Making a Job Worse Is a Brilliant Strategy for Attracting the Best Talent

The discussion about the Chicago strike is filled with people parsing the numbers about how much teachers make and whether it is too little or too much or just right. But having that conversation is conceding exactly the point we shouldn’t concede. It assumes that, for public employees and no one else, there is a certain amount that is just too much for the job. If you run a sex toy factory and make $250K a year, you’re a lion of capitalism. If you drive a city bus and you claw your way up to $38K a year, well, you’re a lucky ducky who has got to be put in his or her place.

So here’s Ezra Klein, doing his typically noncommittal thing, giving us his estimates of what Chicago public school teachers make. There’s a very direct and simple question, inspired by Corey Robin: how much do you make, Ezra? I’m willing to bet that Ezra Klein makes more than the median Chicago public teacher. I’m willing to bet that he in fact makes significantly more. I’m willing to bet that Klein makes something like what a lot of educated, upwardly-mobile young professionals living in Chicago make– the ones who, we are all supposed to assume, should be making several times what their peers who go to teach in inner city schools make.

Is what Klein makes too much? People will tell you that’s an absurd question, since he’s a journalist. I don’t begrudge Klein a dime of what he makes. I almost certainly want him to pay more of it back in taxes, but then I imagine that he thinks his own tax rates are too low. The point is: Ezra Klein is allowed, in our culture, to pursue as high a wage as he can. Public sector employees in general and teachers in particular are extended no such luxury. The question is both moral (do we value our teachers and our public employees, and do they have the right to pursue the best standard of living they can achieve) and practical (how can we claim to value education while working tirelessly to make educating a worse career). Leaving aside the ugly optics of legions of DC and NYC journos and pundits clucking their tongues at public servants who make much less than they do– this is supposed to make teaching a more attractive profession… how, exactly?

People believe that we are suffering from a lack of talent and drive in our teacher ranks. As you all know, I don’t agree, and I find the empirical evidence far, far more indicative of student-side demographic effects causing poor educational performance. But suppose the other side is correct. How the fuck are we going to fix a talent deficit when the self-same people work relentlessly to make teaching a less attractive profession? There’s a simple reality facing any talented, driven young graduate who is considering teaching as a profession: you know that our media and our politicians are always going to want to make your job worse. That’s reality. We have had decades of educational discourse dominated by the idea that our teachers are shiftless, incompetent swindlers. What rational person would prefer that over the alternatives available to people who are smart and hardworking?

I taught a brilliant young biology major a couple years ago. He mentioned in office hours once that he had always been attracted to teaching. I pressed him on why he didn’t consider the profession. And, being a polite kid, he deflected. Because of course, why on earth would he pursue a profession that pays next to nothing compared to what he could get in the private sector, where the benefits are getting relentlessly eroded, and where politicians and writers will hound you for life from their comfortable positions in DC and New York? I know, I know: the children, the children. Yes, some teachers work because they are inspired to create positive change. Well, I’m sorry, but that’s not a plan. That is not a recipe for a teaching corps of the size we need in this country. (Here’s a wild idea: send Klein, Dylan Matthews, Reihan Salam, Matt Yglesias, Josh Barro, etc., out to teach in inner city public schools. I wonder why they aren’t out there now, since they care so very much for the children?)

The reality is that you can’t be pro-education and anti-educator. Not just in the sense that you shouldn’t be, ethically, although I certainly believe that. I mean the notion that you can say that you care about education while working relentlessly to attack our actual teachers is nonsensical. If you want to attack our teachers as “overpaid,” OK. Go ahead. But you don’t get to pretend that you give a shit about education. If you don’t have a problem with celebrity dog trainers who make 7 figures or personal stylists who make $5,000 a consultation or people who sell artisanal moonshine for $400 a bottle, but you have a problem with teachers working in one of the most difficult teaching environments in the country making $75K a year, hey, alright. But save me the platitudes. Save me your chest-beating and your weeping for the children, the children. Quality health insurance, pensions, job security, a strong union to represent your self-interest: these are the only tools we have to attract people into this profession, when so many other educated professions make so much more. Advocate the end of those benefits and you declare yourself an enemy of education. You make it plain that you don’t actually value it with the only currency we care about in this culture, hard cash. You are saying that you don’t really value what you say you value. Period.

In this capitalist system of ours, what people make is a statement about how much society values what they do. Honey Boo Boo Child will make more this year than most Chicago teachers, and our friends in the media think they make too much. That’s all you need to know. If you think that people should be willing to teach for less, than shut your mouth and go apply to teach in Chicago yourself.

Update: The post in question was written by Dylan Matthews, not Ezra Klein; it ran under Klein’s Wonkbook section at the WaPo. I apologize for the error.

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Pinterest
Share On Reddit






186 replies
  1. 1
    ding dong says:

    Wow tell us how you really feel !

  2. 2
    jlow says:

    My wife is a high school spanish teacher and she has 64 students in her IB class (and 272 students all together) in a relatively wealthy suburban district that abhors taxes. We had a long talk last night about what she will do when she quits teaching. She loves teaching, but why keep getting insulted?

  3. 3
    Jon Rockoford says:

    You get what you pay for. If we want brilliant teachers, we should pay them at least as much as we pay CEOs.

  4. 4
    Greg says:

    Klein made no claim that teachers should make less. He simply provided the actual data on what they do make.

    Personally, I think good teachers should make a lot more and bad teachers should be fired, and we should use the best tools available to distinguish between the two. I also understand why the teachers’ unions don’t care for this idea — they represent the bad teachers, too.

  5. 5
    amk says:

    Clueless pundtwits making much, much more than the teachers. No wonder ‘murka is so fucked up.

  6. 6
    The Fat Kate Middleton says:

    (Fans self after reading)
    .

    Here’s a wild idea: send Klein, Dylan Matthews, Reihan Salam, Matt Yglesias, Josh Barro, etc., out to teach in inner city public schools…If you think that people should be willing to teach for less, than shut your mouth and go apply to teach in Chicago yourself.

    This times a thousand. I can’t tell you how many times I made the same comment over my twenty-five years of teaching. Just put them in a classroom for a week – that’s all I ask.

    Thank you, Freddie.

  7. 7
    srv says:

    My sister spends 8 hours with preK kids, and the district has decided thier ninth hour will be spent doing something other than prep or reports. Obviously, lazy folks need more take home work.

  8. 8
    Emma says:

    BRAVO!

  9. 9
    brent says:

    That article isn’t written by Klein. Its written by Dylan Matthews. It is certainly non-committal but why wouldn’t it be. Its purpose is to clear up a factual dispute which I think it does pretty well.

  10. 10
    Chris says:

    If you want to attack our teachers as “overpaid,” OK. Go ahead. But you don’t get to pretend that you give a shit about education. If you don’t have a problem with celebrity dog trainers who make 7 figures or personal stylists who make $5,000 a consultation or people who sell artisanal moonshine for $400 a bottle, but you have a problem with teachers working in one of the most difficult teaching environments in the country making $75K a year, hey, alright. But save me the platitudes. Save me your chest-beating and your weeping for the children, the children. Quality health insurance, pensions, job security, a strong union to represent your self-interest: these are the only tools we have to attract people into this profession, when so many other educated professions make so much more. Advocate the end of those benefits and you declare yourself an enemy of education. You make it plain that you don’t actually value it with the only currency we care about in this culture, hard cash. You are saying that you don’t really value what you say you value. Period.

    Quoted for truth.

  11. 11
    Enhanced Voting Techniques says:

    It’s pretty freaking amazing how when you have a job that requires a masters PLUS credentials and only a minority of the population are even capable of doing the John Galts of the world forget there is such a thing as the freemarket.

  12. 12
    scav says:

    There are a fuckload of crap CEOs that never get called on anything and earn as much or more for their failures as their successes &amdash; and they’ve got the inbred board-room united supporting them against any consequences, insisting that contracts are sacred blah blah and any public discussion of their remuneration and its size is class warfare and simply not-done. They just don’t call it a “union”.

  13. 13
    Peregrinus says:

    @Greg:

    That’s partly it, for better or for worse, but from the little grad work I did in education I also got a sense that teachers’ unions are hunkering down and being even more protective of their bad apples because they feel that to do otherwise will just confirm the meme.

    There’s a district in California (Rosemont, I think? It’s been a year) that developed a cooperative process for teacher evaluation, with union input: a few teachers with consistently high-quality teaching were used by the district and union together for teacher evals, taken off full-time duties, and instead would be given a number of new and veteran teachers to evaluate for a few years. During that time they’d check in with the people they were observing, administrators at the building level, the local department of ed and union reps to keep tabs on the person, and at the end everyone sat at the table and had a fair hearing. It apparently made things a lot easier on everyone, since the union had the voice at the table that they wanted, and the department of education had the ability to say “this person isn’t performing up to standard, and even other teachers agree with it.”

    I think something like that should be rolled out in more places – but these days the relationship between teachers’ unions and deficit-conscious government entities is only going to get more adversarial, looks like. I have a relatively safe perch from which to observe in my parochial career, but I really was hoping I would be able to switch into public schools at some point.

    @The Fat Kate Middleton:

    Tony Danza did, and I think he apologized to all the teachers he ever had afterwards.

  14. 14
    jlow says:

    @Greg: Actually those contracts that teachers sign with school districts have provisions for identifying lousy teachers and taking measures to require improved performance. The reality is that administrators rarely make the effort and just leave the good teachers holding the bag. Just like in any job, it is the supervisors job to demand good performance.

  15. 15
    Belafon (formerly anonevent) says:

    I know: the children, the children.

    If you didn’t hear Doctor Who in you head at that line, I feel sad for you.

  16. 16
    patroclus says:

    Actually, the teachers have already more or less agreed to the pay portions of the contract under negotiation – what is at issue is the CPS proposal to base teacher salaries on standardized test results annually that their students achieve (and air conditioning, pensions and support personnel and hours). So, while not irrelevant, the article’s focus solely on the pay scale misleads observers as to what the strike is actually about.

  17. 17
    gopher2b says:

    This is seriously the analysis we waited all day for? Ezra Klein can be fired at a moment’s notice for nothing. So, giant analogy fail.

    Emanuel wants greater accountability from Chicago teachers. That’s all. In exchange, they will be paid more than they are now. Oh, they’ll take the money, they just don’t want to be fired if they suck.

  18. 18
    Greg says:

    @Peregrinus:

    It sounds like an evaluation system similar to what you’re describing is one of the main contested issues in Chicago. From another Dylan Matthews post:

    “The Chicago Public Schools in March unveiled an evaluation system (pdf) in which standardized testing makes up 40 percent of the rubric, which was designed by panels that included teachers, principals, and teachers’ union officials (including the president). The system goes above and beyond the state requirement that testing make up 20-40 percent of teacher evaluations. The teachers’ unions are resisting this system, calling it too punitive.”

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/.....-one-post/

  19. 19
    penpen says:

    @gopher2b: Hmm this man smells like straw.

  20. 20

    In this capitalist system of ours, what people make is a statement about how much society values what they do.

    This is one of the core issues of our time, really. Wage and Salary has in many ways become totally detached from the amount of value created. So services that we never had trouble paying for before become neglected.

    Random Example: Charlie Baker, former CEO of Harvard Pilgrim (and unsuccessful GOP candidate for MA Gov in 2010 against Deval Patrick), made $24 million in his last year as CEO.

    Twenty-Four million. Did he create $24 million in value? No effing way. CEO salary is a class marker, an indication that one is a ‘Made Man’ in the old mafia sense. And so we end up with a health care system with over $7000/per capita annual costs, instead of the ~$3500/yr cost that most other industrialized countries spend.

