Ubi discipuli magistrum laudant, ibi administratores escendent in suus anos


No Child Left Behind keeps on working its special brand of magic. This time, it's a star Latin teacher at a Santa Cruz public charter school, who took his Ivy League Ph.D., and his record of turning out honors students, and ankled the school rather than submit to the remedial instruction required to get into compliance with NCLB. According to the Grey Lady:

Despite his doctorate in classics from Harvard, despite his 22 years teaching in high school and college, despite the classroom successes he had so demonstrably achieved with his Latin students in Santa Cruz, [Latin teacher Jefferds Huyck] was not considered "highly qualified" by California education officials under their interpretation of the federal No Child Left Behind law.

Rather than submit to what he considered an expensive, time-consuming indignity, a teacher-certification program geared to beginners that would last two years and cost about $15,000, Mr. Huyck decided to resign and move across town to teach in a private school. And in his exasperation, he was not alone.

Two other teachers with doctorates left Pacific Collegiate this year at least in part because of the credentialing requirement, [Principal Andrew] Goldenkranz said…

With the quality of teacher training being widely assailed as undemanding, most recently in a report last month by the Education Schools Project, a nonpartisan group, Pacific Collegiate in 2005 had what certainly looked like the solution. Out of a faculty of 29, 12 already had or were nearing doctoral degrees, primarily related to the subjects they taught…

Yet when Mr. Goldenkranz became principal in September 2005, he was informed by the Santa Cruz County Office of Education that, as he recalled in a recent interview, "in no uncertain terms, we had to develop a path to compliance with N.C.L.B." Once the teachers were certified, Pacific Collegiate itself would have to pay $6,000 per teacher to the state for their enrollment in a program devised to improve retention of new faculty members.

The NCLB-compliance courses for teachers are advertised as being necessary to accommodate ESL and Special Ed students, but the anecdotal stuff in this editorial depicts it as a school-age version of that unfit-parents class Homer and Marge Simpson had to take. ("People, please: When you throw out trash, put it in a bag or trashcan, don't just throw it on the floor. I can't stress that enough.") People who have been teaching for decades are getting instruction on how to write a lesson plan and maintain order in the classroom. (There's a fast-track for experienced teachers in core English, math, and other subjects.)

Considering all the paperwork, bullshit, and red tape students have to go through in public schools (I presume the study-hall timesheets and jealously hoarded books of food vouchers and bus passes must have been replaced with newer-fangled stuff since my own salad days), I haven't got a violin small enough for teachers who are subjected to the same treatment. It's not unreasonable to expect teachers to demonstrate some grasp of basic scholastic material. But this kind of process-oriented solution has a maximal expense-to-benefit ratio, especially at a highly performing school where more than a third of the teachers are Ph.D.s or Ph.D. candidates. (At my own much larger high school, we had one, who wore white gloves all the time and hilariously insisted on being addressed as "Dr. Sayegh.") It's the state of California that is laying on NCLB with the broadest possible brush, but that doesn't get Son of Education President off the hook completely: It was precisely this kind of one-size-fits-none standards that he saw failing when he was governor of Texas, and it doesn't take a genius to figure out the standards would be applied in the most mechanical ways imaginable.

Think Americans students don't need help with the educational basics? Dig viewer jasonboyto's suspicious question about the popular YouTube clip Moon video: plane crossing in field of view: "how can a plane be flying so high?"

Courtesy of reader "M," which I think means "one thousand" in Latin.

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  1. Tim — Your Latin needs a little help. It should be “… ibi administratores escendent in suum anum.”

  2. Duh. The obvious answer is that the moon isn’t as far away as the “scientists” tell us. When are the people of the world going to shake the blinders from their eyes and realize that we’ve been LIED TO!!??!

    Jeez. I’m pretty sure even the Time Cube guy has figured this one out.

  3. Please stop, no I mean stop. This crap has been going on in New York City public schools long before NCLB. This is how the union justifies their existence. How could the teachers be bad if their certified, regardless of the students 50% failure rate. It’s not us, its the lack of money you see. Not that California is a pro union state, or should I say, a run by the unions state.

