Happy New Year - 2011 can only get better.
I need a drink...
Everyone's talking about the incoming Republican majority in the House of Representatives, but we shouldn't forget the 17 newly elected reformist GOP governors—from New Mexico to Ohio to Maine—who are nearly all hostile to the overweening ambitions of the federal government. Florida's Rick Scott may emerge as one of the boldest.As far as Washington goes, he says there's been "enough spending and borrowing." And as far as relations between the nation's capital and the states are concerned, his mantra is even more blunt: "Give us our power back. Give us our money and let us run our states."Mr. Scott, who over the past quarter-century built a $20 billion hospital empire, Columbia-HCA, has practically zero political experience.
"I'm going to run this state like a business," Mr. Scott promises. "When businesses think of locating in North America, I want to make sure that they think first about Florida."
Trust me, Florida: buyer's remorse isn't pretty. You'll see.
Mr. Scott is unquestionably an expert on health-care issues, but he has come under intense attack for $1.6 billion in fraudulent Medicare and Medicaid claims submitted in the mid-1990s by Columbia Hospital Corporation, the name of Mr. Scott's firm at the time. Mr. Scott persuaded voters that he wasn't personally to blame, but those complaints will doubtless surface again as he tries to uproot the current health-care financing structure in the state.
I am going to rely on time survey data to give us hints about PISA test-scores. PISA is taken only by those aged 15-year, but let's examine all kids aged 15-18, both to increase the sample size and because high-school is more important. I will only include 15-18 year olds who are enrolled full time in high-school.Bingo.
I think the graph and the implications for educational outcomes are pretty self-explanatory, even though I will admit that I was (again) surprised by just how large the differences are.
The only thing I would like to caution is not to assume a 1-1 causal relationship between input and output: kids who are better at school anyway may also study more, getting a double-advantage so to speak.
This graph is worth keeping in mind next time you read that the Asian school system rather than Asian culture explains Asian educational outcomes. These are Asian-Americans under (largely) the same American public school system that the media has decided is the cause of Americas problems. With American teachers, American teacher unions, with typical American levels of education funding, and facing the same American lack of school choice. [emphasis mine]
Average score, reading literacy, PISA, 2009:I see this and I feel both vindicated as a teacher and incredibly saddened at the same time. When are we going to get serious about giving everyone in this country a chance to succeed? When are we going to stop pretending that charter schools and vouchers will have any effect on the massive income inequity and racial discrimination that has kept generation after generation of kids from realizing their potentials?
[United States, Asian students 541]
[United States, white students 525]
New Zealand 521
United States (overall) 500
United Kingdom 494
OECD average 493
Czech Republic 478
Slovak Republic 477
[United States, Hispanic students 466]
[United States, black students 441]
So similar to my comparison of GDP levels, let us compare Americans with European ancestry (about 65% of the U.S population, and not some sort of elite) with Europeans in Europe. We remove Asians, Mexicans, African-Americans and other countries that are best compared to their home nations. In Europe, we remove immigrants.Read the entire thing - it's well worth it. I do, however, have to respond to this:
The results are astonishing at least to me. Rather than being at the bottom of the class, United States students are 7th best out of 28, and far better than the average of Western European nations where they largely originate from.
The mean score of Americans with European ancestry is 524, compared to 506 in Europe, when first and second generation immigrants are excluded. So much for the bigoted notions that Americans are dumb and Europeans are smart. This is also opposed to everything I have been taught about the American public school system.
Similarly, the left claims that the American education system is horrible, because Americans don’t invest enough in education. The left has no answer when you point out that the United States spends insanely more than Europe and East Asia on education. According to the OECD, the United States spends about 50% more per pupil than the average for Western Europe, and 40% more than Japan.I have an answer: a large part of that expenditure in the US includes providing health care and retirement benefits to teachers and other public school workers. But in every other OECD country, those expenses are provided to all citizens nationally. So the US has to report those expenses on human welfare as part of its education spending, while other countries do not. That makes a huge difference.
Look at Rosi's list - it's very, very long.
