Slate’s dangerous assertion that merit pay works

A couple years ago I received my districts bonus as one of
the top 25% of teachers, I was excited and told my friends some of whom I
believe are much better than me and I was shocked to learn they hadn’t received
it. I went home that day with some silver in my pocket but feeling like crap.
Slate Magazine recently did a piece saying merit pay can
work but it’s got to be for more than the nominal amounts that school districts
usually offer. The article sited a study that paid veteran teachers with a
history of results 20 thousand dollars over two years to go to our schools that
are struggling (i.e. doing poor on standardized tests) the most. The article
then said they did significantly better than teachers hired through the normal
From Slate:
In 10 cities, including Los Angeles, Miami, and Houston,
researchers at Mathematica identified open positions in high-poverty schools
with low test scores, where kids performed at just around the 30
th percentile in both reading and math.
To fill some of those positions, they selected from a special group of transfer
teachers, all of whom had top 20 percent track records of improving student
achievement at lower poverty schools within the districts, and had applied to
earn $20,000 to switch jobs. The rest of the open positions were filled through
the usual processes, in which principals select candidates from a regular
applicant pool.
In public
education, $20,000 is a whopping sum.
If a transfer teacher stayed in her new, tougher placement for
two years, she
d earn the
$20,000 in five installments, regardless of how well her new students
performed. In public education, $20,000 is a whopping sum, far more generous
than the typical merit pay bonus of a few hundred or a few thousand dollars.
In the process, a remarkable thing happened. The transfer
teachers significantly outperformed control-group teachers in the elementary
grades, raising student achievement by 4 to 10 percentile points
a big improvement in the world of
education policy, where infinitesimal increases are often celebrated.
This is a bit misleading; you see the candidates from the
regular applicant pool were most likely first year or novice teachers. Our
inner city schools face a lot of churn and burn and turnover with their teacher
staff. So in essence the article is saying is veteran teacher do a lot better
than first year teachers. Can somebody let Teach for America know please?   
A couple years ago, a couple years after I received merit
pay my school relieved a sig grant and the entire staff, all 120 of us were
paid to an extra 5000 dollars to stay not that I think many of us had plane to
go elsewhere as they gave us the money during pre planning. Where appreciative
of the money I always wondered what would have happened had the district spent
the 850 thousand dollars to hire 12 new staff members, a mental health
counselor and a social worker because so often why a kid acts up or does poorly
in school has nothing to do with school. What would have happened had they
hired art, music, drama and home ec teachers’ positions that had been cut so school
wouldn’t have been such drudgery for so many children? What would have happened
if we hired extra teachers so classes could have been smaller so kids could
have gotten more individualized attention? I think we would have done better
and I also think we often put kids in positions where success is hard to
achieve and then we scratch our heads and wonder why they didn’t do so. 
Next I wonder about the great teachers already at the
schools where these established veterans were sent. You know the ones who were
already succeeding and not going to get the extra 20k. How do you think they
felt? Did their performances suffer and what did this for to collaboration?
The article is right in the regard we do need to get our
best teachers at our most struggling schools. We can’t hope a significant
number of first years are going to suddenly catch fire or stay long enough that
they hit their grooves.  But we don’t have
to bribe teachers to do so. Instead let’s give teachers behavioral support,
make classes small, not over load them with paper work and put in place systems
that serve the child when they are not in school. If we did those things we
might just discover we already have some of our best teachers at those
The Slate piece wasn’t terrible but I believe in parts it
was misleading, especially the part where it says merit pay does work.

Why did Bill Gates spend 170 million on Common Core?

Bill Gates can’t understand why he would pay a more experienced
lawn man over some random person he picks up in front of the Ace Hardware with
his truck. This post however is not about that.
It’s also not about his small school initiative which he
spent tens of millions of dollars on and later abandoned or about his stack
rating evaluations that backfired at Microsoft and that they just recently stopped
And it’s not about him saying it will be a decade before we
know if any of his education reforms will work which reduces kids and teachers to
nothing but pawns in his mad experiments.
No this is about him spending 170 million dollars on common
It is truly maddening that despite the fact none of his
ideas have worked and he admits it will be at least a  decade before we know if anything he has done
ever will, he keeps throwing money at education , he must not be very bright.
Or maybe he is brilliant.
One of the things slowing Florida down from completely implementing
Common Core is the lack of band width and computers. Hmm computers, who have I
heard of that has something to do with computers. Oh yeah that’s right, Bill
So is he some altruistic nincompoop who just can’t get it
right or is he some heartless business who sees an opportunity?

It is my bet, the latter. 

Florida teachers, they are coming after your pensions.

