Obama's chance for change

Barack Obama should call for a “Grand Education Bargain” — much higher pay for teachers in exchange for much more accountability for performance in the classroom” — argues Jonathan Alter in Newsweek. If the teachers’ unions hate it, too bad for them. To paraphrase: Teaching is too important to be left to the teachers’ unions.

Obama’s right that the NCLB-inspired testing mania is out of control, but wrong to give teachers “ownership over the design of better assessment tools.” That’s a recipe for no assessment, because the teachers unions, for all their lip service, don’t believe their members should be judged on performance. They still believe that protecting incompetents is more important than educating children.

Alter believes that “classroom-teacher effectiveness” is “the only variable (not class size or school size) that can close the achievement gap. Give poor kids from broken homes the best teachers, and most learn. Period.”

I think it’s tougher than that. Poor kids need good teachers in well-organized, safe schools using sound curricula. Measuring teacher performance fairly is very difficult. What about good teachers who can’t be effective because their schools are so horribly dysfunctional? What about good teachers who specialize in untested subjects such as history, science, music and art?

These issues are starting to be worked out at the district level by leaders such as D.C.’s Michelle Rhee. If the unions stand in the schoolhouse door, they’ll be pushed aside.

In accepting the endorsement of the American Federation of Teachers, Obama called for incentive pay for teachers taking tougher assignments and more federal funding for special education. He also called for parent accountability. Not exactly bold change.

About Joanne

Comments

  1. ucladavid says:

    How come I didn’t see the word parents in that entire entry? I would have no problem with more accountability if parents are also accountable for their actions. I can be a great teacher, but when I call home and nothing changes, how can I teach that kid? If a parent undermines my authority and complains to the administration about a grade when the kid is failing all of her classes, how can I really teach that kid?

    How come I didn’t see the word student in that entire entry? I would have no problem with more accountability if students are also accountable for their actions. I can be a great teacher, but when the kid chooses to do absolutely nothing and gets no consequences for failing my class, why should her doing nothing affect my pay? In my district of Los Angeles Unified, a student can fail my middle school class and still move onto the next grade. Only in high school or lower elementary are the students accountable for repeating a class/grade.

  2. I wrote about Michelle Rhee’s efforts here. In a nutshell, she’s going to offer teachers who accept the offer higher pay in exchange for giving up seniority and tenure rights.

    David, we teachers shouldn’t wait for parents to hold up their end of the contract before we hold up our end. While you make *some* good points, it comes off sounding like excuses.

  3. David Cohen says:

    I know more teachers than most teachers. I’ve worked with teachers from around the San Francisco Bay Area. I’ve discussed these issues with teachers from around the country – including many teachers with a lot of union activity in their background. I have yet to meet a teacher who shies away from the concept of accountability. And an increasing number of us are interested in performance pay – depending on what that means.

    What Alter misses, and what many other people also miss, is that standardized test scores are not meaningful or reliable indicators upon which to base an entire accountability system. One recent study found that subtests of discrete skills on standardized tests are no more reliable than a coin flip. (Cizek, 2007 – that’s from memory – sorry, no link).

    Alter seems tired of hearing criticisms of standardized tests – I’m sure many people are. But the fact that these folks haven’t bothered in all this time to understand the criticism or advocate for better assessment systems doesn’t make the criticisms any less valid. They seem to hope to win the argument by making people tired of it, rather than shifting the terms of the argument away from a false dichotomy and looking for viable options.

    As I’ve said on another thread, I believe there’s a place for standardized tests as one of multiple measures to assess schools, districts, and states. If you want to base a teacher’s pay on these tests, you will inevitably corrupt that system and the content of the courses. And as the prior comment noted, if there’s no accountability for students on the same test, you’ve got a serious invitation to corruption (I don’t mean graft – I mean a system with messed up means of accomplishing messed up ends). I’m not asking for total freedom from accountability, and I won’t insist on teachers having sole control of the measures of effectiveness. If a supervisor/administrator will sit down with teachers, review research and curricular standards, and agree on multiple valid measures of progress, I’ll gladly go along that kind of assessment of my effectiveness and let you pay me a premium for my success.

    Give reform-minded districts, administrators, and teachers the resources to come up with a better system, and they do. They have. They will. Instead of another tired diatribe about the national level of the unions, couldn’t someone investigate and report on what happens when local unions take matters into their own hands and negotiate in good faith with good boards and supes? (And what do you know – NEA and CTA don’t swoop in and stomp on local initiatives when their own locals are treated as partners in reform rather than as targets).

  4. Andy Freeman says:

    Whenever “pay for performance” comes up, teachers complain about other people and specific measurement techniques.

    If the job can’t be done (because of students and/or parents), there’s no reason to pay someone to try. Is that acceptable to you? (That’s how it works everywhere else. No one is paid to turn straw into gold, for example.)

    I’m certain that there are bad ways to measure teacher performance. However, the fact that a given method is bad does not imply that all methods are bad. Since I’d like to believe that teachers have some relevant expertise, I’d like them to propose performance measurements that they find acceptable.

    The typical response to that request is silence. There are a couple of explanations:
    (1) Teachers don’t know how to measure performance.
    (2) Teachers don’t want to have their performance measured.

  5. David Cohen says:

    Andy –

    You raise a good issue, and then leave this heavy innuendo at the end as if you’ve scored some major point. Have you actually done this? Asked teachers? First of all, if you get silence in response, you’re asking the wrong teachers. I’ve gone on at length on JJ’s blog the past couple days, and I’m not even particularly innovative myself – just broadcasting what I know about good teaching and good teachers. Every branch of teaching has its own professional organizations, plus broader groups like ASCD, churning out research and articles, not to mention the work of academic researchers, all of which will offer you hundreds of superior assessment alternatives. Have you read any of this? What exactly is your relationship to the field of education?

    Regarding the silence, you offer a couple of explanations, and both of the answers are correct – when you ask the wrong teachers – but not for reasons as sinister or damning as you might expect. Re: #1 – teachers don’t know how to measure performance – that’s true when teachers have been immersed too long in a testing-dominated environment, told repeatedly that their own measures and observations are too biased or flawed (as if the testing weren’t), and then find themselves asked about ideas that they haven’t had the time or resources to pursue or master. Then regarding #2 – they don’t want their performance measured – that may very well be true when they don’t trust the assessment, or when they have no control over the myriad factors that will affect the measurement.

    I would be curious though to find out who you’re asking and what exactly they say. Do you follow up your question to determine why they worry about having performance measured? I’ve known, worked with, talked to teachers around the Bay Area and around the country, but I don’t find we’re averse to real measures of performance as much as we’re averse to being politically convenient and visible targets, at the forefront of a struggling system that has no assessment or accountability that’s meaningful in terms of our larger goals.

