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Ed school professors resist teaching practical skills

Amid the chatter about the Obama administration's Race to the Top funds, NBC's Education Nation programs and the release of the film "Waiting For 'Superman'" (warning: I am in it), I am not hearing much about how education schools fit into this new 'saving our schools' ferment. A new survey of education school professors reveals traditional teacher training institutes are trying, sort of, to adjust, but still resist giving top priority to the hottest topic among young teachers, learning how to manage the kids.

When researchers Steve Farkas and Ann Duffett asked 716 randomly selected teacher educators at four-year colleges and universities about major challenges for new teachers these days, they did not seem that excited about them.

Only 24 percent said it was "absolutely essential" to produce "teachers who understand how to work with the state's standards, tests and accountability systems."

Only 37 percent gave the highest priority to developing "teachers who maintain discipline and order in the classroom." Only 39 percent said the same about creating "teachers who are trained to address the challenges of high-needs students in urban districts."

Farkas and Duffet did the survey, "Cracks in the Ivory Tower?", for the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, whose introduction to the report noted the difference between the ed professors' relative disinterest in classroom skills and the feverish buying by novice teachers of Doug Lemov's book "Teach Like a Champion: 49 Techniques That Put Students on the Path to College." The book is based on close observation of successful inner city teachers. It focuses on the minutia of teaching, like how to handle a student who is refusing to participate or where to stand when students enter the room.

"Parents, voters and taxpayers--and would-be teachers--might well suppose that such tips and tools are exactly what aspiring teachers acquire in our colleges of education and other teacher training programs," the introduction says.

But no, says the survey. Much higher on the ed professors' list of the most essential qualities was making teachers "life-long learners" who are "constantly updating their skills." Eighty-two percent picked that one, close to the 84 percent who gave the same answer when a similar survey was done in 1997. Only 37 percent said creating teachers who maintain discipline and order was absolutely essential, the same percentage that gave that answer in 1997.

This is difficult to understand. Anyone in close contact with new teachers knows that creating discipline and order are vital to their success, and they often wish they knew how to do that.

I also found a great disconnect with one of my pet peeves, the national campaign to instill 21st century skills, without being entirely clear what those skills are. Eighty-three percent of the professors said they believed it was absolutely essential for public school teachers to teach 21st century skills, but just 36 percent said that about teaching math facts and 44 percent about teaching phonics in younger grades. Can you handle the intricacies of our new century without knowing arithmetic, or how to read? We will soon find out.

I am being somewhat unfair to the education school professors, since the survey uncovered some new attitudes. Most of the professors surveyed favored changes in their institutions. Seventy-three percent supported "holding teacher education programs more accountable for the quality of the teachers they graduate." The same percentage said, "most professors of education need to spend more time in K-12 classrooms."

They even favored charter schools, by a margin of 44 to 34 percent, with 23 percent not sure. That was less than the 64 percent of Americans favoring the general idea of charter schools, but it was more than I expected.

Then I got a big surprise, the response to a question asking if "programs like Teach For America that recruit and place high-achieving college graduates in struggling public schools" were a good idea. Sixty-three percent said yes. Only 20 percent said no. Teach For America has been eviscerated by leading education school professors as a high-minded scam, luring bright college graduates into rushed summer training programs and then dumping them in schools in bad neighborhoods where they have little chance of doing much good.

After 20 years, Teach For America veterans, and their friends, seemed to have infected the education schools with a different view. The authors quote one education professor who participated in a focus group as part of the research and called the Teach For America summer session "the best training program in that 12 weeks. . . . It is residential. You don't get to leave. You have to stay there. It's 24/7. It is so well-thought-out. It is so well-developed. It's a way to get the best."

I suspect few of the professors would be that effusive, but it suggests a change of tone. An older generation of ed school professors is retiring. A new cohort, many of them with inner city experience, is replacing them. Our teacher training centers have not had much of an attitude adjustment yet, but it may be coming.

Read Jay's blog every day, and follow all of The Post's Education coverage on Twitter, Facebook and our Education Web page.

By Jay Mathews  | October 1, 2010; 9:00 AM ET
Categories:  Trends  | Tags:  Education school professors resist teaching classroom skills, Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, but 63 percent like Teach For America, only 24 percent emphasize helping teachers work with new state standards and tests  
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Comments

"Classroom management" sessions have always been the most-attended sessions at conventions for teachers. This column, and the research, are cheap shots at Ed School faculty who told the researchers what Superintendents brought in to great acclaim to lead schools spout -- "21st Century" skills.

Battlefield mortality was famously terrible among young officers hastily trained to lead-- 90 day wonders -- in World War II. Just like TFA. Less is known about the casualty rate among those so unfortunate to be lead by them.

This research and report are just the classic snickering of the seargent at the absent skills of the young officer.

There will be a stream of comments by teachers who would love to have you, in all your maturity and experience, be a substitute teacher at their school for week, in cognito, and so with no more back-up and support from disruption than they get.

Posted by: incredulous | October 1, 2010 9:45 AM | Report abuse

I am living through a teacher without classroom management skills. I don't care what she knows, she has not been able to teach it because she can't control the class. The school has had to put so many resources into this class it harms the whole school. I wish some of these professors had to face what it means not to teach classroom management.

Posted by: Brooklander | October 1, 2010 11:14 AM | Report abuse

I think Jay's point is about management not being top priority, not that it doesn't exist.

Management doesn't necessarily cross over from elementary school to middle school either, nor does it from school to school.

What is necessary in one district(locking the doors, having a strict policy about staying in your seats, counting the scissors returned) can seem ridiculously suspicious or paranoid in another school.

I do think colleges are right about the lifelong learning aspect of teaching. Each grade level and each school is a little different.

Teachers have to be lifelong learners just to keep up with the reform movements that happen every 5-8 years.

I think school districts should have discipline policies in place and train their own teachers at the school, before school starts.

Teacher prep programs should go over the basics with something like Harry Wong's First Days of School and I also like the 49 things book. But, that is part of it, not the whole picture. Each school has policies to follow and it's own culture about what to do in a worst case scenario.

And sometimes what works with one class sets off another class.

Specific role playing is good, but as the culture changes and child raising changes teachers have to adapt. Punitive methods could scare kids into behaving in the past because it was totally supported at home.

These days, most parents don't use coercion and families are generally more democratic or the parents may not trust the schools as they used to do.

In general our culture is very interested in protecting individual rights. A classroom, by design needs to be based on the rights of the community, not the individual, so there is more gray area now than in the past.

Posted by: celestun100 | October 1, 2010 12:12 PM | Report abuse

I generally agree with you, Jay, that Ed Colleges could do a better job with this aspect of teacher training. Two follow-up comments, however.

1. Classroom management is one of those tricky areas that is a blend of techniques, practice (it takes time to get good at this!), understanding of human/student psychology,culture, an art, & back-up from admin. Certain subjects have some built-in assistance, such as P.E. and Drama where 'scripting' is quickly understood. Even if professors did a better job with the theory aspect, classroom management is hands-on,and the best solution would be for first-year teachers to co-teach with a teacher who is also very successful with classroom management, and study the theory simultaneosly.

