California Teachers: We’ll Decide for Ourselves How Awesome We Are, Thank You Very Much

California’s teachers unions want to hoard all of the gold stars for themselves. State legislation to eliminate requirements to use standardized test scores for teacher evaluations and open up the process to collective bargaining made it out of a state Senate committee Thursday. Via the Los Angeles Times:

AB 5, by Assemblyman Felipe Fuentes (D-Sylmar), would establish a statewide uniform teacher evaluation system that would increase performance reviews, classroom observations, training of evaluators and public input into the review process. The bill was approved, 5-2, by the Senate Appropriations Committee after Fuentes found $89 million to fund it and move it forward.

But the bill would require negotiated agreement with unions, including United Teachers Los Angeles, which opposes the Los Angeles Unified School District's use of student test scores as one measure of teacher effectiveness. LAUSD Supt. John Deasy has said the bill, which the district opposes, would make it more difficult to push forward a new voluntary evaluation program.

"We oppose every piece of this," Deasy said of the bill. "It's very clear that what this bill does is legislate less accountability for teachers and administrators."

Fuentes defended the bill, saying it’s better than the existing system, which is “inconsistent, unclear, and does not help to educate our children or continually allow improvement of our teachers.” Well, let’s see what would be better than using test scores:

Under the bill, districts and unions would negotiate which measures to use to gauge student progress. They could include state standardized test scores as well as class projects, portfolios, grades and presentations.

If “teaching to the test” is considered to be a perverse outcome of using scores to evaluate performance (whether or not it actually is perverse is another question), just imagine the outcomes when teachers are evaluated based on the grades they give out. Actually, we don’t have to imagine that because it’s already happening. This would just be formal recognition of the demand for grade inflation. The rest of that list smells like busywork for the kids and doesn't necessarily even involve much teacher engagement. Will we have diorama quotas in our schools now?

By demanding school districts negotiate with teacher unions, the deck will be stacked to make it even harder to get rid of bad teachers, even harder than the near-impossibility it is now. “Yeah, these kids don’t know long division, but look at all these presentations they gave about famous mathematicians, so fuck off and give me my raise and gold stars.”

Here’s a lovely quote from a story in Wednesday’s Times about the effort:

Ben Golombek, a spokesman for Fuentes, said collective bargaining is critical to developing a statewide system for teacher evaluations.

“We really can’t have a teacher evaluation system without teachers being involved in the process,” he said.

“If you want it to work, they have to be at the table.”

Um, why? They didn’t ask why.

Oh, and the topper: The money to pay for the implementation of this new system (as in, salaries for bureaucrats and union cronies to put this all into place and provide the “training”) would come from $89 million in unused funds intended to help low-performing schools make improvements.

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  • WTF||


    Ben Golombek, a spokesman for Fuentes, said collective bargaining is critical to developing a statewide system for teacher evaluations.

    “We really can’t have a teacher evaluation system without teachers being involved in the process,” he said.

    “If you want it to work, they have to be at the table.”

    Um, why? They didn’t ask why.

    Um, "Fuck you, that's why".

  • ||

    teacher's unions have metric assloads of fuckupedness, but the problem isn't allowing teachers a seat at the negotiating table.

    that's a good thing

    the problem is what they negotiate for, which is a lack of accountability (god forbid they should have to take a competency test in the subject matter they teach, for example), an extremely top heavy school administration, and educational policies that are trendy... but on the whole don't work, or haven't beeen proven to do so like time tested methods

    and teacher pay, on average (iow it varies) is not all that good.

    god knows it pales in comparison to cop or firefighter pay, granted getting a summer off from work is pretty nice.

  • WTF||

    The median pay among New Jersey’s public school classroom teachers is $57,467 a year — meaning half of them earn more than that, and half earn less. The average is $63,154.

    Real median household income in the United States in 2010 was $49,445

    Not great, but not bad for summers off and relatively easy work, with real good bennies and pension to boot.

