Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Evil L.A. Teacher Unions

The Center for Education Reform is a charter promotion group, perhaps one of the most cynical and self-serving of the reformster groups. Search their website for information or ideas about education-- the actual pedagogy and instruction in a classroom-- and you will find nothing, because the Center has no actual interest in education.

Check out their board of directors-- you will find a combination of money managers and charter school operators. That is where the Center's interest lies-- in getting more money into more charters.

And what stands in the way of these corporate interests making a better, bigger buck? Well, those damn unions, of course. The Center may not have any section devoted to actually educating children, but they have a whole tab devoted to those damn unions, and here's What They Believe:

We believe that the special interests that draw funds from the tax dollars funding public education, and that have become an intransient [sic-- pretty sure they mean "intransigent," though "intransient" as in "won't move away to some other place" might suit them as well] force in political and policy circles, have outlived the usefulness of the associations they once had and have become obstacles to programs and activities that can best and most judiciously serve children. Such groups—from teachers unions, to the associations of administrators, principals, school boards and hybrids of all (e.g., “The Blob”)—should be free to organize but without access to the dollars that are spent to fund schools and should be free to recruit but not mandate members, but they should not have a public stream of money that permits the dues of members to subsidize their defense of the status quo.

The Center is currently excited with itself because it placed a quote in a Wall Street Journal article. The piece (behind a paywall) discusses the desire of some charter teachers to unionize. Or, as the Center headlined it in their regular email, "Teachers at Successful Los Angeles Charter School Organization Being Manipulated by Union Leaders."

The charter in question is the Alliance charter, a chain run by rich folks like a former mayor of LA and the owner of the Atlanta Hawks. Alliance is a big gun in the LA charter scene, and seventy of its 500-person teacher workforce started pushing for a union last spring.

"We believe that when teachers have a respected voice in policymaking it leads to school sustainability and teacher retention," said Elana Goldbaum, who teaches history at Gertz-Ressler High School, a member of the Alliance group. "We have a lot of talent and we want to see that stay. We want to see our teachers be a part of the decision-making and we want to advocate for our students and ourselves."

The union movement has sparked controversy, with the LA union claiming interference on the part of charter management and Alliance saying the teachers feel harassed by the union. The struggle escalated at the end of October when the California Public Employment Relations Board sued Alliance for engaging in anti-union activity.

All of this, somehow, is the evil union pulling the wool over the eyes of the poor, hapless teachers.

Look, the big unions are no angels, and the big-city unions are probably the least angelic of all. But you know that teachers need some kind of union when the charters are letting loose with baloney like this, the quote from the WSJ of which the Center is so proud:

“It’s not surprising that teachers that work at charter schools would not want to join a union,” said Alison Zgainer, executive vice president of the Center for Education Reform, a pro-charter organization in Washington, D.C. “They want more autonomy in the classroom, and being part of a union you lose that autonomy.”

I guess Zgainer is referring to "autonomy" as defined by charter operators-- the autonomy to be told you must work long hours over a long week. The autonomy to have instruction strictly dictated. The autonomy to be paid as little as the charter wants to pay you. The autonomy to be fired any time the charter feels like it. The autonomy to be trained in "no excuse" techniques that are just as prescriptive of teacher behavior as they are of student behavior. That autonomy.

The autonomy that business-driven charters care about is the autonomy of management. Their dream is the same dream as that of the 19th century robber barons who fought unions tooth and nail. It's a dream where a CEO sits in his office and runs his company with complete freedom to hire and fire, raise and lower salaries, and change the work hours (or any other terms of employment) at will. It's a dream of a business where the CEO is a visionary free to seek his vision (and profit from it) without having anyone ever say "no" to him.

That's the autonomy that folks like the Center for Education Reform are interested in.

In the CEO-centered vision of school, unions are bad. Unions are evil obstacles that dare to make rules by which the CEO must abide (they are often aided by Big Government, which also dares to interfere with the CEO). I think these folks believe in the myth of the Hero Teacher because it echoes the myth of the Hero CEO-- a bold genius who makes the world a better place by pushing aside all obstacles, including the people who don't recognize his genius, until he arrives at the mountain top, loved and praised by all the Little People who are grateful that he saved them. Compromise and collaboration are for the weak, and unions are just weaklings who want to drag down the Hero CEO because they are jealous of his awesomeness and afraid that their undeserved power will be stripped from them by his deserving might.