2. One of my pet peeves in College was that many professors OUTSIDE of the Education school were terrible instructors themselves: they obviously had all kinds of knowledge, but had never thought how to make their subject matter engaging or transferable to non-majors in their area. I always thought that the college of Education could teach them at least a few strategies.

Posted by: PLMichaelsArtist-at-Large | October 1, 2010 12:18 PM | Report abuse

I think you can teach classroom management, but during the first three years, most people are going to have a little trouble simply because of the sheer quantity of decisions and actions that have to be taken just to teach.

One of the most difficult experiences in teaching was returning to teach middle school after teaching university courses.

At the university, my management skills were mostly unnecessary. For example, I could turn my back on the class or spend a 10-30 seconds looking for handouts on my desk.

But with 8th graders, if you are going to start rummaging for stuff or turn your back even for a 20 seconds to write on the board you will have to spend some time refocusing everybody.

Another major difference is the amount of planning it takes to get middle schoolers into groups compared to college students. In college I could say, find a partner or let's count off, etc. etc. In middle school and elementary school the whole thing needs to taught step by step.

Schools with a lot of kids into gangs or street life outside of school really should train their teachers to deal with all those sorts of issues BEFORE they get in the classroom. Sometimes the teachers are from somewhere else and they don't know about conflict resolution or about collecting the scissors.

I think the school has a responsibility to be honest about such things and if they were honest, people could get training and then would enjoy the job more. Trying to figure out class dynamics and doing a bunch of cooperative learning lessons doesn't always work in those situations.

Posted by: celestun100 | October 1, 2010 12:29 PM | Report abuse

Here is an example of how a no tolerance on discussing bombs, guns, weapons is interpreted differently in 2 schools.

Low income school: a student sings a rhyming song about a gun and then his friend tells him to stop saying that or the teacher will send him to the office. The student laughs at this and jokingly says to the teacher, "Hey, can I get out of class if I say I have a gun? I have a gun in my locker" He says it 3x. Student is sent to the office. The office calls the police who pay a visit to the students' house that night. (Even though the teacher wrote down that the student was joking on the referral)
The teacher is scolded for waiting 20 minutes to report this to the main office. The emergency button should have been pressed immediately.

Upper middle class school, same district, different administrators:
A student says hears the wind and blurts out, "Hey are we being bombed? Let's bomb the school!, Come on, you guys know I brought a bomb in today!Let's bomb the place."
Teacher writes a referral to office based on experience at previous school. Principal asks student if he really has a bomb, he says no, she says " I wonder why she sent you" and sends student back to class. She asks the teacher to call parent and explain the referral and tells teacher not to overreact.

Both occasions were joke situations, but in both cases there was a no-tolerance policy on paper. One school called the police who actually went to the students' house. The other school implied that the teacher was overreacting.

The reason I give those examples is that I think they show how it is not as easy as it looks to be judging all this on your feet and guessing how each administrator wants you to handle this sort of thing or other hot button issues.

Please don't anybody write in and tell me that I should have had a better lesson and that that would have prevented the students from making jokes in the first place, unless you have taught middle school.

Posted by: celestun100 | October 1, 2010 12:48 PM | Report abuse

Only 34 percent gave the highest priority to developing "teachers who maintain discipline and order in the classroom."
.................................
Wear kelvar armour under your clothing and steel toe shoes as a weapon to use in defense.

The reality is that if a school needs class room management skills the teacher should run for the hills and work in McDonald's until there is an opening in a decent school.

Class room management skills are the euphemism for public school systems that tolerate violence and chaos in classrooms.

These schools are also going over to the idea of firing teachers if students can not learn and are filled with large numbers of students that can not learn.

Yes spend $50,000 to $100,000 for a career and be unfairly fired from a school so you can never obtain another teaching position.

Run for the door if you hear class room management skills mentioned and wait for an opening in a middle class.

Remember that Jay Mathews and the President would never send their children to schools that need class room management skills. Teachers with qualification should follow suit and simply not choose to teach in these schools.

Posted by: bsallamack | October 1, 2010 1:20 PM | Report abuse

This is difficult to understand. Anyone in close contact with new teachers knows that creating discipline and order are vital to their success, and they often wish they knew how to do.
............................
Why is it so hard for teachers to learn these skills?

I learned them 40 years ago in 8 weeks.

We would taught to jab with our batons.

We learned how to fall if we came across someone with martial arts knowledge. The idea was to survive and then shoot the individual with your 45.

Perhaps all new teachers should go through this training and understand the stupidity of accepting a position to address the challenges of high-needs students in urban districts.

Posted by: bsallamack | October 1, 2010 1:45 PM | Report abuse

Battlefield mortality was famously terrible among young officers hastily trained to lead-- 90 day wonders -- in World War II.

Posted by: incredulous
.........................
You should get your facts straight. Mortality rates were high because the motto of infantry officers was "follow me" and this was meant.

Lieutenants were not expected to remain under cover and tell the troops to brush up on their class room management skills and attack.

Lieutenants were expected to lead their men in the fullest meaning of lead.

You are though right where the problem is not teachers but the principals and administration that simply accept and tolerate violence and mayhem.

No teacher should have a problem maintaining order in a classroom as the students should know from day one that the school would not tolerate it.

The reality is that any newly accredited teacher that accepts a position in a school where class room management skills are required is either an idiot, masochist, delusional, or someone heavily in debt to loan sharks.

Posted by: bsallamack | October 1, 2010 2:01 PM | Report abuse

New teachers can adopt Rhee's classroom management style by taping the students' lips together with tape to maintain discipline and order in the classroom.

Real sheroes/heroes are certified teachers who majored in a teachers' educational program at an accredited university/college.

Support Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU). Tom Joyner does!!!

Real educators are life long learners!!

Enough is Enough!

Posted by: sheilahgill | October 1, 2010 2:08 PM | Report abuse

I am living through a teacher without classroom management skills. I don't care what she knows, she has not been able to teach it because she can't control the class. The school has had to put so many resources into this class it harms the whole school. I wish some of these professors had to face what it means not to teach classroom management.

Posted by: Brooklander
..........................
You are dealing with a school that tolerates and accepts the disruptive and/or prone to violence.

If your school institutes a policy of not allowing these students in normal classes there would be no problems.

Posted by: bsallamack | October 1, 2010 2:13 PM | Report abuse

At the university, my management skills were mostly unnecessary. For example, I could turn my back on the class or spend a 10-30 seconds looking for handouts on my desk.

Schools with a lot of kids into gangs or street life outside of school really should train their teachers to deal with all those sorts of issues BEFORE they get in the classroom.
......................
I remember being in a class where a teacher turned their back and a iceball hit the black board.

I wish well meaning teachers would realize that they are not teaching children or students but a group.

Accept and tolerate the disruptive and/or prone to violence in normal class rooms and you are simply teaching the group that the disruptive and/or prone to violence are going to be accepted and tolerated. No wonder the group becomes more disruptive and/or prone to violence.

New teachers should not have to deal with these issues BEFORE they get in the classroom unless they are teaching classes of all the disruptive and/or prone that have been removed from normal class rooms.