  • WTF||

    California was a very close second, where the average teacher salary is $57,604

    Since we're talking about California.

  • Adam330||

    To be at all meaningful, you'd have to compare NJ teacher pay to NJ pay generally. US household median is bad at a minimum because 1) it's a different geographic area, and 2) it's for HOUSEHOLDS, which often have multiple earners.

  • WTF||

    Median HOUSEHOLD income in NJ is right around $66K. So, two teachers in NJ as husband and wife make nearly double the median household income. Not too shabby considering the pension, benefits, easy work, and summers off.

  • KPres||

    They deserve a million bazillion dollars each. This is THE CHILDREN we're talking about here!

  • sloopyinca||

    It's pretty rich hearing about pubsec unions having say over how their members are evaluated from a person who thinks pubsec union contracts are fine to use in a way that grants their members extrajudicial protections and a total lack of accountability by essentially financing the political campaigns of those they negotiate with.

    and teacher pay, on average (iow it varies) is not all that good.

    That would certainly explain the impossibly low number of people applying for teaching jobs in the public school systems, right?

    god knows it pales in comparison to cop or firefighter pay, granted getting a summer off from work is pretty nice.

    The two most overpaid professions in America because they can hold the public hostage any time they choose.

    Fuck all three groups.

  • Randian||

    and teacher pay, on average (iow it varies) is not all that good.

    That would certainly explain the impossibly low number of people applying for teaching jobs in the public school systems, right?

    No kidding. If teacher pay is so terrible, then each opening would not have 100 applicants per.

  • califernian||

    especially cops

  • ||

    smooches.

    nice to see sloopy's obsession and his "i have to argue with everything dunphy says" penchant is consistent

    that aside, we can probably both agree that unions work for the (perceived) benefit of their members, not society

    or in the case of teachers, what the unions want is often the exact opposite of what would benefit STUDENTS

  • califernian||

    just as with cops. What they want is often the exact opposite of what would benefit CITIZENS.

  • Randian||

    the problem isn't allowing teachers a seat at the negotiating table.

    that's a good thing

    the problem is what they negotiate for

    Does not compute.

  • ||

    Does not compute.

    Exactly. It's a bad thing PRECISELY because of what they negotiate for.

  • ||

    it's not that complicated

    i think it's good that teachers have input etc. in the process.

    but sadly, many of the things they negotiate FOR are not in the best interests of students, or the common good, but are simply stuff that would benefit them (at least in the short run)

    competency tests to me are the perfect example

    it's amazing to me that somebody can teach, for example, high school physics , without a really robust way to test IF THEY EVEN FUCKING UNDERSTAND PHYSICS.

  • Barack Obama||

    he problem is what who they negotiate for with

  • R C Dean||

    the problem isn't allowing teachers a seat at the negotiating table.

    If that seat is occupied by a union, then I would say that yes, it is a problem, in principle. Because pubsec unions are a problem, in principle.

    And what the hell else are they going to negotiate for, but more pay, more benefits, and less accountability?

    Now, if you want to consult with (not the same thing as negotiate with, at all) teachers to come up with your accountability plan, fine.

    But negotiating necessarily assumes that their agreement is necessary, and that they can refuse.

  • ||

    i am all for discource, for all sides to take part in the discussion, etc.

    but again, we agree. public school teachers especially have a very poor histyory in regards to what they advocate for - less accountability, etc

    they also (especially in California) did everything they could to obstruct homeschoolers, which i find to be fucking disgusting

    jealousy and insecurity as well as a sense of entitlement imo played a big part in that

  • R C Dean||

    You understand that discussions and negotiations are different things, yes?

    I have no problem with talking to teachers about accountability, or even compensation.

    Negotiating with them, as a collective, is a very different kettle of fish. One that has had the benefit of decades of sunlight, and smells accordingly.

  • ||

    fortunately, FINALLY we are seeing some actual competition, though- with vouchers, charter, homeschool, etc.

    i am fortunate enough to have been schooled almost exclusively in private schools (quaker high school, etc.)

    you don't have ot convince me of the smell of public education!