In its first two years of operation, the Newark Charter School Fund spent more on consultants and internal compensation than it gave in grants to local schools.Tax records show that administrative expenses accounted for 42.6 percent of the fund's expenditures in 2008-09, which non-profit monitors describe as an unusually high amount.While putting almost $2.4 million into compensation for its own officers, staff salaries and consulting fees, the fund gave barely half that to individual schools.Charity Navigator of Glen Rock, N.J., analyzes more than 5,500 non-profits with at least $1 million in annual revenues. "Most of them spend only about 15 percent on administration," said Sandra Miniutti, the organization's vice president for marketing.
And the Halliburtonization of our schools continues....The fund's tangible support comes from well-heeled philanthropists. It began with pledges from some big names: $4 million apiece from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Donald & Doris Fisher Fund, Robertson Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation, which have made annual contributions.Three Newark-based organizations, the Prudential Foundation, MCJ Amelior Foundation and Victoria Foundation, each agreed to put up $1 million, although none were listed on either the 2008 or 2009 reports to the IRS.In their place, Laurene Powell Jobs contributed $882,799 over the two years. The wife of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs serves on the boards of Achieva, a study and testing company, and numerous educational organizations.
TRENTON — The hole in the state’s pension fund grew again this year, by more than $8 billion, a trend that continues after a decade of skipped payments and increased benefits.The unfunded piece of the state’s pension liability — the estimated total amount needed to pay current and future state, county and municipal employees — grew by $8.05 billion between June 2009 and June 2010, according to a report released today by the Department of Treasury which indicted the state has a $53.9 billion unfunded promise.Additionally, the state has a $66.8 billion unfunded promise to future and current employees for lifetime health benefits, the report found.Gov. Chris Christie has said reforming the pension and health system is a priority for the new year and leaders in the Legislature have agreed to discuss reforms."If all the required contributions to the pension funds had been made over the last decade, New Jersey would still not have enough money to pay all the benefits state and local governments have promised to public employees," Treasury Spokesman Andy Pratt said in an e-mail.
I've been gaining weight because I eat half a dozen doughnuts every day. But I'm not going to stop eating those doughnuts because I'm already overweight. And there's really no point in exercising if I keep eating those doughnuts.[...]This year, Christie skipped a $3.1 billion pension payment — continuing a decade of gubernatorial administrations shortchanging the system. Christie has said he will not contribute funds until the system is changed.
Well, I'll bet their towns just can't wait to pay more to borrow, can they?
So let's stop the nonsense, Star-Ledger and others, that Chris Christie is somehow "courageous" in tackling the budget. He has passed on the hard choices to the towns and cities and schools, all while giving tax gifts to the wealthiest residents of the state. Those towns and schools - many of which have been run with good fiscal oversight - are now paying the price for Christie's refusal to actually lead.
It's amazing that this stuff has entered the mainstream and stayed there all these years. Again, a failure of the media as much as anything.6. Americans Are Taxed to DeathThis is one of those claims made so frequently that it becomes a matter of faith. But faith doesn't rely on fact, and this one is totally untrue.In 2008, we ranked 26th out of the 30 countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in terms of our overall tax burden -- the share of our economy we fork over to the government. The U.S.came in almost 9 percentage points below the average of the group of wealthy nations, and some 20 percentage points below highly taxed countries like Denmark.
Look what tenure has become: an outdated law that makes it nearly impossible to get rid of bad teachers. We should eliminate it, and put a good system in place to evaluate teachers based on student performance. We should fire bad teachers, give help to those in the middle and pay the good ones more. It’s a reform strategy that works.Talk about facts not in evidence. How many "bad" teachers are there who have been protected by tenure? Any research on this? Anyone? No?
Again, this is just not true. Rhee didn't negotiate the contract until 2010. Washington's D.C.'s test scores went down in 2010, but that isn't even relevant: she only fired the teachers in July of 2010!Michelle Rhee’s success in Washington, D.C., schools illustrates that. She negotiated a contract with teachers that killed tenure, allowing her to fire more than 200 ineffective teachers. She quadrupled spending on teacher training, used student test scores and rigorous classroom observations to rate teachers, and gave the best ones a chance to earn more money.The result? Student test scores rose markedly.
