Jobs attacks teachers’ unions

Speaking at an education reform conference in Texas, Apple CEO Steve Jobs blamed teachers’ unions for making it impossible for principals to fire bad teachers. The Houston Chronicle reports:

Jobs compared schools to businesses with principals serving as CEOs.

“What kind of person could you get to run a small business if you told them that when they came in they couldn’t get rid of people that they thought weren’t any good?” he asked to loud applause during an education reform conference.

“Not really great ones because if you’re really smart you go, ‘I can’t win.'”

Jobs and Dell CEO Michael Dell were there to speak about how technology can help education, but Jobs said technology can’t do a thing if unions are blocking change.

“I believe that what is wrong with our schools in this nation is that they have become unionized in the worst possible way,” Jobs said.

“This unionization and lifetime employment of K-12 teachers is off-the-charts crazy.”

Based on his contributions, Jobs is a Democrat, notes Mickey Kaus.

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Comments

  1. charles R. Williams says:

    Teachers can be made accountable for performance if principals can be held accountable for performance. That will only happen if parents can take their education dollars to the school of their choice.

    What Jobs doesn’t understand is that unions and work rules exist to protect teachers from arbitrary actions on the part of incompetent and unaccountable administrators.

    Another thing that Jobs doesn’t understand is that new technologies have not demonstrated their effectiveness in instruction. They may certainly make teachers more efficient in administrative tasks and in planning instruction.

  2. Walter E. Wallis says:

    Jobs is pissing off everybody this month. He advocates junking some of the protection schemes on music. Come March he will probably announce for the republican presidency.
    I threaten my grandson with a program that will make him work out homework problems, then reward him with gameplaying time.

  3. I say this as a teacher, so take it for what it’s worth.

    What exactly do we mean by a “bad teacher”? Is it someone who doesn’t know the material? Someone who can’t convey the information they *do* know? Someone who can’t run a classroom, who can’t create an environment for learning? Is it someone who tries to make do with a poor (fuzzy) curriculum they themselves didn’t choose?

    Is it someone who’s given in to the soft bigotry of low expectations?

    Except for the first couple of examples I gave above, teachers can’t be held fully, or even mostly, responsible for poor performance–in the latter examples, there’s plenty of responsibility to spread around.

    If Steve Jobs means the first couple of examples, then yes, let’s can them. If he’s referring to the latter ones, though, the solution isn’t as easy, and it will require much more work than just that of teachers.

    So, who’s in? I didn’t think so.

  4. Miller Smith says:

    I wan to control the grades in my class. Period. But, I don’t. If I fail half a class due to lack of class work and home work performed bythe students it is I who catch hell-NOT the students!

    I have have time and again shown full proof that students are not doing the work required and all parental notification have been made. No matter. “Raise the grade!” is the refrain from the admin. “If you do this again we’re going to have do do an action plan on you!” they will hiss.

    Some my comment to Jobs & Co., “give me the power to control my grade, and I will give you the results you want.” Otherwise: “GET OUT OF MY FACE!”

  5. Public schools are not centrally about learning. The main goal is to keep them entertained while their parents work.

    Also, Miller is (again) right on the nose about failing students.

  6. Miller Smith…the way to suppress this kind of pressure for grade inflation is to require regular tests, the content for which is not controlled by the school administration and the results of which are well-publicized. That way, if the administration pressures teachers to give “A”s to students who are doing “C” work, it will become obvious at test time and they (the administrators) will have only cut their own throats.

    Accountability must exist at every level, administrators as well as students.

  7. wayne martin says:

    > Some my comment to Jobs & Co., “give me the power
    > to control my grade, and I will give you the results you want.”

    So you increase the flunkout rate with lower grades than you are giving now, how does this increase the quality of the education so that the graduation rate is higher than now (typically 50-70 percent)?

  8. Richard Nieporent says:

    What Jobs doesn’t understand is that unions and work rules exist to protect teachers from arbitrary actions on the part of incompetent and unaccountable administrators.

    Charles, why do teachers, unlike other professionals, need a union? Do you really believe that of all the professions, teaching is the only one that needs to be protected from bad bosses?

  9. Miller Smith says:

    Daavid, the admin does not control the content-the state does. We have cirriculum guides with dates we are to on specific content. We also have state tests in science that show we ARE giving grades higher than true accomplishment, but no matter. The admin still demands high grades than accomplishment. The entire county demands it.

    Wayne, we have a high graduation rate of students who know nothing. What was the point of graduating them? No one outside the school system believes the grades mean anything. Every single A student with a 4.00 GPA has to take both zero level English and Math in college.

    How about this idea? We never send kids from one grade to another who do not meet the minimum standards of accomplishment at eahc grade level. For kids who fail…oh say…1st grade, we have heavy intervention. We get the kids competent all the way until they are 16 and are allowed to leave the school system (or raise that to 18 or until they graduate period) and if bet you…anyone here, I bet you…you won’t have a high flunk out rate in high school.

    Or we can just keep on doing what we are doing. Yep. That’s a real winner.

  10. Teachers don’t have as much control over working conditions as other professions.

    Name three other professions that work almost exclusively for the government that don’t have unions?

  11. oh, and in the everybody uses the same test, who do you imagine the administrators would blame for the students performance on the test despite a teachers documentation of the students failure to even attempt to learn the material.

    Haven’t you heard that it’s the teachers fault if kids aren’t engaged enough to do the work and earn passing grades?

  12. One more thing, and this is actually on point, who does Jobs blame in Right to Work states where unions couldn’t possibly have the influence he is attributing to them?

    Couldn’t we once and for all point out that if a district is willing to document the incompetence, bad teachers CAN be fired. Maybe not as easily as they could without due process protection, but almost as easily as they can be fired at any big corporation with a gun shy human resourced department. If the administrators did their jobs well and monitored instruction as they should, they could fire anyone who needed it.

  13. ‘the state controls the content’ I bet “education professionals” have input on what they teach. Kinda like the new new new new math, I think it called Cluster math, instead of following the KISS principle they make it so complicated the student get frustrated trying to do it, when the simple old method works better than anything else they have come up with. Teacher doctoral candidates have to have something to try.

  14. wayne martin says:

    > Or we can just keep on doing what we are doing. Yep. That’s
    > a real winner.

    Hmmm .. let’s review the bidding ..

    Steve Jobs claims that American education is suffering because Teachers’ Unions have become so powerful that Principals can not fire bad, unionized, teachers. Michael Dell (of Dell Technology) Dell responded that unions were created because “the employer was treating his employees unfairly and that was not good. “So now you have these enterprises where they take good care of their people. The employees won, they do really well and succeed.”

    Who succeeds? Certain the US Maritime Industry didn’t succeed with Union labor, nor the Steel Industry, nor the Rail Industry, and the US Auto Industry is disappearing before our eyes. This past year also, Unionized big-city newspapers started circling the drain too.

    So the Teachers’ Unions won.. but what about the kids? If the teachers claim that they aren’t in this job for the money, why aren’t they using their union clout to see that the kids are getting the best education possible by documenting these problems, and getting as much response to their demands about grade inflation as they get for their salary and benefit demands?

  15. Richard Nieporent says:

    Teachers don’t have as much control over working conditions as other professions.

    Name three other professions that work almost exclusively for the government that don’t have unions?

    Actually professionals control their working conditions, not by forming unions, but by not working for companies that treat they poorly. The difference between professionals and teachers is that professionals get rewarded for performance. Thus companies make sure that their better performing professionals are treated properly so that they don’t leave.

  16. Jobs is assuming that the hierarchical corporate/military model makes sense in education. I would beg to differ. The principal’s role ought to be that of lead support-provider for her teachers. The very idea of teachers as subordinates is entirely misguided.

    Still, there are some really bad teachers and we ought to be able to do more to protect children from them.

    I don’t mean teachers who are a little shakey.
    I don’t mean teachers who aren’t as expert in their subject area as they migh tbe.
    Or teachers who have problems with classroom management some of the time.
    I mean teachers who essentially do nothing instructional with their students and don’t care and are abusive and arbitrary. They are out there and perhaps it ought to be easier to get rid of them. They make teaching more difficult for the rest of us (ever had kids come into your class after an hour in a dysfunctional classroom?) and are an insult to our profession.

  17. Miller Smith says:

    Teachng is NOT a profession. Never was .

  18. Walter E. Wallis says:

    Teachers used to black list bad districts.I might believe more in the benefits of union membership if the unions, themselves did. Eliminate mandatory union membership and the punishment of those who do not join. Let the unions have to serve members instead of their political cronies and the classroom might come back under control.

  19. That is an interesting claim, Miller Smith, that teaching isn’t and never has been a profession. But I’m not sure I understand. Can you explain?

    American Heritage Dictionary:

    pro·fes·sion (pr…-fµsh“…n) n. 1. An occupation requiring considerable training and specialized study: the professions of law, medicine, and engineering. 2. The body of qualified persons in an occupation or field: members of the teaching profession. 3. An act or instance of professing; a declaration. 4. An avowal of faith or belief. 5. A faith or belief: believers of various professions.

  20. Hunter McDaniel says:

    Larry, you say “the very idea of teachers as subordinates is misguided”. So is your view that teachers must only be self-directed? What happens if a school adopts phonics but some teachers decide to stick with whole language – or vice versa?

    Frankly I think we would be a lot better off with “hierarchial corporate” organizations for schools – as long as there was parent choice to ensure accountability. I think you would see large chains organized around competing educational philosophies and curricula – Core Knowledge, Waldorf, KIPP, Montessori, etc. I also believe you would see more EFFECTIVE use of technology than what we have today.

  21. Miller Smith says:

    Larry, here is my rational.

    Every profession controls the conditions of their employment. They have clients. They have clients they can refuse to serve and they can fire a client if they wish. Teachers cannot.

    Professions set the terms of their payment. They have a billing schedule that potential clients can review before asking to be a client. Teachers do not.

    Professions have set procedures that are tried and true. New developments are tested severely before being allowed to be used by the profession. Everyone in the profession knows how to do things. Teachers can’t even agree on how to teach reading…and reading wars have gone on for decades.

    Professionals have employees who get paid from the professional’s generated receipts. Lawyers and Doctors have office staff they pay from the fees the professional charges. Teachers do not. Teachers ARE the employees.

    And that definition #1 in your post…well…that is enough to show that teachers are not professionals.

    These are just a few examples.

    There is nothing wrong with being in a vocation. We are, by and large, government workers doing a job pretty much anyone can do without any training whatsoever. All I had to have was a degree in what I was teaching and that is questionable that I needed that. All one has to do now is follow the script the state puts out and you can teach pretty much any class.

  22. By your definition, then, a teacher working after school for the Sylvan Learning Center is a professional (since his labor is generating receipts) though perhaps not since they don’t have the kind of extensive training of a physician or an attorney.

    So, then, is a prosecutor not a professional since he doesn’t generate receipts?

    A friend of mine spent a decade defending Native Americans in court against the US Government. He had no legal staff nor any receipts. Was he not a professional in that capacity?

    You are right that the qualifications to become a teacher are much lower and the preparation requirements much less than for law or medicine. But that does not mean that some of us do not take it upon ourselves to be much more qualified and to undergo much greater preparation than is required. Could it be that we — those of us who become real experts in our subject and innovators in pedagogy — are the professionals and other teachers are the vocationalists?

    And I wouldn’t suggest trying to teach where I do — South Central Los Angeles — off of a script written by someone who has probably never been to South Central. When you’ve got Crips and Bloods in your classroom and they are thinking about maybe trading in a life at the margins for what you are offering, you better bring more to the table than a state-sponsored script.

  23. Hunter McDaniel wrote:

    Frankly I think we would be a lot better off with “hierarchical corporate” organizations for schools – as long as there was parent choice to ensure accountability.

    Depends on what you’re trying to do. If you’re building a million cars a year a flat organization structure isn’t going to work. Too many complex functions that have to be coordinated among large numbers of people and too many interlocked resources that have to be properly scheduled. Managing a task like that requires a hierarchical management structure. But education isn’t that complex so it doesn’t require a complex management structure.

    In the case of public education the management structure is unrelated to the complexity of the task. The management structure is an outgrowth of the single point of funding authority – the school board – and is a function of the size of the budget.

    The school board hires a superintendent to handle operations and the superintendent operates the organization via the management hierarchy. The more funding you’ve got the more management the school district can afford and, inevitably, gets.

    Ideally, those bureaucrats would work for the betterment of the organization but in real life those bureaucrats will be working, to a greater or lesser extent, in their own self-interest. That self-interest shows up, among others ways, as empire-building. Each bureaucrat discovers that their job is well nigh impossible to perform properly without more staff support, an administrative assistant and more office space.

    Not unique to public education, the same problem shows up in business. But in business the bureaucracy is periodically trimmed back or it destroys the organization. But in public education the budget, severely strained by not having expanded fast enough to suit the demands of the hierarchy, just wrings some more money out of the public. Destruction of the organization, regardless of malfeasance or incompetence simply isn’t a consideration.

    In business the growth of bureaucracy is handled by periodically trimming the hierarchy back. It’s also controlled by defining the ideal size for various functions; how big is big enough for an auto assembly plant and how big is too big? In public education it’s the size of the school district that determines the proper size for the function of educating kids, not the size most appropriate to efficient and competent performance. Schools are not independent organizations but pseudopod of the district administration.

    The proper size of organization for educating kids is the individual school and examples that prove the assertion have been around since public education came into existence. They’re called private schools and they don’t need district administrations to convince parents to hand over their kids and their money. Lately though even the assumption about organization size in public education has come into question and the reason is the rise of charter schools which also fore go the doubtful benefits of the district administration.

  24. “Name three other professions that work almost exclusively for the government that don’t have unions?” How about starting by naming three other professions that work mostly for the government? By really, really stretching the definition of “professional”, I came up with one – the military. It’s not unionized, and union organizing would violate the regulations against plotting mutiny.

  25. Yes, empower parents more. Give them choices, make us all accountable to them and their children.

    Just don’t forget about all the students who don’t have parents, whose parents are on crack or in jail, kids who will always just end up at the closest school and who have no one — aside from concerned educators and the public as a whole — to advocate for them.

    Let’s figure out a way for those kids not to be the victims of neglect from the school system (as well as from their parents)….

    The problem with the hierarchical power structure in education is, perhaps, the same as it is in an HMO. Doctors need autonomy in order to make responsible decisions about doing what is best for their patients. They ought not be told what medicine they can and cannot provide. I know what my students and my subject much better than my principal. Should I be able to explain and defend what I teach and how I teach it — to an administrator or parent or anyone else?

    Of course.

  26. wayne martin says:

    > I know what my students and my subject much better
    > than my principal. Should I be able to explain and defend
    > what I teach and how I teach it — to an administrator
    > or parent or anyone else?

    One would like to believe that the public education system would, more-or-less, provide a uniform educational delivery model to every child, no matter what school he/she might attend. With the sentiment expressed above, it would seem that this is not likely to happen. So, if only from a simple point-of-view of quality control, principals need to be in a hierarchical relationship with the teachers.

    > Lately though even the assumption about organization size
    > in public education has come into question and the reason
    > is the rise of charter schools which also fore go the doubtful
    > benefits of the district administration.

    Not clear that Charter schools are driving this bandwagon, if in fact there really is any meaningful discussion about District bureaucracies. However, any reasonable review of the organizational structures of school districts leads one to question these folks’ purposes and value to the organization (meaning that reorganizations would doubtless lead to fewer costs and similar output of any reformed organization).

    > In business the growth of bureaucracy is handled by
    > periodically trimming the hierarchy back

    This happens under the control of the business management team, and through the collapse of the business (or industry sector), which we’ve seen here in the US since the end of WWII.

    > Destruction of the organization, regardless of malfeasance or
    > incompetence simply isn’t a consideration.

    Don’t forget outside influences, such as “globalization”. The end result is the same, however.

  27. I have a response for those who demand “accountability” for teachers. My proposal is for teachers to be judged by their estimation of their students’ performance. If A students do A work on some test, then the teacher did well. If D students do D work, again, the teacher did well. The responsibility of the teacher is to tell the students how well they know the presented material. The responsibility to learn the material is entirely on the students. Of course, this may let useless teachers just give failing grades to students the teacher can’t teach, but an administration can step in before things get THAT bad, I hope. And then it’s up to the administrators to decide if the students can move on or not.

    Of course, then there’s the problem of the teachers who don’t teach easily-testable subjects. Would an art teacher need to teach for an AP Art History exam or just stick to collages and tempera? Drama and music and PE would also create many issues of unfairness when not judged while their colleagues in the history, math, and English departments are being heavily scrutinized. And I don’t think many school districts are going to leave the football coaches without the ability to get the big bonuses.

