s success comes from the man or woman at the front of the classroom. In South Korea, teachers are known as 'nation builders.' Here in America, it’s time we treated the people who educate our children with the same level of respect. We want to reward good teachers and stop making excuses for bad ones.”
Obama apparently doesn’t know that many public school teachers in the United States believe his administration is helping to demonize them.
FEW TEACHERS I KNOW believe Obama is a friend to public education.

And the South Korean public school system isn’t exactly the model Americans would be happy emulating. AGREE

SMARTEST AND TRUEST THING YOU SAID:
The United States has a child poverty rate of 21 percent. That’s nearly 15 million children who live in families with incomes below the federal poverty level, now pegged at $22,050 a year for a family of four.
We can pretend all we want that great teachers can overcome the effects of poverty, poor nutrition, lack of sleep, bad eyesight, a lack of early exposure to books. But pretending won’t make it so.

OBAMA AVOIDS TALKING ABOUT MAKING TOUGH CHOICES. HE IS JUST A GLAD HANDER FULL OF TELEPROMPTING PLATITUDES. HE WOULD NOT KNOW HOW TO RUN A KINDERGARTEN CLASSROOM LET ALONE A HIGH SCHOOL>


Posted by: AuldMUNRO | January 26, 2011 1:58 AM | Report abuse

As educators, we MUST ensure that every student feels that their classroom is a SAFE, NURTURING learning environment!

I believe NUTRITION is the key! Schools must provide balanced, nutritional meals for students that may not get it elsewhere... How can anyone learn if they are hungry???


Posted by: Annabelle-Lee | January 26, 2011 2:00 AM | Report abuse

"Let me be clear: No, I am not saying that we don’t have a lot of lousy teachers who shouldn’t be in classrooms. We have too many, and they should be fired after a fair evaluation process. And I’m not saying that some great teachers don’t help lift poor kids into another world. But they are the exceptions, and as I’ve said before, exceptions don’t make great policy."
I'm assuming Valerie Strauss said this. I wouldn't want to put my name on something so general. I'm sure that something so general does about as much good as calling a whole race of people lazy. You have no idea what it means to apply yourself everyday in front of a whole class for many many years and be called lousy in some unspecified evaluation. I think the so called lousy teacher is a scapegoat, for the most part, of a system of education that has one primary goal which has more to do with parenting than it does with providing academics. That's why all, and I mean all teachers, are struggling no matter if they have presentations that bring down the house or not. Shame on you, you should be fired or at least suspended until you be specific about each and every individual teacher that you are calling lousy.

Posted by: dmyers412 | January 26, 2011 3:32 AM | Report abuse

The RTTT money will go to educational consultants like Mark Rolewski. Lee County School District in Florida pays Mark Rolewski over $100,000 a year to make motivational speeches to school leaders, look at school data, and make short classroom observations. Mark Rolewski persuades administrators to influence their teacher’s to follow his “technically correct, but ethically void” interpretation of No Child Left Behind (NCLB). Mark Rolewski advocates teachers focus on students that will help the school (and the district) make Yearly Adequate Progress (AYP). Sounds good, until you look under the surface of his method. He breaks the students down into racial subgroups (Black, Hispanic, Economically Disadvantaged, Special Needs, etc.) and advocates most instruction to be focused on the students within those groups that can most help bring a school’s scores up. So, that does NOT mean all the African American students or all the Latino students get the focused instruction. Mark Rolewski’s model has teachers focus on the students in these groups that have scores that can be moved up. Who looses out? Kids that have high scores already and worse kids with the lowest scores (the kids that need the most help). People like Mark Rolewski are gaming the current system to make school districts look good according to their data, while advocating the administrators and teachers teach unethically.

Posted by: yamjohnson | January 26, 2011 5:21 AM | Report abuse

Indeed, you can rank school test scores by SES; this has been the case since before "my tim," and I a graduated from H.S. in 1970.

Policies advanced by NCLB and RttT do not improve educational outcomes. When "achievement" is narrowly defined as predominantly based on test scores, the curriculum narrows and cheating is becomes rampant.

I have seen the ugly impact of NCLB at the high school where I teach. A number of elective classes have vanished, test prep classes have been instituted in their place.

Because the formula that determines "adequate yearly progress" for the school considers, but is not limited to, student test scores, the number of students enrolled in rigorous classes, the "level" of tests taken by students on spring STAR tests (we get more points for students who take Algebra 2, or higher, than for taking algebra 1 or geometry...), nonsensical practices are in full bloom.