The same could happen here.Yeah, and monkeys could fly out of my butt.
No matter how much money is pumped into schools, real progress isn’t likely until we turn the focus to the quality of teaching. The record on this is clear: Students who get two or three strong teachers in a row improve their performance despite their backgrounds, while those stuck with a series of weak teachers may never recover.The unsaid premise, of course, is that there are tons of great potential teachers just itching to jump into the profession - if only we could clear the dead wood. Never mind that 50% of teachers leave the profession after five years. Never mind that teachers make less than similarly educated and experienced workers. Never mind teacher pay has stagnated compared to the rest of the workforce.
In what other profession are you judged by how well OTHERS do? And you don't have the power to "fire" them and replace them?Tenure reform underscores the urgency of developing a reliable statewide system to judge teacher performance. Ruiz wants both principals and top-notch teachers to oversee evaluations, which is smart. Many principals have rated all their teachers just fine for years, regardless of student performance, and we’ll need to shake things up to change that. At least half of a teacher’s evaluation should be based on improvements in student test scores — in what other profession do results not matter?
Your "guess." Because it's not like teachers vote for their union representation or anything.The New Jersey Education Association, the state’s largest union, will fight this change to the death. But our guess is that many classroom teachers would welcome it. They are professionals. It’s time we started treating them that way.
Instead of trying to fire our way to the high performance of Finland or anywhere else, why not try to emulate the policies that these nations actually employ? It seems very strange to shoot for the achievement levels of these nations by doing the exact opposite of what they do.
In any case, Gates, Rhee, et al. constantly repeat the “fire 5-10 percent” talking point, along with the promise of miracle results, because of its potent political message: all we have to do is fire bad teachers, and everything will be fixed. They use Hanushek’s calculation to provide an empirical basis for this message. They do not, however, seem at all attuned to the fact that the proposal is less an actual policy recommendation than a stylistic illustration of the wide variation in teacher effects.
Let’s stick with meaningful conversations about how to identify, improve, and, failing that, remove ineffective teachers. Test-based measures may have a role in the evaluation of both teachers and overall school performance, but not a dominant one, and certainly not an exclusive one.
Does it bother anyone else that Gates and Rhee and Christie and all the other 'formers seem to care more about punishing "bad" teachers than upgrading the profession?Systematically firing large numbers of teachers based solely on test scores is an incredibly crude, blunt instrument, fraught with risk. We’re better than that.
Board President Ron Tola said Wednesday that he did not participate in any of the discussions about the business administrator position, and that he abstained from voting on Tramontana's appointment because he has a daughter who works in the district.
Tola said fellow board member Eric Hamilton was also barred from participating in those discussions because he has family in the district as well.
[...]But Michele Rhee says, hey, trust us: there are federal laws that will protect you from this sort of stuff!
OK, let's stop right there and see if we can get past Rhee's giant cape emblazoned with an "S" to really look at her career in Washington.Michelle Rhee is a national hero for education reformers. While serving as superintendent of schools in Washington, D.C., she negotiated a groundbreaking teachers contract that allowed for teachers to be fired based on poor job performance. The contract rid the system of tenure protections in exchange for giving teachers the chance to earn more money and performance bonuses.Rhee quadrupled spending on teacher professional development, fired more than 200 instructors who didn’t measure up and told 700 others they’d have to improve within a year or leave — and student test scores rose.
Since leaving the D.C. post in October, she’s started a national advocacy group called StudentsFirst, with the goal of raising $1 billion and rallying 1 million members around a stated mission of putting kids’ needs before those of adult special interests.Again: that's $1,000 a member. Any of you got that kind of dough? Or is it maybe possible she's looking for some deeper pockets?
I so despise this false choice that Rhee and Christie and all the 'formers keep putting up: the kids come first, not the teachers!
Q. You changed tenure rules in your district through negotiations with the teachers union. In New Jersey, legislators are considering a new bill to overhaul tenure statewide. What’s the best way to go about reforming tenure?A. I don’t think we need to reform tenure. I don’t think there is a need for tenure. Teachers need to understand they are not going to be discriminated against. If they feel they’ve been unfairly terminated, they need to have a process by which they can address that issue. School districts need to ensure firings are not happening in an unfair manner. But all of those things can happen without tenure being in place.