In this topsy-turvy world, unions must be crushed not just because they set up rules to thwart the Hero CEO, but because they are holding captive all the teachers who really want to give themselves body and soul to the Hero CEO's genius vision, but the union won't let them. Damn you, evil unions.

This does not explain all charter supporters (it does not, for instance, reflect the motivations of the social justice warrior school of charter support). But it sure does explain some, even as it is oddly reminiscent of "We'll be greeted as liberators" and the tantrums of any three-year-old. But I hope that the Center for Education Reform has to live impotently with the threat of evil unions for years to come.


  1. Thank you Peter Greene!! I have never known one teacher who taught at a charter here in Los Angeles who liked doing it. All were relieved when they could get a job with our district and be covered by the union! So clear that these organizations and money men such as Eli Broad are really intent on destroying teachers' unions. Aliiance is the oldest charter organization in L.A. and I remember when a friend got a job with them, thinking it would be better than a district school. She lasted a year and only because she is conscientious. She returned to the district and now teaches in our #1 high school.

    1. Perhaps your friend wanted to return to mother union. But when teachers are offered the choice of whether or not to join the union (as in Wisconsin), teachers leave the union in droves. While this may not yet be the case in California, it's a fair bet that this is because teachers are required to pay a large fraction of dues whether they join or not in what are called "fair shares dues". But if the plaintiffs win in Friedrichs, you'll find a lot of teachers deciding that the union dues just aren't worth it and departing the union of their own free will.

    2. As an LAUSD veteran,in wish them luck if they do. Theyll need it if they want to be paid decently.

    3. I wish, not "in wish"....typing on a phone....aaargh!

    4. "you'll find a lot of teachers deciding that the union dues just aren't worth it and departing the union of their own free will." Ugh. Of course, some will decide not to pay fair share. The union is legally obligated to represent them whether they're members or not! Rather than recognize their own obligation to support the institution that got them decent pay and benefits, and protects their rights at work, some will let others bear the cost. That's why dues wouldn't be "worth it" -- they'll still get all the benefits with none of the cost. It's a pretty crappy thing to do to your fellow teachers, but I guess some folks are just free-loaders.

    5. "you'll find a lot of teachers deciding that the union dues just aren't worth it and departing the union of their own free will." Ugh. Of course, some will decide not to pay fair share. The union is legally obligated to represent them whether they're members or not! Rather than recognize their own obligation to support the institution that got them decent pay and benefits, and protects their rights at work, some will let others bear the cost. That's why dues wouldn't be "worth it" -- they'll still get all the benefits with none of the cost. It's a pretty crappy thing to do to your fellow teachers, but I guess some folks are just free-loaders.

    6. With all due respect, your self interest clouds unbiased judgement. The simple solution to "the union is legally obligated to represent them whether they're members or not !" which is part of the Taft Harley law is to remove this obligation of unions for non-paying members done in coordination with removing the reponsibility of those not interested in joining the union from paying dues - all part of the Friedrich's case before the Supreme Court.

      From now on, if the union wants consumers of its services, it will need to persuade people to pay them rather than compelling them to do so.

  2. As for the Alliance teachers being manipulated by UTLA union leaders...

    Here's the truth: they came to us and asked for help. The locus of motivation, and the locus of desire for a union is internal within the Alliance charter school system , and sprouted up among those teachers.

    Not know how to go about this, they called UTLA for assistance.

    I noticed a difference in the new L.A. Times education coverage --- the ed reformers recently bought control of the education part of the news paper. In the prior era, the story was Alliance management VS. the Alliance teachers. There would be quotes from the unionzation leaders, Elana and Oliver, then quotes from Alliance management.

    Now, there's no mention of Elana and Oliver --- they've ceased to exist. Now, there's quotes from Alliance management, balanced by quotes from... you guessed it... evil UTLA.

    The new L.A. Times Education page folks changed the story.

  3. The use of the word autonomy by these people is one of the worst examples of Newspeak I've ever seen. And in the reformster world, that's saying something.

    But anyway, I'm trying to imagine a single time in my 20+ year teaching career when I wanted to act autonomously in my classroom and had to restrain myself because of the union. In fact, I'm trying to imagine a possible innovation I might ever think of that the union would have any reason to oppose.

    Now I have had administrators whose capricious desire for autonomy has been stifled by union rules, but that's not what they're claiming.

    I think this is about making sure their teaching force remains so inexperienced and powerless that they won't know how damaging the test prep paradigm is and once they figure it out, they will have moved on to real jobs, teaching or otherwise, so there will never be anyone to stand up for kids against the leaders.

