Sunday, April 27, 2014

Brookings Research Reveals Teachers Are the Problem

Brookings will release a new book this week with the charming title Teachers versus the Public: What Americans Think about Schools and How To Fix Them.

And yes-- that title tells us where we're going right off the bat-- teachers really are the problem. In fact, teachers aren't just the opposition-- teachers aren't even American. Perhaps we are all bused in from Outer Slobovia?

The blurb promises that the book "offers the first comparison of the education policy views of both teachers and the public as a whole, and reveals a deep, broad divide between the opinions held by citizens and those who teach in the public schools." And here are some of the specific findings.

* The opinion gap is larger between teachers and actual Americans, that it is between any subsets of eal Americans.

* Widest teacher-human gap issues are (brace yourself) merit pay, vouchers, tenure "reform", charter schools, and annual student testing.

* "Public willingness to give local schools high marks, its readiness to support higher spending levels, and its support for teacher unions all decline when the public learns the national ranking of their local schools."

* When given "new information" current performance levels, teacher pay and current expenditure levels, teachers' opinions change less than the opinions of civilians.

 I cannot explain the first finding, nor can I think of a reason to care. The second is not shocking. The third and fourth are an extraordinarily easy effect to create. I've written about it before re: a Hunt Institute poll. The whole key is the "new information" that you provide your respondents; just pick "new information" that prompts the response you want.

This also explains why the "new information" doesn't move teachers so much-- because it's hard to change people's opinions with new information if the people know enough to recognize your "new information" as unvarnished baloney.

The book provides the first experimental study of public and teacher opinion. Using a recently developed research strategy, the authors ask differently worded questions about the same topic to randomly chosen segments of representative groups of citizens. This approach allows them to identify the impact on public opinion of new information on issues such as student performance and school expenditures in each respondent's community.

See what we're really looking for here, what we are really researching? This is not a study about understanding the political tectonics of education issues, and it's not a study about how people are forming their opinions. It's not even research about how teachers are big stupid Slobovians who are trying to pull their Slobovian wool over good American eyes. It's reseach about how to change peoples' minds. Here's the conclusion.

Altogether, the results indicate that support for many school reforms would increase if common core state standards were established and implemented in such a way as to inform the public about the quality of their local schools. 

So what we've actually got here is a marketing study framing how to achieve more victory in the battle for the hearts and minds of the American public. The way to beat our enemy, that vast army of Slobovian teachers, is to provide "new information" to the public ("Get your New Information right here! You know it's fresh because I just made it up!") and in particular, to make sure that CCSS is set up to "prove" that their schools are failing.

The blurb also contains "advance praise" from four education titans. I'll paraphrase--

Joel Klein-- Teachers want the status quo (not the actual status quo, but the status quo we wiped away a decade ago) but when the public discovers what big fat failures schools are, they'll let us do whatever we want.

Jeb Bush-- blah blah blah. It's weird, but Jeb's words actually resist being read, like there's some osrt of force field. Educating the next generation (current students are SOL)

That Woman- This mighty fine research underlines how out of touch teachers are with regular humans and how we will have to drag them into alignment.

Bunch of People from Hoover Institute-- "This scholarly book corrects and changes the political debate.  The authors reveal that it is teachers themselves—not just their union representatives—who stand opposed to school reforms a majority of the public favors.  In many ways this points to a much larger problem with improving our schools."

It's not just the unions-- it's those actual damn teachers. This seems like a no-brainer, since the national teacher union leadership has already rolled over on school reform.

That last quote underlines what seems to be the message here-- we have marketing to do, and we have to do it to wipe away the influence of those damn teachers. Those damn teachers are, in fact, the main obstacle to education in this country. Clearly, teachers went to college and worked to find a full-time job with mediocre pay just so that they could build a beachhead on the shores of Educationland and fight off anyone who tried to settle there. We always knew that teachers were the problem, but now we have Real Sciency Research to prove it.

This isn't really about teachers versus the public-- it's about teachers versus the reformsters for public hearts and minds. So, one part marketing research, one part explicit attack on teachers. The book comes out April 29. You know you'll want to reserve your copy now.


  1. How could you write this whole post w/o once using the word fluffernuttery?

  2. Peter
    As a retired HS English teacher who taught in a public school in upstate NY, I have become an active reader and fan of your insightful blog. As others have pointed out, you manage with wit and style to put into words what so many of us believe about public education and the threat that deformers pose.
    I realize this post deals with how the " damn teachers" are the ones who just won't accept the unicorn, rainbow goodness of common core. But as you and others have written, the status quo movement would love to see the destruction of unions (and when it comes to common core our unions are doing some great self-destruction) and due process for teachers (see Kansas). If unions and due process are such a detriment to our children's education, shouldn't Right To Work states have schools that approach Finland in quality and high standards? Certainly those states should have been able to clear out all the dead wood clogging up the teachers lounges. Has anyone ever done a study that shows how states without strong teachers unions and due process stack up with those that do?

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  4. To paraphrase Captain Renault in Casablanca, "I'm shocked, shocked to learn that teachers oppose vouchers, charters and job protections." did we really need a scholarly survey to tell us that? Thanks for pointing out that this is just a PR strategy for the reformsters.

  5. "The opinion gap is larger between teachers and actual Americans, that it is between any subsets of real Americans."
    Teachers aren't REAL Americans- don't you get it? We're those other people, outsiders, vandals, zombies. Another day in the history of Brookings' agitprop.