Any newly accredited teacher who accepts a position in a school that accepts and tolerate the disruptive and/or prone to violence in normal class rooms is a fool.

Might as well accept a position in a school that advises you to wear kelvar armour.

Posted by: bsallamack | October 1, 2010 2:25 PM | Report abuse

@bsallamack: Most classroom management isn't about preventing violence in your classroom. It's about developing systems and procedures to make your classroom work more smoothly. This involves not only the establishment of rules and consequences for breaking them, but also teaching things like how papers will be distributed and collected, how bathroom and hall passes work, how class will be structured on a daily basis, and who gets to use the computer when. For kindergarteners, it can be as simple as how to sit in a circle when it's group time or hold hands on field trips.
Additionally, I taught in a high-needs school district. I never had problems with violence in my classroom because my expectations for behavior were crystal clear. And that's essentially what management is: making sure kids know exactly what you expect them to do.

Posted by: daisyriot | October 1, 2010 2:34 PM | Report abuse

My (rather long winded) point was that different schools require different management styles.

High needs classes require you to be one your toes in a way that is different than in a class full of academically oriented, gifted students who have never broken a rule in their lives.

Teaching at a school at either extreme is going to require a teacher to adjust his or her style and management technique to be effective.

Posted by: celestun100 | October 1, 2010 3:14 PM | Report abuse

@bsallamack

I agree there is no place for violence in the classroom, however, usually non-structured activities can cause
chaos in one school, where in another, a teacher can just say, "Get with your reading buddy and read blah, blah, blah."

How is a new teacher supposed to know what the school is like before he or she accepts the job? If a teacher has a very high needs group, they may need the help of another teacher or counselor or administrator, especially if the parents don't choose to be in the picture.

I have a friend who quit a job because a student who had knifed someone at the school was allowed back in. First the teacher said, "Don't put him back in my class unless I have a security guard in the room at the same time." Then, the next year, the teacher left that district for another.
This man was very large and serious and didn't look like someone you would mess with. But, he told me, he didn't feel comfortable teaching with that student in the room.

Posted by: celestun100 | October 1, 2010 3:26 PM | Report abuse

@daisyriot
You're right about management and procedures making things run smoothly.

I was at a high needs school that was poorly run and a parent came in before school and backed a teacher into a corner.

So, I think if the population happens to have a violent history at the school, then the staff should be trained or it is irresponsible on the part of the administration. This didn't have to happen if the school had a sign in policy, locked doors and security guards on duty.

At another high needs school I had a parent who tended to get violent come in for a conference. The principal unobtrusively pointed out a police officer in the office in the room next door so I would know there was help available. When the parent saw I cared about his kid he calmed down and there was no need for the officer, but that is the kind of support teachers need.

Posted by: celestun100 | October 1, 2010 3:33 PM | Report abuse

Additionally, I taught in a high-needs school district. I never had problems with violence in my classroom because my expectations for behavior were crystal clear. And that's essentially what management is: making sure kids know exactly what you expect them to do.

Posted by: daisyriot
............................
1. Last year the Secretary of Education told educators that teachers had to be trained in class room management techniques for specifically the poverty public schools. This was not a comment in regard to passing out paper in a class or handling the bathroom pass. The idea that teachers need training in such areas would indicate teachers as of extremely low intelligence.

2. Teachers constantly post of wasted efforts to obtain order in class rooms, and there are reports of violence in schools indicating that the students that are recognized as prone to violence are simply ignored until the violence has to be reported.

3. One teacher posted an newspaper article of the first days in kindergarten of a boy child attacking a girl. A child likes this should be removed from a normal class until his behavior is changed enough to be allowed in a normal class room. One tires of where the children who are not prepared for schools are simply allowed to become a drag of the group of children that are prepared for school. There are enough schools in large urban areas to get these children out of normal classes.

4. Your expectations for behavior are unimportant. I do not expect or want teachers to use corporal punishment. If a child is disruptive after censure that child should not be in a normal class. Any child that is seen to be prone to violence should be removed immediately and not allowed into a normal class until this is no longer a problem.

I expect teachers to teach. Their job is not to deal with the disruptive and/or prone to violence in a normal class.

Posted by: bsallamack | October 1, 2010 3:54 PM | Report abuse

A distinguished testing expert who refused to let me credit him emailed me to point out something I missed. The survey's response rate was only 14 percent.

Posted by: Jay Mathews | October 1, 2010 4:15 PM | Report abuse

How is a new teacher supposed to know what the school is like before he or she accepts the job?

I have a friend who quit a job because a student who had knifed someone at the school was allowed back in.

Posted by: celestun100
..........................
This is the problem. The student should have never been placed back into a normal class or even in a normal school.

The reality is that training in class room management is not needed in the teacher colleges but professors who tell their students that under no circumstances should they accept a position that requires class room management.

Looks like my jokes about kelvar armour should be taken seriously at these schools.

And the President believes teachers in these schools should be blamed and subject to being fired for low test scores.

Posted by: bsallamack | October 1, 2010 4:25 PM | Report abuse

bsallamack, the reality for many teachers is that violent and disruptive students will NOT be removed from the classroom, so shouldn't ed schools prepare future teachers for this?

However, I work in a poorly rated school, and the biggest classroom management issue we have is "how do I get everyone to stop talking and put away their phones". Ed schools need to stop pretending that better lessons will magically stop all classroom management problems (at the high school level at least).

Posted by: someguy100 | October 1, 2010 5:12 PM | Report abuse

bsallamack, the reality for many teachers is that violent and disruptive students will NOT be removed from the classroom, so shouldn't ed schools prepare future teachers for this?
Posted by: someguy100
.................................
I agree that the ed schools should tell their students to not accept positions in these schools.

They should not be silent and pretend class room management is all that is required in a class where the school places a student who has previously knifed someone.

They have a responsibility to their students and not the public school districts or President that will not deal with a serious problem.

Besides no serious problem in this nation was ever dealt with by simply pretending it does not exist.

We have a serious problem with public education in this pretense at our great concern with education while the reality is that the political and school leaders are willing to accept classrooms in the poverty schools where the rule is anything goes.

Posted by: bsallamack | October 1, 2010 5:37 PM | Report abuse

I don't even know where to begin here.

Jay, classroom management is not something that is so easily taught. Nothing about teaching is. Everything, management especially, changes when the kids change. If you try to teach or manage the same way every year you will fail. Human beings are unique. They do not all respond the same way. So we can demonize education schools all we want, it won't help. Pre-service teachers need more time in schools with master teachers. That's not an easy thing to make happen.

As to the comments about disruptive or violent students, I'm floored. Maybe it's because I teach first grade but I recognize that often when students have such significant issues, there are reasons beyond their control. Children are products of their environment. Our job as teachers, and ideally as individuals in a caring society, is to help these children not isolate them. Children should not have to pay for the life into which they were born. We should offer them so much more than that.

Posted by: Jenny04 | October 1, 2010 8:19 PM | Report abuse

I don't even know where to begin here.

Jay, classroom management is not something that is so easily taught. Nothing about teaching is. Everything, management especially, changes when the kids change. If you try to teach or manage the same way every year you will fail. Human beings are unique. They do not all respond the same way. So we can demonize education schools all we want, it won't help. Pre-service teachers need more time in schools with master teachers. That's not an easy thing to make happen.

