An interesting defense

Hereis the charge: some people claim that Wisconsin’s ed-bureaucracy, which we will call “DPI”, because that’s it’s name, seems to have endorsed throwing students into concentration camps. Well, that’s not really what is going on at all, but you might not know that from reading the defense. What is actually being claimed is that there seems to have been a recommendation made by someone, somewhere, that certain white people working under the auspices of a federal program in Wisconsin, through the DPI, might consider engaging in a program of psychological self-flagellation and submission to public criticism, all in the name of making them conscious of their “white privilege” (and unless you are completely out to lunch, you will notice that this is also an exercise in doing everything possible to keep them from exercising said privilege, assuming it exists in the first place).

Te crux of the criticisms is that it seems to have been recommended that the white people in question wear white wristbands, and submit themselves to uninvited discussions about what those white wristbands represent. Things go obviously (but not I think, unjustifiably) Godwin from there.

Here is the defense against the charge: No DPI official, or any VISTA volunteer, has used, requested, or encouraged, anyone in any school to use the wristbands as ‘reported’ and shared by external groups that thrive on spreading rumors and misinformation. The defense, and it is a defense, also notes that the wristband materials were provided to VISTA (that appears to be the federal program) volunteers after their training, as they left, as part of a supplemental packet. That packet was also posted to the DPI website where you can now find this defence, though the document itself has been removed.

I am not writing this post to preach about the merits of the white-privilege-awareness industry. They’re a group of people with strange ideas that, like most ideas, probably have some grain of truth to them. No, the reason I’m writing this post is to point out that, as far as defenses go, this one is an absolute disaster. On the one hand, it is a great defense because it creates a straw man charge and refutes it… With a sneering scare-quoted dollop of ad hominem on top. That’s good stuff.

But it also admits the very thing it wishes to deny. Compare:

No DPI official has… encouraged anyone in any school to use the wristbands as ‘reported’

With…

Subsequently, that entire resource packet was posted to the VISTA website

Rule 1: admit nothing!!! Do they not know this?

The “VISTA” website of which they speak is actually the DPI’s VISTA website. It’s where you find this defense, written by DPI officials. But how did these materials get on the DPI website if not by the acts of a DPI official? And isn’t this obviously encouragement?

But now we see that I am wrong, and that this is actually a stunningly adept defense. There is phrase used… “Encouraged anyone in any school”. You might think that this means that no one associated with any school was encouraged to use the white privilege packet. But that is clearly not what it means at all, because as noted above, the posting of the materials to the website seems to qualify as “encouragement” on any account. What it actually means is that no encouragement took place in any school. The website is not a school.

Brilliant!

Michigan teachers protest right-to-work bill

Michigan teachers walked out to protest a right-to-work law that will end automatic deductions to pay union dues. The bill passed the legislature and will be signed by Gov. Rick Snyder. Several districts that couldn’t find enough substitutes declared a “snow day.” An estimated 26,000 students missed class.

After Wisconsin’s teachers’ unions lost the right to collect dues from all teachers — and to negotiate for non-monetary issues — union membership fell by 30 percent.

Teacher Nancy Flanagan explains why she’s “stickin’ to the union.

No Child Left Behind waived away

Wisconsin and Washington received No Child Left Behind waivers today. That means Education Secretary Arne Duncan has waived federal education law for 26 states, reports the New York Times.

In just five months, the Obama administration has freed schools in more than half the nation from central provisions of the No Child Left Behind education law, raising the question of whether the decade-old federal program has been essentially nullified.

To qualify for waivers, states must adopt policies favored by the Education Department, such as evaluating teachers and schools on student achievement and other factors.

Virginia was the first state approved for a waiver that refused to adopt Common Core Standards.

For reform — and for teachers

Education reformers need to reach out to teachers, writes Fordham’s Mike Petrilli.

How can we continue to make the case for reform without alienating teachers, without turning them into the enemy, the problem, the object of our disdain?

“One way is to put teachers in charge of their own schools,” he writes. Let teachers become school leaders.

I don’t think this will appeal to many teachers. They want to teach, not deal with management hassles.

When Petrilli asked for input, I suggested that teachers need to know that reformers understand the challenges they face in the classroom and are proposing ways to help them do their jobs well. He writes:

Another way is to champion reforms that teachers do support. For instance, make it easier for educators to discipline unruly students, or to use “ability grouping” in their classrooms instead of mandating the nearly-impossible strategy of “differentiating instruction.”  In other words, remove the obstacles (often ideological in nature) that are getting in the way of teachers achieving success in their classrooms. . . . And get their backs when they are faced with ridiculous demands from parents or others.

Petrilli also sees non-union groups such as Teach Plus, the Association of American Educators, and Educators for Excellence as a way to give teachers an independent “voice” and ensure “they aren’t learning about reform solely through the filter of union rhetoric.”

I think education reformers need to listen to teachers about what they think would improve their schools and help more students learn.

