I hear a lot of things about Ms. Skandera. I'm a teacher, so my opinion can likely be assumed. Given that, I would still like to hear from everyone what they think about both her and the recent reform efforts proposed by both Ms. Skandera and Gov. Martinez.
While I may respond, I will always strive to do so civilly. Comparable consideration will always be respected.
I think the truth lies somewhere in between, as always. I also believe that the teachers unions have done far more damage over time than the Gov or Skandera could ever do. That said, thank you for what you do for our kids every day.
Please explain, Lebowski, specifically how teachers' unions have damaged schools more than the Governor or Hannah Skandera could ever do? Please avoid anecdotal evidence such as "I heard in Chicago, drunk teachers can't be fired because of the union!"
First, you are very, very welcome. I love what I do and honestly feel blessed being able to do it.
First, I am not a union member. I use to be, but I quit when it became painfully clear that the Albuquerque Teacher Federation was nothing more than a tragically weak house of cards. Having said that, ATF has long fought for reforms that are directly beneficial to students; smaller class sizes, early child education, proactive interventions for struggling students, etc. These things cost money and as such they do not survive in the Round House, and none of these are championed by Gov. Martinez or Ms. Skandera. In fact, Ms. Skandera has consistently approved larger and larger class sizes. Furthermore, while the 3rd Grade retention of children who are not at grade level sounds good, absolutely no research exists to support this action. In fact, research has persistently shown that retention results in increased drop-out rates. Fortunately, such soundbite policies have so far been blocked.
It's as simple as this...no need to get into splitting hairs. Teachers are currently, 100% unaccountable for the performance of their students. Unions fully intend on keeping it that way. I can't think of any other profession where you aren't held accountable for your product. That said, most teachers are wonderful, and I very much appreciate their work. However, an environment of 0 accountability is never a good thing. Yes I know there are a lot of factors, like parental involvement or lack there of, there still needs to be measurement and accountability.
We have been on a steady decline in academic achievement for the last 50 years. I'm no fan of living by the test or NCLB, but something must be done.
You seriously are going to blame decline in academic achievement on teachers' unions (and teachers themselves)? Are YOU a teacher? Do you KNOW any teachers? Could maybe, oh I don't know, cuts in funding to education, burgeoning class sizes and poor policies like "No Child Left Behind" be responsible for decline in academic acheivement? To say nothing of parents who park little Suzie or Billy in front of the TV day and night and howl to high heavens should little Suzie and Billy be given homework or asked to do more in class--or who howl that it's the teacher's fault when Billy pulled the pocket knife on his classmate and got kicked out of class. First, students are not "products." They are not a blank piece of sheet metal that someone can cut to form. They are humans with complicated little personalities and complicated little lives. Do you really think a teacher can FORCE a child to learn--or become educated? Or force a child to perform well on standardized tests--particularly when that child has in no way a standardized life? Teachers are routinely shat upon and believe me, they are the least of the problem. Politicians such as Susana and her pal Hannah Scamdera push the "blame the teachers" meme because parents and people such as you like it. "Yeah!, you say. Those teachers are screwing up. Because it surely couldn't be us, could it? Could it?"
I very much appreciate your passion on this topic, but please strive to present specifics and facts. I am not a fan of the 4th floor nor the PED, and until we stop relying on bureaucrats and politicians to "fix" education nothing good will happen.
So please, and I know this is difficult, strive to only state facts that are supportable by easy research.
Francis, thank you for self-moderating this post! Keeping everyone on topic is awesome! Adelita (moderator)
Thank you. This is a topic that can easily spin out of control, and I really want everyone to stick to specifics and facts. Yes I have my opinions based not just on personal experience, but also real research. There are opposing opinions, and I very much want to see both the research and facts that support such. If, and hopefully when they are shared I will gladly read and share them.
I didn't blame them, I said they've (the union) done more damage than the Gov or Skandera. Then I pointed out the problems we need to fix. You may notice that I mentioned not being a fan of NCLB. As Run mentioned below, we spend more than anyone else...not only that, the cost per student, on average, is higher in a public vs. private or charter school. Money is not the answer, how it's currently spent...now that we can talk about. If you have the union opinion of don't measure anything, leave the teachers alone, just increase their pay and raise taxes...well, I don't think that's effective.
I was very respectful in my post, I also made sure to compliment "most" teachers and thank them. I most certainly do know teachers, I've also had them, both good and bad, and so have my kids. I've seen the product first hand, with an active parent. It's just not good enough. How do you measure a teacher's performance? Does he/she show up on time? Does he or she stay out of trouble? It's just not good enough. The answer is school choice...short term anyway. You should't fear that...for some reason, private and charter teachers I know are much much happier people.