Part of the reason we started StudentsFirst is to always look at policies from a kid-centric point of view. If there is any protection in public education, it should be for the children, not for the adults.
"Recommendations to me..." In other words: trust me. Sorry, but no. You, St. Michele, are in fact the poster-girl for why teachers need tenure. You allied yourself with Fenty in a way that was completely political and unprofessional. You showed quite clearly that you could not be trusted to "put the kids first." No teacher in their right mind would ever believe that you were capable of remaining unbiased in a tenure hearing.Q. How could teachers have a process to protect them against unfair firings without tenure being in place?A. Well, first, there are federal protections in place against discriminatory firings. In D.C., we also created an “appeals process” in which teachers who felt that they’d been wrongfully terminated could file an appeal. We appointed a three-person committee to review these cases and make recommendations to me to overturn or sustain the original decision.
You don’t just want this to be about the lowest-performing teachers. There are hundreds of teachers in New Jersey who are doing an amazing job every day, and those people should be valued as professionals for producing great results. What people often don’t understand is that teachers’ union contracts also don’t let us pay our best teachers more for the work they’re doing. That needs to change.I ask again: you say you want a great teacher for every kid. You want to pay great teachers more. Are you or are you not advocating raising the entire payroll for the teacher corps?
Even though every objective researcher has told you not to do this. Even though the error rates are 35%.Q. Once tenure is no longer a “lifetime job,” how do you ensure you’re fairly identifying and firing the worst teachers and principals?A. That goes back to the evaluations. I think it’s incredibly important to make sure student achievement levels are a primary factor you’re looking at in teacher evaluations. I also don’t think it’s advisable to use test scores and test scores only. We based 50 percent of our teacher evaluations on student achievement gains.
Again: how are you going to pay for this? Who's coming up with the dough for five evaluations a year? And how high-quality of an observation could a teacher expect?Each teacher was also evaluated in five classroom observations per year, which were unannounced. Some were done by the school administrator, but a number were also completed by peers of the teachers, “master educators” who were expert in their grade levels and subject areas.
The more I see of Rhee, the more I am convinced she is a charlatan. She's given up on actually doing the work of educating kids and is making herself into highly-paid celebrity. ($100K can do a LOT of making over!)Under IMPACT, all teachers are supposed to receive five 30-minute classroom observations during the school year, three by a school administrator and two by an outside "master educator" with a background in the instructor’s subject.They are scored against a "teaching and learning framework" with 22 different measures in nine categories. Among the criteria are classroom presence, time management, clarity in presenting the objectives of a lesson and ensuring that students across all levels of learning ability understand the material.A number of teachers never got the full five evaluations, apparently because a number of master teachers hired to do the jobs quit, according to sources in the school system.But even if they all were, let’s look closely at this: In 30 minutes, a teacher is supposed to demonstrate all 22 different teaching elements. What teacher demonstrates 22 teaching elements -- some of which are not particularly related -- in 30 minutes? Suppose a teacher takes 30 minutes to introduce new material and doesn’t have time to show. ... Oh well. Bad evaluation. [Emphasis mine]
Some $2 billion has been spent on Xanadu and much of it has gone to contractors, tradesmen and teams of politically connected professionals.
But where did all that money come from?
The answer, to a large degree, is pension funds for police, firefighters and other public employees around the country.
Nine public pension systems from Alaska to Texas to New York poured nearly $1 billion into two private-equity funds that include Xanadu among their investments, according to pension records reviewed by The Record. Those pensions have seen their collective investments in these funds shrink to about $360 million, a decline of about 60 percent, according to the pensions' records spanning the last year.States and towns use regressive taxes. When they don't have enough money to pay for things like pensions, they could make their taxes more progressive.