    1. Of course, union teachers don't want their students to be tested. No one likes to be judged. Do you think your students like the non-standardized tests that you administer ? I doubt it. But they are needed in order to determine the extent to which the students are doing their job in learning the material. The standardized tests simply make this possible to do not just within classrooms but across classrooms.

      Time to stop hiding behind your unions and accept the responsibility for educating your students and being measured to see the extent to which this is being accomplished.

    2. Your rhetoric betrays you as a shill for the reformsters. How do I deduce this? Simple, your use of the unfounded assumption that the BS Tests actually measure anything of value, which they do not. You claim that they are needed "to determine the extent to which the students are doing their job in learning the material." This wrongly assumes that there is a uniform Stepford curriculum being used in all classrooms at all grade levels. So Mr. Backman, who are you.....really?

    3. Who am I ? Well, unlike a lot of people here who hide behind pseudonyms, I use my real name. I am a father of four children - that's who I am.

      Can we at least agree that the tests attempt to measure what the kids are supposed to learn ? Are they perfect ? Of course, not. Can every teacher say that their tests perfectly measure the requisite material and are free of bias ? Doubt it. And just because there is not a uniform curriculum doesn't mean that you can't have a uniform test. Look at the NAEP or the SAT. Both are uniform tests given across the country despite very different underlying curricula. But even Greene has been supportive of the NAEP despite this dissonance. So clearly the issue is not the extent to which the tests perfectly match the material covered, but rather, the fact the fact that unionized teachers just don't want to be measured. Newsflash ! No one wants to be measured. But we all need to be in order for those who are evaluating us in a free market can have a sense how we are doing (customers, management, etc.). Unfortunately, the subjective judgements don't work. In NY where I live, Democrat Gov Cuomo correctly pointed out the issue where 99% of teachers were rated effective despite only about 38% of students ready for college. See link.

    4. "... attempt to measure...."

      Well, that's pretty weak sauce. I could attempt to fly, I suppose - it would be about as effective.

    5. Attempting to fly. Interesting analogy. A lot of guys tried that and failed. And then along came these two guys named the Wright Brothers. Now you can fly cheaper than you can drive or take the train. It's amazing what you can do what (a) you aren't afraid of progress and (b) you keep trying and aren't afraid to be judged by your outcomes.

    6. No, sorry, the Wright brothers never flew. They built machines that flew. Trying to measure student learning is about as effective as jumping off a building and flapping your arms.

    7. Swing and a miss. Like the Wright Brothers, educational refomers are trying to use objective measures like standardized tests to assess how students are faring and then to group students to measure how teachers and schools are faring in helping students learn. I've said this before, but we've used tests without issue for decades including the NAEP (which even Greene has supported) and the SAT. Are those tests really better than tests like the PARCC ? Maybe, but it seems a lot more likely that teachers didn't have an issue with these tests before because they weren't used to measure teacher performance. And that's the real issue, isn't it ? Even if the tests perfectly measured student learning, teachers would rail against their use. It is anathema for teachers to accept the use of tests (even though teachers test their kids all the time) because allowing for tests means that you can measure teacher effectiveness. And this idea that there are good teachers and bad teachers is simply antithetical to the uniformity preached by teachers unions.

      Well, get over it ! Educational reform is here to stay. There are over 6,500 charter schools - over 2x the number from just 8 years ago. Charters already teach over 1/3 of students in many metropolitan areas and they are growing. Teachers unions can either continue to fight a losing battle or they can accept the need for educational reform and do what they can to compete with the charters (for a change !) rather than just disparage their success.

    8. "Well, get over it ! Educational reform is here to stay."

      Right. There Is No Alternative. Resistance is Futile. You sound like Margaret Thatcher. Or the Borg.

      Incidentally, since you support test-based "accountability", do you think everyone should be accountable for actions of people lower on the food chain? Should managers be accountable for the actions of their workers? Should CEOs be accountable for the actions of the entire company? Should, for instance, Jamie Dimon go to jail for the fraud committed by Chase Bank? Should Hillary be accountable for her emails and Benghazi? Should charter authorizers be accountable for charter fraud and abuse? Or is it only teachers who should be accountable for what kids do?

    9. First, the relationship between teachers and students is different than that between managers and their subordinates. The more appropriate analogy would question whether principals are responsible for the performance of their teacherrs. And the answer to that question is yes. As to teachers, their relationship to students is like a doctor's relationship to a patient. Their job is to improve the education (or health) of the studnet (or patient). And if they fail to do so to an appropriate standard,then their consumers students (or patients) may not longer choose to receive their services - and should have a choice to seek a different provider - just as patients do with doctors.

