Education Reform Gone Awry

The events of the last 10 years have been incredibly significant in the shaping of American history:  9/11, Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, Great Recession, the election of Barack Obama, to name a few. One of the most critical of these events occurred on Jan. 8, 2002, with the signing of the No Child Left Behind Act by President Bush.

This 1,100 page law received bipartisan support. Sen. Ted Kennedy was a key voice for its passage. Pretty much on both sides of the political aisle today there is a growing belief that the NCLB law—formerly the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)—started us down a slippery slope of narrow school-reform policies that have failed miserably. No doubt there have been several seriously bad unintended consequences.

Unfortunately, the partisanship of the health care battle in 2009 took the momentum away from changing the flawed NCLB law. We are now four years from its scheduled reauthorization. The Race To The Top plan initiated by Secretary of Education Arnie Duncan and Pres. Obama put us on the path to more misplaced competition. Only 12 states received funding in the first two rounds, a horrendously bad federal distribution of more than $4 billion. Of course, California received nothing, not $1, when we enroll 11 percent of this nation’s children in our schools.

Former Secretary of State Condolezza Rice was the keynote speaker at the National School Boards Conference which I attended in San Francisco on Saturday. It was obvious from her comments to the 6,000-plus elected and appointed leaders running America’s schools that she is not a proponent of NCLB.

She said the K-12 public school system has been the foundation of America’s greatness, and that we can’t afford a school system where children receive a quality of education predicated on their zip codes.

“We have a crisis in public education and it is the greatest national security problem,” Rice said. She should know this since she once was Pres. Bush’s National Security Advisor. She said we need a curriculum that is broadly, not narrowly, defined, and graduates who are creative and innovative. NCLB creates a policy morass that is the antithesis to these goals.

Roberta Stanley of the National School Boards Association said the reauthorization outlook for NCLB is bleak for the near future. With some hint of optimism she said there is growing bipartisan support for what educational researchers and professors of education at colleges of education have been saying for years:

• Overemphasis on high stakes testing is not good for teaching and learning
• New legislation must be comprehensive and funded
• Assessments must be meaningful
• Standards must be rigorous
• Teacher quality still needs to be the focus
• NCLB is unhealthy and unproductive top down approach
• Create constructive and researched-based best practices
• Assessments on-line
• Multiple measures of assessment
• Teachers should no longer be demonized

Ms. Stanley said by September 2011 82 percent of schools will not reach the federal requirement for Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) accountability measure, placing more and more of America’s schools in Program Improvement sanctions. Appearing before Chairman John Kline’s (R-MN) House Education and Workforce Committee on March 9th Secretary Duncan said the new ESEA/NCLB law must strike a balance between accountability and flexibility, and be tight on goals and loose on means. He said the old law is broken and in desperate need of repair.

Roberta Stanley suggested that Rep. John Kline’s Education and Workforce Committee and Sen. Tom Harkin’s U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions are the best hope for coming together on new language and practices for public schools in America. Ms. Stanley inferred that Duncan and Obama have been very interested in education, but somewhat on the wrong track. 

It is high time for Pres. Obama to give voice to the proposals being discussed in Congress so the American people and the millions of educators can share their opinion before another flawed law is put into place. There must be a sense of urgency to the discussions.

My hope for new NCLB/ESEA language to come out of congress by June 30, 2011 has been dashed by Stanley. She implored the Republicans, Democrats, liberals and conservatives to come to consensus on the next iteration of ESEA by the end of the year. Since 2012 is an election year it will be too late to get bipartisan support on new legislation.

Children do not have a political party and are the greatest hope for our progress as a nation into the future. Roberta Stanley said, “the new law must be fair, reliable and achievable.” All things NCLB was not.

We can do away with the most significant national security threat of our time if we make certain as a nation all children receive an equally robust and broad education, not narrowly defined by bubble testing.

Joseph Di Salvo is a member of the Santa Clara County Office of Education’s Board of Trustees. He is a San Jose native. His columns reflect his personal opinion.

76 Comments

  1. In this conversation about federal statutory reform, let’s pay attention to an interesting fact overlooked by Joseph DiSalvo at the COE and Sharon Ann Noguchi at the Mercury News.

    The San Francisco Chronicle on Sunday (4/10/11, page F6) reported in an op-ed piece by the distinguished former US Secretary of State George P. Shultz:

    ========

    “Nobody doubts that teachers in classrooms determine the quality of education for California’s children. But, if you look at kindergarten through 12th-grade spending in California, you see that a very large proportion of the money does not go anywhere near students.

    “More than 30 percent of funds appropriated for schools never makes it within sight of the classroom, according to the state Department of Finance, but instead is siphoned off by bureaucrats, administrators and ancillary personnel in Sacramento, in the counties and in school district offices.

    “What if we simply eliminated these noninstructional activities? By conservative estimates, this outside-the-classroom spending amounts to more than $15 billion, enough to close the budget gap.”