    And Steve Jobs should know that administrators aren’t really like CEOs. They have executive power, yes. But they have too many strings and regulations and dissonant pressures put upon them to suggest that they have the level of independence for action seen by any CEO of any corporation I can imagine. It’s not just a matter of the teachers’ unions, but a matter of schools being places where there’s a lot more expectations than there are rational plans to implement them.

  28. A truly silly comment was made earlier that firing a teacher was possible, as long as the district was careful about ‘properly’ documenting their issues with the teacher. I have been involved (as a consultant) in two separate affairs of this sort, and I can assure you that barring videotape of the teacher in question abusing a student in front of witnesses, virtually no documentation is considered adequate or proper by union representatives. Process protection amounts to an endless battle of attrition that no cash-strapped district is going to even begin to consider unless keeping the miscreant is a PR debacle. Far easier for any administrator (district or otherwise) to let the students pay the price for the union’s recalcitrance.

    Teacher’s unions hide behind their purported concern for the education of our children and their (the teachers) committment to their profession, but when push comes to shove, they are simply guarding their turf at any cost. Teaching used to be a profession, thanks to unions, it is barely a vocation. It is high time we started treating it as such.

  29. “One would like to believe that the public education system would, more-or-less, provide a uniform educational delivery model to every child, no matter what school he/she might attend.”–Wayne Martin

    If only every student was the same, I’d agree with you. I was lazy and got good grades. My daughter is lazy and gets poor grades. My wife was industrious and got good grades. And some industrious students get mediocre grades (poor grades are almost impossible for those who try and work hard, at least at the pre-college level). Some come from working all night, some didn’t sleep well by choice. Some didn’t eat that morning (many by choice). Some learn better in groups, others don’t want to be spoken to, and others will do well no matter the educational model the teacher uses. Sometimes the material is relevant to the student, sometimes it isn’t. Many students are there only because they’ll get in trouble if they don’t, and have resentment and anger in the way of their learning. Some are only there for the sports, dating scene, or parties. Some students try sometimes and don’t try at others. Some teachers have rough times, too. Effort all around is important, and so is ability. Imagine having to teach 10th grade math to students who have a sixth-grade math level and agenerously-equivalent fourth-grade English skills.

    Teaching involves more than presenting the information in the best way. It involves presenting info to the students in the best way for those students. It’s like the phonics/whole language argument: the different sides require this method or that method, but the real world just cares about the results.

  30. Wayne Martin writes:

    One would like to believe that the public education system would, more-or-less, provide a uniform educational delivery model to every child, no matter what school he/she might attend. With the sentiment expressed above, it would seem that this is not likely to happen. So, if only from a simple point-of-view of quality control, principals need to be in a hierarchical relationship with the teachers.

    BUT…..
    What if a teacher can do more for her students than the uniform model? Should she refrain from doing so because it will threaten this uniformity?
    What if she is a truly gifted educator?
    Shouldn’t we all deliver the best quality of instruction we can?

    My former principal (who was promoted out of the job a year ago) seemed to understand this. She focussed her energies on teachers who were not effective with students (based on test scores, observations, teacher and parent feedback and teacher self-assessment) and pretty much left the rest of us alone because she trusted us, because she knew that we cared deeply about our students and knew how to teach and were more demanding of ourselves than she ever needed to be with us. Our school, by the way, had the largest annual increase in language arts test scores last year in the entire LA Unified School District (about 9%).

  31. wayne martin says:

    > Teaching involves more than presenting the
    > information in the best way.

    > What if a teacher can do more for her
    > students than the uniform model?

    Remember, this topic is about Steve Jobs’ complaint that Principals can’t fire “bad” teachers. Each of these points is valid, just not in the context of this topic—unless it can be shown that somehow these behaviors lead to poor performance on the part of a teacher (demonstrated by the poor performance of that teacher’s students).

    Teachers seem to get bound up in the bubble of their own class rooms, and ignore all of the other issues of the education system that those of us who are non-teachers focus on. For instance, here in California, we are spending a little over $10,000 per student (which is at/about the national average) and only about 40 percent of the students can read at/above grade. The same is true nationally, per NAEP test results. Yet, few teachers seem aware of these statistics, or even seem fazed. They just respond that the schools are under-funded, year after year. They (through their Unions) just demand more money, offering nothing in return in terms of productivity or better student performance.

    The corporate organizational structure works well using people educated (more-or-less) by the same education system to build/create goods/services that people what to buy. Yet, somehow, educators claim that this system won’t work in the classroom—where there is more than a 50% failure rate (for reading, anyway).

    Sorry, but the public can not afford to put more money into the public education system only to see no promise of an increase in quality of the product. (And no—process is not a product.)

  32. You’re right, Wayne Martin.
    No need to apologize for not wanting the public to “put more money into the public education system….”

    Far too much money is spent for the results that we are getting.

    I just wonder how much of the money is actually reaching the classrooms.

    I have worked in classrooms with leaking roofs, boarded up windows, and holes in the floor. I park my car on mud. I wait years to get a class set of a novel that costs $10-15 per copy.

    But, yes — as I think I’ve already stated somewhere during this discussion — there ought to be a way to protect teachers from administrative tyranny without allowing incompetent teachers to go on miseducating our students. And rank and file teachers ought to be willing to make that possible.

    There also ought to be a way for dedicated and effective teachers to get rid of a really bad principal.

    And Steve Jobs ought to have his engineers figure out a way to make an Ipod that doesn’t malfunction every few months….

  33. Walter E. Wallis says:

    The profession of arms is an honorable one and a learned one.

  34. What’s holding the right to work states back?

    In around half the states, the unions cannot be the reason that bad teachers don’t get fired because the unions don’t/can’t really have much power. Why are there bad teachers in these states?

    What happens in a union district if a union teacher gets fired despite the attempts of the union to protect the teacher? Does it break the contract? Seriously, I don’t know how it works, but I have a hard time imagining the decision to terminate rests solely with the union.

    Well, I know we’re debating the definition of professional, but off the top of my head, I’d name firefighters and policemen as positions somewhat similar to teaching. They aren’t “professions” either, but they are publicly employed and require specialized training and credentials. They also tend to have unions.

  35. I agree with you, Larry, about everything you said in your last post.

  36. wayne martin says:

    > I just wonder how much of the money is actually
    > reaching the classrooms.

    > I have worked in classrooms with leaking roofs,
    > boarded up windows, and holes in the floor. I park
    > my car on mud. I wait years to get a class set of a
    > novel that costs $10-15 per copy.

    In California, about 45% of the State’s General Fund is dedicated to education. State law requires that 55% of the District’s General Fund is spent “in the class” room. In most cases, the capital spending is not added into the costs of education by each District, although the the Legislative Analyst and the US DoE does make these determinations at the state level. Amortized over thirty years, most capital spending adds about $1,500 per student to the cost-per-student to educate (although this various from locale to locale). So, the cost of a classroom that seats 30 students is about $1.5M (over 30 years). Most teachers totally ignore this cost when complaining about “dollars in the class room”.

    About 45% of the General Fund spending is for non-teaching staff and “Administration”. Benefits for health care come to about 7.5% in my school district, but are somewhat lower statewide (insurance costs are between $2-3B for the Teaching Staff alone.) (Is this money that is “getting into the class room”?)

    The School Boards have the ability to spend the money in their budgets as they see fit. They can fix broken windows, they can fix leaky roofs or buy text books. It seems, though, that they spend 85% of the budget for salaries and benefits. The other 15% goes for all other expenses. Special Education consumes between 15 and 25 percent of most school budgets.

    Most of the published school budgets don’t do a very good job of breaking all this down for straightforward consumption. If teachers cared to know, one would think that their Labor Unions would devote some financial resources to documenting the finances for their districts.

    > And Steve Jobs ought to have his engineers figure
    > out a way to make an Ipod that doesn’t malfunction
    > every few months….

    I don’t own an iPod yet, so I don’t have any direct experiences. However, having worked on small, portable telecommunications devices, I do have a little experience watching one of the devices go through the birthing process. There is a difference between DOA (Dean on Arrival) failures, and FAU (Failures After Use). The following WEB-page provides some interesting data about iPod failutes:
    http://www.macintouch.com/reliability/ipodfailures.html
    Notice that failure rates after launch which seem quite high, Apple has gotten the failure rates down to about 5% or less. The article also points out the shock-induced failures are the basis of most iPod failures in the field. This could mean anything from dropping the device a few inches to throwing it in anger at the wall. Seems the all-memory iPods have fairly low failure rates, which would seem that Apple is learning by its mistakes. Notice the rapid rate of decline in failure rates over the five years in production.

  37. Thanks, NDC — and I agree with you…. it isn’t just the unions that are responsible for incompetent teachers in the classroom.

    I’ve spoken rather exhausively with my former principal about what it takes to get rid of a teacher. If the teacher is new, probationary or an intern, it’s not difficult at all (at least not in L.A.) to get the teacher out of the school (getting him or her out of the district or the profession is another story).

    Once the teacher survives that probationary period without being discharged, then it becomes more difficult.

    It involves a lot of administrative paperwork.

    The administrator most offer assistance and support to the “struggling” teacher, observe and document all the problems…

    These administrators have a lot of other duties and responsibilities, a lot of other paperwork to get off their desks. Still, what could be more important than ensuring that the best possible teacher is in every classroom?

    This particular principal managed, in four years, to get rid of two incompetent teachers, one probationary, one (really burned out) veteran…

    It was a great accomplishment, I felt. And she always let the rest of us know how much she appreciated the hard work and dedication we brought to our classrooms each day.

    Now, she is in charge of a large innercity middle school and has about fifty teachers she needs to either “assist” or dump. It’s overwhelming. And with the current shortage of qualified teachers willing to come to South Central Los Angeles, she has no reason to believe she will replace these ineffective teachers with anyone much better.

  38. Yep, but to hear the Jobs type comments, you’d think there are tons of people ready to do a better job if only the unions weren’t obstructing the efforts.

    Sometimes I wonder if a unified salary schedule doesn’t actually hold teacher salaries down in some of the worst areas. Imagine what you’d really have to pay someone to work in South Central LA if it were negotiable. Instead, people are willing to start out there with the hope that they can bank experience until something better comes along.

    I’m in a non-union state, and most schools who have a lot of “bad” teachers have weak administrators and very few qualified people who want to work there.

    Administrators for the most part don’t even bother to try document and get rid of bad teachers, and it’s a pretty clear-cut although time-consuming process. Teachers are entitled to a due process hearing, and the administrators would have to build a case to dismiss or create a professional development plan for improvement, which I’m sure is time consuming and tedious, as well. But I’d say the number of principals who even attempt it is very small, so there’s a lot of complaining and press about a process that very few have even tried to use.

    And something else I’ve noticed that people often underestimate: most teachers would leave a school if they were asked to. I know it sounds weird, but really strong principals control their staffing often by simply telling teachers that they’d prefer the teachers transfer. Many do.

    Most people don’t want to work for bosses who don’t appreciate their efforts. The number of “bad” folks who would actually fight to retain a position where they aren’t wanted is pretty small, at least in my non-union district.

    Your former administrator sounds like a good one. I wish there were more people like her out there.

  39. NDC writes:

    Sometimes I wonder if a unified salary schedule doesn’t actually hold teacher salaries down in some of the worst areas. Imagine what you’d really have to pay someone to work in South Central LA if it were negotiable. Instead, people are willing to start out there with the hope that they can bank experience until something better comes along.

    –Actually, in some of the really hard to staff schools in the area (mostly the middle schools) the district does pay a few thousand a year extra, combat pay.

    Some of us actually enjoy the challenge and love the kids — and that too probably keeps the salaries down….

    Good point about principals getting teachers to leave voluntarily, just by asking.

    I wonder if anyone has tried to collect data on actual administrative efforts to get rid of ineffective teachers….

  40. “The problem with public education today is that there are a lot of bad teachers that nobody can get rid of.”

    That, I believe, is a myth.

    From what I’ve seen (in my 30 years), 20 percent are mediocre, and maybe 1 percent are bad.

    As for administrators, I’d say that 20 percent are good, 50 percent are mediocre and 30 percent do more harm than good.

    “Once a teacher has tenure, it’s virtually impossible to fire him.”

    That, too, is a myth.

    If Steve Jobs wanted to have a software engineer fired at Apple, he’d have to show “just cause.” There’s a process to go through. Documentation has to be collected. It’s not easier or harder to fire a public school teacher.

    If principals could hire and fire at will, you’d have schools with teachers who were simply easy to manage. You’d get rid of all the bad teachers and all the good ones too.

  41. Walter E. Wallis says:

    For a start, require all schools to have a teleconferencing room, and prohibit membership in any association that does not allow teleconferencing its meetings.

  42. Andy Freeman says:

    > What’s holding the right to work states back?

    The author of that sentence and comment doesn’t know what constitutes a “right to work state”. It doesn’t mean that unions don’t exist, it means only that folks can’t be forced to belong to a union in order to keep/get a job.

  43. Andy Freeman says:

    > If Steve Jobs wanted to have a software engineer fired at Apple, he’d have to show “just cause.”

    Not in this universe. CA is a (mostly) at-will employment state. There are some reasons that can’t be used for employment decisions (race, gender, age, and a couple of others), but outside of that, anything goes.

    Jobs can fire someone for driving a yellow car and promote someone for driving a blue one.

    Moreover, there’s another process, namely “the company goes under”. Underperforming companies go down all the time. On the way, they shed employees like crazy.

    How often does a failing public school get shut down, or even have significant, let alone massive, layoffs?

    Once again, we find that public school advocates don’t know very much about the world outside of public schools.

  44. Andy Freeman says:

    It’s nice to see the “we don’t control our inputs” complaint again. The combination with “give us more money” is especially nice. (Hint – giving you more money won’t give you any more control over your inputs.)

    It’s nice because it demonstrates how clueless public school advocates are. No one controls their inputs. People control only what they do with said inputs.

    Outside of public schools, no one thinks that “bad inputs” is an excuse. If you can’t produce adequate outputs, you’re out. If no one can produce adequate outputs, well, the world does without and doesn’t pay for the effort.

    In other words, telling us that it’s impossible to succeed is telling us that we should stop trying.

    BTW – If there is to be more money for education, it won’t go to current educators. It’s an exceptional public school advocate who understands why.

  45. Andy Freeman, are you suggesting that there are “public school advocates” who believe that they don’t have to make progress with their students because they didn’t choose them?

    Or are they saying that, to use your terms, the quality of input affects the quality of output?

    If, in one year, I can get a student three years below grade level to be only one year below grade level that is a success. If I fail to adequately challenge a student already reading and writing at college level then I’ve failed that student, right?

    But that’s on an individual classroom level.

    As for the system as a whole, we are failing on many levels for many reasons — stupidity, arrogance, alienation, dispassion to name a few.

    Reducing class size — which does cost money — could help but only if teachers are effective in the first place.

    Attracting the best and the brightest to the teaching profession — looting MBA programs and law schools, etc. by paying really attractive salaries to teachers — could, in the long run, make a big difference and, as you say, “won’t go to current educators” — in other words:

    dimwits like me will be replaced….

  46. In many of the “right to work” states, collective bargaining is also prohibited. Look state by state, and I think you’ll see that most of what people believe unions do to protect teachers couldn’t possibly be going on in about half of the states because the unions don’t have the power, the percentage membership, any influence in employment decisions.

    An open shop alone does most of what is needed to prevent union control.

    Using “right to work” as the expression may have been a mistake on my part, but look into it: I think you’ll see the point is valid.

    Teachers unions fail to exercise control they are accused of in almost all the “right to work” states in the US.

  47. In most business models for which it’s appropriate to talk about quality of inputs and outputs, it’s assumed that other variables change based on that quality.

    If I own a furniture factory, and I want to use less expensive and poorer quality wood, I recognize that I will have to either sell final product for less than a high quality wood product or provide some other desirable feature that compensates for the lack of quality in materials.

    In education what seems to be missing from the input and outputs discussion is the recognition that people seem to expect the same final product no matter what the raw material.

    That’s just crazy, and we wouldn’t expect it in other areas.
    In law, the quality of the case determine the willingness to plea bargain or settle. In policing, we recognize that there are high and low crime areas and we don’t expect arrests to be equal geographically. In health care, we don’t expect the same outcomes from the same illnesses. With the sale of products and business, as consumers we look at quality vs. price. From the sales side, companies know certain sales areas are more desirable than others.

    But with education, we pass laws that say everyone will be at grade level by a certain date or schools will face sanctions, and that’s supposed to be reasonable. Often, the schools with the worst “raw material” will often have the least in classroom resources to help compensate.

    No doubt there’s mismanagement in public education as there seems to be mismanagnement anytime we allow people to spend money they didn’t earn. But it’s usually a mistake to think the failure mainly occurs at the classroom teacher level.

