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Archive for January, 2012

Idaho Law Challenged by Teachers

January 4, 2012 Comments off

The State of Idaho has gone for computers in a big way— as the last post today indicates.

RTTT Madness: the NYTimes reports that Principals in 33 schools will continue to implement action plans despite the loss of grant $$$. The money was lost because NYC was slow on the uptake in developing and implementing an evaluation system that would be tied to tests. See my White Paper: RTTT NO for more on this issue…

When in doubt, form a commission. The NYTimes describes Governor Cuomo’s plan to form a commission… After reading the article I hope that Mr. Easton gets a seat: we need someone who doesn’t confuse “test scores” with “performance”.

The NYTimes editorializes in support of the need to tighten standards for Head Start. One hopes that performance assessments of students will NOT be the basis for that evaluation and that the standards used to measure the effectiveness of Head Start might inform the Race to the Top.

Room for Debate in the NYTimes takes on the question: “Do social media, interactive whiteboards, and other recent innovations benefit students?  The sections on Adaptive Testing and Distance Learning are particularly germane to Network Schools…

Idaho’s new law mandating that all students take at least one online course appears to have overreached based on the information in an article that appeared in today’s NYTimes. Based on this article and others I’ve read on this law, it’s most egregious flaw is that it was sold to the legislature as a way to save money… it explicitly took money from unrestricted State grants to schools and required that a portion of those funds be used to buy technology. This framed the debate as “computers vs. teachers” and “online vs. live” when the debate COULD have been, say, “computers vs. textbooks” or “online vs. NOTHING” (as in the small schools where there are limited offerings)… Here a a few other flaws I identified as I read the article:

  • The “march on the Capital” was more about the law to abolish tenure than it was about technology… and yet the article would lead one to believe that the march was more about laptops than about tenure
  • The “guide on the side” language used by the Governor is, I believe, and effort to co-opt progressive educators who have advocated the kind of socratic instruction described in the article as opposed to the “stand and deliver” approach favored by many old-school teachers…
  • The idea that a “teacher will not always be in the room” reinforces the notion that online learning is done in complete isolation and complete disengagement from a teacher.
  • The “one size fits all” criticism and the criticism that the initiative was not “well thought out” are, from anecdotal reports I’ve heard, completely valid. I cannot imagine developing a state-wide mandated technology initiative on the time line the governor used: implementing new hardware and software takes a LOT longer than one legislative session!

My white paper on Reformatting New England Schools describes a way technology could be integrated into classrooms as part of  a complete overhaul of schools…

Are Teachers Overpaid? It depends who’s running the numbers!

January 3, 2012 Comments off

The last link today deals with the question posed above.

In today’s NYTimes Joe Nocera is heartened by an alliance between a charter school and public school in Rhode Island. He hopes the pending cuts at the State and local level won’t scuttle the program…

Times columnist Roger Cohen laments the distractions created by blackberries and laptops… The message: Be here now…

Truthout (via Naked Capitalism) suggests its time to roll Beethoven, Bach and Mozart into slide lectures

The Naked Capitalism blog also had an article on Australian private vs. public schools that concluded: “choosing private schooling may well be a signal of your socio-economic status, could potentially provide important future professional connections for your child, but is unlikely to yield significant academic benefits and carries a high risk of wasting your money”. 

A Times editorial calls out Westchester County for failing to address a federal requirement to provide low income housing in its exclusive suburbs. This makes me wish I had held on to my research essay from my 1972 Education Law course: it dealt with the de facto segregation that existed in Philadelphia due to exclusionary zoning regulations. When Bronxville accepts students from the Bronx we can have a real conversation about “school choice”… until then, let’s be real about education spending and provide enough $$$ for ALL schools to have the same level of services the most affluent schools provide.

A Financial Times article on the shortfall in corporate pensions cross posted from Naked Capitalism is a good segue to the article on teacher compensation. My understanding is that corporations abandoned defined benefit pensions because they were unable to fund them in accordance with industry standards. Alas many State legislators have neglected to reserve sufficient funds or used funds earmarked for pensions to balance budgets (Christy Whitman’s shortchanging led to the so-called pension crisis in NJ).