    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/04/10/INC21IQ00T.DTL

    ========

    Maybe there isn’t a shortage of money for classrooms from taxpayers…maybe huge chunks are diverted before it reaches the classrooms to a jobs program buried in bureaucracy.

    Clearly any reform of federal law needs to address this problem, not to mention the responsibility of the education establishment and media to take a good, hard look at this phenomenon.

    • If you send $$ to D.C. (taxes) 40% gets siphoned off before any is returned to the states for the next sure-to-fail feel good program.

      These massive federal programs, which amount to nothing more than throwing money at a perceived problem, just siphon off $$ that could be spent better locally.

      Same is true of Sacto.

      Joe keeps decrying the “education gap”.  What he should call it is the “results gap”.  Certain segments of our society do not perform as well as others, no matter how much money you throw at them, no matter if you sent all the best teachers to all the worst schools.

      America’s promise has always been equal opportunity.  Joe and his ilk want equal results.  It cannot happen.  You can lead a horse to water….

      All men may be created equal, but it pretty much ends there.

  2. > Teachers should no longer be demonized

    This is where you lost me, Joe.

    Teachers are not demonized.  Teachers UNION’S are demonized, and appropriately so because of their rigid, selfish, mean-spirited, narcissistic, destructive ideology.

    Teachers in private schools are highly respected.

    Step one for developing any credibility as an education leader is to STOP acting like a ventroloquist dummy on the knee of the teachers unions.

  3. I can sense the frustration in your weekly postings. Step one in education reform should be the elimination of the United States Department of Education. Nowhere in the U.S. Constitution do I see any power given to the Federal Government to control the education of our children.
    Good luck and keep fighting!

    • > Good luck and keep fighting!

      Al! Al! Al!

      You have lost your marbles.

      Joe is NOT fighting to eliminate the Department of Education!  Just the opposite.  The more government money spent on education bureaucrats the happier he is.

      You should be wishing him bad luck and encouraging him to give up the fight.

    • Hell Yeah!!! Also, while you’re at it, eliminate county offices of education. Rather, direct all monies to each individual school based on attendance. If private institutions can manage to do things like handle special needs kids, busing from all over a city and more, why can’t the individual schools do the same. Seems to me that there’s a whole additional layer of institutionalized bureaucracy which is just sponging up monies better spent on the schools themselves.

      Then, eliminate teacher tenuring and offer school vouchers for any interested parent regardless of income level. Give the consumers/parents real choices when it comes to the education of their children.

      • “Seems to me that there’s a whole additional layer of institutionalized bureaucracy which is just sponging up monies better spent on the schools themselves.”

        It’s more than one layer, David; and Joe is a part of the redundancy of districts with highly paid “administrators”, who add exactly WHAT to the mix?

  4. > Overemphasis on high stakes testing is not good for teaching and learning

    I agree with statement completely. I am working in a Title 1 school, which teaches to the test. I often find that the curriculum lacks energy, creativity, and connections to the student’s everyday lives. We must teach to the students and not to a test.

    • > I am working in a Title 1 school, which teaches to the test. I often find that the curriculum lacks energy, creativity, and connections to the student’s everyday lives.

      Are you teaching in a public school or in a private school?

      I think I can guess.

      Now it’s up to you to figure out how I knew.

    • Stephanie, just 18 months ago we were hearing screams and reading pronunciamentos about “the” achievement gap which was documented by the NCLB-required testing.  If we do away with the NCLB testing regimen as Joseph DiSalvo and you seem to suggest, this will have the effect of covering up the various demographic differential success rates.

      How are you going to square the circle of wanting to document differential demographic success rates with moving toward a teacher initiative model in the classroom which can never provide serious contemporary insights into any of the achievement gaps?

      And without evidence of the gaps, don’t you lose all the impetus for the vast new civil rights campaign embodied in San Jose 2020 and promoted by Joseph DiSalvo?  Whatever happened to that touted radical revolution in education?  Did it expend all its energy on its high-flown and racially-tinged promotion?

      • Dale,

        Good questions.  I think you can do both with proper assessments. The achievement gap will be a critical piece of the puzzle to continue to track.  I still believe it is the single most important civil rights issue of our lifetime.

        • Nice try Dale. But alas, DiSalvo is impervious to logic. The socialist brain armor he wears is made of a special alloy that actually becomes harder when subjected to common sense arguments. There’s no getting through to him. You know you’re beat when you realize from his response that he sincerely believes that he understood your question.

        • > But alas, DiSalvo is impervious to logic. The socialist brain armor he wears is made of a special alloy that actually becomes harder when subjected to common sense arguments. There’s no getting through to him.

          Let’s be positive about this, Galtus.

          It’s not that he’s “impervious to logic”, it’s that he is amenable ONLY to “progressive” (i.e., socialist) logic.

          Another way to look at this positively is that Joe believes he has NEVER lost a progressive argument with a non-progressive.

          And as far as he knows, progressive arguments are the only kind of arguments there are.