This includes leaving ALL students who failed first semester algebra or geometry in the same classes for second semester, to build on their failure. If we move them, if they retake the semester they failed, then these students are not eligible to take either the algebra or geometry STAR test in April and our school loses a boatload of points, our AYP may drop and this is downright bad.

In other words, when high stakes are narrowly defined and your future is determined by them, you are inadvertently encouraged to engage in activities contrary to meaningful teaching and learning.

Expect to see more of this as schools "game the system" to stay out of hot water. The result is less for students while the policy makers are patting themselves on the back for raising standards and requiring "lazy" teachers to work harder.

What if your employer administered a test annually, rank ordered their employees and then dismissed the bottom X%? How would that feel and how might that affect your performance and behavior? Would this motivate you to be better in all the little ways that do add up to being competent?

Posted by: silverstarent2003 | January 26, 2011 8:42 AM | Report abuse

The "what about the other 79%' argument. 21% are in poverty, what about the rest?
Bhorn is correct: In general, they are doing fine. In fact, they are doing quite well. Students in low-poverty schools in the US are scoring at or near the top of the world. Middle-class children attend schools with few children of poverty. On the recently reported PISA test, students in schools with less than 10% of students in poverty scored 551 in reading, second only to Shanghai. Students in schools with 10-25% of students in poverty scored 527, nearly the same as high-scoring Singapore. For additional evidence, see Payne, K. and Biddle, B. 1999. Poor school funding, child poverty, and mathematics achievement. Educational Researcher 28 (6): 4-13.
Yes, we can always do better and educators are in general striving to improve. But there is no crisis in education. The less-than-spectacular scores of American students on international tests are due to our high percentage of children in poverty. The data supports Ms. Strauss' statement: "And then there was the subject that Obama did not talk about: the real reason that so many American public schools are troubled. It's poverty."

Posted by: skrashen | January 26, 2011 8:49 AM | Report abuse

The contradictions you note in the blog are concerns, but the Address overlooked far larger concerns:

--All el-hi schools are headed to be labeled as "failing" by 2014.
--State and local school budgets are under severe stress.
--Without the "Educational Stimulus" funds, the stress will increase.
--The Race to the Top" is bumper sticker policy.

Follow the money.

Posted by: DickSchutz | January 26, 2011 3:00 PM | Report abuse

For the most part I agree with the Author. I believe it is interference by the Government and forcing teachers to direct their teaching plans solely to ensure students can pass "required tests"; that has destroyed the quality of education. As an individual that graduated High School in 1973 and College in 1977, and the mother of two currently attending College; I have been disappointed in the current curriculums and the methods in which students are taught. Beginning in elementary school, I felt my children were not receiving solid, fundamental skills in math, reading and writing necessary to assure their success as they moved to more difficult levels. Without mastering adding and subtracting, spelling and reading, it is difficult to do well as they progress through school.

Teaching with the objective of assuring higher standardized test scores has failed to produce well-rounded, knowledgeable students able to do well in College and beyond. Many are not even ready to enter the work force at any level following H.S. graduation even though they passed the "exit exam".

Further involvement by the Federal Government in Local and State schools has worsened, not improved our schools. Teaching geared only to pass "required" tests results in a poor quality of education

Posted by: fedupwithgovernment | January 26, 2011 3:09 PM | Report abuse

You made valid points about President’s Obama State of the Union address in regards to education. However, we should embrace his position on education, which is to bring the nation’s attention to the importance of education and the role that it plays in our economy. The Campaign for High School Equity (CHSE), a coalition of leading civil rights organizations, applauds President Obama for putting education front-and-center on the national agenda in his State of the Union Address last night. He is right on the money in calling for meaningful public education. However, without vigorous federal leadership and the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, our nation’s schools will be ill-prepared to provide every student with the high-quality education needed to succeed and compete in the global economy. President Obama asked Congress to swiftly revamp current federal education policy, but to be effective; we must engage communities of color from the start of the reform implementation process. Since students of color represent the fastest growing population in many of the nation’s largest school districts, these students must succeed in the classroom for the nation to create the highly skilled workforce necessary to ensure the nation’s future prosperity.

The choices we make today will determine the future of the young people in whose hands we will place America’s prosperity tomorrow. For more information about what’s needed to effectively transform our education system so students will thrive in the 21st century workplace, read http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/education/139421-investing-in-tomorrows-workforce

(On Behalf of the Campaign for High School Equity)
-Sarim Ngo

Posted by: sngo | January 26, 2011 3:25 PM | Report abuse

President Obama is really good at speechifying. Unfortunately, his praise for teachers rings hollow when everything he and his administration have done has served to demonize teachers and their professionalism. Actions speak louder than fancy words.