Update: Self-pitying Tantrums Are a Poor Way for Educators To Win Friends, Influence People, writes Rick Hess. He quotes “venomous” comments in response to his column on Gov. Scott Walker’s recall victory in Wisconsin. “Which words or phrases showed a profound hatred for educators or public education?” he asks. “Because, honestly, when I went back and re-read it, I didn’t see ‘em.”

Both sides of the ed reform debate need to “ease back from the self-righteousness,” urges Matthew DiCarlo on the Shanker Blog.

Men dominate the education reform debate, writes Nancy Flanagan. “Men are making the policy arguments and pronouncements, hosting the virtual communities and producing the media. Women are carrying out the policy orders, teaching kids to read using scripted programs and facing 36 students in their algebra classes.”  True?

Survey: Teachers’ unions lose support

Teachers unions are losing support, according to an annual survey by Harvard’s Program on Education Policy and Governance and Education Next. Only 22 percent of the public has a positive view of unions in 2012, down from 29 percent in 2011.  More striking, only 43 percent of teachers have a positive view, down from 58 percent the year before. Teachers holding a negative view nearly doubled to 32 percent from 17 percent in 2011.

Researchers ask:

“Some people say that teacher unions are a stumbling block to school reform. Others say that unions fight for better schools and better teachers. What do you think? Do you think teacher unions have a generally positive effect on schools, or do you think they have a generally negative effect?”

Respondents have five options: very positive, somewhat positive, neither positive nor negative, somewhat negative, and very negative. Many people choose the neutral option.

When people have just two choices on their assessment of union impact, 71 percent of teachers said unions had a positive impact. However, the public split down the middle on the either/or option: 51 percent said unions had a negative impact, while 49 percent said their effect was positive.

Gov. Scott Walker’s victory in the Wisconsin recall election is good news for schooling and a big loss for the state’s teachers’ unions, writes Rick Hess.

Public-sector unions also lost pension reform votes in San Jose and San Diego.

NEA spent $133 million to lobby, aid allies

The National Education Association spent $133 million on lobbying and supporting allies, reports Dropout Nation.

Barnett Berry’s Center for Teaching Quality collected $318,848 from the union; the progressive Economic Policy Institute got $255,000 and Al Sharpton’s National Action Network (“a leading advocate for the charter schools the NEA opposes so virulently,” notes DN) received $40,000.

The usual suspects are also on the list: Communities for Quality Education, which has long been subsidized by the NEA, collected $1 million in 2010-2011. Anti-testing group FairTest picked up $35,000 this time around. . . .  Meanwhile the NEA directly poured $43,000 into the Save Our Schools rally held this past July; this doesn’t include dollars poured in by state and local affiliates.

NEA President Dennis Van Roekel made $460,060, a 16 percent increase over the previous year; Lily Eskelson, was paid $371,904, a 14 percent increase.

The NEA collected $399 million in dues and other revenues in 2010-2011, nearly the same as the previous year, despite a 4 percent decline in membership.

Teachers’ unions are likely to lose members and dues in states that have passed anti-union measures. In Tennessee, which limited the union’s bargaining power, teachers are leaving the union.  Wisconsin’s teachers’ union was forced to lay off 40 percent of its staff.

Benefits vs. jobs

Wisconsin’s controversial law limiting public employees’ bargaining power will enable a district to hire more teachers to cut class sizes, reports the Appleton Post Crescent.

As changes to collective bargaining powers for public workers take effect today, the Kaukauna Area School District is poised to swing from a projected $400,000 budget shortfall next year to a $1.5 million surplus due to health care and retirement savings.

The Kaukauna School Board approved changes Monday to its employee handbook that require staff to cover 12.6 percent of their health insurance and to contribute 5.8 percent of their wages to the state’s pension system, in accordance with the new collective bargaining law, commonly known as Act 10.

Increased staffing also will make it possible to “identify and support students needing individual assistance through individual and small group experiences,” said the school board president.

Teachers will have less take-home pay, but more teachers will have jobs.

Via Ann Althouse.

Milwaukee Public Schools is laying off 354 teachers. In all, 519 staffers will be laid off and 500 vacancies will not be filled. Class sizes will increase and old textbooks won’t be replaced. If the union agrees to contribute 5.8 percent of wages to retirement benefits, the district can save 198 teachers’ jobs.

States roll back teachers’ bargaining rights

Wisconsin’s new law restricting public employees’ collective bargaining rights is on hold to give Dane County Judge Maryann Sumi time to consider a lawsuit charging Republican lawmakers failed to give 24-hour notice of the vote. However, if the judge overturns the law, Republicans could pass it again.

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter has signed a law phasing out tenure for new teachers and restricting collective bargaining. The Republican governor also signed legislation to introduce teacher merit pay.

Collective-bargaining limits are moving forward in Ohio and Indiana.

In Tennessee, Republicans are debating whether to limit collective bargaining for teachers or ban it entirely. Again, Republicans control the legislature and the statehouse.

Florida will end tenure for new teachers, offer merit pay and limit bargaining rights.