    • I agree with you Stephanie.  I think that so much pressure is put on the schools to do well in testing that those schools that are usually in low ses areas are put under strict programs where creativity is not an option.  I think that this needs to change in order to have better all around students and individuals.

    • school curriculum has been forcing children to focus solely on academics and the creative side to children are beginning to be lost and creating a whole child has a new meaning. This to me is sad and rather unfortunate

    • Stephanie, I am on the same boat as you. I find the students struggling throughout the day in class, as well as getting their homework done, let alone done correctly. When it comes to test prep time, they are instant geniuses and perform better than at any other point of the day; mind you test prep comes at the end of the day (when the students are usually fussy). How can this be?!?!! I agree, this whole teaching to a test thing needs to be thrown out the window. The students clearly aren’t learning what they should be.

  5. We don’t have a compulsory education law – we have compulsory attendance laws. 
    Attendance is the first and most important thing that takes place each morning in the classroom – it’s the money.

    Before the 1949’s there were about 75,000 school “districts” in the US – today it is something around 16-18,000 – Union, Unified, Joint Union amalgamations or large grouping of schools.  This precipitated the growth of bureaucracies with the advent of more county, state and fed regulations which in turned spawned the growth of teacher unions that resulted in great battles between Godzilla and King Kong right in the middle of the classroom.  Creativity of young minds to learn/grow was crushed.  Our “education” delivery system has become outdated, corrupt and very inefficient.

    What if we did away with the education system as we know it entirely?  Start over with parent participating local neighborhood “Brilliance Centers” where youth gather w/ teachers/instructors to grow minds?  Ask a kid if they want to go to school or a place where they can learn everything and anything – what would be their choice?

    A voucher goes to every child, supervised by adult, to attend their chosen Center.  Of course there would need to be a community clearinghouse for records and teacher payment – pretty much everything else can be done online.

    Lots of money would be saved by eliminating bureaucrats and vast amounts of office buildings.  Kids, teachers and parents – – that’s it except for localized support staff.  Accountability then runs from the state down to the child/parent.

    Of course there are many young who would not have the assistance of a parent and this is where a trusted counselor familiar with the family would act on their behalf thus assuring that low income, limited language speakers would get an equal opportunity in the Brilliance Centers.

    Think of it as Summerhill with an IPad.

    • > What if we did away with the education system as we know it entirely?  Start over with parent participating local neighborhood “Brilliance Centers” where youth gather w/ teachers/instructors to grow minds?

      I don’t know, Mr. Biquitous.

      This sounds like change to me.

      I think I’m against change.

      > Ask a kid if they want to go to school or a place where they can learn everything and anything – what would be their choice?

      Are you suggesting that this change might give kids hope, too?

      Now you’re really talking crazy.

      I’m firmly opposed to both hope and change.

      We need the kind of educational system that the president wants us to have.  After all, the president knows what’s best.

  6. The title to the next article should be : “Let leave Education Alone”. I never thought I would find a use for Nancy Reagan’s famous anti-drug slogan of the ’80′s, but I think it might be the appropriate response to some of the education reforms being pushed by Race to the Top and its corporate underwriters, which include (most famously) Bill Gates, among other less famous billionaires. There is an important reason why we as parents and responsible community members need to think carefully about whether these reforms will truly improve education.What has education reform done ? It’s created a mess . Here is the ‘big three’ problems that have plagued the educational system. 

      ” Politicizing the goals of the schools,
      Schools became susceptible to fads,
      Creation of a fake right, the so-called “right to an education.”

    2. The Plague of Educational Fads

    The imposition of politicized goals weakened the public schooling system’s educational integrity so much that it has become a patsy for destructive fads. Examples range from phrenology to new-new-math, and from Outcome Based Education to No Child Left Behind. (Pity if they all have to sing as badly as I do so that I won’t be left behind.)* Race to the Top ( an example) .

    Chasing fads helps politicians hide the fact that they’ve replaced the child’s interests with political interests. Continual change can give the impression of progress and provide a weapon against those who want to return to sanity: They can be accused of being reactionaries who fight all progress.

    Go to URL : http://openleft.com/diary/21213/corporatistsversusgrassroots-divide-now-defines-public-education-debate

  7. Examine the study conducted by Pepperdine University on classroom expenditures:

    http://www.calchamber.com/Headlines/Pages/CaliforniaEducationStudyRevealsDisturbingTrend.aspx

    The study is a PDF file on this webpage.