  • Skyhawk||

    "and teacher pay, on average (iow it varies) is not all that good."

    Bullshit.

    Full-time salary, benefits, and pension for a part-time, seasonal job.

    Teachers work 7 hours a day for 176 days.

    Whereas the average job works 8-10 hours per day for about 239 days.

    And many teachers work 'under the table' at other jobs during summer vacation.

  • Virginian||

    No no no!

    There are all kinds of seminars and stuff they attend in the summer. Or that's what my teacher friends on Facebook say anyway.

    To be fair, there are some teachers who really are exceptional, saint types. The ones they make the movies about. The ones who tutor after school and on Saturday, coach sports, run debate teams, etc.

    The problem is that's like maybe 5-10% tops of all teachers. The other 90% are mediocre at best, and at their worst they're truly terrible. Yet they all get paid the same.

  • CampingInYourPark||

    "The bill was approved, 5-2, by the Senate Appropriations Committee after Fuentes found $89 million to fund it and move it forward."

    Look here I found $89,000,000,000! Let's figure out a way to pay ourselves for "training, peer review, and class observation"!!

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: CampingInYourPark,

    Look here I found $89,000,000,000! Let's figure out a way to pay ourselves for "training, peer review, and class observation"!!

    Money tree,
    very pretty,
    and the money flower is sweet!
    But the fruit of the poor money
    is impossible to keep!

  • The Craig||

    How is this whole thing not a moot point? I mean, does California really have money just lying around?

  • R C Dean||

    Apparently. They just "found" nearly $100mm, after all.

  • ||

    This is all I know about California schools.

    The reason was that the books were so lousy. They were false. They were hurried. They would try to be rigorous, but they would use examples (like automobiles in the street for "sets") which were almost OK, but in which there were always some subtleties. The definitions weren't accurate. Everything was a little bit ambiguous -- they weren't smart enough to understand what was meant by "rigor." They were faking it. They were teaching something they didn't understand, and which was, in fact, useless, at that time, for the child.
  • tarran||

    Feynmann was one of the greatest thinkers of the last century.

  • Randian||

    Another great thinker is here to tell you that we're still in the 20th Century.

  • Barack Obama||

    Joe Biden to the 20th Century:

    "I don't know how to quit you!"

  • Christina||

    And funny as hell to boot. Surely You're Joking Mr. Feynman is one of my favorite memoirs.

  • ||

    If publishing companies will do all that for state contracts, imagine what happens on the federal level. Actually, you don't have to imagine, it's obvious.

  • Invisible Finger||

    since usually the only people to look at the books were schoolteachers or administrators in education, they thought it would be a good idea to have somebody who uses mathematics scientifically, who knows what the end product is and what we're trying to teach it for, to help in the evaluation of the schoolbooks.

    The committee certainly learned not to make that same mistake of talking to actually-knowledgeable people again.

  • Old Mexican||

    But the bill would require negotiated agreement with unions,

    So much for having representatives in the state's Senate... They might as well just drop off all pretense, come out clean and say that the unions govern all souls under the Californian sky.

  • califernian||

    All of this mess and the fights go away if you just eliminate state involvement in schools.

  • NoVAHockey||

    i said that at a dinner party once.

    or, more accurately, i said "what did you expect with public officials in charge?"

    i'm a big hit at parties.

  • Bill Dalasio||

    Is California trying to destroy itself? I mean there's limits on how much I can attribute to stupidity and short-sightedness.

  • CampingInYourPark||

    My daughter was attending a college outside LA and met a student there she later married. They came to visit us in NC and he asked me if he could marry her. I asked him if he thought I'd be responsible to say yes considering he had never held a job before.
    He went on to explain that window washers in CA make up to $100 an hour. They got married.
    He's had 4 different jobs and lives in NC now.

  • CampingInYourPark||

    That's 4 different jobs lasting an average of about 3 months in the span of 4 years.

