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.
OBTS - as a country, we spend more on education than any other developed country so I do not think funding is the silver bullet. So that argument doesn't work.
Last summer I had a client in the health insurance industry that hired an executive officer that had zero experience in healthcare. This was a big risk for them as they usually hired only from a pool of health care experienced talent. This person had experience in the finance world. Today they are doing very, very well having just been awarded part of the State's expanded Medicare program, Centennial Care. The reason I tell this story is because I believe the State did the same with Skandera. What they had tried in the past simply did not work so they did the right thing and tried something different. She most likely will not be confirmed, but she has already brought the taste of change to the masses which is a bitter pill for the status quo to swallow.
Actually Denmark, Sweden, Belgium, Austria, Israel, and Slovenia all spend more on education than the United States. Per student spending isn't much different.
As for Skandera's qualification, that's very problematic. In your anecdote, you state that an insurance company hired a person with only finance experience. That actually makes a lot of sense simply because insurance is a finance game; consequently, it really doesn't matter if it's health, home, automotive, or flood insurance. In all of those, profit is realized through successful risk analysis, something in which an experienced finance person would have to be very experienced.
Education, on the other hand, requires a knowledge of the variables that come to play in every child's life. To continue with your insurance analogy, think of it this way. Would any insurance company be successful if they were forced to accept any and all risk without the ability to adjust rates? Obviously, such an insurance company would fail; however, that is exactly what is required of our schools. Unfortunately, bureaucrats such as Ms. Skandera fail to grasp that concept which is why they are so dangerous.
I can't help but opine on your comment about Insurance, specifically:
"Would any insurance company be successful if they were forced to accept any and all risk without the ability to adjust rates? Obviously, such an insurance company would fail;"
I have no intention of derailing the Ed convo...but what you said is poignant. If you ask the opposition, ACA was designed to put insurance companies out of business and force people to the government pools by doing exactly what you describe. Even though this is denied with passion by the ACA backers.
No problem . . . that's a topic for another thread in which we can all "slam" heads together.
We both can cherry pick stats to match our arguments, however, even if those other countries spend as much as we do, we still fail as they out perform us on every measure but especially math and science. I suppose it all depends on where we get our numbers from.
Your logic is flawed in thinking that education is different from business. Education fits a business model quite well.
1. You have demand and a customer which is society as a whole which needs educated individuals to contribute.
2. You have a product which is the educated individual.
3. You have overhead which is facilities, teachers and staff, and limited financial resources.
By definition you have an economic function. I know you are probably rolling your eyes saying something like, "We can't treat our kids like a business" but actually, it is the best thing we could do. Any business that is successful (by successful I mean has high employee engagement, makes a profit and and is able to grow and contributes to the community) has at least these characteristics:
Structure in the work place
Discipline among the full range of employees from the entry level to the O's
A clear mission and vision
I know, there's that "V" word that is demonized as being something from the conservative right. But it has to exist.
Back to the economic model of a school. This is exactly where Skandera can being value. She has a business back ground that can bring change to the current environment of complacency.
As a personal trainer, I work with other trainers that started visiting schools last year to teach K through 6 the value of exercise and nutrition. Last year we visited four schools. The teachers would combine classes and bring the kids out to us and we would engage them in 20 minutes our so of exercise and instruction on nutrition. It didn't take long to see which teachers were in it for the kids and which were in it for a paycheck. While I don't have hard numbers, from simple observation I'd have to say 30-40% of the teachers simply aren't engaged with the kids. The ones that are enaged get in there an move around with the kids or stick close by and make sure the kids are paying attention. The ones that aren't go off and play with they're phones, chat it up with someone and are basically glad to dump the kids off on somebody. I know that hurts to hear, but that's what I see.
There is a great business analogy that I heard and often use when I consult with businesses. I leader/manager should view their employes as diamonds in a field. Some of the diamonds are beautiful and near perfect. The leader picks those up, shines them and puts them on display. Some are okay, but the leader will take them, work on them and get them to perfection so they too can be displayed. Then there are pieces of coal. The leader will pick those up, and apply as much pressure as she/he possibly can. The coal will either turn into a diamond, or turn to dust.
There needs to be a time of reckoning with the ranks of teachers since they are the interface between education and the student. The diamond should be polished, the coal should be rendered or let go and new diamonds hired. This is where the union gets in the way and performs the greatest injustice to our students.
The fact that the USA does not spend the most on education was not cherry picked. It is easily researched. Cherry picking occurs when you begin with a conclusion and then look for information that supports that conclusion. I didn't do that. All I did was enter a search query regarding your initial contention. Unfortunately, stating the fact that the USA does not outspend every other country in education is no more cherry picking than it is to say that the sun rises in the East and sets in the West. Both are simple facts.
As for those countries outperforming and outspending the USA, they also have education systems that are very different from ours. One of the most critical differences is that they divide their students between college bound and trades bound. This typically occurs by 8th grade, and in some cases earlier. Consequently, the test scores from those countries are based solely on their college bound students. In the US, our test scores encompass every student. This results in an apples to cabbage comparison. A valid country to country comparison first requires that we isolate those scores of students comparable to those country's college bound students. Until you do that, arguing that we do worse than them is not a truly valid argument.
As to the business model in education, my statement is again based on facts and not conjecture. No business is required to conform to the same standards found in education. If you are not willing to accept that, then there really is no basis for your counterpoint. Think of it this way. You're a trainer. How successful would you be if you were required to accept anyone as a client, especially people who have absolutely no desire to exercise? You would fail. That's not a personal criticism, but is instead a realistic statement.