    The study shows that too much of the money dedicated to education does not make it to the classroom. The study shows that money is diverted to administrative costs and to fund special education. Special Ed costs are 11X the cost per student compared to regular students. As a result any kid with any kind of problem is reclassified as special ed and it gives the school more money. Yet the goal is self defeating because the money spent to educate those students who will drive the economy and the country are being shortchanged by funds diverted to other programs. In addition the entire education system is bloated with “required” education and special projects that detract from the normal school day. The school year and school day are too short to cover the material required for these students. Lastly we need to get past this insipid idea that every child needs to go to college. The country needs people who will work in the trades and other occupations, yet we lose students every year who would rather do something other than study algebra and physics. Lets provide them the opportunity to leave school at 15 to enter trade schools or programs that can lead to employment. These trade schools can be funded by taxpayers, unions and manufacturers. Too often we read about the lack of skilled workers in this country. Here is a way to fill those needs. It also reduces classroom size and winnows the student population to those who truly want to be there. This will improve the learning environment. What is needed is not more money for education but new and bold approaches.

  8. “We can’t afford a school system where children receive a quality of education predicated on their zip codes.” I agree with this statement. I think that as long as the quality of education varies from school to school, parents should have a choice as to which school their child goes to.

    • This is where an unrestricted school voucher system would come into play. Not only would it offer parents far more choices in terms of which public schools their children attended, it could, conceivably, make private educations far more accessible to lower-income parents. I have suggested this idea elsewhere, but have not yet received a satisfactory answer from Mr. DiSalvo as to why this is an unworkable idea.

  9. As I read all of these comments, i only feel more frustrated.  Just as in our government, a lot of finger pointing and blame is found, without attention to how we can change things.  Have we become a nation of apathy and if we can place blame, feel the need to do nothing more?  What ever happened to “the buck stops here.” ?  I feel the best way to make change, is to take some time and go spend it in a local classroom.  I’d be willing to bet in a week or so, you’d have a good idea about what is wrong, who the great teachers are and ideas about how to make actual change.  Teachable moment is living in a dream world that I don’t experience if he thinks only teacher’s unions are demonized and not teachers themselves.  At the least we have to acknowledge that the teaching profession is undervalued.  Teachers in the USA are not treated with the same respect as teachers in other developed nations.  Do you hope your sons and daughters will grow up to be teachers or lawyers?  This is entirely evident in our society.  I wish it wasn’t so and I think it’s one of the first steps we can take to enhancing education.  Teaching should not be a fall back position.  It should be rigorous, competitive, and respected.  Ask any grown person and they can tell you the thrill of having a great teacher and grimace at the memories of a terrible one.  I know it’s been said before, but in the capitalistic society we live in the first step is to pay teachers better.  It will immediately create more competition.  We could also decide like other states that teachers need a Masters in order to teach elementary school.  Anything to bring the level of respect up for teachers would be a step in the right direction.  INstead of the blame game, let’s look at some solutions!

    • Jennifer, it’s a little unfair for you to say that there has been no attention here to “how we can change things.”  In the first comment above, I pointed out that fully 30% of state education appropriations ($15B) are used for other than classroom work.

      I’m certainly willing to support a cap of 10% on expenditures for non-classroom work, and get that left over $10B out of jobs programs, and into classroom work.

      How can you say that’s not a legitimate suggestion to funnel more money to classrooms?  Don’t be so hasty to dismiss good ideas.

      • Dale, how do you define classroom vs. non-classroom expenditures?  Are school libraries classroom expenditures?  Are the school secretaries, clerks, and principals non-classroom?  How about the nurses, counselors, and janitors?  What about food service.  IT, payroll?  Are those things unimportant and subject to elimination under your plan?  How about facilities and utilities?  Can we do without?  These operating expenses make up nearly 10% of school funding.

        In many of the “studies” out there, music, PE, science, and art programs in the elementary schools are not classified as “classroom” expenditures because they are “extras.”  I suspect you’ll find that while only 70% of the money is spent on “classroom teachers,” if you include all the money being spent to do the minimum to operate schools and provide complete services to children, that more then 90% is spent on educating students.

        • I believe what Dale, others and I are advocating is eliminating the numerous layers of institutional bureaucracy which stand between tax dollars and students. Again, in this respect, Mr. DiSalvo has failed to make a compelling argument as to why those layers should exist. Indeed, in education, as with many other government-run expenditures, we see how deeply inefficient the government can be: consider through how many layers and how many hands tax dollars intended for education pass, with each layer taking a bite before passing it on to the ultimate recipients.

          It is for these reasons that I say that Mr. DiSalvo has failed to make a compelling argument for increasing taxes on anyone in order to support education. Private education institutions are run far more efficiently and typically provide every single service public institutions do, if not more. Furthermore, they do this entirely without the help of the County Office of Education. What this suggests to me is that the COE could almost entirely be eliminated, freeing up substantial money for schools. Unfortunately, if Mr. DiSalvo were to recognize this fact, he would also have to acknowledge that, for the most part, taxpayers get very little value from him or from the COE.

      • Classrooms, I appreciate your suggesting that I do all the computation and defining about those benefiting from the jobs program in the state department of education versus the children benefiting in classrooms from state appropriations, but it seems to me that the burden is on you to show that the siphoning off of 30% of state appropriations to non-classrooms is an error.

        George P. Schultz and the state department of finance are my sources for the 30% figure.  That’s $15B right there that most of us have believed has mostly gone to classrooms.

