Is There Really Such a Thing as a Bad Teacher?

Earlier this month, one of the most popular pieces at The New York Times website was titled "Confessions of a 'Bad' Teacher." The author, William Johnson, is a special ed teacher in New York and he movingly conveys the frustrations and aspirations that many teachers encounter:

My students have learning disabilities ranging from autism and attention-deficit disorder to cerebral palsy and emotional disturbances. I love these kids, but they can be a handful. Almost without exception, they struggle on standardized tests, frustrate their teachers and find it hard to connect with their peers. What’s more, these are high school students, so their disabilities are compounded by raging hormones and social pressure....I don’t just want to get better; like most teachers I know, I’m a bit of a perfectionist.

Johnson's eloquence sharpens the irony that he is officially "a bad teacher."

That’s not my opinion; it’s how I’m labeled by the city’s Education Department. Last June, my principal at the time rated my teaching “unsatisfactory,” checking off a few boxes on an evaluation sheet that placed my career in limbo. That same year, my school received an “A” rating. I was a bad teacher at a good school. It was pretty humiliating.

It's easy to sympathize with Johnson. Teaching high school is doubtless a ring of hell inexplicably overlooked by Dante in the Inferno. And I take Johnson at face value when he asserts that, "At the school where I work today, my 'bad' teaching has mostly been very successful."

But he - and many like him the education establishment - lose me when they turn to the reason why they do not do well on evaluations. Critics have spent decades blaming teachers, administrators, curricula, you name it, for why outcomes haven't improved. Rather than rehash those excuses, Johnson blames the students:

That said, given all the support in the world, even the best teacher can’t force his students to learn. Students aren’t simply passive vessels, waiting to absorb information from their teachers and regurgitate it through high-stakes assessments. They make choices about what they will and won’t learn. I know I did. When I was a teenager, I often stayed up way too late, talking with friends, listening to music or playing video games. Did this affect my performance on tests? Undoubtedly. Were my teachers responsible for these choices? No.

But all his creativity in denouncing high-stakes testing and teacher evaluations ultimately leads back to the same-old, same-old. Nobody dast blame a teacher for anything, he argues, especially since who can say that one is better than another.

If you give some students green fields, glossy textbooks and lots of attention, you can’t measure them against another group of students who lack all of these things. It’s bad science.

Until we provide equal educational resources to all students and teachers, no matter where they come from, we can’t say — with any scientific accuracy — how well or poorly they’re performing. Perhaps if we start the conversation there, things will start making a bit more sense.

Read the whole thing here.

Come on already. Teachers consistently argue that, like doctors and lawyers, they are professionals who deserve the respect of everyone and even more money than they already make. Yet in the same breath, teachers are always asserting that their profession is uniquely incapable of being evaluated in any sort of meaningful and fair way. There are just too many variables - some schools spend more per student, some students are smarter or dumber to start with, parental involvement is varied, etc. - to get a good sense of who's good and who's not.

I'm sure most evaluation schemes are designed and executed by idiots (however well meaning) and I'm glad to hear that Johnson (by his own admission) is flourishing at his new school (perhaps his shakey rating helped him after all?). But arguing that it's so impossible to control for variables that we can't judge teacher performance is no way to lobby for more resources or be taken seriously. Especially since school systems have gotten more and more money per pupil for decades now without improving outcomes. If teacher pay and classroom resources haven't kept pace with the overall increase in funding, that's maybe a reason for Johnson and his fellow teachers to question paying union dues. But it's not a reason to make taxpayers pony up more dough for people who say that teachers are really important but can't be judged.

Reason on Education.

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  • Butthead||

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  • Amakudari||

    Strangely on-topic this time. Congratulations.

  • Ron Paul won US Virgin Islands||

    United States Virgin Islands Republican caucuses, 2012
    Candidate Votes Percentage Unbound Delegates Delegates
    Ron Paul 112[3] 29.2% 1 1
    Mitt Romney 101 26.3% 6 7
    Rick Santorum 23 6.0% 0 0
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  • Juice||

    Santorum Virgin Caucus. There's a joke in there somewhere.

  • ||

    Whoooo! Ron Paul won the US Virgin Islands Caucus! The campaign is a juggernaut!!!11!

  • Bingo||

    My students have learning disabilities ranging from autism and attention-deficit disorder to cerebral palsy and emotional disturbances.

    Is there any other industry where it's acceptable to make a list of your clients' deficiencies in order to excuse your own failings?

  • Hugh Akston||

    National Politics?

  • Bingo||

    Touche

  • anarch||

    For national politics, that would be:

    a list of your clients' deficiencies in order to excuse your own failings successes
  • ||

    Look, Bingo, you insensitive asshole, they have to work 9 whole months a year! Yet get paid for 12! And damn it, they have to teach kids, you know, the thing their job is supposed to do! And they sometimes have to stay late (you know, past 3 or so) in order to grade some papers!

    You just don't understand how hard it is!

  • Paul||

    The drinking they do during summer vacation takes its toll, though.

  • Afghanistan Bananastan||

    The teachers I know work 12-hour days and have summer jobs to make ends meet. I'm thinking the "libertarians" here don't know any teachers personally.

  • Ryan||

    So what you're saying is they do their jobs slowly, poorly, and they don't know how to manage their finances?

    Huh.

  • ||

    Well, that just confirms what we already knew.

  • Ska||

    Funny, the teachers I know get share houses in the Hamptons or Fire Island. Hmmm....maybe both our anecdotes don't mean shit.

  • Sevo||

    Afghanistan Bananastan|3.12.12 @ 7:56PM|#
    "The teachers I know work 12-hour days and have summer jobs to make ends meet"

    12-hour days, work 12 months of the year?
    How horrible!

  • Jive||

    How do they fit in the time to constantly make chippy comments on Hit and Run?

  • Hugh Akston||

    I've seen lots of video documentaries about teachers who have inappropriate sexual relationships with their students. But they always confirm that they are 18 or over beforehand.