    Another example: Paul Ryan. Lifetime career in politics, and has never made more than $150K on paper. Somehow ends up with several million dollars in the bank. Funny that.

    I just picked on Baker and Ryan because these are numbers that I happen to have inside my head at the moment, but the general principle is the same. Scratch the surface of most any of our collective social problems of the moment, and more often than not the answer turns out to be “highly paid middlemen are in the way.”

    Not sure what you’d call this system, but it is most definitely not Capitalism.

  21. 21
    Chris says:

    @jlow:

    My wife is a high school spanish teacher and she has 64 students in her IB class (and 272 students all together) in a relatively wealthy suburban district that abhors taxes. We had a long talk last night about what she will do when she quits teaching. She loves teaching, but why keep getting insulted?

    Yeah, I know what she means.

    And she’s not alone in “getting insulted.” Really, the only people these days with jobs that society tells us to aspire to are businessmen (“Job Creators”) and people in uniform (“they’re dying for your freedom!”)

    Pretty much everyone else is getting nothing but insulted these days. Whether it’s workers who actually build the shit that makes businessmen rich and gives soldiers and cops something to protect, public employees (including teachers) who run the things that keep society together but that society simple takes for granted, intellectuals and scientists who did all the research that makes your 21st century world possible… pretty much everyone else is a “parasite,” a “moocher,” “lazy,” “overpaid,” and generally just a terrible and inadequate human being who should be grateful to the Masters of the Universe for being so generous as to give them jobs and salaries that they probably don’t even deserve.

  22. 22
    ThatLeftTurnInABQ says:

    @Greg:

    I think good teachers should make a lot more and bad teachers should be fired, and we should use the best tools available to distinguish between the two.

    __
    Fine, you go first. Tell me, after sorting out just exactly which variables impacting the educational experience are dependent and which are independent and after controlling for all the independent variables involved and while using an empirically tested model with a track record of past success, just which teachers in a given school are the good ones and which teachers are the bad ones. I’ve got time, I’ll just sit here and wait while you figure that one out and get back with some results that stand up to scrutiny.

    We need to start challenging the notion that there is any easy or reliable way to tell good from bad teachers. I submit that doing so is a problem of almost the same order of magnitude of difficulty as the teaching itself. There is no magic metric we can use to sort the good from the bad, except very deep, intense, and sustained parental involvement in the child’s education. And when and where you have that, there generally isn’t much of a mess that needs fixing.

  23. 23
    Gin & Tonic says:

    In my small suburban school district the administration and the leadership of the teacher’s union spent two years working together on a teacher evaluation methodology (something, I almost needn’t add, that is a settled question in most occupations, not just “industrial” ones.) I observed this process closely. There was give and take, and what looked to me like genuine cooperation from both sides, and something was settled on. It went to a vote by the union membership, which all but unanimously rejected it. Took two years’ work and said “nope, shit-can it.” Didn’t suggest any alternatives.

    As an employee I understand my performance needs to be evaluated, and I am an active participant in that process, with objectives, goal-setting, periodic review meetings, etc. This is the way the world works unless I want to work for myself. I do not see many examples of *organized* teachers accepting this fact of life, let alone helping it or participating in it. This is a problem. I believe in public education, I believe teaching needs to be a rewarding profession, but (in my experience) I don’t see teachers wanting to join in the evaluative process. It’s not enough to say “I should be paid more”, you have to specify how much more and why and how to measure your value to the organization.

  24. 24
    gopher2b says:

    @penpen:

    Wow, what a zinger.

  25. 25
    Warren Terra says:

    This post is a total embarrassment:
    (1) Your link does not go to something written by Ezra Klein. It goes to something written by Dylan Matthews, a member of Ezra’s enterprise.
    (2) Dylan does nothing at all to ask whether $70K or so is a large amount. No comparisons or value judgments are made, whatsoever. The entire post is about trying to figure out, amidst a dispute, just what the “average” (median) salary of a Chicago Public School Teacher is, and what the proposed changes to this salary are. I repeat: not whether this amount is good enough.

    Sure, there are criticisms to be made. No mention is made that a contractually specified pay hike was blocked last year. Some comparisons – to other teachers, to Chicago cost of living, to other educated professionals – could have been made (though I’m sure if there had been such comparisons you’d have attacked them, instead of attacking the value judgments that existed only in your head). Of course, on the other hand no mention is made of the $1 billion deficit expected for the Chicago Public Schools next year.

    Basically, you took a short post by Dylan Matthews that set out simply to provide accurate numbers to inform his readers, and portrayed it as entitled sneering by Ezra Klein. Smooth work, buddy.

    ETA two more points:
    1) Did you just completely overlook the penultimate sentence in the post?

    None of this is to say anything about whether the average teacher’s salary is at the right level.

    2) By the way: when you sneer at Ezra because of his WaPo and MSNBC riches – and I’d bet he’s sitting rather pretty – it is worth remembering that he got there by way of going to a public university and working as a writing fellow and later staff writer for The American Prospect, who I rather guess do not overburden their scribblers with excess money.

  26. 26
    jonas says:

    @scav: they’re only answerable to shareholders, not taxpayers. Shareholders you can fleece and be out of town before anyone realizes the company’s screwed. Taxpayers will eventually vote you out of office or simply refuse further tax/fee increases. When was the last time a shareholder revolt forced out an incompetent, overpaid CEO? Maybe it’s happened, but if there’s a case out there, it’s the exception that proves the rule.

  27. 27
    Greg says:

    @ThatLeftTurnInABQ:

    I agree it’s difficult. My position is that we should do the best job possible of (and continue to improve) teacher evaluation, because otherwise we’re a) paying too little for good teachers, and b) keeping bad teachers in classrooms.

    As for me going first, I work in the private sector and have P&L responsibility. My performance is scored every year.

  28. 28
    techno says:

    Look. I want teachers to make decent wages. I want them to have working conditions that help them do a great job.

    But…I also think it is time for the education business in this country to be massively overhauled because even our best and most motivated students emerge from this system so badly educated, they will spend the rest of their lives making complete fools of themselves.

    When an American kid graduates from high school, he or she is already two years (or more) behind a kid in Europe or Japan. If the American kid wants to catch up, he or she will have to pay premium prices to get that remedial education in college.

    This problem is not new—we already had it back in the 1960s. Calls to make our schools better were opposed by amongst other forces, the teacher’s unions. So now they need our support and they cannot get it—even from people who believe in unions and passionately support public education.

  29. 29
    Sly says:

    @Greg:

    Personally, I think good teachers should make a lot more and bad teachers should be fired, and we should use the best tools available to distinguish between the two. I also understand why the teachers’ unions don’t care for this idea—they represent the bad teachers, too.

    Not agreeing with an evaluation system that stresses standardized testing above all else != not agreeing with any evaluation system.

  30. 30
    JustMe says:

    Not agreeing with an evaluation system that stresses standardized testing above all else != not agreeing with any evaluation system.

    Well, what is that evaluation system?

    Teachers pretty consistently argue that one can’t really be created.

  31. 31
    Marc says:

    Freddie, this is the second post in a row that you’ve written where you attack people for making arguments that they didn’t make. In this case you’re also attacking someone for something that they didn’t even write. Christ almighty, but is it asking too much to have people read their own links and do a little internal editing before they hit “post”?

  32. 32
    retr2327 says:

    Allow me to quote from the concluding paragraph in Matthew’s post on Klein’s blog: “None of this is to say anything about whether the average teacher’s salary is at the right level. It’s just to say that a fair read of the numbers suggests that $71,017 is a much mor accurate estimate of what a typical Chicago public school teacher makes than $56,720.”

    I wholly approve of, and support, the general thrust of your post, Freddie. But you probably could have found a better target to direct it at than Ezra (e.g., Charlie Lane). I’ve got nothing against journalists trying to shed light on factual disputes, and I thought the general position of the reality-based community was that we were in favor of such activity.

  33. 33
    weaselone says:

    @Greg: The best tools are comprehensive evaluations by competent, unbiased administrators. The tool en vogue right now is passing judgement based on YOY improvement of student standardized test scores. Of course there is a massive degree of variability from year to year for any given teacher so the use of a single year in an evaluation is highly questionable.

  34. 34
    gopher2b says:

    @JustMe:

    “Teachers pretty consistently argue that one can’t really be created”

    The only profession in the whole wide world where performance cannot possibly be evaluated so just STFU.

  35. 35
    Peregrinus says:

    @Greg:

    The key difference is in the testing. California’s didn’t consider test scores to be a sufficiently good metric – they could certainly be introduced by the appointed evaluator as part of the observation but they couldn’t be used as an actual evaluation of the teacher.

    Plus two-fifths is just too much. If it’s the single biggest factor affecting the teacher’s evaluation, it’s basically asking the teacher to remake their entire curriculum to fit a standardized test.

    Speaking as a teacher with the luxury to make his own finals and midterms and all that other stuff, I wouldn’t give that up for a salary increase, unless 1) it was huge and 2) I got to help write the standardized test.

    @ThatLeftTurnInABQ:

    Or, what this guy said.

  36. 36
    MikeJ says:

    @Warren Terra:

    By the way: when you sneer at Ezra because of his WaPo and MSNBC riches – and I’d bet he’s sitting rather pretty

    While he’s not in the poorhouse I think many people overestimate what WaPo pays junior writers.

  37. 37
    Greg says:

    @weaselone:

    I would think both might be helpful. Competent, unbiased administrators might be even more competent and unbiased if they have access to data.

    Note that in Chicago, standardized test results account for only 40% of the evaluation.

  38. 38
    jonas says:

    Take any one of the jackasses griping about Chicago teachers supposedly driving around in Jaguars sipping Cristal and noshing on caviar and stick him or her in one of those south side classrooms for a week and see how they do.

    Bet you they come out saying 150k a year wouldn’t be enough to get them to stay.

  39. 39
    RSR says:

    but…merit pay! I’m sure that would be the first response out of the neo-libs mouths. Yet there is no legitimate objective method to evaluate teachers. There are too many variables, and too many unmentioned factors.

    The very same public school approach that is derided in poor urban (and some poor rural) areas is successful in better off suburban areas. Doug mentioned that in his post regarding Rochester schools. (Where my wife used to teach, before we moved back to Philly. Our friends have taught there for about 20 years.)

    But if you dare say that the difference is the children, and their families, and the poverty they live in? You’re dismissed, if not ostracised.

    The big picture is that public education is such a huge pool of money, that the skimmers-as Atrios calls them–could not resist the opportunity to insert themselves in that financial pipeline. The saddest part is how many democrats and liberals are party to this. It’s our sides shrinking the gov’t until you can drowned it in the bathtub.

    Sure, some righties are in on it too, notably Rupert Murdoch/News Corp with the help of Joel Klein, former NYC Schools chancellor. And the added benefit to the failure of the public ed system to the right is how it hurts the teachers’ unions, especially the large urban chapters.

    How many of the people making the choices about our public schools and education reform even send their kids to public school…their neighborhood public school, not some magnet school?

    We’re going to look back in ten or twenty years and wonder how we managed to completely gut the system in a generation or two.

    (side note: one of the charter schools my wife worked for–which she tried to unionize and failed–before returning to the public school system, had its very first day with kids exactly 11 years ago today: Sept 11, 2001.)

  40. 40
    Greg says:

    @Peregrinus:

    If a 40% weight on the test results is too much, perhaps they can negotiate to reduce it. *shrug*

  41. 41
    lankyloo says:

    There’s something entirely crazy about all of the attention about the Chicago teachers’ strike on blogs, both left and right, which is that the discussion is happening completely separate from what is actually happening. There have been several posts on BJ without a single link to either of the major Chicago papers, which are both pretty good, and who have reporters who explicitly work the education beat. We have a rant here about appropriate wages, when the strike has absolutely nothing to do with wages. It is about an accountability system, but largely in the context of hiring back teachers who were laid off because their schools were so bad they had to be closed down. The CTU thinks they should be first to be hired back, the school board wants to search more broadly. People can think one side is right and the other wrong, but for FSM sake, can we at least talk about the actual issues in the strike, and not whatever fantasy Freddie and others want the strike to be about?