    Do you have children? Would you settle for a report card that says, “Your child is proficient. She scored in the 75th percentile on reading”? And if your child arrives in my class with last year’s score at 90th percentile, and this year, a score in the 80th percentile, are you going to tell me that based on that single, short test, that I’m an ineffective teacher? Anyone who’d settle for that kind of analysis of teaching and learning – i.e., non-analysis – is clueless. It’s like taking your toddler to the doctor once a year and comparing percentiles. Last year the kid was in 90th percentile for weight, this year, 80th. Last year, no asthma flare-ups, but this year there were three. Would you evaluate the physician’s management of your child’s health based on those numbers alone?

    Fundamentally, teachers who don’t trust non-educators regarding these matters are reacting to the fact that going to school or being a parent are not qualifications for understanding the demands or processes involved in teaching.

  6. I don’t, for the life of me, see why measuring teacher performance is any harder than measuring any other job performance. MOST jobs don’t have convenient metrics. How do you measure the performance of a middle manager?

    In business, this is something lots of people do daily. They look at the job their employees are given, the constraints they are working under, the cooperation they’re getting from the rest of the staff, etc, etc and they render an assessment. Sometimes you get a crappy boss who never rates you well, sometimes you get a good boss who really understands your job, usually it’s a mixed bag. “You pays your money and you takes your chances.”

    MOST of us are used to this system, it’s a normal part of having a job. I can’t see any reasons schools couldn’t be structured around traditional management techniques. In fact, I’ll bet this is how it works at the high-end private schools.

    Of course, this process requires competent management and I think it’s a clear that this is missing in many, many schools. That, however, is not an excuse to avoid properly managing teachers, it’s an excuse to clean out lousy managers.

  7. You might want to save your carefully honed talking points for a more profitable occasion since this thread is about why Jonathan Alterman, no shellback conservative, and Barack Obama, not exactly an icon in conservative political circles, find common cause in an attraction to policies which draw boos from the NEA convention.

    One of those policies answers the rising tide of demand for accountability at every level of the public education system.

    The blab about performance pay is accountability at the individual level. NCLB and charters represent accountability at the organizational level.

    Obama’s got to deal with education and in a way not too pleasing to the NEA because a critical constituency – black voters – are massively unhappy with the public education system. Like any Democratic presidential contender he has to have a near-absolute lock on the black vote if he’s to have much of a chance in the election and the black electorate is very interested in charters, vouchers, tax credits and anything else that suggests their kids might get a better education then they themselves got.

    I think Obama was floating a trial balloon; trying to determine the forcefulness of the reaction to his sallies.

    The NEA doesn’t have anywhere to go with their political resources; they certainly aren’t likely to get John McCain to take the anti-NCLB pledge so they’re unhappily stuck with Obama; the NEA knows it and Obama knows it. The NEA may not be enthusiastic in its support for Obama but he’s the only game in town as far as the NEA is concerned. The question is, how far can he go to enthuse black voters who have the fundamental reform of public education as their primary issue?

  8. Mrs. Davis says:

    Do you have children?

    Yes.

    Would you settle for a report card that says, “Your child is proficient. She scored in the 75th percentile on reading”?

    Well it would be a bit more useful than the report cards I get that say “A” or “A-” and “Your child is a positive contributor in class.”

    And if your child arrives in my class with last year’s score at 90th percentile, and this year, a score in the 80th percentile, are you going to tell me that based on that single, short test, that I’m an ineffective teacher?

    I never saw a variation of 10% in any of my children’s standardized test scores from year to year. So that would be enough for me to ask what factor had changed to result in such a dramatic decline in test scores. If the only factor that changed was the teacher, yes, that would be enough for me to conclude that you were an ineffective teacher.

    Anyone who’d settle for that kind of analysis of teaching and learning – i.e., non-analysis – is clueless.

    OK, I’m clueless. But I reach conclusions with the information I have available. It’s all I’ve got. And the schools don’t give me much information about course content, curriculum or performance of my children. In fact I find out more about what’s going on at the school at the dinner table than I do from the teachers and administrators.

    It’s like taking your toddler to the doctor once a year and comparing percentiles. Last year the kid was in 90th percentile for weight, this year, 80th. Last year, no asthma flare-ups, but this year there were three. Would you evaluate the physician’s management of your child’s health based on those numbers alone?

    If that were the only information I had, what alternative would there be? In the real world you have to learn to make decisions with limited information.

    Fundamentally, teachers who don’t trust non-educators regarding these matters are reacting to the fact that going to school or being a parent are not qualifications for understanding the demands or processes involved in teaching.

    Fundamentally, people who think that understanding the demands or processes involved in teaching is in any way involved in evaluating the quality of teacher performance does not understand that in the real world the only thing that counts in evaluating performance is results.

    We are getting lousy results from our schools. Not all the reasons for this are the responsibility of teachers. But on balance, they aren’t helping. Sooner or later there will be consequences for our toleration of lousy results. The longer it takes, the more serious the consequences. That is why I continue to believe that the greatest threat to the continued existence as we know it of the United States is the NEA.

    Sure, I’m over the top in my presentation. But you educationists are kidding yourselves if you think my frustration is not shared by many, many other parents and taxpayers. And we’re the ones living in the real world, being evaluated daily by customers who don’t have to deal with us ever again if they don’t like our performance for any reason, paying the bills for your existence in a fantasy land and living with the results. And we’re tired of being treated with such arrogant condescension.

  9. Mrs. Davis said, “Sure, I’m over the top in my presentation. But you educationists are kidding yourselves if you think my frustration is not shared by many, many other parents and taxpayers. And we’re the ones living in the real world, being evaluated daily by customers who don’t have to deal with us ever again if they don’t like our performance for any reason, paying the bills for your existence in a fantasy land and living with the results. And we’re tired of being treated with such arrogant condescension.”

    No, Mrs. Davis, you’re not over the top. I have been in the field for over 30 years and you are exactly right. No ifs, ands, or buts. Take away the monopoly that education schools have on teacher licensing and allow my money to follow my children to wherever I choose to send them to school and you would see change. Taking the sclerosis (ed schools) out of the process and injecting competition (money follows child) would create innumerable, positive changes.

  10. Andy Freeman says:

    > Have you actually done this? Asked teachers?

    I’ve asked folks who claimed to be teachers. I apologise for not verifying their employment.

    I typically ask here, in JJ’s comments. However, it’s been a while because some of the folks I asked resorted to abuse.

    If you’re a teacher, I’ll ask you. (Hmm – do I need to verify that you actually are a teacher?)