  • ||

    The teachers I know work 12-hour days and have summer jobs to make ends meet. I'm thinking the "libertarians" here don't know any teachers personally.

    You are fucking full of shit. I have several family members who are on the government tit as "teachers". One of them recently graduated with a degree in Education and was hired to "teach" pre-school for 32k a "year" plus at least another 8k in benefits. Of course, if she wants to work more than the 185 school days, they have plenty of after/weekend/before care that pays her "overtime".

    By comparison, my wife has a BA in business and 10 years experience as a bookkeeper/accountant when she was hired at her current job. She was hired at the same 32k, only she actually had to work a full year and did not receive as much in benefits.

    I wouldn't take a piss to keep a public school teacher from dying of thirst.

  • Ska||

    Your dying of thirst line is so much better than the typical "if they were on fire" routine.

  • jasno||

    I'd take accounting any day of the week over having to teach modern children. Jesus, do you know how fucking stupid the *parents* are nowadays?

    At the end of the day though, there's no solution outside of privatization and local control.

  • Tony||

    One teacher is worth more (to society) than one bookkeeper/accountant. Both wages are low by any standard for a professional, but there's no basis for presuming teachers should be paid the same for the same amount of work.

    Figuring out what the market would pay is impossible since a free market would leave poor children unable to get an education--an unacceptable outcome in a first-world country. The only calculation left is efficiency: what should taxpayers pay to get the best return on investment--which education certainly is.

  • Bee Tagger||

    One teacher is worth more (to society) than one bookkeeper/accountant

    Doesn't this kind of assessment depend on how many teachers there are?

  • ||

    comparative advantage and opportunity costs are beyond Tony.

  • Jeffersonian||

    The only calculation left is efficiency: what should taxpayers pay to get the best return on investment--which education certainly is.

    Seems like the return has been dropping on our educational "investments" for several decades now, given that per-pupil spending is way up and educational achievement is flat or falling. And it's worst in those poor distructs where per-pupil spending is way, way up.

    Bad investments, bad public policy.

  • oncogenesis||

    Figuring out what the market would pay is impossible since a free market would leave poor children unable to get an education

    Yeah, just like they are all unable to get any food, clothing or shelter. All those starving, naked children clogging the streets -- it's a tragedy.

  • ||

    what should taxpayers pay to get the best return on investment--which education certainly is.

    What a delightfully innovative definition of investment. Money I am forced to pay so someone else can reap the payoff. You and Bernie Madoff are of like minds.

  • Tony||

    And obviously union thuggery is the best way to determine a teacher's salary. To say otherwise is to hate children.

  • Tonee2||

    And they should never get fired, even for molesting children -- it's their way of showing how much they care for the kids.

  • Tony||

    These dedicated teachers spend so much time at school, they have no time for private sex lives. And they deserve sex lives.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    You asked every teacher about their sex lives, right, Tony?

  • Tony||

    Are you hitting on me FIFY?

  • Michael S. Langston||

    Teacher is worth more... lol.

    Without even arguing with you the stupidity of one single person making such obviously subjective judgements while pretending they are facts...

    I'll just ask you this:

    Is the accountant who does the books for the school and ensures the teachers get paid worth as much as a teacher who needs the account to work in order to do their work?

  • ||

    "One teacher is worth more (to society) than one bookkeeper/accountant."

    Why? Teaching isn't that difficult.

    "Both wages are low by any standard for a professional, but there's no basis for presuming teachers should be paid the same for the same amount of work."

    Which is why it's stupid to be "presuming" what anyone "should" be paid. If someone performs a service for hire then they're paid by what their customer agrees the service is worth. This works, as evidence by the fact that we don't have accountant's unions claiming they can't add properly until the government gives them more money.

  • Bee Tagger||

    The teachers I know work 12-hour days and have summer jobs to make ends meet.

    I would think that having 3 months built into your full-time job to take another job would be a perk.

  • ||

    The only teacher I know personally (NYC public school) has a vacation house in Florida. (And, now that I think of it, she ALWAYS tries to evade paying sales tax, when she buys fancy home-goods from my business).

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    I used to date an elementary school teacher. Nice girl, and she really did like kids. Bad teacher.

  • tkwelge@yahoo.com||

    Both of my parents are teachers, and they live in a big house with new cars and take European vacations. They do work summer school sometimes and they take every paid training.

    I'm sure some SINGLE teachers who live far beyond their means work summer jobs just to get by, but that is more of an exception, and probably includes teachers who are still paying off massive loans.

  • ||

    My mother and father and grandmother were all teachers. I taught myself for a while. I know teachers personally.

    *) Teachers don't work 9 months and get paid for 12. They're salaried. They're contract is based on 9 months of teaching.

    *) Some teachers work summers, some don't. It depends on your economic situation. My dad used to work some in the summer, but not often. Several of his fellow teachers always did.

  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    Law enforcement?

  • HeroicMulatto||

    Is there any other industry where it's acceptable to make a list of your clients' deficiencies in order to excuse your own failings?

    The medical industry.

  • poiut||

    The whole doctors and lawyers comparison makes my brain explode. Yes, during the school year teachers will put it in 50, 60 hour work weeks - I concede that. But lawyers, doctors, et al put in those hours YEAR ROUND - NO 2.5 MONTH BREAKS. No spring break. No "energy saver break". Hell, a lot of times they put in work between Christmas and new years. Even lawyers will have to work during court holidays.

    "They make choices about what they will and won’t learn." At least he has the slight clarity to see that the whole public education system is a large-scale example of the "lead a horse to water" idiom.

  • Bingo||

    Not to mention that there is an artificial shortage in both doctors and lawyers due to licensing requirements and and artificial surplus of teachers because it's one of the ways to get your student loan debt forgiven.

  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    A shortage of lawyers?

  • Bingo||

    Given what their rates are one would think so...

  • SIV||

    Yes. Many legal clients would be their own lawyers, or employ them as staff, if the licensing requirements weren't so onerous.

