The other students

Every year, Williams College seniors nominate a high school teacher who’s had the most influence on their lives, writes Tom Friedman in the New York Times. Four teachers are chosen to be honored at the commencement ceremony. In accepting the honor, Myra Loris, an international releations teacher at Highland Park High School in Illinois, my alma mater, took a shot at No Child Left Behind.

A teacher for 23 years, now nearing retirement, she added, “I just found it very affirming in a Zenlike way,” an acknowledgement “that my days have value, my life has had some worth. Public school teachers don’t get that very often,” especially with No Child Left Behind restrictions, which now require teachers to teach to the tests, and push out the window “all those things that really spark kids imaginations” – like art and music.

Betsy Newmark, a charter high school teacher, checks out HPHS test scores, which show low-income and Hispanic students performing way, way below the average HPHS student. Betsy responds:

Come on, teachers at Highland Park High School aren’t losing their classes in art and music for NCLB preparation classes. If you check out HPHS’s test scores, they’re doing just fine for the great majority of their students. However, the groups that aren’t passing Illinois’s required 11th grade standardized test are the economically disadvantaged,disabled, and Hispanic students. Would Ms. Loris object to money spent to help those students achieve more in reading, writing, and math? The fact that this school has a teacher in international relations is some indication that NCLB has not forced this school to make draconian cutbacks.

Plus, I object to the idea that art and music are the only things that “really spark kids imaginiations.” I think that reading books can also spark those imaginations and, if kids have low reading skills, not only will they miss out on that spark to their imaginations, but they’ll be held back in school and in work for the rest of their lives.

NCLB wasn’t put into effect for rich suburban students whose parents have advanced degrees; it was designed for those students who were getting “left behind.”

This is very true, even if Betsy turns out to be a graduate of our arch-rival, New Trier High. Correction: Betsy went to New Trier only for a year.

About Joanne

Comments

  1. Richard Nieporent says:

    If Myra Loris was born in a different time and place she would have said let them eat cake.

  2. Mike in Texas says:

    Amazing how this story starts out praising a teacher who kids considered to have a major influence on their lives, but yet just b/c she dares challenge the almight sacred cow (at least on this website) of NCLB she’s attacked.

    Richard, what makes you more knowledgable about education than this teacher?

  3. Yeah, it’s terrible isn’t it? Just because this teacher wants to use the ceremony honoring her, and her student’s feelings for her, as a soapbox to air her political opinions some people get all ruffled. Go figure.

    Richard, what makes you more knowledgable about education than this teacher?

    Setting standards about who can have opinions on what? Sounds like fun. Can I get in on this game?

  4. Walter E. Wallis says:

    Wonder how much she charged for an A?

  5. Mike…do you believe a person can have a worthwhile opinion about education without being a teacher?

    Can one have an opinion about business matters without being an executive?

    Can one have an opinion about military affairs without being an officer?

    “War is too important to be left to the generals”–Clemenceau

  6. Mike in Texas says:

    Yes, photoncourier, I do, but this post by Joanne and the comments by Richard are bashing of an obviously successful teacher. She is probably the kind of teacher the “reformers” claim to want, but she voices her opinion about NCLB, an opinion most educators share, and its suddenly a bash fest.

  7. MiT –

    I see nothing in Joanne’s post bashing the teacher herself, just disagreeing with her action at the ceremony and her position on NCLB. There is a difference between attacking the person and her position.

  8. From Mike’s point of view disagreeing with a teacher is teacher-bashing. Failure to drink up each precious sylable is teacher-bashing.

    Mike in Texas wrote:

    but she voices her opinion about NCLB, an opinion most educators share

    Channeling the teacher uber-mind are we?

  9. Mike in Texas says:

    Quincy,

    Sure it does. The very fact she brings up comments about the first teacher, from a charter school teacher (charters=good, public=bad) is a veiled insult against Loris. She could have posted this story without the charter teacher’s comments or opinions but that wouldn’t leave to public school teacher bashing (If Myra Loris was born in a different time and place she would have said let them eat cake.)

  10. Mike in Texas wrote:

    The very fact she brings up comments about the first teacher, from a charter school teacher (charters=good, public=bad) is a veiled insult against Loris.

    And that helps us refine the precise definition of “teacher-bashing”. When a charter school teacher criticizes a public school teacher, that’s bashing!

    And in the spirit of veiled insults, the casual aggregating of the opinions of “most educators” as being opposed to the NCLB implicitly excludes charter school teachers. You did mean to imply that they aren’t really educators, right Mike?