    > Every branch of teaching has its own professional organizations, plus broader groups like ASCD, churning out research and articles, not to mention the work of academic researchers, all of which will offer you hundreds of superior assessment alternatives. Have you read any of this?

    I’m aware that there are lots of proposals for evaluating teacher performance. However, I’m only interested in those that are acceptable to use as part of determining pay. Feel free to point me to any that qualify.

    To preempt one possible response, no, I’m not going to go look for proposals and ask you if they’re acceptable. That’s a mug’s game.

    On the other hand, the proposals don’t have to be complete. It’s perfectly acceptable to say “I’m not sure how much weight to give to scheme X” and “this is the bulk of the assessment but we’ll need to fill in some holes”. However, the schemes must be concrete – no “we’ll measure reading comprehension” without an acceptable-to-you way for doing so.

  11. Andy Freeman says:

    > we’re averse to being politically convenient and visible targets, at the forefront of a struggling system that has no assessment or accountability that’s meaningful in terms of our larger goals.

    Which “our goals” are we referring to? The goals of teachers or the goals of the folks paying the bills?

    It takes some nerve to complain about politics when you’re tax-funded.

    And, in most states, it doesn’t stop with money for teachers. CA’s teachers’ unions spend more money on pushing gun control and on eminent domain than they do trying to get rid of bad teachers. (No, you don’t get to disavow the unions; they do what the majority of teachers want them to do.)

    BTW – If you’re going to ask for more money for better teachers, I’m going to point out that current teachers won’t get the extra money. More money won’t make a given individual a better teacher, so if we’re going to spend more money, we’re going to spend it on new people…. (I’m pretty sure that you don’t want to argue that current teachers could do better but don’t because they want more money.)

  12. David Cohen says:

    Honestly, I find this exchange surprising:

    Me: Anyone who’d settle for that kind of analysis of teaching and learning – i.e., non-analysis – is clueless.

    Mrs. D: OK, I’m clueless. But I reach conclusions with the information I have available.

    — See, that’s a key difference. Without information, I withhold judgement. What you said about gathering information from other sources, like your student, is essential. Why would you ask schools and teachers to submit to the limits you recognize are insufficient??? Let’s get more information out there, and let us present a complete picture.

    Me: It’s like taking your toddler to the doctor once a year and comparing percentiles. Last year the kid was in 90th percentile for weight, this year, 80th. Last year, no asthma flare-ups, but this year there were three. Would you evaluate the physician’s management of your child’s health based on those numbers alone?

    Mrs. D: If that were the only information I had, what alternative would there be? In the real world you have to learn to make decisions with limited information.

    — Excuse me!?!?! Do you think that I’m not living in the real world? If I take my children to the doctor to discuss their asthma, we may never have perfect information, but we don’t make decisions based on a single data point. That’s what you would have schools do??? That’s how you would evaluate a teacher? When we don’t have enough information in the classroom, we gather more. We work hard at it. When our work is judged, we want it judged properly.

    Mrs. D: Sure, I’m over the top in my presentation. But you educationists are kidding yourselves if you think my frustration is not shared by many, many other parents and taxpayers. And we’re the ones living in the real world, being evaluated daily by customers who don’t have to deal with us ever again if they don’t like our performance for any reason, paying the bills for your existence in a fantasy land and living with the results. And we’re tired of being treated with such arrogant condescension.[/i]

    — If I seemed condescending, I assure you it was unintended, and it might be because of my own frustration. I too am a school parent and a taxpayer, by the way. And, I happen to know more about teaching and schools than most of the critics I read trying to pin the blame on teachers. What is it about teaching that you think is “fantasy land”? Talk about condescension! Teachers are on the front line daily confronting the effects of myriad societal problems and trying with limited tools to do a complex job in a decaying system. I don’t know what you do for a living, but I wouldn’t dream of trashing your profession on a blog without a proper understanding of how it works. It’s a sign of how far we’ve sunk when a teacher who expects some simple respect for the profession and his professional skills and expertise comes off as condescending.

  13. Fundamentally, teachers who don’t trust non-educators regarding these matters are reacting to the fact that going to school or being a parent are not qualifications for understanding the demands or processes involved in teaching.

    You know, I currently work in business software development and I’d love to tell the company that they don’t understand the demands or processes involved in creating a system that does everything they want, at the price they want, that plays nice with 20 years worth of other systems. Unfortunately, if I did, I’d quite quickly find myself out of a job.

    When you work for an actual customer, instead of a government monopoly, you find out rather quick that results count, and that the professional thing is to deliver results.

    It’s like taking your toddler to the doctor once a year and comparing percentiles. Last year the kid was in 90th percentile for weight, this year, 80th. Last year, no asthma flare-ups, but this year there were three. Would you evaluate the physician’s management of your child’s health based on those numbers alone?

    Your analogy is broken. If the kid spent several hours a day, 180 days a year in the care of the doc, I’d hold him responsible for much more than I would based on a few visits a year, if not the specific things you list.

  14. David Cohen says:

    Andy writes: I’m aware that there are lots of proposals for evaluating teacher performance. However, I’m only interested in those that are acceptable to use as part of determining pay. Feel free to point me to any that qualify.

    — Thank you for conceding that there are options beyond standardized tests implemented in such a flawed way (as I detailed above). And quite gracious of you to tell me I should feel free to point you to some examples. Thank you, Andy. Here’s your homework: study assessment and evaluation programs in Miami-Dade County, Rochester, Toledo, Cincinnati, Denver, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Hart District (So. Cal) and Poway (CA), for starters. Also review the TAP program. (Did you think you’d catch me not knowing what I’m talking about?).

    The point is not for me to tell you what I think should be done, but to convince as many people as possible that better systems are possible when progressive districts and local unions decide to work together, review research and models, and negotiate a system that works for all.

    Andy writes: If you’re going to ask for more money for better teachers, I’m going to point out that current teachers won’t get the extra money. More money won’t make a given individual a better teacher, so if we’re going to spend more money, we’re going to spend it on new people…. (I’m pretty sure that you don’t want to argue that current teachers could do better but don’t because they want more money.)

