Inspirational leaders

I’m becoming quite the scholar on the money side of the school reform industry. It’s a defensive move and it’s personal. We have a democratically-run public school district here and I’d like to hang onto it. I have not yet had to ask the ACLU to sue for access to correspondence between my local elected leaders and school reform industry funders, and I intend to keep it that way.

The school reformers and their elected backers like to use the phrase “the civil rights issue of our time.” But the more I read on the money side, the more I think reformers must be attending the publicly-funded private religious schools in the school reform industry “demo state” formerly known as Louisiana because this is unlike any civil rights effort I am familiar with.

Maybe like this?

Never doubt that a small group of hedge fund managers, media moguls and billionaires can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.

This civil rights movement comes with products. Here’s Murdoch employee Klein. pushing his school reform industry gadget. Notice the careful placement of President Obama’s signature education reform, Race To The Top, within the sales pitch:

Klein said the educational market was worth about $700 billion total, and outlined a $17 billion K-12 market targeted by Amplify. He said due to upfront costs of developing technology Amplify has invested about $180 million and expected to generate about $100 million in revenue this year—mostly contracts with about 200 school systems around the country. Klein said technology is “saving money,” and that “school systems want this.” He said Amplify’s business was growing at about 22% a year and he expected revenues to catchup and surpass current losses. He hailed the Obama’s administration’s Race to the Top program which offers grants to imaginative state-designed education programs and said that a subscription model was likely to win out in the educational sector.

I’ll give you a moment to collect yourself after that inspiring profit forecast and we can ponder whether Rupert Murdoch and children are a natural fit.

This civil rights uprising is vehemently anti-labor. Here’s reform industry spokesperson Michelle Rhee responding to the fact that parents and teachers are sick to death of the endless (and profitable) standardized tests she promotes. No-excuses Rhee blames teachers unions for this rebellion to her directives. She doesn’t mention that the backlash is biggest in the state of Texas, because that information would tend to contradict her blame-the-unions claim:

The nation’s biggest backlash against standardized testing is taking place in Texas, where most students are required to pass 15 exams to graduate. More than 10,000 people recently rallied in Austin, the state capital, to demand fewer tests and more school funding. And nearly 900 school districts representing more than 90% of Texas public school students have passed a resolution to reduce testing and mandate no fixed role for test scores in teacher evaluations.

This civil rights effort sometimes replaces local career employees with temps:

No longer are TFA corps members only filling spots that would otherwise go to long-term subs. In some districts TFAers are replacing veteran teachers who have been let go. Other districts, like the one I used to teach in, appear to cycle through corps members every two years, with high turnover among TFA teachers who are in turn replaced by a fresh slate of bushy-tailed, ill-trained corps members.

This civil rights movement tries not to engage in messy and sometimes…negative public interaction.The Mayor of Chicago plans to displace tens of thousands of children by closing their neighborhood public schools. The Mayor and CEO of School Reform wasn’t actually on the front lines the day plans came out, but that’s probably because it’s hard to march in support of closing public schools when you’re wearing skis. And in Utah.

I don’t have any problem with “public school reform.” I just think it a load of bullshit to sell “public school reform” when so many of the reformers are actually bent on replacing a universal public school system with a publicly funded, private school system. Those two things are not the same. How do I know public and publicly funded aren’t the same? Because we have a publicly funded private health care system, and it’s a disaster. I’m not supporting trading an existing universal public system for a publicly funded private system, and no, I won’t take an Amplify! tablet or Gates-bucks in exchange. We’ll regret this transaction. I know we will.

I’ll leave you with this great Kevin Drum piece on myths regarding student test scores:

There are a lot of stories you can tell with this data depending on how you cherry-pick it. But the one thing you cannot say, unless you torture the numbers beyond recognition, is that kids today are more poorly educated than kids of the past two generations. Contrary to the tired annual horror stories about how Johnny can’t read, the truth is that at worst, our kids don’t know any less than we do, and at best they may know quite a bit more.

76 replies
  1. 1
    Just Some Fuckhead says:

    Free The Poofters.

    One thing at a time.

  2. 2
    The Moar You Know says:

    Please don’t refer to TFA as “teachers”. The last thing any of them I’ve met know how to do is teach.

    About the best thing you can say about them is that they are scabs.

