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Education Politics

Union Boycotts LA Times Over Teacher Evaluation Disclosure 629

Posted by timothy
from the but-that-stuff-should-be-locked-up dept.
Atypical Geek writes "According to Newsweek, the local teachers union is infuriated over the disclosure of teacher performance metrics. Quoting: 'Do parents have the right to know which of their kids' teachers are the most and least effective? That's the controversy roaring in California this week with the publication of an investigative series by the Los Angeles Times's Jason Song and Jason Felch, who used seven years of math and English test data to publicly identify the best and the worst third- to fifth-grade teachers in the Los Angeles Unified School District. The newspaper's announcement of its plans to release data later this month on all 6,000 of the city's elementary-school teachers has prompted the local teachers' union to rally members to organize a boycott of the newspaper.' According to the linked Times article, United Teachers Los Angeles president A.J. Duffy said the database was 'an irresponsible, offensive intrusion into your professional life that will do nothing to improve student learning.'"
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Union Boycotts LA Times Over Teacher Evaluation Disclosure

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  • There are definitely problems in the U.S. educational system. This article was pretty cool, and they do state that their metrics aren't perfect, but lead to some valuable insight. I'd like to see further studies on this.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      To compete with wikileaks, they must become wikileaks. Things are looking up for the media. Amazing - maybe now they'll have to do their jobs and report on the government with brutal facts, instead of placating the party line.
      • by ScrewMaster (602015) on Saturday August 21, 2010 @09:08AM (#33323924)

        To compete with wikileaks, they must become wikileaks. Things are looking up for the media. Amazing - maybe now they'll have to do their jobs and report on the government with brutal facts, instead of placating the party line.

        Yes, however they'll only do that if they see that there's eyeballs (and hence greater sales) in it. In this particular case, the relevance of the information is obvious to most people: if you have kids, you want to know that they're being taught competently. So people will buy the paper to find out. There are many other issues of equal or greater importance that are more complex, and it is up to the journalists to help people understand the relevance to their own lives. If they can do that, both inform and, to a degree, educate, then they'll regain my respect.

        The truth is that journalism in the U.S. today is not what it used to be ... but this kind of report is exactly what journalists are supposed to be doing. That is, informing the public about what their government and its various organs are up to: it's why the Press has such standing in the Constitution. So the Teacher's Union might like to keep their performance (or lack of it) a secret, but as public employees they should not entitled to that. Fact is, such unaccountability is at the root of our school system's problems, and I'm glad this newspaper is giving it to them good. They deserve it, and frankly the fact that they're objecting so strongly indicates that they know there's a problem here, and are self-serving enough to want to continue the cover up.

    • by ArcherB (796902) on Saturday August 21, 2010 @08:18AM (#33323494) Journal

      There are definitely problems in the U.S. educational system. This article was pretty cool, and they do state that their metrics aren't perfect, but lead to some valuable insight. I'd like to see further studies on this.

      Teacher's Unions are the biggest problem with the US educational system. They are more concerned with teachers' benefits than they are about students. Of course, that is their job, but they give campaign contributions and students don't, they've become a bit too good at it.

      I love it when teachers bitch about pay (although, sometimes warranted) and we get the following conversation:
      "Haven't teachers always been underpaid?"
      "Yes, and we need to fix that once and for all."
      "Then why did you take the job?"
      "Because I love it!"
      "!??!!!?!!?"

      • Meh to the teacher's union being the sole problem.

        "You get what you pay for!"
        • No, you can also get less than what you pay for. Indeed, that is the whole point of collusion: to make the customer get less than what he pays for.

          Unions are a kind of collusion....

          Price is not a reliable indicator of quality.

          • by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Saturday August 21, 2010 @08:54AM (#33323786) Homepage Journal

            Unions are a kind of collusion....

            So, it's OK for everyone else to negotiate the best price except workers. Is that what you're saying? Or are you saying it should be illegal for workers to organize and collectively bargain? Should it also be illegal for CEO's to negotiate their best salary and benefits package? Should it be illegal for cartels to set commodity prices? Under what statute or legal principle would you make the right to organize illegal?

            It's amazing how free market purists suddenly don't trust the free market when it comes to workers' pay.

            • by ArcherB (796902) on Saturday August 21, 2010 @09:11AM (#33323946) Journal

              Unions are a kind of collusion....

              So, it's OK for everyone else to negotiate the best price except workers. Is that what you're saying? Or are you saying it should be illegal for workers to organize and collectively bargain? Should it also be illegal for CEO's to negotiate their best salary and benefits package? Should it be illegal for cartels to set commodity prices? Under what statute or legal principle would you make the right to organize illegal?

              It's amazing how free market purists suddenly don't trust the free market when it comes to workers' pay.

              Actually, it is illegal for corporations to get together to fix prices. And, yeah, it should be.

              Look, I don't have anything against unions until they get so powerful that they either take the company down (auto industry), endanger safety (airline industry), or cause the industry they represent to fail (teachers' union). When they look out for the safety and fair treatment of the actual employees, (fire union, police union), I don't have a problem with them.

              • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                by jedidiah (1196)

                In all of the examples of "bad unions" you cited, the unions are infact that least of their problems.

                Each of those industries is dominated by dinosaurs that only linger on because they are kept on life support by government.

                Each of those industries are in dire need of housecleaning and aren't getting it. Labor disputes are just the tip of the iceberg.