Finally, I started this thread with the intent that people participating in it would bring to the discussion factual information. I previously criticized another poster because he/she was only sharing opinion and not facts. I lay that same criticism upon you. If you choose to return to this thread, please bring facts and not opinion.
Francis. I stand by my argument whether you accept it or not. By your own admission, we are different than any other country. Please provide me then with a metric you would like to use to measure the successful education of a student? You can pick any measure you want but the cold hard fact is, we are in a world economy and you don't have to Google that to know it is fact. So I would pick my final measurement of success carefully because if the US student doesn't measure up, well you can complete that sentence.
I would be quite successful as a trainer required to accept everyone as a client. I have done it in the past when I was part of a wellness program at a local company. I met with each individual.. Set measurable goals for everyone and put in place an exercise program for each person. There were twenty three people by the by. Everyone except for one person made their goals for the year. The one person who didn't had a substance abuse issue and was referred to a professional. I do not know the outcome. I hope that is fact enough for you.
My final point is this, you started this dialogue to have open, intelligent discussion with rules that you set that probably no one could achieve. I admit, I fell for it. You are obviously happy with the way things have been done for the past 30 to 40 years here and nothing I say will open your mind to change. So be it. Good luck to you. Lastly, when a group of four trainers comes by your school the teach your kids about exercise and nutrition, please do me the favor of staying and participating with them. It will mean more to them than you will ever know.
Look, you're preaching to the choir about this country being in a world economy. That's why I pointed out the irregularities involved with country to country comparisons. Before a measurement is valid, it has to be truthful, and the simplistic country to country comparisons to which too many refer fail at this.
Again, please specify the actual measurement you would use for teachers. What is it?
As for your being required to accept everyone, you still haven't measured up to the standards of a classroom. If you can be successful with 20 to 45 students all at once, then your experience would make more sense. Like yourself, if a classroom teacher was able to work with such a student one on one, they would be as successful as you. Hence, while your experience is commendable, it is not a valid comparison.That is not a personal opinion, but is instead a factor of rigidly conducted research.
I still expect open and honest dialogue. What I've asked of you as well as everyone else, myself included, is to avoid making simplistic claims. Everyone wants to blame teachers, but the cold hard fact is absolutely no evidence has ever been shown that proves that they're to blame. People also often argue that a business model should be applied to schools. As I have shown, that simply is not valid. Whether anyone likes it or not, children are mindless, emotionless cogs. They are ever changing variables.
Y'all are getting way off topic - it was about Skandera, not teachers...
Anyway, here's my thoughts about her:
1) She only taught a single semester - abstinence education at a girls Catholic high school - boy, if that doesn't tell you all about her politics and unrealistic expectations, nothing will. But RW think tanks like that type of blind ambition, so her next stop was working for GW Bush in Texas and then Jeb Bush in Florida - working in the education dept, learning all those techniques to make public schools look bad and promoting public funding of private education.
2) The first thing the Martinez administration does (after hiring her) is to blame job losses on lack of education, and then pass measures to start grading schools and teachers - but also adding the little provision of allowing students who are slated to attend a school that is "failing" the ability to attend online schools (as opposed to attend charter schools, or pouring more resources into these schools. Who's heavily involved with the private online school arena - why that would be Jeb Bush.... Hmmm...)
3) Okay, so maybe you play good cop, bad cop with Susana doing photo ops with 3rd graders at every turn, and Hanna publicizing every "bad" school she can find. And maybe a rule gets passed that requires charter schools to have New Mexico reps, so you line up political allies to form a proposed charter school (with no experience). And then....
4) You start approving private online charter schools that have these allies in charge, but are really fronts for private online schools, disregarding your staff's recommendations, and disregarding evidence from the state of Colorado that students attending online schools are testing a year behind their public school peers, and, even better, 50% of online students drop out within a year, and the public schools have to take these students back, gratis....
So, I really think she's working for Jeb Bush, and not for the students and teachers of New Mexico. Yeah, she's energetic, but she's got an agenda that involves the shifting of public funds into private hands. I saw what happened to Arizona when this happened - we're talking over $100 M shifted into dubious charter schools and online "academies". It's a gold mine for these folks - your kids will be soon "taught" by the same people who "Americanize" their names.... Send her away....
Skandera is merely a symptom of an outdated educational system. Maybe she, as well as all government officials, should watch this...http://youtu.be/zDZFcDGpL4U
It bothers me a great deal (particularly as a former h.s. teacher) that the individual in this position could be someone who has no classroom experience. Legitimate teaching experience should be a requirement for nomination to education secretary. And a semester doing abstinence education simply doesn't count as experience--that's like saying I have "plumbing experience" because I once poured some Draino into my sink. I think anyone who's making policy that directly affects what happens in classrooms should have spent some actual time--at least a few complete school years--at the front of a classroom, managing students, creating and implementing lessons, doing grading, working with parents, etc. Such an individual would see very quickly that there are an enormous number of factors in a student's life that affect learning and that are simply beyond the control of a teacher.
Unless we're going to give teachers the power to dictate what happens in students' homes--spending time on homework, ensuring breakfast is eaten, lunch is provided and regular bedtimes are enforced, limiting tv watching, etc. (can you imagine the outcry over government overeach?)--then it's absurd that teachers should be the only individuals accountable for student performance. The sorts of things Skandera is proposing might begin to approach fair if we also include tax penalties for families whose students perform poorly. Where's the proposal for that? And why aren't the Secretary of Education's salary and continued employment predicated on statewide education performance?