  3. 3
    Opie_jeanne says:

    Yutsano, this is off topic but is Roger Goodman your state Rep? I ask because the long knives are already out.

  4. 4
    Kay says:

    @The Moar You Know:

    I like “replacement workers” :)

  5. 5
    The Moar You Know says:

    Also, I don’t want to be an asshole, but one thing folks need to realize is that Obama is on board with a lot of this “education reform” privatization shit. I don’t think it’s a core mission of his life, but steady pressure needs to be maintained to insure that he understands that this kind of crap is not acceptable.

  6. 6
    Chris says:

    It’s become popular in the last thirty years for conservative elites to portray their ability to fuck the general public (the poorer the better) as a question of their civil rights being trampled on if they’re not allowed to.

    I suppose it’s no different from the hysteria among ex-Confederates that civil rights for black people really meant “slavery for white people!” a theme we continue to hear to this day.

  7. 7
    Opie_jeanne says:

    @Kay: you are being very polite.

  8. 8
    gelfling545 says:

    Contrary to the tired annual horror stories about how Johnny can’t read, the truth is that at worst, our kids don’t know any less than we do, and at best they may know quite a bit more.

    When the massive testing movement hit NY State, a reporter invited the state Board of Regents to sit the same tests the High School kids were required to take. All declined.

    When people get up on their hind legs & compare US students’ scores to this or that foreign country, I often wish there was a way to compare the “adults” as well. When they tell us that x% of students can’t find, say, Iraq, on a map well, neither can their parents, grand parents or all of Fox News.

  9. 9
    Chris says:

    @The Moar You Know:

    As someone who knows little about the American educational system (was raised in the French one) before college, what’s wrong with the TFA? Mostly wondering because I think a few of the people I knew in college went on to do that.

  10. 10
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    FWIW, if you want to find me being not Obottish at all, this is the topic. I doubt anyone in the upper reaches of the administration has a clue about public education. Any support of the “reform” movement among Democrats is stupid, self-defeating, wrong, and stupid.

  11. 11
    The Moar You Know says:

    I like “replacement workers” :)

    @Kay: I prefer the vileness of “scab” but also realize that most of the young folks have no idea what it means.

    Our local district rolled up the welcome mat for the TFA folks a couple of years ago. They were doing far more harm than good.

  12. 12
    Kay says:

    @The Moar You Know:

    I agree if I haven’t made that clear. Honestly, I’ve been waiting for the benefits of school reform to trickle down for the past ten years, thru 2 presidents. My 4th grader calls test prep “papers”, as in “we did our work and then we did our papers”.

    Fabulous.

  13. 13
    srv says:

    The Mayor of Chicago plans to displace tens of thousands of children by closing their neighborhood public schools. The Mayor and CEO of School Reform wasn’t actually on the front lines the day plans came out, but that’s probably because it’s hard to march in support of closing public schools when you’re wearing skis. And in Utah.

    It still makes you a firebagger even if you don’t say his name.

  14. 14
    Chris says:

    @The Moar You Know:

    Ah. No, I do know what that means. I take it then that they work for less and aren’t in a union, and thus make it harder for teachers to negotiate for decent pay, conditions, etc? This explains that.

  15. 15
    hitchhiker says:

    I think a citizen’s initiative requiring that every single employee of the testing industry pass a standardized test twice annually is in order.

    I volunteer to write the tests, train minimum wage people to score them, and determine the rubric by which results will be interpreted. There will be job-related penalties for failing to meet my arbitrary standards. I’ll then go on television and preen about how stupid people who disagree with my methods are. Next will be a long and highly paid lecture tour and a series of books explaining how awesome I am.

    While I’m at it, I think I’ll also require all college admissions personnel who use the SAT to guide their decisions to take the SAT every spring and post their own scores on the doors of their offices.

  16. 16
    Kay says:

    @gelfling545:

    This was a great tactic, I thought:

    One has to FORCE them to take the test, apparently.

  17. 17
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Chris:

    what’s wrong with the TFA

    I am sure that the people who do it are, for the most part, well-meaning folks who are seeking to make a difference. I come up with two problems off the top of my head. First, becoming an effective teacher takes time. TFA people aren’t there long enough. Second, TFA people are being used to weaken unions; something that will have a long term negative impact on the profession.