  4. Esse quam videri.

  5. Did you check Youtube to find out the Jason is from FRANCE

  6. Could it be that in some schools 50% of the students and their parents don’t give a shit? Or that the teachers are overwhelmed trying to keep 50% of the students from killing each other. Could it be those schools pay teachers $25k / year and you get what you pay for? Teachers unions do some stupid stuff, but in many cases the teachers are the only ones trying.

  7. Legio nomen mihi est.

  8. Nihil curo de ista tua stulta superstitione.

    Recedite, plebes!

  9. NCLB qualifications hit rural schools particularly hard where one teacher with a degree in say, chemistry, will also teach a biology or a physics course. yet under NCLB, since he doesn’t have a degree in biology or physics – he is no longer qualified to teach those courses. so a school which once had at least SOME physics education albeit from a chemist – now has none.

  10. Lex clavatoris designati rescindenda est.

  11. downstater, even big, wealthy suburban schools get shafted by NCLB. My son attends an elementary school that has an 92% pass right on the significant Texas test. We’re getting to the point that the scores will level off because, realistically, no one can make more than 100%. Consequently, the school gets no more “adequate yearly progress” and starts getting hammered with penalties, even though almost every kid at the place passes the bloody test. I think that the only reason that hasn’t happened yet is because Mills has a big special education department, and the special ed students change the scoring just barely enough.

  12. O fili mi boni belli dominus vobiscum benni selleth all his dominoes.

  13. People with PhDs are teaching high school? If I went through the work of getting a PhD I’d sure hope for a better gig than that. Unless teaching high school is a lot better than I imagine it to be.

  14. I teach at a public unversity, and I’m a lot more interested in my students’ educations than the students themselves are. It must be much worse in the secondary schools, which have everyone, rather than the subset of those that scored above some ridiculously low minimum on the SAT or ACT.

  15. Thank god, someone is finally addressing the certification recket. Certification is the teacher’s union way of guaranteeing smart teachers never make it into the classroom. Certification programs will never improve public education, they’re designed not to. Give me someone who knows her subject and I could give a good God damn if she’s up on the current “teaching techniques” bullshit.

  16. The keep-current teacher-certification classes that Massachusetts teachers are required to take throughout their career are mostly one-size-fits-all. That is why when I taught grades 11 and 12 I still had to waste one night a week for several months attending classes where, among other things, I learned how to cajole students who were too shy to answer questions in class: put a sock puppet named “Summary Sam” on my hand and have the kids talk to the damned puppet. “Won’t you summarize the story for Summary Sam?”

    I raised my hand and asked the professor if I could name my puppet Mr. Hat. A couple of the younger teachers snickered, but the professor only said “yes.”

    In retrospect, I don’t know how I could have been surprised, that the principal never liked me.

  17. O fili mi boni belli dominus vobiscum benni selleth all his dominoes.

  18. Unless teaching high school is a lot better than I imagine it to be.

    Teaching in Waldorf Schools is a lot better than I imagined anything could be.

  19. M- that’s interesting you should mention that. There’s a Waldorf school a few blocks from us; my wife did a kiddie gig (musical instrument demo/concert) there and said it was totally amazing.

  20. The notion that any schmoe off the street who has a degree is going to make a good teacher is silly, and I can’t believe how many people here entertain it. Yes, the teachers’ unions are too powerful and yes, the certification process is loaded with bullshit, but that’s no excuse to go to the opposite extreme and assume that educating roomfuls of children doesn’t require any specialized skills. Relatedly silly is the idea that PhD’s are automatically good teachers, or that the number of PhD’s is some sort of measure of the quality of a high school. I went to a top school, one of the best public schools in the country, and we had one PhD. And, while she was certainly very smart, she wasn’t a particularly good teacher. PhD’s are far more important to colleges, where students push the boundaries of knowledge far more than in high school.