    Something that I think often gets ignored in discussions of public ed. are the competing expectations that communities put on schools. If the public would prioritized their expectations, and administrators could focus on addressing a clear set of goals, then perhaps they could hold teachers more accountable for meeting the goals as well.

    Some folks think that school choice would allow the freedom to focus on what expectations a community wanted. Sometimes I wonder that too. But then I also think about the number of people who make terrible decision for their kids, and I’m not interested as a tax payer in subsidizing what they would choose.

  48. “In many of the “right to work” states, collective bargaining is also prohibited.”

    Would you provide a list of such states? Together with appropriate links showing that it’s prohibited.

    Thanks

  49. But with education, we pass laws that say everyone will be at grade level by a certain date or schools will face sanctions, and that’s supposed to be reasonable. Often, the schools with the worst “raw material” will often have the least in classroom resources to help compensate.

    Doesn’t this depend on where we set the expectation?

    To use your furniture factory analogy. If I start with bad material, I might not be able to make a Stickley chair, but I may be able to make a chair suitable for IKEA.

    I’d argue that most states have set their grade level expectations at the IKEA level, not the Stickley level. So we should be able to make IKEA furniture with whatever material we have.

    With respect to the resources argument, have you seen the per pupil expenditures in most major cities recently? Typically, they have some of the largest per pupil expenditures in the state.

  50. Oh, yeah, they’ve got the per pupil expenditure, but very little of it makes it to the classroom.

    I understand that it doesn’t make any difference to the tax payers, but the extra money isn’t making it to the kids in a lot of cases.

    Seriously, I invite you all to tour schools in your area and contrast the city schools with high per pupil expenditures with the suburban schools with lower expenditures. Almost without fail, I think you’ll leave wondering what the heck the city school are doing with the money because the kids and teachers don’t seem to benefit much from it. The building will be in terrible shape; the kids won’t have books; they’ll be a technology gap with suburban schools.

    I’m working on more info about “right to work states”

    It’s weirdly hard to even find data about teacher union membership by state. This Bureau of Labor report seem to indicate that union membership in the cluster of field education would fall in is a little over a 1/3 of all employees.

    http://www.bls.gov/news.release/union2.nr0.htm

    I don’t know about the IKEA level. I agree that the bar hasn’t been set high. Again, I know it’s probably irritating for me to keep saying, visit the schools. But what you aren’t accounting for, I think, is the resistance of the raw material into being made into a useful product. I would expect a high level of success in the first three grades or so. But as the kids get older, they won’t even go through the motions of trying to learn.

  51. I clearly should have limited my claim to public employees being prohibited from collective bargaining. I’m still working on a list, but obviously, I’m not going to find a list for private employees.

  52. NDC said:

    “Some folks think that school choice would allow the freedom to focus on what expectations a community wanted. Sometimes I wonder that too. But then I also think about the number of people who make terrible decision for their kids, and I’m not interested as a tax payer in subsidizing what they would choose.”

    But you’re OK with subsidizing the schools that almost almost uniformly make terrible decisions that affect the kids?

    Parents on average are more interested in the welfare of their kids than others. That much seems inarguable – let them choose.

  53. As a teacher in North Carolina, I can assure you that we have no collective bargaining rights. I am not a fan of unions, but if one examines salaries studies that focus on public sector jobs versus the private sector, one finds that North Carolina ranks toward the bottom of all states in terms of comparable public employee salaries.

    This website discusses briefly North Carolina’s public employees’ lack of collective bargaining power:

    http://southernstudies.org/facingsouth/2005/11/world-is-watching-north-carolina.asp

  54. http://mb2.ecs.org/reports/Report.aspx?id=173

    Now, we can debate about whether not having a law that allows is the same as prohibiting, but it gives an overview.

    You can look up the states yourself to review; I’ll throw that burden back on you.

    So far though, Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, Georgia, South Caroline, North Carolina are states that jump out at me that ought to doing a lot better if teacher unions are a dominant reason that schools are failing.

  55. wayne martin says:

    > Oh, yeah, they’ve got the per pupil expenditure, but
    > very little of it makes it to the classroom.

    Public School Advocates keep making these comments, but never provide any meaningful proof. Nationwide, 85% of Public School Budgets are consumed by Staff Salaries and budgets. Last year, the total funding for Public School (from all sources) was almost $1T-typically 7.5% of GDP! Oh, and this number does not include retirement benefits, which can being in 40-80% of another lifetime’s salary for education industry retirees. Is that money that isn’t getting into the classroom?

    > very little of it makes it to the classroom.

    Used as frequently as this idea is, it is little more than a “sound-byte” intended for consumption by the “true believers” and is meaningless to everyone else.

    >visit the schools.

    This actually a good idea. Parent/teacher walk-thrus of the sites with maintenance deficiency check-sheets would produce quite a inventory of problems which could be presented to the elected school boards. (Of course, the School Boards should be taking these walk-thrus at least once a year themselves.) If the buildings, grounds and infrastructure is poorly maintained, visual inspection by the parents, and description of the problems by the teachers, will produce a difficult-to-deny list of problems that the School Boards will have to deal with. Parents would be able to ask teachers to produce the work-order requests they have made for problems determined in their class-rooms. If the teachers have not made work-order requests, the parents will be able to ask: “why not?”

  56. Wayne,

    Have you been to a school recently? Seriously, GO! Look at several from areas where parent walk-throughs are likely and those where they are practically unheard of. Compare and contrast. Visit central offices: compare and contrast. Request information that should be available but not prepared in advance. You’ll quickly some some differences between schools and districts which will go along way to predict which school are likely to be functional and which aren’t. The amount of money going in divided by number of students isn’t going to be a good predictor of quality at all.

    In the “bad” schools, often teacher classrooms are the only safe, functional places in the building because teachers do take responsibility for them. Is it your expectation that they take responsibility for the rest of the building as well? They should scrub the student bathrooms and repair the roof? Or daily take time to turn in paper work about someone’s failure to do so and retain a copy to prove that they requested it, even though requests in the past never yielded any progress? (Not to mention that fact that it IS in fact someone else’s job to manage the custodial and maintenance staff: not that I’m giving a ‘it’s not in my job description” response, but why are you not finding fault with the people whose job it is to do these things? Why are you trying to hold teachers responsible for the physical plant?)

    Is it your understanding that individual teachers can request to turn retirement benefits into textbooks or do you expect that they would buy textbooks out of their take home pay? If it is, then say so, but I don’t think that’s what most people think they are getting when they allocate money for teacher salaries.

    This particularly refrain is so common because it’s grounded in a pretty visible, hard-to-deny reality from those who spend time in inner city schools. Go in and visit. See what evidence of adequate funding you can find.

    I totally agree that public schools are wasting money and that there’s gross mismanagement; but that mismanagement isn’t often happening at the teacher and classroom level. Pouring money in without directing where it goes doesn’t help the students get what they need.

  57. But what you aren’t accounting for, I think, is the resistance of the raw material into being made into a useful product. I would expect a high level of success in the first three grades or so. But as the kids get older, they won’t even go through the motions of trying to learn.

    I’d argue that the it is the poor instruction that causes the resistance to future learning, rather than the material.

    Academic success breeds academic engagement, whereas academic failure fosters disengagement. It is the unerperforming student that receives a constant stream of negative feedback with respect to his performance. Your typical child cannot tolerate much of this at all. Rather than look foolish in front of their peers, most kids would choose to act up and/or disenageg from school.

    Mopst students will go through the motions of learning if they are in fact learning even as the get older. The problem is that most of them are not learning from very early on. And, the reason most are not learning is due mostly to poor instruction.

  58. KDeRosa: I think I have a dimmer view of human nature than you do. I agree that instructional methods should be improved, but I believe that there are other factors that contribute to the problems. We’ve got some problems culturally that really contribute as well.

    In places where parents value educational success, you see successful students and successful schools. In places where most parents don’t seem to or don’t seem to understand how to communicate this value day to day, the schools are dysfunctional.

    I’d like to see general public school reform. I think common, functional public schools are good for the country. I don’t want to hold kids hostage in bad schools, but I don’t know how much school choice will yield a overall gain for society.

    (and that’s what I want from my tax dollars: a gain for society. If there’s no expectation of benefit for all of us, I’m not interested in paying for it. If we can’t make public schools work, then let’s quit having them. People with kids in school can get a big tax credit for tuition costs. Charities can set up scholarships for poor kids. Business and industry can fund their own schools to attract present employee and train the next generation.)

    Is there any present endeavor of government where we take this “tax the general public and redistribute to (even high earning) individuals to decide how to spend it” model that school choice seems to represent?

  59. wayne martin says:

    > Have you been to a school recently?

    Yes. I have been on an invited walk-thru not too long ago.

    > Look at several from areas where parent
    > walk-throughs are likely and those where
    > they are practically unheard of.

    I would guess that parent/teacher walk-thrus are not practiced by most school districts. But that leads to the question—why not? What do the school districts not want parents to know, and why are teachers (and their Unions) not jumping up and down demanding that the school districts schedule these very simple information gathering exercises?

    > Compare and contrast.

    “Contrast” is implied by “Compare”.

    > Request information that should be available
    > but not prepared in advance.

    In California, we have a Public Records Act. I use it frequently. My school district has responded most of the time, although typically not in the 10-day response period mandated in the law. Unfortunately, there are no teeth in this law, so one must wait until the District gets around to answering the request. On occasion, I have used the local newspapers to let the public know that the District has not been responsive on politically “hot” information requests.

    > You’ll quickly some some differences between schools
    > and districts which will go along way to predict which
    > school are likely to be functional and which aren’t.
    > The amount of money going in divided by number of
    > students isn’t going to be a good predictor of quality at all.

    Interesting. Guess that’s why so many of us are saying: “NO MORE MONEY” for the Public Schools!

    > In the “bad” schools, often teacher classrooms are the
    > only safe, functional places in the building because
    > teachers do take responsibility for them. Is it your expectation
    > that they take responsibility for the rest of the building as well?

    Yes, I do! This school, its fitness to serve the public’s children, requires the teamwork of all the teaching and non-teaching staff. With the eyes of the teaching staff wide open, making maintenance requests for any/all areas within the school that need improvement, then the information needed by the maintenance team, and the principal, will be more timely and doubtless of better quality than if left to just the maintenance staff alone (which might be an team that sweeps thru the school at night).

    > They should scrub the student bathrooms and repair the roof?

    No, of course not. But I do think that if they see a leak, they should be required to make a work order as quickly as possible.

    > Or daily take time to turn in paper work about someone’s
    > failure to do so and retain a copy to prove that they requested it,
    > even though requests in the past never yielded any progress?

    Yes, of course. That’s how systems utilizing a distributed-responsibility model work. I recognize that not every work order gets done. This is where the Principal gets in the act. The Department heads would periodically ask for copies of work orders which are outstanding, and these would be presented to the Principal who would then take the matter up with the District-wide Maintenance department and the District Superintendent. Over time, these work orders will get filled. If not, then the Teachers’ Union would want to get involved, making this an issue for the school board. For those states where Unions are not present, then PTAs would be the right place to start the “agitation” which would end at the School Board, and the next School Board election.

    Oh, in this day and age, there simply is no reason that a WEB-based maintenance request capability be available. There really is no reason for teachers to have to keep copies of anything around when they could print them off the WEB-site if needed.

    > Not to mention that fact that it IS in fact someone else’s job
    > to manage the custodial and maintenance staff: not that I’m
    > giving a ‘it’s not in my job description” response, but why are
    > you not finding fault with the people whose job it is to do
    > these things? Why are you trying to hold teachers responsible
    > for the physical plant?)

    Agreed, it is someone else’s job. But if it’s not getting done, then whose job is it to report that fact? There needs to be adequate checks-and-balances in any system. In order for checks-and-balances to work, someone has to step up to the line and say—“the job isn’t getting done”. This is not a terribly difficult thing to do—it just requires a certain amount of courage and motivation to work in a building that doesn’t have a leaky roof.

    > Is it your understanding that individual teachers can
    > request to turn retirement benefits into textbooks or
    > do you expect that they would buy textbooks out of
    > their take home pay?

    No, but this response totally misses the point. We constantly hear the “whine and wail” that teachers are underpaid, or that schools are under-funded. Teachers are paid “W” dollars over a (roughly) 30 year period for working, and then they get “R” dollars for retirement “benefits” for (roughly) another 30 years. The Total Lifetime Compensation then is the sum of the two: TLC=W+R.
    These days, the R-dollars are significantly close to the W-dollars, making the total compensation for teaching about 1.5W These are dollars spent on education that do not directly appear in this month’s pay checks, but will appear in the future—as deferred income. For teachers who think that “dollars in the classroom” is a soundbyte for higher salaries, the need to consider the deferred income as well as their working income. Given their direct and indirect incomes, teaching positions are far more lucrative than most teachers, or their Unions, are willing to admit in public.

    > This particularly refrain is so common because it’s grounded in a
    > pretty visible, hard-to-deny reality from those who spend time in
    > inner city schools. Go in and visit. See what evidence of
    > adequate funding you can find.

    This is a pretty heady challenge and probably a task that most people have no time to do. On the other hand, we are heavily taxed to pay the salaries of people like yourself who could easily (or thru the Labor Unions which seem to be very absent on this matter) provide the necessary documentation.

    > Pouring money in without directing where it goes doesn’t
    > help the students get what they need.

    And for those students who are not learning to read in US classrooms, what is it that they need that they are not getting?

  60. Walter E. Wallis says:

    I read a story once where you start eduators off as administrators and staff, and promote only the best into the classroom as teachers. Kinda like Major league baseball where the heavy hitters make more than the towel boys.

  61. To me compare is looking for similarities and contrast for differences, but thanks for the style tip.

    How could I easily provide the necessary documentation? What are you talking about? I don’t currently work in the inner city; I don’t even work in a state with influential unions.

    I’m not asking for higher teacher salaries although I do think that the quickest way to improve teacher quality would be to make the jobs so desirable that the supply of applicants could allow schools to be more selective.

    (Yes, I know that conventional wisdom is that “unions” that essentially have no power in my state are supposed to somehow keep this from actually happening through their magical powers of destruction.)

    I agree that teaching retirement benefits are some of the best around, and I think depending on how much “saving of social security” the Boomers pull off, the fixed benefits and pensions of teaching alone may help provide that supply of teaching applicants.

    But none of these things related to teacher salaries and retirement produce books in the classroom or paper or photocopies or technology.

    When I was mentioning seeing evidence of adequate funding, or maybe more appropriately lack of evidence, I mean the teachers don’t have enough books to issue one to each student or have such a limited supply of rationed photo-copies that they can’t make the handouts they would logically need (no, I don’t mean endless worksheets; I mean valid instructional supplements.) The kids don’t/won’t show up with pencils and paper.

    I think the kids who aren’t learning to read are missing a lot of things. Some of what they are missing are teachers who have been taught the best instructional techniques and districts that supply materials related to those techniques. But let’s imagine that we have a first grade teacher who wants to use DI or a phonics based program. How in whole would such a teacher get additional training and materials that he or she would need to teach at a school where they rotate class sets of whole language crap?

    But I’m not sure that the number of students not learning to read is nearly as high as would be believed.

    Do you see the level of bureaucracy you are advocating? And do you see the number of things that you feel should be present, like web based maintenance requests, that probably aren’t?

  62. Everybody look at some of the estimates of US adult literacy. Google it, whatever. Where are we getting the idea that the US student are learning to read?

    Sure, school could be better. We could teach reading more effectively.
    Our math performance compared to other nations is a little scary, sure.

    I’m really not saying that everything in public ed is good enough, but we don’t really seem to be in a illiteracy crisis.

  63. That should read, “where are we getting the idea that US students are NOT learning to read?” I can see where you might get the idea that US students aren’t learning to type or proofread.

  64. NDC,

    Take a look at something like TIMSS. If those results are OK with you, I doubt we can find a common starting point. I happen to think that they are horrifying on their face. When you factor in the obscene amounts of money that are spent to feed this inefficient, corrupt, monopolistic system, it’s no longer just horrifying; it’s catastrophic.

  65. wayne martin says:

    > But none of these things related to teacher salaries
    > and retirement produce books in the classroom or
    > paper or photocopies or technology.

    Yes the do. Let’s go over the details again. Salary and Benefits of school employees consume 85% of the operating funds of every school district in the US. All of the other expenditures for other items, such as books, come from the remaining 15%. Let’s suppose that there was a salary and wage pull-back, by 1-2%. What would that mean in terms of books for the class rooms? Well, 1% of $100M is $1M. So, for every 1% of salary/benefit expense reduction that can be achieved by school districts, that money can be applied to other pressing needs—such as books. A million dollars will buy a lot of books.