    — Many studies have concluded that we need more money for teachers, period – that teachers are underpaid relative to others with similar qualifications, and have experienced a decrease in real wages adjusted for inflation. But addressing your point, you sound like you intend to be the one deciding. Are you someone I should know, Andy? See, the point is, you get better results when these things are negotiated by the people involved. (You?) But, for the benefit of anyone else reading, I’ll tackle your rhetorical challenge head on, because your attempt here reveals the exact flaw in your thinking. YES, I’m absolutely going to ask for more money for current teachers to do a better job. You’re thinking that reveals a clever trap – “if David argues that, he’s conceding that teachers aren’t doing their best for the salary they’re currently paid.” But I’m not hoping to pay teachers more to do the exact same job better than they’re already doing – I’m hoping to pay teachers for more varied roles and responsibilities within their jobs. No, you don’t have to pay me more to get me to try harder for my students. But, I think teachers should be paid more to expand greater skills and responsibilities. Isn’t that how it works in other professions? Can’t you move up the ladder? More responsibility, more accountability (yes! all for it!), and more pay. For too long, we’ve thought of administration as the only way to move up in education. That needs to change. If you don’t want to put the extra money right in my hand, then pay me the same but shift my duties and responsibilities so that in addition to teaching, I can be an effective mentor, assessor, curriculum developer, or part time administrator.

    Andy writes: It takes some nerve to complain about politics when you’re tax-funded.

    And, in most states, it doesn’t stop with money for teachers. CA’s teachers’ unions spend more money on pushing gun control and on eminent domain than they do trying to get rid of bad teachers. (No, you don’t get to disavow the unions; they do what the majority of teachers want them to do.)

    — Like Mrs. D, you want to place teachers in some little box where we’re not in the same world, or we have different privileges? I can’t complain about politics if I’m tax-funded? That’s rich, Andy. I’m not saying a school should endorse a particular candidate, nor should a teacher get political in the classroom, but I relinquish no rights individually to speak out on my own time. Sorry, Andy. How do you expect to debate ed. policy with teachers and limit their political speech???

    And no, of course unions do not spend money getting rid of bad teachers. That’s the role of the employer. If unions hold employers to the terms of the contract, then, as a superintendent said on a recent PBS special, “you signed the contract, too.” Teachers have these iron-clad contracts because that’s what has been conceded in negotiations when there wasn’t enough money for pay, health benefits, etc. I’m not saying it’s right or wrong. The contracts are negotiated and there are lots of items on the table. AND, by the way, if you do your reading as assigned up there, you’ll find at least a couple systems where teachers are given some hiring/firing authority which results in MORE teachers being released. It’s not just a union problem, it’s an administrative problem. Given a fair system, teachers are ready to uphold high standards.

    I’d be glad to go on with others, but I’m done with Andy and Mrs. D. Off to fantasy land where I won’t bother Mrs. D with too much information, and I won’t annoy Andy if I accidentally say something he told me I couldn’t say. And actually, I’ve had enough of those who would position teachers in some less-than-real world with less of a right to express a political opinion.

  15. Ragnarok says:

    David Cohen wrote:

    “…but I wouldn’t dream of trashing your profession on a blog without a proper understanding of how it works.”

    We look at the results of public schooling, which have been consistent over several decades, and that tells us plenty. We see enormous amounts of money being poured into it; we see the extraordinarily low bar for certification; the undeserved lifetime tenure; the weak grasp of subject matter; the extreme arrogance (“we’re the experts!”).

    And all this from a bunch of bottom-quartilers!

  16. Mrs. Davis says:

    Amen, Ragnarok.

    See, that’s a key difference. Without information, I withhold judgement. What you said about gathering information from other sources, like your student, is essential. Why would you ask schools and teachers to submit to the limits you recognize are insufficient??? Let’s get more information out there, and let us present a complete picture.

    Excuse me!?!?! Do you think that I’m not living in the real world? If I take my children to the doctor to discuss their asthma, we may never have perfect information, but we don’t make decisions based on a single data point. That’s what you would have schools do??? That’s how you would evaluate a teacher? When we don’t have enough information in the classroom, we gather more. We work hard at it. When our work is judged, we want it judged properly.

    We’ve been withholding judgment for 40 years. Lot’s of kids have gone through schools and not gotten an education. It is affecting our national security and our economic well being. There will never be enough information for the NEA to agree to an effective means of rewarding teachers for performance and holding them accountable for non-performance.

    As long as the schools give me only a letter to judge my child they deserve no more than a number to be judged.

    If you work in education you work in Fantasyland. If you believe that’s the real world, you live in Fantasyland. In the real world you have to make decisions on limited and sometimes inadequate information. In Fantasyland you get to say “Without information, I withhold judgment” and there are no consequences. That’s also arrogance.

    If you deal with customers who have a choice to deal or not deal with you again based on their satisfaction with your service, that’s the real world. When you have police round up your clients off the street and force them to consume, that’s Fantasyland. When you have guaranteed employment for life that’s Fantasyland. When you can punish your customer for complaining, that’s Fantasyland.

    Teachers are on the front line daily confronting the effects of myriad societal problems and trying with limited tools to do a complex job in a decaying system. I don’t know what you do for a living, but I wouldn’t dream of trashing your profession on a blog without a proper understanding of how it works.

    I try, and may not always succeed, to distinguish between teachers as individuals and the Educstionists such as the NEA and Ed schools. As I have said in other comments teachers are underpaid and their working conditions are unsatisfactory if we want to attract capable indiviuals. But it is in the interest of the Educationists to keep the system the way it is now. Until the teachers throw off the Educationists, they will continue to be in the situation they currently confront.

    It’s a sign of how far we’ve sunk when a teacher who expects some simple respect for the profession and his professional skills and expertise comes off as condescending.

    In the real world you don’t expect respect you get it the old fashioned way, you earn it. You don’t hear doctors or lawyers complain about being treated as a professional because they are professionals. Teachers complain about it because they would like the status and respect of professionals but they are really just union workers. Like the guys on the line at Ford. The difference is the guys on the line at Ford know that Toyota is eating their lunch. The teachers know that to get a good education, parents would have to pay for two educations and few can afford it. So they don’t have to worry about competition.

    Got to get to work in the real world. I’ll get to the rest tonight..

  17. David Cohen says:

    Mrs. D – “Like the guys on the line at Ford.”

    Yeah, educating your children is a lot like attaching the wheel to the axel. They’re all the same, just need hardware to finish the job. You analogy is so accurate, so insightful, you clearly deserve the respect you deny to teachers.

    Of course, you’d blame the “guys on the line” for the failures in manufacturing, ordering, marketing, R&D, sales, etc., etc.

    I bow before your real-world wisdom.

  18. Mrs. Davis for President (but I repeat myself…..)

  19. Margo/Mom says:

    Wow, lots of heat in this conversation, and some surprises, too. Who would have thought that I would ever find anything to agree with Mrs. D. on.

    It is true that I don’t cast the NEA in quite the malevolent light as Ms. D (fundamentally accepting unions as having a legitmate role in labor disputes). I do believe that they have made some ill-advised choices, and suffer from insufficient “push-back,” either from their members, or from the folks who pay the bill.