  42. 42
    Sly says:

    @JustMe:

    Well, what is that evaluation system?

    Personally, I’d argue for a system of transparent peer review by colleagues, administrators, and parents.

    Teachers pretty consistently argue that one can’t really be created.

    Teachers pretty consistently argue that one can’t really be created out of snapshot standardized test results. The one used in New York City this past year, for instance, had a margins of error between 35% and 75% depending upon the subject area. Would you sign up for an evaluation system that had that kind of margin of error and determined whether or not you had a job?

  43. 43
    scav says:

    @jonas: Its not exactly that only Chicago taxpayers are chiming in here, best I can tell. As soon as there’s a union (narrowly defined) involved, it seems as though wages / salaries are public property.

  44. 44
    Spaghetti Lee says:

    My mother is a public school teacher. Likes the job overall, but is getting very sick of all the political bullshit (also thinks kids these days are bigger assholes than they used to be, but that’s a different issue). I think she once told me that her biggest problem with teacher evaluation programs is not that it would be impossible to distinguish bad teachers from good ones, but that they’d be subject to all sorts of dickheaded inside-baseball stuff. Principals coming down on teachers they don’t like, parents ganging up on teachers they don’t like, etc. Not that other jobs don’t have to deal with office politics-type BS. I’d rather no one did, and everyone was judged by the quality of their work.

  45. 45
    DecidedFenceSitter says:

    @gopher2b: Let’s look at a machine line. You have inputs, you have a process, you have an output.

    You only really care about the output; the process doesn’t really matter as long as it works.

    You take some raw materials (INPUT), you feed it through the system (PROCESS), you get an result (OUTPUT). But the output is subpar. So you change the process. And the output is still subpar. So you change the process, and the output is still subpar. And again, and again, and again.

    What variable are we missing here? We have Input, Process, and Output. Perhaps the problem may not be the process (but, it is a problem, but not the one we’re trying to control for here, where the wrong thing are being tested/taught), but that the inputs are too widely variable to obtain consistent outputs without a variable and tailored process. And unfortunately, tailoring a process to each batch of inputs is doomed for failure due to cost and overhead.

  46. 46
    ThatLeftTurnInABQ says:

    @Greg:

    I agree it’s difficult. My position is that we should do the best job possible of (and continue to improve) teacher evaluation, because otherwise we’re a) paying too little for good teachers, and b) keeping bad teachers in classrooms.

    __
    I have nothing against this. I’m just very skeptical about how much work it is to determine in a reliable fashion the quality of a given teacher’s work, and it frustrates me when I hear people toss out the phrase “the best tools available to distinguish” without acknowledging that even the best tools we have now are not very good.
    __

    As for me going first, I work in the private sector and have P&L responsibility.

    __
    This is where analogies between the public and private sector break down. P&L responsibility makes sense in a profit-making enterprise (even if the responsibility for it may not be fairly distributed across job titles), because ultimately everybody employed by that business will be out of a job if losses continue indefinitely. It is a survival metric. What is the equivalent survival metric for public education? What objective, quantifiable measure can be used to determine whether School X stays open? Not some arbitrary threshold picked by a committee, but an actual bright-line standard. I’m not seeing any. A better analogy would be with a business which will continue to pursue the enterprises’ mission statement regardless of profit or loss, no matter what. Those are not easy to find.

  47. 47
    Marc says:

    @Greg:

    From the NY Times article:

    “In an interview on Tuesday, Carol Caref, head of research and teacher evaluation for the union, said that members would be willing to accept an evaluation system that was implemented earlier this year throughout the district, which bases 25 percent of a teacher’s rating on a measure of “student growth.” ”

    So it appears that the most contentious item in the dispute is whether test scores are 25% or 40% of the evaluation score. That makes it look rather less drastic than we’re being led to believe.

  48. 48
    Chris says:

    @techno:

    When an American kid graduates from high school, he or she is already two years (or more) behind a kid in Europe or Japan. If the American kid wants to catch up, he or she will have to pay premium prices to get that remedial education in college.

    Since it’s generally admitted that Japan and Western European countries have better educational systems (especially at the pre-college level) – how do they do it? Teachings the kids, evaluating the teachers, all that stuff. Anything we can learn from them?

    (Yes, I know it’s psychologically impossible for American society to “look at who’s doing it better and learn from them” because it implies that someone somewhere is capable of doing something better than America and the utter trauma of having to admit that is something we just can’t live with. But since this is Balloon Juice I thought I’d ask…)

  49. 49
    Greg says:

    @Marc:

    Thanks, Marc. Definitely looks like a solvable disagreement.

  50. 50
    Redshift says:

    @Greg:

    If a 40% weight on the test results is too much, perhaps they can negotiate to reduce it. shrug

    Which is exactly what the article you quoted says they’re trying to do, and which you seemed to be faulting them for when you quoted it.

  51. 51
    Peregrinus says:

    @Greg:

    Which is still the biggest percentage of the evaluation – in other words, it can drag a good teacher pretty heavily down, or conversely make a bad teacher look pretty damn good.

    Furthermore, the problem is that you can’t reduce the value of an education to test scores. Like I already said, in Rosemont they had access to that data, but they relied primarily on a fundamentally different method of evaluation and turned to test scores and similar things as a secondary method.

    @techno:

    I agree with this, but the thing is that Europe and Japan have entirely different methods of handling public education. Most countries in Europe have a federal or at least fairly large-state teaching corps (if not necessarily an educational clearinghouse) and a stronger federal government capable of establishing something like Common Core standards by fiat.

    Plus, in a lot of those countries, there is stricter tracking between different kinds of secondary schooling, which is a wrinkle for the US in that we want to keep all the children having the same access to the same public schools.

    I think Common Core represents a great shot at keeping these values AND helping bridge the gaps, but it’s worth pointing out that at the same time, there is going to be a need for something stronger and more top-down, and yet something that isn’t fully data-driven.

  52. 52
    David in NY says:

    @gopher2b: Accountablity. OK, here’s a test. You’re a manager. And you’re accountable. And you don’t get to choose your workforce, which is picked for you at random from a neighborhood rife with alcoholism, 8th grade dropouts, bad health, attention deficit disorder, poor language skills, and so on. Of course, you get one or two really good workers from the 40 assigned you. You might get lucky next year, if your workers are pulled from a better neighborhood, but you might not have your job either, because you didn’t “produce” enough.

    Now, you wouldn’t like a metric that evaluated you without regard to the workforce you were given or its inherent skills or its capacity to learn the job. You really wouldn’t. But that is what teachers face. No wonder they’re teed off. You can be a great teacher in a poverty-stricken neighborhood and have little chance of “success” by the numbers.

    Do you see the problem?

  53. 53
    Darkrose says:

    @techno:

    This problem is not new—we already had it back in the 1960s. Calls to make our schools better were opposed by amongst other forces, the teacher’s unions. So now they need our support and they cannot get it—even from people who believe in unions and passionately support public education.

    Every time I hear someone say something like this, I want to ask them to sit down and read Savage Inequalities and then we can have the discussion. Until we address the fact that many of this country’s public school students are in buildings with no heat or air conditioning, literally crumbling walls, lab equipment from the 1960’s if they’re lucky, and plumbing that hasn’t been up to code in years. You want to make the school year longer in Chicago? Great! Now tell me again how kids are supposed to learn anything in a classroom where the windows don’t open when it’s 95 with 90% humidity outside?

  54. 54
    Redshift says:

    @Greg:

    It sounds like an evaluation system similar to what you’re describing is one of the main contested issues in Chicago.

    No, that says that the rubric was developed with the involvement of the teachers, not that the evaluations do. So it’s not really the same thing at all.

  55. 55
    matryoshka says:

    @gopher2b: Tell us, o mighty gopher, how can you tell if a teacher “sucks”?

  56. 56
    SenyorDave says:

    My wife was a kindergarten teacher. An excellent kindergarten teacher in a scool system in a liberal county that paid comparatively very well. I think many people would say she was overpaid because she retired making in the $80k’s. This was after more than 20 years teaching with a masters plus. Yes, her benefits are better than average, but as a teacher she is severely limited in how much she can make.

    For 40 years the Republicans have denigrated all public employees, and it has worked. I would not consider going into teaching if I were entering college. Who needs to be the whipping boy for 40% of America.

    BTW, the school system she was in is considered one of the best public school systems in the US. Her last 12 years the max class size for kindergarten was 18 because the superintendent believed that kindergarten was vital.

    The GOP says they support teachers but have problems with the unions. That’s total bullshit. The modern GOP would slit their grandmother’s throat if it could get them one more vote.

  57. 57
    Jamey says:

    Public sector, people. People freak out when tax revenues directly pay salaries, no matter how important the job may be.

    Take my town for example, a relatively affluent NJ bedroom community of 8000 that’s less than 1 mi from NYC. The schools superintendent here earns a hair north of $200k. He or she is the CEO of a business with 1000s of employees and a total budget in the tens of millions of dollars. If performances slide during his or her tenure, no matter the reason/s, lives hang in the balance; no amount of “rightsizing” or Six Sigma gobbledegook can paper over the setback. He or she must have at least 20 years’ experience and a PhD. It helps to be a media superstar with a hide as thick as that of a rhinoceros.

    But because this superintendent earns roughly what a middling second-year trader for JPMorganChase will pull down–AND is doing so on the public dime–people lose their shit. What the hell is wrong with us?

  58. 58
    penpen says:

    @gopher2b:

    Emanuel wants greater accountability from Chicago teachers. That’s all. In exchange, they will be paid more than they are now. Oh, they’ll take the money, they just don’t want to be fired if they suck.

    Your summary of the situation seemed willfully simplified so as to demonize the teachers. For example, it was my understanding that Emanuel wants teachers to work more hours in exchange for being “paid more,” correct me if I’m wrong.

  59. 59
    Marc says:

    @Sly:

    I’m a professor and we have both student evaluations of instruction and some equivalent of “standardized test scores.” In the latter case, we sometimes ask multiple choice quiz questions, and we have a few questions where we have a historical track record.

    I do find that these things have real value as long as they’re used to flag outliers. It’s a mistake to ding someone for being in the 25th percentile on a noisy measure – but if they’re in the bottom 5 percent it is very likely that they’re doing something wrong. You need supporting data to understand why – for example, it could be an unusually difficult or weak class.

    I don’t like putting too much weight on testing for a lot of reasons. (It promotes cheating, for example.) But assigning some weight is pretty normal, and it’s certainly true for people like me.

  60. 60

    Standardized testing … blah, blah, blah. The teachers didn’t break the education system. The education system is antiquated and cannot respond to the needs of a modern civilized society. Efforts like Kahn Academy and other innovative methods are possible avenues to improve our education system. Until we start having THAT discussion we will continue to have this discussion about “data” and “metrics” with which to evaluate teaching and how much to pay them.

    Is our children learning. Most, yes. But, most isn’t good enough.

    One of the front pagers linked to this video of Ken Robinson’s TED talk several months ago.

  61. 61
    David in NY says:

    Also:

    If anyone read the NY Times article on the strike today all the way to the bottom, they’d notice that the lede got buried, deep. In the last paragraph, a kindergarten teacher notes that she is teaching a class of 43 five-year-olds, and that, being five-year olds, they all need her attention at once.