  21. Raise your hand, everyone who believes that NCLB has had a beneficial effect on education in this, our fair land.

    You may be excused.

  22. rhywun:

    Why must the dial have only two settings: No ed credentials at all or the full ed-school brainwashing? Private schools outperform publik ones on the basics, even though their teachers are often non-certified. Some might even say it is because many of their teachers haven’t drunk the Mann/Dewey/Freire Kool-Aid that they are able to turn out superior students.

    Caveat: I imagine credentials are important if one is dealing with kids with serious developmental problems. Many private schools don’t take those kids because they can’t afford to hire staff with the appropriate qualifications.

    PL: EQV was my H.S.’s motto. “To be rather than to seem.” My brother and his friends at the minor seminary used to make sport of it by offering alternative translations.


  23. The notion that any schmoe off the street who has a degree is going to make a good teacher is silly, and I can’t believe how many people here entertain it.

    I can’t speak for any of the other people here, but the point of the original post was that there is no single yardstick you can use to measure a teacher’s competence, which is why these kind of mechanistic mandates, particularly at the statewide or nationwide level, are counterproductive. I never had the honor of studying with Atlantic High’s lone Ph.D., but people who did tell me she sucked. On the other hand, a guy with a Harvard Ph.D. in Latin, who has 16 students get top grades in a national Latin exam, would seem to be on the ball.

    jp, you are correct on administores. As always, I was in the right pew but the wrong declension. Where’s Dr. Huyck, Ph.D., when I need him?

  24. Rhywun is right that command of a subject, even a Ph.D. in it, doesn’t make one a good teacher of it, nor that teaching doesn’t involve its own skills. However, 90% of those skills are had by 90% of persons already. Teaching is not a highly specialized profession in the way other highly skilled professions are; rather, it’s an art, like drama. Most people can do a decent job of it with no training whatsoever, a few are lousy, and some are especially skilled at it, but not in a way that can be taught to others in any straightforward way. However, the teaching profession pretends it’s complicated, and so devotes endless hours working on trivia that could be learned in minutes or less. Sophist & pretentious.

    I too teach college biology to unmotivated students, but that’s because they’re usually not in the major courses, but taking the courses as non-major requirements.

  25. EQV was my H.S.’s motto. “To be rather than to seem.”

    It was also the motto of the late [comma?] lamented haberdashery Tripler’s, embroidered in gold thread on the inside of my hat, for re-reading pleasure with each doff. I thought it showed uncommon idealism for a clothier to denigrate mere appearance.

    elvis – Yeah, Waldorf Schools are the best kept secret in the life of the mind. Present company excepted.

  26. kevrob and M,

    It seemed the right Latin at the right time to me 🙂

    If I’m ever God Emperor of America, the official language will be Latin.

  27. Will it be called Latin America?

  28. M,

    That’s a good name. Is it taken?

    There’s always just the Roman Empire. We have all the marble in D.C. and eagles on our standards, after all. We can claim continuity through Britain, too.

  29. We can claim continuity through Britain …

    I don’t follow. It’s like the old history exam joke.

    Question 1. The Holy Roman Empire was neither holy, nor roman, nor an empire. Explain.

    I don’t see how we can possibly claim descent from either the original, the Western, the Eastern or the Holy Roman empires.

    Perhaps we can say, “America, based on the Roman Republic and early Empire” or “A state based on the ideas of Cato the Elder, Gaius Ceasar and Octavian.”

    The important question, though, is will Pro Libertate change his name to Commodus or Elagabulus.

  30. Apostate, some places in Renaissance Italy (Venice) were very very careful to make sure they never could claim descent from Rome in any way. To the point of refusing to allow Roman law in their courts.

    Reason: kept whoever was running around claiming authority of the Holy Roman Emperor to claim authority over THEM.