      Get your analogy right before you make assertions.

  4. UPDATE:

    The Los Angeles Times reported on a press conference of Alliance parents who support unionization, and are upset and being inundated with anti-union propaganda from the Alliance management --- propaganda full of the most ridiculous lies and scare tactics. Having unionized teachers, say correspondence from Alliance, "will be dangerous" for your kids

    L.A TIMES:

    "We are concerned by the illegal anti-union campaign ... and the campaign to discredit parents who stand in solidarity with teachers," said Gabriela Garcia, whose daughter attends Alliance Richard Merkin Middle School.

    "We don't appreciate being inundated with letters telling us that if our teachers formed a union, it would be dangerous for our kids," Rosalba Naranjo, who also has a child at Merkin Middle School, said in Spanish.

    Read the whole article.

    You notice the slant here... the picture itself presents the image of UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl in the background, slightly out-of-focus, which gives the impression of a UTLA puppet-master, lurking in the background, masterminding the efforts to unionize... when, for ka-jillionth time, I'll say it again... THE DRIVE TO UNIONIZE ORIGINATED INTERNALLY AMONG THE ALLIANCE TEACHERS. Most of these educators are in their early-to-mid 20's teachers, from disempowered low-income socio-economic and ethnic backgrounds, who were getting their asses kicked by the most powerful and sophisticated union-suppression organization on Earth, the same one that Walmart uses.

    Of course, they're going to go to UTLA for help. Who else?

    Alliance responded with their own anti-union parents.


    Meanwhile, three parents waited in an Alliance school building to respond to the claims. Brought together by the charter group, the parents said they have never felt any pressure from the school to fight unionization. The correspondence they've received from the school didn't bother them.

    "I received a letter that was informing me, but definitely not trying to sway me," said Alma Marquez, whose daughter is in 11th grade at Alliance Leichtman-Levine Family Foundation Environmental Science High School.

    "We've gotten letters from the union inviting the parents to get informed," said Linda Hernandez, whose daughter is a senior at Susan & Eric Smidt Technology High School.

    Well, gosh, anti-union parents, if you didn't feel "bothered," I guess that settles the matter.

    By law, Alliance has to remain neutral. Even the most benigh, gentle-sounding anti-union propaganda... IS AGAINST THE LAW, as it is an "unfair labor practice.". The quasi-judicial Public Employee Relations Board (PERB) ruled that this is so, and that Alliance is engaging in such anti-union activity. PERB went to court and got an injunction against any such union suppression activity.

    Telling a parent that going from a school with a non-union faculty, to a union faculty will put your child "in danger"? That doesn't qualify as "pressure" that a parent would "feel"????


    The slanted article then refers to this and Alliance's union-suppression efforts in general --- i.e. dozens of letters and fliers sent to parents --- as "alleged harassment".

    To the L.A. TIMES, exactly what would constitute actual or genuine "harassment"?
    19th century hired Pinkertons clubbing the pro-union parents with truncheons?

  5. This is the issue with the teachers unions and their shrills like Peter Greene trying to defend unions as being tantamount to students' representatives when they are instead simply using students as a human shield to protect themselves.

    Consider Greene's central criticism:

    "I guess Zgainer is referring to "autonomy" as defined by charter operators-- the autonomy to be told you must work long hours over a long week. The autonomy to have instruction strictly dictated. The autonomy to be paid as little as the charter wants to pay you. The autonomy to be fired any time the charter feels like it. The autonomy to be trained in "no excuse" techniques that are just as prescriptive of teacher behavior as they are of student behavior. That autonomy."

    What does any of Greene's complaints have to do with improving education for students ? In fact, teachers "working long hours over a long week" can likely be related to better educational outcomes. One might think that teacher compensation would be positively correlated with educational outcomes but charters seem to get quite strong results despite lower costs. Perhaps that is because more of the money finds its way into classrooms instead of being absorbed by the bureaucracy. (See link from a review of The Prize.) And as far as "being fired at any time", the fact that Judge Treu already rules that tenure rules violate poor students civil rights by impeding the school from getting rid of bad teachers suggests that Greene's complaints are (again) inimical of educational outcomes rather than supportive of them.