    As to retirement costs affecting local school districts, this becomes a state-based issue. Here in California, the school districts are the employer of record, so the costs of retirement must be borne by the employers (ultimately). The CALSTRs program (which manages teacher retirement money matters) from time-to-time runs into troubles which require the Districts to make monetary payments into the fund to cover outlay/income mismatches. During those years, retiree benefits do detract from the dollars available to school districts.

    > When I was mentioning seeing evidence of adequate funding,
    > or maybe more appropriately lack of evidence, I mean the teachers
    > don’t have enough books to issue one to each student or have such
    > a limited supply of rationed photo-copies that they can’t make the
    > handouts they would logically need (no, I don’t mean endless
    > worksheets;
    > I mean valid instructional supplements.) The kids don’t/won’t show
    > up with pencils and paper.

    We hear this from time-to-time, but how frequently this occurs is never offered in evidence. With the coming of e-books, there really ought to soon come a time that every student should have access to instructional materials that are either print-based, or digital (DVD or WEB-based).
    By the way, you mention photo-copies (not certain what “rationed” means). I think that if I were a teacher, I’d find some way to get the necessary material photocopied. There is always some way to work around the system if you are motivated enough to see results from your work.
    > I think the kids who aren’t learning to read are missing a lot of things.
    > Some of what they are missing are teachers who have been taught
    > the best instructional techniques and districts that supply materials
    > related to those techniques.

    I learned to read in Kindergarten. The teacher was a retired school teacher who ran a small kindergarten in her home to supplement her retirement income (and probably because she loved teaching.) I remember her using a easel, with large cards–each having a character of the alphabet and objects which start with that letter. (For instance – A with an apple, airplane, etc.) We used pencils and paper, and maybe a “Dick and Jane” Reader, but I don’t remember for certain. Unfortunately, I don’t remember what materials we used in first and second grade, other than the blackboard and a lot of chalk. So, what has changed since I was a child that makes this approach invalid?

    > Do you see the level of bureaucracy you are advocating?

    Well, there is some additional attention needed to increase the response to maintenance issues. However, this would best be done by outsourcing to the private sector. For the most part, I ‘m talking about reorganization, with the Principals being expected to “run their schools properly, or dust off their resumes”. In California, the Legislature has frustrated this goal by outlawing outsourcing school maintenance functions—mandating that more expensive, less effective Union labor be used by School Districts.

    And do you see the number of things that you feel
    should be present, like web based maintenance requests,
    that probably aren’t?

    Yes .. but again there are really simple solutions here. There is no reason that the State Departments of Education shouldn’t take the lead here, and define a specification for a set of NET-based functions that schools need performed. Once a Spec has been created, then fund a team to design and code these functions, making the materials available to the state’s school districts for free, or minimal charge-backs to the districts to pay for the development of these systems. Yes, this takes a little vision, and leadership. Maybe we won’t find that in the Public Educations System, but it can be found in the Private Sector.

  66. Nope, the TIMSS results are not okay with me, but they aren’t about reading, are they? (I’m being sincere; they don’t contain measures of reading do they?) I was responding mainly to Mr. Martin’s comment about what the kids who weren’t learning to read needed. Science and math ed. may be in crisis; I agree.

    Despite your experience, Wayne Martin, I think generally books are needed for school. (Someday, they may be replaced by other instructional technology, but that day hasn’t arrived and might never arrive in the inner city.)

    My experience and the experience of others indicates that waste is leading people to not have the teaching materials they need in the inner city schools. For you, teachers salaries are an area of waste; for me, I’d look to mismanagement of other funds. Out of the same tax pool, we could pay for both teachers and books if the money were used well.

    At many schools teachers are given a certain number of copies to use of the year. Some places it’s a generous number; some places a reasonable number; others a completely insufficient number. Teachers usually do figure out a way to get the copies made; sometimes paying for them themselves at Staples or whatever. But my point is that a classroom based instructional need isn’t being met by the school district in a lot of inner city schools.

    I think I’d cut personnel at the district office and never pay another outside consultant or staff development presenter to visit the district again.

  67. Wayne Martin, what are you excluding when you list expenses other than operational ones?

    What expenses are left to by paid by operational funds?

  68. Wayne Martin, if you could figure out a way to get the Los Angeles Unified School District to enable teachers to make direct requests for maintenance and materials with a few clicks of the computer (and whatever authorizations from whoever), then I think you might deserve the nobel peace prize….

    It took decades for LAUSD to finally stop requiring athletic directors to fill out a triplicate legal-sized form just to order a SINGLE bus for a single team going to a single game. Now — thanks, by the way, to the efforts of a teacher and AD, we put the bus requests for entire season on one spread sheet and fax it to the IAC office who fax it to the transportation office.

    If you want to cut salaries please start with all the teachers who are not teaching, those not even working in a classroom. Some of them perform useful functions — which actually support what happens in the classroom — but many do not and some of them actually have a deleterious effect on classroom instruction. I think that is an excellent place to start in cutting that 85% of which you speak.

  69. In the Atlanta Public Schools, there are 6,536 employees: only 3,465 of them are teachers. Does that seem right to you?

    Certainly, teacher salaries might make up a lot of the instructional budget, but I’m guesses there are some positions that could be cut to shift more money to instruction.

  70. Look at the positions available in DC.

    http://www.k12.dc.us/dcps/opportunities/vacancy_listing.htm

    The regular teaching positions apparently wouldn’t be advertised on this page. The district serves 65,000 + kids.

    Doesn’t it look a little administration heavy, especially considering these are just the vacant positions.

  71. My observations about employment are to point out places that things could be cut to find more instructional funding.

  72. Andy Freeman says:

    > in about half of the states because the unions don’t have the power, the percentage membership, any influence in employment decisions.

    Oh really?

    Let’s compare the list of teacher union recommended candidates for school boards and state offices in the last election with the list of folks who got elected.

    There’s nothing wrong with teachers being politically active, but it’s dishonest to deny that that political activity has given teachers’ unions a large measure of control.

  73. wayne martin says:

    My antipathy towards labor unions stems from a short stint in the steel industry. I was hired to work on a rolling mill automation program in my youth. One of my first tasks was to do some research for the home office to determine the overstaffing of the mill. In the 40s, 50s and 60s, labor unions would engage in long, exhausting strikes that might run as long as four months, and which were very violent. Steel mills are incredibly complicated “beasts” which are very low-tech, but none-the-less are very temperamental. This means that steel mills can not be shut down and started up like a light bulb, but must be kept running–or very expensive rehab work will be required to reopen a mill that has been shut down. This meant that management was able to run the mill for significant periods of time without Union labor. When the employee-per-rolled-ton-of-steel was compared between the two groups of mill operators, it turned out that the size of the Union labor force was about 30% higher than the non-Union force. Over time, the Mill was shut down, and about 20,000 people lost their jobs. This overstaffing is where a lot of the money in Union-infected industries goes.

    The point of this story is to reinforce that fact that Unions control the number of workers who eventually are hired, set the labor productivity levels, and eventually the profit levels in the private sector. In the public sector, the lack of competition means that badly-run governments don’t go out of business, they just become more expensive.

    Look at the NDC example for Atlanta: 53% of the employees are in the classroom. OK .. this is evidence to back up the grousing about “dollars in the classroom”. (This is close to the 55% here in California, by the way.) Some of these people are doubtless needed to actually run the schools, but clearly there is a lot of money being spent in “Administration” and non-teaching staff. Why? Are there routine audits of the system by outside Auditors who have the acumen in traditional and non-traditional organizational structures to recognize Union over-staffing? If not, why not?

    The LAUSD example is a clear example of the need for organizational audits and re-organization that would result in smaller organizations that are more IT-centric in the future. I commiserate with those teachers who are up to their necks in “the stuff”, but I am somewhat amazed that most seem willing to accept their fates rather than do something to correct the situations. (And yes, the LAUSD is too, too large and needs to be reorganized, and probably split up.)

  74. Andy Freeman says:

    > I don’t want to hold kids hostage in bad schools, but I don’t know how much school choice will yield a overall gain for society.

    Moving one kid from a bad school to a good one looks like a gain for society to me. How am I wrong?

    Yes, it’s likely that there aren’t enough spots in good schools for all of the kids in bad schools today, but moving the ones that we can today is a win and it’s just possible that moving kids from bad to good schools will discourage the folks running bad schools and encourage folks running good schools. (That’s how it works in every other endeavor, so why would schools be different?)

  75. Andy Freeman says:

    > If, in one year, I can get a student three years below grade level to be only one year below grade level that is a success.

    Yes.

    > If I fail to adequately challenge a student already reading and writing at college level then I’ve failed that student, right?

    Yes.

    Congrats. You’re one of a very few public school advocates who seem to understand that we’re paying for the difference you make.

    >But that’s on an individual classroom level.

    No, that’s the whole story. The rest is just excuses why the job doesn’t get done.

  76. Andy Freeman,

    Can you really assume that the teacher union backed candidates won BECAUSE the teacher’s union backed them? Isn’t that a pretty bad case of assuming correlation equals cause?

    And in my state, it’d be a bust anyway. Pretty much any state or district with Republican leadership will confound your premise.

    In Democratic led states or districts, unions are likely to be more powerful anyway and an union endorsement probably carries greater weight. But the candidate who the union endorsed might be more likely to win because people in the voting area actually share the same world view, even without the official endorsement.

    But if you look down the list of states with “right to work” laws, low union memberships, no collective bargaining for teachers, you’re going to see a lot of candidates endorsed by the unions who lost.

    The unions really aren’t strong all over. In a lot of the low performing states especially, they are a non-issue completely.

  77. Atlanta doesn’t have a meaningful union. Georgia is one of the states in which public employees cannot engage in collective bargaining; it’s a right to work state, etc..

    Sure, individual teachers can belong to the union in a “in case of emergency” kind of way. But the union had no real power at all in influencing the district. AND the district still stinks!!!!

    It’s wasting money like crazy and leaves some schools without basic materials that they need.

  78. Andy Freeman, my concern about problems with choice isn’t that some kids won’t more to better schools because the schools don’t have room.

    My concern is that schools will open that will cater to and reward kids and parents for essentially being dysfunctional.

    If your open only to some kind of supervised choice, then I’m cool with it. But most people want the tax money with no public oversight.

    As flawed as the present system is, every year local district leaders are elected or not based on the performance of schools. Every year state legislators pass school funding bills. There’s tremendous power to change the system if the majority of voters wanted to. No matter how powerful the unions may seem to be, they don’t outnumber non-union voters state or district wide.

    If we went to a school choice system where money could only be spend at accredited schools, and accreditation was based on solely on student academic performance; I’m completely in favor with school choice.

    (But I think you’d have to be accept that some kids would never find schools.)

  79. Andy Freeman says:

    > Can you really assume that the teacher union backed candidates won BECAUSE the teacher’s union backed them?

    I’m not assuming that. I’m only assuming that teachers unions do not back folks who they disagree with significantly, that they back folks who they mostly agree with.

    If that’s true AND it applies to a large fractio of elected officials (and it does), it follows that the pols are mostly doing what teachers unions want.

    That isn’t to say that teachers unions are getting everything they want, but the complaints are about salaries and the like, not the classroom issues that public school advocates complain about when they blame pols.

    Teachers unions will campaign against pols who threaten salaries and benefits, but when is the last three times they campaigned on the issues that PSAs insist are so important? (Cites required)

    > And in my state, it’d be a bust anyway. Pretty much any state or district with Republican leadership will confound your premise.

    Actually, it doesn’t. The disagreement with repubs is over salaries, not working conditions.

  80. Andy Freeman says:

    > My concern is that schools will open that will cater to and reward kids and parents for essentially being dysfunctional.

    That’s a defense of the current no-choice system IFF it protected those kids, but it doesn’t. It merely allows them to make sure that kids from other families don’t get educated either.

    To put it another way, evenly distributing the bad apples ruins all the barrels. It’s much better to put them together.

    The current system teaches the bad apples a bad lesson. It tells them that what they do doesn’t matter. Some of them can learn that their choices do matter if they see the consequences, consequences that the no-choice system hides from them.

  81. Andy Freeman says:

    > No matter how powerful the unions may seem to be, they don’t outnumber non-union voters state or district wide.

    I never said that they did. I said that the unions were influential and that they were basically happy with what pols did on the issues that PSAs blame for public school failures.

    Feel free to cite three campaigns where a teachers union said “we support/oppose {candidate} because she wants to make it easier to get rid of bad teachers/students/anything other than build more schools and pay teachers more”.

  82. BTW, NDC, if you make a claim it’s up to you to cite sources.

  83. Andy,

    You are apparently totally ignoring that I’ve repeatedly pointed out that I’m in a non-union state. I’m not a union member, and my experience is that the union has no discernible influence, in my state and I’m pretty sure in states with laws about public teaching unions similar to mine. (We’re also out of school right now, so don’t assume I’m posting on the taxpayers’ dime.)

    And you are changing your argument after the fact. If you initially say:

    “Let’s compare the list of teacher union recommended candidates for school boards and state offices in the last election with the list of folks who got elected.”

    Then it’s not quite right to come back after the fact and suggest that what you were really articulating is a statement about positions unions took and why they took them.

    I don’t think I’m making an argument about why unions are so great. I’m merely arguing that 1. in many states, particularly poorly performing states, the unions aren’t much of a factor. It’s a mistake to assume the unions universally as destructive to public education as the Steve Jobs of the world want to think they are.

    AND less significantly 2. I don’t think they primarily exist to protect bad teachers and mediocrity (they exist because there needed to be some protection from bad management). I don’t think union dues are attractive to people who are generally happy with their working conditions. In many cases, the dues would represent an appreciable pay loss if all your just in it for the money.

    Teachers unions may have outlived their usefulness. If it’s the case that a majority of voters feel/think like you do, then it seems to me that someone in your state needs to introduce legislation that seriously limits the power of the union. If you can’t do that because you can’t muster the political support for it, it may not be the unions’ fault. (One of the links that I posted had some statistics about union membership and the percentage of people in all unions.) The problem is that you live around a bunch of people who don’t share your political and social values.

    All the wailing about the influence of unions when the problem is really something else isn’t getting you or Steve Jobs anywhere.

    I just don’t know about school choice. If we’re using public funds, then the public should retain some say in how they are spent.

    As I said, if we can figure out a way to vet them by school performance that’s fine with me. Folks can choose to have their kids allocation follow a kids to those schools. If we want to go to a system in which we vote on a list of school who can receive funds, then that’d be fine. We could have the money follow the kids to those schools.

    I am also open to ending public funding for education totally. I’m sincere about that. We can end public education as we know it if it’s such a complete failure.

  84. Ragnarok,

    What would you like citations for? If you look at the links I’ve put in they offer evidence of some of the info. What do you feel is missing?

    I’m sorry, I’m not going to take the time to provide links to all the right to work and collective bargaining laws myself. If you want that, you’ll have look at the general lists, and then review a particular state’s code.

    But I’m open to looking for the evidence you’d like to see. What is it?

  85. NDC,

    You said ““In many of the “right to work” states, collective bargaining is also prohibited.”

    I asked you for sources, and you said “You can look up the states yourself to review; I’ll throw that burden back on you.”

    Very shabby, NDC.

  86. I provided a link to a list of states with laws addressing collective bargaining for teachers. It’s linked in one of the sources above. I’ll give you a link to “right to work states”: http://www.nrtw.org/rtws.htm. You can compare if you like.

    I don’t think going to each state’s code and providing links to the actual law was a worthwhile use of my time, but if you want to know about a particular state I will.

    I did have to correct my claim, as you know, because I don’t think any states can ban collective bargaining for private employees, but I did provide a list of states who limit or disallow it for teachers which was, of course, the issue at hand.

  87. This was posted in this thread yesterday, but here it is again:
    http://mb2.ecs.org/reports/Report.aspx?id=173

    So, if the links are accurate: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, and Wyoming are all right to work states that ban collective bargaining by teachers.

    Interesting to me, Colorado, Kentucky, Missouri, and West Virginia are all union state, or whatever the appropriate term is for other than “right to work states,” and yet they don’t have laws allowing for collective bargaining by teachers.

    And, again, I’ll make the point I was trying to make: the bad influence of teachers unions on education is/may be overstated by people like Jobs. One category of evidence for this claim is the number of states in which the influence of teachers’ unions is likely to be small, and yet, these states still have the many of the same problems as states in which the unions are powerful.

    We should look for other causes for the “failure” of public education other than the strangle hold of unions.

  88. Off the top of my head, I’d go with the content taught in colleges of education along with trends forced on teachers by administrators and promoted by the content specific professional organizations (like NCTE, which has no power to actually implement any of it’s ideas) as being far more significant than unions for what’s bad in education.