                • by z80kid (711852) on Saturday August 21, 2010 @09:37AM (#33324218)

                  Each of those industries is dominated by dinosaurs that only linger on because they are kept on life support by government.

                  They are kept on life support by government at the behest of the unions. GM wasn't bailed out for our benefit - it was bailed out for the benefit of the UAW.

                  • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                    by jedidiah (1196)

                    Yes... it's all the little proles.

                    The fact that the Robber Barons were going to lose their shirts had nothing to do with it.

                    Wasn't it the anti-labor party that did the last Detroit bailout? And the one before?

                    • by Attila Dimedici (1036002) on Saturday August 21, 2010 @10:34AM (#33324688)
                      You do realize that Obama made the bond holders and other high priority creditors (according to current bankruptcy law) accept less money than a bankruptcy court would have awarded them, while the unions got basically all that they were "owed" (when in bankruptcy court they would have gotten next to nothing)? That Obama threatened said bond holders with IRS audits and investigations by other branches of government if they failed to agree? Such audits and investigations would have been very expensive for the bond holders even if they had not broken any laws or regulations. Bush made some government loans to GM and Chrysler, but the major bailout was by Obama. Bush wanted to use TARP funds, but Congress would not change the wording to allow that. Obama used those funds anyway.
                    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                      by khallow (566160)

                      The fact that the Robber Barons were going to lose their shirts had nothing to do with it.

                      Read that other reply to your post carefully. The "robber barons" lost more than they would have under a real GM bankruptcy.

                    • by TheGeneration (228855) on Saturday August 21, 2010 @01:26PM (#33326418) Journal

                      Golly gosh it is so awful when the owners of a corporation have to actually keep their contractual promises to their employees. Boodeehoodeehooo. I'm crying so many tears for those owners that ran the company into the ground.

              • by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Saturday August 21, 2010 @09:59AM (#33324432) Homepage Journal

                that they either take the company down (auto industry)

                Just remember, it was management's idea to give those ridiculous retirement benefits, not the unions. The union requested a modest pay raise, and management thought they'd get away cheap by giving retirement bennies instead, thinking workers would only live to 68. In hindsight, the pay raise would have been much cheaper.

                • by zippthorne (748122) on Saturday August 21, 2010 @11:52AM (#33325450) Journal

                  In hindsight, the original deals might have been valid: the first workers to get those bennies did only live to 68. The problem is that as health care and nutritional improvements increased the lifespan, they were unable to re-negotiate. With a union, everything gets ratcheted up. Things very, very, rarely get negotiated down.*

                  *partially because people don't seem to know that there is a good answer to the typical objection of "but what about all the people who were counting on those benefits." and that answer is, "pro rata." There's no reason why new people should get the benefits you can't afford just because you're committed to people who've spent their whole careers working for you.

                  • by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Saturday August 21, 2010 @01:43PM (#33326562) Homepage Journal

                    The problem is that as health care and nutritional improvements increased the lifespan, they were unable to re-negotiate

                    I agree that the companies were very stupid and shortsighted, but nobody forced them to sign those contracts. Instead of trying to dick around the workers, they could have negotiated in good faith.

                    If by "re-negotiate" you mean, re-neg on a contract, well, if I buy a car from one of those companies, and my income goes down so I can't make the full payments, will they "renegotiate" the contract with me and accept less than the original terms of the contract? Maybe I borrowed $20k on the car, but now I want to pay them $12k. Are they going to go for that you think?

                    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                      by zippthorne (748122)

                      I think your argument would hold up a lot better if there banks weren't doing exactly that with credit card debt.

                      Further, that wasn't what I was suggesting at all. What I was suggesting was that someone at the end of their career, you give them the benefit you contraced with them. After all, they performed their end of the deal.

                      But your agreement with them shouldn't bind you to making the same deal with a new hire.

                      And further, for those in their mid-career, you ought to be able to pro-rate the benefit to

            • by demonlapin (527802) on Saturday August 21, 2010 @09:12AM (#33323970) Homepage Journal

              Should it be illegal for cartels to set commodity prices?

              That is illegal; there's a reason OPEC meetings aren't held in New York, and that LCD makers were fined for collusion (like here [nytimes.com]; that's from 2008, or here [wsj.com], for the new suit by the state of New York)

              It's amazing how free market purists suddenly don't trust the free market when it comes to workers' pay.

              I'm not aware of any "free market purists" who think cartels are a good thing. After all, teachers aren't barely-literate manual laborers; they have college degrees - shouldn't they be able to negotiate a salary on their own? If there were a market in teacher pay, for example, I'm reasonably certain that a high school physics teacher would make a lot more than a kindergarten teacher. Instead, in most public systems, pay is determined by seniority and box-checking. (Got a master's degree? Check. Gone to summer course X? Check. Collect for each box checked.)

              • by David Jao (2759) <djao@dominia.org> on Saturday August 21, 2010 @10:34AM (#33324686) Homepage

                If there were a market in teacher pay, for example, I'm reasonably certain that a high school physics teacher would make a lot more than a kindergarten teacher.

                I think you are badly and dangerously wrong. Correct facts are a prerequisite for a robust debate, and your facts are wrong.

                According to a recent study, the true economic value of an outstanding kindergarten teacher is somewhere around $320,000 [nytimes.com] per year. As in, three hundred and twenty thousand US dollars. A high school teacher is not worth anywhere near as much. That's because, by the time students get into high school, they are too old for a teacher to change them very much. In order to make a significant difference in a student's life outcome, you have to get to them while they're young.