Posted by: buckbuck11 | January 26, 2011 5:39 PM | Report abuse

I think its time we remove an ineffective president from his job - in 2012.

Posted by: educationlover54 | January 26, 2011 6:02 PM | Report abuse

silverstarent2003 hits the nail on the head with respect to what all this standardized testing and punitive RTTT policies are doing to education (title one schools)... Silverstarent2003 is so on the mark when he/she says:

"Expect to see more of this as schools "game the system" to stay out of hot water. The result is less for students while the policy makers are patting themselves on the back for raising standards and requiring "lazy" teachers to work harder".

At some point, actions will speak louder than words and the sham being promoted/enforced right now will be exposed. Let's just hope it is exposed sooner rather than later for the sake of students and so that we still will have competent teachers around willing to "pick up the pieces"! Too many excellent teachers are being shamed and mercilessly scapegoated by pseudo educators. And too much of the public-at-large is inundated with the "reformers" slanted PR SPIN such that they actually think that if the "lowest" ranked teachers (by the value added approach) are fired, students will suddenly perform better! Ughh. This video from Rhode Island is yet another tragic decision. But actions speak louder than words and there will be good number of successful students unable to graduate from high school because they are simply not good at taking standardized tests! Time, as well as the disasterous consequences, will out this policy for its ridiculousness!

Posted by: teachermd | January 26, 2011 6:42 PM | Report abuse

educationlover54, tell me who I should vote for. Who is our hero?

skrashen,
I think there is an educational crisis. We know so much more about literacy learning, mathmatics, critical thinking, and all other learning areas. We know what works, and yet, policy forces mandates on us that reduce us to be technicians in the classroom. Teachers can not be effective, due to district, state, and federal mandates.

And Linda retired teacher, I would love it if teachers ran our school. But it's not unions stopping us. It's the district, state, and federal mandates that are stopping us from improving schools.

Posted by: tutucker | January 26, 2011 6:45 PM | Report abuse

Valerie: Thank you for writing the obvious and honest response to the president's speech. Does any of this discussion EVER find its way to the audience who really needs to understand what the reality is?

Posted by: realannie | January 26, 2011 6:54 PM | Report abuse

tutucker:
If you look into charter schools laws in your state, I think you'll find that teachers can apply to run charter schools. This is an opportunity for teachers to manage the schools as they see fit. You might want to look into this. If I were at the beginning (or even the middle) of my career, that's what I'd do. If teachers don't open these schools, others will.

Posted by: Linda/RetiredTeacher | January 26, 2011 7:36 PM | Report abuse

Linda, I always look forward to reading you, even when you face abuse over at Eduwonk.

You thought on starting up a charter school is good. Just don't discount yourself from being involved.

Posted by: phillipmarlowe | January 26, 2011 7:45 PM | Report abuse

PGCresident1 is a breath of fresh air, breaking the monotony of almost all posts here and the majority of responding comments that bash Rhee and any kind of reform thought.

The president was clear last night--he has high regard for (good) teachers. He also thinks we have too many bad ones, and he used that term.

Even Ms. Strauss, possibly sensing the monotony of her guest posters and her own line says: "I am not saying that we don’t have a lot of lousy teachers who shouldn’t be in classrooms. We have too many, and they should be fired after a fair evaluation process."

Posted by: axolotl | January 26, 2011 8:38 PM | Report abuse

Linda,
I'm a public school teacher all the way. I love the diversity. My point is that public schools aren't limited by unions. I don't think opening charter schools are the answer.
I know charter schools can exclude students and parents for that matter. As much as I struggle with some parents, I never want to segregate like that.
If you don't believe they exclude, interview for a job at a charter school. If a parent doesn't like a policy, they don't have to stay.
Instead I'll work hard helping the likes of Diane Ravitch etc. in bringing back the public schools we used to know. Schools run locally. Public educators, for the most part, know what they're doing. They just need to be able to do their job, and they no longer are allowed to do this.

Posted by: tutucker | January 26, 2011 8:42 PM | Report abuse

Phillipmarlowe:

One day I realized several of us were responsible for getting discussions started at Eduwonk. I decided that I didn't want to support that blog in any way so I stopped responding. I hope you do too. Without us, YouKnowWho will have no one to argue with.