    Lastly, Greene offers a parting wish - "I hope that the Center for Education Reform has to live impotently with the threat of evil unions for years to come." Whenever teachers have a choice as they did in Wisconsin, teachers voluntarily leave unions in droves. If the plaintiffs win in the upcoming Friedrichs case before the Supreme Court, I suspect that the "threat of evil unions" will be greatly diminished. And if this happens, then I wish Greene impotence for years to come.

    1. I would hardly characterize Peter Greene as "shrill," but your unforced spelling error seals the deal, mister mouthpiece.....but for whom? Nice try, but consider yourself busted. Oh, and "inimical of education outcomes"....really? Watch that overuse of the thesaurus.

    2. Mr. Backman:
      (1) "What does any of Greene's complaints have to do with improving education for students ?" Well, strictly dictated instruction and prescriptive teacher behavior are not good for children's learning. And the teacher's teaching conditions are also the students' learning conditions.
      (2) So teachers at charters are paid less and "maybe" that means more money is going into classrooms? I think it's more likely the money taken from teachers is going to the charter operators, like Eva Moskowitz's half a million salary.
      (3) Judge True is wrong. Tenure does not mean teachers cannot be fired; it simply means there has to be a demonstrated reason.

    3. 1. Greene's complaints - Exactly what research demonstrates that prescriptive teacher beahvior is not good for learning ? Teachers union mouthpieces like Ravitch are constantly saying that teachers aren't born; they are made. Well, if teachers can be taught by "master teachers", why can't such teaching be prescriptive ?

      2. Money - Actually, you are wrong - at least regarding schools in Newark as researched by Dale Rusakoff in The Prize. Here's a quote directly from that research:
      "Most telling is her comparison between the resources that a very good charter school, Spark Academy, has at its disposal and those available to the public schools. The KIPP charter network, which runs Spark, gets $16,400 per Spark pupil, of which $12,664 is devoted to the school. The district schools get $19,650 per pupil, but only $9,604 trickles down to the schools. Money that the charter school is spending on extra support is being soaked up by the bloated bureaucracy in the public school system. It is a devastating fact."

      3. Vegara - First of all, you mis-spelled the Judge's name. It's Judge Treu not True. And at least according to "Cut to Chase", one mis-spelling invalidates your entire argument. (That's satire.) The issue with tenure does not necessitate that firing is impossible. But rather, he ruled that it was so burdensome and expensive (costing over $250,000 in Los Angeles) to effectively make it prohibitive. And that violated the students' civil rights.

    4. 1. I am gobsmacked at your temerity. After being called out for being an obvious shill for the charter industry, you roar back and call Diane Ravitch a "teachers (sic) union mouthpiece." Unfortunately, you follow this falsehood with a lovely logical fallacy. Yes, teachers are made. It takes study, hard work and experience to become competent, especially in the challenging environments of high poverty schools. However, the question that follows demonstrates a lack of understanding of prescriptive teaching and the role of a "master teacher." (Why is this in quotes anyway?) Ideally, a master or mentor teacher serves as a coach, who assists the less experienced teacher as she examines her own practice. Think of it as a guide to metacognition, something prescriptive, or scripted teaching does not allow for because it is the opposite of truly thoughtful practice.
      3. Ah, Alan, jumping to conclusions. You were not being called out for the spelling error, though it was fortuitously comic, but for calling Peter Greene a shill. It was neither implied nor stated that the spelling error invalidated your argument. That you yourself are a shill for the charter industry, however, becomes more apparent the more you write, cutting and pasting their talking points into your attacks. Keep it up, I'm having fun responding. But be warned: your next response will earn you a full analysis of the false logic and inflated diction being employed.... gloves off.

    5. Backman, you're talking about one school. Look at Ohio.

      No one is saying public schools can't be better, but standardized testing does nothing to improve the learning process, and is only distracting and creating obstacles to improvement.

      I totally agree too much money goes to the bureaucracy in district schools. I have often wondered what in the world central administrators do all day. I have always wanted to follow one around for a day and see what they actually do.

    6. I'd agree that charters haven't done so well in OH. Unlike about 88% of charters which are non-profit, OH actually started earlier than most and many of their charters are for-profit which hasn't worked so well as a model. But again, the most recent CREDO study (see below) which looks solely at urban schools demonstrates that (even including OH) charters do a better job.

      And re "standardized tests do nothing to improve the learning process", can you not take a step back, be honest and recognize how self-serving this statement is ? The NAEP is a standardized test that has been administered since the 1960's and even Greene has supported it. Similar with the SAT's. Teachers give tests all the time and no one is suggesting that they should give fewer tests.