    I’d add destabilized families, a culture that thinks rudeness and destruction are entertaining, and the idea that education is a right that can almost never be withheld, despite one’s negative influence on an institution or one’s complete failure to make progress academically. I’m also not sure that the ADA or IDEA laws have had entirely positive or even benign effects.

    All these reasons are not evidence that I feel public education is hopeless, but I think we could fix a lot of what’s broken and make improvements and still gain the unifying cultural aspects that I think we get from having common schools.

  89. wayne martin says:

    It’s always disconcerting discussing the “real world” with teachers, as they all too frequently are ill-prepared to discuss these matters because of their lack of understanding about how other industries actually function.

    For instance, this snippet demonstrates an important aspect of how corporations that find themselves facing new challenges on a daily basis effect change to deal with these challenges:
    —–
    http://www.reuters.com/article/ousiv/idUSL2116905320070221
    Airbus loses composure over composites
    Reuters ^ | Wed Feb 21, 2007 | Jason Neely

    LONDON (Reuters) – Wrangling over sophisticated composites work for the new Airbus A350 airliner is playing a part in delaying the plane maker’s restructuring plan, putting it at risk of ceding more ground to arch-rival Boeing Co. (BA.N: Quote, Profile, Research).
    The A350 will use far more carbon fiber composites in its wings and fuselage than previous Airbus planes, handing Airbus a chance to make dramatic changes to its supply chain and manufacturing base, and removing thousands of jobs in the process.
    —-

    In this case, larger planes means more weight, which means larger engines, which means more fuel, which means more pollution and more noise, which means possibly lower profits and possibly loss of market-share to other aircraft manufacturers. In this case, Airbus is looking to “composites” which are lighter, and which will come from sources other than the current materials. As the snippet points out, this means restructuring in the airplane component supply chain, which means job loss/displacement. In the long run, these new airplanes will be better for all of us—even though there may be workers who will have to change jobs in order to facilitate these beneficial changes. In the public sector, Unions have managed to gain such control that these sorts of structural changes that result in productivity increase are difficult for Administrators to achieve such changes.

  90. Wayne Martin,

    So they are clearly going to let passengers choose the composition and weight of the planes, right? Or they are going to have the government allocate money to help them do so? Or they will provide subsidies directly to passengers who will then choose if they believe composite planes are better?

    I don’t think you can compare private industries to anything public sector. If you want to make an argument to privatize, make it. I’m there. but to expect taxpayer to pay while someone else experiments of a while doesn’t seem like quite the same revolution.

    Who is it that you think doesn’t understand that educational reform will involve change and overcoming challenges?

  91. wayne martin says:

    > So they are clearly going to let passengers choose the composition
    > and weight of the planes, right?

    No .. is this supposed to be sarcasm?

    > Or they are going to have the government
    > allocate money to help them do so?

    In the case of Airbus, there seem to be considerable dollars in government subsidy in the equation. However, the point was not to point out that Airbus was getting government subsidies but that change mean job displacement which Unions have a history of opposing (all unions, not just Teachers’ Unions). Boeing, by the way, is looking to composites for its E7E aircraft, with similar changes to its supply chain. Moreover, Boeing put its Seattle-based Unionized manufacturing sites “on waivers” by telling them that they would not be given preference as component suppliers for the E7E, and opened the bidding to non-Boeing component manufacturing.

    > I don’t think you can compare private
    > industries to anything public sector.

    You would be most mistaken by taking this point-of-view. Many government functions have supplanted private sector functions, for better or worse. For instance, some cities operate airports. What makes a unionized city government’s operation of an airport any different than the operation of a private-sector airport. Some cities provide municipal-operated utilities, such as gas, water and electricity What makes utility distribution somehow the divinely-ordained province of the public sector, and not comparable to the same functions performed in the private sector? Some cities are now offering telecommunications services—such as cable TV. By what stroke of imagination can you claim that the operation of a city government cable TV service can’t be compared to a private sector TV service? Most fire departments in the US are volunteer operated. This doesn’t exactly put them in the private sector, but neither are they in the public sector. There are a small number of private fire departments, here and there around the US. Private police operate in great numbers because the public sector can not provide the level of security needed to protect private assets of many property owners. Private ambulance services seem to get people to the hospital just as fast as public ambulance services. So, why can’t we compare a private ambulance service to a public service? How are public sector bus services any different than public sector bus services?

    Sorry, there is really very little that goes on in the public sector can’t be better (more cost-effectively) performed in the private sector.

    > If you want to make an argument to privatize, make it.

    I make that argument every day in my town. Sadly, I live in a small town which has almost two thousand union members employed by the school district and the city government. A lot of strength which clearly intimidate/seduce the elected officials. My City government has been moving towards privatizing a number of its functions, which clearly could be performed more cost-effectively in the private sector.

    > Who is it that you think doesn’t understand that educational
    > reform will involve change and overcoming challenges?

    Labor union members. They may say one thing, but they do another.

  92. Yes, the comment about passengers was sarcasm and kind of a set up which you were too intelligent to fall for.

    As far as public and private sector competition, my uninformed guess is that in many if not most of the cases, the public aspect of the service can first before it was privately provided. (Can you think of any cases where a service was privately provided to almost everyone, and the government entered the market to compete with private industry? I can’t but that may be my ignorance.)

    In cases where you have public and private services in competition, I suspect that the public group is obligated to provide service to people that the private company won’t provide service to (sometimes because of the cost).

    I don’t think what you are describing is any different than different than what you see with education. Unless the public services that you mentioned are entirely funded by user fees, the taxpayers who use private providers are compelled to pay twice for a service that they are opting not to get from the public provider. If the private companies are able to meet the needs of all of the public, then it seems like a waste to have public groups provide the same service.

    We currently have private schools competing with public schools almost everyplace. Most people seem to feel that the private schools are doing a better job, and yet, because they can’t or won’t serve everyone at the price he or she can afford to pay, public schools are needed to serve a segment of the population not served by private schools. Or possibly the public schools provide a comparable service at no additional cost, so people opt to stay public.

    I don’t doubt for a minute that most of what goes on in the public section could be done better privately. I think it goes alone with what I said about how mismanagement is likely to occur when you spend other people’s money (particularly when there’s little chance you’ll go out of business as a result).

    But vouchers and what most people mean when they talk about school choice still allows people to spend other people’s money. Instead of actually privatizing education, you are doing the equivalent of giving everybody 30 dollars toward their cable bill. Why would we expect that to yield a better result than the current public vs. private school competition we have now.

  93. wayne martin says:

    > As far as public and private sector competition, my
    > uninformed guess is that in many if not most of the
    > cases, the public aspect of the service can first before
    > it was privately provided.

    Well, this depends on what period of time you look at. For instance, the original colonies (Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina for example) were founded by corporations which were chartered by the English Crown, and funded with private money. (Even though the English Crown did not own North America, that didn’t stop this Government from claiming the right to divvy up land, by the way.)

    In the early colonies, there was little money. Hence, toll roads emerged—paid for with private funds, which provided “rapid transit” for people wanting to go north or south.

    Railroads were almost all privately funded, although government did run interference for them (in the West) by giving up large tracts of land in return for the funding and building of the railroads. Harbors were almost all private in the early colonies.

    Airports were also mostly private until well after WWI.

    After WWII, with so much government funding involved in so many things, it’s a little more difficult to point to any particular activity and not see the hand of government.

    > In cases where you have public and private services in competition,
    > I suspect that the public group is obligated to provide service to
    > people that the private company won’t provide service to (
    > sometimes because of the cost).

    That’s the argument. However, it’s more likely that many of these services can’t be provided profitably by the private sector (such as county-wide bus services) and have been taken over by some level of government.

    > Unless the public services that you mentioned are
    > entirely funded by user fees, the taxpayers who use private
    > providers are compelled to pay twice for a service that they
    > are opting not to get from the public provider. If the private
    > companies are able to meet the needs of all of the public, then
    > it seems like a waste to have public groups provide the same service.

    Many of the services noted in my previous posting are called “enterprise funds” in municipal finance jargon. This means that they are run for profit by the owning municipality and funded by user fees. When one examines their finances carefully, however, one can find use of public money providing capital or land associated with these services has been provided without cost to the users of the specific enterprise fund’s service. GSB 34 (a fairly new government accounting standard) has opened up government accounting to more “sunlight” so that these costs are more easily observed, however.

    > But vouchers and what most people mean when they talk
    > about school choice still allows people to spend other people’s
    > money. Instead of actually privatizing education, you are doing
    > the equivalent of giving everybody 30 dollars toward their
    > cable bill.
    Yes.
    > Why would we expect that to yield a better result
    > than the current public vs. private school competition
    > we have now.

    Because private schools operate on the premise of competition and accountability at the student level. And, these schools are not subject to the malfeasance of Labor Unions.

  94. I was really thinking more in terms of existing services more than colonial examples, but it’s interesting to think about why things develop as public or private services. As people talk about a state payer system as one terrible possibility of health care reform, sometimes it strikes me as odd that we seemed to think we could provide a common public education to every child and that it would serve the public good (and I think we did as a country believe this until relatively recently), but we regarded public health care are only for the poor. Don’t misunderstand me: I don’t want to see more government involvement in providing health care. But it’s an interesting contrast in attitudes about publicly funded individual entitlement.

    As I’ve said several times and tried to present evidence of, not all public schools are subject to union interference of any kind. I don’t know that these non-union schools are any better. Sure, they may be more easily reformed, but nobody is actually taking it on while they complain about union malfeasance.

    I suppose if you’re going to hang onto that as your main obstacle to school reform, then there’s not much more to discuss.

    Are we at the point where anyone who thinks that schools can be reformed in a way other than school choice is assumed to be in favor of maintaining the status quo?

  95. Ragnarok, I’m kind of waiting to hear from you about what information I failed to provide. The link to the list was in the comment that you quoted. Did you expect a link to all the states law codes? Is there support that you feel was missing? Are you ready to concede that the destructive power of unions might be limited in those states?

  96. Hey, Wayne Martin, what’s with this?

    —-It’s always disconcerting discussing the “real world” with teachers, as they all too frequently are ill-prepared to discuss these matters because of their lack of understanding about how other industries actually function.

    I wouldn’t let my students get away with an unsupportable statement — and gross assumption — like that (not to mention the fact that it is a logical — ad hominem — fallacy).

    “They all too frequently are ill-prepared to discuss these matters”?

    They? Have you discussed the real world or anything else with all of us (teachers)? Have you had such discussions with most of us?

    I have myself have encountered teachers who are, as you suggest, quite naive about the world of business and a lot of other things but I have met others who have, in fact, spent ten or twenty years working in the corporate or business world and know quite a bit. Currently, one teaching colleague at my school is a former sales manager and another used to be an executive with a Fortune 500 company.

    Tell you what, I won’t lump together everyone who lives in a small town if you don’t lump together everyone who teaches.

  97. NDC,

    I thought what I was looking for was pretty clear; a source that explicitly shows that collective bargaining is forbidden for a given state. I hope it’s clear now.

    Much of what you’ve written so far is the usual union fare, platitudes and denials and misinformation hidden in rather unusually long posts.

    What’s your objection to parents choosing the schools to which they send their children? That they might not know as much as the public school bureaucracy? That they might not care as much as those devoted unionoids? The same unionoids who paraded through the streets of Fremont, refusing to write letters of recommendation to graduating students until they got a pay package they liked?

    As for attracting the best and the brightest – please! Try Huxley’s “Brave New World”, see what the Alpha Double-Pluses do. For the most part you don’t want the best and the brightest teaching school; you want people who can relate to kids and have a decent understanding of their subject.

    This is trivial stuff, and it shouldn’t be necessary to regurgitate it.

    Don’t take yourselves so seriously. There are a few good teachers, but the public school system and the union together grind them down in time. Disagree? Take a look at the CBEST, the test that California teachers have to take to pass. Look at the failure rates, they’re astonishingly high. And yet this is a test that my 6th-grade son had no trouble passing!

  98. NDC,
    As for your claim that collective bargaining is prohibited is right-to-work states, try this fragment from Wikipedia:

    “Opponents of right-to-work laws argue that the ability of non-union employees to benefit from collective bargaining without paying dues creates a free rider problem, allowing employees to leave (or not join) a union while still ostensibly benefiting from the actions of that union, thus making union activities less sustainable . For these reasons, they often refer to non-right-to-work states as “free collective bargaining” states. Opponents also argue that the laws prevent free contracts between unions and business owners, making it harder for unions to organize and less attractive for people to join a union.”

    Seems to indicate that collective bargaining is permitted in right-to-work states, doesn’t it?

  99. Aw, come on.

    I’ve given you a list of state that don’t have laws allowing teachers collective bargaining; that’s in addition to the list of “right to work states.” Are you even following the links or reading my posts?

    Some state prohibit forcing people to join unions AND they prohibit collective bargaining by teachers. It’s not a question of the states that don’t allow closed shops but allow collective bargaining, sure there are some of those, but they aren’t the one’s I listed for you at the post at 10:04 today. (and yesterday too in the link.)

    Now, I acknowledge that it’s not a long list, but it’s slightly more 1/5 of states the country (I think I counted 11), and they don’t tend to be states with particularly great educational systems. If the nefarious power of the unions were really doing things in, then these states should have thrown off those low performing shackles because the unions don’t have any power!

    My hesitation about choice is NOT that I think the present system works so well or that I think that the educational establishment is great. It’s that I think there are benefits that common schools could deliver that school choice won’t. I don’t know that fragmented public schools will serve the country as well as unified highly functioning ones. I’d like to see us make common schools that work.

    I think that charter schools offer a lot of what I’d like to see. They allow choice still allow some oversight from the taxpayers.

  100. I think parents should be allowed to choose anything they can pay for, as long as it’s legal and moral.

    As long as they are asking me and all the other taxpayers to chip in, I don’t think their choice should be entirely at their discretion.

    Ragnarok, you’re also attributing to me things I’ve never said, or at least never said in this context. Where’s the ‘best and brightest” quote coming from?

    And what’s up with the assumption that I will learn positive things about society from Brave New World; you may need to re-read it if you thought Huxley was celebrating the society who cloned their social classes by intelligence. Or maybe you want a society that turns to drug and promiscuous sex after they’ve broken the strong bonds of family and monogamous love. How much time do you spend in Fremont?

    I have nothing to do with the California teaching standards. I tend to think the teacher certification tests are ridiculously easy, too.

    I don’t think I’m taking myself anymore seriously than anyone else in the thread. Are you suggesting I should take myself less seriously because I’m a mere teacher and most are average and take easy certification tests?

  101. wayne martin says:

    > I wouldn’t let my students get away with an unsupportable statement

    There’s provable and supportable. I’ve spent a lot of time on this topic trying to overturn a number of claims by a couple of posters that support my sentiment. You may not accept by data, or my logic, which may lead you to claim that I didn’t make my point. However you can’t say I didn’t support my point with data and arguments that were easily dismissed.

    > They? Have you discussed the real world or anything else with
    > all of us (teachers)? Have you had such discussions with most of us?

    If you were to spend some time reading the archived discussions, you’d get a good sense of who posts, their points-of-view, and who (if any) have changed their points-of-view over time.

    You have to accept that there are lots of conversations about education, many with teachers, which are not a part of this Blog. Those discussions contribute to our views of the world too.

    > In fact, spent ten or twenty years working in the corporate
    > or business world and know quite a bit.

    I suppose there are a few teachers in public education that might have “burned out” and spent some time in a public school teaching. In fact, the current Insurance Commissioner of California, a multi-millionaire by the name of Steve Poizner, who founded SnapTrak, Inc. and Strategic Mapping, Inc here in the Silicon Valley, served as an unpaid teacher in San Jose’s Mount Pleasant High School a couple of years ago. When I was in school, there were a lot of retired WWII-era military officers teaching in the high schools in the town where I grew up (a Navy town). But I don’t sense that very many teachers these days are ex-military, or experienced business people.

  102. Wayne Martin,

    Can you see though why throwing a claim out there about how teachers don’t know anything about the real world and at the same time claiming to know a lot about how schools and teachers ought to do their jobs even though you’ve never, as far as you’ve revealed here, taught or worked in a school, well, comes off as a bit rich?

    Don’t get me wrong: I think everyone is entitled to fight for the best government we can get and the best public schools. I’m not asking for deference to teachers, only that you don’t discount them/us simply for being teachers.

  103. wayne martin says:

    > Tell you what, I won’t lump together everyone who lives in a
    > small town if you don’t lump together everyone who teaches.