        If you want to dispute the definition of “classroom spending” with Schultz and the finance department, do a little research and report back to us with some facts, not guesses.

        We need a campaign to get at least $10B of that $15B firmly back in the classroom. It’ll be the easiest and most painless “tax increase” ever, and a great direct benefit to the children.

        Whose side are you on?  The jobs program in Sacramento or the children in their classroom?

        • > Whose side are you on?  The jobs program in Sacramento or the children in their classroom?

          Wow!  Tough choice.

          If I vote for the jobs program, will I get a freebie of some kind? 

          A T-shirt.  A coffee mug?

          A 90% pension and fully paid lifetime health insurance?

        • I’m not opposed to reducing state bureaucracy in order to get more money to local education agencies.  In fact, we clearly should do so.  But the study done by Schultz and others limits the definition of “classroom” spending to money going only to teachers.  As I pointed out, there are other necessary costs involved in educating children.

          San Jose Unified School district spends 67% of its budget on CTA salaries and benefits.  That doesn’t include 1 penny for any classified employees.  Include maintenance, secretarial support, custodians, library staff, and para-educators, and you have another 10%.  There needs to be some management, including principals, so there is another 3%.  Then utilities, etc is 10%.  So that is already 90% of the district budget. Other support services, such as transportation, food service, IT, etc take the rest.

          My point is that school *districts* spend their money wisely.  The attacks on this site imply that private schools would somehow spend tax dollars more appropriately than public schools. 

          As for private institutions “typically provid[ing] every single service public institutions do,” as suggested by “DavidSanchez,” that is simply not true.  Public schools must provide education to special ed children, which is quite costly.  Also, what about those students who are expelled from public schools for behavioral reasons?  The County runs the alternative schools that must provide for them.  Private schools do not offer an equivalent service for all students that public schools offer.

        • > My point is that school *districts* spend their money wisely. 

          . . .

          > Private schools do not offer an equivalent service for all students that public schools offer.

          I was reminded, today, that the Los Angeles Unified School District spends almost $30,000 per student.

          (http://www.calwatchdog.com/2010/08/20/lausd-spends-30k-per-student/)

          The tuition for one of the best (if not THE BEST) private school in San Jose (Harker Academy) is LESS $30,000 per year.

          One hundred percent of Harker graduates go on to four year colleges. 

          The faculty is highly qualifed, highly competent, highly respected, and well paid.  They come to work, work hard, don’t call in sick, and spend extra time with students.  Oh, and they don’t have a union.

          Plus the fact that Harker Academy is a FOR PROFIT school and acutally earns a profit on their less thatn $30K tuition.

          > My point is that school *districts* spend their money wisely. 

          I would say that private schools spend their money a HELLUVA a lot more wisely than public schools.

        • Per pupil spending on operations in public schools ranges from $7000 to $13,000 in California (maybe a bit higher for the wealthiest districts).  Of course Harker can educate for $30,000 per pupil. 

          The $30,000 figure that some quote for LA includes bonds that are used for facilities.  Many of the public schools in California were built 30+ years ago and need lots of investment to get them up to snuff.  When Harker builds new facilities, they utilize fundraising above and beyond the $30,000 tuition. 

          You continue to ignore the fact that Harker doesn’t educate special ed students or those with other special needs.  Public schools are often forced to spend up to $50,000 for special ed for individual students.  Public schools can’t deny admission or refuse to provide the needed services.

          Of course 100% of Harker graduates go to 4-year colleges.  Are you suggesting that they start with the same clientele?  No, they only admit students who can pay the $30,000 tuiltion.  Socio-economic factors are significant in determining who is going to end up in college.  (And don’t suggest that an $8000 voucher will allow poorer families to suddenly be able to afford a $30,000 tuition.  If we provide $30,000 vouchers, then that would be a 3-fold increase in state school funding.  With that, public schools could do all the things that Harker does.)

        • > The $30,000 figure that some quote for LA includes bonds that are used for facilities.

          Bond money doesn’t come from the bond money fairy; it comes from taxpayers.  The same place that public school operations money comes from.

          The point is that when all the funding required to support the public education system is properly accounted for (including capital investment and funding costs), the taxpayers are really paying the cost of a blue chip education and getting an education system so lousy that Joe DiSalvo has to write screeds entitled “Education Reform Gone Awry” rather than encomiums with titles like “Boy Are We Doing A Great Job And The Public Loves Us”.

        • I believe there are private institutions available for the provision of education to special ed kids. Regardless, the point that i was trying to make is that for the vast majority of students, the option of public or private ought to be dependent on the quality of education available and proximity to the student.

          In point of fact, the county actually doesn’t need to run ‘special ed’ or ‘alternative schooling’. The schools already exist, have their own infrastructure, staff and facilities. All that needs to happen is for the Feds and state to transfer a fixed dollar amount per student to each school, public or private. The only real layer of additional county bureaucracy is an ombudsman’s office to help direct special needs kids or alt.ed. kids to the proper schools.