Today’s Room for Debate section in the Times wrestles with the question “Are Teachers Overpaid”. It uses a recent Heritage Foundation research paper  by Jason Richwine and Andrew Biggs as the springboard for the debate. The research paper, with the vanilla title “Assessing the Compensation of Public School Teachers”, concludes public school teachers have substantially lower salaries than comparably educated private sector workers, substantially higher salaries than private school employees, BUT… when you take into account the defined benefit packages provided to teachers, the additional time off teachers receive, the job security teachers have, and (ahem) the fact that teachers are less intelligent than private sector employees… well teachers aren’t really that poorly paid! I could write an extended response… but since I’ve written several pieces that either directly or indirectly deal with some of these issues, I’ll direct readers to my white paper on Race to the Top, and my posted essay entitled “Broken Covenants”, which gives some background on how the benefit packages for public schools evolved. As for the intelligence question… I don’t know where to begin! If compensation is going to be linked to SAT scores the social Darwinists have scored a huge victory!

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Links for January 2, 2012

January 2, 2012 Comments off

Michael Winerip of the NYTimes reports on the appearance of impropriety involving Pearson. Pearson is the exemplar of the fully integrated education behemoth: it bought the company that writes standardized tests for New ENgland, the company that provided management software for Apple computers, and many textbook companies. I know people who work for Pearson and they are not blind profit seekers: for example, they chose NOT to go after the Texas science textbook bid because they thought it was preposterous to pu their brand on a textbook that denied evolution. It is likely their product line was superior to that of the low bidder. I also know two of the “accused” Superintendents on a personal basis and cannot believe they would be influenced by attending a fully paid for conference. I would be willing to wager that the trips Pearson paid for Superintendents are small potatoes compared to the trips lobbyists pay to members of congress to learn about, say, fracking.

The Boston Globe editorializes against the outlandish salaries of college Presidents, citing the compensation of leaders of obscure schools getting huge wages. More evidence that the business compensation model is flawed…. and yet the Globe insists that performance pay is one of the keys to school improvement.

And where is school reform going well? Finland! The Atlantic Magazine is the latest US media outlet to share this information— which validates every progressive educator’s assertions. Does Finland have private schools? NO Does Finland strive for “excellence”? NO— they strive for equity. Does Finland gives lots of standardized assessments? NO, they train teachers to assess students thoughtfully and frequently. Thanks to Alex and Elyssa for the lead on this!

Another NYTimes article celebrating merit pay full of bald assertions: How can an article state “The (teaching) profession is notorious for losing thousands of its brightest young teachers within a few years, which many experts attribute to low starting salaries and a traditional step-raise structure that rewards years of service and academic degrees rather than success in the classroom” without providing any evidence of its veracity? Without naming the “experts” (who are probably in conservative think tanks)? There is NO research evidence to back up this assertion. Anecdotally, this “expert” asserts that the great majority of teachers have no problem with the step-and-track “limitations” because they see it as predictable and fair. Where the problem exists is in the money applied to the step and track system. The urban districts and less affluent districts pay less than their suburban brethren and the working conditions are far more daunting in the city. I would assert (without evidence but WITH lots of experience) that good teachers leave the city to go to the suburbs to get raises on the step and track system… raises that yield the same compensation levels as those cited in the article. As I wrote a year ago in Education Week, we already have merit pay: the best and the brightest gravitate to the districts that have higher compensation. If you want to get good teachers in poor schools, increase the pay.

The wisdom of crowds is now spilling over into dictionaries with the advent of Wordnik, a new website that uses a wiki methodology to provide up-to-the-minute definitions. Whatever….

I’m not up on the technical end of this issue, but virtually every media source I trust is concerned about SOPA. I don’t think EVERYTHING should be free on the web… but as I understand it this law is the proverbial sledgehammer-killing-a-gnat.

Paul Krugman’s column on debt might seem out of place in an education blog… but the dots are fairly easy to connect: so long as the deficit is the “enemy”, austerity is weapon of choice and public funding is imperiled. Krugman is fighting to change the public’s deeply ingrained but wrongheaded notions about debt…. and changing the public’s mind is a HUGE challenge!

The notion that States will now define essential health care  is preposterous! It is maddening that the Obama administration is now effectively nationalizing education because states have established laughable “high standards” while he is allowing states to define “essential health care”…. In my home state, NH, “Live Free or Die” may take on a literal meaning!