    Hmm .. I maybe have misled you a bit. I live in the Silicon Valley, which has well over 1M people living in some 20-odd towns. The combined budget of the school district and the city government are over 250M a year, and the combined assets of the City government and School District are well over $25B (more-or-less). It’s physically a small town, but with more financial resources than most towns its size. This fact has made the politics topsy-turvy at times. Fifty years ago, most of the Silicon Valley was farm land, by-the-way.

    The SF.BayArea is home to about 8M people. Most of the towns lie side-by-side, with no unincorporated county between, so it’s really difficult at times to see yourself living in a small town anymore.

  104. Looks like you don’t understand the difference between “prohibits” and “does not expressly allow”.

    Try this: “As evidence of the far-reaching scope of bargaining, at
    least 34 states have recognized the right of various school
    employee unions and their boards to bargain collectively
    over terms and conditions of employment. Moreover,
    another 7 states permit bargaining at a board’s option while
    9 states prohibit it for public-sector employees (Lieberman
    1997).” at http://asbointl.org/asbo/files/ccLibraryFiles/FILENAME/000000001109/Dec05-SBA-Collective-Bargaining.pdf

    Let’s try this again: why not give parents the right to choose a school, subject to oversight similar to that which governs public schools? And while we’re at it, I send my kids to a private school; why should I also pay property taxes to subsidize the incompetents who’ve so thoroughly messed up the public schools?

    At the end of your section on Huxley, you asked how much time I spend in Fremont. Perhaps you could explain the connection? And what exactly is your position on those proud professionals who refused to write letters of recommendation? Admiration? Disgust?

    As for my reference to Huxley, I thought my argument was trivially true, and it it had nothing to do with “…the strong bonds of family and monogamous love.” This rather corny prose, btw, ignores the 50+% divorce rate in the US, as well as the fact that 60% of kids in the US live with a single parent.

  105. wayne martin says:

    > Can you see though why throwing a claim out there about how
    > teachers don’t know anything about the real world and
    > at the same time claiming to know a lot about how
    > schools and teachers ought to do their jobs even though
    > you’ve never, as far as you’ve revealed here, taught or
    > worked in a school, well, comes off as a bit rich?

    Hmm .. what I wrote was: “It’s always disconcerting discussing the ‘real world’ with teachers, as they all too frequently are ill-prepared to discuss these matters because of their lack of understanding about how other industries actually function.”

    I didn’t say that “teachers don’t know anything about the real world”, I said they demonstrated a lack of understanding. Given that most teachers go directly into teaching from college, where do they get any knowledge about the working world? If after five years, a teacher were expected to take off a couple of years and work in the private sector, what kind of insight into the working world would a teacher have when he/she returned to the classroom? (Want to wager a guess as to how many would return?)

    A couple of comments earlier in this thread suggesting that private sector people could not be dismissed with “due process”, posted by a teacher, was soundly dismissed by another poster, pointing out that (in California at least), employment was “at will”—meaning that it is “at the will of the employer:.” In other words, no “due process” prior to dismissal. Teachers have managed to surround themselves with “tenure”, but how many really understand that this system does not exist outside education systems? (The teacher who made the posting in question didn’t.)

    (In fact, California does have some State labor laws which allow employees to sue for “wrongful discharge” if they feel they have been fired for no good reason. There actually is “due process” here, but it’s after the fact and requires the dismissed employee find a lawyer willing to take on the case.)

    As to my never having taught (or as revealed herein), every one has gone to public school (almost anyway) and those of us who have certainly have opinions about schools and education which are primarily personal in nature, but not necessarily erroneous because they are opinion-based. Certainly people who think back over their school years (evaluating those experiences in light of their own careers), should be able to express opinions, suggestions and complaints about public schools based on their experiences. (Oh, I did have TA jobs in undergraduate school and graduate school.)

    In my case, I’ve done a lot of data analysis on California Education data, which is available to the public on the CA.DoE WEB-site. I’ve created Relational Databases for most of the data that relates to expenses, and performance. I’ve also requested salary data from my school district, and analyzed that data on a yearly basis and periodically pointed out cost reduction suggestions to the School Board. I did all of this work because I realized that no one in the education industry with whom I spoke had any idea what the systemic costs and performance numbers looked like. Not only do I think that most teachers don’t have a sound view of the “real world”, but most have no idea about the finances and performance of the public school system either.

    > even though
    > you’ve never, as far as you’ve revealed here, taught or
    > worked in a school, well, comes off as a bit rich?

    There is a pernicious mindset that unless you are this, that or the other, you can not comment, or have an opinion, on the subject. Well, this mindset pretty much discounts education as having any value. Because .. if you can’t use your education to solve problems .. what good is it?

    > I’m not asking for deference to teachers, only that you
    > don’t discount them/us simply for being teachers.

    People get the respect they earn.

  106. My Fremont reference was a joke about my perception of liberal lunacy in California. Sorry that it didn’t come through. The strong bond of family and monogamous love are what the society in the book systematically seeks to destroy, not my idealist view of what we’ve got now. Sorry if you find the idea corny; it was Huxley’s. If it’s just my phrasing of it, then I’m sorry. Maybe you really do need to re-read it even if it’s only for superficial allusion’s sake.

    Here’s the deal: I know that Georgia doesn’t allow collective bargaining by teachers because I live here. I know that other states don’t allow collective bargaining by teachers because I’ve read about it in the past. It’s unfortunate that you won’t even permit the possibility that teacher unions have limited influence in some states; if I thought that you’d have some sort of epiphany if you saw the state code prohibiting it, I’d even look them up.

    But it seems like a pretty big chunk of time to spend on a guy who won’t acknowledge the evidence that I have provided. Are you still of the position that teachers unions have significant influence in all of the states? Are you willing to believe that this influence is diminished if shown further proof of the non-existence of collective bargaining by teachers in some states? Does it have to be state code prohibiting collective bargaining or will the absence of the actual practice be enough?

    As far as the Fremont teachers, I think it was crappy of them to punish individual kids for something that they were unhappy about with their employers. I’d never do it myself, and I think it undermines their cause with people of good will. It’s mean spirited and dumb. I don’t know that I feel close enough to it to feel disgust, but I understand why you do if you contribute to their salaries.

    Really, your question about whether you should have to pay for public schools is a good one. I don’t know. I don’t have kids at all, yet I pay. Some couples will always be childless, and they pay. The idea, I believe, is that democracy would function better in a country with an educated citizenry, so we all benefit from the education of others.

    Is that working out? It’s hard to say. But honestly, it’s some of this intangible national cohesion that I think will be further diminished if we completed go to privatized schools and vouchers.

    With the funding oversight we’ve got now, I’d be fine with school choice. As I said, if we even base accreditation for choice on academic performance, I’m happy with choice. My problem, and I’ve said this on other threads is that I think we’re going to see weird stuff crop up, like I joked about the Mumia Al Jumal School for Social Justice and the Westboro Baptist Church School in other threads. (I’m not down on Baptists; that’s the Kansas group that thinks that God hates American) I think we’ve got to have clear lines about what we can expect the taxpayers to pay for.

  107. Oh, Wayne Martin, you’re driving me crazy. I clearly stated that I thought everyone could contribute meaningfully to the discussion on school reform. In fact, I think we have an obligation to. I wasn’t discounting the opinion of others, and that was clear from my post.
    I was licking my wounds from your “teachers don’t know anything about the real world” commentary. Some don’t; some do.

    (I wasn’t the teacher who thought Steve Jobs had to show due cause, but I will note that based on the retention of useless employees, there seem to be a lot a private sector HR people who don’t know how easy it ought to be to fire people either. It’s weird. Almost anyone I know who works at a private company has at least one fellow employee who gets away with incompetence. It’s hard to know why.)

    Your knowledge of public schools IS extraordinary and your general knowledge is certainly impressive (props on the colonial roads and private railroad examples so quickly).

  108. http://w3.lexis-nexis.com/hottopics/gacode/Default.asp?loggedIn=done

    Here seems to be a link to the Georgia code section. It seems incomplete, but once you are in there you can surf around.

  109. Sorry, it won’t save a link to the particular code. You’ll have to go to the link, enter, search “collective bargaining” and look for the education result.

    Weirdly, it appears that firefighters can collectively bargain, but teachers cannot.

    And we’re still near the bottom on the SAT. I wonder where we are on fire prevention.

  110. Wayne Martin, first you wrote that you lived in a small town, then you tell me I’m wrong for making a reference to people who live in small towns because, actually, you don’t (I do understand your point about the ambiguity of where you live; I’ve spent time on the North Shore of Long Island which sounds similar in that regard).

    You make an ad hominem statement — insulting teachers as if that proves your point is more valid than someone else’s.

    You say now that you can prove that “It’s always disconcerting discussing the ‘real world’ with teachers, as they all too frequently are ill-prepared to discuss these matters because of their lack of understanding about how other industries actually function…”

    You admit that you are basing your assumption on teachers with whom you’ve discussed the politics and economics of education — and then you extend your judgement to cover all of us.

    I respect your views as a tax payer, a citizen, a resident of the Silicon Valley, and whatever else you are. I’m a tax payer too (nearly $10,000 a year in property taxes alone) and I’m fed up with a lot of what you are fed up with. I have seen teachers who have no business being anywhere near children and others who have very little to offer. I’ve seen money wasted in the most incredible ways. I’ve seen rampant and bold-faced corruption. So I understand your frustration because I share it.

    But don’t tell me that I — a teacher — haven’t got a grip on the “real world” because I’ve been shot at in my job (and I am unarmed and I have no combat training) and I’ve taken knives off of students and intervened between gangbangers about to square off and I’ve had someone knock on my classroom door during a lockdown after a pregnant woman was executed right outside our school. It was the real world knocking, let me tell you. I had to decide whether to open the door — in case it was a student running for cover — or ignore the knocking because it might be the gunman.

    I’m sure you didn’t mean THAT “real world” — the real world of violence, depseration, and dispair, one I am many of my colleagues know quite well. I suspect that what you meant was that we (teachers) just aren’t sophisticated about things like business and finance.

    But that isn’t what you said.
    And while you might have meant that the many teachers with whom you’ve tried to have such discussions have often demonstrated this lack of sophistication — a statement with which I would hardly argue — again, that isn’t what you said.

    George Orwell warned about the dangers of getting sloppy with language — and how it can lead, ultimately, to ignorance and tyranny (two things you feem to be fighting against, as am I).

    Or maybe I’m just being picky because, well, you know, after all — I’m an English teacher….

  111. As Wayne Martin said, “People get the respect they earn.” But unionoids are somewhat delusional.

    NDC said, “But honestly, it’s some of this intangible national cohesion that I think will be further diminished if we completed go to privatized schools and vouchers.”

    Yes, this uniform mediocrity might give way to some improvements, and that’s good thing.

    Public education doesn’t imply public schools; that’s a construct of union power. You could have public funding with private choice (translation: vouchers for the full amount, no restrictions on income etc.) But then the parents might wise up, mightn’t they, and actually look for a good school for their kids.

    And that wouldn’t be good for those proud professionals who infest the public schools.

  112. Uh, no. We had public schools much in the form we do today before we had unions. The idea of common schools isn’t a construct of union power.

    We’ve never had a tax other people, hand it to the parents system, ever, I don’t think.

    And, I remind you yet again, they’re the same schools that we have in places where we don’t see strong union influence.

    You won’t accept any reform but school choice. Okay, but the way you present yourself here will lose the support and respect of people who have concerns about the public schools and would like to see reform. Many of them are people who are interested in trying aspects of choice to see how they work, but when they realize that it’s just a way for affluent parents to shift the cost of their children’s education on to others, they may not be so interested.

    Maybe the parents would wise up, but so would taxpayers. Those people without children or without children currently in school would begin to question why money was taken from them and handed to you. The present system, flawed as it is, allows a sense of public ownership of schools, and taxpayer participation through elections and voting. Take it away, and you might not see the same interest in paying for schools, period.

  113. To suggest that school choice may not solve all the problems in public education is to be unionoid and delusional?

    Weird that there’s no room for consensus building or looking for common ground. It explains a lot about why unions or “PSAs” behave the way they do though when they interact with these guys. If you are identified as the enemy, even if you have good intentions, you might have a tendency to get entrenched.

  114. Andy Freeman says:

    > We’ve never had a tax other people, hand it to the parents system, ever, I don’t think.

    The GI bill was even more extreme – we let the “kids” decide where to spend education money.

    And, AFDC is exactly “give money to parents, let them spend it where they choose”.

    > You won’t accept any reform but school choice.

    Not at all. School choice enables reform in a massive scale. We don’t have to waste a generation discovering that some fad doesn’t work outside of edlabs.

    However, the better reason is that school choice lets kids escape schools that don’t perform even though they’ve checked all the right boxes.

    Credentials, plans, and the like aren’t ends, performance is.

  115. Andy Freeman says:

    > And you are changing your argument after the fact. If you initially say:

    Actually I’m not.

    > “Let’s compare the list of teacher union recommended candidates for school boards and state offices in the last election with the list of folks who got elected.”

    NDC didn’t want to do that. Instead, NDC pointed out that there are states where teachers unions don’t recommend many candidates. So, I discussed them and pointed out what they support and oppose.

    > I don’t think they primarily exist to protect bad teachers and mediocrity

    Where do they spend their money?

    > (they exist because there needed to be some protection from bad management).

    The only folks who need protection from bad management are folks who can’t choose their management. See – school choice works for teachers too.

    I don’t think that teachers unions should be banned or restricted. I think that they should be held accountable for what they do.

  116. NDC,

    I don’t think you’ve answered a number of the points I’ve raised. For example:

    1. We disagreed about the number of states that prohibit collective bargaining, and I posted a link that indicates that 9 states prohibit it. You claimed a higher number, will you admit that you were wrong?

    2. I explained to you the difference between “prohibits” and “does not expressly allow”. You haven’t admitted that there’s a difference; will you admit it now?

    3. I referenced Huxley’s “Brave New World” to make the point that you don’t want rocket scientists to be schoolteachers; most of them would be bored out of their minds. Will you concede the point?

    4. I suggested that changes might make the sea of mediocrity that is public ed slightly less uniform. Do you deny that public ed in the U S is a joke?

    5. When I pointed you at TIMSS, you said that math and science might be in trouble, but not literacy/reading. And yet here’s a link from today’s NY Times that says reading’s getting worse: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/02/22/education/22cnd-test.html?hp
    Wrong again, NDC, don’t you think?

    6. I said that unionoid are somewhat delusional. Can you show me how that implies that “To suggest that school choice may not solve all the problems in public education is to be unionoid and delusional?”

    Professionals have too much pride to behave the way that you do.

  117. I’m open to the idea that school choice could be very good for teachers, but again, I go back to the idea that it needs oversight if it’s using public funds.

    I’m a little confused: you suggested comparing a list but didn’t provide one. Was I suppose to get together a list to disprove your point? You weren’t supposed to provide a list? In the last election in my state, the unions endorsed the guy who lost:

    http://georgiaunfiltered.blogspot.com/2006/06/georgia-federation-of?teachers-endorse.html

    (There were more than 110,000 teachers in Georgia in the year of the election according to this site:
    http://www.gapsc.com/Workforce/2006_Report/Executive_Summary.pdf

    Now, you go.

    Show me Republican lead states where the unions endorsed the winners.
    In my experience, unions pretty much always endorse Democrats. If you’re in a state where the folks typically support Democratic candidates, it’s no surprise to me that you’re also in a state where voters do what unions want. It’s not a “you’re at the mercy of unions” deal, it’s a “you’re surrounded by people who share the same world view” issue, and it appears that view doesn’t align with yours, at least as it applies to education.

    Are you trying to call former GIs kids? Weird. But okay. I’m open to letting all former servicemen and servicewomen choose where they want to go for school. Totally, just hand them the money. I’m also open to just handing the schools money for their kids. I have no problem giving people money for a service they’ve provided. (You have to admit that this isn’t a good comparison to k-12 vouchers.)

  118. Here goes:

    1. We disagreed about the number of states that prohibit collective bargaining, and I posted a link that indicates that 9 states prohibit it. You claimed a higher number, will you admit that you were wrong?

    Sure, I said eleven; you say nine. I’m willing to accept nine. Do you accept that in these 9 states, unions couldn’t be ruining public education?

    2. I explained to you the difference between “prohibits” and “does not expressly allow”. You haven’t admitted that there’s a difference; will you admit it now?

    Sure, there’s a difference, but if unions aren’t engaging in the practice, it’s hard to think that this matters to the overall point.

    3. I referenced Huxley’s “Brave New World” to make the point that you don’t want rocket scientists to be schoolteachers; most of them would be bored out of their minds. Will you concede the point?

    I don’t want rocket scientists to be teachers, I agree: I want them to be rocket scientists if they are good at rocket science. Is this a trick?

