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Waiting for Superman and Wisconsin
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TMS



Joined: 19 Apr 2007
Posts: 45

PostPosted: Sun Mar 06, 2011 1:43 pm    Post subject: Waiting for Superman and Wisconsin Reply with quote

I saw the documentary Waiting for Superman this weekend.

I was so saddened by the horrific state of U.S. public education system. Then again, I switched from public to private schools in middle school and the quality of the private school compared to the public school was night and day--and the public school was one in a nice middle class suburb.

I was amazed and enlightened at how the experts in the documentary focused on unions, tenure and the selfishness of adults as the main culprits behind the failing education system.

Then again, both my mom and my brother are teachers and they have long railed against both tenure and the unions as ineffective and destructive roadblocks on the path to success in education. My mom is the most senior teacher at her school and still can't stand the ridiculousness of seniority.

I was astounded by how ironclad tenure really is. 1 in 57 doctors will have her medical license (and job) revoked because of misconduct; 1 in 97 attorneys her attorney license and 1 in 2500 teachers her job. Amazing.

There is also a "rubber room" in NY where teachers go who have committed offenses--sexual offenses, extreme tardiness, physical abuse against students--they can't be fired and so they will sit in this room day in and day out and read the paper and play cards AND GET PAID full salaries. It's costing NY millions. And these are teachers with clear black marks against their names, not just bad or ineffective teachers.

I was also blown away by the uproar against Michelle Rhee in the DC school system. I thought her plan was brilliant--give the teachers an option to stay with their current contract, the tenure system and their expected pay (average about $56K, high of $77K) or give them the chance to rescind their contract and work on a merit basis and earn upwards of $122K.

The union was so threatened by this they wouldn't even hold a vote!!! If I had been a teacher in that union, I would have been outraged--to forego the possibility to potentially double my salary and be recognized for my achievements rather than plug along on a seniority bases. I hope the teachers would have enough confidence and pride in their work to want the merit option. They very well could have--the union refused to hold a vote!

The Wisconsin situation, at least per teachers, makes a little more sense to me now. The teachers union contributes more money than the teamsters, the nra and any other union (according to the documentary) and 90% of it goes to democrats.

Everytime I turn on public radio or the news they keep bringing up the good the teachers union does--keeping class sizes down, protecting teachers. And yet my mom and my brother have never seen the union do any of that in all their years.

I'm not a teacher. I highly respect teachers. I know many who work unbelievably hard and who care passionately about their students. I am awed by teachers and what they do. I urge everyone to watch this--and to let me know what their take. I realize that everything is presented with a slant. But to hear about how detrimental unions and tenure are from so many different education experts and educators--especially those who have achieved great success as educators--really was eye opening.
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erhea13



Joined: 01 Nov 2008
Posts: 117
Location: So Cal

PostPosted: Mon Mar 07, 2011 12:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm not a great fan of modern unions to begin with, and I do think teachers' unions are among the worst.
However I run into an issue when criticizing tenure and unions and supporting a merit system. I see no real way to judge teacher effectiveness because each teacher, school, class and student is different. Right now, the benchmark for most schools is standardized testing, and that tends to force teachers to teach the test and not how to engage the material.
I got a good education in the public school system because I actively sought one out. Unfortunately, there is a wave of student, parent and teacher apathy that prevents others from doing the same.
- One memory I find disheartening from high school is when my class was forced to take the standardized test for U.S. History (based on the U.S. History curriculum that focuses on the Founding). Because my class was part of the International Baccalaureate Program, we did not take a U.S. history class that included the Founding (most of us had not studied the Founding in since middle school). To a person, my class scored higher on the standardized test than the students who actually studied the Founding in their U.S. History classes. That, I think is a perfect example of the difference between students being taught to test and those being taught to think.
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Beth W



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 168

PostPosted: Mon Mar 07, 2011 10:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm not a teacher. In the interest of full disclosure, I am a Wisconsin public worker and union member (I'm a public health nurse, county level).

I can't really speak much as to the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of teacher unions. My aunt is a retired teacher and she fought hard - and went on strike illegally three times - to get union bargaining rights for teachers in Illinois. I've never had a big discussion with her about unions and teachers, though.