    • jennifer w. proposes that the problem with education reform is “finger pointing and blame” .  .  .

      > Just as in our government, a lot of finger pointing and blame is found, without attention to how we can change things.  Have we become a nation of apathy and if we can place blame, feel the need to do nothing more?

      And then points a finger of blame at the wise and thoughtful Teachable Moment:

      > Teachable moment is living in a dream world that I don’t experience if he thinks only teacher’s unions are demonized and not teachers themselves.

      Well, I will agree with you that teachers may very well percieve that they are “demonized”, but the cunning reality is that the origin of very much of the “demonizing” are the TEACHERS UNIONS!

      Parents and the public at large are generally respectful of teachers and the vocation of teaching.  It is the teachers unions that invented the meme that teachers are not respected and “demonized”, and then did everything they could to turn this claim into reality by advocating all manner or self-interested, uncooperative, anti-institutional behavior like extreme wage demands, absurd and unsustainable health and retirement benefits, and even work slow downs and strikes. 

      If teachers are disrespected and demonized, it is BECAUSE of the behavior of teachers unions.

  10. Jennifer and Dale

    Seems like you both could get your way – take 2/3 of taxes spend on federal, state and county overhear as Dale suggests and spend it in classroom to raise teachers salaries as Jennifer suggests in return teachers work year round not 8-9 months and to be which accountable for teaching results which means student improvement

    Many US private and charter schools as well as schools in other countries that out perform US schools teach longer days and many more weeks a year to obtain the above average student performance

    Poor teachers performance after a reasonable time to correct their performance if not done poor teachers would be laid off and they could come back after 1-2 year if they go back to school to improve their teaching

  11. “Ms. Stanley said by September 2011 82 percent of schools will not reach the federal requirement for Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) accountability measure, placing more and more of America’s schools in Program Improvement sanctions.”

    Placing more and more schools in “Program Improvement sanctions” is not the answer.  The fact that more and more schools are being forced into these “sanctions” scares me.  Within these “Program Improvement Sanctions” students are robbed the opportunity to learn creatively.  Instead, teachers follow a strict regiment dictated to them, often times by people who do not have much experience in the classroom.  This is not the best way to teach our students.

    • > Within these “Program Improvement Sanctions” students are robbed the opportunity to learn creatively. 

      And just what the heck does the term “learn creatively” really mean?

      Is it just educrat psychobabble that means “I’ll make it up as I go along, and no one can hold me accountable if the lazy slug doesn’t learn anything”?

      Honestly, this sounds very much like Monty Python’s famous “parrot sketch”:

      “This parrot you sold me is dead”!

      “No he isn’t.  He’s just learning creatively.”

  12. I was horrified to read that of all the money that the gov’t gave out that CA did not recieve any.  We are a huge state with many different types of students and I feel that we would benefit from extra funding.  NCLB is not a good idea, and it is even scarier to think that it is still going on!

    • > I was horrified to read that of all the money that the gov’t gave out that CA did not recieve any.

      Well, maybe Californians shouldn’t have given their money to the feds in the first place.

      Didja ever think of THAT?

      I know!  We could eliminate the Federal Department of Education and eliminate the middle man!

      • I agree with your comment about the middle man.
        The elimination fo the Federal Department of Education is an interesting idea – something that makes sense. What do they do besides collect huge paychecks?

  13. High stakes testing is not the way to go. I ST in a school and the teachers from 2nd grade and up have been stressing over testing coming up because they know their students needs to perform well. If they don’t perform well, it comes back to them. Instead of teaching interactive and lectures that enhanced the student’s learning, the teachers are preping for the State test. Valuable time is taken away froma test that really doesn’t give an accurate measure as to how much a student knows or how good a teacher is. Hopefully someone in government figures out that high stakes testing is not the solution to improving students learning and evaluating school district / teachers in the US.

  14. > Valuable time is taken away froma test that really doesn’t give an accurate measure as to how much a student knows or how good a teacher is.

    The people who are paying for the public education system want to know:

    1. how much does a student know (and how much has he learned);

    2. how good is the teaching;

    What would be you answer to the people who are paying for the public education system?

  15. Looks like there are such strong emotional judgments on either side of this argument.
    But what if we just look at what the children need and care about? Politics should not get in the way of every good idea forthis country.  Children need to be educated; this is not debatable.  Time and energy should be spent on enriching our schools, educating our teachers, providing excellent texts and intriguing teaching strategies for each child, regardless of race or socioeconmic status. Unfortunatley, our politicians are more interested in power struggles and international agendas when they are in office.
    It’s interesting how Condoleeza Rice speaks today about this issue as “the greatest national security problem”.  If she had only thought of that years ago,when she was in office, maybe there would be a solution today.

    • I couldn’t agree with you more. The focus should be making improvements to give our children the best education possible.