  • Almanian's Evil Twin||

    Son-in-law, I am disappoint.

    I give my new son-in-law credit for asking me to marry Daughter #2. That was cool.(I didn't "ask" to marry my wife - we just got married - oops).

    I give him and Daughter #2 more credit for both having finished college and him already starting a career, and her having multiple job opportunities and just needing to pick one.

    I fucking dropped out of college, got married, suffered, learned, went back to college and finished, while Daughter #1 was born my last term in school, worked my fucking ass off, my wife then went back and finished, we finally starting making big money in our mid 30's....and now her dad's OK with me after 27 years married to his daughter.

    So there's hope. Good luck :)

  • CampingInYourPark||

    "So there's hope."

    Of course, they can make it work even if they began with some foolish preconceptions about how living in CA meant living on Easy St.

  • Killazontherun||

    My wife mentioned asking her dad as a respectful formality. I told her, 'don't be ridiculous. If he doesn't want me to marry you he can get on his knees and beg while offering a substantial bribe.'

    It was kind of a test, actually, and I passed.

  • KPres||

    "He went on to explain that window washers in CA make up to $100 an hour."

    Well, to be fair, if you're washing windows on skyscrapers, that's not unreasonable, given that probably only 5% of the population can handle the heights means you've got a severe supply constraint.

  • R C Dean||

    He went on to explain that window washers in CA make up to $100 an hour.

    How much do unemployed window washers make?

  • Paul.||

    No, the people within California (municipal unions and their members) are merely trying to extract everything they can from the system without any concern for their actions in aggregate.

    California is a microcosm of the final resting place of unlimited democracy: When you can simply vote yourself a bigger paycheck, the system is doomed.

  • robc||

    Ive never understood the problem with "teaching to the test".

    First, make sure the test covers extensively the material to be learned...then, if the students know it, then they have learned the proper material.

  • Archduke PantsFan||

    Because then the little snowflakes won't learn how they feel about math.

  • Adam330||

    It's a problem when the test is multiple choice focused on a few narrow areas that are announced in advance, and the teaching is strategies to do well on multiple choice tests (process of elimination, when to guess, etc.) and memorization in those areas. If the tests were free form and actually required critical thinking, then you'd be right. But tests like that are hard to grade en masse.

  • Randian||

    It's a problem when the test is multiple choice focused on a few narrow areas that are announced in advance, and the teaching is strategies to do well on multiple choice tests

    Which means it should be even easier for the teachers to "coach" their students into good grades!

    The subjects are announced in advance on a multiple choice test...and we still can't get good test scores?!

  • Virginian||

    ^This

    Plus the stupid canard that tests don't work is absolutely crazy.

    If you can't solve physics problems, you don't know physics. If you cannot solve algebra problems, you don't know algebra. If you cannot name the POTUS during the Civil War, then your knowledge of the period is very low.

    It's harder for humanities, but the idea that multiple choice is not a perfectly adequate method for testing math or science is simply wrong.

  • Christina||

    $89 million in unused funds intended to help low-performing schools make improvements.

    I'm hardly crying over this tidbit, since "improvements" probably means "better" student-teacher ratios.

  • Marshall Gill||

    If “teaching to the test” is considered to be a perverse outcome of using scores to evaluate performance

    Not actually. I recently learned that "teaching to the test" is actually a euphemism for providing the exact questions and answers prior to testing instead of actually teaching all of the material.

    When you hear a "professional educator" use the term teaching to the test it really means what we used to call "cheating".

  • Les||

    Test scores are a terrible way to judge teachers. Students and parents are the only judges who really matter.

  • CampingInYourPark||

    "Students and parents are the only judges who really matter."

    And the way they should be able to judge is to take their business to any school they choose.

  • WTF||

    Winnah!

  • Almanian's Evil Twin||

    Second!

  • LTC(ret) John||

    Motion carries!

  • R C Dean||

    Huzzah!

  • Les||

    Absolutely.