I certainly don't believe the unions are totally to blame for the problems of public schools. And merit-based pay for teachers is so tricky. How do you compare a special ed teacher with a biology teacher with a gym teacher with a music teacher?

I think like anything unions have good and bad qualities. Even though I strongly oppose Scott Walkers "budget repair" bill and the loss of union rights, I do know that unions can and have absolutely abused their power. At the same time, they have done a lot of good. For me, personally, my union has protected my co-workers and I from getting royally screwed over by administration (long story). I do know of one or two people that probably should have lost their job that didn't because of union protection. However, I also know of several non-union employees in my department that should have been fired and either still haven't been or it took years to do. Until you work in government, you have NO idea how much politics plays into each decision made, and the union offers protection against some of the worst of those decisions. It really scares me to think of what could happen in my job if this bill happens. Not just my personal finances - though I'm not looking forward to losing about $250/month - but the overall big picture with cutbacks and layoffs possible and such.
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maryskl



Joined: 25 Apr 2009
Posts: 345
Location: Alabama

PostPosted: Mon Mar 07, 2011 11:49 am    Post subject: Re: Waiting for Superman and Wisconsin Reply with quote

TMS wrote:
I saw the documentary Waiting for Superman this weekend.

I was so saddened by the horrific state of U.S. public education system. Then again, I switched from public to private schools in middle school and the quality of the private school compared to the public school was night and day--and the public school was one in a nice middle class suburb.

I was amazed and enlightened at how the experts in the documentary focused on unions, tenure and the selfishness of adults as the main culprits behind the failing education system.

Then again, both my mom and my brother are teachers and they have long railed against both tenure and the unions as ineffective and destructive roadblocks on the path to success in education. My mom is the most senior teacher at her school and still can't stand the ridiculousness of seniority.

I was astounded by how ironclad tenure really is. 1 in 57 doctors will have her medical license (and job) revoked because of misconduct; 1 in 97 attorneys her attorney license and 1 in 2500 teachers her job. Amazing.

There is also a "rubber room" in NY where teachers go who have committed offenses--sexual offenses, extreme tardiness, physical abuse against students--they can't be fired and so they will sit in this room day in and day out and read the paper and play cards AND GET PAID full salaries. It's costing NY millions. And these are teachers with clear black marks against their names, not just bad or ineffective teachers.

I was also blown away by the uproar against Michelle Rhee in the DC school system. I thought her plan was brilliant--give the teachers an option to stay with their current contract, the tenure system and their expected pay (average about $56K, high of $77K) or give them the chance to rescind their contract and work on a merit basis and earn upwards of $122K.

The union was so threatened by this they wouldn't even hold a vote!!! If I had been a teacher in that union, I would have been outraged--to forego the possibility to potentially double my salary and be recognized for my achievements rather than plug along on a seniority bases. I hope the teachers would have enough confidence and pride in their work to want the merit option. They very well could have--the union refused to hold a vote!

The Wisconsin situation, at least per teachers, makes a little more sense to me now. The teachers union contributes more money than the teamsters, the nra and any other union (according to the documentary) and 90% of it goes to democrats.

Everytime I turn on public radio or the news they keep bringing up the good the teachers union does--keeping class sizes down, protecting teachers. And yet my mom and my brother have never seen the union do any of that in all their years.

I'm not a teacher. I highly respect teachers. I know many who work unbelievably hard and who care passionately about their students. I am awed by teachers and what they do. I urge everyone to watch this--and to let me know what their take. I realize that everything is presented with a slant. But to hear about how detrimental unions and tenure are from so many different education experts and educators--especially those who have achieved great success as educators--really was eye opening.


I am not a teacher and do not belong to any union. However, I have worked through child advocacy groups to lobby for education in my state. Of the issues that I have advocated (criminal background checks, lower class sizes, full funding for the Alabama Reading Initiative, etc.) the two teacher unions in my state have been on board as well. Working through our PTA, I started a volunteer tutoring program and worked with second language learners in two schools. I also wrote grants (pro bono) for several schools and was part of a $1.6 million grant for after school tutoring and enrichment for at risk kids. So, for a non-teacher I have had quite a bit of interaction with schools, teachers and students in my state. I have also seen principals who are dogged about getting rid of the bad eggs. In fact one principal who I have worked with as a volunteer for nearly 15 years told me that the key to dismissing tenured teachers is documentation. Any time there has been a "bad" teacher in his school, he has been able to either get that teacher to quit or won at a tenure hearing. From his perspective, the problem is not unions so much as lazy administrators who do not want to do the work to get rid of bad teachers. There was one teacher (and I know about this because my child was in that classroom), who was addicted to pain medication and frequently impaired. Once the principal became aware of the situation, he visited her class daily (at different times) for weeks to "observe." He did not have to have a tenure hearing with her. She quit.