    Chicago has given this poor woman a fucking impossible job and is now going to burden her with evaluation by standardized testing. Above a class size of about 25 for kids that age, absolute chaos reigns. I cannot imagine how she can even babysit that many kids each day, much less teach them anything. And Rahm Emanuel (who would immediately get busted for child abuse if he ever tried teaching) certainly has no clue how she should succeed in such conditions.

    This is really wrong.

  62. 62
    mai naem says:

    Doesn’t this go back to this country being “classicized?” I think yuppies and other upper income folks don’t really run into poorer people. I mean maybe working at Subway or Walmart but not IRL. I think wealthier people assume everybody has the time/resources/knowledge to spend on their kids and a lot of people don’t. I happen to know a little kid who is behind in school because his uneducated parents did absolutely zero for him at home. They really thought this kid was going to school and the teachers were going to do everything for this kid education wise. He’s now two years behind in school and finally getting straightened out. You can say these people should not have had this kid but that’s not the point. The best teacher in the world is not going to be able to solve this situation.

  63. 63
    Peregrinus says:

    @Chris:

    I said this the last time we had a long-form post about the value of education, and I remember that a couple commenters weren’t happy with me for it, but I still think the reason is that European countries and Japan handle education completely differently.

    We consider it a state or even local issue (Hawai’i is the only state where all the schools are managed directly by the state ed department) whereas in Europe and Japan public education is considered a national responsibility. France and Germany are particularly famous for having a strong federalization component to their education – and between those two, especially France. Britain is a little more like us in how much local control each school has, though it also depends on whether you’re in England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.

    The other thing is that in a lot of European countries, there are multiple tracking levels that are much stricter than US high schools. In Germany you’ve got three levels: if I remember correctly, they’re Realschule, Hochschule, and Gymnasium. (I might not; it’s been four years since I took German.) The first is mostly a vocational-type, the second a mix of trade and regular “humanities”-type classes, and the Gymnasium has the most choices in terms of electives and academics but doesn’t offer much in the way of trades or vocations. You take standardized tests to determine where you go to “high school,” essentially, but even if you end up in the vocational track, there are ways to get yourself up to the Gymnasium and attend university, though it takes longer.

    And then there’s Finland, where teachers are selected very carefully, given good employment situations from the get-go, and encouraged to try out a more personal style of education. Standardized tests are few and far between and, from what I understand, kids can qualify to take them at their own pace, working with teachers to study for them. But then, Finland is a bit more culturally homogeneous than the US, to say the least.

  64. 64
    bemused senior says:

    Looking over my daughter’s shoulder (a special ed teacher who started her career teaching kindergarten via TFA in a high poverty school and continues in a similar environment), I am infuriated by the assumption that teachers aren’t evaluated, that they can’t be fired, that they get paid too much, and that the unions are the devil. She just finished spending hundreds of dollars of her own money to set up her classroom in her new job, which she took to have the slightly higher pay and benefits afforded by the union in her district. Many districts in California routinely send out layoff notices to hundreds of teachers each spring and then call back teachers in the fall. How would you like not knowing if you had a job for three months every year? At her last job, non union, she didn’t make a living wage and was told they didn’t give raises, despite her evaluation being the highest in her department. She was apparently supposed to nurture special needs kids in difficult family situations because of pure goodness. Well she is good, but she has to eat and pay rent, and she hopes to be able to afford a child of her own soon. Sheesh.

  65. 65
    Redshift says:

    @Chris: There were a number of articles on the highly successful education system in Finland earlier this year. Among its features are that teachers are highly valued professionals who are paid commensurate with the education their profession requires, they work cooperatively and have considerable latitude to help any students who are having trouble, and they do virtually no standardized testing and do not use it to evaluate teachers.

    This is helped by the fact that they don’t have a balkanized funding and governance structure like we do in this country. I firmly believe that the constant rhetoric about “failing” schools in this country in large measure occurs because elected officials almost all come from better-funded schools and have never seen the crappy ones before they’re in office. So they have trouble believing they existed all along, and therefore the whole system must be “in decline” since their schooldays.

  66. 66
    hmd says:

    Klein’s salary is between him and his employer, who must justify themselves to the board of directors. Teachers’ salaries are between them and their employer (the board of education), who must justify themselves to the board of directors (voters).

    As voters, it makes perfect sense to ask whether teachers are being paid too much, too little, or just right. Naturally the teachers union will make their own case. But it is just dumb to say that this is not an issue for public debate. They are public employees.

    Personally, I think that teachers are paid decently, but people underestimate how much work is involved in lesson prep, reporting, grading, classroom prep, etc. The idea that they are grossly overpaid is crazy. But it is perfectly reasonable to have a debate over this issue.

  67. 67
    Kanamit says:

    @Chris: If by ‘evaluating teachers’ you mean linking their performance evaluations to standardized tests and penalizing/rewarding them based on their performance the best performing educational systems do nothing of the sort.

  68. 68
    What Have The Romans Ever Done for Us? (formerly MarkJ) says:

    @weaselone: I think you’re onto the main issue. It’s really easy for managers to evaluate teachers based on standardized test improvement – just have your secretary type the relevant figures into a spreadsheet and let that do the calculations for you.

    By contrast it takes hours and hours of class observation and in-person conversations with teachers, parents, and students to evaluate teachers based on other metrics. This is too much work for administrators.

  69. 69
    Mnemosyne says:

    A bit of a historical issue: our educational system is basically built on the assumption that you will have a large pool of smart, driven people who are barred from going into better-paying professions. That is, the system still assumes that really smart women and minorities are going to be forced into teaching because they will not be allowed to go to law school, medical school, etc.

    This, of course, started to change in the 1960s, but our whole system still assumes that people will teach because they have no other choice, and you can treat them any way you want because, hey, what are they going to do, go find another job that pays better and has less demanding hours?

    Whoops.

  70. 70
    Greg says:

    @Redshift:

    I don’t think I seemed to be faulting the teachers for anything. As I said in my comment on Freddie’s rant yesterday, I have no problem with the teachers union negotiating on behalf of its members’ interests. I don’t even have a problem with them playing hardball and going on strike.

    I feel the very same way about the Mayor and CPS.

    Anytime there’s a labor dispute, differences like, “Should test results be weighted 25% or 40%?” are transformed into the Final Battle of Good vs. Evil. It’s ridiculous.

    This isn’t Wisconsin or Ohio. There is no union busting. No one is trying to take away the union’s collective bargaining rights. It’s just tough negotiations from both sides over relatively small differences (that are nevertheless clearly significant to the parties involved).

  71. 71
    Ridnik Chrome says:

    @penpen: Actually, from what I’ve read, Emanuel wants teachers to work 20% more time for 2% more pay. And he already killed a previously negotiated pay raise for teachers. In addition to not doing anything about overcrowded classrooms and lousy working conditions (i.e. leaky roofs, no air conditioning, and so on). The troll is obviously arguing in bad faith. Don’t feed him.

  72. 72
    Peregrinus says:

    @Darkrose:

    We read the East St. Louis chapter in a class I had on education finance. Fucking brutal. I loved Kozol’s style but what he described made me want to cry.

    You also have to read Matt Lassiter’s The Silent Majority. The main two cases he touches on, Charlotte and Atlanta, also show that white flight, localization of districts, and issues like “forced busing” also had an effect, further unbalancing education as property tax revenues shifted.

    Or, what @mai naem said.

    @Marc:

    I agree with this, and especially at university level, where I think there’s a bit more accountability expected overall due to the greater maturity (well, up until now) of the students and the specialized knowledge professors have. I don’t think my undergrad university utilized that sort of thing, since my professors seemed to have a great deal of autonomy in designing their curricula and I can count the number of multiple choice tests or finals I took in four years on both hands, but perhaps they had another way of slipping that into the deal.

  73. 73
    Justin says:

    Are the schools bad because they have bad teachers, or because they’ve been ssytematically under-invested in for decades? I don’t blame teachers for not wanting to be the scapegoat; they don’t set class sizes, and I’m willing to bet they didn’t make the decision to scrap msic and art classes, either. Wait, are they the ones who have decided to segregate our schools to levels pre-dating Brown v. Board of Ed?

  74. 74
    Chris says:

    @Peregrinus:

    Thanks, much appreciated!

    @Redshift:

    And thanks to you too.

    This is helped by the fact that they don’t have a balkanized funding and governance structure like we do in this country.

    Yet another situation in which the fifty-state structure seems ludicrous and causes rather than solves problems (voting’s another, as was discussed on an earlier thread…)

  75. 75
    gopher2b says:

    @matryoshka:

    Teachers who consistently fail to achieve objective improvement as measured by a standardized test in their students, or worse oversee regression in their students, and that failure is corroborated by subjective reviews from supervisors who can show how the teacher failed & why those weaknesses cannot be fixed.

    (just like virtually every other job)

  76. 76
    Peregrinus says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    This, especially where women are concerned. Never has it been clearer than teaching all boys, as I currently do.

  77. 77
    Warren Terra says:

    @Ridnik Chrome:
    The 20% more time claim is not true. Emanuel does want longer school days, but the claim is that 500 more teachers will be hired and will suffice to cover almost all of this extra time, without asking much more of the current teachers. Obviously, there’s room to be skeptical of how the insolvent school district could hire 500 more teachers, but the situation as agreed by both sides is that the 20% more time claim is not accurate.

    On the other hand, while there are some disputes about pay (especially the 4% pay increase the teachers had in their contract for last year and never got), the contentious issues are not about pay – they’re the working conditions you cite, and other working conditions you don’t cite (weighting of testing, for example).

  78. 78
    matryoshka says:

    @What Have The Romans Ever Done for Us? (formerly MarkJ): Exactly right. Also, people who bitch about teachers having tenure seem to be unable to hear anyone who tells them that tenure contracts are not offered until the 6th year in most places–after the teacher has had what’s called a probationary contract for 5 years and been evaluated twice a year by peers, administrators, students, and parental input. People who are really awful at teaching or really hate it don’t usually make it that far. In fact, about half of new teachers leave with in the first five years and go on to better things, or at least to jobs where they aren’t insulted by pretty much everyone and only have one boss.

  79. 79
    Jane2 says:

    Yet another blog post using the teachers’ strike to support your own grievances about the system, whether or not they are actually related to the current dispute.

    If salary is your main consideration, by all means avoid the public sector. However, that has nothing to do with the strike, all side-slams at the Honey Boo Boos of the world notwithstanding.

  80. 80
    gopher2b says:

    @penpen:

    My understanding is that Emanuel already implemented the longer school day (to make up for the fact that Chicago’s was previously among the shortest in the country — if not THE shortest) and that the teachers agreed to this because the city hired more teachers.

  81. 81
    gelfling545 says:

    @David in NY: A big issue, to me, is that there is progress, sometimes amazing progress, but it is called failure because all the students are not arriving at the same place on the same date. I worked with a wonderfully talented special education teacher who has a 12-1-1 class of 12 to 14 year olds. I recall most specifically one girl who barely had letter recognition when she arrived in Mary’s class in Sept. and was reading on about a 3rd grade level by June. This child’s progress which should have been heartening and encouraging to everyone concerned was deemed failure in the eyes of administration, State Ed & NCLB.

  82. 82
    gopher2b says:

    @Ridnik Chrome:

    GFY. Just because I disagree with you doesn’t make me a troll. This is the #1 problem with people who comment here — you’re great when you are on the winning side of an issue, but god forbid you are ever pressed, and it goes to name calling so fast your head will spin.