    David–I don’t know about all of the instances that you list as models of peer evaluation (I assume that this is the broad topic), but I do know something about Toledo’s PAR system, as my own district adopted it long ago. I have seen it in action as the parent of a student whose teacher “went through” PAR and as the friend of a teacher who also “went through” PAR. At its worst, PAR is a last ditch attempt to protect a teacher from loss of a job by providing some mentoring aimed at improvement. In the case of my child’s teacher–well I only saw the problems that were still there following her “passing with flying colors,” (according to the principal). In my friend’s case, well, she felt attacked, judged, forced to submit to mentoring by someone with far fewer years of experience than she. In her case, it dragged on until she was able to take an early retirement.

    In terms of teacher growth, it is too little and too late. It suffers from the perception that it is only something that principals have to go through if they want to get rid of somebody. There are better models of evaluation (360 evaluations, for instance). But they come from, you know, business and industry–all those people who don’t understand what teachers go through.

    I also looked up some other data on Toledo Public Schools. The are in the second lowest state rating–based on falling below the state minimum passage rate of 75% on almost every test. Three year trends are basically stable–some small ups and downs. Certainly nothing that could be called overall growth. The failed to achieve AYP for any demographic group except white in reading (even Asians did not make it), and only whites and Asians made AYP in mathematics. Keep in mind that AYP at this point is a lower score than the state required 75% (and has multiple safe harbor provisions to allow for passage). The community demographics are not what you would call insurmountable: 85% of the adults in the community have a high school diploma, only 15% of households are single parent households. The low SES category of students comprised about 66%. 94% of teachers in core subjects are certified in what they teach. Source for this information is the State website and GreatSchools. I don’t know that this information supports that PAR is supportive of school improvement. I also suspect that if the district suggested using PAR, or anything like it, as a universal evaluation system (currently it is either voluntary, or by principal referral–on the path to removal), there would be substantial union opposition.

    BTW–if my toddler had 3 asthma attacks in one year under a doctor’s treatment; and the previous doctor’s treatment had resulted in no asthma attacks–I would certainly be asking some questions about why the change, was the treatment appropriate, etc. I would not expect the doctor to respond by telling me how many patients he has to treat, or how bad the air is, or that he’s not paid enough for this kind of discussion. If I talked to other parents and found that they had similar experiences (asthma flare ups under his treatment), I would probably be looking for another doctor.

    I have never had a doctor, or dentist, or social worker, or counselor, or minister call me up and tell me that they don’t know what to do with my child, or imply that my child’s difficulties are all my fault, or that s/he didn’t belong. These are things that teachers do frequently.

    I don’t know that I would characterize teachers as living in fantasy land. But I would suggest a profound tendency to see schools as disconnected from the communities that they are a part of–to see the community as the cause of problems that they have to deal with, rather than being a part of the cause and solution. I really don’t see any way to make a case that teachers should be paid more for the current level of service (attitude and all). Nor do I think that teachers don’t work hard enough, or get paid enough. The profession has amassed a slew of protections through collective bargaining. Employment for life is one of them. The market can no longer bear this expense. If this is what teachers value, then they will have to see that the selection process is far more effective (they can lobby for a different credentialling process–or create their own system of master teachers or apprenticeships). If they would rather have more take-home, they will have to bring something more to the table–year round work for year round pay, acceptance of meaningful evaluation, better outcomes, etc.

  20. As a current teacher who used to work in the private sector and who is married to someone working in the private sector, I have to laugh my head off when anti-public school advocates hold up business as the be-all, end-all of perfection in work accountability and organization.

    These folks must be working in positions other than the ones I used to be in. Oh yeah, I forgot–I was just the lowly paralegal, secretary or bookkeeper. How many of you folks extolling the wonders of private enterprise are working at that lower level, and how many of you are either middle-level management or higher?

    Accountability is not perfect in the private sector, despite what its apologists would like us to believe. Any publicly held company (that is, a company that sells stock as opposed to a smaller business that does not sell stock to the public) the size of a typical school district with a governing board subject to the whims and variances that pop up from a typical school board is going to be lacking in accountability. Any bureaucracy–whether governmental or business–has its problems, and corporate bureaucracy has its own stellar failures. Anyone want to discuss Enron? Or why it is that in a typical corporate securities litigation, one finds that what were supposed to be checks and balances fell apart?

    I spent enough time working as a corporate securities litigation paralegal to lose any illusions I might have about the superior accountability of business to government. Or the immunity of business to management fads.

    I suspect that those like Mrs. D who want more than a letter to assess their child would have significant problems with what it would cost in money and their own time to give them that assessment. Hint: there’s a reason why many school districts offer parent conferences twice a year–to give parents just that sort of feedback. The reason you don’t see it happening more frequently is that most parents don’t show up.

    Unfortunately, most parents in the system prefer to think of a school as a babysitter. When we try to make students accountable for their work and their behavior, far too often in my experience, parents object.

    As a special education teacher, far too often I run into the meme from parents that an IEP means that the student should not fail a class. Period. No accountability for effort, no accountability for behavior. I don’t agree with that. If a student on an IEP isn’t trying, in spite of special education support, then they should fail. Conversely, if that student is working hard and trying, then that student should be graded based on what they’ve actually done. So if a student is working and trying within their limitations, they’ll pass.

    And–oh yeah. I’m not one of the bottom-quartilers that Ragnarok sneers at. Never have been. When push comes to shove, I’d sooner deal with middle school students acting their age than arrogant lawyers who think their law degree justifies acting like middle schoolers.

  21. As a current teacher who used to work in the private sector and who is married to someone working in the private sector, I have to laugh my head off when anti-public school advocates hold up business as the be-all, end-all of perfection in work accountability and organization.

    Who here has held up private enterprise as perfect? All I’d argue is that private enterprises more often achieve their stated goals than government monopolies do. If you’d like to argue that the public school monopoly has been more successful at turning out educated, thoughtful citizens than private enterprises have been at meeting customer demand, I’d like to see your case, but it’d be a hard thing to prove.

    As a special education teacher, far too often I run into the meme from parents that an IEP means that the student should not fail a class. Period. No accountability for effort, no accountability for behavior.

    Absolutely agree with you here, Joyce. Kids need to hold up their end of the bargain, and it needs to be made clear on report cards and transcripts that that’s what happened.

  22. Quincy, based on my experiences in working in the private sector, I’d be willing to say that the rate of business failure is proportionate to the rate of school failure, with similar causes in both areas.

    Additionally, the purpose of private enterprise is not necessarily that of meeting customer demand, but of making a profit. Those who argue that customers come first are living in an idealistic world. Sometimes making a profit means disregarding aspects of customer demand, including pulling some shady tricks that eventually get a company into trouble. No one goes into business to serve customers. They go into business to make money. Sometimes customer service interferes with profit–and that’s when customer service gets tossed out of the window.