      • I also agree with you Sabina. It’s time we put the children’s need before anything else. Why is that so hard? So much politics get in the way that we lost focus on what is really important.

    • I agree with you Sabina. Education is necessary in the development of children and there needs to be a more effective and efficient way of getting through to these children. Teaching to the test is such a mundane, unsuccessful, and superficial approach to learning. The students aren’t getting an in-depth understanding and the standards need to be cut down. Quality teachers and resources are needed regardless of race or socioeconomic status.

  16. In the blog’s part about there being too many standards, I wholeheartedly agree.  There are so many standards, but not enough time to teach them to the degree in which they should be taught.  Instead of quickly glazing over each and every one of the standards we currently have, I think it would be more beneficial to teach less, more broad standards at a deeper conceptual level.  If you compare the U.S. to a country that requires teaching less standards but at a much deeper level, chances are, they are above us in an intellectual ranking.  We need to really look at our system – and if it’s not working (which most of us can agree is the case), it needs to be changed!

  17. It seems that politics is misaligned with common sense and doing what is right and decent.  All children need a rich and full education, but the money is being parceled out and withheld with unrealistic high stakes testing.  What are the politicians thinking; well, I know one thing they are not thinking about—the children!

    • I completely agree with you Connie. They need to stop taking money away from the schools and they need to start focusing on a new plan. It is time to start thinking about the children in this country.

  18. “We can do away with the most significant national security threat of our time if we make certain as a nation all children receive an equally robust and broad education, not narrowly defined by bubble testing.”

    I agree!

  19. > High stakes testing do not give an appropriate measure of student learning.

    OK.  So what DOES give an appropriate measure of student learning?

    The world is full of naysayers who can offer up their half-baked opinions of what WON’T work.

    Tell us what WILL work.

    • Teachable Moment,

      what are your views on testing? Do you agree with the current method of standardized testing? If no, then how would you change it or improve it?

      • > what are your views on testing? Do you agree with the current method of standardized testing? If no, then how would you change it or improve it?

        There is a principle of management science, possibly based on the work of quality guru W. Edwards Deming, that says “if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.”

        If you want to have a quality education system with quality results, and results that IMPROVE over time through stepwise refinement, it is necessary to have a measurement system.

        This involves measuring inputs and results and doing statistical correlations.  The obvious way to measure results is through testing.  (Since the specimen being tested in this case is a student—and maybe even a teacher—“destructive testing” is probably not a good idea.)

        Whether the current system of testing is a good idea or not, effective or ineffective for managing education quality, I cannot say.  I am not familiar with the details.

        But there DOES need to be testing.

        It is also a well known fact of management science that people prefer lax accountability rather than strict, tight monitoring and accountability.  Hence, all the wailing and gnashing from educators and unions over testing.  Too much testing and too much information in the hands of people who demand to see quality results and continual improvement is a unhappy state of affairs for educators.  They would just prefer the money to keep coming with no one really checking up on them.

        Bottom line:  we need results oriented quality testing of some sort, and we need to be prepared to ignore the predictible hysterical complaints from the education system employees and assert the authority of parents and of society at large.

        If you want to teach OUR children in OUR school system and get paid with OUR money, you’re going to have to do things OUR way.  And OUR way requires you to demonstrate that you have a quality system, are achieving quality results with the resources we are providing, and are continually improving over time.

        If this is too much stress for you to handle, and you don’t want to be accountable for quality results, then go be a sheep herder.

  20. “Overemphasis on high stakes testing is not good for teaching and learning” – I agree with it. High stakes testing do not give an appropriate measure of student learning. Filling up bubbles definitely does not measure learning. I think the high stakes testing provides only a small portion of information for evaluating student learning.

  21. Condoleeza Rice says, “the K-12 public school system has been the foundation of America’s greatness, and that we can’t afford a school system where children receive a quality of education predicated on their zip codes.”  I completely agree with Condoleeza Rice’s statements and I think that she is an amazing resource to have when speaking for public schools.

  22. “She said the K-12 public school system has been the foundation of America’s greatness, and that we can’t afford a school system where children receive a quality of education predicated on their zip codes.”

    I am so glad she said this. It has often worried me knowing that I need to be concerned about where I buy a house so that my children can go to a good public school. I really hope that Obama (if he is elected a 2nd term) puts a change in education at the top of his list of priorities.

  23. When I watch my students prepare for testing ad see their blank looks of boredom and frustration, it makes me sad and wish that there wasn’t so much time wasted on these tests and more time engaging them in important content, hands on experiences, and lessons that will prepare them for the real world. Instead of reading rich engaging stories and having stimulating discussions, they’ve been reading practice books and filling in bubbles. Instead of doing hands-on math activities, they’ve been rushing through practice problems – reviewing as much content as possible. Teachers are in a bind because they want to give their students more yet at the same time, they need to prepare them for these tests. There needs to be a better solution for keep schools and teachers accountable without taking away from our students’ education.