Teacher bashing

Pay teachers more is the headline of Nicholas Kristof’s latest New York Times column, but the “to be sure” graph “swallows the rest of the piece,” writes Mickey Kaus in the Daily Caller, mock-accusing Kristof of  “teacher bashing.”

 According to Kristof:

(Teachers’ unions) used their clout to gain job security more than pay, thus making the field safe for low achievers. Teaching work rules are often inflexible, benefits are generous relative to salaries, and it is difficult or impossible to dismiss teachers who are ineffective

. . . 47 percent of America’s kindergarten through 12th-grade teachers come from the bottom one-third of their college classes (as measured by SAT scores).

If unions do all those bad things, Kaus wonders, why does Kristof object to Wisconsin Republicans’ move to  “emasculate” them? Does he secretly admire Gov. Walker?

Kristof denies he wants to throw money at the “low achievers” who are now teaching ineffectively. He claims the ”pay should be for performance, with more rigorous evaluation.”  Good idea! But the teachers’ unions are the people who will fight that idea tooth and nail, and probably win.  Again, it seems as if Kristof should back Gov. Walker.

BTW, Kristof is off base on the SAT issue.  High school seniors who say they want to major in education earn below-average SAT scores, but that includes many who won’t earn a degree.  Elementary teaching  attracts some who love children but aren’t into academics.  (Of course, not all elementary teachers fit the sweet-but-dim model.) Would-be secondary teachers who plan to major in English, history, science or math tend to have above-average SAT scores.

Longhorns 17, Badgers 1

In “low-tax, low-spending Texas, graduation rates are low, writes New York Times columnist Paul Krugman. SAT scores are low in the five states without collective bargaining for teachers, reports The Economist. Texas ranks 47th, while Wisconsin is second.

“The point being, I suppose, is that unionized teachers stand as a thin chalk-stained line keeping Wisconsin from descending into the dystopian non-union educational hellscape of Texas,” writes Iowahawk. Actually, Texas is out-educating Wisconsin, according to the National Assessment of Education Progress, which breaks down test scores by grade, state, subject and ethnicity.

“A state’s ‘average ACT/SAT’ is, for all intents and purposes, a proxy for the percent of white people who live there,” writes Iowahawk, who attributes the test gap to differences in socioeconomic status, racism and family structure. Wisconsin (4% black, 4% Hispanic) will have higher average scores than Texas (12% black, 30% Hispanic). When scores are disaggregated by race and ethnicity, “brokeass, dumbass, redneck Texas” does better than “progressive unionized Wisconsin” for whites and blacks and Hispanics.

2009 4th Grade Math

White students: Texas 254, Wisconsin 250 (national average 248)

Black students: Texas 231, Wisconsin 217 (national 222)

Hispanic students: Texas 233, Wisconsin 228 (national 227)

2009 8th Grade Math

White students: Texas 301, Wisconsin 294 (national 294)

Black students: Texas 272, Wisconsin 254 (national 260)

Hispanic students: Texas 277, Wisconsin 268 (national 260)

2009 4th Grade Reading

White students: Texas 232, Wisconsin 227 (national 229)

Black students: Texas 213, Wisconsin 192 (national 204)

Hispanic students: Texas 210, Wisconsin 202 (national 204)

2009 8th Grade Reading

White students: Texas 273, Wisconsin 271 (national 271)

Black students: Texas 249, Wisconsin 238 (national 245)

Hispanic students: Texas 251, Wisconsin 250 (national 248)

2009 4th Grade Science

White students: Texas 168, Wisconsin 164 (national 162)

Black students: Texas 139, Wisconsin 121 (national 127)

Hispanic students: Wisconsin 138, Texas 136 (national 130)

2009 8th Grade Science

White students: Texas 167, Wisconsin 165 (national 161)

Black students: Texas 133, Wisconsin 120 (national 125)

Hispanic students: Texas 141, Wisconsin 134 (national 131)

Whites, blacks and Hispanics do better in Texas than in Wisconsin in 17 comparisons; Hispanics score insignificantly higher in science in Wisconsin in fourth grade.

Texas students exceeded the national average for their ethnic cohort in all 18 comparisons; Wisconsinites were below the national average in 8, above average in 8.

In addition, the racial achievement gap is much wider in Wisconsin than in Texas.

Non-union Georgia also does well in comparison to Wisconsin, though not as well as Texas, writes Kyle Wingfield.

The Economist’s SAT scores are both out of date and meaningless, writes Angus Johnston. Using current data, Wisconsin ties for 17th on the ACT. Very few Wisconsin students take the SAT. Texas ranks “45th on the SAT with 53% participation, 33rd on the ACT with 33% participation.”

In a follow-up post that serves as a statistics primer, Iowahawk breaks out ACT scores by race and ethnicity for Wisconsin and Texas and explains Simpson’s Paradox.

He also links to Michael Pollard’s NAEP analysis: “After controlling for ethnicity, compared to the running-dog Gang of Five non-collective bargaining states (TX, VA, SC, NC, GA), Wisconsin is a (1) middling performer for white students; (2) below middling for Hispanic students, and (3) an absolute disaster for black students.”