As to the comments about disruptive or violent students, I'm floored. Maybe it's because I teach first grade but I recognize that often when students have such significant issues, there are reasons beyond their control. Children are products of their environment. Our job as teachers, and ideally as individuals in a caring society, is to help these children not isolate them. Children should not have to pay for the life into which they were born. We should offer them so much more than that.

Posted by: Jenny04 | October 1, 2010 8:20 PM | Report abuse

Though I rarely agree with Matthews' viewpoint on educational issues, I agree that classroom management is vital to teach, and it was almost completely missing from my teacher training courses. Many practical aspects were simply not there, and seriously threatened my effectiveness until I finally cobbled together a series of strategies that worked well. The extent of management training was literally to be handed books on the subject, Harry Wong and Skillful Teacher, to be read on our own in our spare time. It wasn't actually taught.

Posted by: thisone | October 1, 2010 8:39 PM | Report abuse

As to the comments about disruptive or violent students, I'm floored. Maybe it's because I teach first grade but I recognize that often when students have such significant issues, there are reasons beyond their control.
Posted by: Jenny04
.......................
The usual leave them in the class.

Totally forget that you are teaching to a group and that when you accept and tolerate continuously abnormal behavior the normal children learn from this.

And then there are the prone to violence. Should the child that is attacked simply haul off and strike back and leave the attacker on the floor. No we expect the normal attacked child to not respond in kind and then deal with the resentment of being unfairly attacked while the attacker simply continuously accepted and tolerated in the class by the teacher. See someone has knocked you but I have told that person they should not do that. Now you can feel better.

And then of course leaving them in the class ignores that the early you are aware of abnormal behavior is the time to remove this child and start to work on the behavior so that this child might someday be placed back in a normal class.

The reality is that most of the children that are seen to be abnormal remain in normal classes until they are old enough for the courts to finally deal with them.

I love teachers in a large urban areas who feel nothing in regard to the normal children that have to daily deal with the disruptive and/or prone to violence, but feel that it is terrible if the disruptive and/or prone to violence were simply placed with others that are disruptive and/or prone to violence. Apparently this is cruel while forcing normal children to be in class with the disruptive and/or prone to violence is kindness. This twisted logic of teachers in regard to this always amazes me.

I have seen the unposed photos of students in these schools. They are photos of students who see school as prison with their resentment clear to anyone.

Small wonder when the normal are forced to coexist with those who obviously do not belong in a normal class. Many comment on the lack of self esteem of these students without any recognition that this is simply the result of the twisted logic of these school systems.

Posted by: bsallamack | October 1, 2010 10:30 PM | Report abuse

The extent of management training was literally to be handed books on the subject, Harry Wong and Skillful Teacher, to be read on our own in our spare time. It wasn't actually taught.

Posted by: thisone
....................
And what did Harry Wong recommend when a student is placed in your class that previously knifed someone?

Does he recommend any specific kelvar armour and areas of the body to protect you from a knife attack? I assume one wants to protect the major arteries so you do not bleed out until help can arrive. Can you deduct the cost of the armour as a professional expense?

Do you seat this student in the front? This way you can respond quicker if he is knifing another student but of course you will have less time if he decides to attack you.

Does Harry Wong tells his readers to view Black Board Jungle since at the end there is fight of a teacher with a student with a knife?

Posted by: bsallamack | October 1, 2010 10:52 PM | Report abuse

Kudos to Thomas B. Fordham Institute for finally coming up with a study written by real professionals that isn't a bunch of gibberish. Anybody want a good laugh go read their study "America's Best (and Worst) Cities for School Reform: Attracting Entrepreneurs and Change Agents". Of course I wouldn't exactly say this current study is all that helpful but at least it isn't a complete joke.

As far as "classroom management" goes that is something that can be taught, and is principally the responsibility of the school and district administrators more than individual teachers or schools of education. If schools of education have a responsibility in this area it should be part of their program for principals and other administrators. New York State's Albany City School District in general and Albany High School in particular were notorious for having a major league "classroom management" problem, particularly if you include riots requiring that dozens of police be called to school a "classroom management problem". One of their Middle Schools made the state's list of "persistently violent schools" several years in a row until it was shut down. Well, the district brought in a new Superintendent of schools, a new High School principal, a few other new people for key positions in the summer of 2009. When they brought in an ouside consultant to observe the operations of the high school in the spring of 2010 here is what the consultant had to say: "During the Joint Intervention Team's visit the school was safe and orderly". During his presentation to the school board he spent much more time on this topic since he had come to the school expecting a school with a serious "class management problem", which is what he would have found in prior years, but he found exactly the opposite. The credit for this nearly miraculous turn around in that area - in under a year - goes primarily to a few committed administrators who made this a priority for all classes, not just the A.P. and I.B. classes. They made sure each teacher got the training and support they need to maintain discipline in the classroom. This is not rocket science or something that requires teachers to get something akin to law enforcement training. If most teachers and administrators in poor urban schools didn't have their heads up their hats all the time this wouldn't be a problem.

Posted by: david_r_fry | October 2, 2010 2:43 AM | Report abuse

Yet another reason to end schools of education. They have always hosted the worst students, their curriculum is mickey mouse compared to other disciplines, and they are another government jobs program for the Left.

Posted by: nvlheum | October 2, 2010 6:14 AM | Report abuse

well, here we have one leg of the tripod putting educators down: that ed school profs, and teacher preparation in general, are woefully inadequate and even dangerously inept.
This might have been true 20 years ago. You are welcome to view online the course plan for ed majors in your area, as well as test prep materials for the General Knowledge Test and also specific endorsement tests that teachers must pass.
You might be surprised that the material is not 'Mickey Mouse' nor is it overly PC.
TFA debates waste time in that the majority of teachers today come in the door from ed schools and derive little benefit from being derided as academic duds, poorly trained, managerially over-matched or clueless and daft in the face of challenging students.
Helping these teachers do their best and then improve from there is a goal worthy of a community's attention. And it is a goal even Superman might need to think about before tackling.

Posted by: FloridaChick | October 2, 2010 6:53 AM | Report abuse

The fact is, learning to interact effectively with students cannot be learned in a room full of adults, nor from simply reading a book. It must be learned in a room full of students, through modelling and coaching by a teacher already adept at it, and through trial and error by the learning teacher. In my teachers' ed program, the theoretical classroom management sessions were just that -- theoretical. Nothing clicked until you got into an actual classroom, with a mentor teacher to observe and advise you, and to help if you misstepped so that you didn't end up sinking under a poorly-managed class. I had four such practicum placements during my year of teachers' college, and that supervised classroom experience was by far the most valuable in terms of learning the true ropes of teaching. Then, in my first couple of years teaching I was lucky to have informal mentoring of the same kind. What ed schools need is more of this kind of hands-on, in-class practical experience with honest guidance and feedback from successful master teachers.

Posted by: TOteach | October 2, 2010 8:44 AM | Report abuse

First of all one cannot teach what one does not possess. In other words, education professors, whose tenure in public school classrooms may have been lackluster, brief or non-existent obviously won't value or spend much time helping prospective teachers develop the repertoire of subtle behaviors and techniques required to be to establish a classroom climate conducive to learning.

