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  1. #61
    Filthy Apes! Kalach's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DiscoBiscuit View Post
    It's becoming more and more clear that those on the other side of this debate would prefer no accountability at all.
    Since I don't work in or for the US, I'm not formally in the specific debate at all. I do have an interest though, and its in just how very like cartoon characters the arguments appear to be. American politics in general is full of them. You guys made this situation for yourselves when you all acquiesced to intensely simple-minded positioning by media and corporate uniforming. You've achieved an opacity of openness, where all items of public interest are commented upon but diminishingly few comments are revelatory.

    Why are Republicans worrying at accountability like this? Why are they avoiding discussion of a context for accountability? Aside from assuming they're just stupid and are playing with their misdirection du jour, the only narrative that makes sense is they're finding ways to not spend money any more. This makes sense in terms of traditional Republican positions and in terms of American's current position in the global economy.


    Also, if it's not clear, in approaching the discussion this way I'm assuming you and politicians in general do not know what you're talking about. I can assume this because of the way you and politicians in general approach the topic. Ur dum guys in suits with power. Did you create that power or did it arrive institutionally? This is interesting to me as someone on the outside looking at what power looks like.
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  2. #62
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    From CNN:

    Chicago teachers strike a Democratic feud



    (CNN) -- A lot of Americans probably look at the teachers strike in Chicago and think that this is just another labor dispute with workers making demands and causing a work stoppage until they get what they want.

    But the Chicago teachers strike, which is causing turmoil in the nation's third-largest school system by shutting out of the public schools more than 350,000 students, is about a lot more than that.

    It's not really about money. The deal on the table isn't too shabby. City officials are offering teachers a 16% salary increase over the next four years. Chicago teachers already earn an average annual salary of $74,236, according to a study by Northern Illinois University in DeKalb. These aren't exactly blue-collar workers in hardhats trying to scratch out an existence. Even Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis has said that the city's offer is "not far apart" from what the union is seeking.

    This strike is about teachers unions testing their boundaries with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. They're hitting back at him for what they perceive to be the anti-union hardline position he took shortly after assuming office last year.

    More importantly, the strike is about something that isn't often discussed in the media or in politics: Democrats are divided on education reform.

    In one camp, you have reformers who believe that all children can learn and that teachers and schools have to be held accountable for making sure that happens.

    In the other camp, you have teachers unions, whose job it is to protect their members but who now interpret that mandate to mean that they should protect teachers from public demands for greater accountability, higher standards and a better education for our children.

    The strike is testing the relationship between unions and the Obama administration, with which Emanuel is closely aligned having served as White House chief of staff.

    These days, support for Obama from organized labor is lukewarm at best. Labor unions did not spend as much money as they typically do in support of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte. This was in part because union officials were angry that the event was held in the right-to-work state of North Carolina. Plus many of them do not think that Obama has been responsive to their concerns.

    Teachers unions are especially angry with Obama, and with Education Secretary Arne Duncan, for adopting a policy that closely resembles that of their nemesis. George W. Bush had "No Child Left Behind." Obama has "Race to the Top." Both advocate high-stakes testing where teachers and schools are evaluated based largely on the academic performance of students and rewarded accordingly. (By the way, judging producers by their products happens all the time in the private sector. Only in a public school system where mediocrity and low expectations are the new normal would that be considered a radical concept.)

    The Chicago Teachers Union has never gotten over its resentment for Duncan, who served as Chicago superintendent of schools from 2001 to 2009 and implemented many of the same accountability measures that Bush and Obama embraced.

    That's why Lewis this week said this at a rally in downtown Chicago, "The revolution will not be standardized. The assault on public education started here. It needs to end here." And, as Lewis sees it, who started the "assault" on public education? Arne Duncan.

    With the strike, the Chicago Teachers Union is sending a strong message to Washington -- to both Obama and Duncan -- that it is in charge of what goes on in the public schools, and it won't be dictated to by politicians in Chicago or Washington. And not even Democrats, especially not Democrats to whom teachers unions have given tons of money over the years.

    The teachers unions want politicians to know that the teachers they represent are sick and tired of standardized tests, merit pay and attempts to lengthen the school day. Maybe they just want to be paid more and more while less and less is expected of them. After all, tragically, that's the modern American Way.

    So will the strike affect the presidential election at all?

    Mitt Romney wasted no time in criticizing the Chicago strike. That was a low-hanging fruit. His Republican base does not look favorably on unions and strikes anyway, and they know the score -- that the money that unions pour into elections on the side of Democrats often makes it harder for them to elect Republicans.