The latest villain in the right’s education narrative is
pensions. They complain that they are somehow bankrupting our country and they
aren’t above lying and misleading to convince people.  Dropout Nation about as anti-public education
and teachers can get is just one in a long line of deceivers.
They complained about how the NEA spends money to lobby,
like only charter schools and testing companies should be allowed to lobby and
one of the entities that received money was a group called the Coalition to Save FRS, which is fighting
efforts to overhaul the Sunshine State’s virtually-busted defined-benefit
pensions. The NEA affiliate tossed $90,000 over to Coalition to Save FRS in
Virtually busted?!? Florida is considered to have one of the
best and most healthy pension funds around! 
There is no financial emergency and the last one certainly was not
created by teachers and other civil servants with pensions.
Want proof? The Miami herald reported, the retirement fund
increased by $9.65 billion during the last year even after making payments of
$6.2 billion to retirees.
Pensions are under attack, and facts don’t seem to matter to
the attackers. 

Why parents hate Common Core

By Diane Ravitch by way of CNN  

The U.S. Department of Education is legally prohibited from having any control over curriculum or instruction in the nation’s public schools, but nonetheless Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is a zealous advocate of the new Common Core standards for students’ proficiency in English and math.

First, he said their critics were members of extremist groups, and he recently assailed the parents who criticize them as “white suburban moms who — all of a sudden — their child isn’t as brilliant as they thought they were, and their school isn’t quite as good as they thought they were.” His remarks were prompted by the nearly unanimous outrage expressed by parents — moms and dads — at public forums in suburban districts in New York, following the release of the abysmal results of the new Common Core tests. 

The high failure rate did not happen because the students are dumb, but because the state chose to set an unrealistic passing mark. The state commissioner knew before any student had taken the test that only 30% or so would pass; that is where the state commissioner set the passing mark.The parents weren’t angry because they found out their child wasn’t brilliant, but because most were told by the state that their children were failures. Only 31% of the state’s students in grades third through eighth passed or exceeded the new tests. Among students who are English-language learners, only 3% passed the English standards; among students with disabilities, only 5% passed them; among black and Hispanic students, fewer than 20% passed. The numbers for math were better, but not by much. 

Duncan likes to boast that the Common Core standards were adopted by 45 states, but neglects to mention that the states were required to adopt “college-and-career-ready standards” to be eligible for $4.35 billion in the education secretary’s signature program called Race to the Top. 

Some states adopted them without seeing a finished draft. The standards, unfortunately, were never field-tested. No one knew in advance whether they would improve achievement or depress it, whether they would widen or narrow the achievement gap among children of different races. It is hard to imagine a major corporation releasing a new product nationwide without first testing it among consumers to see if it is successful. But that is what happened with the Common Core standards. 

Experts in early childhood education say the standards for young children are developmentally inappropriate. Teachers say that they have not had the training or resources to teach the new standards. Field-testing would have ironed out many of the bugs, but promoters of the standards insisted on fast implementation. 

No one yet has estimated the costs of shifting from state standards to national standards. Duncan awarded $350 million to develop new tests for the new standards, but all of the testing will be done online. 

Los Angeles intends to spend $1 billion on iPads for the Common Core Techology Project, designed to help prepare for the standards. If that is the cost to only one district, how many billions will schools across the nation pay for software and hardware and bandwidth for Common Core testing? This will be a bonanza for the technology industry, but will put a strain on public school budgets in a time of austerity. 

The Common Core standards emphasize critical thinking and reasoning. It is time for public officials to demonstrate critical thinking and to stop the rush to implementation and do some serious field-testing.

It is time to fix the standards that don’t work in real classrooms with real students. It is time to stop testing students on material they have not been taught. American students take more tests than students in any other nation. Our dependence on standardized testing has become excessive. 

Standards alone can’t right everything that needs fixing in American education, and some experts, like Tom Loveless at Brookings Institution, say they will make little or no difference in student achievement. 

Public officials should listen to the moms and dads. This is a democracy, and it is not the role of public officials to impose their grand ideas without the consent of the governed.

Why would anybody want to be a teacher?

I just read an article about how the Koch brothers are
funding anti-tenure legislation all across the nation. I can’t go a day without
reading how pensions are bankrupting America; remember when teachers created
the housing bubble that nearly wrecked the world? Oh neither do I. Then there
is Common Core, which ratchets up high stakes testing further eroding
flexibility, and creativity.
Sure the attacks against teachers have slowed down some as
alternatives sold as saviors like charter schools and vouchers have failed and
a few teachers sacrificed their lives to protect children in Connecticut and
Oklahoma but after years of being the villain of the narrative it’s hard to
forget all the assertions about lazy teachers only concerned with their
Cadillac benefits and summers off that people like Michelle Rhee, Jeb Bush,
Bill Gates and Arne Duncan have made. Now they reserve their nastiest attacks
for unions and teacher colleges.
I have also read something like half of all teachers are
going to retire in the next ten years and that’s got to be half the teachers
that made teaching a career because we all know almost half of all new teachers
don’t last five years.
Throw in salaries for most teachers not being on par with other
professionals and benefits getting more and more expensive and providing less
and less and I ask again why would anybody want to be a teacher?

Oh I remember, it’s my kids thanking me for being
there and it’s the light I can sometimes see go off when they finally get what
I am teaching. Today it makes it worth it.

Dear Morning Joe, are you going to be misinformed shills or are you going to be news people?