    I suspect that you meant that you didn’t want people smart enough to be rocket scientists to be teachers. I don’t know if I agree with that. Some studies indicate that teacher intelligence correlates highly with student achievement. I haven’t carefully examined the studies enough to say. I think we need highly intelligent people to teach if we will improve our performance on the TIMSS.

    4. I suggested that changes might make the sea of mediocrity that is public ed slightly less uniform. Do you deny that public ed in the U S is a joke?

    I think public ed is some parts of the country is a joke. Yes. I don’t know if it’s failing systematically all over. I agree that change is needed badly.

    5. When I pointed you at TIMSS, you said that math and science might be in trouble, but not literacy/reading. And yet here’s a link from today’s NY Times that says reading’s getting worse: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/02/22/education/22cnd-test.html?hp
    Wrong again, NDC, don’t you think?

    If I accept what’s reported in the NY Times here, yes, reading is in trouble. When you look at some international literacy comparisons, we look pretty good. (Some say it’s 99%)

    When I responded to the TIMSS comment, it wasn’t to say that nothing could be improved with reading. It was to respond to another coment’s point that kids weren’t learning to read. Are the kids learning to read as well as they could be? Probably not. Reading instruction in the US could certainly be better.

    6. I said that unionoid are somewhat delusional. Can you show me how that implies that “To suggest that school choice may not solve all the problems in public education is to be unionoid and delusional?”

    Oh, you weren’t talking to me? I misunderstood. I thought because I expressed a reluctance about school choice, you were calling me unionoid and delusional. My bad. Or were you talking to me but it was because I suggested some states don’t have unions messing up education.

  119. This is really neither here not there as far as unions but somebody said:

    “And, AFDC is exactly “give money to parents, let them spend it where they choose”.”

    I don’t have a lot of experience with this, but I was under the impression that only certain things could be purchased. Is this not true?

  120. NDC said:

    “When you look at some international literacy comparisons, we look pretty good. (Some say it’s 99%)”

    Cite? I wouldn’t look at PISA, though.

    “I don’t have a lot of experience with this [AFDC], but I was under the impression that only certain things could be purchased. Is this not true?”

    I assume AFDC = food stamps or something similar? Thay can go to any shop that takes ’em. Unlike public schools, where you have no choice at all.

    The GI Bill is a very good example of choice, and arguably a great success story.

    “I have no problem giving people money for a service they’ve provided. (You have to admit that this isn’t a good comparison to k-12 vouchers.)”

    Oh, the parents didn’t pay taxes? Shockin’!

  121. Uh, some of the parents don’t pay much in terms of the taxes that support schools: certainly they don’t cover their own kids’ costs.

    I don’t think I would if I had a kid in school; I know I wouldn’t for sure if I had two. Taxes are low enough that we have to pool from multiple sources to get enough to fund the per pupil costs. I think this is true a lot of places.

    And as we’ve covered before, a lot of people who pay taxes aren’t parents. Paying taxes isn’t going to qualify for me as an example of the type of service I mean. In your mind, is paying taxes the equivalent of paying taxes AND having served in the Armed Forces?

    Yes, food stamps can go in any shop that takes them. Do all shops take them? It’s my understanding that only certain foods can be purchased. There’s some control over what parents actually buy in terms of nutrition, I think.

    Literacy rates: https://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/print/us.html

    The wikipedia entry on literacy is interesting because it discusses the different standards that groups use. On one chart the US is in the 95-100 range, but in another paragraph it gives different results from a differnt measure.

    This is kind of interesting: http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2005/2005117.pdf

  122. NDC,

    These are extraordinarily weak responses, don’t you think?

    1. The point of the AFDC example was that even they have choice.

    2. Re literacy, perhaps you’d care to look at how the US does compared to the rest of the world? Try PISA (but you won’t like the findings). To quote a CIA report that says 99% of the people in the US can read is meaningless.

    3. As for paying teachers for a service they signally fail to provide, that’s OK, I imagine?

  123. Ragnarok,

    I think the quality of the responses is in keeping with the scale of my claim and the value of the point you were making.

    It cannot be concluded that unions are the biggest obstacle to school improvement because in states without (or with significantly weaker) union influence, education is no better and perhaps even worse. It’s true whether it’s 9 or 11 states. It’s true whether the laws don’t expressly permit or actively prohibit collective bargaining as long as the unions can’t or don’t do it.

    What makes the CIA fact book on the US meaningless? I suspect that any standard of literacy that suggested high percentage of people can read would also be meaningless by your standards.

    I think a lot of the reading instruction in public schools in flawed. I don’t think the kids read as well as I’d like them to. But I don’t think there are a lot of kids sitting in classrooms not learning to read, which was the entire claim I was making. I did not assert that we were first in reading, only that I don’t think we’re in the midst of a literacy crisis. You can disagree and we can compete finding sources, but this isn’t going anywhere. You’re not prepared to be satisfied with any evidence. I’ve acknowledged that there’s need for improvement.

    I think teachers do provide the service they are contracted to. Sure, we could find a small percentage who don’t. Sure, teachers could do better. But if you look at the expectations outlined by school districts and the people who formally evaluate the teachers, the teachers are meeting them. Again, the expectations of the district may not line up with your own. The districts may emphasize process and behaviors rather than outcomes. That may be a mistake, but if it’s what the most direct employee (BOE) outlines as the job, and they do it, then you’re not really paying them for a service that they didn’t provide.

  124. Oh, and again with the AFDC example, they have limited choice.
    It’s also not for everyone’s children; it’s for poor families. We don’t give it to everyone who has kids.

    Maybe that would be an interesting school choice model: give it only to poor kids.

  125. Andy Freeman says:

    > I don’t have a lot of experience with this, but I was under the impression that only certain things could be purchased. Is this not true?

    There are some restrictions on the items bought, but there’s no restriction on where they buy said items.

    While it is true that we don’t have a program exactly like school choice (which is a circular counter argument), we do have programs which share many of the common elements.

    School choice would be “spend many places” money for kids+education.

    The GI bill was “spend many places” money for education.

    AFDC is “spend many places” money for kids+food.

    NDC appears to be backing into the “but those measurements are not good enough” position typically used by PSAs to argue against pay for performance.

    So, I’ll let NDC come up with acceptable standards.

    I predict that such standards will never be forthcoming. If I’m correct, it’s reasonable to conclude that the “standards” argument is a pretext.

  126. Andy Freeman says:

    > (they exist because there needed to be some protection from bad management).

    I want to follow up on this point.

    PSAs think that teachers should have only one possible employer and then complain that said employer treats them like they have no alternatives.

    Why don’t teachers want alternatives?

  127. Some teachers do want alternatives.

    Other teachers are teaching in successful schools and successful districts, and the conditions of their employment are generally satisfactory to everybody involved.

    With any unknown, the alternatives to the present system could prove to be worse. And since school choice advocates often seem so angry and disparaging about teachers, the teachers would rather stick with the devil they know.

    I’m just guessing, but I think that’s a lot of it.

    Maybe school choicers would be well advised to try winning teachers (and whatever political clout they have) over with sugar rather than vinegar for a while. Should privatization and school choice eventual come around, issues related to teacher employment will have to be worked out. Why not sell people on the conditions that they could expect?

  128. Well put, NDC.

    My former principal, the best one I’ve ever worked for, used to do whatever she could to make her teachers comfortable, appreciated, and, in general, happy. She found ways to pay us for extra work we had been doing for years without extra pay. She felt that our dedication should, if possible, be rewarded. She didn’t do it because she liked us and she certainly did not get a kick back. She did it because she believed that if we were happy we would do a better job than if we weren’t.

    Our API and all other indicators far outpaced our goals while she was principal.

    Even if a teacher is fully committed to excellence, making him or her happy, at the very least, eliminates the distraction of workplace frustration.

    So, I agree, people who want school choice or any other change, however radical, are well-served to figure out a way to ensure that the change is attractice to teachers, particularly those of the hard-working variety.

    By the way, that former principal also — as I’ve said elsewhere — managed to get rid of three ineffective teachers (I think I had said two but I just remembered a third she got rid of her first year) after trying without success to help them improve.

  129. Andy Freeman says:

    Let’s make sure that I’ve got this correct.

    Some teachers have good/great working conditions. Others have okay working conditions. Still others have horrible working conditions.

    Offering the latter group some place else to go is wrong because that’s change and teachers haven’t been sweet talked.

    You do realize that choice doesn’t mean that anyone must switch. Folks who are happy, or at least don’t want to change, (regardless of which group they’re in) can stay where they are.

  130. Andy Freeman,

    I have never seen a thoroughly enough fleshed out description of how school choice would be implemented to know if I would favor it or not. And that’s part of the problem.

    It’s also not the perception that school choice is going to leave aspects of the the present system in place. Do you imagine a school choice program that continues to pay teachers just as they are paid now and that allows them to continue to pay into the same retirement system with the same expected benefits, no matter how successful overall the school they choose to teach at?

    If an individual school’s funding is solely based on the number of students enrolled, how will teachers be paid?

    Have you ever seen a document that addressed these concerns and spelled out what employees could expect?

    If you were being asked to consider leaving one job and taking another, wouldn’t you want the answers to these questions before you could really consider whether the change would be good?

    Imagine not having that data, think about the rhetoric you hear about teachers out of many school choice advocates, and tell me if you wouldn’t be conflicted about the possibility?

    Sweet talk wouldn’t be enough for me, but with no data and hostility, it’s not very tempting.

  131. And a lot of places, really, teacher already have choice. They can work in another district or apply to another school within the same district.

    So as sick as it may seem that teachers have choices that the students don’t, we do.

  132. Andy Freeman says:

    > If an individual school’s funding is solely based on the number of students enrolled, how will teachers be paid?

    If a school doesn’t have any students, why should its teachers be paid? Are teachers somehow entitled to be paid?

    I previously asserted that we pay teachers for the difference that they make in student achievement. Two consequences of that are that teachers without students don’t get paid and teachers who don’t make a difference don’t get paid. (Yes, we’ll give some startup credit for trying, but at some point, we’ll give up.)

    Does NDC disagree? If so, why do we pay teachers?

    At some point in the future, NDC is likely to claim that teachers should be treated just like everyone else, other professionals, or some such, so it will be interesting to see how the answer shapes up.

  133. Andy Freeman says:

    > Do you imagine a school choice program that continues to pay teachers just as they are paid now and that allows them to continue to pay into the same retirement system with the same expected benefits, no matter how successful overall the school they choose to teach at?

    No, of course not. And, that’s a good thing.

    I suspect that NDC disagrees. Perhaps we’ll hear why.

    Folks who work at failed companies don’t have it as good as folks who work at successful companies. Does NDC think that that’s a good thing? If so, why are schools different?

  134. Andy Freeman says:

    > to pay into the same retirement system with the same expected benefits

    Does NDC believe that teacher contributions completely fund their retirement? Those contributions (and their earnings) don’t come close to funding those benefits.

    Public school retirement is a huge benefit (more in some states than others). There’s nothing wrong with a huge benefit, but it is dishonest (and wrong) to suggest that it doesn’t exist.

    Note that it’s a guaranteed benefit, something that few people have these days. Why are teachers special?

  135. Was it not clear that I was answer the question about why TEACHERS weren’t more interested in believing that school choice would improve their circumstances? Did someone not assert the idea that with school choice people who were in successful schools could continue just as they are? If the system of teacher pay and retirement is dismantled, how could that possibly be true?

    It’s because it is a good benefits system now that changes to it don’t seem that desirable.

    I completely understand that teacher retirement isn’t entirely employee funded. However, we do pay in and there’s a sense of earning and buying into the system, just as there is with any retirement system with an employer who contributes funds. You probably wouldn’t want to learn that the system you were involved in and happy with was going to be dismantled.

    It’s true that guaranteed benefits are rare, and that makes it all the more likely that one couldn’t find something comparable in a new system.

    My points were from an employees perspective. As far as I understood we were dealing with the question of why TEACHERS were not more excited about school choice. I was outlining some of those reasons.

    If the voters and taxpayers decide that moving to school choice is the right thing to do, then it won’t really matter what the employees of the previous system wanted. But it’s a pretty rare group of employees who when they have a good things going in certain areas want to move to a different system less likely to provide the same benefits.

    As a taxpayer and citizen, of course I’m interested in better schools. As a employee, I’m very interested in my terms of employment. If I don’t know what they will be, I’m not as interested in change.

    It seems to me that you can’t explain how teacher will be paid and how a new benefits system would work; you can only criticize the present system. Would you go to work at a business that explained your employment in the way you’ve explained school choice for teacher?

    “We can’t tell you what you will be specifically responsible for in terms of student achievement. We can’t tell you the policies of the schools you will working for. We can’t tell you how much you’ll get paid or what your benefits will be, or anything about your working conditions. But be supportive of the switch to school choice because we totally hated how you did things at your old job. Really, you guys got paid for doing nothing and for doing it poorly. But trust us, the new system will be better.”

    Huh?

  136. In case it’s unclear, I want you to tell me how much per kid; what kind of results, how the results will be assessed.

    It’s nice to talk about pay for performance, but meaningless unless you define what the performance is.

    Are you talking a growth model of standardized testing? A straight end performance assessment without consideration to where the kids started? Are you talking parent and student satisfaction surveys? Are you talking about a formula of all of these? ( Or maybe it’s just a how many kids finish the year enrolled in your class since parents will know what they want and the money follows the kid; it really won’t matter if they learned anything)

    Private business can fail if they aren’t successful. They will almost certainly fail if they can’t even define what success is (which is part of the problem with the current system).

  137. Andy Freeman, what choice do teachers not have already?

    I can stay in my current position.
    I can apply for a transfer within my district (this one has limitations but that is in the interest of the children I teach so that they aren’t left without a qualified teacher).
    I can apply for a job in another district.
    I can apply for a job with a charter school or private school.
    Etc.

    What choices do we not already have?

    If you’re suggesting the dismantling of public school systems in favor of voucher-supported private schools and charter schools, then here’s my honest answer:

    I cannot argue that the status quo is acceptable.
    That, to me, is insane.

    I understand the merits of choice.

    I’m not sure it serves those at the margins — poor kids without parents involved in their lives.

    But I concede that the current system isn’t serving those children all that well either.

    I do not want to make less money than I do now.
    I have two children in college and a seven year old.
    Wanting to make less money would not be the desire of a sane person.

    Ditto having my family’s health benefits eroded.

    Better working conditions would be worth, perhaps, a slight pay cut.

    I understand that in a free market superior performance usually gets rewarded in salary, etc.

    (And that the inverse of that is also true).

    But I’m not sure that would happen in a charter school or private school.

    Especially for those of us who teach children below the poverty line.

    I mean, I can imagine holding out for a higher salary to teach the children of millionaires — assuming that a teacher were considered to be highly valuable, that his work translated to his students getting into fancy colleges, etc. I once tutored middle school and high school children in Beverly Hills and charged quite a lot of money and most were willing to pay and even tipped me lavishly because I delivered results.

    But how does that work in the hood?

    I can imagine that teaching in the inner city could ultimately become a temporary profession for young do-gooders fresh out of college, 2 to 5 years and then they would move on. Kind of like Teach America.

    But for most teachers it takes that 2 to 5 years to become really good.

    I’m open-minded because, as I said, the status quo is pretty bad, and if choice really is better and the quality of instruction is going to really improve, I’m for it — even if I can no longer afford to be a teacher.

  138. Andy Freeman says:

    > If the system of teacher pay and retirement is dismantled, how could that possibly be true?

    Who said anything about dismantling retirement?

    I merely responded to the “what about teachers who are at a school that loses all its students?” If a school has no students, why should it be paying teachers (or administration for that matter)?

    Feel free to keep defending the idea that teacher pay should be independent of the difference that they make in student achievement.

  139. Andy Freeman says:

    > In case it’s unclear, I want you to tell me how much per kid; what kind of results, how the results will be assessed.

    > It’s nice to talk about pay for performance, but meaningless unless you define what the performance is.

    Ah yes, the dodge.

    NDC claims to agree with pay for performance, but disagrees with every proposal for measuring performance. I respond by asking NDC to propose an acceptable means of measuring performance. (Actually, I did this some time ago, when I predicted the dodge, so this is a repeat.)

    And that’s where it ends. NDC may be willing to say that pay for performance is an acceptable idea, but is unwilling to accept any implementations there of. In other words, the agreement was merely a dodge.

    It’s easy enough to prove me wrong – come up with a couple of acceptable ways to measure teacher performance and couple that to teacher pay. And yes, I reserve the right to comment on whether the proposals actually do that.

  140. Andy Freeman says:

    > I can apply for a transfer within my district (this one has limitations but that is in the interest of the children I teach so that they aren’t left without a qualified teacher).