  18. 18
    The Moar You Know says:

    As someone who knows little about the American educational system (was raised in the French one) before college, what’s wrong with the TFA? Mostly wondering because I think a few of the people I knew in college went on to do that.

    @Chris: I can only speak for my state, California. Other states can and do vary.

    In CA, you have to have a bachelor’s degree, finish an accredited credentialing program (usually two years), pass the tests and then do a six-month unpaid stint under the close supervision of a master teacher to get a teaching credential.

    TFA requires a six-week orientation course. That’s all. We found in our district they couldn’t even manage the #1 basic skill: “keep all the kids in the damn classroom”.

    Hope that helps.

  19. 19
    Kay says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    I agree with you, too I think it’s also horrible politics. They should stop listening to the people on Morning Joe, if only for political gain.

  20. 20
    gelfling545 says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: I am a great supporter of the President and worked for his election & re-election but in the area of p-12 education I wish he would just shut up. He has taken bad (NCLB) and made it worse (Race to the Top). I had to do some fancy talking to convince my mostly registered Democrat teacher friends & former colleagues that they really should vote for him last year based on things not dealing with education & hope that someone could show him the light education-wise. What is happening in education as we speak is driving talented, excellent teachers out of the field because they can no longer tolerate this travesty they are required to call by the noble name of teaching.

  21. 21
    Kay says:

    @The Moar You Know:

    From a parents perspective, why would I want them? The teacher has to spend time training them, time that could be spent with my kid, and then they take off?

    I think they’re probably great people, but that’s just harsh reality.

    I do give them credit as individuals, because there are a lot of alums who are speaking out and questioning the organization. Good for them.

  22. 22
    The Moar You Know says:

    Ah. No, I do know what that means. I take it then that they work for less and aren’t in a union, and thus make it harder for teachers to negotiate for decent pay, conditions, etc? This explains that.

    @Chris: Interestingly enough, I haven’t heard that they’re non-union or that they work for less as such. I’ll have to ask. But when you replace a senior teacher (who makes a halfway decent wage) with a first-year teacher (who frankly does not) it is cheaper. I’ll ask about the union thing, my wife – a teacher – would know.

  23. 23
    Anoniminous says:

    Good post.

  24. 24
    Roger Moore says:

    @Kay:
    Wow. The thing that really gets me is that it’s illegal for anyone other than a student to take the actual version of the test, so they had to fake one together from publicly released questions from previous editions of the test. I suppose there might be a good reason for making it illegal for non-students to take the test, but it sure looks as if the main purpose is to prevent the kind of bad publicity that would come from ordinary adults failing it.

  25. 25
    Ben Franklin says:

    @The Moar You Know:

    TFA requires a six-week orientation course. That’s all. We found in our district they couldn’t even manage the #1 basic skill: “keep all the kids in the damn classroom”.

    If you can afford a top-drawer private school you get some teachers with childhood development training.

    If you can’t afford those schools, there are plenty of ‘Christian’ schools who hire HS grads with some secretarial experience.

  26. 26
    The Moar You Know says:

    From a parents perspective, why would I want them? The teacher has to spend time training them, time that could be spent with my kid, and then they take off?

    @Kay: I’m not even sure it was that “good”. Teachers spend time with student teachers. From what I understood about TFA, they were just getting shoved into classrooms and told “teach”, no supervision.

    As you note, there are a LOT of former TFA alumni who are ripshit pissed about the experience and are speaking out about it. Good for them. The program needs to be shut down.

  27. 27
    The Moar You Know says:

    If you can afford a top-drawer private school you get some teachers with childhood development training.

    If you can’t afford those schools, there are plenty of ‘Christian’ schools who hire HS grads with some secretarial experience.

    @Ben Franklin: And the pay disparity is staggering. I’m not going to ever say a public school teacher is “well paid” but I’ve seen top-drawer private schools – and we have a lot here in San Diego – who are starting new “teachers” out at eight bucks an hour.

  28. 28
    PeakVT says:

    @The Moar You Know: $8/hr? Tell me you’re kidding.

  29. 29
    El Caganer says:

    Well, sure, we could have a public school system like Finland’s. But that would cost money that would be better spent on the free market.

