Why teachers don’t earn as much as LeBron

Key and Peele’s Teaching Center, a spoof of ESPN’s Sports Center, has been a huge hit with teachers, writes James Shuls on Jay Greene’s blog. But here’s What Really Prevents Us from Treating Teachers Like Professional Athletes, he writes. “Most of the things being celebrated in Teaching Center are often opposed by teachers themselves.”

For starters, Teaching Center continually focuses on test scores from standardized assessments. The ticker at the bottom of the screen shows ACT, SAT, and other test scores for schools. The number one teacher taken in the high school draft is chosen by the school with the “worst test scores last semester.” This hyper-focus on test scores (and competition in general) is anathema to most teachers. Indeed, teachers routinely oppose standardized testing.

. . .  The problem is that teachers’ unions resist almost any effort to differentiate between good and bad teachers. The fact is some teachers are better than others, whether we measure that by a test score or by some other metric. If we cannot differentiate between these teachers, then the Ruby Ruhf’s of the world will never get their $40 million in bonus pay.

If pro athletes were paid like teachers, Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rogers would earn the same as Cincinnati Bengal kicker Mike Nugent because they were drafted in the same year, writes Shuls.

Teachers won’t get “million-dollar contracts, but the best ones – the ones that significantly improve student achievement and make a lasting impact on students – could easily garner six- figure salaries,” writes Shuls, who is an assistant professor of educational leadership and policy studies at the University of Missouri – St. Louis. “Now, we just need to get teachers on board with this.”

Kim Ki-hoon

Kim Ki-hoon

In South Korea, “rock-star teacher” Kim Ki-hoon earns $4 million a year, reported Amanda Ripley in the Wall Street Journal in  2013.

He works in a private tutoring academy about 60 hours a week. He lectures for three hours a week, records his classes on video and sells them online for $4 an hour. “He spends most of his week responding to students’ online requests for help, developing lesson plans and writing accompanying textbooks and accompanying textbooks and workbooks (some 200 to date),” wrote Ripley.

“The harder I work, the more I make,” he told Ripley. “I like that.”

What works in early ed? Not Head Start

Head Start has little or no effect on reading, math or social-emotional development, according to a July 2015 report from the What Works Clearinghouse.

The Clearinghouse rejected most Head Start studies for non-experimental design or because they didn’t assess academic and behavioral outcomes. Only one 2010 study was considered rigorous enough to be reliable.
A new study found female Head Start employees report higher levels of poor health conditions. It compared Head Start participants to children who’d applied but were turned away.  (Sixty percent of the control group enrolled in some form of out-of-home care.) There was little difference in kindergarten or first grade between the two groups.

Head Start grads did slightly better in a “receptive vocabulary” test, suggesting “potentially positive effects on reading.” Head Start grads who’d started as three-year-olds did slightly worse in math.

Both groups were made up of children from very low-income families. By the end of kindergarten, 58 percent of the control group and 55 percent of the Head Start group knew all their letters — compared to 95 percent of U.S. kindergarteners.

Who sent the Scarlet Letter?

From McSweeney’s Internet Tendency: Required Reading Essay Questions Written By a First-Year Adjunct Who Does Not Have the Time or Wherewithal to Do the Required Reading:

6. Who sent The Scarlet Letter? To whom was it addressed? Was it a letter of recommendation? Is there some sort of easy-to-follow format for letters of recommendation which you can use for students you don’t really know that well, but on whose evaluations you depend for continued employment? . . .10. In Appointment in Samarra, who are the people that meet in Samarra?  . . .

18. Who wins The Lottery? What does he/she do with the money?

I wonder what percentage of U.S. adults could identify the scarlet letter.

Accountability fail

A highly rated New York City teacher who moves to a low-rated school will get an asterisk on her new ratings, writes teacher Arthur Goldstein in an open letter to Chancellor Carmen Fariña.

“Doesn’t that indicate that the test scores are determined more by students themselves as opposed to teachers?” he asks.

Goldstein teaches English as a Second Language to immigrant students who tend to do badly on standardized tests. It would be “irresponsible of me to neglect . . . basic conversation and survival skills,” yet the test focuses on academic English.