    For Obama, the strike could turn into a headache. He would clearly love to stay out of it, but that might not be possible if the work stoppage drags on much longer. Obama will have to do something that he is often reluctant to do when it could alienate supporters -- show leadership.

    Obviously, when it comes to education, Chicago Democrats are one big dysfunctional family that is feuding.

    Well, it's time to put a stop to it.

    Emanuel needs to assert control over this situation. The strike has gone on for a full school week. That's long enough, especially since it isn't really about achieving a better deal for members as much as it is sending messages and settling scores. If the teachers aren't back in their classrooms on Monday, the mayor needs to decertify the union, fire the teachers and hire replacements.

    It's been done before. In February 2009, at Central Falls High School in Rhode Island, the school board voted to dismiss the entire faculty -- including more than 70 teachers -- as part of a dramatic turnaround plan. The school had a graduation rate of less than 50%. The teachers were hired back a few months later after they agreed to certain concessions. At the time, Obama and Duncan supported the firing, which is another reason why teachers unions don't like this administration.

    "Rahm-bo" has a reputation as a tough guy in standing up to Republicans. Now, if he wants to be a public servant and not just a partisan, it's time for him to be just as tough in standing up to members of his party.

  3. #63
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    From CNN:

    My view: To unions, Chicago is the next Wisconsin

    Shortly after President Obama took his historic oath of office, a small group of people back in his home state of Illinois gathered to negotiate a key issue of school reform. Before substantive discussions even began, a representative from the Chicago Teachers Union interjected: “For us,” she said, “this is about jobs.”

    It was not about kids. It was not about results. It was not even about the issue at hand, charter schools. She said it was about jobs.

    I was part of those negotiations, stunned at such frank selfishness. In the three years since, a national debate over education reform has been renewed. It’s become obvious that this stance was not unique to that moment, to that union or even to Illinois.

    The battle over school reform is national, with support from both parties. The president has proposed reforms centered on better accountability for teachers and intense staffing changes at failing schools. Republicans have sought to give parents more school choice and more information.

    But teachers unions have attempted to block those reforms at every turn. Exhibit A: this week’s strike by the Chicago Teachers Union.

    At that meeting in 2009, we debated whether the number of charter schools in Chicago should be allowed to increase. The call seemed obvious. More than 30,000 kids were enrolled at Chicago charter schools, with another 15,000 or so on waiting lists. The schools were open to everybody but didn’t have enough seats. Research was piling up showing improved test scores and graduation rates for Chicago’s charter school students, who were almost all poor, black or Hispanic. But the unions opposed the expansion because charter schools didn’t have to hire union teachers. It didn’t matter that even Obama supported charter schools.

    Soon thereafter, the Obama administration would steward a massive stimulus program called Race to the Top. The federal government offered more than $4 billion to cash-strapped states and school districts. States could receive money based on applications that promised to revamp teacher accountability systems and to intervene in failing schools. But in some states, teachers unions refused the reforms, scuttling the applications. In states that did receive new money, such as California, unions opposed aggressive school turnaround efforts that required the very worst schools to replace most of their staff. The result? Federal turnaround dollars were wasted in most of the California schools where they were spent.

    The president’s top education reforms enjoyed bipartisan support. But the president was far more partisan on health care reform, which led to massive Republican victories in the midterm elections of 2010. This was especially pronounced at the state level, with a new wave of GOP governors and legislative majorities being swept into office.

    The new Republican majorities had their own ideas for education reform. In Indiana, for example, Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels unveiled a sweeping education reform agenda, emboldened by strengthened majorities in his legislature. He proposed the largest school voucher program in the country’s history. Charter schools were to be expanded to needy communities throughout the state. Schools would receive “A through F” ratings that every parent could understand. Students would be required to pass a reading test before being promoted from the third grade. And 21st-century technology would be used to customize education for the needs of individual children.

    Teachers unions went crazy, convincing their small number of remaining Indiana legislative allies to flee the state, denying the legislature its quorum needed to take an official vote. The reforms languished for weeks before the refugee legislators returned home, under massive duress. The Daniels agenda passed, making Indiana – of all places – a national leader in the fight for education reform.

    The most prominent new GOP governor was Scott Walker of Wisconsin. Little-noticed at the time of his election, Walker would soon become a national figure. He inherited a massive state deficit, impossible to balance without cuts in aid to local governments. But local school districts had no way of balancing their budgets without control of their labor costs. Walker, a former local government executive, knew that Wisconsin teachers unions would block local cost savings, necessitating tax hikes and cuts to student services. So Walker proposed restrictions on collective bargaining, giving school districts the freedom to make smart budget decisions. He also proposed an expansion of Milwaukee’s popular school voucher program, which had produced promising results and significant financial savings.