  83. 83
    penpen says:

    Obviously poor urban school districts are at tremendous structural disadvantage, even attracting applicants to work there is difficult, and so rather than realizing that pouring more money and effort must be poured into those districts to achieve the same results as wealthier districts, the answer is… making teaching there even less attractive? Attacking public unions is brilliant tactics by conservatives: put Joe Public in the shoes of management, and they’ll start clamoring to outsource urban teaching jobs to India via teleconferencing soon enough.

  84. 84
    matryoshka says:

    Teachers who consistently fail to achieve objective improvement as measured by a standardized test in their students, or worse oversee regression in their students, and that failure is corroborated by subjective reviews from supervisors who can show how the teacher failed & why those weaknesses cannot be fixed. (just like virtually every other job)

    Oh, so standardized tests are at the top of your list. I have no idea what it would mean to “oversee regression in [my] students.” Would they start sucking their thumbs? Reading at a third-grade level? What if they were in high school an not even reading at a second-grade level yet? Strangely, teacher evaluations process does not even have a possible outcome called “how the teacher failed.” Have you ever seen a teacher evaluation form? “Failure” is determined by being unable to meet the objectives of the observed lesson and by the grades the students get. (Give good grades, be a great teacher!) The only weaknesses that can’t be fixed are in the system itself. I would love to see what you would do with 45 first-graders or 32 high school kids who are at 32 different levels of literacy, attentive ability, and social development. The easiest thing in the world is to train those kids for the standardized test. The harder thing is to educate them.

  85. 85
    Bubblegum Tate says:

    This post is fucking awesome. That is all.

  86. 86
    Corey says:

    @Warren Terra: God damn. Quoted for truth. Freddie’s endless whining about people more popular on the internet than he is fucking tiring.

  87. 87
    gopher2b says:

    @matryoshka:

    If standardized tests are not on the top of the list, then everyone complains they will be subjected to the whims of an biased administrator.

    So, what is your solution? Or do you think teachers should be free from evaluation altogether?

    P.S. If evaluations truly measure a teacher’s performance based purely on the students level of development at the end of a school year without regard to where he or she began the school year, then it’s obvious a flawed system. I have a hard time believing that is how all the evaluations are conducted. For one, 90% of the teachers would have been fired by now. In Chicago, they are estimating 2-4% would be fired if this formula were put in place.

  88. 88
    Corey says:

    Corey Robin’s new habit of asking people how much money they make is fucking disgusting. Also too.

  89. 89
    Dennis SGMM says:

    Unmentioned in the debate over teacher pay are the special needs teachers. In any pay/tenure system based on standardized test scores these people will be paupers and they’ll be trying to hire new ones every Summer.

  90. 90
    Corey says:

    Hey Freddie – every time you bitch about how woefully ignored and marginalized you are, as a straight white man btw, maybe think back to this abortion of a post and realize that you and your fact-free invective might have something to do with it?

  91. 91
    sherparick says:

    I must admit the continuing diatribe about American schools sytems “failing” our students is one of the VSP media memes that “everybody knows” but which turns out to be a big fraud.

    From Kevin Drum, statistics on Chicago and big city schools:

    http://www.motherjones.com/kev.....performing

    2. A lot of people pushing a solution to this crisis remind me of “defense contractors” pushing a new “threat” to national security. There is a lot of money now forming aroudn the idea of “privatizing” the public school systems, which basically means large companies paying wages to folks similar to what day care center workers get while they draw the big CEO salaries. See this story about “UNO” (ironically, a former non-profit, Saul Alinsky founded organization) from the Chicago Reader. http://www.chicagoreader.com/B.....impression.

    3. When demographics of US kids are broken down, white middle and upperclass children, Black middle and upper class children, and Asian middle and upper class children all do will on the world standards. There is some racial breakdown here (Asians do best, Blacks slightly worse, whites in the middle). It is in working class and worse districts that attainment starts falling (and even here the stats indicate improvmenent over the last 20 years), that the U.S. falls behind the rest of the world. And the U.S. takes in more non-native language speakers than any of the these other countries on a continentatl size basis. To be compared with small homogenous nations like Sweden, Taiwan, or Finnland, or city states like Singapore and Hong Kong is kind of ridiculous. http://dailyhowler.blogspot.co.....-said.html

    4. Although I am not enthralled with the Chicago Teachers’ Union, anytime you are being jumped on by the likes or Charles Lane and Mickey Kraus, you can’t be all bad. I grew up in Chicago and lived there for 25 years and through most of that time, the CTU, particularly its leadership, did not show much care for the raison d’etre of the school district, the eduction of kids in a very difficult environment. It appears now that they have discovered a link with the community as they face an existenial crisis with few political friends. Hopefully, this

  92. 92
    Corey says:

    @Dennis SGMM: Dude. Clearly exceptions/different systems can be designed for exceptional ed teachers.

    No comment on whether the evaluation systems make sense (I tend to think they don’t), but this is just a silly objection.

  93. 93
    Sad_Dem says:

    Some people hate Brown v. Board of Ed., hate equality in education, and hate hate hate unions. They’ll do everything they can to oppose and obstruct public education so long as public education involves unionized teachers and even lip service to equality. They’ll lie about it too.

  94. 94
    rb says:

    @techno:

    it is time for the education business in this country to be massively overhauled because even our best and most motivated students emerge from this system so badly educated, they will spend the rest of their lives making complete fools of themselves.

    Oh, bullshit. Under the circumstances, our kids are fairly well served by public education in this country despite cutbacks and back assward “improvements” at every turn. And to the degree “the education business” can’t magically overcome things like oh, I don’t know, fucking POVERTY, yuppie flight and total lack of funding, yet another “overhaul” won’t do fuck-all.

  95. 95
    KS in MA says:

    @Chris: For one thing, I don’t think the public schools in Japan and western Europe are paid for by local property taxes.

  96. 96
    rb says:

    @sherparick: Fantastic comment! As such, I expect it to be roundly ignored like the well-supported, rational analysis it is.

  97. 97
    matryoshka says:

    @gopher2b: I think it is more than adequate to have a 5-year probationary period, 2 formal evaluations per year (every year during probation, once a year after tenure), peer evaluations, student surveys, and an eager-to-please-parents policy, in addition to state-mandated standardized tests. What I can’t understand is why you think there should be more evaluation. Could any bank CEO or member of congress withstand this kind of scrutiny and come out with flying colors? Could we work golf scores into that rubric?

  98. 98
    sphex says:

    I need a cigarette after that.

  99. 99
    StevenDS says:

    @Warren Terra:

    Agree. This post stinks in so many ways Freddie.

  100. 100
    MattR says:

    @matryoshka:

    I have no idea what it would mean to “oversee regression in [my] students.”

    I assume that means that they start doing worse on standardized tests. At first blush this actually seems reasonable. If a student scored a 50 on the grade 3 exam and they get a 40 on the grade 4 exam, it seems obvious that there was a problem with their fourth grade education. For an individual, there might be a reason for this but if a class as a whole is regressing then it seems like this would mean the teacher is not good.

    However, I remember that Malcolm Gladwell referenced a study in Outliers (which I dont have handy to reference) that tested students in September and June. It found that children from low income families had a very significant drop in score from the time they left school in June to when they came back in Spetember while the highest income children had a minimal drop or even an increase. IIRC, Gladwell’s theory was that richer kids have more opportunity to use their school skills during the summer time – whether that be camp, parental involvement, etc – while the poorer kids have those skills atrophy from lack of use during the summer.

  101. 101
    matryoshka says:

    @gopher2b: Oh, and no one ever takes into account where the students are when they come in to a classroom at the beginning of the year. The only available info on that is their previous grades and anything you might learn about them from parents or other teachers. There is a lot of pressure to give passing grades and keep the conveyor belt running.

  102. 102
    gopher2b says:

    @Ridnik Chrome:

    And you may want to learn how to do some basic research before you start running your mouth.

    http://articles.chicagotribune.....hers-union

    “Removing a major hurdle in the contentious contract talks with the teachers union, Chicago Public Schools agreed Tuesday to hire nearly 500 teachers so students can put in a longer school day without extending the workday for most teachers.

    Both sides claimed victory, as Mayor Rahm Emanuel was able to keep his plan for a longer day intact and the union was able to add teachers while holding the line on how long they work.”

  103. 103
    David in NY says:

    @techno: You didn’t go into teaching, right?

    My PhD-in-math-from-MIT, publicly-schooled son would beg to differ with you about the quality of public schooling in this country.

  104. 104
    rb says:

    @MattR: If a student scored a 50 on the grade 3 exam and they get a 40 on the grade 4 exam, it seems obvious that there was a problem with their fourth grade education.

    It may “seem” that way but it isn’t in the least obvious, actually.

    For an individual, there might be a reason for this but if a class as a whole is regressing then it seems like this would mean the teacher is not good.

    Good lord. Do we honestly believe this is the problem we face?

    Our glib fake media is certainly winning this debate. It’s almost enough to make me believe our country can’t educate its citizens.

  105. 105
    cyntax says:

    @gopher2b:

    Here this one’s for you and anyone else who leans on the education=business fallacy: link

    If a CEO can understand how education and business are fundamentally different, perhaps you should consider that your analogy doesn’t work as well you thought. Just sayin.

  106. 106
    taylormattd says:

    @Warren Terra: Thank you.

  107. 107
    taylormattd says:

    @Bubblegum Tate: Which part is awesome?

    The part where he rips the shit out of Ezra, EVEN THOUGH EZRA DIDN’T WRITE IT?

  108. 108
    David in NY says:

    @gelfling545:

    This child’s progress which should have been heartening and encouraging to everyone concerned was deemed failure in the eyes of administration

    Of course, a lot of good work can produce progress. But a lot of the time (especially with students like the ones you describe), there isn’t any, or much. And the student’s “failure” may be visited upon the very skilled teacher by way of blocking advancement, adverse pay decisions, or even termination. That’s a real problem.

  109. 109
    Darkrose says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    A bit of a historical issue: our educational system is basically built on the assumption that you will have a large pool of smart, driven people who are barred from going into better-paying professions. That is, the system still assumes that really smart women and minorities are going to be forced into teaching because they will not be allowed to go to law school, medical school, etc.

    Excellent point. My mother majored in business, but in the early-’60’s, a black woman with a college degree could….teach. She always told me that she didn’t really want me to be a teacher, not because she thought teaching was bad, but because I didn’t have to, and she knew I could make more money doing just about anything else with a lot less stress.

  110. 110
    MattR says:

    @rb: As the second paragraph of my comment points out.

  111. 111
    rb says:

    @David in NY: And the student’s “failure” may be visited upon the very skilled teacher by way of blocking advancement, adverse pay decisions, or even termination.

    Don’t worry, we’ll keep improving it until only the teachers who are worst at their jobs AND are willing to work for pennies are ever let anywhere near students who need real help.

    Then when stratification is fully complete, we can pat ourselves on the back for a job well outsourced done.

  112. 112
    gopher2b says:

    @cyntax:

    I don’t think I said a school should be run like a business. What I said is that everyone’s performance in their job should be constantly evaluated, and if you are failing, you should be fired as quickly and as humanely as possible.

    I think the studies and arguments people are making here (in favor of the Chicago teachers) are more relevant to merit pay than identifying and terminating failing teachers which is the issue I think Rahm Emanuel is attempting to address.

  113. 113
    West of the Rockies (formerly Frank W.) says:

    Right(ly) said, Fred(die)… If you think you can do a better job as a teacher, by all means, go sign up. Teaching is very difficult work. In addition to requiring at least a B.A./B.S. degree (an M.A. or Ph.D. for higher ed), it involves constantly having to be “on” for your students, a great deal of public speaking (the number one fear of most Americans), a lot of time spent on one’s feet, and much nurse-maiding and hand-holding. The constant flow of essays/tests to grade is exhausting (as mental work often is). It’s got some perks, but it’s no way to every become terribly wealthy or respected by at least 27% of our nation.