In 2009, the NCTQ gave NJ at "D+" for how well we do at "Exiting Ineffective Teachers":Exiting ineffective teachersNew Jersey’s policies for exiting ineffective teachers are better than most states but still leave room for improvement. Although the state requires three annual evaluations of new teachers, with the first occurring in the first half of the school year, no policy has been articulated regarding teachers who receive unsatisfactory evaluations. Commendably, the state also requires that all teachers pass all required subject-matter tests as a condition of initial licensure. (p.40)
Now, were I a snarky bastard, I'd point out that the only change in NJ's educational policy between the publication of the 2008 and 2009 reports was the election of Chris Christie. But, hey, NCTQ is "non-partisan" - I'm sure they'd NEVER politicize their reports...Exiting Ineffective TeachersNew Jersey commendably requires that all teachers pass all required subject-matter tests as a condition of initial licensure. However, the state fails to articulate a policy regarding teachers who receive unsatisfactory evaluations. Regrettably, New Jersey does not address the appeal process for tenured teachers who are terminated for poor performance, and it fails to distinguish due process rights for teachers dismissed for ineffective performance from those facing license revocation for dereliction of duty or felony and/or morality violations. (p.77)
After three years and one day on the job, teachers get tenure virtually automatically in New Jersey, according to the National Council on Teacher Quality, a nonpartisan research group.Anytime I hear a journalist say "nonpartisan research group," my BS detector switches on. There are many "nonpartisan" groups out there that are anything but. There are plenty of reasons to doubt NCTQ's research - plenty of reasons - but let's go to the actual study (I think) O'Connor is talking about:
No, the STATE doesn't require it - but that doesn't mean it doesn't happen, and for one good reason: in the first three years, any teacher can be removed at the end of their yearly contract, for absolutely NO REASON. I've seen this first hand several times.New Jersey’s probationary period for new teachers is just three years, and the state does not require any meaningful process to evaluate cumulative effectiveness in the classroom before teachers are awarded tenure. (p.40)
Only eight states require districts to consider any evidence of teacher performance as part of tenure decisions, according to the group’s most recent report. The remaining 42 states, including New Jersey, allow districts to award tenure virtually automatically.It's not "automatic" if you can be fired for no reason in your first three years, is it? And unless and until you can show me statistics about how many teachers are let go in those non-tenure years, your argument is pointless - especially when so many teachers leave the profession in those first three years!
Today, the situation is different. Dozens of federal and state laws that didn’t exist when tenure was created now protect teachers and everyone else from being fired arbitrarily. Reformers argue teachers no longer need any special protection.Anti-discrimination laws are critical, but they do not address the specific issues that tenure addresses: corruption, cronyism, academic freedom, grading, etc. Further, do we really want to tie up the courts with lawsuit after lawsuit? Tenure is a process which frees up the legal system; making schools more litigious is a recipe for disaster.
Because it’s so hard to get rid of bad teachers, many are just shuffled between districts in what’s been dubbed “the dance of the lemons.”As any NJ teacher will tell you, tenure is only good in the district where you earn it. If you leave for another district, you lose your tenure. How is it possible that it's so hard to get rid of bad teachers if they keep losing their tenure when they go to other districts?
There’s little hope of improving evaluations when tenure still places such an onerous burden of proof on districts to fire people, said Brian Osborne, superintendent of schools for the South Orange and Maplewood district. The mountains of documents, the expense — it creates a chilling effect on administrators.“It means people get away with too much,” he said. “What district wants to go through the entire process of mounting a case only to lose? Every time that happens, it tells everyone in the system that what they’re supposed to do is tolerate mediocre performance.”
Mr. Jeffries, are you saying your administration goes out of their way to hire bad teachers? Or could it possibly be that we simply don't have a large enough pool of qualified teachers, and your administrators have no choice but to take the ones they can get?Meanwhile, in districts across the state, reformers are chafing against tenure because it stops them from doing the one thing they are certain will help — getting rid of terrible teachers. Shavar Jeffries, president of the school board in Newark, calls tenure “an albatross on our ability to reform our district.” It makes it really tough to do anything about the “substantial” number of underperforming teachers and principals in the city’s schools, he said.“When you have tenure, it locks in a large proportion of folks who should not be in front of our kids,” he said. “It does frustrate me, absolutely.”