                If schools actually start paying their best kindergarten teachers $320,000 per year, then yeah, sure, to hell with unions. Until then, however, I view them as a necessary evil.

                • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                  by IICV (652597)

                  That's actually something I've been wondering about - we pay the CEOs and other executives of large companies millions of dollars a year, but we don't think it's worthwhile to pay teachers an equivalent amount? (divided by how many more teachers there are, of course) I mean, apparently the reason why we pay executives so much is that if they screw up, the company fails; if teachers screw up, on the other hand, entire generations of the workforce come out apathetic and worthless.

                  Teachers have a far greater i

                  • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                    by zippthorne (748122)

                    The reason we pay CEO's so much is another kind of collusion.

                    Wealthy people can buy their way on to the boards of various companies, and they elect other wealthy people to the executive positions of the companies they're board-members on. And of course it's a quid-pro-quo: being an executive of one company doesn't preclude you from "serving" on the board of one or more other companies.

                    Do you really think that you need salaries in the millions, with benefits of even greater value to attract enough people ca

                • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                  by russotto (537200)

                  If there were a market in teacher pay, for example, I'm reasonably certain that a high school physics teacher would make a lot more than a kindergarten teacher.

                  I think you are badly and dangerously wrong. Correct facts are a prerequisite for a robust debate, and your facts are wrong.

                  According to a recent study, the true economic value of an outstanding kindergarten teacher is somewhere around $320,000 per year. As in, three hundred and twenty thousand US dollars.

                  That so-called "true economic value" has the

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Anonymous Coward

              It's amazing how free market purists suddenly don't trust the free market when it comes to workers' pay.

              It's not a free market unless union membership isn't required, and harrassment of non-union workers by union members is not permitted.

              Meet those requirements, and then you can talk about a free market.

            • by ScrewMaster (602015) on Saturday August 21, 2010 @09:20AM (#33324046)
              There's a difference between negotiating your price as an individual, and negotiating price as a group. At that point, you're now "negotiating" at gunpoint which is a whole different animal.

              I'm a software developer: I'm not a member of any "Union", and I survive simply because there's a demand for my services, and I negotiate the best price I can with my employer. Furthermore, how much I can demand is tied pretty directly with my overall competence. I'm motivated to remain good at my job because otherwise I won't have one. Explain to me why a teacher should be treated any differently than any other worker. Are they so special that they can do a crappy job, get tenure, and then retire on a really really nice pension?

              Worse yet, unions have, in many cases, gone from protecting workers from exploitation to becoming the very thing they decry, and often do more damage than they're worth. All those "think of the children!" types ought to be up in arms about this.
              • by russotto (537200) on Saturday August 21, 2010 @09:37AM (#33324220) Journal

                There's a difference between negotiating your price as an individual, and negotiating price as a group. At that point, you're now "negotiating" at gunpoint which is a whole different animal.

                It's only "gunpoint" when people are prevented from negotiating other than as a group. Which is in fact the case with teacher's unions (and most surviving unions), but the problem isn't with group negotiation; the problem is with the force required to sustain it.

            • by andymadigan (792996) <amadigan@@@gmail...com> on Saturday August 21, 2010 @09:36AM (#33324208)
              Hate to play devil's advocate here, but cartels are not (usually) legally protected, and legally the board of a company can hire whatever CEO they want. Unions, however, are legally protected entities. It would be a bit nuts to fire all the teachers and hire new people, but the law is there because some employers would do it if they could.

              Teachers Unions are worried because true evaluation of teacher performance would create two classes of teachers for them: those that were good at their job and didn't need the union to help them, and those who were bad at their job and the union could not save. That would make the union ineffective, threatening the pay of those who run the union. It's an institution and center of power, and it has a will of its own. This shouldn't be, unions were intended to prevent employer abuse, not to stop employers from hiring the best people for the job.
        • exactly the point (Score:5, Insightful)

          by nten (709128) on Saturday August 21, 2010 @09:12AM (#33323972)

          You do get what you pay for, and the teacher's union (NEA) are the single largest [opensecrets.org] campaign contributors in the United States. They pay for politicians, and they get them. That is not the sole problem, but its intertwined with the rest of it. Schools have trouble telling good teachers from bad ones, and there aren't enough good ones to go around anyway, so they pay them all the same as if it were unskilled labor, and pay the administrators more in the hopes that overcompensated administrators can manage away incompetence in those actually doing the teaching. These incompetent teachers and overcompensated administrators like the NEA because it is job security. The really good teachers either go along knowing that most schools can't tell they are worth extra, don't care about the money anyway, and don't really have the ability to make a change. They are gifted teachers after all, not gifted politicians. I don't know if there is a way to tell a very good newly graduated teacher from a very poor one in the time allotted for an interview, or if there is any hint on a resume. The ability to terminate the employment of a teacher as soon as they show themselves to be sub par without worrying about lawsuits would be a less efficient, but more feasible solution to mind reading employment candidates. Paying more won't create a greater number of good teachers either, because they are almost never money motivated people. Using poor or untested teachers as little more than TAs and proctors while the better compensated, proven teachers instruct large numbers of students via live or recorded media would provide more students with access to good teachers, and a testing ground for new teachers to earn their credentials in a less pivotal role in the child's life.

        • by ArcherB (796902)

          Meh to the teacher's union being the sole problem.

