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Author Topic: Teachers Unions disappointed by Obama  (Read 1339 times)
dead0man
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« on: September 23, 2009, 12:55:27 am »
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WASHINGTON When Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed merit pay for teachers and lifting the cap on charter schools, the head of the California NAACP stood by his side.

And when the Los Angeles school board voted to approve a plan that could turn over a third of its schools to private operators, Latino members and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa led the charge.

The nation's public school teachers are feeling the squeeze from all sides these days, and some of the heat is coming from unlikely sources: minorities and longtime Democratic allies.

One of them is President Barack Obama, who is irking teachers by suggesting that student test scores be used to judge the success of educators.

The pressure is particularly intense in California, where U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan says the state has "lost its way" with public schools.

In an attempt to improve California's schools, the Obama administration is threatening to withhold federal stimulus money if the Golden State does not rescind a state law that prevents the state from tying test scores to teacher performance.

None of this is exactly what teachers had in mind when they knocked on doors to help elect Obama.

"It takes more than the ability to fill in bubbles to be considered an educated person," Marty Hittelman, president of the California Federation of Teachers, said in a letter to Duncan. "We thought President Obama understood that."

As the battles intensify, longtime political alliances are shifting, said Jaime Regalado, executive director of the Edmund G. "Pat" Brown Institute, a nonprofit public-policy center at California State University, Los Angeles.

<snip>

"To be perfectly honest, it's disappointing again," Sanchez said. "Our perception is it's more of the same, and that's not good, because we thought we were going to be able to change something, make some true reform in public education."

Ironically, the teacher unions find themselves opposing some of their former members.

Alice Huffman, the NAACP's president since 1999, helped lead fights against school vouchers and merit pay when she worked as an organizer for the CTA for 13 years. Her thinking has definitely changed, which is why she was standing next to a Republican governor last month.

"The only place the NAACP can be is with this governor," Huffman said. "If the teacher unions put a better proposal on the table, we would stand with them."

For Huffman, the battle is personal. She said too many inner-city minority children are stuck in failing schools and that immediate and revolutionary changes are needed.

"I have watched this for 20 years," Huffman said. "And I have nieces and nephews that have come out of the public schools that can't read, can't write, will never be employable. This is happening right here. ... Something profound has to happen. We can't wait another decade and another decade while people tweak with it."

In Los Angeles, Villaraigosa turned against the local teachers union to help push a school-choice plan that was approved last month. It will allow private operators to submit plans on how they'd run 250 schools, including many that failed to meet federal benchmarks on state tests. United Teachers Los Angeles, Villaraigosa's former employer, is opposed to the plan, saying it's the first step toward privatizing the school district.

<snip>
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Quote from:   Martha Gellhorn for The Atlantic 1961
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« Reply #1 on: September 23, 2009, 12:57:19 am »
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Who's not disappointed with Obama?
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« Reply #2 on: September 23, 2009, 12:58:22 am »
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Make it easier to fire bad teachers. It's almost impossible in LA.

http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-teachers3-2009may03,0,679507.story
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dead0man
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« Reply #3 on: September 23, 2009, 01:04:15 am »
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Make it easier to fire bad teachers. It's almost impossible in LA.

http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-teachers3-2009may03,0,679507.story
That's always been my biggest complaint with teachers unions.  Well, most unions for that matter.  Trying to protect your own is noble.  Doing so at the detriment of everybody involved is stupid.  Double stupid when our kid's education is concerned.  Do a Google search for "NYC 'rubber rooms' for teachers".  Clearly more money will solve the problem.
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Quote from:   Martha Gellhorn for The Atlantic 1961
The unique misfortune of the Palestinian refugees is that they are a weapon in what seems to be a permanent war...today, in the Middle East, you get a repeated sinking sensation about the Palestinian refugees: they are only a beginning, not an end. Their function is to hang around and be constantly useful as a goad. The ultimate aim is not such humane small potatoes as repatriating refugees.
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« Reply #4 on: September 23, 2009, 01:12:06 am »
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To be fair, the idea of merit pay is retarded.
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« Reply #5 on: September 23, 2009, 01:27:01 am »
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I personally am bitterly opposed to charter schools. Merit pay however if worked right has some potential.
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Marokai Besieged
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« Reply #6 on: September 23, 2009, 01:28:32 am »
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To be fair, the idea of merit pay is retarded.
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« Reply #7 on: September 23, 2009, 07:03:07 am »
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All teachers should be evaluated based upon the performance of their students.  If their students aren't learning anything, then the teacher isn't doing his or her job.  The government has every right to demand that the teacher be replaced with someone more qualified.  For all the talk the NEA says about improving education for the next generation, they sure do a good job of keeping the worst teachers in their positions to the detriment to our children.
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Zarn
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« Reply #8 on: September 23, 2009, 07:15:26 am »
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"Merit" is disgusting. It's extremely difficult to teach in urban areas. It's not the teachers themselves, but the 'culture' and lack of resources. Keep the Feds out! Public education should be as local as humanly possible.
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Marokai Besieged
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« Reply #9 on: September 23, 2009, 07:26:58 am »
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"Merit" is disgusting. It's extremely difficult to teach in urban areas. It's not the teachers themselves, but the 'culture' and lack of resources. Keep the Feds out! Public education should be as local as humanly possible.