    The curbs to collective bargaining were anathema to teachers unions. Wisconsin was home to many of the nation’s first government employee unions.

    So the teacher unions became manic, nearly shutting down the statehouse in Madison with round-the-clock sit-ins. Walker’s Republican allies passed the reforms anyway. The unions then launched a statewide campaign to recall the new governor. National teacher unions flooded the state with money and staff. Walker survived the election.

    Walker’s reforms are working. Districts have cut their fringe benefit costs by more than 15%, according to my colleague Bob Costrell in his forthcoming work for the George W. Bush Institute. Local property taxes have fallen, and the state budget is balanced. More kids in Milwaukee and Racine will enjoy school choice.

    Appalled by the bitterness of his recall election, pundits and rival Democrats blamed Walker for the labor conflict in his state. Many blamed Republicans for their apathy toward government unions. But the recent teacher strike in Chicago shows that the battle in Wisconsin had less to do with Walker or his party and more to do with teachers unions and the desperate attempt to block all change.

    On Monday, 30,000 Chicago teachers walked off the job, furious with the policies of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, a Democratic hero and Obama’s former chief-of-staff. Emanuel aimed aggressively to extend Chicago’s elementary school day, which barely lasts five hours. He ordered teachers to work more. They asked for more money. He then offered a 16% raise to their average salary of $71,000. That wasn’t enough. So 350,000 students in Chicago are on the streets after a summer of stunning violence.

    The Chicago Teachers Union wants the mayor to ignore a state law requiring that test scores be used to rate teacher performance, which ultimately would impact tenure. They want laid-off teachers to be hired back. Also, they’re seeking to end layoffs created if the district consolidates 100 of its half-empty schools across the city. It’s about jobs.

    Across the country, there is a growing recognition of the need for change. Reforms of different kinds are all growing in popularity among voters of both parties. But unions are proudly standing in the way. And so it’s no coincidence that unions have seen their approval ratings fall.

    For voters, apparently, it’s about the kids.

  4. #64
    Analytical Dreamer Coriolis's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kalach View Post
    How meaningful are test scores in the absence of some measure of student attachment to the subject? Two kids, same English teacher, one kid yearns to be outside in the sunlight playing basketball and the other loves reading--give the two kids the same standardized test and what balancing measure are you going to add in that'll show the first kid's bare pass is perhaps a more substantial indication of the teacher's ability to engage and teach a student than the second kid's distinction?

    Or for that matter, give the same test to the same teacher's class of twenty students and her other class of sixty students and what will the grade statistics tell you about the teacher then?
    Exactly, and these are just some of the factors involved. Which student has no parental involvement at home? Which has a poorly addressed learning disability? Whose parents just divorced? Who comes from a non-English-speaking home? A merit system driven by test scores will encourage more demographic beancounting, to distribute the different types of students "fairly"; or will result in teachers trying to avoid certain categories of student, because that will depress their overall rating. This is counterproductive for everyone. Some teachers are particularly good at engaging certain types of "challenging" students, whether it be slow learners, discipline problems, those with gang involvement, home problems, etc. School systems should be able to take advantage of these gifts without shafting the individual teacher.

    Quote Originally Posted by lowtech redneck View Post
    What other indicators, besides test scores, can be objectively measured and utilized for accountability purposes? What do you think about weighting the test scores to account for disparate averages among regional, cultral, and socio-economic groups, to the extent that public records allow?

    Even an imperfect system of accountabilty seems better than the status quo to me.
    If a system is imprefect (i.e. bad) enough, the cure will be worse than the disease. When dealing with something as subjective and diverse as how children learn, it is impossible for any objective measure to have the necessary accuracy, especially if teachers' (or students') futures are depending on the results. That is the fallacy of standardized testing in general. Part of it is that tests can measure only what they are designed to test, and testing some of the most important learning outcomes would be too involved to implement.

    At the end of the day, students must be able to function in and contribute to the outside world. Success on current standardized tests is not always a good predictor of this. If schools, and by extension, teachers, are doing their job, this should be reflected in university admission and graduation rates; similar rates for other training programs; and ultimately the kinds of jobs graduates get and succeed at. All this can be tracked, but the timelines make it impractical for use in evaluating individual teachers on a one-year or even few-year cycle.