  • Kwanzaa Cake||

    There are plenty of lawyers, as the licensing requirements are paper tigers. The problem is that that the requirements are so easy that about 8/10 lawyers are complete idiots. Hence the rates for the other two are really high.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Evaluating teachers seems like a relatively straightforward matter of testing students to see if they know more about a particular subject than they did at the beginning of the year. (Not necessarily testing them against some arbitrary performance standard, BTW)

    Is student performance based partially on other variables? Yes, just like Doctors and Lawyers and many other service sector employees highly trained professionals. That doesn't stop us from measuring them anyway.

  • ||

    Ok, but that standard will need to change from one school/district to the next, accounting for the background of the kids.

    Overall, poor kids from broken homes with no family expectations aren't going to learn as much as a wealthy kids who've got the support and expectations of their family behind them. They're just not, no matter how good of a teacher you are.

    There are some things we can do to improve the system and the teachers themselves, but I honestly believe the needle will never move significantly without a major shift in cultural expectations and support for these kids outside of school. You just can't force them to learn. And teacher standards won't change that.

  • Hugh Akston||

    I'm saying precisely that we shouldn't be measuring kids according to generic standards, but according to relative individual improvement in a subject. That way accommodations for background are built into the evaluations.

  • Kev||

    @Hugh: Precisely, just like a doctor wouldn't be rated the same way for the treatment of someone who lived a healthy lifestyle vs. one who did not, and a lawyer wouldn't be rated the same way for representing a shoplifter vs. a mass murderer.

    But this means all the high-stakes standardized tests have to go away, right? Or at least serve only as the diagnostic tools they were originally developed to be? (That day can't come too soon, IMHO.)

  • Hugh Akston||

    Decoupling funding from NCLB-style standardized tests would be a major step in the right direction. A better approach would be to reward teachers who consistently help students improve their understanding of subjects.

    Of course, the ideal scheme would be to give vouchers to the kids and let schools compete for funding.

  • ||

    The ideal scheme would be to allow local districts/schools modify their curriculum to incorporate vocational-based education as an alternative to college prep secondary education... Of course the DOE would shit their pants at the thought of promoting the idea that 18 year olds don't have to go to college to be successful.

  • Sevo||

    CTogar|3.12.12 @ 8:02PM|#
    "Ok, but that standard will need to change from one school/district to the next, accounting for the background of the kids."

    The LA ratings compared teachers in the same schools, same students/backgrounds.
    The union hated it.

  • ||

    Yeah, I don't get that at all. Seems counter-intuitive to the teachers' interest. I'd be interested to know their reasoning.

  • Sevo||

    "I'd be interested to know their reasoning."

    Forgive me for guessing, but the union exists to provide jobs. If enough public pressure builds from such evaluations, some incompetent teachers might get FIRED!

  • ||

    I don't think you appreciate the depth of the problem. Adults graduating from high school routinely require remedial classes for even the most basic subjects. Broken homes and low expectations are real problems, but they don't explain a public school system that can't consistently teach even the simplest subjects.

  • Paul||

    I dunno, this guy didn't come off as all that bad.

    He's correct in that your students (and student pool) will play a very significant role in the outcomes of their own education.

    I have all the respect in the world for teachers to teach in really, really bad (read: tough/poor) schools where the parents are either non-existent or actively sabatoging their own children.

    One has to expect that a teacher working in a well-off neighborhood full of kids with clean-cut white helicopter parents (racist!11!) are going to be a little more nose-to-the-grindstone than a kid who grew up where the median age-at-pregnancy was 15.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Real parents don't stop breastfeeding until their kids have learner's permits.

  • Juice||

    I've had bad teachers. Yes, there is such a thing.

  • Binky||

    Ditto, uh, I agree.

    From my experience, "bad teacher" is correlated with "cronyism".

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    I thought the term was correlated with a scantily-clad Cameron Diaz.

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1284575/

  • Bingo||

    Whoever did her makeup deserves an Oscar for special effects.

  • mad libertarian guy||

    In my public schooling, I've had far more bad teachers than good ones.

  • R||

    Somehow I lucked out; I had a larger number of good teachers than bad ones.

  • Juice||

    I lucked out too. I had many more good teachers than bad ones. In high school, though, my biology teacher was a creationist and my physics teacher was just incompetent (but somehow won teaching awards).

  • Kev||

    Part of the problem may be revealed by the examination of these two statements:

    Teachers consistently argue that, like doctors and lawyers, they are professionals who deserve the respect of everyone and even more money than they already make.

    and

    If teacher pay and classroom resources haven't kept pace with the overall increase in funding, that's maybe a reason for Johnson and his fellow teachers to question paying union dues.'

    But if teachers want to be treated like professionals, then there's no reason for them to have a union, which should for blue-collar trades, not professions. When's the last time you saw doctors or lawyers go on strike?

  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    They don't want to be treated like professionals. Professionals generally are employed and paid based on talent and ability.

  • HeroicMulatto||

    But if teachers want to be treated like professionals, then there's no reason for them to have a union, which should for blue-collar trades, not professions. When's the last time you saw doctors or lawyers go on strike?

    You've never heard of the American Medical Association or a Bar Association?

  • ugggh||

    ^
    |
    |
    Not Unions

  • HeroicMulatto||

    And the difference, other than nomenclature, between a "professional association" and a "union" is?

  • Jeffersonian||

    One is a collective bargaining unit, the other is not.

  • ugggh||

    Bingo! We have found a brain!

  • ugggh||

    When was the last time the BAR or AMA negotiated benefits and salary for doctors and lawyers?

  • adam||

    One bargains with your employer on your behalf and the other does not.

  • ||

    Actually, at least as far as Architecture is concerned, our "professional organization" is BY LAW barred from even discussing pricing structures with its members. Let alone clients. I'm betting it's the same for other groups as well

  • Jerry||

    Of course there is no such thing as a bad teacher, this guy is plainly suffering from teaching disabilities.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    You're testing the teachers and the students. Both own their share of the results.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    One thing to be said in favor of home schooling: If the kid doesn't do well, there won't be mutual finger-pointing between the parents and the teachers, because we'll be talking about the same people.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Also...