Thanks for the compliment. Several groups of teachers in my area (Los Angeles County) have started their own schools. It's also being done in Minnesota, Boston and Colorado. I'm certain that this is the way to go for teachers because there is a growing need for highly qualified people in the profession, but these people are not going to want to teach under the present conditions. Intelligent, well-educated people want to be decision-makers. Also, teachers will not be fully professional until they are to schools what professors are to their universities. K-12 teachers are in this situation, I believe, because they are mainly women.

I've already told teachers in my community that I would help them start a charter school (free of charge, unlike the "reformers") but no one has taken me up on it yet.

Posted by: Linda/RetiredTeacher | January 26, 2011 10:30 PM | Report abuse

Tutucker:

I don't think you realize that a charter school is a public school that is independently managed by a group that is granted the charter. If teachers were granted the charter they could run the school in the best way possible for the students. THE TEACHERS would make the rules. For example, if you and some colleagues opened the school, you would decide to accept all children, or even take over an existing school. You would have the freedom to teach to the best of your ability. One teacher would be appointed as Head Teacher and would do the administrative stuff. Or teachers could take turns being the Head.

In my state, if 50% of a faculty voted to turn their school into a charter, they could do it.

I might be wrong, but I think the charter train has already left the station. Teachers can hop on, or be left behind.

Think about it, Tutuker. If you had a charter school YOU would be in charge! And no child would be excluded.

Posted by: Linda/RetiredTeacher | January 26, 2011 10:42 PM | Report abuse

Linda,
Children will be excluded and I get that charter schools are supposed to be "public."
But they are not public schools, and charters take money away from public schools.
How about you help me bring public schools back to where teachers did have a say along with parents and kids? What a concept.

Posted by: tutucker | January 27, 2011 11:46 AM | Report abuse

Linda,
Children will be excluded and I get that charter schools are supposed to be "public."
But they are not public schools, and charters take money away from public schools.
How about you help me bring public schools back to where teachers did have a say along with parents and kids? What a concept.

Posted by: tutucker | January 27, 2011 11:47 AM | Report abuse

tutucker:

I do agree with you that we should bring public schools back to where teachers had input along with parents and students. However, as I said, I believe the charter school movement has gained momentum (at least in poor areas) and the only choice teachers have is to lead the movement or be left behind.

Outside managers are taking over these schools and siphoning off public funds for themselves by hiring mainly young, inexpensive teachers and encouraging them to move on after a few years. In my state there have already been many instances of fraud with the charters. If teachers take the leadership with these schools, this sort of thing will (hopefully) not happen.

I encourage you to look at the charter laws in your state. You might want to become involved, at least until the national scene improves.

Posted by: Linda/RetiredTeacher | January 27, 2011 12:33 PM | Report abuse

I, too, am troubled by the insistence that we can apply a business model to education. Our "raw materials" are far from uniform, so the idea that we can raise every one of those kids to the level in which they are supported AND challenged when we put 30 or more of them in a class with one teacher is ludicrous. We cut teachers, raising class sizes, and then insist on differentiating instruction for each child, plotting him on a "readiness continuum" and custom-designing lessons based on that readiness.

Posted by: katec810 | January 27, 2011 3:03 PM | Report abuse

tutucker,

Vote for who you want. I won't be voting for Obama though.

Posted by: educationlover54 | January 27, 2011 3:06 PM | Report abuse

tutucker,

I really agree with much of what you say. You make sense.

Posted by: educationlover54 | January 27, 2011 3:09 PM | Report abuse

Thank you, thank you, thank you. My read on the speech was that Obama realized that having joined the war on teachers might lose him millions of votes, so now he's talking out of both sides of his mouth - which he excels at - in an attempt to win some back. There's no sincerity in this man's leadership. (Funny, Hillary turned me off because I thought she was all about herself, and didn't have any real values, and would do anything to win. Now that's how I feel about Obama.)I can't say I should've voted for a Republican, but I can say I'm disgusted with Obama, and that I wouldn't trust a thing he says, and hope not to be forced to vote for him again simply to keep out Palin, say. I'd hate to see millions of teachers give him a pass and say, "Okay, now you're on our side; okay, now I'll vote for you." Unless the man does offers very substantial, major, and real support for teachers, I don't want to vote for him. He still doesn't get it, and I don't trust him. If I'm going to be screwed, I'd rather it be by somebody who is honest about it than by a hypocrite crowd-pleaser.

Posted by: arti2 | January 30, 2011 10:28 AM | Report abuse

silverstarent2003, you are right, of course. Another manifestation of American ingenuity. ("If only they would use their genius for good instead of evil!")

Posted by: MathEdReseacher | January 30, 2011 3:23 PM | Report abuse

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