  30. 30
    slag says:

    As always, Kay, your posts are very timely and pretty much touch on all my rawest nerves. So, thanks for that?

    @The Moar You Know:

    I’m not even sure it was that “good”. Teachers spend time with student teachers.

    To my mind, this recalls the “civil rights issue of our times” point made above. It’s been my impression that some sort of stability is one of the primary needs of kids in low-income areas especially. Building trusting, stable relationships takes time and commitment. And that essential relationship-building process is being undermined through the structure of our educational system.

  31. 31
    Chris says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:
    @The Moar You Know:

    Thanks both! Yeah, only requiring six weeks for that does seem… a bit nuts.

  32. 32
    The Moar You Know says:

    $8/hr? Tell me you’re kidding.

    @PeakVT: Oh, I wish I was. That sweet profit isn’t going to create itself!

    I am aware that there are some public school districts in Georgia that start teachers out at minimum wage. I’m sure those districts do well on testing.

  33. 33
    sharl says:

    @Chris: I’m no expert either, being fortunate by virtue of my mid-50s birth in a time and place that allowed me to have good public schools with (mostly) good and dedicated teachers.

    But I believe this Point-Counterpoint in The Onion may answer your question, at least partially, about some of the complaints about the young, bright-eyed TFA Corps.

  34. 34
    NonyNony says:

    @Chris:

    Thanks both! Yeah, only requiring six weeks for that does seem… a bit nuts.

    TFA is one of those things that sounds good on paper if you a) don’t know about all of the details or b) don’t know what kind of a job teaching is. If you know the details or have experience teaching it rapidly moves into “what the fuck are they thinking” and “no way in hell is that happening in MY kids’ district” territory.

    (Speaking as someone who went through the whole Education degree process – the idea that you can stick recent graduates into a classroom with no methods classes and no real classroom management training is insane and in some cases incredibly dangerous. I’m surprised there haven’t been more lawsuits yet.)

  35. 35
    The Moar You Know says:

    @Chris: I take it back, I just looked at the TFA entry on Wikipedia. It’s not a six-week training period.

    It’s five.

  36. 36
    joeyess says:

    He said Amplify’s business was growing at about 22% a year

    If that sounds a tad crooked to you, that’s because it is. Name me one entity in this, our glorious free market, outside of Wall Street (bailouts) and Chinese currency (manipulation), that has that rate of growth per year and I’ll point you to Bernie Madoff’s new address.

  37. 37
    Linnaeus says:

    In regards to TFA, I recall seeing a statistic somewhere that stated that 50% of TFA-ers leave teaching after the second year and 80% leave after the third. If this is accurate, then it’s clear that TFA is not doing a good job of producing committed, career teachers. What TFA ends up being (either by circumstance or by design) is a resume-builder for other jobs.

    Case in point: Michelle Rhee. She taught for three years through TFA, then went on the education consulting & adminstration path. Not saying that everyone who does TFA is a grifter like Rhee, but it does seem to be a program that helps the advancement of Rhee types.

  38. 38
    Marmot says:

    Damn fine post, Kay.

  39. 39
    The Moar You Know says:

    @joeyess: Nice catch. Put mildly, that’s a number I don’t believe, and if it IS a number with any truth to it, he’s doing something that should land his ass in jail.

  40. 40
    peorgietirbiter says:

    @NonyNony:

    the idea that you can stick recent graduates into a classroom…

    My wife has taught middle school here in North Texas for eleven years. Her district is fairly affluent and the board has been going all in with “Springboard”- an all inclusive, day by day textbook with a paint by the numbers lesson plan. It has dedicated, experienced teachers leaving in droves. She gave notice in the English dept so they gave her a raisE to teach math and history. If they have any success with it, I’m sure they’ll start telling complainers to pound sand.
    They just aren’t there yet

  41. 41
    ThatLeftTurnInABQ says:

    Contrary to the tired annual horror stories about how Johnny can’t read, the truth is that at worst, our kids don’t know any less than we do, and at best they may know quite a bit more.

    In aggregate this rings true to me, with the following caveat (anecdotal only, no warranties, refunds or exchanges): my oldest teen is currently 1-3 years (depending on the subject) ahead of where I was at the same age with regard to STEM curricula, and about 3 years behind with regard to English literature. We are very similar (see: trees, fruit falling from, mean distance of) in overall intelligence, reading level and broad range of interests at about the same age, so I’m not sure what to make of this other than it appears to me that STEM subjects have eaten into teaching of the humanities over the ensuing decades.