          "You get what you pay for!"

          True, I can't blame the teacher's union for your reading comprehension skills. Here is what I said:

          Teacher's Unions are the biggest problem with the US educational system

          Biggest, meaning there are others, as in not the "sole problem". I would say parental apathy being a very close second.

        • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Saturday August 21, 2010 @10:18AM (#33324580) Homepage Journal

          The teacher's union is the largest problem with education in this country. It is virtually impossible to fire a bad educator. Almost all school jobs are union, so it's actually almost impossible to fire a bad systems administrator. I know of at least one whose job I would have as I have on two occasions been hired as a contractor to do things he should have known how to do, in fact things covered by his job description.

          Unions are leeches sucking the lifeblood out of this nation. Before the invention of labor laws, they were a necessary evil. Now they are an unnecessary evil often run by the mafia or other organized criminal organizations (yes, even today) and they exist to secure special rights for some individuals when what is truly needed is labor laws which cover all employees.

      • by bsDaemon (87307) on Saturday August 21, 2010 @08:57AM (#33323814)

        My mother is a public high school Spanish teacher. She has an undergraduate degree in Romance Languages from an Ivy League, a Masters in Spanish from a well-known state school, and is currently working towards her PhD. She's been teaching at the school she's at for almost 15 years, I believe. She used to work for an import/export company, then an investment banker. She speaks 7 languages with a high degree of proficiency, 5 of which she's fluent in.

        In addition to the class time, there is prep time, duty (being made to come in early to watch kids on and off the bus, hang out outside bathrooms looking for smokers, etc), all the time at home grading papers, etc. If teachers were paid by the hour, most would likely make less than a fast food worker when averaged out. The argument that they get paid in the summer for not doing anything is also fallacious, as the fact of the matter is teachers have the choice, at least here in VA, to take their pay only during the school year, or to have it averaged out over 12 months so that they get less per cheque but have income during the summer.

        I make almost as much as my mother does with 1 undergrad degree and just a couple years of relevant experience. I also don't have to give up nearly all my evening time grading papers, having to go to meetings about other people's kids so as not to have time to pay attention to my own (although i haven't got any yet), etc.

        With my dad retired from the airline where he was a pilot for over 20 years and occasionally substitute teaching, my mother has assumed the role of primary income for them, so the fact that with all her degrees and experience she's making less money than the typical sysadmin with that much experience (who are another group of people, who if you average out their salaries over the amount of time they're required to put in are grossly underpaid) by quite a wide margin is really sort of shameful.

        Then there are the parents who don't or won't take responsibility for their own children, and the children who won't take responsibility for themselves. My mother only teaches upper-level Spanish (3,4,5 and the AP prep classes). Even in those classes, usually in Spanish 3 where you have kids just hanging on long enough for the advanced diploma requirement, you get jackass kids who aren't really concerned with learning. And if they would rather smoke dope and show up late, parents want to blame the schools and the teachers for the kids poor grades.

        I'm sorry, but if 90 percent of the kids in a class have a B or better, it's likely not the teacher's fault that the other 10% aren't keeping up. If we had pay-for-performance bonus rules, then my mom would make out like a bandit because she's a great teacher, the vast majority of her students love her, and they do well. This isn't the case for all the teachers. And yes, there are bad teachers. I've seen and known many in my day.

        Basically, what I'm trying to say is that yes, teachers are underpaid. And if they were paid more, then better people would be able to afford to go into the profession. Most of the worst teachers are the young ones who go into it because they want their summers off and basically live with a case of Senioritis for the first 10 years of their careers. If you're willing to pay enough to make it feasible for an experienced engineer or scientist to come in and teach math and still be able to make their mortgage payments, then you're on the right track. I hate math teachers who know math but can't explain how it applies to anything real.

        The teacher pay argument shouldn't be that all teachers automagically deserve more money, but that you need to be willing to pay talent what talent deserves. Of course unions won't like that, but I don't live in a Union state, and being a teacher isn't like being an autoworker -- it's not a blue-collar job, even though they by and large get blue collar pay.

        • by hedwards (940851)
          Indeed, I've been opposed to this sort of thing for a while on the basis that it at very least discourages the best teachers from risking the toughest schools. A teacher is on campus usually for something like 6 hours a day, and at least at the middle and highschool level probably has 5 hours of actual direct contact with students. You're not going to overcome a bad home environment and learning problems with the resources given. It's just not going to happen, the whole premise of evaluations assumes that y
        • by roman_mir (125474) on Saturday August 21, 2010 @09:10AM (#33323934) Homepage Journal

          What does that mean, "pay talent what talent deserves"?

          I have a real talent for jerking off, it took years to master, I should get paid for that wonderful talent. So who is interested in paying?

          --

          Your argument is absurd. In real world we don't pay people simply because they have talent. People get paid because someone is making money.

          A talented basketball player makes money for the investors.

          A talented software developer makes money for a company.

          A talented thief controls High Frequency Trade transaction house.

          Another talented thief controls money flow from many people to a small subset.

          A talented plastic surgeon gets paid for his work and discretion.

          etc.

          --

          The REAL talent in this case is the UNION, it gets a LOT of people paid for doing very very little, sure some do more, but most do very little, that's what a union does, that's what it is all about. Used to be that a union was really built by people dying on floors of factories, that's not what today's unions are about, especially GOVERNMENT unions!