Secondly, the skills that I have used daily for the past 33 years I have taught in elementary and secondary classrooms were not developed in a university classroom. They were learned, developed and honed beginning when I was in high school serving as a Sunday School teacher and working as a resident YMCA camp counselor, and volunteering to tutor. While many college students engage in community service activities, these often do not involve commitments beyond one day "feel good" projects instead of making long term commitments in which they can learn how to establish relationships with young people. After all, teaching is essentially a one-to-one relationship made with 30 kids at one time.

Posted by: buckbuck11 | October 2, 2010 9:12 AM | Report abuse

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Posted by: dadbinder | October 2, 2010 9:25 AM | Report abuse

I call BS on this survey. It sounds like they asked people what they would put "Highest Priority" on, probably from among a list of items. Well, wouldn't any reasonable person put higher priority on being a lifelong learner than on knowing how to maintain discipline? That doesn't mean this person doesn't still put quite a high priority on discipline -- they just think the commitment to education itself is more important. After all, a person who is passionate about education but who has sub-par discipline skills can correct him/herself with experience and mentoring. In fact, a commitment to education will make a person eager to improve those skills. But someone who's a great disciplinarian, but who doesn't care about learning is a lost cause. They'll never be a good teacher.

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Posted by: pisatrade | October 2, 2010 9:43 AM | Report abuse

I agree with the first half of Jay's article...the second half..not so sure.

Classroom management is the most difficult part of teaching...and like everything else that happens in the classroom it requires support from administrators and parents. Yes, a teacher gets better with experience...which is an argument against all this emphasis on getting rid of all of us old hags.

When kids come to school and threaten to sue you when you reprimand them, know that available discipline strategies are limited, and when the administrative support is limited, and parents claim that there kids don't "behave like this at home," classroom management becomes most of what many teachers do during the day.

The crime in all of this is that those kids who know how to behave and want to learn are being seducationally deprived...and no one...besides that classroom teacher is willing to address their needs and admit there needs to be some alternatives.

The problem is magnified the more kids you have in a classroom. In some schools, there aren't even enough books or desks for all the kids...try managing that...and teaching them something, too. (It teaches them something alright, school isn't important.)

I think it is this area, more than curriculum, where teachers need the support of the school community...other teachers and the administration. To me, this is the crux of why our public schools are considered failing. Until behavior is addressed as a real problem, then we can incorporate all the technology, curriculum strategies, and the best and the brightest teachers that can be found...but respect and learning go hand-in-hand.

I have known ex-military, second career teachers and they are often more intimidated by some of these kids than veteran teachers.

I never had any classroom management courses in college...it was on the job training...and what works with one group, doesn't necessarily work with another.

Posted by: ilcn | October 2, 2010 9:56 AM | Report abuse

The 'life long learner" phrase is one of the biggest piles of hooey dumped upon educators and students. I am a 'life long learner' because I was taught how to READ and exposed to BOOKS. I am 'good at math' (kinda helps when you teach math) because I learned my 'times tables' before the 4th grade, THROUGH the 12's, so by the time I got to Algebra I didn't have to think about 6•7 or 13 - 5 and could focus on solving for 'x.'
I am a 'life long learner' because if we acted up in elementary school the Nuns would step into the boys bathroom and smack us up side our heads for goofing off, and if they told my parents there was hell to pay.
I am a 'life long learner' because my Freshman English teacher demanded I write 2 short stories a week instead of one, 'because you can."
I am a 'life long learner' because my Calculus teacher said, "if you want to do math, you must know how to read." I've watched too many people try to push these lofty, pie-in-the-sky ideals onto children, without giving them a foundation upon which to grasp them, and the disastrous results are all around us.
I teach in one of the most highly publicized education experiments in an an iconically depraved slice of urban America. You must spend a month or more at the beginning of each school year with 9th graders establishing routines and expectations, especially if they come from schools where they had little. You must be as relentless and demanding as those Nuns, but you better show up every day because these young people are used to adults quitting on them. As llcn said this is a team effort: your admin must support what you do in the classroom, or else students will 'exploit the weakness' quickly to their short-term advantage. Some parents need to get phone calls daily about their child, no matter how much it hurts.
Ultimately, at least what's worked for me, is convincing the students that you do what you do of your concern for them vs. a paycheck. It's always tough at first, but in time, especially when they move on, your commitment and effort they remember and appreciate.

Posted by: pdexiii | October 2, 2010 10:26 AM | Report abuse

When kids come to school and threaten to sue you when you reprimand them, know that available discipline strategies are limited, and when the administrative support is limited, and parents claim that there kids don't "behave like this at home," classroom management becomes most of what many teachers do during the day.
Posted by: ilcn
.............................
"know that available discipline strategies are limited, and when the administrative support is limited,"

This is really the problem.

Think of adults instead of children and of course there is chaos.

I sometimes question the intelligence in this country when so many think that children are so radically different from adults.

At one time there was not this problem in normal classes since there were in place actions to insure there was not chaos in classrooms. Of course there were a few teachers who simply had no idea of how to maintain order in a class of normal children that no other teacher would have problems with.

Place normal children in with those that are abnormal in their behavior where this abnormal behavior is accepted and tolerated and of course the normal children start to adopt the behavior of the abnormal children. This is school where children are there to learn so there should be no surprise that they learn that this abnormal behavior is totally accepted and tolerated.

Allow abnormal behavior to be accepted and tolerated in any situation and of course it becomes the norm.

Note when I use the terms abnormal and normal I use it in the sense of the expected behavior.

Posted by: bsallamack | October 2, 2010 12:31 PM | Report abuse

Ahh, bsallamack, so happy to see you are sharing your uninformed opinions again. So are low-income students not entitled to excellent teachers? You state ed schools should encourage their teachers to work at McDonalds until an opening occurs in a middle class school, so just because a kid lives in poverty he/she is automatically destined to live in poverty forever because of a terrible education? I am a national board certified teacher and work in a low-income school and love it. I got offers at middle and upper class schools but turned them down to work in a low-income school. I have never had a fight in my class and my biggest classroom management issues in all of my teacher career involve students talking when they are not supposed to. Some of my students have had a violent/criminal past but because they had teachers and schools who didn't give up on them, they have become very successful and have gone on to college. EVERY child is entited to an education, and not just a mediocre education, but a good education. That is the point of all of the new education reforms and was the point of NCLB. People like you need to assist in this effort, rather than try to exclude a huge part of our population from their right to a good education from qualified teachers. Again, I invite you to come into a low-income school and actually see what goes on in there. I think you would be shocked to see how great these kids are and how excited they are to be in school. There are always exceptions to the norm, but there are exceptions in wealthy areas as well (drug abuse is a much bigger issue in wealthy areas).

Just out of curiousity, do you have experience in education, other than when you were a student or perhaps your kids were in school?

Oh and just to further prove your arguement incorrect, in my position I get to work with teachers from all over the area and classroom management is problematic even in wealthy areas. Classroom management is not exclusive to low-income areas, it is a skill that has to be learned for teachers in all areas of our country in all grade levels.