    By the way Mike, I haven’t seen much evidence for the educational equivalent of Global Warming.

    You know what I mean. An epic disaster that’ll sweep all the arrogant, insensitive, NCLB-loving, Republican politicians away despite the best efforts of the roguishly handsome hero who the politicians disdained and insulted but now wish they’d listened too except it’s far, far too late.

    Shouldn’t there be, at least, a made-for-cable movie with second-string writing and B-list actors about the approaching educational Armageddon, the NCLB?

    I’ve got to tell you, in terms of scare-mongering, the teachers unions have a lot to learn from Greenpeace and the rest of the enviro-wacko community.

    You might want to consider chaining yourself to something large, visible and wryly ironic as a means of protesting the way the NCLB prevents teachers from inspiring a life-long love of learning and from teaching knowledge-acquisition strategies in a non-judgemental, diversity-respecting, gender-neutral environment.

    Some catchy slogans evocative of high school football cheers would be a good idea as well.

  11. Mr. Davis says:

    Since when aren’t Charter Schools public? Do we get a property tax credit for each kid who enrolls in a Charter? Or is there really a code, (charters=open shop, public=closed shop)?

  12. Richard Nieporent says:

    Richard, what makes you more knowledgable about education than this teacher?

    Well for one thing, MiT, I’ve been teaching (at the graduate level) for 26 years. That is three more years than Myra Loris has been teaching and probably a few more years that you have been teaching. Now don’t you feel foolish?

  13. MiT –

    The very fact she brings up comments about the first teacher, from a charter school teacher (charters=good, public=bad) is a veiled insult against Loris.

    Just because Betsy Newmark is a charter school teacher does not make her point any more or less valid. She brings up the statistic that HPHS is failing three major subgroups of students, then she brings up the fact that Myra Loris’ own specialty, international relations, show that the school hasn’t hacked away everything but those subjects on the test.

    A good person can make a bad point. (Conversly, a bad person can make a good point.) A wonderful teacher can commit a faux pax. To criticize the person for those is NOT THE SAME as criticizing the person herself.

    If you’re going to defend Myra Loris, you’ll need to find counter-arguments to the points brought up by the charter school teacher rather than lashing out at her and Joanne.

  14. BadaBing says:

    “I just found it very affirming in a Zenlike way.”

    Could someone please enlighten me as to what that means. Does it have anything to do with that famous zen koan, “What is the sound of one hand clapping?” Does it have anything to do with David Carridine? When something happens in “a Zenlike way,” how do you know it’s Zenlike? What is the difference between a baseball being hit and a baseball being hit in a Zenlike way?

  15. Mike in Texas says:

    Richard,

    Hardly. I also have taught at the college level, and not to knock you, but it is a different world than teaching elementary school or high school.

    Since when aren’t Charter Schools public?

    They are public schools in the sense they are paid for by the public. However, charters get to play with the deck stacked heavily in their favor as they don’t have to abide by so many of the idiotic rules and regulations imposed by state and federal govts.

    Why not just lift those idiotic rules and regulations off the public schools?

    Quincy said:

    If you’re going to defend Myra Loris, you’ll need to find counter-arguments to the points brought up by the charter school teacher rather than lashing out at her and Joanne.

    Where did I attack the charter school teacher?? I often speak up when I think Joanne is intentionally slanting stories but hey, it is her website. And she is a charter school advocate.

    She brings up the statistic that HPHS is failing three major subgroups of students

    Quincy, this is the whole problem I have with high stakes testing, it only reliably tests socio-economic status. The article also states the school is doing very well in other areas. IMHO, NCLB and the high stakes testing it relies upon are having the opposite effects, it is harming the very children the politicians claim it is supposed to help (minorities, non_English speakers, low SES.

  16. Mike in Texas wrote:

    However, charters get to play with the deck stacked heavily in their favor as they don’t have to abide by so many of the idiotic rules and regulations imposed by state and federal govts.

    Why not just lift those idiotic rules and regulations off the public schools?

    Finally, something we both agree on.

    Of course you mean “but keep everything else the same, large bureaucracy, powerful unions, parental choice consisting of an elaborate begging ritual” while I mean “make ’em all charters”.

    Quincy, this is the whole problem I have with high stakes testing, it only reliably tests socio-economic status.

    Yes, so you keep writing. Too bad there are just enough in the way of exception to your rule to gradually push the spotlight to where it illuminates the real problem: the fewer choices you have the less appetizing your choices tend to be.

    IMHO, NCLB and the high stakes testing it relies upon are having the opposite effects, it is harming the very children the politicians claim it is supposed to help (minorities, non_English speakers, low SES.