Yeah, it's completely ridiculous to just blindly tie student performance to teacher pay, because most of the time the teacher's effectiveness can't translate into Straight-A's for the students. I'm not sure what the motivation for pressing what seems like a fair policy but is actually completely unfair and not at all thought-out, but I'd wager it's yet another effort to bust up union influence of some sort.

"Merit pay" is ridiculous precisely because of what you just said, in many environments it's a complete red-herring to blame the teacher. It comes from a lack of an ability to think this issue out thoroughly and a lack of courage to face deeper societal issues at work here. It's like blaming a Driver's Ed teacher if a student has a car accident a few months down the road.

If a school is underfunded, merit pay unfairly hurts teachers. If a school is in a poor environment or needs repaired, merit pay unfairly hurts teachers. If a school lacks the necessary resources to provide for their students, merit pay unfairly hurts the teachers. If students simply decide not to listen or don't do the work because they don't care, merit pay unfairly hurts teachers.

It's a scape-goat game, and that's why it's ridiculous. Merit pay only works if all schools are properly funded, resourced, and all the students actually pay attention and come from decent households. So basically, it's a "works well in a perfect world" policy. Does that mean we shouldn't fire "bad" teachers? No, but it's really hard to judge what makes a teacher "bad" in the first place, let alone making some ignorant connection to teacher performance and grades. What we should be doing is rebuilding schools and giving existing schools the proper resources, and actually paying teachers more, instead of trying to find ways to avoid the real issue.
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Rowan
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« Reply #10 on: September 23, 2009, 07:32:02 am »
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But aren't all jobs essentially "merit" based? If you are a bad factory worker, you get fired. If you suck at flipping burgers at Burger King, you get fired. The idea that you can't fire a teacher because her students aren't learning is absurd.
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Marokai Besieged
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« Reply #11 on: September 23, 2009, 07:39:32 am »
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But aren't all jobs essentially "merit" based? If you are a bad factory worker, you get fired. If you suck at flipping burgers at Burger King, you get fired. The idea that you can't fire a teacher because her students aren't learning is absurd.

I suppose you could consider them such, but there's a difference between educational positions and flipping burgers. In the latter scenario, pretty much everything is provided to you. You have co-workers to rely on, the patties to cook, and a stove to cook them on, the tools to do it, and people to serve them to who are willing to eat.

In the former, the teacher may not have willing students to deal with. The teacher might be from an inner-city school with alot of cultural issues, or a poor school that needs repairs, or a school that lacks the necessary resources to compete with all the others. While the Burger King employee has everything there with him, it's almost entirely about his or her performance, while the teacher relies on everything that may not always be there. So there is more to blame for failing grades than just the teacher.

To make the burger flipper and the teacher on equal footing, you would have to throw a number of cogs in burger boy's machine. Unwilling customers, defective stoves, lack of burgers in stock, employees that are unreliable, etc.
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Franzl
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« Reply #12 on: September 23, 2009, 07:40:34 am »
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But aren't all jobs essentially "merit" based? If you are a bad factory worker, you get fired. If you suck at flipping burgers at Burger King, you get fired. The idea that you can't fire a teacher because her students aren't learning is absurd.

The problem is that there is no objective way of measuring a teacher's ability, whereas it's very easy to tell if someone "sucks at flipping burgers".
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dead0man
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« Reply #13 on: September 23, 2009, 07:57:34 am »
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Why must merit pay compare teachers in different schools?  Couldn't merit pay be set up based on individual schools, or at least districts?  If all the teachers at one school in a district seem to be doing good, start sending them to the schools where the teachers aren't doing so well.
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Quote from:   Martha Gellhorn for The Atlantic 1961
The unique misfortune of the Palestinian refugees is that they are a weapon in what seems to be a permanent war...today, in the Middle East, you get a repeated sinking sensation about the Palestinian refugees: they are only a beginning, not an end. Their function is to hang around and be constantly useful as a goad. The ultimate aim is not such humane small potatoes as repatriating refugees.
Badger
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« Reply #14 on: September 23, 2009, 07:57:58 am »

But aren't all jobs essentially "merit" based? If you are a bad factory worker, you get fired. If you suck at flipping burgers at Burger King, you get fired. The idea that you can't fire a teacher because her students aren't learning is absurd.