Posted by: shells2611 | October 2, 2010 12:54 PM | Report abuse

Jay, You may be right generally, however, my experience at the old DC Teachers College, now UDC was importantly different! Educational Psychology was taught with a flair and demonstrated tactics for classroom control! That experience dates back to about 1982, but that faculty was excellent!

Posted by: CSLADD | October 2, 2010 12:58 PM | Report abuse

They made sure each teacher got the training and support they need to maintain discipline in the classroom.
Posted by: david_r_fry
..............................
The specific changes should be indicated. A state inspection of the school for a limited time does not indicate that the problem no longer exists.

Has the number of reports of violence in the school dropped?

.............................
From internet to indicate problem.
Recently, Albany High has had issues with violence amongst students. Following several fights in 2006, the school began random searches, and in 2007 the police donated two metal detectors to add to security. The last day of the 2006-2007 school year was interrupted by a large brawl in the cafeteria that forced a lockdown. The school has also initiated a stricter ID policy. AHS has continued to have problems with violence, with two police injured and nine students arrested in the beginning of the 2007-08 school year,[22] and the last day of school that year was canceled due to incidents the day before.
.........................
From 2010 state report
50 percent or higher rates of absentees.
http://blog.timesunion.com/schools/state-report-on-albany-high/930/
........................

It is hard to credit this as a miracle in a turn around with a 50 percent or higher rate of absentees. perhaps there is now no problem of chaos in class rooms since the disruptive and/or prone to violence no longer come to classes.

One tires of these miracle claims and the lack of the specific changes.

Posted by: bsallamack | October 2, 2010 1:03 PM | Report abuse

Ahh, bsallamack, so happy to see you are sharing your uninformed opinions again. So are low-income students not entitled to excellent teachers?
Posted by: shells2611
................
According to the public school system of D.C. they are not even entitled to qualified teachers since many individuals are hired that have no degree in teaching.

I also did not see in Race To The Top any requirement that states could only employ teachers with degrees from teachers colleges. Apparently an individual without a teaching degree can now be hired in a middle class public school.

So I guess it is not only the poor but any child that are now not entitled to qualified teachers based upon national policy.

The only national policies I see in regard to public education is to beat teachers over the head and destroy their ability to work in their field by firing them for problems that are beyond their control.

If this was the same for doctors in poverty hospitals I would recommend that doctors not waste the money that they spent on their education by seeking employment in poverty hospitals.

Deal with the problems of public education in the poverty public schools instead of simply blaming and firing teachers for problems that are beyond their control.

There are no significant class room management problems in middle class public schools with large property taxes. Everyone accepts that the problem children and student only create problems for the children that can benefit from education.

Instead of national policy to blame teachers there should be recognition that the problem children or students should not be in classes where they hinder the education of the children that could benefit from education.

And no I do not believe like you that "EVERY child is entited to an education". I believe that every child is entitled to the opportunity of an education and that this means public schools where the anyone who hinders the education of other children or students is removed from normal classes.

Remember every American is not entitled to a job but every American should have the opportunity of obtaining a job. Currently I do not find national policies to even allowing Americans to even having the opportunity of obtaining a job even though the political leaders are claiming every American has a right to a job. but that is another matter.

Posted by: bsallamack | October 2, 2010 1:38 PM | Report abuse

I have never had a fight in my class and my biggest classroom management issues in all of my teacher career involve students talking when they are not supposed to.
Posted by: shells2611
..............................
Great to know this and that your personal experience refutes all the reports of violence in schools or of children that enter kindergarten attacking other children.

Perhaps you should share here with the teachers that report problems in their school the policies in place your school have to deal with these problems when they occur, since your school appears to be problem free in regards to violence and disruptions in class rooms.

Posted by: bsallamack | October 2, 2010 2:01 PM | Report abuse

I notice you didn't respond to my question to your experience in education...

Posted by: shells2611 | October 2, 2010 2:20 PM | Report abuse

I notice you didn't respond to my question to your experience in education...

Posted by: shells2611
................................
Apparently you do not need the experience of President Bush and President Obama in public education.

Since you object to my idea that newly qualified teachers should avoid the poverty public schools at all cost, I guess your opinion would be deemed poor and mine would be considered correct if I told you that my occupation was in Career Management.

The reality is that this is the internet and I have no verification that you are even a teacher.

Pick your choice in the following that would make your opinion poor while making my opinion valid based upon supposedly credentials.

Occupation in Career Management.
Teacher in a middle class school.
Insurance adjuster dealing with claims of teachers resulting from violence in schools.
Teacher in poverty public school.

Now pretend that I am actually one of the above since I am pretending that you actually are a teacher.

Now you can start to tell me and others why your opinion is correct and mine is wrong.

Posted by: bsallamack | October 2, 2010 2:47 PM | Report abuse

I notice you didn't respond to my question to your experience in education...

Posted by: shells2611
.........................
Okay I am a principal in a poverty public school system.

WOW! Don't you feel like a fool now.

I love the internet and the lies you can tell.

By the way I once taught in a Catholic High School.

I also taught in public colleges.

Once I made the mistake of allowing a student who was not registered to attend my class. Later on the student became a problem and I got the security guard to remove him from the premises. A month later I found out this same student was expelled from the college for hitting an English teacher.

In the Army I was in the Military Police. After hearing and reading the problems in the poverty public schools I would not recommend any qualified teacher to accept a job to teach in the poverty public schools.

Posted by: bsallamack | October 2, 2010 3:04 PM | Report abuse

bsallamack:

Here's how incredibly off-base your comments are.

I teach a 2-credit classroom management course in the evenings. There is overwhelming demand for my course - from AFFLUENT NEIGHBORHOODS! I hear horror stories every week about rich little kids who think they own the world and everybody should kowtow to their wishes. There is absolutely no basis to your assertion that money equals manners.

I personally work in a high-poverty elementary school (70% free lunch and over 50% ESOL). The problems I hear about from teachers in wealthier schools far outweigh anything I've had to deal with in my own classroom.

Posted by: mdennis74 | October 2, 2010 3:47 PM | Report abuse

bsallamack:

Here's how incredibly off-base your comments are.

I hear horror stories every week about rich little kids who think they own the world and everybody should kowtow to their wishes. There is absolutely no basis to your assertion that money equals manners.

The problems I hear about from teachers in wealthier schools far outweigh anything I've had to deal with in my own classroom.
Posted by: mdennis74
...........................
First of all I have never made the "assertion that money equals manners".

I am also not surprised that the children of the affluent probably think that they are better than anyone else.

I made the claim that parents in middle class schools would not simply ignore stories of their children in contact with disruptive and/or prone to violence. I know of one school district that runs a shadow school system to deal with the disruptive and/or prone to violence. And all of these disruptive and/or prone to violence are mainly from middle class families. Poverty does not have a monopoly on the disruptive and/or prone to violence. Poverty public schools do have a monopoly on simply ignoring the problem of placing the disruptive and/or prone to violence in classes with normal children.

And by the way I am tired of teachers who think that any normal poverty parent wants their children in classes with the disruptive and/or prone to violence. They do not want this and when there is a lottery they hope they will be able to get their children into the charter schools where students that are disruptive and/or prone to violence are quickly dumped back into the public schools.