I was really disappointed with your Arne Duncan interview this morning.  The toughest question you asked was “how is your day?” You also let him mislead you and the public. All those poor numbers and rankings he sited zoom to the top when you factor out poverty something must of our suburban mothers don’t have to contend with and over a fifth of our children live in. Furthermore common core, what he is pushing does nothing to address poverty our real problem.

Are you going to be misinformed shills or are you going to be news people?

Dysfunction on the Duval County School Board.

This probably can’t be good moving forward.
It’s been tradition that the vice chair take over for the
chair for a while now so it was no surprise that Fred Lee nominated Becki Couch
to be chairperson. It’s when it came time to select a vice chair that fireworks
really flew.
Jason Fischer nominated district 5’s Connie Hall but she
declined, way to go district 5, when you elect a part time board member you
really elect a part time board member. This was followed by Paula Wright making
an impassioned plea for the position. If you don’t remember she also lobbied to
be the chair last year but only Hall supported her.
Unswayed Couch proceeded to nominate Ashley Smith
“privatization” Juarez, Fischer then nominated Grymes and Lee nominated Wright,
who I guess seeing the writing on the wall, Wright and remember this was just
after a speech where she extolled her accomplishments, said “no thank you”.
The board then rebuffed its new chairperson and elected
Grymes 5-2. Yes that’s right, the new chairs first official act failed and she
did not get her hand picked second. 

The word dysfunction comes to mind.

More deception from the FLDOE!

Last spring’s charter school study quickly fell apart
under scrutiny. Its chief problem among many was that more than a hundred
charter schools were left out.
Then there is the infamous Chartrand rule, named so
because it benefits a charter school that chair of the state board Gary
Chartrand has close ties to, that prevents schools from dropping more than one
letter grade. To be honest I think the state’s grading system is a travesty, simply
shows where the poor kids live and is all about punishing instead of helping
but at the same time I am against our government out and out lying to us too.
Now we come to common core. Opposition is growing
daily but the Florida Department of education has a way to stem the tide. It’s
going to change the name.
From Redefined Ed:  The new standards might also have a new name, said Joe
Follick, a spokesman for the department. Given the input that the state has
taken and the changes that are likely to be made, “it would be disingenuous to
call them common core standards,” he said. 

Oy Vey,
where do I begin? So our standards aren’t going to be common after all? What’s disingenuous
is the state attempting to be deceptive. What’s disingenuous is people are selling
common core as a cure all and nobody has an idea if it is going to work. What is
disingenuous is the powers that be think siphoning millions out of the
classroom is the best use of our limited resources.  

Even liberals think all unions do is protect bad teachers.

Arne Duncan was a topic on Morning Joe this morning and I
couldn’t believe I what I was hearing. First they showed a complete lack of
knowledge about the situation and I have to say being ignorant is okay it’s
when you start to comment that I have a problem.
At first they thought the kerfuffle was just because people
had become too politically corrects and that his comments were taken but not meant
to be racial and where there were racial undertones, I felt they were more
sexist and dismissive of women and people who disagreed with him. In short as
well as being misinformed and completely made up, they were elitist and
ignorant. The morning Joe cast seemed to agree Duncan’s remarks weren’t racist
but the inverse, saying urban black moms, would have been
Then they talked about how everybody gets a trophy and how students
are no longer pushed to be successful. Mike Barnicle said teachers in a “preponderance”
of schools will tell parents how great their children are while at the same
time the kids can’t perform simple tasks like add four plus four but as bad and
insulting as that was it wasn’t the humdinger of the segment. No, that came from
Donny Deutsch.
He said he understood people’s frustrations with public
schools but they were doomed to fail since unions main purpose was to protect
bad teachers. What!!!  
My union does not protect bad teachers. In fact my problem
with my union is they don’t protect good teachers from the intimidation
practices of various administrations, being overworked and from often being put
in no-win situations. Talk about pay and benefits and you have their attention,
talk about being brow beaten, marginalized or given more work than one person
can possible be expected to do and you can’t get a call returned. The last
thing they do is protect bad teachers.
Not only has Deutsch bought the talking point that unions
protect bad teachers but he is selling it on Morning Joe too and doing so as if
that somehow gives Duncan the right to marginalize parents and teachers who he
insulted over the weekend.
So there you have it, the hosts of morning Joe think kid getting
trophies whether they deserve them or not and unions protecting bad teachers
sum up the problems in education.  
Oy vey!
I am beginning to think public school supporters have been
doing it wrong. We have waited and hoped the administration and left leaning
outlets like MSNBC and the New York Times came to their senses and started
standing up for public schools (and yes there are a few exceptions) but the
problem is the weekly charter school scandals, and the lack of evidence that
corporate reforms work seem to go in one ear and out the other while the story
they heard from their neighbors, cousins, brothers, uncle about a union
protecting a bad teacher resonates, it takes hold.
Public school supporters need to find allies where they can and
I am sure there are some on the right because waiting for help from traditional
friends hasn’t been working.