Flypaper

While my esteemed colleague may not be buying the numbers coming out of the Big Apple, parents and students are. Mayor Bloomberg announced today that a survey of parents and students revealed that a "vast majority" (according to the New York Times) of New Yorkers were "satisfied" with their schools. While we can only hope the results of said survey may prove to be worth their whopping two-million-dollar price tag, the real kicker was the response of Randi Weingarten, president of the United Federation of Teachers, to the finding that 94 percent of parents surveyed were happy with their child's teacher:

"The fact that parents think so highly of their children's teachers also indicates how selfless our educators are," Ms. Weingarten said. "They give their all despite feeling that the central administration isn't listening to their concerns."

Did I miss something? Here's a thought. Maybe the reason parents are happy with their teachers is that Bloomberg's system works and teachers are responding in kind.

Liam Julian

Clearly, it's struck a chord and it's worth unpacking: Why do so many teachers lean so heavily, when criticized, on the "you've never yourself been a teacher" argument? As I noted here, it's logically baseless. Imagine lawyers, doctors, oil-company executives mounting such a defense. If one may judge the performance of only those whose occupations he at one time or another shared, then he is prohibited from judging the performance of almost everyone--the lazy sales associate ["Barista," I mean]??at Starbucks, for example, or??the incompetent dentist who leaves his??patient's??mouth feeling as if it were invaded by those particularly nasty African bees.

But perhaps the??one in question has, in fact, worked as a waiter. And so he feels assured that his critique of the poor service he received at dinner last night is quite within bounds. Alas, no. He is mistaken, you see, because the restaurant at which he once delivered entrees to customers cannot be considered very busy, whereas the restaurant at which he dined last night certainly is. (The restaurant analogy is here used to demonstrate the further silliness of teachers who trumpet their work in urban schools, as opposed to the cushy schools across town.)

I'm familiar with no other profession that so often trots out this crutch. I was just discussing with others in the office why teachers, in particular, pledge such allegiance to this martyr mantra. And no, it's not because teaching is a tough, unrewarding job--rarely have I heard gentlemen who...

Liam Julian

Iowa debates whether to disallow the use of chokeholds in public schools. (Wikipedia provides a handy list of common chokeholds, including the anaconda choke and gogoplata.)

Liam Julian

An attack weathered by all education-policy pundits who have not??taught in dreadful, moldy,??urban schools where classes are dismissed to the sound of gunfire is this: "Ah ha! But you haven't spent time in the classroom and therefore have no grounds for opining." How silly, though, if our legislators, staring at their 18.5 percent approval ratings, took to CSPAN and said, "Foolish Americans. You have no idea how difficult it is to serve one's country! The vast majority of you have never been politicians, and probably you couldn't even legislate new flags for your??respective city halls. So, shush up."????

That's not the same thing, Liam! Oh, isn't it?

Liam Julian

The National Council of La Raza is headquartered one block from our office. Despite what their spokesmen may or may not tell you, "La Raza" means "The Race," and it's a term that has gained an impressive toehold in some k-12 public schools as "Raza studies." (It's on college campuses, too, of course. One can earn a B.A. in Raza Studies from the University of San Francisco, for example, and then graduate fully prepared for a life of grievance and groaning.) Here's an article detailing the Raza nonsense peddled in some Tucson, Arizona, high schools. If you're into this type of thing, perhaps in order is??a junket to the 10th Annual Institute for Transformative Education seminar, sponsored by the Tucson Unified School District's Mexican-American/Raza Studies Department and the University of Arizona College of Education.

Classroom teachers will have the opportunity to learn from and work with the leading scholars in the areas of Latino critical race theory, critical race theory, critical multicultural education, Chicana/o studies, ethnic studies, cultural studies, critical pedagogy, and critical race pedagogy.

It's incredible, really.

KIPP schools mostly serve the middle grades and thus spend much of their time plugging the gaps in knowledge and skills that students picked up early on in traditional public schools. But imagine if the youngsters entering KIPP middle schools came from KIPP elementary schools . The mind reels at the possibilities.

The New York Times marks the midway point of Newark mayor Cory Booker's first term with a supportive editorial. Meanwhile, Booker spent yesterday evening at Metropolitan Baptist Church in Newark to welcome incoming superintendent (and former D.C. schools chief) Clifford Janey.

The well-seasoned Janey (he's 61) sounded the right notes. For instance:

"It makes no sense and is actually harmful to move students along and provide them with a phony diploma," he said to one burst of applause. "We will not only look at the standards but the promotion policies from elementary right through high schools."

That's a highly worthwhile undertaking. As Checker and Liam pointed out in Gadfly a few weeks ago, most states and districts struggle to maintain meaningful academic standards when lots of students can't meet them. Holding back or denying diplomas to 50 percent of your pupils is not very palatable, politically or otherwise, so typically you end up either watering down tests so more kids can pass or simply waiving the exams altogether and accepting a "portfolio of work," or some such empty alternative instead. The result of which, of course, is that graduating...

We are pretty good at generating buzz for upcoming reports at Fordham (doesn't hurt that those reports are typically buzzworthy) but this article in Education Week yesterday fostered buzz without alerting me to the bite. It summarizes what I imagine to be fairly complex research findings on a topic that many folks are interested in, then doesn't tell us exactly when the actually study is to be published or released (sometime "soon"). So I rely on the journalist's take of the findings (risky but unavoidable).

Harvard researcher Tom Kane and colleagues apparently conducted a random assignment study analyzing whether students in classrooms with National Boards teachers (i.e., those that have received the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards-NBPTS-credential) learned more than students taught by comparison teachers. To my knowledge, this is the first random assignment study conducted on this contentious topic (see here, here, and here). We're told that students with teachers with high ratings on the Boards gained more than students in classes with lower-scoring Board teachers. And though test score differences between students with Board teachers and with non-applicant teachers were positive, they were not statistically significant. Kane sums it up this way:

Ineffective teachers are just as likely as effective teachers to apply for national-board certification but the board process does seem to provide some information on teachers' effectiveness, so people who are certified are a little better than the average non-applicant, and unsuccessful applicants are

...
Liam Julian

If you're looking for a solid primer on schools in the U.K., you could do worse than this article from the London Review of Books, which breaks down nicely that country's educational evolution. Britain is a famously class-oriented society, and until 1944, its educational system was class-based, too. Long story short: After a half-century of attempting to make its schools less divisive, in today's U.K., according to the article's author, "There is no longer any significant political support for a universal system of comprehensive education."

Liam Julian

The forthcoming debate between Sol Stern and Chris Cerf, over at Eduwonk, should be must-see blogging.

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