As for public education as a whole, I do not believe that it in any way as dire as they are portrayed. There are certainly bad schools, but there are also very excellent schools. My three kids attended an elementary school where they were happy to make accommodations for their giftedness. When my son was in 7th grade, we were in the process of moving. I knew in 8th grade he would apply for our International Baccalaureate school. So I thought...well I will see about a private school in the interim since I am not sure where we will be for 8th grade. My son had been in gifted programs since 1st grade. He had already taken Pre-Algebra in 7th grade. I wanted him to take Algebra I in 8th, so he would be on track to take Geometry, Algebra II, Pre-Calc. and Calculus in high school. To a one...each private school (and I visited about 5) refused to place him in Algebra (that was a 9th grade class as far as they were concerned and that was that). Thank goodness, we moved in time to start him in 8th grade at a public school. They accommodated him.

There are about 3 private schools in my area that are considered very good academically. The IB school my kids graduated from placed them in direct competition with these private schools on a regular basis. Every now and then, one of these schools would sneak by and beat the IB teams, but it was rare. For the most part these competitions were a rout. In fact, my oldest daughter's senior year, her class was ranked # 1 in the nation by US News and World Report. Each of my kids as they have gone on to college have remarked how easy college is compared to their public high school. I live in a state where teachers' unions are very active. For a long time, our teachers had the lowest salaries in the nation. Yes, they advocated for higher pay, but most of the issues I saw them lobby for were those that benefited children.
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Lee



Joined: 27 Mar 2007
Posts: 215

PostPosted: Mon Mar 07, 2011 8:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

@TMS,

Could you point out where I could read about the "rubber room," which sounds outrageous. I thought even tenured teachers could be fired "for cause."
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maryskl



Joined: 25 Apr 2009
Posts: 345
Location: Alabama

PostPosted: Mon Mar 07, 2011 10:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Lee wrote:
@TMS,

Could you point out where I could read about the "rubber room," which sounds outrageous. I thought even tenured teachers could be fired "for cause."


They can.
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dick



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 2478

PostPosted: Tue Mar 08, 2011 10:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Unions can be hiding places for the lazy and incompetent, but so can nepotism, brownnosing, and toadying.

Yes, it's difficult to get around tenure, but, as the principal in an earlier post found, it's possible...if all levels involved in the process are willing to make the effort. Unwillingly, I chaired a department for several years and during that time, documented the incompetence of one of the teachers. The administration, for "political" reasons, refused to back me up.

I've never taught in public schools, but I've taught the products of them. I think the failure of education systems has far more to do with students (and parents) who insist they are entitled to above average grades, to pass regardless, to graduate at the time they're supposed to...all of these without having done anything to merit them.
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maryskl



Joined: 25 Apr 2009
Posts: 345
Location: Alabama

PostPosted: Wed Mar 09, 2011 1:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

dick wrote:
Unions can be hiding places for the lazy and incompetent, but so can nepotism, brownnosing, and toadying.

Yes, it's difficult to get around tenure, but, as the principal in an earlier post found, it's possible...if all levels involved in the process are willing to make the effort. Unwillingly, I chaired a department for several years and during that time, documented the incompetence of one of the teachers. The administration, for "political" reasons, refused to back me up.

I've never taught in public schools, but I've taught the products of them. I think the failure of education systems has far more to do with students (and parents) who insist they are entitled to above average grades, to pass regardless, to graduate at the time they're supposed to...all of these without having done anything to merit them.