          If your mother is so talented yet she feels that she is financially unappreciated, she has a choice of working in a private school, isn't that so? In fact if her talents are in high DEMAND then she can tutor people for much MORE money than she'd be making in a school, and eventually with that money that she could save, she could open her own private school, why not?

          It's not that I am questioning talent of your mother, I have no idea, but the entire point is that you can have the best talents but nobody cares, and nor SHOULD they! Can she apply her talents so that people would want to give her more money, that's the question.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by bsDaemon (87307)

            Your argument rests on free-market principles, forgetting the fact that public schools are a government monopoly. But, to your point... her students do the best of any foreign language students in the school. Parents are always trying to get their kids into her class. She has one of the highest percentages of students accepted to the Governor's School program in the state, and has had very many of her students go one to Ivy League schools.

            C grads from JMU turn out C grads from JMU. A grads from Ivy Leag

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by T Murphy (1054674)
            But a talented teacher (paid by the public) makes a lot of money for the public through increased productivity of the students who learned and enjoyed learning thanks to him/her. The problem is it is hard to define how much a teacher benefits society, so instead people just figure anyone can do the same job and pay them as little as the unions will let them. Just because our short-term-focused capitalist society can't see what good teachers do doesn't mean the government is wrong when they do see that benef
        • by ErikZ (55491) * on Saturday August 21, 2010 @09:19AM (#33324032)

          You don't need three advanced degrees (And the debt load that comes with it) to each ANY high school class. Period.

          Home schooling is becoming more and more popular, and one of the reasons is how completely disconnected from reality Public schools are.

        • Whole story. (Score:4, Informative)

          by AnonymousClown (1788472) on Saturday August 21, 2010 @09:22AM (#33324060)
          Then there are teachers like my sister who pulls in close to $70K per year, gets a $3,000 raise when she completes teacher training programs in the Summer, and has this incredible pension with TIAA CREF paid for by the school system that guarantees that she'll retire as a millionaire.

          My mother was a book-keeper for a school district and as a result was able to get the same benefits as the teachers. She has absolutely no problems with money in her retirement, now and she isn't exactly a frugal person to put it lightly.

          In my financial planning class, we were shown stats that showed that teachers are the tops when it comes to people who retire as millionaires.

          If you start teaching at the age of 22 right out of college and stick with it for 30 years (retire at 52), you'll be set for life - nice comfortable life. The first couple of years suck in terms of apy, though. But after you get over that hump, you're making a nice living. Looking back now, I kind of wish I did that.

          Either your mother is in a very shitty school district, or you're not telling us the whole story.

        • by russotto (537200) on Saturday August 21, 2010 @09:46AM (#33324328) Journal

          My mother is a public high school Spanish teacher. She has an undergraduate degree in Romance Languages from an Ivy League, a Masters in Spanish from a well-known state school, and is currently working towards her PhD. She's been teaching at the school she's at for almost 15 years, I believe. She used to work for an import/export company, then an investment banker. She speaks 7 languages with a high degree of proficiency, 5 of which she's fluent in.

          Have any of her students who didn't already know Spanish learned to speak Spanish in her classes?

          I know a lot of people who have taken high school language classes (including myself). I know exactly 0 who learned a language that way. They're a checkbox in the "well-rounded education" checklist, nothing more.

          If teachers were paid by the hour, most would likely make less than a fast food worker when averaged out.

          If a minimum wage fast-food worker were to work for 12 hours a day every day for 10 months a year, he or she would make about $26,500/yr. You going to tell me that most teachers work more and make less? Pull the other one, it's got bells on.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Alioth (221270)

            I agree. There is something fundamentally wrong with the way languages are taught in the English speaking world (the UK is just as bad, if not worse, than the US). The usual thing that's said is "[British|American] people can't learn different languages", and later in life, "Adults can't learn a new language". Neither is true.

            British and American people can learn a language just as well as anyone else. The problem is partly the way languages are taught in schools (mostly, it's about as fun and interesting a

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by dotfile (536191)
        I don't think the mere existence of a teachers union is the problem. I think the problem is that the union is very often negotiating with a school board made up of union members and long time supporters. Very often the only people who stand any chance of coming out of contract negotiations with an outcome they're not happy with are the parents and taxpayers.
      • by lbates_35476 (901961) on Saturday August 21, 2010 @09:12AM (#33323962)
        While I think that teacher's unions are "part" of the problem, I'm convinced that the bigger problem is that there is a lack of discipline and kids aren't afraid of anything that a teacher or principal can currently do to them. "Time out" just doesn't motivate a teenager to change their behavior. Parents just are not supporting teachers in this area. We have a complete generation of children that "can do no wrong" in the eyes of their parents. Until parents quit thinking their child is a complete "angel" and always blindly takes their side against teachers and administrators we will continue down this path. How things have changed in the last 30 years.

        No I will admit that teachers and administrators could be wrong, but parents have got to go into this with the assumption that the child is probably wrong until proven otherwise. Assuming that the children are always right hasn't and won't work. They are children after all. While there may be times when the child is right, it is extremely important that they learn to work within the power structure that exists. The real world just isn't going to change to accommodate them even if they are right, they must find a way to adapt or we are setting them up for a lifetime of disappointment. The workplace is just not going to put up with the lack of discipline that teachers are forced to endure today and it is the children that are in for a rude awakening.