Teaching ESL or special education is a high-risk specialty, Goldstein argues.

Attaching high stakes to test scores places undue pressure on high-needs kids to pass tests for which they are unsuited. For years I’ve been hearing about differentiation in instruction. I fail to see how this approach can be effectively utilized when there is no differentiation whatsoever in assessment. It’s as though we’re determined to punish both the highest needs children and their teachers.

Teacher morale has “taken a nose dive” because of high-stakes evaluations, he writes.

Accountability can backfire, writes Marc Tucker in Ed Week.

When states decided to track and publish surgeons’ success rates, the very best surgeons took fewer high-risk cases, according to several studies.

Rating teachers by their students’ performance poses the same risk, argues Tucker. Instead of rewarding good teachers, it may reward teachers with good students and penalize those who teach the most challenging students.

He imagines a top teacher who leaves her suburban school for a high-poverty school. The work is much harder. “Your students’ scores on the state tests may not go up much, but you know what you have done for a number of these kids has spelled the difference between a chance for a future and none at all,” Tucker writes. But the teacher earns a very low rating and other experienced teachers decide that teaching the neediest kids is too much of a risk.

Value-added measures are supposed to compare students’ past performance, so teachers aren’t penalized for teaching low-performing kids. But it’s not clear that the measures are reliable — especially for the many teachers who don’t teach subjects that are tested.

Obama plans college aid for prisoners

Some prison inmates will receive federal college aid, despite a 1994 law that cut off Pell Grants to prisoners. The Education Department says Pell for prisoners is legal under a waiver provision for experimental programs.

Before 1994, prisoners could use Pell Grants to cover tuitions, books and other education-related expenses. Online learning should make it easier and cheaper to provide coursework to inmates.

President Barack Obama tours a cell block at the Federal Correctional Institution in El Reno, Okla., on July 16. PHOTO: SAUL LOEB/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

President Obama tours a federal prison in Oklahoma on July 16. Photo: Saul Loeb, Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

Under the Obama administration’s plan, grants of up to $5,775 a year would go directly to colleges and universities that provide courses to prisoners.

Of 700,000 prisoners released each year, more than 40 percent will be back behind bars within three years, said Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who announced the program at a Maryland prison on Friday.

“For every dollar invested in prison education programs, this saves taxpayers on average $5,” said Lois Davis, who authored a RAND study.  Inmates who take college classes are 16 percent less likely to return to prison, she estimated.

Congress provided nearly $300 million last year to fund job training and re-entry programs for prisoners, said Republican Lamar Alexander, who chairs the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, in a statement.

Pell aid might be a “worthwhile idea for some prisoners,” but the administration has no authority to ignore the law, Alexander said. “Congress can address changes to Pell grants as part of the Senate education committee’s work to reauthorize the Higher Education Act this fall.”

Most teens aren’t challenged

The overstressed, overscheduled American student is a “myth,” argues Robert Pondiscio in U.S. News in response to Frank Bruni’s New York Times column on “exhausted superkids.” Or, at the very least, it’s a problem for a small percentage of teens.

Most U.S. high school students aren’t racing from one activity to another, Pondiscio argues. He cites a 2006 study based on a nationally representative longitudinal database of 5,000 families and their children.

The average teen spent five hours a week at sports games and practices, faith-based activities, doing volunteer work, and meeting the demands of afterschool programs and other obligations. Forty percent of teens spent no time at all in organized activities during the school week.

Only 6 percent of U.S. teens averaged 20+ hours of organized activities per week. The overactive do better “across a broad array of outcomes, from childhood to young adulthood, than youth who are uninvolved,” observes Joseph Mahoney, a co-author of the study and a professor of psychology at Elizabethtown College.

Bruni worries about students taking too many AP classes. Two-thirds of U.S. high school graduates take do not take a single AP class, writes Pondiscio.

 From 2011-2014, despite enormous growth in the program, fewer than 8 percent of high school students took more than five AP classes before graduation. Raise that to seven or more APs in high school, presumably the sweet spot of “exhausted superkid” status, and the number drops to less than 5 percent of the 3 million 2014 high school graduates.

Meanwhile the College Board estimates there are at least twice as many, some 300,000 academically prepared students, who either did not take an AP course in which they had potential, or attended a school that did not offer an AP course in that subject.