  42. 42
    Chris says:

    @NonyNony:

    TFA is one of those things that sounds good on paper if you a) don’t know about all of the details or b) don’t know what kind of a job teaching is. If you know the details or have experience teaching it rapidly moves into “what the fuck are they thinking” and “no way in hell is that happening in MY kids’ district” territory.

    I used to get jobs from a temp agency back in DC. The only time I ever invoked the escape clause on “your mission, should you choose to accept it,” was the time they tried to get me to be a substitute teacher for a few days. Me and any position that involves public speaking aren’t a good mix in the first place, but God damn do I know better than to think I’m qualified to run a room full of students.

  43. 43
    Roger Moore says:

    @The Moar You Know:

    Put mildly, that’s a number I don’t believe

    It’s not a totally crazy number for the first few years of a business in a relatively new industry. It’s only if they manage to maintain that kind of progress for a decade that you really need to start counting your fingers to make sure none are missing.

  44. 44
    Foregone Conclusion says:

    @The Moar You Know:

    If your kid’s being taught by inexperienced and underqualified teachers, what’s the point of sending her to private school, other than paralysing fear of minorities?

    Oh. Sorry, answered my own question, didn’t I?

  45. 45
    Morzer says:

    http://crazycrawfish.wordpress.....reformers/

    A scourge of questionable teacher evaluation systems and Value Added programs has surged across Louisiana, but across dozens of other states as well. While all these systems are referenced as “Valued Added” or “Teacher Evaluation” systems, they all have very different methods of operating, and degrees of crappiness. Every one I’ve reviewed or seen reviewed by unaffiliated evaluators all of them have been revealed to be questionable at best, and outright absurd such as in the case of Louisiana’s Value Added system. Despite all these studies and findings, reformers and their allies still tout these kangaroo court evaluation systems as valid and necessary, and tie tenure and continuing employment and compensation to them. When the public starts to recognize just how absurd the metrics are, Reformer headed DOEs change the formulae, either in small ways or even quite dramatically. Sometimes this makes the systems even worse – for teachers and in terms of accuracy, but this change is only meant to fool the masses. Changing these systems gives the appearance of reasonableness, and shifts the conversation to one of getting data from DOE’s to prove their new systems are more accurate.

  46. 46
    Unsympathetic says:

    Privatizing schools seems no different from privatizing prisons: Claim lack of performance, assert “goals” that can never be understood or measured.. all with the goal of siphoning tax dollars from the local population.

  47. 47
    The Moar You Know says:

    my oldest teen is currently 1-3 years (depending on the subject) ahead of where I was at the same age with regard to STEM curricula, and about 3 years behind with regard to English literature.

    @ThatLeftTurnInABQ: It’s happening early, and as to “why”, I have a few ideas but am not real comfortable sharing them at this point. My wife’s been teaching freshman English for the last couple of years, and the quality of their writing and comprehension is appalling. Irrespective of the consequences it has for society, I was pissed as a taxpayer. There’s no excuse whatsoever for the low level of ability these kids are coming in at.

    She has the history in the profession, I don’t, and she says it got much worse, very quickly, starting a few years ago.

  48. 48
    gene108 says:

    @Linnaeus:

    In regards to TFA, I recall seeing a statistic somewhere that stated that 50% of TFA-ers leave teaching after the second year and 80% leave after the third.

    From what I’ve read, TFA was/is supposed to meet the need for teachers in under served school districts, i.e. inner-city school districts.

    From what I’ve read over the years, the retention rate for teachers in those districts is pretty low to begin with, so I don’t know how much TFA differs from the overall population of new teachers, who start off in inner-city schools.

    @gelfling545:

    President Clinton, I believe, was the last big muckity-muck, who went K-12 in public schools. Obama, Duncan, etc. are all products of private schools.

    Also, to get to where President Obama (or Gates or Bloomberg) is you have to be driven (and fortunate to a certain extant) in ways most of us aren’t. Folks like that don’t appreciate the kind of “slackers” the rest of the 99% of the human population are and that just because you aren’t the alpha-male in a group doesn’t mean you can’t have nice things.