        In return for this support, parents should expect teachers to be accountable. Asking teachers to be accountable for their student's proficiency without discipline or any ability to modify the student's behavior can't work.
      • by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Saturday August 21, 2010 @09:13AM (#33323980) Homepage Journal

        Teacher's Unions are the biggest problem with the US educational system.

        Not even close. The biggest problem in the US educational system is shitty parenting.

        By the way, don't you believe teachers should have the right to collectively bargain? Should they not be allowed to negotiate their best pay package? Don't you trust free markets?

        There is no law that says a school system must sign a contract with the teachers' unions. There is no law that says they must agree to contracts that say shitty teachers can't be fired, just as there's no law that says CEO's can't negotiate multi-million dollar golden parachutes so when they destroy a company they get a fat benefits package (like Carly Fiorina and her successor). There was also no law that said big car companies had to give their unions ridiculous pensions and post-retirement health care packages. They did so because they didn't want to agree to the modest raise that was being requested back in the '70s. The CEOs thought they were being clever, thinking that their retirees would continue to die at age 68 and they'd pull a fast one, but when people started living a decade longer, they were fucked and cried "the unions made us do it!" And the Chamber of Commerce and the Club for Growth and other anti-middle class organizations spent millions of dollars spreading FUD about unions so now knuckleheads spout crap like "Teacher's Unions are the biggest problem with the US educational system" when they ought to goddamn-well know better.

        You want to improve schools? Do what I did and run for the school board. I ran as a parent when my daughter was in school, and I ran as a citizen-at-large after she graduated. I've been on and off the school board for 16 years and even in a city where there's a very powerful teachers' union, like Chicago, you'd be surprised at what can be done both to get rid of bad teachers and to improve kids' educations. The problem is that management is unwilling to assert itself, not that teachers have done what anybody could do, which is negotiate the most favorable pay package they could. It's not their fault that they're negotiating with cowards and imbeciles who themselves are paid hundreds of thousands of dollars (and they are NOT in the union). The head of a school system in a medium to large size Chicago suburb is making several timesthat school district is performing below average. Who's fault is that?

        The second biggest problem with the US educational system is that people think they should just send their kids to school and hope for the best. The third biggest problem is that public schools are forced to serve every single child, regardless of disability or behavioral problem, which is something so-called "private" schools don't have to deal with. One severely handicapped student can take up as much teacher time and school resources as two classrooms full of normally-abled students.

        And that list of problems doesn't even include the fact that we've got growing numbers of people who are requiring public schools to teach nonsense, like is being done in South Carolina and Texas. This crap about "unions are the problem" is just a denial of the history of the US, which if you're from Texas, is to be expected because that's what the textbooks do now.

  • by uncanny (954868) on Saturday August 21, 2010 @08:09AM (#33323418)
    I get evaluated at my job, should i be outraged? Maybe this will motivate them to actually try harder to be better teachers instead of just griping about a paycheck. There are worse jobs out there with even worse pay, i say start firing teachers that rank the worst.
    • by JanneM (7445) on Saturday August 21, 2010 @08:14AM (#33323458) Homepage

      "I get evaluated at my job, should i be outraged?"

      Should you get outraged if your evaluation is printed in a major daily newspaper as an example? Without a reporter even as much as contacting you for a chance at filling in your side of the story?

      • Usually no (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Atmchicago (555403)
        Usually no, except that the teachers' unions do such an amazing job at preventing any sort of information getting out, and at preventing the establishment of any merit-based pay system, that there is no way to incentivize better teaching. This is a last resort to get the ball rolling. Better teachers should get paid more, period, and we should know who they are. Once they start teaching at the correct level, then you can argue it doesn't matter which teacher you have since they are all adequate, and therefo
      • by Smidge204 (605297) on Saturday August 21, 2010 @08:33AM (#33323584) Journal

        Should you get outraged if your evaluation is printed in a major daily newspaper as an example?

        Only if it's a bad evaluation that highlights my incompetence...

        =Smidge=

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by ALeader71 (687693)
        Teachers are government employees serving a system most people take for granted. Teaching is the only profession that continually demands NOT to be evaluated or held accountable, "because I'm tenured." This cultural attitude has created social promotions, and indifference towards any student that doesn't fit the facory school model. A general lack of local election voting by non-retirees created the most broken educational system in the developed world. Teachers have far-reaching infleuence on our futur
      • A key difference for most of us is that we are not public employees and therefore our ultimate source of income is not the pockets of taxpayers. So yes, their evaluations should be published publicly, especially if voters are to be informed when they go to vote for politicians who support unions who harbor bad teachers.
      • by Stradivarius (7490) on Saturday August 21, 2010 @09:04AM (#33323884)

        The original LA Times article on the web did have a prominently placed solicitation for teachers to submit their comments on their score. Not sure what the plans for the dead tree edition were

        It also seems to me that the teachers' side of the story was printed:

        Many teachers and union leaders are skeptical of the value-added approach, saying standardized tests are flawed and do not capture the more intangible benefits of good instruction. Some also fear teachers will be fired based on the arcane calculations of statisticians who have never worked in a classroom.

        Whether you buy their arguments or not, the teachers' official point of view has been spelled out for the Times' readers.

        I for one don't buy it. Certainly care needs to be taken with designing any evaluations of job effectiveness. The value-added approach tries to take such care. The union response was just the standard line that you cannot and should not evaluate them by standardized tests that would let you compare them against each other. And similarly disappointing rhetoric implying that only teachers can evaluate teacher effectiveness - as if mere mortals like parents or statisticians have no insight. You don't need to be a master chef to know whether the food was prepared by one, and you don't need to be a teacher to know whether a teachers's students are learning.