Pressure to achieve is a problem for the privileged few, Pondiscio concludes. (They happen to have parents who buy books.) “The far greater concern is almost certainly the undertaxed American child, who lacks access to rigorous academic coursework, the incentive and opportunities to participate in organized activities, or both.”

‘Superkids’ are stressed, tired

Today’s “superkids” are competing so hard to get into elite colleges they have no time to sleep, writes New York Times columnist Frank Bruni.

Overloaded and Underprepared, by a Stanford-affiliated group called Challenge Success, cites a Silicon Valley high school that brought in sleep consultants, trained students as “sleep ambassadors” and held a sleep slogan contest. The winner: “Life is lousy when you’re drowsy.”

“Childhood has been transformed — at least among an ambitious, privileged subset of Americans — into an insanely programmed, status-obsessed and sometimes spirit-sapping race,” writes Bruni.

How to Raise an Adult, by Julie Lythcott-Haims, a former Stanford dean, and The Gift of Failure by Jessica Lahey also deal with affluent parents’ zeal for perfect children — and the toll it takes.

“At some point, you have to say, ‘Whoa! This is too crazy,’ ” Denise Pope, a Stanford lecturer  and co-author of Overloaded, told Bruni. “I’ve got kids on a regular basis telling me that they’re getting five hours.”

. . . in communities where academic expectations run highest, the real culprit is panic: about acing the exam, burnishing the transcript, keeping up with high-achieving peers.

Teens need “the wiggle room to find genuine passions, the freedom to discover true independence, the space to screw up and bounce back,” concludes Bruni.

I keep thinking about the girl who won the sleep-slogan contest at Menlo-Atherton High. She’s going to put that on her college applications.

Beaker’s Ode to Joy

The grandkids love singing Ode to Joy, thanks to Beaker.

Do poor kids need less learning, more play?

Direct instruction denies low-income children a carefree childhood and harms their emotional development, argues Steve Nelson, headmaster of an elite private school in Manhattan, in the Huffington Post.

Low-income children in “direct instruction” pre-schools do less well in life than those in traditional nursery schools, according to The High/Scope Perry Preschool Study Through Age 40, he writes. (The study followed 68 children, only one third of whom were in a direct-instruction preschool.)

Early childhood education must be “play-based and focused on social development,” writes Calhoun. “Children should explore at their own pace, negotiate relationships with other children and with adults, daydream, be silly, try things out, and try things on.”

Education reformers have created no-excuses schools that turn children into little adults forced to meet ever-higher expectations, Calhoun writes.

Are there “no-excuses” preschools, joyless academic factories that parents nonetheless choose for their children?

Nelson, the half-million-dollar mouthpiece of a $45,000-per-year private school, has descended “from Olympus to admonish teachers of impoverished students against actually trying to teach them anything,” writes Fordham’s Robert Pondiscio.

“Play-based,” content-free learning might be fine for the children of hedge fund managers, who will have lots of opportunities to screw up before easing into careers as progressive school principals. But it’s not cutting it for kids from low-income families, who often arrive at school with huge skills deficits and consequently have to, you know, learn something.

Calhoun should “stick to finger painting in the Imagination Station, and quit lecturing those who are actually trying to help the poor,” concludes Pondiscio.

A few months ago, I visited pre-k and elementary classes at a local public school that’s focused on helping children from immigrant families catch up academically by third grade. Classes were loaded with academic content. Teachers mixed directed instruction, discussion, writing, singing, dance, exploration, etc.

I was amazed at how much science these kids were learning as they developed English proficiency. They seemed to be having a lot of fun. And they were learning the normal set of social skills.

California teacher challenges agency shop

“We’re asking that teachers be able to decide for ourselves, without fear or coercion, whether or not to join or fund a union,” says Rebecca Friedrichs in a Reason interview. A California public school teacher for more than 25 years, she’s the lead plaintiff in a challenge to the state’s “agency shop” law requiring her to pay union dues.

The Supreme Court will hear Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association in the fall session. If agency shop is held to be unconstitutional, it will affect 26 states that require all public school teachers to pay union dues, even if they’re not union members.