    They call him CHIEF Gillespie!

  • Tony||

    Johnson blames the students

    So let me get this straight. When it's time to bash unions and trash public school teachers as freeloading incompetents, all of a sudden individual responsibility goes away. Not future authority-skeptical libertarians we're raising, I guess.

    Children are more successful largely along income lines, so there's that. Fixing that takes far more than throwing money at schools, but public schools are hardly the Scrooge McDuck vaults you make them out to be.

  • Sevo||

    Tony|3.12.12 @ 8:43PM|#
    Johnson blames the students
    So let me get this straight"

    Yeah, shithead, you should do that. Did you have a point? Or just another pile of lies, misdirection and strawmen?

  • Kwanzaa Cake||

    Kids are successful largely along income lines because high incomes correlate pretty strongly with high IQ, involved parents, and an upbringing that encourages academic success and responsibility. Low income households often lack these characteristics. If the last 30 years has taught us anything it's that your welfare state and unlimited stuffing of dollars into the Dept. of Ed. can do next to nothing to change these facts.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    It's always about wealth-hating with Tony.

  • Tony||

    Johnson blames the students

    So let me get this straight. When it's time to bash unions and trash public school teachers as freeloading incompetents, all of a sudden individual responsibility goes away. Not future authority-skeptical libertarians we're raising, I guess.

    Children are more successful largely along income lines, so there's that. Fixing that takes far more than throwing money at schools, but public schools are hardly the Scrooge McDuck vaults you make them out to be.

  • Sevo||

    Tony|3.12.12 @ 8:43PM|#
    Johnson blames the students
    So let me get this straight"

    Yeah, shithead, you should do that. Did you have a point? Or just another pile of lies, misdirection and strawmen?

  • Maxxx||

    Teachers have been trying to tell society something very important about their role in education young people for decades and society just doesn't want to hear.

    That important message is that teachers just aren't that important in the education process.

    That's why they all cherish collective bargaining and union "protection". Run from any kind of merit pay and refuse accountability for actual results.

    It's high time for society to recognize that fact and build an education system based on reality instead of wishful thinking and make work jobs.

  • Kwanzaa Cake||

    Pretty much. As with many social problems the issues run a lot deeper than resources and the skills of providers. And you know what? Who fucking cares. Even "bad" schools offer an opportunity to learn. If the kids don't want to learn and the parents don't give a shit, why should anyone else? We gave you a school, you squandered the opportunity, now live with it.

  • Maxxx||

    Yep.

    You could improve average outcomes dramatically by kicking out the trouble makers that don't want to be there anyway.

    But political correctness prevents that step that would make the current system tolerable. Let alone trying real innovation like creating an education market.

  • Bikerider||

    Once a high school teacher and now a college teacher, I have no problem with standardized tests. Some complain about "teaching to the test" but that's an excuse for the fact that they don't want their teaching evaluated. If it's a good test, then teach to it. If it's a bad test, then create a better one.

    That doesn't mean other factors (income, parents, motivation, etc.) don't matter but they can be covered by both pre-testing and post-testing. If my students are dumber than doorknobs, I can still demonstrate effective teaching by showing improvement on the post-test.

    As for "summers off"... Between meetings and curriculum changes I've never had a summer. But I don't put in heavy hours. It's pretty much like having a part-time job in the summer - still a sweet deal compared to my computer programming days.

  • Killazontherun||

    There has to be better way to teach disciplines and skills than the same method of knowledge holder bestowing it to his adepts through a means that resembles medieval alchemy. We are beholden to this institution with not much more than superstition going for it.
    (continued)

  • Killazontherun||

    I recall an experiment mentioned in a high school biology class where tadpoles(?) were taught to rise to the surface and eat with a light que. They were ground into chum and fed to other tadpoles(?) and those tadpoles then had the same ability.

    Perhaps another experiment. We have a group of tadpoles in a sophisticated tank surrounded by a audiovisual media diorama. We play the first three lessons in the linear algebra section of the Khan Academy over and over again for 24 hours. Then turn the tadpoles(?) into chum and inject them into the blood of a teenager. After which, ask him to draw a damn matrix.

  • Killazontherun||

    bleh, the rewritten passage was even worse:

    were taught to rise to the surface and eat with a light que

    when responding to a light que.

  • ||

    'cue'

  • ||

    KHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAANNNN

  • Killazontherun||

    When Olivier and Brando are long forgotten, Shat will remain in the hearts of billions.

  • Tony||

    And how kind of you to take the suspect-by-default teacher at his word on his own working conditions. I'm sure he wouldn't hesitate to believe you when you talk about how much productive hard work goes into bloviating on the internet.

  • Sevo||

    So, shithead, did you have a point? Or just another pile of lies, misdirection and strawmen?

  • jools||

    So, Sevo, when do you graduate from junior high?

  • Sevo||

    jools|3.12.12 @ 9:04PM|#
    "So, Sevo, when do you graduate from junior high?"

    So, shithead jr., did you have a point? Or just another pile of lies, misdirection and strawmen?

  • Mr. FIFY||

    How much hard work do YOU put into bloviating, Tony?

  • Sevo||

    OT:
    No evening links? Well:
    "Solyndra Is Blamed as Clean-Energy Loan Program Stalls"
    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03.....l?_r=1&hp;
    From the article:
    "“I don’t want any favors,” Sergio Marchionne, the Chrysler chief executive, said before the withdrawal. “I just don’t want to be mistreated.”
    Well, asshole, go to a goddam bank!

  • Killazontherun||

    "“I don’t want any favors,” Sergio Marchionne, the Chrysler chief executive, said before the withdrawal. “I just don’t want to be mistreated.”