    • I definitely agree that the amount of time preparing for these tests is taking away from the students’ education. In my opinion these students should be spending their time doing hands on activities and group projects – things they will actually benefit from and end up learning more content, rather than testing.

  24. Teachable Moment writes: “Teachers are not demonized.  Teachers UNION’S are demonized, and appropriately so because of their rigid, selfish, mean-spirited, narcissistic, destructive ideology.”

    No kidding. Did anyone read about the letter that Chuck Canterbury, National President, Fraternal Order of Police, sent to Randi Weingarten at the American Federation of Teachers? Please click here and read the letter:

    http://www.publicschoolspending.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/National-Fraternal-Order-of-Police-letter-to-Weingarten.pdf

    It’s horrifying that a teacher’s union would go on record to endorse a convicted cop-killer. Why is the AFT spending time on this instead of educating the kids?

  25. > It’s horrifying that a teacher’s union would go on record to endorse a convicted cop-killer. Why is the AFT spending time on this instead of educating the kids?

    Good catch, Mr. Jardon.

    That’s a dead-on instance of why teacher unions are demonized.

    Not demonized enough, in my opinion.

    And keep in mind, these are the people that Joe DiSalvo wants at the table, participating in the “education conversation”, and intruding their views into the education of our children.

    Joe has a lot of explaning to do, which by the way, he has been avoiding.

  26. At present our school system here in the US is a mess.  Students are taught more about how take a test than they are actual practical knowlede they need to succeed beyond school.  More time needs to be devoted to learning not teaching to the test.

  27. High stake testing puts my Title I school students at a higher risk of not receiving the education that they deserve. All we are teaching our students now only aims at their surviving the test, not providing them with the skills they need in the most appealing way to them. Therefore, the knowledge does not stick to their minds.

  28. I just don’t understand what the mentality is for putting our nation’s children at a greater and greater disadvantage.  Is this related to the Ayn Rand fanatics who feel if you can’t afford private school, you don’t deserve a descent education?  I’m scared to think what our country’s future looks like.  I guess the rich old men in power feel they will be dead before we collapse under our own failings or they’re too rich to have to worry about any future calamities.

    • >  Is this related to the Ayn Rand fanatics who feel if you can’t afford private school, you don’t deserve a descent education?

      The Los Angeles Unified School District spends almost $30K per student.  This is MORE than most private schools charge.

      I think the Ayn Rand fanatics are probably upset by the insane waste, incompetence, and corruption in the public education system.

      Why aren’t YOU upset?

      Are you making your living off of the waste, incompetence, and corruption?

  29. Hmmmm.  I think I’m beginning to discern a pattern.

    Instead of responding thoughtfully to the different points and counterpoints presented in this forum, Joe’s students seem to be repetively posting the same fatuous talking points from some common syllabus.

    “Students are taught more about how take a test than they are actual practical knowlede they need to succeed beyond school.”

    Oh, wow!  Now there’s a new thought that the teacher unions have been hammering only since the Jurassic era.

    Why doesn’t someone in Joe’s class exercise some leadership, post all the progressive talking points in one posting, and than sign everyone’s name to it.

    Everyone gets class participation credit, and everyone has more time to listen to their iPods.

    Call it a real world practicum in collective learning.

  30. Balance.  Balance is key in keeping assessment a clear and important part of school while still giving teachers the flexibility to teach in their own style at their very best.  It is a simple, obvious fact that some districts, some schools, and yes, some teachers are failing in their duty to educate our future citizens.  Yet little is done to truly fix this.  It isn’t necessary to wipe the slate clean.  We have to work with what and who we’ve got in the most effective way possible.

    • > Balance.  Balance is key in keeping assessment a clear and important part of school while still giving teachers the flexibility to teach in their own style at their very best. 

      A dose of common sense.

      Which means it will probably not find acceptance in the public school system.

      One of the problems with the public school system is that it is a never-ending tug-of-war between the educational bureaucrats and the teachers unions.

      Bureaucrats love rules.  Making rules is what they do.

      Unions love rules.  In order to have perfect fairness, every wiggle of every union member’s little finger must be specified and documented in a work rule so that one union member doesn’t wiggle his finger twice and get paid only once.

      When everything is governed by bureaucractic rules or union work rules, enshrined in the Education Code or Union Contract, flexibility and common sense go out the window.

      Teachers become “rule execution cogs” and students become “production units”.

      I heard many years ago that the post office had rigid rules on how postal workers were required to sort mail.  The rules specified that workers were to hold a bundle of letters VERTICALLY in their LEFT hand, read the address, and then place the letter in the mail pigeonhole with their RIGHT hand.

      Some workers felt more comfortable holding the bundle in their right hand, and some felt more comfortable reading at a forty-five degree angle.  But RULES are RULES and in the name of postal efficiency, the rules had to be followed.

      The idea of “balance” in teaching is right on.  Teachers need to be focused on teaching the prescribed curriculum, but they need the latitude to teach in a way that uses their personality and style most effectively and to best advantage.