The problem is that there is no objective way of measuring a teacher's ability, whereas it's very easy to tell if someone "sucks at flipping burgers".

Exactamundo, Franzl.

A personal anecdote, FWIW: My mother was a suburban school teacher for close to 30 years, and a registered Republican for as long (though admittedly she voted for Obama and Dukakis). Her take on merit pay is that it was doled out primarily to those who were the principal's or superentendint's drinking buddies more than on "merit".
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Badger
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« Reply #15 on: September 23, 2009, 07:59:04 am »

Why must merit pay compare teachers in different schools?  Couldn't merit pay be set up based on individual schools, or at least districts?  If all the teachers at one school in a district seem to be doing good, start sending them to the schools where the teachers aren't doing so well.

And you're worried about increased federal funding of education as being overly intrusive?
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« Reply #16 on: September 23, 2009, 08:04:22 am »
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But aren't all jobs essentially "merit" based? If you are a bad factory worker, you get fired. If you suck at flipping burgers at Burger King, you get fired. The idea that you can't fire a teacher because her students aren't learning is absurd.

The problem is that there is no objective way of measuring a teacher's ability, whereas it's very easy to tell if someone "sucks at flipping burgers".

Exactamundo, Franzl.

A personal anecdote, FWIW: My mother was a suburban school teacher for close to 30 years, and a registered Republican for as long (though admittedly she voted for Obama and Dukakis). Her take on merit pay is that it was doled out primarily to those who were the principal's or superentendint's drinking buddies more than on "merit".

Yeah my dad's a teacher as well (mathematics), and judging by the performance I see even in simple little quizzes where even a monkey could teach the class how to solve the problems, I must admit I'm extremely happy his pay isn't dependent on his students' test scores.
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dead0man
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« Reply #17 on: September 23, 2009, 10:19:53 am »
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Why must merit pay compare teachers in different schools?  Couldn't merit pay be set up based on individual schools, or at least districts?  If all the teachers at one school in a district seem to be doing good, start sending them to the schools where the teachers aren't doing so well.

And you're worried about increased federal funding of education as being overly intrusive?
Does it have to be federally funded?
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Quote from:   Martha Gellhorn for The Atlantic 1961
The unique misfortune of the Palestinian refugees is that they are a weapon in what seems to be a permanent war...today, in the Middle East, you get a repeated sinking sensation about the Palestinian refugees: they are only a beginning, not an end. Their function is to hang around and be constantly useful as a goad. The ultimate aim is not such humane small potatoes as repatriating refugees.
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« Reply #18 on: September 23, 2009, 02:06:57 pm »
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The Washington Post's editorial page discusses this topic today:  "Ms. Rhee's Belt-Tightening"
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« Reply #19 on: September 23, 2009, 02:09:34 pm »
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The last thing teachers need is to standarize their teachers to some perceived greater goal; no matter how noble or well-meaning (how exactly do you define a 'failure' as a teacher anyway keeping in mind the differences between Ghetto High, Detriot and the better Upper-Middle-Class Public Schools (Do such things exist in the US?)). Just let them teach.
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As I have noted before 'paradigm shift' is an anagram of 'grasp dim faith'

Snowguy716
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« Reply #20 on: September 23, 2009, 02:21:17 pm »
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Why is it so impossible to fire teachers?  I don't get it.  Teachers get canned here all the time for bad performance, budget cuts, etc.

They have also been very willing to forego pay raises and even receive pay cuts to ease the constant strain on the budget by rising insurance and fuel/transportation/food/maintenance costs.

The result has been class sizes that remain pretty low, teachers are relatively happy, and student achievement isn't hurt as a result.

I just get so tired of hearing about the evil teachers' unions in a few places... because it turns the public against all teachers' unions, most of which place the students and the teachers on the same pedestal.
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« Reply #21 on: September 23, 2009, 02:30:50 pm »
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Tenure is the key to 'good' teachers.
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« Reply #22 on: September 23, 2009, 02:32:04 pm »
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Tenure is the key to 'good' teachers.

And hell for getting rid of bad ones
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« Reply #23 on: September 23, 2009, 02:43:21 pm »
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Tenure is the key to 'good' teachers.

And hell for getting rid of bad ones

No no, you don't understand.  If a person feels absolutely secure in their salary, regardless of what they do, then they can focus on actually teaching.  If they live in fear, constantly harrassed and threatened with sacking by a vicious thug of a boss, the last thing they're going to provide is quality work. 
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« Reply #24 on: September 23, 2009, 03:13:12 pm »
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Tenure is the key to 'good' teachers.

And hell for getting rid of bad ones

No no, you don't understand.  If a person feels absolutely secure in their salary, regardless of what they do, then they can focus on actually teaching.  

I understand more than you think....I've been around school boards and districts......tenored teachers (not all of course) become lazier, because short of them sodomizing your kid.......they can't be fired.
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