No parent with any concern for their children wants their children in contact with the disruptive and/or prone to violence.

And who cares of these stories about "my own classrooms". Many civil right groups are calling for safer schools in poverty area. But all of this is really unnecessary and there is no problem because of the stories about "my own classrooms."

All the stories and schools with large numbers of reports of violence are incorrect and should be ignored.

I really wish a large number of teachers would get their heads out of the sand.

Posted by: bsallamack | October 2, 2010 5:27 PM | Report abuse

Lost among the back-and-forth in response to this article is an addendum that a responsible journalist would've included in the story text itself: "A distinguished testing expert who refused to let me credit him emailed me to point out something I missed. The survey's response rate was only 14 percent." This is an important factor, as is some background on the organization for which the study was conducted. The Fordham Foundation has consistently interpreted its study results: a) in favor of school privatization, just-the-facts standards, and using high-stakes tests aligned with those standards as sole performance accountability criteria; and b) against the sort of in-depth education and extensive training that other professions seem to value. Pardon my cynicism, but I could've predicted that the Fordham Foundation would produce a report simultaneously showing teacher educators as out of touch and championing charter schools before one shred of data was collected. What I didn't predict was Mr. Mathews's service as a shill for that organization. How about a more complex, more in-depth look at what the work of teacher educators actually consists of (i.e., the kind of look that probably wouldn't produce a headline like "Ed school professors resist practical teaching skills")? I find such a headline puzzling; as an educator professor, I've never talked to a single colleague - not one, across many, many schools of education - who's said such a thing. Of course, Mr. Mathews acknowledges that his editorial is "somewhat unfair to the education school professors" - halfway through the article. Maybe that point should've been the headline.

Posted by: KandJM | October 2, 2010 6:16 PM | Report abuse

Hey Jay,

It's not so much that professors resist teaching practical, it's that they don't have and don't need these skills themselves. If education reform ever wants to get serious it has to get past the idea that academia somehow has the answers.

Posted by: mamoore1 | October 2, 2010 6:34 PM | Report abuse

@pdexiii,
I generally don't have the time to actually read all the comments on Jay's blog posts, so I'm glad I actually spent enough time to read yours and some of the other comments(I wish Jay would exercise a little more "blog comment management"). Here are some of the common sense things that Albany High School administrators started doing during the 2009-2010 school year to improve attendance and behavior in the classroom. Teachers had been trying to get the administrators to do some of these things for years.
- no leaving the school grounds during school hours, including lunch.
- IMMEDIATE removal of disruptive kids from the classroom, with books and assignments that had to be completed. Its hard to believe but in the past a lot of the time the administrator called on by a teacher for help would just say "your the teacher - you deal with it".
- IMMEDIATE confiscation of cell phones if they were found to be turned on(not just used). The parents had to come to school to get them back
- Much closer cooperation with ouside institutions including the police and probation department. The police department
now had a special truancy unit.
- Immedicate consequences for parents who are on probation or parole if their minor children are late or truant.

From what I understan during this school year all the teachers are going to be receiving a lot of extra training including training in classroom management in the broadest sense, not just management relating to discipline.

A few final comments. What is it with teachers and written anaphoras? Anaphoras are meant to be heard. They really come acorss as cheesy when read, unless the writer is Martin Luther King or Abraham Lincoln. Also I wish people would stop talking about nuns beating up on students like that was a good thing. None of the nuns I know who teach today would dream of doing anything like that. Of course Albany had some really horrifying experiences with that over the years that resulted in substantial liability judgements against the diocese(these were on top of sex abuse judgements), so maybe they're a little more careful about that now than other places.

Posted by: david_r_fry | October 2, 2010 7:07 PM | Report abuse

@ David_r_fry

"I second that emotion" to your procedures. Although I get a kick of relaying the nuns story; us guys used to laugh, but more importantly we didn't feel threatened in any way from what they did. I was more afraid of my parents than the nuns!
Your suggestions are what schools should do exactly. There are a lot of mamby-pamby false do-gooders who'd disagree with your 'harsh' and 'dehumanizing' tactics (my parents called them 'phony-liberals'), but children need, and crave order so as to grow and mature properly. I haven't run across a former student who did not appreciate how 'strict' I was as they became adults. I get enough 'thank's for all you did' from former students in their mid-to-late 20's to know what works.
Every teacher must assume the role of "in loco parentis;" as I told someone today, I gave birth to one child, but for 180 days a year, 5 days a week, from 8am to 3pm, I have currently 536 children!

Posted by: pdexiii | October 2, 2010 7:37 PM | Report abuse

At the bottom is the speech that started last year the supposedly importance of classroom management. The Secretary of Education specifically mentioned the importance of classroom management training for teachers working in the poverty public schools.

I am always amazed at the national policy of this President and his administration since it appears to be policy that is guaranteed to produce the exact opposite of the stated aims.

The policy of Race To The Top is to use test scores to reward or punish teachers.

It is known by everyone that the poverty public schools have large numbers of students with great difficulty in learning. Teachers in the non poverty public schools will thus probably be rewarded instead of punished with a system based upon test scores. Knowing this teachers will seek positions in the non poverty public schools and avoid positions in the poverty public schools.

But this is exactly the opposite stated aim of the President and his Secretary of Education since their goal is to reverse the fact that most graduates of teacher colleges do not want to teach in the poverty public schools.

Perhaps the teacher schools should simply print in their catalogs a course entitled "Classroom Management For Poverty Public Schools".

Since the policy Secretary of Education is effective in dissuading any thought of teaching in the poverty public schools, the course can then be simply dropped when no students register for the course.

.........................
ARNE DUNCAN, SECRETARY OF EDUCATION
OCTOBER 22, 2009

Children today in our neediest schools are likely to have the least qualified teachers.

First, most of them felt they didn't get the hands-on practical teacher training about managing the classroom that they desperately needed, especially when working in impoverished communities.

http://www.tc.columbia.edu/news/article.htm?id=7195

Posted by: bsallamack | October 2, 2010 8:02 PM | Report abuse

Interesting to read about the Albany High School but I wish these methods were used in the primary schools in attempts to correct the problem when they are first seen.

One idea might be that if a child is disruptive the child should be removed and the parent forced to come to the school to remove the child for the day. Child services would be called in cases where the child is not picked up by the parent.

A disruptive child should not be sitting in the principal's office.

Children that are prone to violence definitely need to be dealt with immediately outside of normal classes.

The large urban areas have the resources to allow for dealing with these problems and do not have the problem of areas with small numbers of schools and resources.

By the way the Catholic schools are doing as the other private schools. Students who are problems are dumped back into the public school system.

Posted by: bsallamack | October 2, 2010 8:31 PM | Report abuse

Children that are prone to violence definitely need to be dealt with immediately outside of normal classes.

But where? And what is the goal? Re-integration, behavioral training? Pre trial facilities? As long as charters segregate students they work great, I think the bigger question revolves around if these kids are worth saving and at at what cost. They are not applying to charters or waiting for superman.