    Think about it. Think about, for example, how hard it is to find an honest, reliable construction contractor who shows up on time, does a quality job, brings it in within the proposed budget, and returns all your calls in a timely manner (without charging you a fortune).

    Think about the role of the bottom line, and then consider business practices toward customers which make you angry. I know that since I have gone into teaching, I regularly observe people in private business who pull stuff that I could never get away with in teaching when it comes to lack of service and outright rudeness. I’ve had people in business try to give me advice about handling a difficult situation in teaching–and I’ve frankly had to tell them that I can’t handle it that way, because I would get into trouble for speaking to my clients–the parents–in the same way that those people can speak to their clients when negotiating contracts.

  23. Ragnarok says:

    With the public school system I have no choice; I pay, but I have no control. And I object to this.

    You’ve set up a nice strawman argument by implying that we consider the private sector to be models of efficiency – but it’s a strawman just the same. Where do we claim this?

    The crucial difference between the public and private sectors is that you can fail in the latter, unlike the former.

    As for lawyers, you may not want to admit that you’ve associated with them – open you up to charges of moral turpitude 🙂

  24. Ragnarok:

    Well, let’s see about those claims of private sector being the models of efficiency in this very own thread:

    Rob writes:
    n business, this is something lots of people do daily. They look at the job their employees are given, the constraints they are working under, the cooperation they’re getting from the rest of the staff, etc, etc and they render an assessment. Sometimes you get a crappy boss who never rates you well, sometimes you get a good boss who really understands your job, usually it’s a mixed bag. “You pays your money and you takes your chances.”

    MOST of us are used to this system, it’s a normal part of having a job. I can’t see any reasons schools couldn’t be structured around traditional management techniques.

    Quincy writes:

    When you work for an actual customer, instead of a government monopoly, you find out rather quick that results count, and that the professional thing is to deliver results.

    Mrs. Davis writes:
    If you work in education you work in Fantasyland. If you believe that’s the real world, you live in Fantasyland. In the real world you have to make decisions on limited and sometimes inadequate information. In Fantasyland you get to say “Without information, I withhold judgment” and there are no consequences. That’s also arrogance.

    If you deal with customers who have a choice to deal or not deal with you again based on their satisfaction with your service, that’s the real world. When you have police round up your clients off the street and force them to consume, that’s Fantasyland. When you have guaranteed employment for life that’s Fantasyland. When you can punish your customer for complaining, that’s Fantasyland.

    Sure sounds to me like business is being held up as a role model by those who think it is the standard by which all performance should be judged.

    And to that, I reply: Bear Stearns. Enron. And etc. I could go on, but confidentiality restrictions limit the details, okay?

    I’d also add to Mrs. Davis that quite frequently those of us in the trenches of public education must operate on minimal information about the student in front of us–especially those of us who work with marginal students in the criminal justice system. Until recently, when I got a new student from a rehab center in my school’s area, I could not a.) find out information to determine if that student was a potential danger to ourselves or other students, b.) gather any details about that student’s past academic history if that student’s case worker decided not to be cooperative, or c.)legally keep that student out of school until such time as we gathered such information. Furthermore, even if I found out that the student was a danger, often I was not allowed to disclose anything beyond a “watch out” or “be careful in X circumstance” to my colleagues.

    Just how many people in private business are willing to work under these circumstances?

    As for lawyers, I rapidly developed the common sense (from working as a paralegal) that my personal moral sense and mental health would not be furthered by obtaining a J.D., passing the Bar exam, and practicing law. Getting the paralegal certificate was much cheaper, and I paid for it while working during my studies.

  25. Margo/Mom says:

    I think that this discussion of flaws in business vs flaws in education is somewhat off track. The issue is not whether there are more businesses that utilize exemplary practice than schools. This issue is whether a school can use an exemplary business model in furtherance of their own improvement.

    Health care–where I have spent some of my professional life–has tended to be similarly resistent. But market (and other) factors have tended to drive a move towards TQI, TQM, TQA, amd other mechanisms of improvement. Hospitals have learned that benchmarking against an industry who has figured out how to do something well (like provide high quality, highly palatable food within a budget), means not having to re-invent the wheel all the time. To find out how to check patients in efficiently, you might want to study hotels. To ensure adherence to protocol in settings with high stakes (loss of life), pilots have helpful information.

    Does every business have a good management and evaluation system? Not on your life. Are there businesses available who excell in good management and evaluation systems? Very likely.

  26. > Sure sounds to me like business is being held up as a role model by those who think it is the standard by which all performance should be judged.

    And your point would be that businesses fail and thus business isn’t a standard by which all performance should be judged right?

    Sorry, business failure is an indication of the success of the system. Bad businesses fail which is as it should be. What, pray tell, happens to school districts as execrable as Enron and Bear Sterns? Is there an end to their incompetence, malfeasance and inefficiency? Of course not! Rather then showing up as a case history for MBA students they get more money. What a country!

    > I’d also add to Mrs. Davis that quite frequently those of us in the trenches of public education must operate on minimal information about the student in front of us–especially those of us who work with marginal students in the criminal justice system.

    That’s not a fault of the system, it’s a feature.

    You’re the lowest paid, and by implication the least important professional, in the system. Who cares what you think? Why should anyone, anyone at a higher pay grade then you, exert themselves to make your life easier and your employment more effective? There’s certainly nothing in it for those up the hierarchy from you to do so so they don’t.

    That’s the great thing about the public education system – you don’t really need any bad guys to get bad results. You just need a bad system and boy howdy do we have a lousy system.

  27. joyce –

    If you’re going to bring up Bear Stearns and Enron, I’ll counter with Social Security, Medicare, the CA Retirement System, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac. Which entities ceased failing, and which are still at it?

  28. Mrs. Davis says:

    Like Mrs. D, you want to place teachers in some little box where we’re not in the same world, or we have different privileges?

    I’m not positive I understand the point being made here, but let me be clear that I want teachers to be in the real world, not some box or having different privileges.

    Yeah, educating your children is a lot like attaching the wheel to the axel. They’re all the same, just need hardware to finish the job. You analogy is so accurate, so insightful, you clearly deserve the respect you deny to teachers.

    David, Yeah, American public education is stuck in a 19th century factory model where every kid is the same. Deny it if you like, but that’s how it looks to me as a parent and the spouse of a teacher. They all cover the same material at the same time, ready or not. Yeah, they are treated like axles. IEPs are a joke. Many schools make NO accommodations for gifted students because they don’t have as good a lobby as the ADA kids.