    The path to having nice things for the rest of us is a good public education system.

    Just short circuits with that alpha-male crowd.

  49. 49
    JoyfulA says:

    Supposedly, TfA spends most of its budget on recruiting and training. If it trains recruits in 5 weeks and, as I have seen locally, recruits on Craig’s List, then either it has a tiny budget or somebody’s getting rich.

  50. 50
    Davis X. Machina says:

    @ThatLeftTurnInABQ:

    my oldest teen is currently 1-3 years (depending on the subject) ahead of where I was at the same age with regard to STEM curricula, and about 3 years behind with regard to English literature

    STEM will save the world. STEM people keep telling me that, anyways.

  51. 51
    The Moar You Know says:

    If your kid’s being taught by inexperienced and underqualified teachers, what’s the point of sending her to private school, other than paralysing fear of minorities?

    @Foregone Conclusion: There is one other scenario, although it requires the right school and a lot of money:

    When your kid is violent/sociopathic/really stupid and you don’t want their record to reflect that they were put into a special education program, and the problem is so obvious that not even a good lawyer can threaten the district into compliance with the parent’s wishes.

    This happens more often than you’d like to know.

  52. 52
    The Moar You Know says:

    Supposedly, TfA spends most of its budget on recruiting and training. If it trains recruits in 5 weeks and, as I have seen locally, recruits on Craig’s List, then either it has a tiny budget or somebody’s getting rich.

    @JoyfulA: Revenue of $229 million in 2011.

  53. 53
    Phylllis says:

    @Roger Moore: Most standardized state testing is ‘secure’, mainly because the items are reused at grade level for at least two-three years (if not more) due to the tremendous cost to develop new items. In SC, it’s a test security violation for teachers or other staff to discuss actual test items with students or with each other. Teachers have had their licenses suspended or received public reprimands for such actions.

  54. 54
    Yutsano says:

    @Opie_jeanne: I’m not sure. Did he do a crossover manoeuver like what happened in the Senate?

  55. 55
    R-Jud says:

    @Kay:

    I do give them credit as individuals, because there are a lot of alums who are speaking out and questioning the organization. Good for them.

    Hi! Chicago corps ’01 here. Just read that the school at which I taught, Betsy Ross Elementary, is on the list of schools to be axed.

    There are two major problems with TFA in my opinion.

    One is the training. You have the six-week bootcamp, which is half a day of teaching summer school and half a day of seminars taught by TFA alumni who are still in the teaching profession (or at least it was in 2001). Your bootcamp assignment might not be germane to the placement you’d be taking on for two years. For instance, I was going to be placed in a primary school in a primarily black neighborhood, but wound up teaching 8th grade English to kids who were mostly ESL during the bootcamp.

    Then, once you get to your actual placement you take the basic licensure test for that state to get your emergency credentials, followed by night classes once the school year begins so you can earn a real live certificate by the end of your first year. (This varies depending on the requirements of the state in which you’re placed. I think in Louisiana they basically just take your pulse.) But they’re not really choosy about which schools they partner up with to get you trained.

    We were put into a TFA-only cohort MAT program at a particularly terrible school. Our child psychology professor, for instance, mostly talked about “indigo children” and explained that the moon landing was a hoax. Not useful. I finished the MAT, but I don’t put it on my resume.

    Which brings me to the second problem. While many of the corps members I was in with, including myself, had a burning if misguided desire to do something “good”, more than a few saw their TFA stint as a stepping stone to a law, government, or public health graduate school program. Or grifting, like Michelle Rhee.

  56. 56
    Belafon (formerly anonevent) says:

    Contrary to the tired annual horror stories about how Johnny can’t read, the truth is that at worst, our kids don’t know any less than we do, and at best they may know quite a bit more.

    At the high school where my oldest goes, they take 9 courses a year, which is 2 more than I took 25 years ago. Of the classes that he takes that match what I took, they are covering at least the same amount of material I did (which includes calculus, chemistry 1&2, and physics). Every class except for band is AP. He definitely has had a broader range of material to learn and have to learn than I did.

  57. 57
    PeakVT says:

    @Roger Moore: @Phylllis: It’s a byproduct of high-stakes testing. High-stakes = more reasons to cheat, which in this case would be to teach your students the answers to questions you know will be on the test.