    And before high stakes testing the reason was insufficient funding or too much television or drugs or coming to school hungry or parents not reading to their kids or the direction of the prevailing winds. But here we are with high-stakes testing. You might want to think about setting the lyrics to music because it’s lousy poetry and it isn’t selling.

    Oh, and since you seem to have a short-term memory problem, from higher up in this thread:

    The very fact she brings up comments about the first teacher, from a charter school teacher (charters=good, public=bad) is a veiled insult against Loris.

    Which seems like an attack on a charter school teacher to me.

    But what do I know? I’m not bright enough to realize that 42% of the Texas state budget going to education is totally inadequate.

  17. Richard Nieporent says:

    Hardly. I also have taught at the college level, and not to knock you, but it is a different world than teaching elementary school or high school.

    Given the tenor and tone of your comments, I am not surprised that you are unwilling to acknowledge that you were wrong. Unfortunately, I still have to deal with students that have somehow made it though the educational system without being able to write a term paper. I wonder whose fault that is MiT?

  18. MiT –

    You imply that the charter school teacher’s comments are worth less because they come from a charter school teacher. That’s an attempt to poison the well with regards to the charter school teacher.

    On the issue of it testing SES, is it possible that it is not the test that is flawed but our education of lower SES students?

  19. Mike in Texas says:

    You imply that the charter school teacher’s comments are worth less because they come from a charter school teacher

    Which seems like an attack on a charter school teacher to me.

    Quincy and Allen, you have both misinterpretated what I said. It was a dig at Joanne and not the charter school teacher. The “she” refers to is Joanne.

    I’m not bright enough to realize that 42% of the Texas state budget going to education is totally inadequate

    I’m glad to see you finally admitting your ignorance, Allen. Remember, it was a state judge who ruled the money Texas spends is not adequate. And remember it was the Republican head of the House Education Committee who deemed a 55% funding level for schools in Texas is adequate. Since I know how easily you forget things (especially the ones you don’t agree with) would you like me to post the link to the jduge’s ruling again? Or the email where the aforementioned Republican “suggests” the study he ordered and paid for with taxpayer money should state 55% is plenty enough, not the extra $4 billion a year the original draft of the study suggested?

    BTW Allen, the orignal lawsuit against the state was filed by the wealthy school districts who were sick and tired of having to fund the rest of the schools in Texas, since the state wasn’t doing its part. That’s the reason the whole system is called “Robin Hood”

  20. MiT –

    Quincy and Allen, you have both misinterpretated what I said. It was a dig at Joanne and not the charter school teacher. The “she” refers to is Joanne.

    Okay, it was a dig at Joanne. Still does nothing to refute the points brought up by the charter school teacher.

  21. Mike in Texas says:

    Quincy,

    I didn’t try to refute her points. However, the claim that the school should have enough funding since they can afford to have an international studies class is not a valid point. For all I know a class in international studies may be required as part of the high school graduation requirements. Or maybe simply the administrators at this school make poor choices regarding how they spend their money. Is that any reason to bash a teacher who is being recognized more than 4 years later by a student whose life she significantly impacted?

    I can speak from experience. My elementary school and the primary school that feeds students to us do not have music programs as the school district claims they cannot afford it. We also get fed first graders who are very clearly not ready for 2nd grade but are being pushed on b/c the primary school is overcrowded. But yet, our high school will have an “Outdoor adventures” class next year (to help justify the salary of a coach IMHO) which will feature lessons in bass fishing. Were this story to be posted here people would be blaming the teachers for this.

  22. Mike in Texas says:

    I still have to deal with students that have somehow made it though the educational system without being able to write a term paper. I wonder whose fault that is MiT?

    Well it was probably the fault of Mrs. Crabtree back in 3rd Grade who didn’t teach them to . . .OH WAIT, we are talking about people who are probably at least 22 years old since they are already graduate students, assuming you already have to have a college degree to take graduate classes at your school.

    Have you considered the possibility that are just too damn lazy to write a good term paper? Or maybe they are graduates of a school system whose only accountability measure was a high stakes test (they were around before NCLB) and all they were taught was test prep b/c that’s what your state demanded.

    At what age does it become their own fault?

    BTW, I wonder if you have a more strenous schedule than my cousin who also teaches graduate students? Sometimes he has to drag himself out of bed by the crack of 11 to be prepared for the 9 hours a week of late afternoon/early evening classes.

  23. Mike in Texas says:

    Quincy and Allen,

    The above was a lighthearted jab at my cousin, the lazy graduate school professor.