I think some parents are like that. I also know there are bad teachers, bad administrators, etc. But, I believe MOST parents are realistic; MOST teachers want to teach their students and MOST administrators want their teachers and students to succeed. The vast majority of people in the USA are products of public education (90%). I was. My parents were and my kids are. I think we tend to believe the hype and don't actually look at the facts. The NAEP is the most consistently used indicator for student achievement in the USA. Since 1990, 4th graders math scores have increased from 213 to 240 (each 11 points represents one year in gain). Therefore, since 1990, 4th graders have gained 2.5 grade levels in achievement. 8th graders have gained 20 points or slightly less than 2 years. Since 1970, reading scores have increased overall by all sub-groups and a whopping 34 points by African-Americans (three grade levels). The gains in the last few years have been small, but they ARE gains. The math gains since 1970 have been even greater.

There has always been a "kids today!" mentality that they are somehow worse today than in our halcyon past. There was violence in my schools when I went back in the 60s and 70s. There were disrespectful students. There were kids that dropped out in the 8th grade (and those who dropped out earlier, never got included in future test scores). My parent's generation complained of the "kids today" and I expect my grandparents did as well. I think for the most part, that public schools are doing OK. I think they could do better, but then the goal is never to stay the same, but to increase our abilities.
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Tee



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 4210
Location: Detroit Metro

PostPosted: Wed Mar 09, 2011 8:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

maryskl wrote:
I think for the most part, that public schools are doing OK.

By and large, that statement is probably as accurate as can be. Here in the Detroit metro area, we have a huge difference in the Detroit schools vs the suburban districts. There also are major differences just in comparing the suburban systems; but when the Detroit system is factored in, it's off the charts. I attended a Detroit public high school following a Catholic education from 1-8 grades in the late '50s. It was really amazing how much further ahead the parochial students as a whole were in comparison to the public school kids. And this was at a time when the Detroit public system was excellent. I still felt I received a wonderful education at the high school, but many classes were set back because we had to wait for the others to catch up with facts and figures and other general knowledge.

Now, of course, the Detroit school district is suffering with horrible drop-out rates and low scorings on tests. This is not every school; but when averaged overall, it doesn't come up high in ratings. When I was attending school eon years ago, we were all exposed to the same teachers, teaching methods, etc, as everyone else. Why some students chose to take advantage of these wonderful opportunities and why some totally rejected them is beyond me. It must have to do a lot with individual motivation, parental encouragement, peer influences and other miscellaneous factors. What was available there for me and others, was really there for everyone attending at the time. I wish I had the answer. I'd be a rich woman.
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dick



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 2478

PostPosted: Wed Mar 09, 2011 10:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

@marylski: You've evidently had different experiences than I have. I taught freshman college students for 35 years, and over the course of that time, greater numbers of students in those classes expressed that sense of entitlement to a better than average grade. Nearly all of them expressed the belief that merely attending class was sufficient reason not to fail, regardless of the quality of the work they turned in. Many of them bluntly stated that, after all, their tuition paid my salary; thus, I owed them. Now I suppose it's possible that the college at which I taught somehow or another recruited great numbers of students who had that sense of entitlement. But I doubt it. I think those students were fairly representative.
I have many tales to tell of parents of those students who called me about a grade, about a student's failing, about the student "having" to have a better grade to get into grad school, all of whom expressed the same attitude that their children were entitled to a better grade, a passing grade, a chance to get into grad school, even though those students' performance did not merit any of those things.
My wife, who is still the registrar at the college, comes home every day with stories--not a story--but stories of parents who have called and been abusive about the fact that their child's "F' was undeserved, even though that child had attended classes only 1/4 of the the time. Even though she explains that she does not assign grades, they insist that "she" do something about that "f," because, after all, she's in charge of the records.
The college, in response to overwhelming pressure from students, parents, and competition from other schools, established "academic bankruptcy," whereby students who performed very poorly, could petition to have failing grades removed from their records. A quick check will reveal that most colleges and universitites extend that possibility to rewrite the student's history.
In the last years of teaching, in desperation, I required every student in literature classes to come to my office and read a passage in assigned work aloud. It terrifying to have it revealed that many had to sound out words like 2d graders and had no idea what the words meant, couldn't derive the meaning from context, and, when I suggested the use of a dictionary, stated that it was my responsibility to tell them what the words meant.
Few of them had enough knowledge to pick up on allusions: many did not know when the second world war took place, when the Civil War was fought, or what the significance of the date 1492 was.
Students in composition classes could not identify the main verb in a clause, confused prepositions with verbs, could not distinguish between common and proper nouns, because, they informed me, no one had ever told them these things!!! Think about it. How does one teach how to compose an essay when the student is unsure what a sentence is?
I retired.
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TMS