    Of course, you’d blame the “guys on the line” for the failures in manufacturing, ordering, marketing, R&D, sales, etc., etc.

    No, just the manufacturing defects.

    These folks must be working in positions other than the ones I used to be in. Oh yeah, I forgot–I was just the lowly paralegal, secretary or bookkeeper. How many of you folks extolling the wonders of private enterprise are working at that lower level, and how many of you are either middle-level management or higher?

    It has been my experience that the higher one progresses in a business organization the more arbitrary and capricious are the standards on which one’s performance is evaluated. Even the lowly paralegal, secretary or bookkeeper has a less defined and formulaic evaluation than teachers are seeking.

    Any publicly held company (that is, a company that sells stock as opposed to a smaller business that does not sell stock to the public) the size of a typical school district with a governing board subject to the whims and variances that pop up from a typical school board is going to be lacking in accountability.

    Public companies are held accountable minute by minute for their performance by a single number, the stock price. And it’s on the internet for everyone to read.

    Any bureaucracy–whether governmental or business–has its problems, and corporate bureaucracy has its own stellar failures. Anyone want to discuss Enron?

    Absolutely! The perps were prosecuted, will spend pretty much the rest of their lives in jail and have lost most of their assets. Many employees lost substantial amounts foolishly invested in company stock. That’s accountability. Now, anyone want to discuss what happens to the people in school systems that routinely provide diplomas to illiterates?

    I suspect that those like Mrs. D who want more than a letter to assess their child would have significant problems with what it would cost in money and their own time to give them that assessment.

    I don’t recall complaining that my child got only a letter grade, only that I saw no reason why teachers should get more than a one number evaluation when they thought one letter sufficient for students. Goose meet gander.

    Hint: there’s a reason why many school districts offer parent conferences twice a year–to give parents just that sort of feedback.

    And as someone who religiously attends them, I find back-to-school night and teacher conferences to be uniformly devoid of meaningful information. What’s the reason why for that? Fear of litigation?

    The reason you don’t see it happening more frequently is that most parents don’t show up.

    And I’d like to be able to assure that my children don’t attend the same school as theirs.

    Additionally, the purpose of private enterprise is not necessarily that of meeting customer demand, but of making a profit.

    It’s tough to make a profit without meeting customer demand. Ask Detroit.

    Those who argue that customers come first are living in an idealistic world. Sometimes making a profit means disregarding aspects of customer demand, including pulling some shady tricks that eventually get a company into trouble.

    And people call me a cynic! Making a profit never means pulling shady tricks. That is a function of human weakness, not the profit motive. But you’re right, when people in business succumb to it, the company gets into trouble. When people in public education succumb to it, what are the consequences for the public schools? None. I suspect that is why schools generally have lower ethical standards than businesses.

    No one goes into business to serve customers. They go into business to make money.

    The two are not mutually exclusive. And if you look at many successful business people they do understand and get pleasure from serving their customers. It is a very rewarding part of business. Unlike schools that can’t even define who their customers are to a sufficient extent that they ever try to measure their satisfaction. Ever hear of a J. D. Powers survey of public school customer satisfaction? Didn’t think so.

    I’d also add to Mrs. Davis that quite frequently those of us in the trenches of public education must operate on minimal information about the student in front of us–especially those of us who work with marginal students in the criminal justice system. Until recently, when I got a new student from a rehab center in my school’s area, I could not a.) find out information to determine if that student was a potential danger to ourselves or other students, b.) gather any details about that student’s past academic history if that student’s case worker decided not to be cooperative, or c.)legally keep that student out of school until such time as we gathered such information. Furthermore, even if I found out that the student was a danger, often I was not allowed to disclose anything beyond a “watch out” or “be careful in X circumstance” to my colleagues.

    Just how many people in private business are willing to work under these circumstances?

    None. And why should they? And neither should teachers. (I do not believe students have a right to an education, nor to be held captive until they are 16. If we stopped doing it, there would be a lot fewer discipline problems.)

    Does every business have a good management and evaluation system? Not on your life. Are there businesses available who excell in good management and evaluation systems? Very likely.

    Now I get to agree with Margo!

    And the big difference is that when customers have a choice, they do not patronize companies that do not serve them well. And those companies cease to exist. There is no similar penalty for failure in the public schools.

  29. Quincy. You think Bear Stearns and Enron are the only business entities that have failed?

    Take a look in the annals of any Federal Bankruptcy Court.

    Or take some serious looks at any corporate securities litigation that’s been filed. Then you might want to take a look at who’s been migrating back and forth between the private and public management sectors.

    Besides, the rumors of Social Security’s immanent demise have been circulating since my parents were on it, back in the late 70s. Funny, it’s still going strong, despite the best Republican efforts to kill it.

    (And as for Fannie and Freddie, is it the public sector that caused the problem or are they being affected by private sector screw ups? Which came first, the chicken or the egg?).

    The fact remains, despite the best efforts of business apologists, business itself can scarcely point to an untainted record of accountability. The factors that cause the problems are similar, whether you are talking private or public enterprises.

  30. Mrs. Davis says:

    The fact remains, despite the best efforts of business apologists, business itself can scarcely point to an untainted record of accountability. The factors that cause the problems are similar, whether you are talking private or public enterprises.

    Correct. What is different is that businesses are held accountable for their failure, public schools promote their’s.

  31. Andy Freeman says:

    > Thank you for conceding that there are options beyond standardized tests implemented in such a flawed way (as I detailed above). And quite gracious of you to tell me I should feel free to point you to some examples. Thank you, Andy. Here’s your homework: study assessment and evaluation programs in Miami-Dade County, Rochester, Toledo, Cincinnati, Denver, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Hart District (So. Cal) and Poway (CA), for starters. Also review the TAP program. (Did you think you’d catch me not knowing what I’m talking about?).

    Wowsers – that’s a lot of attitude.

    However, I’ll ignore it because it came with substantive content – acceptable-to-at-least-one teacher schemes for measuring teacher performance. Thank you.

    However, that’s not the end of the story. We need to evaluate whether those schemes actually result in increased student performance, that being the actual goal. If they don’t, either teachers are irrelevant (which I don’t believe but include for completeness) or those schemes don’t measure the right thing.

  32. Andy Freeman says:

    > — Many studies have concluded that we need more money for teachers, period – that teachers are underpaid relative to others with similar qualifications, and have experienced a decrease in real wages adjusted for inflation.

    Those studies ignore the fact that the current wages and working conditions are adequate. Supply has met demand.

    If their qualifications are actually similar, why aren’t they doing the higher paying jobs? There are four possible reasons. (1) They don’t know about the higher paying jobs. (2) They aren’t actually qualified to do said jobs. (3) They don’t understand simple arithmetic. (4) They’re getting some benefit from being teachers that compensates them for the salary discrepancy.