  • by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Saturday August 21, 2010 @08:11AM (#33323432)
    When I saw that test scores were being used, I got ready to point out that test scores are known to vary between rich and poor students. Then I read the actual evaluation, and saw this:

    The fifth-graders at Broadous Elementary School come from the same world the poorest corner of the San Fernando Valley, a Pacoima neighborhood framed by two freeways where some have lost friends to the stray bullets of rival gangs.

    ...

    Yet year after year, one fifth-grade class learns far more than the other down the hall.

    • by Fulminata (999320) on Saturday August 21, 2010 @08:24AM (#33323530)
      The fact that one class consistently does better than another is reason to look more deeply into the reasons why, but it's not reason enough to jump to the conclusion that one teacher is better than the other. There may vvery well be other factors. Maybe one classroom is closer to the street and has to deal with distracting noise? Maybe one is on the shaded side of the building and is more comfortable during the warmer months? Maybe one teacher truly is better than the other and it's worth studying what makes them better. It's a starting point, not an ending point, and to condemn the teacher of the lower performing class without exploring further why the class is lower performing is irresponsible.
      • by Idiomatick (976696) on Saturday August 21, 2010 @08:51AM (#33323762)
        I wouldn't be quiiiite that generous though I agree on the whole. But I think publicly announced raw data of this sort (very uncontrolled and could mean a wide wide range of different things) will be terrible. Why? Because the general populace is stupid. BUT mama-bears that want the best for their kids will turn it into a horrible horrible witch hunt. And it will just make a lot of teachers quit rather than improve.

        So instead of crushing a bunch of teachers and be forced to spend lots extra retraining/educating new teachers and having to increase wages. Why not use this as the starting point for a study? Find out what they are doing and retrain current teachers. It may be a bunch of small things you can teach in a month during the summer.

        Survival of the fittest while cruel would be effective. BUT it would cost way more to do it that way.
        • by vcgodinich (1172985) on Saturday August 21, 2010 @10:24AM (#33324624)
          Sorry, that is how the real world works. If employee A on the assembly line isn't working as good as B, A gets fired.

          Except for teachers and government employees, they get studies on the ambient noise of their rooms to see if that effects their ability to do their job.

        • by Attila Dimedici (1036002) on Saturday August 21, 2010 @10:57AM (#33324938)
          The problems is that the school district has been sitting on this data for several years. This data has a lot of information that could be used to improve the education that students receive. What you are proposing is what the union is fighting. The LA Times published this information, without including any information identifying individual teachers, in order to generate public pressure to do almost exactly what you propose. In one of the articles in this series, they proposed that if the school district would evaluate the data they have already collected, they could identify who the best teachers are and what makes them better. Then they could train at least some of the other teachers to emulate the best teachers. The teachers' union has rejected that approach.
    • by dlenmn (145080) on Saturday August 21, 2010 @08:48AM (#33323734) Homepage

      This comparison is particularly useful because it tracks students over time so that the effect of a teacher can be separated from other preexisting conditions (like poverty). This [latimes.com] graphic from the LA times really says it all. The image shows how on teacher greatly improves the standing of students in his class, while the other does the exact opposite. This ranking has merit.

  • Scrutiny (Score:3, Insightful)

    by RudyHartmann (1032120) on Saturday August 21, 2010 @08:18AM (#33323492)
    There are hardly any fields of endeavor where the people asking to provide a service are exempt from scrutiny. Teaching is a honorable and needed service, but the teacher's union does not want their members to be subject to the same feedback every other profession endures. They are not such a special class of human beings that the consumers of their service should be shutout from performance evaluation statistics. Would you want to hire the services of a crappy plummer, mechanic, investment counselor, or doctor? Why does the consumer not have access to the data to make an informed decision on whether to accept the services for which they will have to pay for? This is just not fair.
  • by foniksonik (573572) on Saturday August 21, 2010 @08:19AM (#33323498) Homepage Journal

    Test the teachers on the material they are teaching. Completely objective metric. If they know the material and yet their students do not and their peer (same grade, same school) classes are succeeding with the same criteria, then the teacher doesn't know how to teach. Either re-train them or let them go.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by cvd6262 (180823)

      Test the teachers on the material they are teaching.

      James Popham, a prof. ameritus at UCLA, wrote that if we want to know something about someone, we measure that something in that someone. To measure something in the students and then draw a conclusion about the teacher is "a second-step inference." He pointed out that current psychometric theory (see the AERa, APA, NCME 1999 Standards for psychological and educational testing) only deal with first-step inferences.

      Note that the LA Time analysis used value-

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by russotto (537200)

        James Popham, a prof. ameritus at UCLA, wrote that if we want to know something about someone, we measure that something in that someone.

        He was wrong. For instance, if we want to know how well a football coach is doing, we often measure something about the team he's coaching. It's the same when measuring many managerial and executive positions. Teaching seems to me to be another area where that makes perfect sense.

    • Being able to do something and being able to teach somebody else to do it are two different things. "Testing a teacher on what they teach" is testing the first, what we want is the second.

      For example, I am very good at math (I slept through CalcIII and still got an A). Would I be able to teach it well? No - especially to some kid who didn't want to learn, as I have little patience with such things. So while I would ace the tests, I would suck at teaching.