Joined: 19 Apr 2007
Posts: 45

PostPosted: Wed Mar 09, 2011 12:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

@ erhea13

As far as not being able to assess a teacher's ability, there are proven ways to do so. For individual teacher assessment, one of the best ways is to look at the students' testscores when they enter the classroom compared to when they leave. The top quartile of teachers can fit 2 years of learning into a school year. The bottom quartile teach nothing.

Interestingly, the pre and post test scores correlate perfectly to the answers to 2 questions researchers ask when they do this study: "Did your teacher use class time wisely" and "When you were confused, did your teacher help you in a way that made you understand the material."

I agree teaching to the test has become an issue of concern. However, 80% of teaching to the test contains solid teaching material like reading and math. It is the remaining 20% that is kooky and a waste of time.

@Lee

You can google rubber room NY and find any number of articles on the subject--or watch Waiting for Superman!

I should have made clear that the Rubber Room is not some kind of end station where teachers who can't be fired are put out to pasture. Rather, it's a spot where they wait for their administrative hearings to be held on whether they will be fired. Then they also have to go through the hearings. Both together can take years. However, it looks like after so much bad press NY is finally (or already has) done away with them.

As for getting fired for cause, it is extremely, extremely difficult. Refer back to the statistic of 1 in 57 doctors losing her license; 1 in 97 attorneys and 1 in 2500 teachers. Scary.

My mom has been at her school for 20+ years. No tenured teacher has EVER been fired.

There is a teacher who doesn't go to class (his students line up outside his door while he's at McDonald's. One of them asked her "Mrs. _, why don't they fire him?" Even the kids don't understand it! Oh, and the parents can't complain because they're ESL students. None of the parents speaks English!) There's another teacher who shows movies 5 days a week. Another who collects students' homework and tests and then tosses them in the trash--everyone gets an A or a B so no one complains. The kids know this, too.

There was only 1 tenured teacher who was ever quasi-fired. He hit a student. He was persuaded to hand in his resignation--and in exchange got a recommendation. He found another teaching job in less than 3 months.

@maryskl

I'm glad you and your family have had such positive experiences with the public education system. I wonder at any school, public or private, that thinks Algebra is a high school class.

In my experience, the public school I attended before switching to a private school was a joke. I was a National Merit Scholar and scored in the top 99.5th percentile on the SATs and yet I, along with every other student, was required to take a class called study skills. The class consisted of (wait for it) watching Where there's a Will there's an A with Michael Landon in EVERY SINGLE CLASS. There were no foreign languages classes offered (and only 2 yrs required at the high school) and yet EVERYONE was required to take Industrial Tech, i.e. woodshop. I have no problem with woodshop--what I do have a problem with is making it mandatory and at the expense of other, more core subjects. My music class consisted of watching bio epics on famous composers--the teacher never taught for even 1 day.

I do agree that lazy and ineffective administration plays a huge role. I think part of it is also fear of the unions and lawsuits--e.g. the teacher who wasn't fired for hitting a student in my example above.

I don't agree, however, that this is just the generational "the sky is falling" routine. There is real cause to worry. Is it any wonder that this is one of the causes Bill Gates is most passionate about--he, if anyone, understands how American knowledge workers are dwindling and being replaced by those from other countries (and in other countries).

As such, your statistics leave out a crucial element--namely, how the US compares to other countries. I encourage you to look at recent PISA results (Program for Int'l Student Assessment). Even the government has had to admit the bad news about our standings:

“The hard truth,” [Education] Secretary Duncan said at Tuesday’s PISA announcement, “is that other high-performing nations have passed us by during the last two decades…In a highly competitive knowledge economy, maintaining the educational status quo means America’s students are effectively losing ground.”

@ dick

Your comments align with my mom's experience. She teaches honors and regular science. She says that though there are about half a dozen gifted and hardworking students in science, she says that otherwise the ONLY difference between them and their counterparts in regular science is that they advocate for themselves and their parents advocate for them.