  31. rident stolidi verba latina

  32. Simple. Britain was a province of Rome, we were a British colony. Tenuous? So what? We’re certainly more Roman than, say, the Italians. And our system of government was influenced quite heavily by the Roman Republic (Polybius was very popular with the Founders. . .in fact, stop reading this and go read him. Now). Of course, the Russians would have a better claim if the tsars (i.e., the heirs to the Grand Duchy of Muscovy) were still in power. But they aren’t.

    Commodus or Elagabulus?

    Neither name. I will be known as Julian the Other Apostate. And yes, I’m restoring the worship of the old gods. And, of course, togas.

  33. Pro Libertate,

    We already much of that; look at the dollar for example. There is an eagle on the back and look at what the eagle is holding. Now look at the phrases on the back of the dollar bill that are part of the Great Seal of the United States:

    Annuit C?ptis – Virgil, Aeneid (Book IX)

    Novus Ordo Seclorum – Virgil, Eclogue IV


  34. Sorry, but I never bought Polybius’s deep thoughts on the mixed constitution and I prefer Tacitus (and even Livy) to your Greek friend. But, having read neither in the original, I’m willing to be convinced I am wrong.

    If you try to put a statue of yourself in the Third Temple you’re going to build for us (your predecessor promised us one so I’m sure you’ll follow through), we’ll be forced to fight again. Not claiming we can win, just promising we’ll fight.

  35. rident stolidi verba latina

    Then the motto Better Latin Never (coined by Tenuous) is false?

  36. I for one applaud this teacher. He’s got some cashews to walk away from his career on principle. I hope he’s getting what he’s worth at the private school.

    Unfortunately, this kind of thing is all too common, especially in Cali. I’ve seen quite a few very good teachers forced out because of these lame requirements.

    There is a possible upside to this though. As far as I know, NCLB requirements are only in effect as long as the state accepts federal education money. Some states may find themselves unable to get enough “qualified” teachers and eventually decide it’s not worth it, thus making NCLB moot. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think I saw something to the effect that Utah did just that a few months back on this very blog.

    Recently, the district I teach in decided that our three middle schools would no longer accept Title I funds, which come with all kinds of strings attached. The reason: despite doing everything we could, we just were not able to meet the draconian benchmarks set by the Title I program. And I work in a good school too. Does this mean there is hope?

  37. The point of PCS was to minimize the administrative BS through the charter school mechanism, bring talented and dedicated faculty together with motivated, college bound students, and strive for excellence. The faculty is not well-paid, even by public school standards; they came to PCS for the opportunity to actually teach. My son went there for a year; although it was ultimately not the right school for him (primarily because he needed a better music program than they provided at the time), he got a lot out of his single year, which was probably worth two years at any other the other area high schools. I am sad to hear that regulations, credentialism, and bureaucracy are entangling and strangling a brave and initially very successful experiment in school choice.

    I don’t believe in the charter school movement or the voucher plan. As long as political agencies maintain control of either the rules of the game, or the purse strings, public education is doomed.

    Mr Huyck did not throw away his career to bolt for a private school. He and the other PCS faculty defectors probably bettered their situations, one way or another. Very sad.

  38. I didn’t take the prerequisite, so I’ll have to assume the headline means something profound.

  39. Whether the Doc took a huge financial hit depends on how close he is to retirement, and how vested he is in the retirement system. Do charter teachers in CA participate in something like CALPERS or get 401k-style plans? If his university teaching experience was at a California government-owned college, his service time might even be considered continuous, for pension purposes. The NYR story didn’t describe the college/H.S. split in his 22 years of teaching.

    JAM: charters may not be good enough, but decentralizing state control of the schools is preferable to the old system. Vouchers take decentralization further, to the funding level. Yes, ideally the state would get out of both control and funding of the schools, but how to get there if not by taking some first step?

    Stupidly, the “conservatives” in DC have actually been pushing centralized control since the days of Bill Bennett as EdSec. Since they can’t beat the EduBlob on the state level, but have been able to grab the Federal reins, they use the tools they have control of, and hang principle.