  114. 114
    David in NY says:

    @gopher2b: I guess you didn’t have any answer at all for my question here: @David in NY:

    Do you understand at all that, in my scenario, you could be a terrific manager and get terrible results? That on the numbers you would be a total failure, but it wouldn’t be your fault? And that you would be powerless to change it, if the numbers were mostly what counted? And that you, a talented manager, would have to leave or be fired? That’s the teacher’s situation, when administrators abdicate their responsiblity to mere standardized tests.

    This doesn’t mean there’s no evaluation. My father, and elementary school principal, evaluated his staff. But not with stupid tests.

  115. 115
    rb says:

    @MattR: Matt, we don’t have whole classes that are regressing. A fleet of bad teachers who somehow “regress” their “entire classes” year after year is simply not the problem.

  116. 116
    Woody says:

    First, there has never been a merit pay system that has been a quantified success. None.

    Second, the primary reason for this is that children are not products. You may have a rockin’ evaluation system if you’re selling paint, or billing hours, or stapling TPS reports. But children are not products when they walk in nor when they walk out.

    Third, I always love reading how woeful American teachers are compared to Japan or Norway et al. No other nation, rich or poor, treats teachers as shitty as they do in America.

  117. 117
    rb says:

    @gopher2b: What I said is that everyone’s performance in their job should be constantly evaluated

    Yeah, having someone looking over your shoulder every minute is crazy efficient and leads to incredible creativity in teaching, indeed all human endeavors.

  118. 118
    YoohooCthulhu says:

    @Chris:

    And she’s not alone in “getting insulted.” Really, the only people these days with jobs that society tells us to aspire to are businessmen (“Job Creators”) and people in uniform (“they’re dying for your freedom!”)
    Pretty much everyone else is getting nothing but insulted these days.

    I call this the “management-consultant disease”. Somehow coincident with the rise of management consultants, we’ve gotten this business advice that recommends pushing down wages as low as possible for all non-management employees to maximize profits. The rationale is something along the lines of such employees (particularly engineers, R&D scientists…anyone where the path to success is not necessarily wrote or predictable) not being that productive anyway so not justifying higher salaries.

    Of course, the problem is that gets to be a self-fulfilling prophesy. When people don’t feel like they’re being adequately respected WRT compensation, they put less effort in…and the truly motivated move on to other jobs where they’re more respected, leaving the less ambitious people behind.

  119. 119
    mclaren says:

    You’ve completely missed the point. America is a sick twisted society built on hate and the worship of suffering and the adoration of bullies, so of course America is the most anti-intellectual country on earth.

    The teachers are being ground into hamburger not because of money but because American society’s fundamental goal is to turn schools into prisons and savagely abuse and brutalize K-12 students until they become imaginationless drones with no desire to change the status quo. Teachers stand in the way of that.

    Ideally, American society wants prison guards instead of teachers. With zero-tolerance strip searches of preteen girls and police using sniffer dogs to root through kids lockers and cops handcuffing kindergarteners if they talk back to the teachers, America has gotten partway to turning their schools into prison — but America wants to go the rest of the way, and pronto. Firing all the teachers and replacing ’em with riot-armored goons whose main job will be to beat down any child who shows inner life is the ultimate goal.

    We’ll get there. The American adults have accepted being treated like prison bitches at bus depots or train stations or airports or government buildings or traffic stops. Now it’s time to got to work on the kids and give ’em a tune-up to ensure full “attitude adjustment.” Whenever American society wants to humiliate and degrade and brutalize and crush members of its society, it starts with the most helpless (since Americans are a nation of cowardly bully-worshipers) — schoolchildren, prison inmates, grunts in the military.

    Post-9/11 America means the triumph of the goons and the final desecration of the human spirit in the process of turning America into an armed garrison camp where everyone gets treaetd like a prison bitch beign traded for a pack of cigarettes. Firing the teachers and replacing ’em with paramilitary thugs is the next logical step.

  120. 120
    David in NY says:

    @gopher2b: Jesus. School systems have always had the power to evaluate teachers and fire their failures. Nobody’s saying they shouldn’t. They just won’t develop a decent system to do it. Make the administrators work. Adopt a reasonable reviewing system. But teaching is an art, not a science, and you don’t evaluate artists with standardized testing. A teacher isn’t producing widgets from uniform materials, that should all come out perfectly if done right, that can just be counted. A teacher is trying to get imperfect children, whose abilities the teacher has no control over, to learn things that the child may not be well equipped to learn. The evaluation should be based on how well the teacher employs teaching techniques and far less on how high students score, given the relatively small part that school may play in the student’s ultimate achievement.

  121. 121
    Dennis SGMM says:

    @Corey:
    I wasn’t making a silly objection. I mentioned special needs teachers and I mentioned how they would be penalized by a one size fits all system.

    If that’s being silly then silly I am because I’m the parent of a special needs child. I know exactly what his particular subset of teachers face because I volunteer as a teacher’s aide. When you talk about how systems can be designed you’re not being realistic. The move is away from granularity and towards standardization.

    In other words, dude. You’re acting like someone with a paper asshole.

  122. 122
    gopher2b says:

    @David in NY:

    If you don’t have a baseline against which to measure your performance, then yes I agree with you that it would be unfair to measure performance by only that standard (which isn’t what Rahm Emanuel is asking for ).

    But I would think teachers would want (a) an objective standard to offset an administrator that just doesn’t like you, and (b) a system that jettisons under performing teachers so that you get better, as you put it, “input.”

  123. 123
    rb says:

    @Woody: children are not products

    Aww, and here I thought all I had to do was deploy Six Sigma as the back end of my new plan to erect a few Platforms For Success, while Leveraging Achievement through Market-Facing Positively and Maximized Investment of Quantified Effort so that Evaluable Endstates and Focused Efficiency can be Actioned!

    Kids LOVE that shit, right?

  124. 124
    rb says:

    @Corey: Dude. Clearly exceptions/different systems can be designed for exceptional ed teachers.

    ROFL. Yes, ‘exceptions’ will be ‘designed.’ LMFAO.

  125. 125
    aldisney says:

    This might be the worst Balloon Juice post I have ever read. As many others have pointed out (and should continue pointing out until deBoer does something about it):
    1. Ezra Klein didn’t write this. It’s under his blog, nominally, but Dylan Matthews wrote it.
    2. There’s simply no way to read this as pro-or-anti-union. It’s a factual post, outlining the numbers in relation to the perception – insofar as it’s anything, it’s a simple background and explanation of something that (clearly, given the comment here) a lot of people didn’t know.
    3. Asking people how much money they make, or, worse, making assumptions about how much money they make then ranting based on those assumptions, is disgusting. It’s none of your goddamn business, full-stop, and, given the context of the article, it’s completely bewildering why deBoer even brought it up, except to have some strawman media shaming.
    4. And, since we’re at it, Yglesias hasn’t actually written about this that I can find, except to point out that the union asking for a 16% over 4 year increase isn’t actually very much, and could well be a pay cut in four years, depending on inflation: http://www.slate.com/blogs/mon.....real_.html

    Overall, what a just gawdawful, stupid, uninformed, ranting abomination of a post. Shame on you, Freddie deBoer. As someone else pointed out – if you ever happen to wonder why people don’t take you more seriously (disclosure: I have no idea whether that’s the case or not), this is a Grade-A example.

  126. 126
    cyntax says:

    @gopher2b:

    Why would the evaluation for merit pay differ from the evaluation for termination? Isn’t that just a question of degree? If you do really well, you get a pay increase, if you do badly enough, you’re on probation that could lead to termination.

    What the teachers are protesting as I understand it is linking any of that to students’ performance on standardized tests. So as far as I can tell, you’re advocating linking performance evaluation (both for merit pay and termination as I see it above) to standardized tests, since that what’s on the table in Chicago (at least according to what I’ve read).

  127. 127
    David in NY says:

    @gopher2b: You “would think” that because you don’t know anything about teaching. Obviously. Nobody is saying that you shouldn’t get rid of bad teachers, but “underperforming” is a horrible metric drawn from a bad analogy, business.

    Have you ever tried to teach anybody anything? Give it a whirl sometime. There’s often this immovable object — the student — that try as you will, can’t or won’t get it. And oddly, the surrounding society sides with the kid (it’s not his/her fault) and not you (you must be responsible for the kid’s failure and anyway football is more important). Are you “underperforming” if the kid doesn’t learn? Not necessarily — he or his society may be failing you (football practice is far more important than homework, you know). And standardized tests are deeply flawed measures of progress. (e.g., Show a test asking what a picture of a log is to kids in the city, and they’ll tell you it’s a “stick;” wrong answer.)

  128. 128
    rb says:

    @gopher2b: But I would think teachers would want (a) an objective standard

    If you would it’s because you’re missed the point that there is no objective standard – there is no master point of view. No test and no meter will evaluate “learning” when deployed at anything like a mass scale. The only way to properly evaluate a teacher is in a highly context-dependent, sensitive manner – i.e. subjective – which is a time and resource-intensive process, i.e. the opposite of efficient.

    Standardized testing and the like aren’t implementing proper accountability. They’re a distraction the purpose of which is to avoid actually having to do a proper accounting.

  129. 129

    […] Freddie deBoer at Balloon Juice: In this capitalist system of ours, what people make is a statement about how much society values wha… […]

  130. 130
    RSA says:

    @What Have The Romans Ever Done for Us? (formerly MarkJ):

    By contrast it takes hours and hours of class observation and in-person conversations with teachers, parents, and students to evaluate teachers based on other metrics.

    I’ve had a similar thought. In an ideal world, how would I evaluate a teacher? I’d put a small team of trained evaluators in the teacher’s classroom for observation for some period of time. They’d interview students. They’d look at the curriculum and lesson plans, as well as statistics for the teacher, the school, and the school system. They’d offer an assessment.

    Except for the classroom observation, this is how my university department’s program is assessed by an external accreditation organization. But it only happens every six or seven years, and it’s the entire program rather than individual faculty. I think the results are believable, to the extent that it could be a reasonable idealized model for evaluating teachers in K-12. If that’s true, one question we could ask is how closely more affordable evaluation techniques approach the ideal. My (uninformed) impression is that we don’t really know.

  131. 131
    Violet says:

    I know I’m super late to this thread, but had to comment. I’ve taught school and it’s a thankless job that people don’t respect. I had more than one person say to me, “You’re smart. Why are you a teacher?” How do you even respond to that? The very premise of it is beyond depressing.
    underlying belief system that allows that sort of statement and question to be asked is depressing.

    @Redshift: Yes, Finland. They are consistently the highest rated and highest scoring students in the world and have been for a long time. They respect teachers, pay them well, and it shows. If being a teacher were highly lucrative and very competitive, we’d have a lot better schools here. Smart, well-paid, highly respected people don’t stick around to be treated like crap forever.

  132. 132
    Gopher2b says:

    @David in NY:

    All I’ve heard all day was (both online and in person) is that it’s unfair to judge the teachers because they can’t control the variables, and the variables overwhelm all the other issues. If that’s the case then why bother putting any more money into it at all until poverty is fixed (that should be easy). what’s the point?

    BTW, I taught 3rd and 4th graders for two years before I decided to do something else (albeit not I the inner city). My dad was a teacher along with two of my aunts, and my uncle was a principal. My sister in law is a vice principal. So, I have all the worthless anecdotes to deploy too.

  133. 133
    Gopher2b says:

    And, while we’re at it, can someone explain to me why elementary, middle school, or high school teachers should have tenure. I’ve never understood this.