She says they are obsessed with getting all their points or their A and they want to argue about every point, but they don't want to do the work. Moreover, they don't think they should have to do the work because they're just that smart. Just as you said, their sense of entitlement is through the roof.

Interestingly, when they compared the top students (5%, I think) in every country on math, the US came in 8th. However, when asked how well they thought they did, the Americans came in 1st--it was the only thing they came in 1st in.
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maryskl



Joined: 25 Apr 2009
Posts: 345
Location: Alabama

PostPosted: Wed Mar 09, 2011 12:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dick: When I was in college back in the 70s and 80s, my alma mater had 14,000 students. Today that same university has 27,000 students. The overall increase in population is not enough to account for nearly doubling the college population. Universities make money and they make much of that money through tuition. I don't know what the freshman dropout rate is at most universities, but I will venture a guess that it is high (and I bet it is higher at 2 year institutions). Do I think that universities admit students who are not ready for college level work? Yes I do. Not everyone can do college or can't without remediation. Do I think that reflects on public high schools? To an extent, but it also reflects on the institutions that are admitting them. What is the goal of a high school diploma? Is it to ready every student for college? I would say no. That is why high schools have different types of diplomas. Also, a student who graduated from high school with a C average in English would most likely struggle at the college level. However, that same student might do really well in college math. So I guess the question here is: do students who are not quite ready for college benefit from having that opportunity? I would think the answer is yes. There was a study done on students who take AP courses in high school. The study found that even if a student did not score high enough for college credit, the student did benefit from taking the harder course and that they did better in the corresponding college courses than their peers who did not take the AP classes. So just the exposure might have some benefit.

I would also guess that most of the really talented students never take freshman English to begin with. They either get AP/IB credit, CLEP out of it or complete dual enrollment while in high school. Of my oldest daughter's 3 roommates (and herself), none of them took any freshman comp courses (nor have my other children). So my experience is different than yours and probably slightly skewed. My kids went to a magnet high school for gifted students where no amount of whining, bribing, threatening, etc. would have gotten any of those teachers to change a grade. They refer "lovingly" to their high school years as The Bataan Death March. I am sorry that most of your students had an entitlement mentality. That would have driven me crazy as well.
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maryskl



Joined: 25 Apr 2009
Posts: 345
Location: Alabama

PostPosted: Wed Mar 09, 2011 12:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

TMS wrote:
@ erhea13

@maryskl

I'm glad you and your family have had such positive experiences with the public education system. I wonder at any school, public or private, that thinks Algebra is a high school class.

In my experience, the public school I attended before switching to a private school was a joke. I was a National Merit Scholar and scored in the top 99.5th percentile on the SATs and yet I, along with every other student, was required to take a class called study skills. The class consisted of (wait for it) watching Where there's a Will there's an A with Michael Landon in EVERY SINGLE CLASS. There were no foreign languages classes offered (and only 2 yrs required at the high school) and yet EVERYONE was required to take Industrial Tech, i.e. woodshop. I have no problem with woodshop--what I do have a problem with is making it mandatory and at the expense of other, more core subjects. My music class consisted of watching bio epics on famous composers--the teacher never taught for even 1 day.

I do agree that lazy and ineffective administration plays a huge role. I think part of it is also fear of the unions and lawsuits--e.g. the teacher who wasn't fired for hitting a student in my example above.

I don't agree, however, that this is just the generational "the sky is falling" routine. There is real cause to worry. Is it any wonder that this is one of the causes Bill Gates is most passionate about--he, if anyone, understands how American knowledge workers are dwindling and being replaced by those from other countries (and in other countries).

As such, your statistics leave out a crucial element--namely, how the US compares to other countries. I encourage you to look at recent PISA results (Program for Int'l Student Assessment). Even the government has had to admit the bad news about our standings:

“The hard truth,” [Education] Secretary Duncan said at Tuesday’s PISA announcement, “is that other high-performing nations have passed us by during the last two decades…In a highly competitive knowledge economy, maintaining the educational status quo means America’s students are effectively losing ground.”

.