    Quote Originally Posted by DiscoBiscuit View Post
    It's becoming more and more clear that those on the other side of this debate would prefer no accountability at all.
    You might prefer to think so, since that would justify dismissing their concerns altogether. Such a perspective is woefully simplistic, though. Unfortunately it seems to have gained some popularity, which is why we reach these impasses to begin with.
    I've been called a criminal, a terrorist, and a threat to the known universe. But everything you were told is a lie. The truth is, they've taken our freedom, our home, and our future. The time has come for all humanity to take a stand...

  5. #65
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    Quote Originally Posted by Coriolis View Post
    Unfortunately it seems to have gained some popularity, which is why we reach these impasses to begin with.
    The winds of change are blowing against you full in the face.

  6. #66
    Happy Dancer uumlau's Avatar
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    We can debate the quality and effectiveness of evaluations, but too often those whose primary motive is to avoid any evaluations hide their position behind arguments (many of which have merit) that the proposed evaluations are flawed. Notice that alternative forms of evaluation are rarely suggested: the question is whether to evaluate, not how.

    Even though a lot of the focus is on accountability, I suspect the real focus is on job security. There's no such thing as accountability if one cannot fire or lay off employees at will. Notice that one of the complaints of the unions is that Chicago is closing schools and re-opening them as charters, which seems to me the city's reaction to being unable to otherwise fire or lay off teachers.

    Frankly, I think $71k/yr is justified for a 9 month per year job from which you cannot get fired and has decent benefits. To those who think a higher salary is appropriate, I would say that $100k/yr would be fine, as long as they're easy to fire, don't have overly-generous benefits (e.g., defined-benefit pensions, as opposed to defined-contribution such as a 401k), and there is some sort of evaluation that isn't easily gamed (by teaching an honors class vs a remedial class, for instance). With the exception of the early grades, where lecture style isn't as effective, I think it would be worthwhile to pay exceptional salaries to fewer, higher-skilled teachers, many percentage points above the current norm, who would lecture larger class sizes, never have tenure and are accountable to students and parents. The people who actually have the skill to teach students well shouldn't need to rely on union contracts to stay employed indefinitely, especially if there is a reasonable means of evaluation.

    I'm not holding my breath waiting for any of my suggestions to be implemented, of course.
    An argument is two people sharing their ignorance.

    A discussion is two people sharing their understanding, even when they disagree.

  7. #67
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    Quote Originally Posted by uumlau View Post
    We can debate the quality and effectiveness of evaluations, but too often those whose primary motive is to avoid any evaluations hide their position behind arguments (many of which have merit) that the proposed evaluations are flawed. Notice that alternative forms of evaluation are rarely suggested: the question is whether to evaluate, not how.
    Thank you.

  8. #68
    Analytical Dreamer Coriolis's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by uumlau View Post
    We can debate the quality and effectiveness of evaluations, but too often those whose primary motive is to avoid any evaluations hide their position behind arguments (many of which have merit) that the proposed evaluations are flawed. Notice that alternative forms of evaluation are rarely suggested: the question is whether to evaluate, not how.
    An easy way to call their bluff, if indeed that is what it is, is to devise a program that remedies the legitimate complaints levied against systems based on standardized test scores. Some teachers' unions have even openly advocated for such a system. (I will try to find the article I read recently that listed a more useful set of metrics.) The fact that management or school districts do not counter teachers' union arguments with such a proposal shows that (1) it is harder than people think; and/or (2) management is dumber than they look.

    Quote Originally Posted by DiscoBiscuit View Post
    The winds of change are blowing against you full in the face.
    It is easy to throw out statements like this, that essentially say nothing. It is much harder to engage with the actual facts and issues, whether you are having a discussion on a forum, or tacking the issues for real in a contract negotiation.
    I've been called a criminal, a terrorist, and a threat to the known universe. But everything you were told is a lie. The truth is, they've taken our freedom, our home, and our future. The time has come for all humanity to take a stand...

  9. #69
    can't handcuff the wind Z Buck McFate's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Coriolis View Post
    If a system is imprefect (i.e. bad) enough, the cure will be worse than the disease. When dealing with something as subjective and diverse as how children learn, it is impossible for any objective measure to have the necessary accuracy, especially if teachers' (or students') futures are depending on the results. That is the fallacy of standardized testing in general. Part of it is that tests can measure only what they are designed to test, and testing some of the most important learning outcomes would be too involved to implement.