I would also challenge that parents have not become less involved than before...in fact, there was very little parental involvement in school back in the day...they were more worried about you working the farm or doing your chores. More emphasis is placed on education today than ever before. Are there more distractions...sure, has education failed to keep up from a technological point of view...sure, do teachers need to learn to teach differently to these kids...sure.
I am personally and deeply offended by the idea that I am 100% unaccountable for my students' performance. Aside from my current annual evaluation, the parents of my students also actively look to see improvement in their child. I speak with parents constantly regarding their child, and I am not alone in this. As for the administrative evaluation of my job, they actively look for evidence of this every year. They don't just question me, they also question my students. And no, this is not isolated to my current school. Finally, my students challenge me on this very issue as well. They want to know why they do the assignments I give them.
Sadly, there exists a grossly false perception that teachers are unaccountable. Nothing could be further from the truth. The fact that that is not understood bears witness to just how much is not understood about education. The problem that arises regarding teacher accountability is how do you measure it? Gov. Martinez and Ms. Skandera want to measure that accountability with the Standards Based Assessment (SBA), the annual test given to students. You stated that you are not a "fan of living by the test . . .", so what or how do you think accountability should be measured?
That is absolutely untrue. As for the unions "keeping it that way", that is also an incorrect statement.
In what ways is a teacher held directly accountable for student achievement or progress today? Have you ever known a teacher to be fired for not being a good teacher? What is the criteria for being a "bad teacher"? I've certainly had a few bad ones, so have my kiddos. I'm not saying 100% accountable, but it really should be a part of your performance measurement. We can all debate how and how much, but not even being a factor?
Testing should be a portion, it has to be. Readiness for the next grade level has to be. Having a culture of teaching to the test, which as you know, is exactly what is happening to us today...that's just not the answer either. I don't have the Silver Bullet...I'm just saying, there has to be more accountability as a portion of the fix.
We'll have to agree to disagree on the unions...they only have one interest. More dues and more security that those dues won't stop or be reduced.
NOTE: I have a MBA from the University of Arizona. My approach to education is not simply as a classroom teacher. I bring 20 years private industry experience in my analysis and understanding.
The problem is how can we measure student achievement. The only thing a test can do is say that a problem exists, but not where the problem is. That is why I will always object to them as any kind of viable measurement. Let me explain. As for firing bad teachers, you really are making an assumption of administrative competence. Can a bad teacher be fired. Absolutely. Are principals willing to bother to do so? No. Why? Because the vast majority of principals are poorly trained and in fact, in many cases, are worse than the teachers. Again, I'm not saying that because I'm a teacher; I see it as a MBA. Unless reform addresses the catastrophe of administrators, you are never going to get rid of bad teachers. Many of them, however, are sufficiently political savy to endear themselves to administration. The bottom line, if you are not willing to first address the problems with administrators, then you will never succeed to deal with the problem with teachers.
Before I became a teacher I spent 10 years working in the custom injection molding industry. The companies for whom I worked did not manufacture a product to sell, but instead sold the service of molding a product for the customer to sell. When a contract was signed with a customer, we would receive the customer's mold with which we had to create the end product for the customer. We rarely had any input into the mold itself. Hence, the molds we received may or may not be functional. More often than not, they were at best mediocre and hopefully conceivably average. As part of the contract, we also accepted the burden of maintenance and repair of the molds regardless of the mold's functionality. What does that mean? Well, the mold may or may not be usable, but the people who signed the contract are not the same people who have to make the mold work.
Applying both yours, NM's and the US's administrations approach is really nonsense. When I worked for Carclo and Rosti, if we had done the same thing, we would have fired our Quality Techs whenever a quality test failed. That simply does not make sense. I've said it before, but it's worth repeating, the only thing a test reveals is that a problem exists but not where nor what the problem is.
I can easily go on and describe the variables impacting product outcome, but to what end? Ultimately, the plethora of variables dictate the outcome. You absolutely cannot ignore those variables in education reform. Doing so is dangerously irresponsible. As for the accountability issue, the best teachers are often given the worse students. Using a test as part of that teacher's evaluation only makes that best teacher look like a failure. The end result, as defined by Gov. Martinez and Ms. Skandera and in fact even Pres. Obama and US Sec. of Ed Arne Duncan, is that we should fire that teacher. Such is the very definition of stupid and both parties have embraced it.
Finally, legitimately measurable accountability has to be part of the mix. How would you define the means of measuring that?