    BTW, a rough translation of the hed would be:

    Jurer gur fghqragf cenvfr gur grnpure, gurer gur nqzvavfgengbef’ urnqf ner fubirq hc gurve nffrf.

    decode message here


  40. Apostate Jew,

    Of course I’ll rebuild the Temple. I love all my people. And please, have no worries about me forcing you to build and worship my statue in the Temple (? la Gaius Caesar), because I’m going to be one of the good emperors. However, my successor’s successor will be nasty when my successor forgets to adopt the best guy for the job and lets his son take up the Principate instead.

    I disagree with you about Polybius, by the way. Tacitus, Suetonius, et al. don’t get into good discussions about the structure of the Roman government (particularly of the Republic), and Livy’s stuff is unreliable with all of the mythology mixed in. Polybius seemed to at least be trying to be accurate, which was a relatively rare trait back then. In any case, whether you and I like him is irrelevant. The Founders did as did another one of their influences, Montesquieu.

    Phileleutherus Lipsiensis,

    Indeed, Roman symbolism shows up all over in American iconography. Money, the Mall, parts of our government and the names of some of our governmental offices, statues of George Washington in a toga, etc., etc.

    Annuit c?ptis. Yes, may Jupiter favor our undertakings. The phrase now sounds like a spell out of Harry Potter 🙂

  41. “How can a plane be flying so high?”

    It’s Jefferson STARSHIP, not Jefferson Airplane!!

  42. Kevrob said, “JAM: charters may not be good enough, but decentralizing state control of the schools is preferable to the old system. Vouchers take decentralization further, to the funding level. Yes, ideally the state would get out of both control and funding of the schools, but how to get there if not by taking some first step?”

    The key is making the first step stick and then taking another, and another, and another. The lesson taught by PCS’ current problems is that you get to take the first step, just for show, and then the government flexes its tentacles and drags you back into the morass from which you tried to escape, all the while 1) taking credit for any success you might have; and 2) using your ultimate failure and capitulation as proof that innovative approaches simply don’t work, and so we really need to sit down, shut up, and go with the union-endorsed mainstream public school program, because THAT’s reality.

    In my opinion, this incident helps illustrate the folly of a gradualist approach to pruning government reach and power. It’s easy to say that charter schools and vouchers are “first steps,” but if all you ever do is take first steps, over and over, nothing is gained, and ultimately, the spirit of reform dissipates into the hot air blowing from the vicinity of the educationist talking heads.

  43. JAM: Here in WI we’ve taken a few steps. We have charters, but we also have the Milwaukee School Choice project, aka “Vouchers.” The “pro-choice” forces have even managed to increase the number of kids allowed into the program. The EduBlob has pushed back, demanding better accounting for funds, but that was pretty much a goo-goo idea I approved of. There’s still a hell of a lot less graft going on in the voucher program than in, say, roadbuilding. People are now clamoring to extend the SCP to the whole of Milwaukee County, making private schools in the suburbs eligible to participate. Step by step.


  44. Kevrob: I am going to take some encouragement from the WI experience, as you folks have as entrenched and intractable a teacher’s union establishment as we do in California. Perhaps gradualist reform is possible if enough people get fed up. On the other hand, once the majority of the private schools are involved in the voucher program, I would warn you against another manifestation of leviathan’s tentacle-flexing. Here in CA, it was, “charters have to employ credentialed ‘well qualified’ teachers.” Over in WI, it could be, “private schools accepting voucher funds have to embrace various aspects of bureaucracy and mandate that public schools do.” In either case, the key string being pulled is the money string. PCS could elect to stick with their highly qualified but not officially “well qualified” faculty, but they would probably lose funding. WI private schools could tell the state where it could stick its mandates and bureaucratic policies, but again, at the risk of being ineligible for voucher funding (or worse, lawsuit for fraudulently taking voucher funding).

    I suspect that, as long as the government keeps its clutches on the purse strings, reform will be limited, superficial, and easily erased. If, on the other hand, you are skillfully anticipating and preventing such dodges with each small step forward, perhaps real progress can be made. Good luck to all of us.

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