  24. MiT –

    Is that any reason to bash a teacher who is being recognized more than 4 years later by a student whose life she significantly impacted?

    Saying someone DID something inappropriate is NOT bashing the person, merely criticizing the action. What would you say if Myra Loris had gotten up and extolled the virtues of NCLB at this ceremony instead of speaking out against it?

  25. Richard Nieporent says:

    The above was a lighthearted jab at my cousin, the lazy graduate school professor.

    That is good to know, MiT. Otherwise one could be misled into believing that childish remark was direct at me. So which person on this blog is your cousin?

  26. Mike in Texas says:

    Quincy,

    What exactly did she do that was inappropriate? She bashed NCLB like myself and many other teachers but that is not a crime.

  27. MiT –

    I misread the story. In fact, it doesn’t say that she brought up NCLB during the ceremony, only with Tom Freidman. So, there really was nothing inappropriate about what she did. I still don’t agree with her opinion, though.

  28. Mike in Texas says:

    Quincy,

    You were not the one who compared her to Mary Antoinette.

    On the issue of it testing SES, is it possible that it is not the test that is flawed but our education of lower SES students?

    Throughout the entire country?? This is a result that appears repeatedly in state after state after state with high stakes testing despite the thousands of variables in education that occur from place to place. If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, its a duck.

  29. Quincy wrote:

    On the issue of it testing SES, is it possible that it is not the test that is flawed but our education of lower SES students?

    Mike’s made one of his standard replies.

    You’ll notice the vagueness of “low SES” as reason for lousy test scores.

    Given an opportunity he’ll bloviate about the the unfairness of it all and how low SES students are shortchanged by inadequate education spending although he won’t provide examples or substantiating studies. It’s also a convenient way to escape any responsibility for providing low SES students with a decent education, it just can’t be done, sayeth Mike, see their lousy test scores.

    Of course, there’s enough in the way of exceptions to the “low SES = lousy test scores” mantra to suggest the problem lies elsewhere. Here’s one.

    Mike in Texas wrote:

    This is a result that appears repeatedly in state after state after state with high stakes testing despite the thousands of variables in education that occur from place to place.

    And of course your unsupported assertion is the gold standard.

    If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, its a duck.

    Where the subject is ducks I’m might be inclined to agree with you. Where the subject is ducks.

  30. Throughout the entire country?? This is a result that appears repeatedly in state after state after state with high stakes testing despite the thousands of variables in education that occur from place to place.

    Are these low SES students reading and computing at grade level? If they are, and they’re flunking the tests en masses, then you’ve got a point. Until then, I’ll presume they’re failing the test because they can’t perform on grade level.

    The burden of proof is on those who claim the test is biased, not those who claim it isn’t.

  31. “en masses” in my last comment should read “en masse.” Sorry.

  32. Mike in Texas says:

    The burden of proof is on those who claim the test is biased, not those who claim it isn’t.

    You’re kidding right? Don’t you think tests should be thoroughly analyzed before they’re given to kids?

  33. MiT –

    I’m not kidding. I find it much more likely that low-SES kids are not learning to read and write than that the science of psychometrics has utterly failed to create unbiased tests. You said earlier that “This is a result that appears repeatedly in state after state after state with high stakes testing despite the thousands of variables in education that occur from place to place.” It’s also a phenomenon that occurs on test after test after test. Bias on one test I can believe. Bias on all of them? That’s a mighty big charge to prove.

    Again, when you can put forth some evidence that a good percentage of the low-SES students failing the tests are numerate and literate, we’ll talk bias. However, if a disproportionate number of low-SES students are failing the tests because a disproportionate number of low-SES students are illiterate and innumerate, that means the test is working, not flawed.

  34. You don’t understand, Quincy.

    Mike isn’t dissing the tests, he’s dissing the kids. He’s implying that the kids can’t be taught thus no responsibility accrues to the profession that’s paid to do the teaching. You can’t expect someone to do an undoable job now can you? It’s one of his standard misrepresentations.

    I’m thinking that maybe, in the name of efficiency, when Mike uncorks one of his misrepresentations I’ll just respond with a code that links to an explanation. The number of misrepresentations is fairly small and it would move things along. Hmmm….

  35. Allen –

    I get it perfectly. The tests are biased because low-SES don’t do well on them. It’s never, ever asked whether the low-SES students are learning or could learn what they need to learn to do well on them, i.e. learning to read, write, and compute. Instead, it’s just accepted that low-SES students do the way they do, and the test is flawed if it shows that they don’t do as well as other kids.