  • Randian||

    Test scores are a terrible way to judge teachers.

    Name any other job wherein grades, tests, performance evaluations etc. do not matter.

    It slays me that on one hand, teachers tell me how crucial they are and how they should be paid more, and then on the other claim they aren't responsible for the test scores because of the students they get.

    You either can make a difference or you can't.

  • LTC(ret) John||

    No kidding - I work in a business where you have teams of ruthless auditors, internal, external, government agencies that make their bones by nailing you azz to the wall...all prowl around and look at EVERYTHING.

    Stop whining, teachers.

  • Invisible Finger||

    So you don't work on Wall Street then.

  • Lost_In_Translation||

    each student does present a different challenge. i don't know how you appropriately scale the teacher's accomplishments.

  • Adam330||

    That just means that tests shouldn't be the sole measure. Any evaluation system is going to be flawed in some way, but that doesn't mean you give up on evaluation, which is what the teachers' unions want.

  • Lost_In_Translation||

    Oh no doubt. The ultimate solution I think though is to empower the parents with money to send their child where they feel is best. that also puts accountability on the administration to keep good staff and rid themselves of underperformers.

  • R C Dean||

    Testing may be a terrible way to evaluate teachers, but that is meaningless without some context.

    What are the alternatives on offer?

  • Lost_In_Translation||

    I agree, but subjectiveness without choice of eliminating the teacher altogether doesn't really fix problems.

  • Almanian's Evil Twin||

    Fucking outcomes and results. How do they work?

  • T||

    I'll never forget my nneice making a Beowulf diorama in high school English instead of writing an essay. And keep in mind this is one of the bright kids who got a competitive scholarship to pay for all 4 years of college. She wasn't in the slow class, but they were building diorams because... shit, I still don't know. Fuck public education.

  • WTF||

    Because the teacher doesn't have to spend time reading a fucking diorama. Grading essays is too much like work.

  • Lost_In_Translation||

    admit it though. an essay grade is just as subjective as a diorama. They're both ways to display information.

  • T||

    Missed the part about 'English class', did you? If she's building dioramas in a Visual Communications or Graphic Arts class, I don't care. In an English class, I expect to see some readin' and writin' going on, not He-Man in a shoebox with a plastic lizard.

  • R C Dean||

    Missed the part about 'English class', did you?

    Probably a product of our public schools, would be my guess.

  • Almanian's Evil Twin||

    I think it was just lost in translation...

  • BakedPenguin||

    I've had decent English courses (as little as it shows sometimes). They covered things such as: outlining an argument / essay; breaking an argument down into component parts; paragraph structure (intro sentence, supporting sentences).

    There is more subjectivity to it than to math, but a lot of the key concepts to writing well are not relative.

  • Christina||

    In 11th grade IB English (I know, I know, IB sucks) we read Isabel Allende's The House of the Spirits, which I really enjoyed. One day in class we had a pop quiz and the teacher told us it was open book, open notes, so take all papers out that had to do with the unit. He then proceeded to quiz us on what he had written on the syllabus as far as when assignments were due. NOTHING at all about the substance of the book. Now, since I never imagined the syllabus to be pertinent to a pop quiz I'd not taken it out, and (loudly) complained. He pulled me aside and told me that for MY quiz he'd read individual lines from the book and I had to identify which pages they were on. Since I had read the book twice by this point I killed it, 10/10. He was so mad.

  • Christina||

    By the way, in 12th grade the English department decided that they would require that we highlight our books as we read and they would grade us on that. Not the passages that we chose, of course. Who has time to evaluate that? No, they would just flip through to make sure we had highlighted through to the current page we were supposed to on.

  • T||

    For some reason, Heathers Is immediately coming to my mind. "ESKIMO!"