  58. 58
    ThatLeftTurnInABQ says:

    @The Moar You Know:

    and as to “why”, I have a few ideas but am not real comfortable sharing them at this point.

    What a tease you are.

    Words I thought I’d never see: Balloon-Juice – the place where it really is “irresponsible to speculate”.

  59. 59
    Phylllis says:

    @PeakVT: Oh, absolutely.

  60. 60
    Ben Franklin says:

    @Belafon (formerly anonevent):

    Hyper competition amongst youngsters is a two-edged sword.

    Their minds are more challenged, but their mental capacity has come at a cost.

    Little time for contemplation means the emotional growth is slowed.

    They say age 25 is the new 16.

  61. 61
    gogol's wife says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    Yes, I part ways with Obama on his educational policy, both elementary and higher. I wish somebody were smarter about these issues.

  62. 62
    Jennifer says:

    Lot of good info Kay, but the whole thing with Amplify doesn’t really represent much, if any, change from the status quo of at least the past 20 – 30 years, which is that private publishers drive a good deal of what goes on in instruction. Amplify sounds like just another publisher delivering content in a different way, with a lot of really useful time-saving for teachers gizmos built-in. The publishers have for a long time focused on the sizzle, by justifying increasingly absurd pricing by throwing in all sorts of “extras”: videos, CDs, DVDs, software, etc. This stuff is presented as being “free” with each classroom set of textbooks, said textbooks usually priced, these days, in the $75 – $100 range. Of course none of it is free; the cost of all those “extras” is covered many times over by the cost of the books. Sounds like Amplify is offering some teacher/administrative time savers as their “sizzle;” their actual content sounds like it tracks with that of the major educational publishers (emphasis on Common Core, which is the latest new thing for curriculum).

    If you’ve ever wondered why the schools adopt some totally new curriculum model every 5 years or so, wonder no more. Those curriculum models are what’s pushed by the publishers, and their model depends on some totally new product every 6 – 7 years (a typical “adoption” cycle for public schools) in order to justify both pricing and the need to purchase new books. Curriculum models typically are based on whatever the state departments of education are doing in California and Texas (that should keep you up at night), because they’re the two biggest public school markets.

    Of course the problem is that thanks to this “partnership” with private publishers, the public schools never stick with any one model long enough to see if it really works. Even if they see promising signs that it is working, it will be replaced in the next adoption cycle.

    The other, more important factor driving textbooks costs is the massive consolidation that has taken place in ed publishing over the past 15 – 20 years, and the debt load the publishers took on in consolidating. There’s really only 3 players now: Houghton Mifflin/Harcourt, which also covers a number of other bought out publishers such as Holt, Rhinehart and McDougal Littell; Scott Foresman/Pearson; and MacGraw-Hill.

    The real goal here is a system that delivers open-source content the way Amplify does, along with the nice time-saving gadgets. Failing that, a system such as Amplify which doesn’t require proprietary content doesn’t change the business model that currently exists between schools and private publishers, except that in general, it is looking like private publishers can deliver copyrighted content electronically for about 1/3 of what they’re getting for textbooks, which can only be seen as an improvement from the status quo.

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    R-Jud says:

    @The Moar You Know:

    She has the history in the profession, I don’t, and she says it got much worse, very quickly, starting a few years ago.

    I went out drinking with my former English teacher over Thanksgiving, and she said the same thing (I grew up in PA). According to her “the barrel went over the falls” in 2004. She thinks, and I agree, that the collapse in English language standards is due to the fact that some jerk somewhere decided that “English majors don’t get jobs.”

    As if your classes in high school ONLY mapped to your interests in college. As if high school was ONLY designed to get you in to college in the first place.

    The entire notion of students as future citizens, which should be the primary focus of public education, is either given lip-service or lost entirely in the focus on job and college prep.

  64. 64
    gelfling545 says:

    @The Moar You Know: Just as often, it happens that if your kid is violent, etc., etc. their “magnet” or private school will agree to expunge their record if you just leave quietly & put him back in public school. Happened every year in my district, oddly enough, right before standardized test time. Suddenly 2,3, 5 previously unseen kids would arrive in each class.