      The clear issue isn't the tests (given the comparisons shown above) but rather that some of these tests (e.g. PARCC) are used to measure teachers. And this scares teachers particularly those in unions who are accustomed to seniority based promotion and job security. No one likes being measured. But can you not understand the need for this to continue so that families, administrators and others can get a sense how things are going. The subjective teacher evaluations just dont' work. In NY where I live, 99% of teachers were rated effective even though only 38% of kids were ready for college. Can you not understand that the bias and inaccuracy lies far more in the subjective evaluations than in the tests. But teachers like the subjective evaluations because the bias is in their favor. That's a pretty good indication of self-interest.

    7. Yeah, New York does sound like a mess. From reading about other places, I realize Ohio had quite a good public education system before charters and Kasich. Within the districts, we had alternative schools, magnet schools, tons of foreign languages, immersion schools, CAD classes, anything you could want, tons of choices. The charters in my area mostly get worse ratings than most of the district schools, certainly not better. Kasich has added tons of meaningless paperwork.

      Before standardized tests scores started being used to evaluate teachers, the main thing they were used for was to track students. I don't think this is a valid use of them either, because too often minority students were tracked into the lower levels. We mostly stopped doing that quite a while ago.

      Just because only 38% of students in New York were deemed "college ready" according to scores on a standardized test doesn't mean only 38% of teachers were effective. It's known that standardized tests are not as good a predictor of college success as student grades, which is why colleges are going away from requiring ACT and SAT entrance scores. The other point is that not all students want to go to a four year college. I think all students should have some kind of post-secondary skills training, but an associate degree or an apprenticeship can also lead to a career that can make a student happy. What we need to do is do a better job of helping students realize where their talents and interests lie.

      The American Statistical Association (AMA) says that teachers account for only somewhere between 0% and 14% of influence on a student's learning. Maybe the NY teachers were as effective as they could be, given the circumstances. The AMA also says that standardized tests and VAMs are not valid indicators of an individual teacher's effectiveness. Add to that the fact that the tests are only given in math and English, yet teachers in other subjects are also judged by these scores, and yeah, why wouldn't we be upset about being judged by a totally invalid evaluation system.

      I know you would like there to be a simple, "objective" way of evaluating teachers, but it doesn't exist. The only fair way to evaluate teachers is by a combination of portfolios of student work, observations, and student and parent satisfaction.

    8. There are very few ineffective or "bad" teachers in my urban district. Most teachers are hardworking, dedicated, and care about the students. All three of my children had the bad luck to have the same bad first grade teacher (out of three in the school). I considered her bad because she seemed to have no knowledge of cognitive learning strategies, and told the students not to bother her with questions. But at that level, standardized tests would not have helped identify this. Thankfully she retired. The two different teachers the three of them had for second grade were both excellent teachers who used innovative learning strategies, and I was able to observe their classes. My son had a bad teacher in fifth grade; she either didn't understand cognitive strategies or was too distracted by personal issues she was having that year to use them effectively. She would put them in groups but give them no clear direction and so had problems with classroom management. The good thing was that he had different teachers for different subjects that year, and the other two he had were very good. My one daughter had a mediocre, because of being lazy and not dedicated, fifth grade teacher, but other than that, all their elementary teachers were good.

      All their junior high teachers were good except for my daughters' seventh grade science teacher that the administration thought was great because he used some kind of "exploratory" program out of Michigan State. It's true they learned how to make inferences, but they learned that first quarter and didn't learn anything else the rest of the year. But their eighth grade science teacher was excellent.

      In high school all their teachers were good except for one my son had who was lazy, an English teacher my daughter had who was much more into being baseball coach than teaching English and just went through the motions, and a science teacher my daughters had who was on the "career ladder" and was supposedly excellent, but who they both agreed was the worst teacher they had ever had. She didn't know how to explain anything, would insult them if they asked questions, and never gave back any work. She had really nice bulletin boards, though. Oh, and the one math teacher one of my daughters had who had no social skills and would verbally abuse the students by insulting them, thinking he was making a joke. I had to get her switched to another class, and they eventually fired him.