    If forced to walk in the Guccis of, I don't know, anybody else that happens not to be him, the man would shrivel up and die from the strain.

  • omnibot||

    Canada is too dangerous for Dick Cheney to visit
    http://news.nationalpost.com/2.....um=twitter

  • Killazontherun||

    I'd rather see Steyn anyway. The only thing I read on NR because the dude is hilarious.

  • wef||

    Is There Really Such a Thing as a Bad Teacher?

    What in the hell are you talking about? The question is:

    Is there really such a thing as a good teacher?

    Well, yes, but to a man, all that I have seen have been more than slightly crazy. And it just stands to reason: the smart and motivating teachers in grade school that I've met (all female) were fools to waste their brain power teaching; their type in university were incapable of associating with normal folks in business, or took their research as a type of compulsive hobby. The normal teachers that I've had the misfortune to endure were reasonable and dull and cynical.

  • HeroicMulatto||

    Come on already. Teachers consistently argue that, like doctors and lawyers, they are professionals who deserve the respect of everyone and even more money than they already make. Yet in the same breath, teachers are always asserting that their profession is uniquely incapable of being evaluated in any sort of meaningful and fair way.

    No Gillespie, no one says that. Just as no one argues that surgeons' pay should be tied to their patients' survival rates or that prosecutors' pay should be tied to conviction rates.

  • HeroicMulatto||

    (cont)
    For the life of me, I'll never understand the hard-on Reason has for high-stakes testing and punitive teacher evaluation schemes. It would seem that one interested in liberty would denounce them; for the lead to the typical one-size-fits-all syndrome that happens to any field of human endeavor when bureaucrats take control of it with their "metrics".

    These tests and evaluations harm moves toward greater school choice because school districts don't want to risk losing their funding by allowing curricular experimentation, which might lead to lower scores on these tests (i.e. the teacher decided to teach something interesting as opposed to drilling the test information into their pupils heads China-style).

  • HeroicMulatto||

    (cont)
    Eh, whatever. It's easier just to let the regular suspects have their Two Minutes Hate on teachers than to actually construct arguments on how to increase liberty in our educational system.

  • HeroicMulatto||

  • Killazontherun||

    You know, it is exactly the desire to get away from the same old two minute hate critique of the educational system and come up with something constructive that lead me to the idea of replacing the system with tadpole chum. This is the thanks I get?

  • 4chan||

    My issue with testing is that people bitch about how short the school year is already. So you are asking schools, teachers and students to take about a month off of their regular learning schedule for these tests. (Lessons on the test, Review, actual testing, etc.)

  • Sevo||

    4chan|3.12.12 @ 9:14PM|#
    "My issue with testing is that people bitch about how short the school year is already. So you are asking schools, teachers and students to take about a month off of their regular learning schedule for these tests"

    My issue is your strawmen.
    It takes a month to test kids? Strange.

  • HeroicMulatto||

    My issue is your strawmen.
    It takes a month to test kids? Strange.

    It shouldn't, but I can assure you that it does. (At least in every school district I've ever observed.)

  • Sevo||

    "It shouldn't, but I can assure you that it does. (At least in every school district I've ever observed.)"

    Uh, well, maybe we need some evaluation to find out why and correct that.
    My performance has been judged everywhere I've worked, and it never took a month to so so.

  • HeroicMulatto||

    My performance has been judged everywhere I've worked, and it never took a month to so so.

    I take it you've never worked for government? :)

  • Sevo||

    OK, I'll take that as a joke.
    But, yes, and military evaluations didn't take a month, either.

  • HeroicMulatto||

    Well, the actual testing takes about 3 days. The other 17 days of the school months is devoted to teaching the students how to take the test (fill in the bubbles), pre-tests, lessons on the test material, etc. All of which takes away time from teaching all the other stuff in the curriculum.

  • 4chan||

    The reason it takes so much time is the cover your ass principal. You don't want to be the one who actually taught your kids stuff that might help them in the next subject or delve into a subject more deeply, and thus only review for one week instead of the three weeks that other teachers are doing. Even if said review of the material means jack shit. I would much rather get students to think about how and why the Civil War was such a clusterfuck instead of "It was about slaves".

    School Districts need the scores to go up to get the Federal and State government off of their backs, the principals at each school needs the scores to go up to get the School Districts to get off of their back, the teachers need scores to go up to get the principals off of their back, and the students need the scores to go up to get the teachers off of their back.

  • 4chan||

    But yeah, the exams schools uses are generally shitty anyway. But that is a whole another topic.

  • Sevo||

    HeroicMulatto|3.12.12 @ 9:37PM|#
    "Well, the actual testing takes about 3 days...."

    Without casting 'asparagus', that is hard to grasp.
    Are you saying the standard curriculum is so far removed from the tests (including the format) that it takes 3+weeks of instruction to cover it?
    Does that say something about the standard curriculum? I mean, I knew how to pencil-in the marker for the chosen answer in, oh, a minute or so. Taking tests was pretty much a once a week process when I was in school; are kids not tested at all now?

  • Ryan||

    I think it's just another example of rote teaching so that even the lousiest learners might have some understanding of the material.

    They weren't really teaching how to test; they were actually reteaching the material... over and over again, because they wanted every student to do well. For the students (like me) who knew the material, the test-prep period was practically a vacation at school. I used to read books, play video games, chess, footbag, etc.
    I probably spent about 1/3 of my time at school doing those things, while the stupider kids received constant special attention to raise their scores.

    And because I came from a school with a lot of stupid kids, I wasn't taught much.

  • HeroicMulatto||

    What? You don't like classic 90's gangsta rap?

    There has to be better way to teach disciplines and skills than the same method of knowledge holder bestowing it to his adepts through a means that resembles medieval alchemy.

    I whole-heartedly agree with you. That's why I study how people learn languages and construct better language teaching methodologies. Education should be a learner-centric endeavor.

  • Killazontherun||

    Actually, I didn't like rap at all in the 80's being a typical metalhead fixated on the idea of 'real music is made with people playing instruments', but now I have late 90's trip hop on my regular que. I've evolved some.