  • The Craig||

    Jesus, this brings back another bad school memory. In AP lit, my Great Gatsby notes were also graded. Because I did not want to buy a book just so I could highlight in it, I borrowed my girlfriend's (who took the class earlier in the year). I added a few post it notes here and there, but did not get crazy taking notes. When I turned the book in to be graded, i was honest and said the highlighting is not mine. This did not stop the teacher from accusing me of plagiarism.

  • ||

    When did you go to school?

  • Christina||

    I did my time in the mid 90s, graduating in 97.

  • The Craig||

    In high school chemistry we had to write poems about being either hot or cold. I kid you not.

    I wrote mine about being locked outside the house, naked, during winter. I was very descriptive in describing how cold I was (and even referenced alcohol).

    The teacher was not amused with my poem or my inquiry when she stated her disapproval. I asked, "well what exactly does this have to do with chemistry again?"

  • The Craig||

    To make this worse, it was actually Chem II.

  • Loki||

    In high school chemistry we had to write poems about being either hot or cold.

    What the fuck???

  • R C Dean||

    Would the lyrics to "Hot for Teacher" have been out of line?

  • reason readin female||

    In his 9th grade science class last year, one of the assignments the teacher gave my son's class was to "build" some type of insulation for a can of soda.
    He used bubble wrap and styrofoam. He received an A.

    For building a fuckin' beer cozy.

    It's been a year, and I still can't get over just how crappy that teacher was.

    On a lighter note...his English teacher was awesome. Had them read several books, and asked them to answer thought provoking questions in their reports.
    One of the books assigned was "Anthem."
    Yep...she was great. Wish there were more like her.

  • ||

    I'll ask the same question I asked Christina. How old are you?

  • The Craig||

    I am 26, so this was fairly recent I suppose (10 years ago)

  • ||

    if you want an example of the fuckupedness of teacher's unions, and specifically california teachers unions...

    look into the roadblocks and shit the teachers were behind (granted, the legislature played along with their "demands") in setting up restrictions on the ability of people to homeschool.

    with the exception of vouchers, nothing in recent history has been perceived as more of a threat than homeschoolers.

    and the idea that some LAYpeople, without the "education degree" (lol) etc. could do a good job of teaching their own (and other kids) vs. the public schools was heresy to teachers.

    you want to see people act venal, irrationally and kneejerk? threaten their concept of "specialness"

    homeschooling has been an OVERWHELMING success, but it was DESPITE all the shit that teachers, and sympathetic legislators threw in the way of homeschoolers.

    some of the threads at DU etc. just DRIP with condescension towards the very idea that sally soccer mom, let alone sally fundamentalist soccer mon has ANY place educating "our" (it takes a village) kids.

    god forbid, they might teach them unsavory ideas.

    i was lucky enough to attend mostly private schools (quaker high school for instance) and from what little i saw of public schools? meh

  • ||

    I'm starting to see that my high school experience, as crappy as it was socially, was a fucking ivy league academically. All of my teachers loved it when I showed my contrary side or questioned the "party line". They chose interesting books for us to read in English and had us do stimulating science shit (one was a demonstration of atmospheric pressure vacuums wherein one of the jocks tried to drink from a 3-story tall straw). And yes, it was a public school.

  • ||

    Yeah, but you're like 35, right? Schools have gotten crappier to an unbelievable degree in the last 15-20 years.

  • T||

    Ever so much this.

  • ||

    honor code was big at my school.

    we would actually have CLOSED BOOK take home tests sometimes.

    iow, the only thing preventing you from cheating when you did the test at home (and it was timed, too) was your sense of honor

  • Almanian's Evil Twin||

    What perfect preparation for a career in law enforcement! You are one lucky LEO.

  • ||

    not luck. i thank my parents. that whole pacifism thing is a bit impractical, but quaker education is a great thing

  • mad libertarian guy||

    Fucking fire all of them and start from scratch.

    Every single fucking one of those leeches.

  • NL_||

    Nothing stopping unions from making an evaluation system now. They don't want to rank teachers accurately. They want to limit the ability of administrators to punish or release bad teachers and keep parents from knowing which teachers are worse than the others.

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