    At the end of the day, students must be able to function in and contribute to the outside world. Success on current standardized tests is not always a good predictor of this. If schools, and by extension, teachers, are doing their job, this should be reflected in university admission and graduation rates; similar rates for other training programs; and ultimately the kinds of jobs graduates get and succeed at. All this can be tracked, but the timelines make it impractical for use in evaluating individual teachers on a one-year or even few-year cycle.


    You might prefer to think so, since that would justify dismissing their concerns altogether. Such a perspective is woefully simplistic, though. Unfortunately it seems to have gained some popularity, which is why we reach these impasses to begin with.
    Yep.

    Standardized tests aren’t fair to teachers and the articles already list many of the reasons, but beyond the personal need to secure livelihood- administration directly above a teacher squeezes down to improve the numbers/average for their school too- so there’s *a lot* of pressure trickling down to focus on making sure the test scores are high. And the people who suffer the most from this are the kids because it seriously compromises the education they receive- education should ideally be evaluated by the extent to which it prepares a young human being for functioning in the world, not how well they immediately memorize and regurgitate the selected ‘facts’ their age category is supposed to ‘learn’. This mentality of focusing on the immediate benefits of teaching (how much ‘knowledge’ a kid is immediately soaking up) pervades the system and corrupts it. It’s a misguided way to evaluate.

    If a person is told to clean the stove, and told they’ll be paid according to how well they clean it- yeah, chances are they’ll put more effort into it, evaluation is important. But if they’re told they’ll be paid according to how clean it is and the only thing that ever gets checked is the area directly around the burner, then ‘doing a good job’ stops actually being about cleaning the stove and becomes (exclusively at times) about cleaning the area directly around the burner. Cleaning the rest of the stove is seen as an unproductive waste of time that threatens job security and is largely discouraged by superiors (because it doesn’t get ‘seen’ by the stats of standardized testing). This is what’s meant by “teaching the test”: the priority is about priming the kids specifically for these tests and figuring out how to get the best scores possible. Those scores are SUPPOSED to reflect how well they are learning overall- it’s SUPPOSED to be indicative of ‘how well someone cleans the stove’ overall- but because the tests are somewhat predictable, instead of just doing the best job teaching they can and letting the tests measure that…..teachers have to focus on and put the most effort into teaching what will be ‘seen’ (standardized test stats).

    Coming up with a system of evaluation that is more effective is incredibly difficult. I can’t imagine many people at all actually want no accountability in their given profession, it seems like ignorant oversimplification to me- one meant to dismiss any complaints, but it doesn’t do so effectively. Complaints don’t go away just because they aren’t issued with proposed solutions. “I don’t have an effective solution” =/= “I don’t have a valid complaint.”

    I can agree *a little bit* with this “corrupt and counterproductive means of assessment are better than people being given absolutely no accountability at all”- if only because people get too comfortable with ‘no accountability’ and start to slack- BUT the flawed system in place must AT LEAST be actively moving towards progress, towards something more fair, at an acceptable pace. Evaluation by standardized testing been a problem for a long time and I think this strike is the inevitable result of progress in this regard not being sought (and incorporated) fast enough.
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  10. #70
    Happy Dancer uumlau's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Coriolis View Post
    An easy way to call their bluff, if indeed that is what it is, is to devise a program that remedies the legitimate complaints levied against systems based on standardized test scores. Some teachers' unions have even openly advocated for such a system. (I will try to find the article I read recently that listed a more useful set of metrics.) The fact that management or school districts do not counter teachers' union arguments with such a proposal shows that (1) it is harder than people think; and/or (2) management is dumber than they look.
    It's possible to have evaluations. The problem is that it isn't possible to have 100% objective evaluations that cannot be gamed or can account for extenuating circumstances (e.g., the teacher teaching the remedial class should have a different metric than the one teaching the honors class, but how does one do that objectively?). I would suggest having the principles being responsible for hiring/firing teachers (along with setting policies), and using their best judgment (based on both objective and subjective criteria). The principles would then be accountable to the school board, and hired/fired based on their best judgment and policies.

    There are two reasons my suggestion cannot be implemented:
    1. It's a government school system, and the same rules must apply to everyone, no matter how irrational that is. (Student needs don't neatly fit into one-size-fits-all policies.)
    2. It isn't possible to hire/fire at will.


    In the end, it boils down to the fact that normal, everyday hiring/firing is disallowed. That means that it will tend to attract incompetent people (it's the only job they can keep), and repel competent people (who don't enjoy having to work with incompetent people), and the system itself continually gains inertia and loses its flexibility.
    An argument is two people sharing their ignorance.

    A discussion is two people sharing their understanding, even when they disagree.

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