    Districts are geographical. Why should all schools within a given area be under the same management?

    Take the LA school district. If an LA teacher wants an alternative, it’s a big move.

    Why should a district be larger than a couple of schools? Why shouldn’t districts overlap geographically?

    We think it’s wrong when an area has only one grocery store – why are schools different?

  141. Andy Freeman says:

    > A straight end performance assessment without consideration to where the kids started?

    I’ve already answered that question. I think that teachers should be evaluated by the difference that they make.

    When they’re starting with little and make a big difference, they should get big money. When they start with a lot and just maintain, they shouldn’t get much at all.

    What part of that is objectionable? What parts are unimplementable? (Be careful here – if you inadvertently concede that teachers don’t matter, I’m going to ask why we should pay them at all.)

  142. Andy Freeman,

    The purpose of large districts is to centralize the leadership and eliminate redundancy. LA Unified has found a way to increase redundancy. They’ve set up local districts — 8 of them within the district — and have maintained the central authority above those local districts.

    I understand the idea of paying us based on performance — and hopefully you are reflecting a typical perspective in saying that such assessment should be based on progress with students — and I would embrace that in a minute.

    I think it would be difficult to accurately assess a teacher’s performance. Not impossible but complicated.

    It would have to be based on the performance of individual students over time, not some vague aggragate number. The way it is now, we are congratulated when our 9th grade scores go up from the previous year. They compare the class of 2010 with the class of 2009. Even when they follow the class of 2010 or 2009 from 9th to 10th grade they do not currently account for students who change schools. All of that would have to change. I don’t want to be judged for the work of others.

    I’m not confident that administrators and politicians are going to have much concern about such matters. For them what matters are those overall numbers going up or down.

    And, not to nit-pick but… would there be consideration for outside forces? If a student misses half the school year because she was in Mexico taking care of her dying grandmother or was shot and might have suffered minor brain damage (not enough to receive special ed services but enough to effect performance on a state assessment and bring down his score from last year)… Such issues usually only impact a few students, perhaps not enough to be concerned, but I don’t want my paycheck or job security to be at the mercy of the Crips and Bloods…

    Also, having an assessment for students that has no impact on those students gives misleading results. By the time students are in my class they know that they can get zeroes on the CST tests and still graduate HS and get into college. It is not a high stakes test for them. The tests, therefor, measure apathy along with aptitude. I always remind my students that the results reflect on the school as a whole and on me. So for my students school pride and their fondness or lack of fondness for me is also measured.

    If we could merge the SAT and other meaningful tests with these assessments, that would help.

    The exit exam, therefor, is a more reliable measure but in California it’s at a level such that it ought to be a high school ENTRANCE exam….

    I’m not trying to find excuses to disagree with you. I’m trying to embrace what is potentially a fair way to motivate teachers to work hard and to reward effort and talent and consequently provide students with the best quality instruction.

    For me implementation IS the problem. How exactly do you measure a teacher’s impact on students? Has this already been figured out in a detailed fashion? If so, I’d love to see it. If not, let’s get started….

  143. Andy, why is the burden to design the change on me? You’re the guy advocating for school choice.

    And Andy, you haven’t said how you would measure anything.

    What does making a difference mean in terms of data?

    What test would you use? How frequently would you test? How do you break down measurements of making a difference and add a financial value? what’s it worth per kid?

    Your nebulous rhetoric is as bad or worse than most education professors.

    And to shift the burden of the argument about what standards and measure should be used in a system YOY want to implement is nutty and illogical.

    To be open to supporting school choice, I have to design the system?

  144. Andy Freeman says:

    > It would have to be based on the performance of individual students over time, not some vague aggragate number.

    Assuming that Strauss is referring to evaluating a teacher by the performance of said teacher’s individual students, we’re in agreement.

    Earlier we agreed that individual students came with a “degree of difficulty”, so teachers got more credit for making small improvements with “bad” students than they got for the same improvements with good ones. (Teacher who can make a big difference with bad students will make a killing while those who only make a small difference with good ones won’t do very well.)

    Now let’s see if we can get some acceptable details.

  145. Yes, Andy Freeman, so far I’m with you.

  146. Andy Freeman says:

    > Andy, why is the burden to design the change on me?

    Because your side has a nasty habit of saying “pay for performance is acceptable” and then rejecting any concrete performance along those lines. We’ve seen that in this discussion as well as many others before it on this blog. (NDC may be new to this discussion, but it has played out before.)

    After a while, the only reasonable conclusion is that you don’t actually agree with pay for performance and are hiding behind a series “but not that way” excuse.

    Maybe you can hold that line. However, if you can’t, you’re unlikely to like what happens when it breaks. To avoid that, or to prove me wrong, you can come up with an acceptable system. Until then, I’m going to point to the conclusion.

  147. Andy, I’m calling your bluff: you have no idea how a school choice system could actually be implemented.

    You haven’t given a single description of any system, and the idea that you somehow are right until proven wrong really isn’t going to get you anywhere in your attempt to get change. (It might work if you were on the side of the status quo, but won’t work to get people to do something new.) You are actually setting the school choice movement back.

    The fact that you’re now changing the subject from what a system of choice would be like to the related but different issue of pay for performance reveals just how weak your ideas for school choice implementation must be.

    I love the idea of Tennessee Value Added Assessment for pay for performance. Do you know anything about it?

  148. Okay, I’m really laughing at myself. Note to self: if you’re going to use caps to draw emphasis to a word, make sure you actually type the word you mean.

    My post earlier was trying to draw attention to the word YOU not YOY.

  149. NDC, I’m afraid I’m the one who changed the subject.

    Andy, I didn’t know we were taking “sides” on this issue.

    For teachers like me this is not just an issue. This is our livelihood. So you’ll have to forgive a little caution, skepticism even.

    The implication that I — if I am included in your generalization about people on the other “side” — am only paying lip service to being open minded and will reject any actual proposal is a little unfair.

    Implementation is everything — especially when, as I say, it’s your living….

    I love the idea of solar-powered cars.
    But I’m not going to junk my internal combustion engined car until someone figures out how to make those solar panels a hell of a lot smaller.

    That isn’t a perfect analogy but I think it has some merit.

  150. I appreciate your apology, but Andy Freeman actually addressed some posts to me about it as if I were the one who was obligated to respond.

    Larry, I feel the same general way that you do. I know schools need improvement, and I don’t want to promote the status quo. And yet, I’m not eager to bet my livelihood on something that just sounds like a good idea but isn’t well thought out.

    Because I think I do a good job and can deliver solid instruction, I don’t fear teacher assessment based on merit or performance, but I need to know exactly what’s being assessed. Too much of what’s wrong now in education, I think, is that nobody will really focus on anything, and teachers are expected to be all things to all people.

    I know I got fussy earlier about other people being dismissive, but I’m pretty much ready to write Andy off. Andy wants to attack the present system, which we all agree is flawed, but when he’s pressured to deal with the details of what would replace it and how such as system would work, he wants to kick the hard work over to someone else. That’s not how creating an argument works. You don’t get to shift the burden of proof and declare yourself the winner.

    I agree that it would be best not to think of educational reform in terms of “sides,” but it’s hard to find the middle ground with people who advocate essentially only one answer but won’t explain how it will actually work.

  151. Looking back over the thread, I see where we shifted to pay for performance. When I pressed Andy for details about how teachers would be paid in a school choice system, he responded as if I had suggested that teachers should be paid for doing nothing and having no students. I think I may have even thrown the term out there.

    Again, though, Andy, you’ve yet to describe any kind of system at all, much less some kind of exhaustive list that I’ve rejected.

    Andy, are you saying that you want to have a system of school choice that maintains the same teacher retirement and benefits system, but that for all other funding the money follows the kids to the schools they attend?

  152. There was a really good piece in the Atlantic Monthly back in 1999 about utopian thinking and how dangerous it was. The author identified what he thought would be the utopian myths following us into the new century. There was the technological utopia — that technology would solve all our human problems — and its opposite, the green utopia and the religoius utopia and, of course, the free-market capitalism utopia of which privatization — of everything governmnet — is an expression….

    I don’t know if Andy Freeman believes in that but I think that a lot of school choice advocates do.

    Government does such a lousy job with so many things that it is difficult to argue with the sentiment. But governments and their entities can be reformed. New York City might still have corruption but they are a long way from Tamany Hall. It didn’t take privitization to desegregate American schools.

  153. Larry, have you looked at the Tennessee Value Added Assessment website?
    It really looks like a pay for performance system that would work.

    http://www.shearonforschools.com/TVAAS_index.html

    http://www.cgp.upenn.edu/ope_tn.html

    I agree with you about utopian thinking about education. Most solutions to problems in education seem to elect to ignore any inconvenient issues that the solution doesn’t address.

    (And the worst people about this, IMO, are the educational professionals who aren’t current teachers.)

  154. Thanks for the link, NDC.

    Am I missing something, though?
    On both sites, it said that they consider more than standardized test data but I didn’t see what else they considered in determining the “gains” that students were making….

    There are some pretty obvious problems with the standardized test as a tool to evaluate a teacher’s or school’s effectiveness…

    There are a number of factors which can cause a student to perform lower — sometimes much lower — than they are capable of:

    -The student wasn’t feeling well that day
    -The student was tired
    (Schools encourage students to go to bed early, etc. the night before testing because they understand that)
    -The student was depressed
    -The student knows the test doesn’t impact him
    -The student was angry at the teacher, the school
    -The student thinks the test is stupid
    I could go on….

    There is only one way that I can think of that a student can perform better than he is capable on these tests.

    -Cheating (either the student, the teacher, or both)

    Anyway, what — besides test scores — is Tennessee using? I didn’t get it.

  155. As far as I know it’s just test scores, and you are right that without the kids having a big stake in the test, it’s hard to know they will try.

    But it’s the best system of academic pay for performance that I’ve seen.

    What else, other than test scores, do you think really could be used? People expect a lot from us, but how much of it is measurable?

  156. Well, NDC, a lot of what we do is difficult to measure so I understand the need for tests but then the tests would have to be very different than they currently are — and I’m not sure if anyone is willing to change any of that.

    As I said, the student must have a stake in the results. It isn’t hard to figure out a way to do that but it needs to get done….
    –Also, you cannot measure writing ability with a multiple choice test — I don’t care what the testing companies say, writing is writing and bubbling is bubbling and one cannot measure the other…. It’s like measuring someone’s marksmanship or boxing skills with a written test.

    For me the best system would be to simply have each teacher evaluate himself and get paid based upon that evaluation.

    That would solve everything….

  157. That last suggestion was a joke….

  158. I understood as soon as I read it that you were joking.

    I don’t specifically know what the Tennessee deal does in writing, but it seems to me that the AP English tests assess writing as a component of the over AP English score. Obviously, I don’t think all high school kids should take the AP exams, but I suspect some agency could develop similar test for each grade, assuming that AP was the college freshman level, and work down from there. Anyway, even if it’s not like the AP test, you could develop standardized writing tests that were pretty good. Teachers might have to emphasize how to produce a good final product more than making sure kids show the “writing process,” but I tend to think being focused on process and portfolios is mainly a load of crap anyway.

    Making the test count for the kids’ grades or promotions gives kids a pretty big stake in it, but I agree it seems weird for elementary school.

  159. I figured you’d know I was joking. I added that disclaimer in case some one without a sense of humor happened to be reading….

    I actually have issues with the AP exam — that they ask for three analytic essays in two hours tends to discriminate aainst the really best writers who care so much about style that they run out of time. People who care deeply about language and work hard on their sentences ought never be penalized for doin so.

    So a test to measure how well the average student writes ought to be more reasonable but that isn’t difficult to accomplish.

    It’s expensive but might be worthwhile.

    There is now computer software that can read essays and evaluate them.

    That is one of the scariest things I’ve ever heard of and I wouldn’t want to endorse it…

    As for younger children, I agree that we ought not put pressure on them to perform on tests. It probably isn’t necessary. I think they often assume that the test results do matter. They want to impress their teachers and parents. It’s older students who become cynical and disenchanted who need more incentive to try on a test.

    I’ve seen students put their heads down after five minutes. I’ve tried to make them pick their heads up. I’ve seen them bubble straight down the A-column…

  160. I had a kid go to sleep during a test that counted 15% of his grade. He didn’t have a bad attitude usually, but he was staying up too late at night. I woke him up twice to take it, but he would fall back asleep. I think he was one of those kids who know how low they could get on the test and still be in the C range in the class, and that was good enough for him.

    But in contrast, every other kid worked as hard as he or she could.

    If we are going to have pay for performance with testing, I’d pick the TVAAS way.

    I suspect though if the kids are also getting some positive result back in terms of growth, not just where they are relative to everyone else, they probably want to do better too.

  161. Andy Freeman says:

    > you have no idea how a school choice system could actually be implemented.

    Actually, I do.

    Each parent with a school age child is given a voucher every 3 months. Said voucher can be redeemed by an accredited school for cash.

    The GI bill machinery works quite well.

    What I don’t know how to do is design a pay for performance system that PSAs will accept. Since they don’t either, the only reasonable conclusion is that their stated acceptance of pay for performance is dishonest.

    It’s easy enough to prove me wrong….

  162. Andy Freeman says:

    > When I pressed Andy for details about how teachers would be paid in a school choice system, he responded as if I had suggested that teachers should be paid for doing nothing and having no students.

    I responded that way because that’s what NDC actually wrote. I’ll quote.

    > If an individual school’s funding is solely based on the number of students enrolled, how will teachers be paid?

    One possibility with school choice is that a school won’t get any students. Why should it get money? Another possibility is that it will get only a few students and have way more teachers. Again, proportional to students seems reasonable, even if that means that the many teachers at that school have to split a small pot of money. NDC apparently disagrees. Does NDC really believe that a group of teachers should be paid regardless of whether they have “enough” students?

    I’ve repeatedly advocated for per-student funding with a bonus for cost of education (degree of difficulty, level of student, etc.). NDC seems to think that this is wrong without proposing an alternative.

  163. Andy Freeman says:

    I don’t believe in utopia, but I do believe that some things work better than others.

    I believe that it is wrong to object to an improvement because it won’t deliver perfection.

    I also believe that most parents want what’s best for their kids. I don’t believe that they’re always correct, but I do believe that their self-interest is somewhat effective.

    I believe that people respond to incentives. I believe that teachers are people.

    I believe that when someone says that they’d do something “if only”, but it’s impossible to satisfy their conditions, that they’re not actually willing to do said something.

  164. Andy Freeman says:

    > The fact that you’re now changing the subject from what a system of choice would be like to the related but different issue of pay for performance reveals just how weak your ideas for school choice implementation must be.

    I’m not changing anything.

    The two ideas are separable (one can implement either one without implementing the other) and we’re discussing them both.

    NDC’s stated objection to pay for performance is the standards used to measure performance. We’ve yet to get to how different levels of performance map to different levels of pay.

    NDC’s objections to school choice are different. The “what if a school doesn’t attract enough students” uncertainty seems unacceptable. I’ve pointed out that almost everyone else in the world has the same uncertainty. Yes, teachers aren’t used to that, but why should that continue?

    Yes, there were perfectly wonderful engineers at Rambler who los their jobs when that company went under. NDC has yet to tell us why the existence of a few good teachers at a horrible school justfies keeping that school open?

    It’s not about teachers, it’s about students.

  165. Andy,

    You’re the one who needs to outline how performance equals pay if you’re the one advocating for a change to the system.

    You misrepresent what other people say and present it to justify you’re delusional views of education.

    Andy,
    At this point it’s clear you’re a disingenuous sniper who simply wants to complain. You’ve got no ideas, no solutions, and no real clue how school funding presently work.

    You are living in a dream world if you think three month vouchers will work. (You imagine three month leases for facilities? three month long staff contracts? Good luck with that.)

  166. That should be your delusional view of education.

  167. I this point I’m throwing in the towel trying to talk sense with Andy Freeman. It doesn’t seem that he has any. Have a nice life.

  168. One more thing about the GI bill connection: colleges continued to get funding from other source while GIs got money for tuition.

    I don’t think there’s a college in the county that has tuition as it’s only source of funding.

    Public colleges get allocations from Federal and State governments and always have. So the GI thing does not equal a “let the money follow the student” funding method. It equals a “give some people who have earned it tuition and fee money” argument.

  169. I’ve got to stop posting when I’m angry. Of course I don’t mean that colleges have ALWAYS gotten federal and state money, but there is a long history of government funding of higher education. The GI bill gave money to GIs to pay for school. But they were only a portion of the students, and the school had other sources of funding which made up the majority of their budget.

    It’s just not comparable to a system in which all of the funding is allocated directly to the students, and that’s what Andy Freeman had been suggesting.