    I was being facetious as hell in my earlier post, but given what I've been exposed to in information theory intersecting with biological research, I have little doubt my crude tadpole model has a grain of truth to it. The education field will little resemble it's current form, and I only fear political pressures to keep current social arrangements intact will prevent revolutionary change from occurring.

  • HeroicMulatto||

    The education field will little resemble it's current form, and I only fear political pressures to keep current social arrangements intact will prevent revolutionary change from occurring.

    Yes! For example, we have tons of evidence that starting secondary school at 7:30ish is the absolute worst time for an adolescent brain. But starting school later for teens is something that is never going to happen because 7:30 was good enough when Grandpa had to milk the cows before running off to school or something.

  • Sevo||

    "Yes! For example, we have tons of evidence that starting secondary school at 7:30ish is the absolute worst time for an adolescent brain."

    Uh, got any links?
    I know middle-aged people who don't do well in the morning, and those who don't do well at night.

  • ||

    I have seen some studies as well regarding that. It seems teens' brains don't wake up biologically as early as adults do. Hence the whole "teenage zombie" thing in the morning.

  • ||

    'queue'

  • ||

    Just as no one argues that surgeons' pay should be tied to their patients' survival rates or that prosecutors' pay should be tied to conviction rates.

    Believe it or not, the pay of doctors and lawyers varies quite a bit from one to another.

    You'll generally find that lawyers and doctors who don't get good results drift to the bottom of the compensation pool.

    For plaintiff's lawyers, in fact, what they make is directly tied to the number (and size) of the cases they win.

  • Ron Paul won US Virgin Islands||

    United States Virgin Islands Republican caucuses, 2012
    Candidate Votes Percentage Unbound Delegates Delegates
    Ron Paul 112[3] 29.2% 1 1
    Mitt Romney 101 26.3% 6 7
    Rick Santorum 23 6.0% 0 0
    Newt Gingrich 18 4.7% 0 0
    Uncommitted 130 33.9% 2 1
    Unprojected delegates:[4] 0 0
    Total: 384 100% 9 9

  • 4chan||

    Bitching about how much a teacher makes over 9 months vs. a person who works full time in another profession is a strawman's argument. Do you guys bitch when a farmer doesn't immediately plant his next harvest after he picks his corn fields? (Well yes you do because he gets subsides on that corn.)

    If you want to change teaching to a year round schedule, fine, do so. But the school year system has been around a century, and we're all adjusted to it. Even private schools have long schedule breaks.

  • Sevo||

    4chan|3.12.12 @ 9:11PM|#
    "Bitching about how much a teacher makes over 9 months vs. a person who works full time in another profession is a strawman's argument."

    Because you say so?

  • Kwanzaa Cake||

    What about bitching about having to listen to teachers bitch about how much they make? That seems OK to me. Because they bitch about it a lot. If they were so smart they'd have been surgeons, business executives or corporate lawyers, no? Oh wait, those jobs are hard work . . .

  • 4chan||

    Those people should be shot out of a cannon. But bitching about bitching about bitching about Teacher's work schedules just leads to Bitch-ception.

  • ||

    I agree. Instead of bitching about them, we should put them up against a wall. Better?

  • 4chan||

    Also, Special Education in general is NUTS. There probably should be hazard pay associated with that field.

  • Sevo||

    4chan|3.12.12 @ 9:12PM|#
    "Also, Special Education in general is NUTS. There probably should be hazard pay associated with that field."

    Market-clearing price. Didn't see anything that said the guy was forced to teach SE at the point of a gun.

  • reason readin female||

    Yep.
    I know a special ed. teacher who has 3 students that are on feeding tubes. She spends most of her days feeding those 3 and changing diapers.

    These kids aren't being taught...they're being nursed.

  • Sevo||

    reason readin female|3.12.12 @ 9:37PM|#
    "Yep.
    I know a special ed. teacher who has 3 students that are on feeding tubes. She spends most of her days feeding those 3 and changing diapers.
    These kids aren't being taught...they're being nursed."

    Sure doesn't sound like a good job to me, but the person doing it is doing so by choice, correct?

  • reason readin female||

    Of course it's by choice. She's been a special ed. teacher for years. This year has been especially difficult and draining on her....she's retiring early. She'll be thrilled at your concern.

    The much larger point is that there is no criteria a student must meet in order to be eligible for "free" government "education."

    These children will never be educated, and it's a farce to claim otherwise.

    If we want to provide nursing care for severely disabled children, then that's what we should be calling it instead of burdening an already over-burdened public school system.

  • Sevo||

    "She'll be thrilled at your concern."

    Yeah, well, tell her I'm thrilled she's gotten X-years of 3-month vacations. On my dime.
    I'm no fan of Pub Ed, but I didn't chose to work there.

  • Tim||

    "Yeah, well, tell her I'm thrilled she's gotten X-years of 3-month vacations. On my dime."

    Wow, your shitty job doesn't offer that huh?

    Sure doesn't sound like a good job to me, but you're doing it is doing so by choice, correct?

  • The Angry RPh||

    One of our neighbors has a daughter about 9 or 10 y/o with Aicardi syndrome. She communicates with unintelligable (to me) grunts and will never learn her ABCs or multiplication tables or be employable in any way. But boy, you better believe the bus takes her to and from "school" every day. Society would be much better served (and save a TON of money) if we just built supervised playgrounds for these kids to spend the day.

  • reason readin female||

    This is the point. Thank you!

    We are paying at a premium to give some parents respite from their burdens. If it's a good idea for government to provide nursing for severely disabled children, there is a much more efficient and financially responsible way to do it.

    As it is, we are currently providing nursing services to parents under the guise of "educating" them.