  134. 134
    Citizen Alan says:

    @Spaghetti Lee:

    Principals coming down on teachers they don’t like, parents ganging up on teachers they don’t like, etc

    This, this, this, this, THIS! The defining factor in me getting out of teaching (music ed) for law school was my last principal telling me to my face that he thought the success of the band program was an obstacle to the football team doing better and that he’d rather have a good football team than a good band so that revenue from football games would be higher. And when I declined to let the football coach walk all over me, suddenly the guidance counselor (who was, I shit you not, the principal’s cousin!) started mucking about with the schedule in a way that made rehearsal with the whole band almost impossible. I left after a year, and the band program fell apart in short order. The football team never did get any better.

    Teachers hate these “accountability” schemes because they know damn well how trivially easy it is for the administration to make a “good” teacher into a “bad” teacher if the principal doesn’t like the teacher, if particularly noisy parents complain about a teacher, if the teacher refuses to ignore improprieties like favoritism to athletes, if the teacher is a racial minority within that school system, or hell, if the teacher has been there for twenty years and is one of the higher paid teachers at a time where there’s a budget crunch! People are bitching about “teacher accountability.” I have yet to hear the phrase “administrator accountability” pass ANYONE’S lips at any time!

  135. 135

    […] » Blog Archive » Making a Job Worse Is a Brilliant Strategy for Attracting the Best Talent Balloon Juice » Blog Archive » Making a Job Worse Is a Brilliant Strategy for Attracting the Best …. Share […]

  136. 136
    cyntax says:

    @Gopher2b:

    So that if they don’t agree with what the administration is doing, they can speak up without fear of being fired, or otherwise punished.

  137. 137
    Corey says:

    @rb: Umm…do you actually think special ed teachers would be held to the same standards as those teaching mainstream kids? Are they held to the same standards now?

  138. 138

    Great post. Sharing. Full stop.

  139. 139
    Corey says:

    @Dennis SGMM: Understand and appreciate your perspective, but frankly I still think it’s silly to think that exceptional ed teachers would be held to the same standard. They aren’t held to the same standards now, what makes you think that would change?

  140. 140
    jlow says:

    @Gopher2b: @Gopher2b: Because eliminating tenure would mean that teachers could be fired without just cause?

  141. 141
    jlow says:

    People who think bad teachers are the unions fault should take a look at the contracts and tenure agreements. Tenure does not mean that a bad teacher can’t be fired. It just requires that the administration do it’s homework and prove that the teacher is bad before sacking them. Yes, that means they have to take time to observe the teacher and create a remediation plan before pulling the trigger. Every boss should have to do that before firing a long time employee.

  142. 142
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @jlow: Now, now, you. Stop with the facts and reasoned arguments.

  143. 143

    The real problem here is that we have a bunch of smart, cynical politicians and lobbyists and spewers of opinion who have learned that they can stoke resentment among ignorant Americans. They’ve learned it, I guess, by watching how segregation lasted so long in the south.

    The upper class folk, the “best” people in the south for 100 years played poor whites off against the poorer blacks. The upper class–those I’m sorry to say were my forebears–were screwing the poor whites sideways, but they conned them into seeing the poorer blacks–whom my illustrious forebears were also screwing sideways–as threats.

    Today’s upstanding conservatives are doing the same thing, playing off lower class Americans against public servants. As long as they can get enough Americans to look at teachers and police and people like that as the real threats, they won’t look at the Kochs or Mitch McConnell or Romney and Ryan or George Will or Charles Krauthammer or Limbaugh or Hannity or any of the other random and variegated dickwads who are really fucking their lives over.

    Sooner or later, what we liberals are going to have to do is reach these benighted losers. A lot of them really are loathesome turds, but a lot are just ignoramuses* who don’t know who’s stealing their livelihoods.

    *Or is it ignorami?

  144. 144
    Barry says:

    @Gin & Tonic: ” (something, I almost needn’t add, that is a settled question in most occupations, not just “industrial” ones.) ”

    That’s news to me. I haven’t seen anything which doesn’t come down to having a worker’s manager rate them, or their peers rate them.

  145. 145
    weaselone says:

    @Gopher2b:

    That’s an easy question to answer. Public sector unions are a direct response to the old patronage system where government jobs, including teaching positions were essentially allocated based on connections to the government currently in power.

  146. 146
    Barry says:

    @Peregrinus: “Plus, in a lot of those countries, there is stricter tracking between different kinds of secondary schooling, which is a wrinkle for the US in that we want to keep all the children having the same access to the same public schools.”

    And, IIRC, lower poverty levels.

  147. 147
    rb says:

    @Corey: Umm…do you actually think special ed teachers would be held to the same standards as those teaching mainstream kids?

    Ummm, do you actually think the drive by assessments are going to be rational and reasonable? Have you ever taken a glance at NCLB?

  148. 148
    Brian says:

    As a post-doc in the process of applying for teaching positions I have one thing to say.

    A-fucking-men.

  149. 149
    bemused senior says:

    @Corey: Check this out and then get back to us: NCLB and Special Education

    Teacher evaluation is heavily tied to the NCLB goals for the schools.

  150. 150
    burnspbesq says:

    @gopher2b:

    Oh, they’ll take the money, they just don’t want to be fired if they suck.

    Pretty much.

    AFAIC, there is no principled basis for being against including student achievement in the criteria by which teachers’ performance is evaluated, or for being against pay-for-performance. You can argue at spectacular length about what metrics to use to determine student achievement, but that’s a separate issue.

  151. 151
    elspi says:

    To see what is wrong with the education system in the country, just image that this conversation took place at bar in say Finland. The first few trolling comments would have been met with raised eyebrows, but by about the third time gopherboy opened his shithole, the place would have gone berzerk, and what was left of Gopher2b’s head would have ended up decorating the sign outside.

    The police officer who was at the barn would claim that it “wasn’t like they killed a puppy or something” not quite manage to arrest anyone.

    The cunt Gopher2b on the other hand is going to go back to his cunt life and his cunt family and no one is going to bother that cunt at all.

    You want good teachers, you have to protect them from the cunts like they do in Finland.

  152. 152
    rb says:

    @burnspbesq:

    AFAIC, there is no principled basis for being against including student achievement in the criteria by which teachers’ performance is evaluated, or for being against pay-for-performance

    Indeed. Only priests should have their evaluations unencumbered by consideration of their effects on young people.

  153. 153
    gene108 says:

    People compare the U.S. to Finland.

    Finland has a population of 5.3 million. Chicago has a population of 2.7 million.

    You can’t compare class sizes, for example, in a sparsely populated country like Finland, to more densely populated urban centers in the USA.

    The problem with adopting a German system, where you have different tiers of high schools, with different curriculum is that given our history of racism we have a history of sending minorities/poor into the vocational tracks and reserving the college track for whites/wealthy people.

    I don’t think there’s a lot that’s wrong with the vast majority of the U.S. educational system.

    This is where most politicians get it wrong, when they start trying to “fix” our educational system; they are incapable of actually defining the problem.

    The reality is middle class and upper income school districts are competitive with the rest of the world.

    We just have a lot higher percentage of our population that’s poor compared to other industrialized nations. Tackle poverty and the educational system should right itself to a large degree.

  154. 154
    rb says:

    The reality is middle class and upper income school districts are competitive with the rest of the world. We just have a lot higher percentage of our population that’s poor compared to other industrialized nations. Tackle poverty and the educational system should right itself to a large degree.

    Please stop mucking up this conversation with reason and logic and just generally being against freedom. If we can’t hate public employees on 9/11, the terrorists win.

  155. 155
    Mart says:

    Daughter with masters degree just started teaching HS in a big inner city. Started at a little over 40K. Metal detectors, police in the halls, gang fights, frequent neighborhood shootings, 38 kids in the class, etc. She got dear old mom & dad to help spackle and paint the room. She works with great people who all seem dedicated to trying to help the students. But the poverty and violence the kids grow up in is a tremendous hurdle to overcome.

    She is GROSSLY underpaid. Anyone who thinks otherwise is clueless.

  156. 156
    rb says:

    Metal detectors, police in the halls, gang fights, frequent neighborhood shootings, 38 kids in the class, etc.

    Blah, blah. How’s she doing on her metrics? Tell us about the METRIX.

  157. 157
    McCroan says:

    I do not know any teacher who makes $75,000.
    I’m a teacher in Texas and most teachers make $47,000, and that’s only in the big cities. Last time I checked the state minimum is $27,000. We have no unions and terrible health insurance. Our “pensions” is the same as if we we’re putting into social security (which we don’t). And with all the lay offs due to budget cuts, what job security?

    What attracts people to this profession again??

    Maybe that’s why Texas is always racing with Louisiana and Mississippi to see who can have the worse public education.

  158. 158
    Gopher2b says:

    @elspi:

    I’m trying to “image” it but it’s really tough.

    I have a different opinion than other people on this issue; get over it. However, I’ve been respectful to everyone that was respectful to me. It’s a bar you couldn’t reach.

    I’m sorry you fail at everything, you fucking loser.

  159. 159
    weaselone says:

    @burnspbesq:

    Your argument is bass ackwards. You need to develop metrics that consistently and accurately reflect a teacher’s contribution to student performance before you can enact an evaluation system and pay for performance based on student achievement. Metrics based on the value added to student standardized test scores does not pass scrutiny for use in yearly evaluations. As others have noted, statistically they can by useful for identifying outliers, but that hardly supports using them as 40% of an evaluation for the bulk of teachers.

  160. 160
    rootless_e says:

    ” It assumes that, for public employees and no one else, there is a certain amount that is just too much for the job. ”

    When one starts off with a gross error like that, it’s clear that the business in hand is vacant outrage generation and nothing more. Every labor dispute in America is the occasion for tut-tutting about greedy employees.

    By the way, Houston janitors won.
    http://www.texasobserver.org/a.....0%22_blank

  161. 161
    parsimon says:

    Freddie deBoer, you should really add an update or a correction to the post to note that the Wonkblog piece at the Washington Post wasn’t by Ezra Klein, but by Dylan Matthews.

    People have noted this upthread, but you should correct the attribution. (For what it’s worth, a lot of bloggers have been making this mistake lately, given that the URL for Wonkblog pieces shows “ezra-klein”).

  162. 162
    Just some gal says:

    A few things, and I say this as a school board member in the midwest:

    Finland has excellent education in part due to homogeneity, in part due to careful selection and extensive training and good pay of teachers, and in part–and I don’t see this mentioned often–because there are very very few private schools. Everyone, from the elites down, attend the same schools. This means that everyone, from the elites down, is invested in high quality public education.

    For those who get upset with administrators for not doing a good job of monitoring teachers: principals are more put upon than ever before. With cuts to counseling, social workers, and other essential support services, principals end up doing more refereeing, more discipline, more paperwork, etc., than ever before. And that makes it very difficult to do effective, thorough teacher evaluations. In a typical elementary school with 20 or so classroom teachers, and 15-20 other employees, you quickly run out of time in the day to do all that needs done.

    Good teacher evaluation is possible, but it requires all of the following:
    –recognition that teachers have no choice in their pupils, and cannot turn away a kid because they are difficult/challenging
    –support for and credit for collaborative efforts and sharing great ideas–we don’t want awesome teachers hiding their lights under a bushel basket in order to hog the performance raises for themselves
    –tech support, when experienced teachers who are awesome have no tech training
    –tests that make sense and are meaningful measures of student progress
    –peer evaluation (which our union flatly rejected)
    –parent and student evaluation (not an enormous part of it, mind you, but their experiences and opinions should be heard)

    All of this is truly difficult. Not impossible mind you, but really difficult. And I think that helps to explain why we have so few very good evaluation systems out there.

    Just my $.02.

  163. 163
    elspi says:

    @Gopher2b:

    Here I am trying to do the right thing.