Posted by: mamoore1 | October 2, 2010 8:48 PM | Report abuse

@pdexiii,
If every teacher and administrator had your attitude, and the skills and training to go with it, there wouldn't be an education problem in this country. Although I really think the educational establishment should loosen up and start taking a close look at more innovative teaching tools like peer teaching, computerized instructions, etc, we could do just fine with what's available now with a little more common sense and common compassion. If you want to see what the real root of the problem is, at least as far as running our schools in poor urban centers, read mamoore1's post. There are way too many teachers, administrators, and politicians that think like she does, that "these kids aren't worth saving". Here's a description of 2 of the kids I came in contact with in Albany City School District. They were 2 brothers who were 12 and 13 when I first met them. They had moved to Albany a few years before that to reunite with their mother who had just completed 3 years of crack and alcohol addiction treatment. Apparently she had been an active addict for several years prior to entering treatment and both brothers had suffered a lot of trauma and were still suffering the consequences and it was playing out in their performance and behavior at school. There was one story the older brother told me that really got to me. He told me about how scared he had been of the guys his mother use to bring back to their apartment at night and how one time he and his brother had to drag their passed out mother and younger siblings into a "secret" crawl space since one their mother's drunken boy friends was screaming and yelling and trying to break into the apartment. To me these kids are heroes, not "kids who aren't worth saving". The school district's attitude at the time was, "we expect our students to show up ready to learn, and if they're not it's not our problem". Both of the kid I described were diagnosed with PTSD. The Albany schools had custody of these kids for more waking hours than their mother or anybody else, but instead of playing a central role in making sure these kids got the help they needed they sent them to the district’s child version of the "dog pound" with other kids just like them with no books and "permanent substitute" teachers instead of real teachers. You know what one of the consequences of this type of behavior on the part of ASCD has been? The city of Albany now has a crime rate significantly higher than that of NYC, and riots in the schools. Well fortunately the district now has an almost all new school board and a lot of new people in key positions and things have finally started to change for the better. School districts like Albany don't need a superman, they just need everyday people with commitment, compassion, and common sense. To me you sound like one of those people. I hope for you school district that there are a lot more like you. P.S. Over the summer the school board voted to close down the “dog pound”.

Posted by: david_r_fry | October 3, 2010 10:56 AM | Report abuse

I think the bigger question revolves around if these kids are worth saving and at at what cost.

Posted by: mamoore1
.................
I think we have to get away from the idea that government is simply a wealthy family where any amount of money will and can be spent for an individual child.

The reality is that this idea simply comes from the unwillingness to deal with problems and creates the policy of simply hindering the normal children that might learn with additional obstacles by saddling them with the problem children that should not be in normal classes.

Ignore the problem and save the expense of dealing with the children that do not belong in a normal class room.

Yes some of these children may simply have to be warehoused but even in this group there are probably a large number that can be saved if the problem is dealt with as soon as they enter the educational system.

Expensive programs are now going on to deal with these children when they are older so there are less articles of youths killing other youths. Computer programs are being used to identify these youths that probably could have been identified by their kindergarten teachers.

It should be apparent that the current system does not and will not work. The reality is that there are not superior aliens with advanced technology that can work at the poverty public schools to easily rewire the brains of children.

No American would accept this idea of superior aliens in the poverty public schools while the national policy is for supposedly superior teachers without advanced technology at the poverty public schools.

Posted by: bsallamack | October 3, 2010 11:42 AM | Report abuse

Posted by: david_r_fry
...............................
Well I know of a case where a problem of a mother with a problem of drug abuse was calling her son in prison.

What programs are there to identify the problem early on?

None.

The occurrence of abnormal behavior problems of children are simply ignored until they can no longer be ignored.

Posted by: bsallamack | October 3, 2010 1:07 PM | Report abuse

Am I the only one?

Since yesterday I have noticed differences with fonts on this column.

I use fox fired usually but there were also problems strange fonts with internet explorer on this column and the column of Valerie Strauss.

I also discovered other situations of fonts acting strangely. Fonts longer ago could be specified in programs as new#times#roman but this no longer works as one must use "new times roman" now.

I wonder if others have noticed chances in the appearances of font that began yesterday.

Posted by: bsallamack | October 3, 2010 1:31 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for this article Jay.

Classroom management skills are basically the key, the holy grail, to the art of teaching. It is not about counting scissors, it's about maintaining a safe or blank stage for learning to occur.

I now know that I was lucky that I went to a program that prioritized this. I am a professional and know what I'm doing. It is learned and I've been trained.

I once had a frustrating group and I mentioned it, but I still dealt with them. Another adult asked, "why don't you just yell at them sometimes?" That's the difference. I realized, "O My God," she has no management, no policies, and she's just yelling. Her classroom environment was unpredictable and stressful to students.

I'm no angel. I do get frustrated for certain, and sometimes loud, but the management skills take emotion out. Again, people easily forget the ration is 1:25, one teacher to the students. You must have management skills. Even professors in college could stand to learn some.

Posted by: bravobravo | October 3, 2010 9:15 PM | Report abuse

When I was teaching dangerous and hostile kids, I would first - and quickly - spot the leaders. Then I would show some deference toward them (as animals do). In almost every case the leader(s) then supported me by making everyone pay attention. I used many interactive methods so the class got to enjoy learning but it was my deference to the leaders that won the case. From their point of view they, not me, were in charge and I was good member of the gang and deserved support.

Posted by: CitizenWhy | October 4, 2010 10:06 AM | Report abuse

This is an uninformed commentary and says the same stuff other uniformed people say. Check out exactly what is going on in teacher ed programs and you'll find classroom management is a huge focus, along with content, and actual classroom observation and student teaching time. Wake up writers, go visit a teacher ed program first hand. Management issues in k-12 classes are not happening just because a teacher has not been trained, they are happening because social structures in school are often punitive based and have no effective means of dealing with students who should be in alternative programs. Additionally, many schools are beginning to put school-wide social skills training programs in place - hopefully we'll see some positive changes. Note also that test heavy environments are not happy places, not places where kids want to be.

Terry Smith

Posted by: smithtk | October 4, 2010 1:31 PM | Report abuse

for david_r_fry---Any blog comment management I might attempt (the idea violates my view of the role of the press and of this blog) would be far less efficient and far less intelligent than the blog comment management done by the quick and erudite eyes and brains of the blog's readers.

Posted by: Jay Mathews | October 4, 2010 2:49 PM | Report abuse

I teach a graduate education course about Inclusion and the Needs of the Inclusice Child. I asked 15 teachers in my class to give me up to three things that aren't in the course outline that they want me to cover. Of the 26 responses. 20 had to do with discipline and the special education child. This concern definitely warrants by attention and I am incorporating discipline into my course curriculum. How can you tgeach a child if you can't control them?

Posted by: Iteach4you | October 4, 2010 3:34 PM | Report abuse

A distinguished testing expert who refused to let me credit him emailed me to point out something I missed. The survey's response rate was only 14 percent.

Posted by: Jay Mathews

Unrepresentative sample, therefore probaly invalid. What was the research methodology that resulted in such a poor sample.

Posted by: mcstowy | October 5, 2010 1:19 PM | Report abuse

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