  • Sevo||

    HeroicMulatto|3.12.12 @ 9:03PM|#
    "For the life of me, I'll never understand the hard-on Reason has for high-stakes testing and punitive teacher evaluation schemes. It would seem that one interested in liberty would denounce them; for the lead to the typical one-size-fits-all syndrome that happens to any field of human endeavor when bureaucrats take control of it with their "metrics"."

    I think you're missing the point here.
    Pretty sure it's that teachers need to be evaluated for skill level my some means or other, and those that stink need to get *fired*!
    Reason did a pretty friendly write-up of the LA Times ratings ( http://projects.latimes.com/value-added/ ), which is not "when bureaucrats take control of it with their "metrics".

  • HeroicMulatto||

    Pretty sure it's that teachers need to be evaluated for skill level my some means or other, and those that stink need to get *fired*!

    That should be a given; however, I think Reason would be more honest to argue that we should allow market forces to do the evaluation. That is, people won't pay to learn from terrible teachers. This of course requires education to be separated from the state.

    While I'm sympathetic with what Gillespie is saying, the push for Federally-mandated metrics (tied into funding) leads to government becoming more entrenched in education, not less.

  • Sevo||

    From the article:
    "I'm sure most evaluation schemes are designed and executed by idiots (however well meaning) and I'm glad to hear that Johnson (by his own admission) is flourishing at his new school (perhaps his shakey rating helped him after all?). But arguing that it's so impossible to control for variables that we can't judge teacher performance is no way to lobby for more resources or be taken seriously"

    Doesn't look like a push for government standards to me.

  • HeroicMulatto||

    Well who's doing the judging, and by who's standards?

  • Sevo||

    Uh, see:
    "Reason did a pretty friendly write-up of the LA Times ratings ( http://projects.latimes.com/value-added/ ), which is not "when bureaucrats take control of it with their "metrics"."

  • Killazontherun||

    While I'm sympathetic with what Gillespie is saying, the push for Federally-mandated metrics (tied into funding) leads to government becoming more entrenched in education, not less.

    That's a good point. Federally mandated metrics also weaken the power of independent agencies responsible for accreditation in the effectiveness of evaluation. It always seemed to me that No Child Left Behind was designed to ultimately take that power away from them.

  • HeroicMulatto||

    Indeed, NCLB was the biggest push that the Feds have made into what has historically been a bottom-up system, that I've seen in my career.

  • Me Ne Frego||

    Having "ADD" or "emotional disturbances" is now a learning disability? It's not bad teachers, it's bad students, Robert Weissberg wrote a whole book about it. But the author is very upfront about race and IQ, so I doubt the Reason liberal creationists with their egalitarian religion would care much for it.

  • Sevo||

    From a review of "Bad Students, not Bad Schools:
    "A careful reading of Bad Students, Not Bad Schools will convince any open-minded reader that full responsibility deserves to be shifted back where it always was: students."

    We got a problem, here, Houston:
    http://projects.latimes.com/value-added/
    Seems some teachers can get students to learn where others can't.
    What do you suggest? We just admit teachers are irrelevant and toss some kids out the door?

  • ||

    i have seen more than a few kids, parents etc. also think that ADHD is a "get out of jail free pass" and excuses various and sundry criminal behavior.

    unless of course a parent's OWN precious child is the victim of an assault by a kid with ADHD in which case it's a federal offense, and we need more legislation and "you can't book for a gross misdemeanor that's not DV when it's a juvenile? what kind of happy horseshit is that?" and...

  • ||

    The American public school system is an unworkable combination of the worst aspects of organized labor, big government, academia, youth culture and parenting in one place. It is FUCKED, and no amount of money, "accountability" or regulation will ever fix it.

    And I say that as a certified high school teacher.

  • ||

    having gone mostly to private/prep school but having had a small amount of public school experience, the difference to me was striking.

    the private schools were obviously much much better, but...

    the public schools were concerned with the lowest common denominator... students were discouraged from getting "too far ahead". it was (god i sound like a pink floyd song) all about THE CLASS, not individual achievement, and god forbid some students were bored by the slow pace, etc. there needed to be a cooperative environment barf barf barf

    private school, even though my high school was a quaker school (iow run by pacifist leftist ninnies), was centered on ACHIEVEMENT. my teachers were OBVIOUSLY much brighter on average, but also not crushed by a civil service system that encourages mediocrity and not making waves.

  • 4chan||

    A lot of schools separate students classes by ability level. Schools identify their students, see which ones should be classified as special ed, gifted, at risk, etc. There's special ed, honors, AP classes too at the middle school and high school level, and gifted class at the ELM level. If anything, there's too much classification going on. Schools just need to move at a faster pace, and actually teach the shit of what they're focusing on.

  • Nipplemancer||

    Maybe if we weren't using the extremely outdated Prussian model of schooling things would be better. Like porky said above, they teach to the lowest common denominator in a bizarre and rigid manner. Those who grasp the material quick wind up suffering because of those who don't.

  • Nipplemancer||

    I also find it ridiculous that they group everyone by age, as if this number has some sort of magical significance on whether or not someone can learn.
    Instead of age grouping - put students who learn quickly in one group, those in the middle another, and give those at the bottom the extra attention they need.
    You don't need to be the same age to socialize with others. Maturity and learning abilities are not the same amongst all 7 year olds nor all 15 year olds or even 50 year olds.

  • ||

    porky? lol

    hey, at least i can use adverbs beyotch. hint: it's "quickly"

    otoh, this caps key confounds me.

    but at least we can agree on lowest common denominator schooling. it sucks.

    the age thing is an excellent point, btw. a lot of people never consider it, because it's done arbitrarily, but CONSISTENTLY so that it's never questioned.

  • Nipplemancer||

    porky? lol

    You laughed, I laughed, its all good.

    hey, at least i can use adverbs beyotch. hint: it's "quickly"

    Umm.. Ok. Nice try on the grammar nitpicking.

    otoh, this caps key confounds me.

    We know this.

    The age thing comes the Prussian model which in my opinion (imo for you) is the fundamental problem with schooling as we know it. Rigid industrialized schooling sounds great until the realization that one size does not fit all.