  65. 65
    Linnaeus says:

    @gene108:

    From what I’ve read over the years, the retention rate for teachers in those districts is pretty low to begin with, so I don’t know how much TFA differs from the overall population of new teachers, who start off in inner-city schools.

    That’s a good point – I don’t know how much the difference in retention between the two populations is myself. But even so, I’d wonder if the non-TFA teachers who leave underserved districts leave teaching entirely to the levels that TFA alums do, or if they move on to other districts.

  66. 66
    slag says:

    @sharl: That Point-Counterpoint article was hilariously true in many respects. Though I think it puts too much emphasis on credentialism to make its point. Over time, I began to take a particularly dim view of education majors in college. The kind of view that I had previously reserved strictly for business majors. There were always standout exceptions, of course, but it would take many, many more similar data points for me to overcome my learned allegiance to the liberal arts education.

    But then again, this is a “your favorite major sucks” kind of perspective, so, FWIW.

  67. 67
    Roger Moore says:

    @Phylllis:

    Most standardized state testing is ‘secure’, mainly because the items are reused at grade level for at least two-three years (if not more) due to the tremendous cost to develop new items.

    Which is itself a gigantic load of crap and proves that the whole standardized testing mania is ludicrous. We spend hundreds of billions of dollars a year on primary and secondary education, so why aren’t we willing to spend a billion or two writing new standardized tests every year? Why do we stick with multiple choice, machine graded tests instead of coughing up the cash to have tests graded by real human beings?

    I’m a firm believer that people prove their values by their actions, not their words. Testing proponents say they value education and want to strengthen it by implementing rigorous tests, but their actions say otherwise. If they truly valued education, they’d want tests that are designed to do an adequate job of measuring kids’ education rather than indifferently produced ones whose main focus is on being as cheap as possible to administer.

  68. 68
    Kay says:

    @Jennifer:

    I come at it from a different place because I live in Ohio and we’ve had online for profit charters for years. We used to send kids from court to online academies and it was a disaster.

    I take a call a week from people with 10k, 20k in debt from on line for-profit colleges. I will follow a client out the door and into my parking lot to talk them out of signing on to a for-profit.

    I watched the private sector on line colleges lobby and gut the 2009 regulation Democrats put in. That happened at Duncan’s DOE.

    When I hear Jeb Bush or Klein talk about “blended learning” my jaw tenses up and I go on defense.

    I just don’t think they’re credible.

  69. 69
    gelfling545 says:

    @The Moar You Know: Seniority clauses exist in union contracts because many districts (around here, anyway) made a practice of letting experienced teachers who were about to be vested for pension rights go and replacing them with first year teachers on a regular schedule.

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    opie_jeanne says:

    @Yutsano: Not sure. His district may be one that got a new number and slightly different outline. It’s the 45th.

    They have started sending out postcards that say he admitted to deliberately getting high or drunk and then driving with his kids in the car. He denies it.

    It’s from a nasty divorce that is currently ongoing:

    http://sammamishreview.com/201.....ove-stoned

    This is spring 2013. The election is over a year away, right? This just seems really early to start the campaign against him.

  71. 71
    opie_jeanne says:

    @Yutsano: You’re probably not. The 45th starts at Kirkland and goes East.

  72. 72
    mclaren says:

    Thanks for keeping the heat and the spotlight on this scam.

    Just another facet of the ongoing effort to turn America into a feudal society by privatizing every public service…

  73. 73
    rikyrah says:

    you rock, Kay.

    keep pn spreading the truth about these lying sacks of shyt.

  74. 74
    Rex Everything says:

    Great post, Kay.

    “Privatized” means “existing in order to pay out a dividend to the very rich.” It means nothing else.

    A for-profit concern’s only mandate is to induce the public to pay more for something than it costs to provide. That’s why privatized healthcare is more expensive, and why a privatized school system, post office, fire department etc. will be more expensive.

    One of the most important things we could do would be to make this more widely understood.

  75. 75
    Rex Everything says:

    (^btw I realize this is not news to you & that it’s not news to the majority of your readers, but when you step outside of this segment of the population it’s stunning how clueless much of the public is. Surely that’s no accident…still, I think it can be counteracted.)

  76. 76
    Tonal Crow says:

    Please do not use the term “reform” to describe what the privatizers and Ayn Rand peddlers are doing: it echoes and amplifies their propaganda.

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