I am not saying that public education is peachy keen. I think both public and private education in this country can be much better. Comparing US students on an international scale is slightly misleading. In the UK, France and other European countries, students are tracked. They are tested to see if they go to the academic track or the technical track. All of our students go on to high school on the academic track (unless there is some disability). So the testing pool is completely different. Also, gifted education programs across the country have been drastically cut. That is my largest beef with NCLB. Yes, we need to work hard to bring those who struggle up to grade level, but not at the expense of the brightest students. If Gates wants those American students working at Microsoft, then he needs to lobby hard for increased funding in gifted education. My state is actually one of the few that mandates that schools actually identify them AND serve them. Some states mandate identification, but then offer them no programs. My daughter is getting her Masters in Gifted Education now. Of the 20+ students in her college class on "Teaching the Gifted" only one other student is gifted herself. Why don't more gifted students go into education? Could it be that they can make much more money elsewhere? The starting salary for a teacher in my state is around $30,000 and they max out after 20+ years at around $50,000. We used to rank 50th, but have now clawed our way up to 43rd. My daughter KNOWS she is not going to make a lot of money in education, but after having spent a year teaching English in France, she found her calling. IF we want the best teachers, we ought to be willing to pay them.
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Cora



Joined: 12 Mar 2008
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Location: Bremen, Germany

PostPosted: Wed Mar 09, 2011 9:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I can't speak for every country, but at least in Germany the PISA tests include both academic and technical track students.

I haven't seen Waiting for Superman. But as someone who has worked both as a highschool and university teacher, I can say that yes, bad and incompetent teachers exist. And getting rid of them can be difficult, but it's not impossible, even under the German model that makes firing teachers and other civil servants very difficult. However, teachers are not always to blame if a class or an individual student is not performing as well as it should. For example, a critical mass of disruptive students, students with language issues or learning disabilities can negatively influence class performance and make a class fall behind. Plus, there are some students who simply don't want to learn, no matter what approach you try. With those kids, all you can do is continue to engage them and hope that they'll eventually grasp the importance of learning.

As for the entitled college students Dick mentioned, I've heard similar stories from other American college instructors and professors, but this does not match my experience as a university teacher at all. I haven't had students argue with me about deserved bad grades or attendance records. They all understood the rules and followed them. The closest I ever came to that situation was a generally good student, the sort you notice even in a big class, who for whatever personal reason messed up his exam and got a barely passing grade. The young man came to me and asked me if he could retake the exam to improve his grade, which the university rules allow. His problem was that the class wasn't offered the next semester, so he couldn't retake it. I consulted with the department head and then offered him to write paper instead to improve his grade.

I have heard stories of US students believing they are entitled to good grades for just showing up, of students refusing to read set texts, because they feel offended by the texts and the like and it's not a situation I have ever experienced. I have never had a student's parents contact me at all. That is, there was a woman once who called me to say that her daughter was ill and couldn't attend, but otherwise the mere idea seems ridiculous. As for that whole academic bankruptcy thing, the mind boggles. Our students are allowed to retake a class/exam that they failed and they are allowed a limited number of class retakes to improve their grades. During my first semester, I had a lot of retakers who had not done well under my predecessor and wanted to see if they could do better with me.

I suspect the entitlement attitude of American college student and their parents is a direct result of the high tuition fees, which plants the idea in the heads of students and parents that since they pay for tuition, they are automatically entitled to good grade.
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dick



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PostPosted: Thu Mar 10, 2011 10:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

@marylski: Even a student who has not the mental ability to succeed in college ought to recognize what a sentence is by the time he passes through high school; he ought to know the highlights of his own country's history; he ought to know that it's as easy to compute 90% of a test worth 90 points as it is to compute for a test of 100 points; he ought to know s that sometimes letters in English are silent--as in know; he ought to know at least the most common suffixes and prefixes. None of this information is beyond the ability of even the most average of intellects, yet I would say that an appalling number of students who graduate from highschool don't have it, including many who went through accelerated/honors programs.

I also blame college education programs that lay greatest stress on methods of teaching rather than the knowledge that the teacher has to impart. I blame a society that believes no-one should ever be embarrassed, no-one should ever feel he doesn't measure up, no-one should ever be told he failed because his psyche or self-image might suffer.
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