    I identify a problem in American society.

    I find treatment and put it into action.

    But wait, antiteacher-cunt-troll has hurt feelings.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9zI3_pnUU3k

    Sorry but hurting the feelings of antiteacher-cunt-trolls IS THE TREATMENT.
    This is how we fix the problem.

    But just so you know it isn’t personal.

    Next time you feel like acting on your sociopath instincts, why don’t you just torture
    the neighborhood cat. I won’t complain at all. But leave the teachers THE FUCK ALONE.

  164. 164
    stormhit says:

    Hey look, it’s another Freddie deBoer post about how everyone other than Freddie deBoer sucks. And this time with the added bonus that he didn’t even bother to attack the right person.

    Even on subjects when theoretically I know I should agree with everything he has to say, he still manages to make it impossible by being a complete douchebag.

  165. 165
    rootless_e says:

    @stormhit: Yep. I keep expecting to read a news item about him finally puffing himself up too much and exploding.

  166. 166
    Gopher2b says:

    @elspi:

    You’re adorable. You are hyperventating, and have deluded yourself into thinking you are some kind of praetorian guard, but I’m the one with hurt feelings. Right, buddy. Maybe, you should go to the “barn” and have another drink. So much aggression! Grrrrrr!!! Love it.

    But, anyway, I’m sure things will get better for you! I’m even rooting for you!

  167. 167
    Ronbo says:

    Here’s a heretical idea: different pay rates for different subjects.

    There isn’t exactly a shortage of English teachers (I know, a friend of mine tried very hard to get a full time job teaching high school English). There are shortages of good science teachers, computer programming teachers, math teachers, and certain specialty subjects.

    In the private sector, you offer different pay to different specialties, depending on demand, to attract the talent you need.

    Why are teachers different? If we need to pay more to get, say, biology teachers (and we do), then why do it by paying *every* teacher more?

    Supply and demand, you smooth it out with the pricing mechanism.

  168. 168
    john says:

    Best post I’ve read here in a while. Also, thanks for cluing me in on the “How much do you make” vector; I actually didn’t get what Rubin was saying in the earlier post.

    Anyways, Great job, Freddie.

  169. 169
    muntz says:

    If you want to attack our teachers as “overpaid,” OK. Go ahead. But you don’t get to pretend that you give a shit about education. If you don’t have a problem with celebrity dog trainers who make 7 figures or personal stylists who make $5,000 a consultation or people who sell artisanal moonshine for $400 a bottle,

    There is a flaw in your reasoning. In each of these examples, I, as an individual, have the choice to NOT purchase these services. I can train my own dog, go to Supercuts, or purchase a different moonshine. Taxpayers have ZERO choice. Their tax dollars, via their property taxes, are automatically levied. There is no choice in the matter. Taxpayers cannot that money and say, “Sorry, school district, but I’m taking my money elsewhere” and choose a competing service. (ie a voucher for a private school).

    I value teachers. It is an extremely difficult job. But it is a job of CHOICE. Teaching is not indentured servitude.

    As for attracting candidates, I would wager that if you removed the union benefits (unsustainable pension and health benefit packages, tenure, etc) it would have minimal impact on the number of folks graduating with Education degrees. These kids are are not going to sit in front of a computer monitor all day, work HVAC, review balance sheets, etc. Given the choice between the desk job and teaching, they’d still choose teaching. The union needs to step aside and let the market determine the true value.

  170. 170
    penpen says:

    The extreme range of responses to this post is fascinating.

  171. 171
    Mike says:

    The answer is both too much and too little. The problem is that poor teachers are protected and paid just as well as great teachers. Also, you should note that teachers have the same opportunities as other workers to strive for more pay. You can teach at a private institution, open your own educational company, etc… Which brings us to another problem in the pay discussion. Supply and demand. The supply of teachers is continuous and recent graduates often find it hard to find teaching jobs. You may have 50 candidates applying for 1 job. In this case, the hiring company can dictate the price they pay. In contrast, a recent engineering graduate may be sought after by 50 company. So, 50 companies fighting over 1 individual. The 1 individual will be able to dictate his pay a lot better than the teacher and thus is paid better.

    Now if we didn’t protect all teachers, good and bad, in the same manner and only the best teachers were retained or paid more, then the pay argument could be squashed.

    Secondary to this whole argument is the fact that most teachers do not put in the same time for their annual pay as a regular worker (factory, retail, business owner, etc…) 9 to 10 months out of the year instead of 12 out of 12. Yeah yeah I know the argument will be that they spend the summer months preparing lessons for the upcoming year, yet they always seem to be the same lessons year after year.

    Also, most teachers receive benefit packages that are better than private sector employees would receive. Health care tends to be top notch and most or all of it is paid for. And let’s not forget about the pensions they will receive when they retire. I know I don’t have a pension plan and I have to pay for my 30% of my health care.

    And finally, it’s clearly evident by the number of kids that strive to become teachers that teaching jobs are attractive jobs. Stop kidding yourself into thinking all of these potential teachers are solely taking that career path because of the kids they will teach. What other job can you get out of college that will give you at least 2 months vacation, pratically free health care, a company funded retirement plan, and added job protection. Doesn’t exist.

  172. 172
    The Fat Kate Middleton says:

    The extreme range of responses to this post is fascinating.

    Isn’t it? That always happens when people start talking about teachers and teaching. It’s why I limit my responses to diaries/threads like this. Although i would like to say, I love elspi and
    Dave. And the rest of you who know everything about everything about teaching, because you were in a classroom? Why is it so hard to accept that you might be a dumbass on this topic?

    Once again: Thank you, Freddie.

  173. 173
    rb says:

    @Mike: The problem is that poor teachers are protected and paid just as well as great teachers.

    Survey says! … bzzzzzt.

    But thanks for playing!

  174. 174
    Mart says:

    @rb: Metrix’s: She long term subbed at an inner city non-profit Charter and increased middle school students grade level by 25% in 1 semester. She was fired for not breaking up fights.

  175. 175
    Debbie(Aussie) says:

    Wonderful post! Sadly we are having similar discussions here.
    Our newest state Premier ( QLD) (LNP party of the right) just handed down his first budget; 14000 public servants to go. Government needs to run like a business, don’t ya know. Aarrghhhhh!

  176. 176
    Dan S. says:

    @Mike:

    Yeah yeah I know the argument will be that they spend the summer months preparing lessons for the upcoming year, yet they always seem to be the same lessons year after year.

    Are (or were) you a) a teacher? b) closely related to/living with a teacher? c) a frequent observer/volunteer in the (same-grade) classroom over a number of years? d) someone who, having multiple children in school, closely observed and compared not just their homework, etc, but the fine details of their classroom activities?

  177. 177
    gluon1 says:

    Again, I don’t understand the Yglesias hatred. I don’t insist that it’s wrongheaded, but here’s what he wrote when people were arguing that bus drivers made too much:

    When a city is having trouble attracting qualified applicants for bus driver jobs, that’s a sign that the wage is too damn low.

    (Full Piece)

  178. 178
    Original Lee says:

    @Mnemosyne: This this this-ity this. Remember the sudden need for math and science teachers so that we could beat the Russkis to space? Those teachers are now retired or retiring. They were respected while they were considered essential, but once the country moved on to other crises, and the supply of competent people was diverted into other areas of endeavor, suddenly everything was their fault – Johnny and can’t read, Jane can’t balance a checkbook, OMG.

  179. 179
    Mike says:

    @Dan S.:

    I have dozens of teacher friends and family and every summer I get to enjoy swimming in their pools. Rarely have I seen them working on the upcoming school year until a week or so before. And they are all hones with me on the subject. Some of them even have regular full time summer jobs. So, yes I know what I am talking about here.

    All of them carry their family’s health care through the school rather than with their spouse’s company because the school’s health care plans are better and cheaper. Heck, some of them work in districts that have health care plans that cover cosmetic and plastic surgery. Really, is it better to cut the sports programs at the school or to trim down the health care plans to eliminate those coverages. One of my friends school district actually had the union vote on this scenario, but instead of a program cut, it was related to cutting 13 teaching positions. The union vote resulted in rejecting the idea of trimming the excessive health care plan and 13 teaching jobs were cut.

    The school district I live in has seen it’s budget increase by 10 million dollars from 30 million to 40 million in the last 6 years. Over 80% of that increase is directly attributed to employee pay and benefits. Also during this time frame, several programs for the kids have been cut back and this year if the budget did not pass, they would have to close one elementary building and cancel ALL of the extracurricular activites (Sports, Band, Arts, etc…). Yet, nothing can be done regarding the pay increases, health care expense increases, pension fund expense increases.

    Here was my choice as a voting taxpayer:
    Yes: 10% tax increase and only minor program cuts
    NO: 3% tax increase with the above severe program and building cuts.

    This year the budget passed.
    The year prior was the same scenario but there was a much smaller budget gap. The budget was rejected and cuts were made last year.

    And finally, it’s sad when it gets to the point where my entire pay raise from the private company I work for is eaten up completely by the school tax increase that is needed to cover the pay and benefit increases for school employees. And on top of all this, my kids now have fewer programs at school even though I have to pay more and more every year. What happens when there are no more programs to cut or buildings to close to cover budget shortfalls?

  180. 180
    Sydney says:

    @gopher2b: The problem is the “accountability” scheme creates a direct link between standardized test scores and “good teaching”. Anyone who believes in that direct link has NEVER taught.

  181. 181
    Some Loser says:

    @Mike:
    Holy shit. You must be an Olympics-level athlete to pull shit from your ass so quickly.

    (There has been several people who posted statistics that contradicted both your posts here, but in your hurry to post, you didn’t read them. You look like a fool. And, yes, I do believe you are lying.)

    Oh, and Freddie, I don’t say this much, but good post.

  182. 182
    worn says:

    @burnspbesq: It seems to me that what a lot of folks here have been arguing is that the “metrics” are not possible to quantify in a meaningful sense, i.e., a metric where we’re confident that the signal has been winnowed out from the noise.

    Your comment reminds a bit of an exchange I had several years ago with a friend of mine from Germany who also happens to be a committed Libertarian. After listening to him expound at some length about some sort of (to him at least) outrage, I responded with some objections, i.e., what I considered to practical impediments to his notion becoming reality. All of what I said he dismissed with a hand wave and “That’s just a matter of implementation.”

    Not that I’m accusing you of being a Libertarian or German mind you, it’s just (to paraphrase Van fer Rohe “God lies in the implementation.”

  183. 183
    worn says:

    i@mclaren:

    America is the most anti-intellectual country on earth

    You are a spoof, right?.

  184. 184
    worn says:

    @Gopher2b: Good Lord, this is the tell. What a profoundly unserious argument…

    ‘Hey we can’t entirely control for the variables that lead people to murder other people, therefore the idea of attempting to formulate methodogies to ultimately reduce the rate of murder are not worth pursuing…’

    Or somesuch…

  185. 185
    worn says:

    @Mike:

    Really, is it better to cut the sports programs at the school or to trim down the health care plans to eliminate those coverages

    Ding, ding, ding, I’ll play: yes!
    West Coadt +5

  186. 186

    […] Making a Job Worse is a Brilliant Strategy for Attracting Better Talent. […]

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] Making a Job Worse is a Brilliant Strategy for Attracting Better Talent. […]

  2. […] » Blog Archive » Making a Job Worse Is a Brilliant Strategy for Attracting the Best Talent Balloon Juice » Blog Archive » Making a Job Worse Is a Brilliant Strategy for Attracting the Best …. Share […]

  3. […] Freddie deBoer at Balloon Juice: In this capitalist system of ours, what people make is a statement about how much society values wha… […]

Comments are closed.