      Moreover, you have to factor in the students. I had a

  • by petes_PoV (912422) on Saturday August 21, 2010 @08:25AM (#33323542)
    In most places the whole educational establishment is there for the comfort and convenience of the teachers. Any learning that takes place is purely a side-effect of employing teachers, but it's certainly not the reason why they are employed. (Which is why teachers are so vehemently opposed to testing children and assessing how much they know - since this reflects directly on them, not the kids).

    It would be nice to hope that this was the first step in recognising that (indirectly) real people pay for and therefore employ teachers. These real people would like to think the primary role of teachers is to impart knowledge, skills and abilities to the children in their charge. If this article leads parents to question schools about why they are employing sub-standard teachers, then it can only be a good thing, that should be extended everywhere.

    • by cvd6262 (180823) on Saturday August 21, 2010 @09:03AM (#33323872)

      It would be nice to hope that this was the first step in recognising that (indirectly) real people pay for and therefore employ teachers. These real people would like to think the primary role of teachers is to impart knowledge, skills and abilities to the children in their charge.

      I'm a prof in a school of ed, but my background is in psych, not ed. I've noticed that many teachers (and those teachers who go on to become profs of education) do not feel that imparting "knowledge, skills and abilities" is their major goal. Rather, as I see it, they envision teachers as replacing the home, family, and parents as the conduit of social morals.

  • Of course. (Score:2, Insightful)

    Of course the teachers' union is infuriated. They've taken a stand against any policy having anything to do with performance - tying it or factoring it in to tenure or salary for example, and fight tooth and nail against anything resembling competition - even between public schools - that would highlight differences in teaching effectiveness. That they're openly furious that the public is being informed about the performance of the schools they pay for and the teachers they employ and whom they entrust wi
  • Their are mentally challenged individuals who have such absurd notions that schools should be run like businesses and that teachers should be paid by performance.
    The fact is that that is bullshit. We have absolute proof that the price of the home in which students live is the greatest determinant of success in schools. Schools that draw from rich areas have great students whereas schools that draw from poor areas tend to have very poor

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Stewie241 (1035724)

      Their are mentally challenged individuals who have such absurd notions that schools should be run like businesses and that teachers should be paid by performance.

      The fact is that that is bullshit. We have absolute proof that the price of the home in which students live is the greatest determinant of success in schools. Schools that draw from rich areas have great students whereas schools that draw from poor areas tend to have very poorly performing students.

      Are you suggesting that within this school they separated the two classes based upon where they lived?

  • Unions are an important engine for decent treatment and pay of workers, and we're overall much better off with them than without. Still, they occasionally make mistakes, and this is one of them. Unions tend to push for a seniority-based payscale - seniority is not a bad foundation for pay, but there should be a performance-based metric as well (many unions support this too) in order to ensure that wayward workers don't bring the profession or union into disrepute or cause poor product. Concern over alienati

  • by Gregg M (2076) on Saturday August 21, 2010 @08:46AM (#33323704) Homepage

    Since when is a teacher solely responsible for students grades. Can teachers kick unruly students out of class if they choose? Can teachers turn the TV or video games off until children have done their homework? Is there a report card for parents? Can any of you say that you've always tried your best in school? When you didn't, did you blame your teacher?

    Judging teachers solely by students grades is unfair.

  • This is horrible! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by M. D. Nahas (901805) on Saturday August 21, 2010 @08:47AM (#33323716)
    My God! How can you advocate unbiased, quantifiable measures of teacher performance! Teachers have magical powers that can't be measured by numbers! Teachers aren't like people in other jobs who can be fired based on their performance! And tests are a horrible way to measure learning! Teachers never use tests themselves! Tests are never used to assign advanced/remedial classes, nor to enter college, and certainly not to get Advanced Placement credits! And, certainly, by God, hide this measure from the parents! You might make them think that something can be done to improve their child's education!!!
  • The reporters ranked the teachers using "value added" scores, which are based on the amount of progress individual students make from year to year on standardized tests administered by the school district. The teachers whose students consistently made more than a year's progress over a school term were judged to be the most effective, and those whose students made the least progress were considered the worst.

    This sounds like an unbiased system, and assuming there are no substantial confounding variables, i

  • Ugh (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jav1231 (539129) on Saturday August 21, 2010 @09:44AM (#33324296)
    Teachers, like most government workers and academia as well, want to be free to do as they wish under the protection of tenure, unions, and like-minded administrators. I've always advocated for less spending in education. First, we're not getting a return on investment. Second, the number of administrators per student is crazy. And third, the curriculum is bloated. We're so busy teaching them the cultural changes we wish for them to adopt that they come out knowing very little about math, language, or science. There's been a lot of investigative work done on how there's been a concerted effort to dumb-down our kids. It's time to get them back to the basics. Several years ago I recall a rural West Virginian high school student blew the national curve. I bet they don't focus too much on cultural curriculum at that school.
  • by aussersterne (212916) on Saturday August 21, 2010 @11:30AM (#33325240) Homepage

    (though at NYC colleges, not LA K-12), release the metrics. I'd have nothing to hide, and I'd suspect any teacher that doesn't want such things made public. As far as I'm concerned, prospective students have a right to know how other students have fared in my classes, what other students thought of my teaching, and how both have changed over time. If that makes a lot of people want to avoid my classes, maybe--just maybe--I'm in the wrong field of work.

What this country needs is a dime that will buy a good five-cent bagel.

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