      So by my calculations, out of 41 K-12 teachers, my son had three bad teachers, two excellent teachers, and 36 good teachers. One of my daughters, out of 49 teachers, had two bad teachers, four excellent teachers, and 43 good teachers. My other daughter, out of 47 teachers, had four bad teachers, five excellent teachers, and 36 good teachers. The ones who were bad were not as effective as they could have been because they didn't have enough knowledge of cognitive learning strategies and psychology and/or were not dedicated enough. Standardized test scores would not have shown this, and since most of their teachers were good, it didn't hurt their education. My daughters both graduated college summa cum laude and have post-graduate degrees. My son was never as academically inclined, but he got a college degree which, although not clearly helpful for a career, is useful to him in life because it's helped him to understand himself, other people, and the world.

      Even parents who aren't teachers can tell if the teachers are caring and if their children are learning, without standardized tests.

    9. Responding to your first post:

      I never said: "Just because only 38% of students in New York were deemed "college ready" according to scores on a standardized test doesn't mean only 38% of teachers were effective.". Rather, VAM tries to measure how things have progressed during the teaching yr. Let me take a simple example. Teacher A's students start at 20% in reading. But the teacher gets them to 30% by the end of the yr. That's better than teacher B whose students start at 70% in reading but only get to 75% by year end.

      And that largely addresses your corollary point that teachers are only responsible for a small percentage of the increase in a student's scores. Typically, the larger factors are family income and parental education. But to say that tests (and teachers) are then irrelevant is missing the point (and perhaps intentionally). It's like saying that price is a bigger factor of a car's acceleration than anything else. And that's likely true. But it misses the point. In statistics, there's something called Bayesian Probability which condition a result based on some underlying factor. In other words, given the fact that a student is poor and whose parents are not college graduates, what is the likelihood that they will be proficient if attending a charter ? And then ask this same question for a traditional school. It's like asking which cars have better acceleration conditioned on the fact that you are only looking at cars less than $30,000.

      As far as the AMA, there is ample academic support for multi-period VAM. See link.

    10. Responding to your 2nd post:

      You state, "Most teachers are hardworking, dedicated, and care about the students." There are plenty of people at any job (teachers or otherwise) who are hardworking, dedicated and care about the students who are just not effective at their job. Take me as one example. When I wore a younger man's shoes, I was a bartender. I was certainly hard working and dedicated to what I did (since it paid my way through college) and certainly cared about my customers (those who came to my bar). But I just wasn't very good. I attribute this mainly to the fact that I'm not a big drinker personally, so I didn't have an innate knowledge of what some drinks were supposed to look like. Also, I wasn't very fast (which mattered particularly when you are taking care of waitresses). My point is that in the real world, you don't get an A for effort.

      Second, let's look at your own stats. By your own reckoning, your son had 3 bad teachers out of 41 (or 7.5%). One daughter had 2 bad teachers out of 49 (or 4%). And the other daughter had 4 bad teachers out of 47 (or 8%). So that averages out to about 6.5% of teachers were bad. That's not inconsequential ! You said that this didn't affect their education since "most teachers were good". But for a broad set of students, it's likely that the overall performance would be better without bad teachers than with them.

      Now you also state that standardized tests wouldn't have picked this up. Maybe you are right since these teachers certainly could have taught in subjects not tested. But the idea of standardized tests is to provide some objective measure to not only compare, but also quantify performance. You may not agree with the measurement, but consider the teachers that you rated as poor. If they received negative consequences (less pay, dismissal, whatever) as a result of subjective assessments such as yours, don't you think they'd consider such assessments as unfair as possibly biased ? By contrast, the standardized tests are at least objective and not subject to interpersonal conflicts or whatever. Again, I understand and agree with the point that they shouldn't be the sole determinant. But can you not see the value in including them as one measure of performance. If not, can you at least see how others (who do not have a vested interest as a teacher) might see your resistance as reflective of self-interest and a desire not to be judged (which all of us have) but nonetheless must be overcome.

      Charters are growing at about 7% per year and have doubled since 2007. They will likely to continue to grow. I wouldn't have an objection if teachers unions insisted on higher pay and benefits ... and even transition pay for those asked to leave the profession ... as long as they accepted the need for these reforms. There's going to come a time in the not-to-distant future when teachers unions are going to need to accept charters and the other reforms which are not going away. They can either do so now when they still control a great majority of schools or they can wait some years when charters will control an even larger share of schools thereby reducing teachers union clout. If you think this is just braggadocio, I suggest you speak to someone in a private sector union who likewise has seen their influence declined precipitously over the years. Tell your union. Accept the reforms. Negotiate the best deal they can. But understand that the reforms are coming whether teachers unions want them or not.