  • ||

    oh yea. and btw, i still love you even though you call me porky.

    i never knew which model our education system was based on in regards to the age divisions, bla bla, i just think it's silly

    it IS so arbitrary, and can you imagine if we treated adults like that in various situations, how ridiculous it would be?

    you would THINK that with the massive success of homeschooling, etc. that "educators" might pick up on some innovations and step outside their narrow world, but then... we are talking govt. workers here.

    ironically, there was a time (think one room schoolhouse) where we didn't just arbitrarily divide based on age. iow, what's old could be new again.

  • Amakudari||

    You'll also hear the blame for Fabians and industrialists. In any case, it's clearly a system designed to instill in a relatively uneducated and uncurious population the bare minimum of skills required for citizenship and labor. What utility it had has clearly been subsumed by a more intellectual, conversant and symbol-rich environment; longer schooling years; greater differences in the value of education among subcultures; treatment of developmentally disabled children; etc. Students become literate (which mattered then!) but not much more.

    As for adults, I can imagine it: seniority systems. They aren't as hard-coded as for schools, but although fading it's a common enough practice among employers.

  • ||

    par for the course in govt.

    there are few pay incentives, for example that aren't related . seniority gives me

    choice of district
    choice of shift
    layoff protection (strictly based on service)
    and a whooooole bunch of other stuff

    one thing about seniority is that it can eliminate claims of favoritism, racism, sexism, etc. etc. ... it just often has little relevance to MERIT.

    an officer with less than 5 yrs in a busy district is hardly seasoned , but... often guys with more seniority just equals guys who are a bit more lazy, entitled, and getting more pay because of time on

    with my seniority i am JUST shy of making 6 figures WITH NO OVERTIME whatsoever. just based on base pay, educational incentive, and SENIORITY.

    granted, *i* am worth it of course :)

    there are often disincentives for doing good work (beyond the minimum ) whereas seniority has privileges regardless of merit.

  • Amakudari||

    granted, *i* am worth it of course :)

    Of course (or unfortunately), to the extent this is true the above benefits are mostly irrelevant. Seniority systems best benefit the minimally able.

  • ||

    in the respect that doing more, being better offers NO additional benefit vis a vis seniority and often has substantial risk/cost

    many here rail against "paid leave" during investigations, etc. but those are actually very positive things in that w/o stuff like that, there would be even greater incentive for cops to "look the other way" when people are being victimized. every arrest, comes with the risk of complaint, the risk of having to use force, even deadly force, etc. i have seen the effects (and read about them) of DEpolicing, which is far worse than rare police excessive force.

    some of heather mcdonald's work in regards to depolicing and what happened in cleveland etc. is great stuff
    a system that substantially disincentivizes apprehension (which always involves risk of force, complaint, liability, etc.) is far worse than the system we have now.

  • Amakudari||

    My mom and sister are both teachers. My mom's worked for a while in private, parochial, public, etc. school and has very good evaluations, so she has her pick if a new elementary opens.

    My sister's young, though, and has to teach severely developmentally disabled kids from awful homes all day. She has a kid in her class whose father murdered his mother and then killed himself in plain view of the kid. Two autistic kids. Nominally, she does not teach special ed.

    I get the frustration from teachers with basket cases for students, and the above writer is correct that evaluations are bullshit. But there is no way to solve this without a market. Teachers need to be able to choose schools they feel evaluate them fairly, schools need to be able to choose the teachers they feel are best, parents need to be able to choose schools, etc.

  • Standard Team Blue Crap||

    "School choice" is like "states rights"... both are racist in origin.

  • Liberal Griefer||

    There are no "bad" teachers, except for the ones who don't tell kids about how mankind is destroying the climate, or about the evils of capitalism or white people.

  • Another Liberal Griefer||

    Homeschoolers should be put in prison, and their children forbidden to ever see them again.

  • OuterSunsetLocal ||

    Liao: That's right. It's been suggested that, given the seriousness of climate change, we ought to adopt something like China's one child policy. There was a group of doctors in Britain who recently advocated a two-child maximum. But at the end of the day those are crude prescriptions---what we really care about is some kind of fixed allocation of greenhouse gas emissions per family. If that's the case, given certain fixed allocations of greenhouse gas emissions, human engineering could give families the choice between two medium sized children, or three small sized children. From our perspective that would be more liberty enhancing than a policy that says "you can only have one or two children." A family might want a really good basketball player, and so they could use human engineering to have one really large child. "

    from an article in The Atlantic today.

  • ||

    That's a really good question. First, I think it's useful to distinguish between selection and modification. With selection you don't really have the issue of irreversible choices because the embryo selected can't complain that she could have been otherwise---if the parents had selected a different embryo, she wouldn't have existed at all. In the case of modification, that issue could certainly arise, but even then I think it's important to step back and ask why we are looking at these solutions in the first place. The reason we are even considering these solutions is to prevent climate change, which is a really serious problem, and which might affect the well being of millions of people including the child. And so in that context, if on balance human engineering is going to promote the well being of that particular child, then you might be able to justify the solution to the child.

  • ||

    yes this "bioethicist" in the atlantic really said that above quote.

  • OuterSunsetLocal ||

    The left turns back towards eugenics I guess was the thrust of that vile series of words.

  • ||

    you gotta give huge props to the 9th circuit of all "people" in ruling that the milennium bombers sentencing was too light and sending it back.

    the 9th circuit

    i think they should publish their opinion in the federal register as "Why? BECAUSE YOU TRIED TO BLOW UP AN AIRPORT. FUCK YOU! Obscure latin phrase, obscure case cite... QED"

  • Amakudari||

    I'm guessing the 4 dissenters considered his choice of LAX as a target to be a mitigating factor.

  • ||

    Obscure latin phrase,

    May I suggest res ipsa loquitur?

  • ||

    I may have had a few actual GOOD teachers as a kid, but unfortunately they were the exceptions that proved the rule.

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