    I think that it’s mostly #4 with some #2. And that’s why the salaries shouldn’t change.

  33. Andy Freeman says:

    > I can’t complain about politics if I’m tax-funded?

    I didn’t say that. I said that you can’t complain about being a political target as long as you’re paid through the political process and insist on being political.

  34. Andy Freeman says:

    > Given a fair system, teachers are ready to uphold high standards.

    Teachers don’t have an obligation to try to get rid of bad teachers. However, if they don’t try to do so, they’re lying when they say that they’re there for the students.

    No one forces teachers to demand contracts that protect bad teachers. Yet they consistently do.

    BTW – Teachers aren’t “professionals” – they’re merely paid. Professionals are personally liable. Teachers aren’t.

    There’s nothing wrong with not being a professional – most folks aren’t.

  35. Andy Freeman says:

    > As a current teacher who used to work in the private sector and who is married to someone working in the private sector, I have to laugh my head off when anti-public school advocates hold up business as the be-all, end-all of perfection in work accountability and organization.

    No one is suggesting that biz is perfect.

    However, there’s one important difference. When a biz fails, the people who invested in it or loaned money to it lose their money. The employees lose their jobs. Another biz that can do the job comes in and serves the customers.

    A failed school lasts for decades, screwing generations of students.

    For example, Bear Sterns and Enron investors lost their money and the employees lost their jobs. Some of the folks who loaned money to Bear Sterns were protected from their mistake, and that was wrong. That error is hardly reason to make the same error elsewhere. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will get protected because they’re politically connected. That’s also an error, an error that shouldn’t be followed elsewhere.

  36. Ragnarok says:

    joycem said:

    “Quincy. You think Bear Stearns and Enron are the only business entities that have failed?”

    Good grief, do you really not see that the point is that private companies can and do fail?

    “Besides, the rumors of Social Security’s immanent demise have been circulating since my parents were on it, back in the late 70s. Funny, it’s still going strong, despite the best Republican efforts to kill it.”

    Converse of above; that is, it’s a public undertaking and won’t fail.

  37. (And as for Fannie and Freddie, is it the public sector that caused the problem or are they being affected by private sector screw ups? Which came first, the chicken or the egg?).

    No, Fannie and Freddie are *perfect* examples of the hazards created by taxpayer backing. It’s not at all a chicken and egg problem.

    The series of events is this:

    1. Government creates Fannie and Freddie as corporations to expand credit availability backed (implicitly) by the full faith and credit of the US Treasury
    2. Fannie and Freddie take incredible risks and practice accounting shadier than Enron because their backing allows them to get away with it.
    3. Risks come back to bite Fannie and Freddie, and they get a bailout with no reform.

    As for Social Security, one of its goals was to be self-sustaining. In that respect, it *is* failing this very moment, and will continue to fail backed by the taxpayers.

    My point is this, only entities funded by the taxpayers get *rewarded* for failure with funding increases and bailouts. Business failures and competition are part of the reason that the private sector, in aggregate, outperforms the public sector.

    That point about in aggregate is important, because the private sector can tolerate bad apples and incompetents and people still get what they want in the end. The public sector, offering no alternatives, doesn’t have the same level of flexibility, meaning each entity must be run well with no tolerance for failure. If the public sector were set up to encourage options and competition, the situation would be different.

  38. Oh, and this may be a cheap shot, but what’s the only organization in the US with a lofty 9% approval rating?

  39. Mrs. Davis says:

    Good grief, do you really not see that the point is that private companies can and do fail?

    No, because they live in a Fantasyland where schools and educationists are all good, their jobs last for ever and their schools never fail whereas business people are evil, greedy, monsters who prey on innocents like educationists.

  40. Mrs. Davis says:

    Excellently said, Quincy.

  41. Heh. It’s entertaining to see the apologists for the Business Is The Template For All Success in full defensive mode. Once in a while it’s good to see you extract yourselves from your own private Fantasylands, and the froth is–um, well, I’ve probably indulged myself sufficiently for this time.

    However, it is rewarding to read your admissions that businesses can and do fail. Just keep that in mind when you’re asserting the latest talking points on how education should be run like a business/measured like a business. How are you going to determine that the business model by which you are assessing a particular educational structure is in fact a.) appropriate and b.) successful over time? Some models work quite well in the short term, but are disasters when asked to perform over the long term. Business also follows fads and styles comparable to those of education, with the same degree of success.

    (Disclaimer: my undergraduate work included several business and economic courses, as well as management. I didn’t take ed courses until grad school. I’m rusty on some of this stuff, but it doesn’t mean I don’t know it.)

  42. joycem –

    If the government education monopoly had the same redundancy as the free market, i.e. multiple channels to success, then they could be held to the same admittedly lower standard that businesses are. But, since the government education monopoly is structured in such a way that it places the success or failure of a kid’s education on one school without an alternative, schools must necessarily be held to a higher standard to achieve the same result.

    By the way, your repeated use of the phrase “business apologists” doesn’t make your argument any more reflective of reality. The simple fact is that the private sector, in aggregate, provides better results for consumers than does the public sector because the private sector provides alternatives.

  43. Mrs. Davis says:

    However, it is rewarding to read your admissions that businesses can and do fail.

    When had you read anything to the contrary?

    Just keep that in mind when you’re asserting the latest talking points on how education should be run like a business/measured like a business.

    Yes ma’am.

    How are you going to determine that the business model by which you are assessing a particular educational structure is in fact a.) appropriate and b.) successful over time? Some models work quite well in the short term, but are disasters when asked to perform over the long term.

    Just like a business. I won’t, the customers will. If the school is doing well in customers’ eyes, more will come and the school and its employees will prosper. If customers don’t like it, they don’t come back and the school and employees go broke. Simple?

    Business also follows fads and styles comparable to those of education, with the same degree of success.

    Funny isn’t it? I’ll bet you can tell me about all the human organizations that don’t follow fads and trends. And I’m very impressed that you took business courses. I never did. They weren’t offered at my college.

Trackbacks

  1. […] See Joanne Jacobs on all of this: ”Poor kids need good teachers in well-organized, safe schools using sound curricula. […]

  2. […] Comment on Obama’s chance for change by DarrenI wrote about Michelle Rhee’s efforts here. In a nutshell, she’s going to offer teachers who accept the offer higher pay in exchange for giving up seniority and tenure rights. David, we teachers shouldn’t wait for parents to hold up … […]

  3. […] on Obama’s chance for change by David Cohen Hoffmania Himself wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptCA’s teachers’ unions spend more […]