  6. @ Cut to Chase -

    1. If you can't see the similarity between Ravitch (who is actually paid by the unions by the way) calling for master teachers to "assists the less experienced teacher as she examines her own practice" and prescriptive teaching, then I suggest you get your eyes checked. Of course, everyone has their own style. But if certain methods of teaching work better,why should every teacher (particularly a young teacher) try to reinvent the wheel ? That makes no sense.

    3. Feel free to "take the gloves off" - because you've been so polite and even-tempered so far. Do you really think you are helping yourselves though with this constant resistance to reform ? Get out of your echo chamber for a minute. Most people at this point see teachers unions as an impediment to education. And this has increased recently. See link below. When you have both Republicans AND Democrats (Obama, Cuomo, Raimondo, etc) recognize the need for reform (longer school days, ease of teacher hiring/ firing, test based accountability, etc.) and the public supports this (as the poll suggests), you ought to easily see that the teachers union position appears vile and full of self-interest. And this article is a perfect example of that.

    1. Diane is NOT paid by the unions. If you have proof otherwise, please provide it. Otherwise, retract that statement.

    2. See links below. Please don't make it so easy next time. And since I did prove it, why don't you retract your criticism and acknowledge that Ravitch is a teachers union mouthpiece ? Or is what's good for the goose not good for the gander ?

    3. Oh Jesus, Whitney Tilson? Rashawn Biddle? Ken Hirsh? These are the people you cite as sources? All of whom have massive stakes in the ed rephorm game and all of whom have a grudge against Diane. Yeah, believable.

    4. Well, you have just proven your dishonesty to even the liberals who read this. In one of the articles, Ravitch even admitted to being paid fees by the teachers unions. She simply stated that such fees didn't influence her ( sure ...). But here you go just impugning the source rather than admitting that you were wrong. I guess union advocates like you are so vested in their union dues that they can't even acknowledge the truth. Go look in a mirror.

    5. So she's not paying teachers union dues.

    6. Yes, Alan, speaking fees. Cripes. You think she should speak for free? Do you?

      Anyway, I don't know what your beef is with unions anyway. The two major ones agree with you on just about everything. They support charters, Common Core, BS Testing, test based "accountability", Hillary Clinton. Please tell me some substantive point you disagree with Randi Weingarten on? Hey, come to think of it, maybe you're the union shill - after all, Peter disagrees with Randi a lot more than you do.

    7. Wow ! It took you about a half dozen posts to finally and begrudgingly accept that your original dare was accepted and you were proved wrong ! I quote, "Diane is NOT paid by the unions. If you have proof otherwise, please provide it. Otherwise, retract that statement."

      Now you state, "Yes, Alan, speaking fees. Cripes. You think she should speak for free? Do you?"

      So, in other words, you were wrong and she was, in fact, paid by the unions, right ? Whether or not she should speak for free isn't or me to say. My point was simply that she was a teachers union mouthpiece which is defined as someone who expresses a given viewpoint because she is paid to do so. I have proven this point ... and you have begrudgingly conceded this point.

      By contrast, I'm not paid by teachers unions OR charters. I'm simply a father and a tax payer. I see what happens in my town's schools and in nearby schools. And yes, it is pretty clear based on what I've read (including from union supporters like Ravitch) that the teachers unions are basically fighting a rearguard battle ... They know that they are losing the PR battle and that most people see charters as a means for families to gain some control over their kid's education. But teachers unions are going to use every means possible to slow the growth of charters and portray them in as negative a light as possible. They've also contributed huge dollar amounts to support a lot of races throughout the country to cement their political position and win more favorable contracts. So yes, that's my "beef" with teachers unions.

      And Hillary's position far in bed with the unions than I am. Both the NEA and the AFT have already endorsed her and their money is certainly flowing in her direction. As payment, she's already stated that she's backing the unions demand or more federal money but fewer tests without any accountability. See link. I'm sure this makes you very happy as you count your union dues.

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  9. St. Louis needs help from actual journalists....My niece in law....Sarah Reckhow....would be good, but probably does not have the time or interest.....I guess Peter and Diane probably will not, either. Here is the story.....several years of cancelled raises by the state appointed board...St. Louis teachers decry district for not letting them advance---the reporter refuses to say anything about all the charter schools... My comments were pretty heated..the last one....3.Write to Diane Ravitch or Peter Greene-------you have to get national attention focused on this.......I am not sure whether there is anyplace else where this krap is being done.(I cannot figure out how to get the link to the article to work....Elisa Crouch was the author, it is in today's paper).