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Khan Academy: the Teachers Strike Back 575

Posted by Soulskill
from the quality-versus-quantity dept.
theodp writes "With his Khan Academy: The Hype and the Reality screed in the Washington Post, Mathalicious founder Karim Kai Ani — a former middle school teacher and math coach — throws some cold water on the Summer of Khan Love hippies, starting with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. From the article: 'When asked why so many teachers have such adverse reactions to Khan Academy, Khan suggests it's because they're jealous. "It'd piss me off, too, if I had been teaching for 30 years and suddenly this ex-hedge-fund guy is hailed as the world's teacher." Of course, teachers aren't "pissed off" because Sal Khan is the world's teacher. They're concerned that he's a bad teacher who people think is great; that the guy who's delivered over 170 million lessons to students around the world openly brags about being unprepared and considers the precise explanation of mathematical concepts to be mere "nitpicking." Experienced educators are concerned that when bad teaching happens in the classroom, it's a crisis; but that when it happens on YouTube, it's a "revolution."'"
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Khan Academy: the Teachers Strike Back

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  • by jimmifett (2434568) on Tuesday July 24, 2012 @05:10PM (#40756073)

    I dunno, teachers are paid pretty well for the months they actually work. Often near $25-30+ an hour. It's only when one factors in the months they aren't teaching as lost wages does the rate seem to be lower. I don't think there is anything preventing them from working in the off season. Just another form of seasonal worker like lifegaurd or Mr Plow.

  • by CommieLib (468883) on Tuesday July 24, 2012 @05:15PM (#40756197) Homepage
    Exactly. If Khan doesn't work, it will fade away. The same is not true of public schools. Look, I don't even think most teachers are going to disagree with this - the public school system doesn't allow for adjustment and experimentation - it just can't. The reasons why are political, and don't really matter. But the system hasn't worked for about a generation and a half now, nothing is going to change from the inside.
  • by houstonbofh (602064) on Tuesday July 24, 2012 @05:16PM (#40756209)
    Automatic pay raises based on seniority, and not merit... I am all for paying good teachers a lot more.
  • by Russ1642 (1087959) on Tuesday July 24, 2012 @05:17PM (#40756221)
    His lessons are too slow. It's like getting a lesson from Grandpa Simpson. He only teaches one tiny basic concept per video and it takes him at least five minutes to get there and another five repeating, and repeating, and repeating. I can't watch more than half a video before I can't take it anymore.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 24, 2012 @05:18PM (#40756237)

    How about this from wikipedia:

    Khan has stated a vision of turning the academy into a charter school:

            This could be the DNA for a physical school where students spend 20 percent of their day watching videos and doing self-paced exercises and the rest of the day building robots or painting pictures or composing music or whatever.[9]

    Sounds like he is advocating a replacement to public education ...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 24, 2012 @05:26PM (#40756393)

    Does any other line of work that can be performed with a masters degree get the summer off?

    Give *me* a break! No seriously, I'd love the summer off for 70 percent of my annual pay.

    ~Working Stiff :)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 24, 2012 @05:28PM (#40756431)

    They don't get the summer off. They just don't get paid for the summer. Does any other job only pay you for 9 months out of the year.

  • by rmcd (53236) * on Tuesday July 24, 2012 @05:30PM (#40756459)

    I think a debate about Khan's specific videos is beside the point. For years, people have been talking about online education and we got these dreadful videos of a professor lecturing, shot from the back of the room. Khan shows us a realistic vision of how online education can happen at reasonable cost. It will not necessarily replace the teachers, but it will replace a teacher who repeats the same material multiple times a day. And it will help to level the playing field.

    People in universities are talking a lot about is the "flipped classroom", which means the lecture is online and clarification and working of problems occur in the classroom. This model is most obviously applicable to STEM classes, and if you haven't been following the developments, this site at NC State [] offers an overview of what's going on with one kind of flipped classroom and where it's happening. The University of Minnesota has recently made a huge investment in this kind of classroom.

    Whatever happens with Khan specifically, he's energized a process of transformation that everyone knew had to happen eventually. Kudos to him.

  • by Anonymous Psychopath (18031) on Tuesday July 24, 2012 @05:32PM (#40756493) Homepage

    "This was written by Karim Kai Ani, a former middle school teacher and math coach, and the founder of Mathalicious, which is rewriting the middle school math curriculum around real-world topics."

    This is not only at the top of the TFA, but the information is also stated in the first sentence of TFS.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 24, 2012 @05:36PM (#40756559)

    Repeat after me. Teachers do not get paid in the summer. They get paid for nine months. Nine mouth pay is either paid at the full rate for nine months. Or they get paid at a reduced rate for 12 months.

  • by Sir_Sri (199544) on Tuesday July 24, 2012 @05:43PM (#40756669)

    And? To be a teacher you need to have a bachelors degree. I train computer scientists for a living, 12 months after graduation (or if they did a co-op, straight out of graduation) they are in the 70-90k a year range with a BSc. If they were teaching they wouldn't get to that point for at least 15 years. Starting teacher salaries are more like 25-40k and creep up from there.

    Teachers do get good benefits, government jobs are like that, they get actual pension plans, which is more an indication that everyone else is getting fucked than one that teachers are getting an unfairly awesome deal, and they get health care. They also get the benefit of all of the right time off (march break, summers, chrismas etc. ) so they don't have to pay babysitters for those times like everyone else. But it's not really better paying than any decent job for someone with a bachelors. In fact it's far far far worse pay to be a teacher than to go into the private sector if you are trained in any of the 'STEM' areas.

    Now I'll be up front and say I think the biggest problem with teaching salaries (and professor salaries most places) is that everyone is in the same pay bracket regardless of what you were trained in. The market for BA's in English is a LOT worse than the market for BSc's in Computer science, but you get paid the same in both teaching and professorship.

    Having standardized teacher pay for a large area is really important because you don't want all of the good teachers to go to big cities in rich neighbourhoods and all of the bad teachers in the poor neighbourhoods and so on. actually gives a good look at teacher salaries in the US. The highest are just under 60k average, and I hate to break it to you, but finding someone with a BSc in math/chemistry/physics/comp sci/engineering who will get out of bed for you at 60k with 15 years experience is going to be tough in a lot of places.

    It's not like teachers who can get full time gigs are destitute, nor should they be, but it's not some spectacular awesome paying job either. If your area happens to be full of people who scrape by on minimum wage well then maybe you need some better teachers so people will be capable of doing work that warrants more than 35k a year? Maybe you need something to attract people to the area that have decent incomes, so they could have a worthwhile lifestyle and attract and retain more people like that?

    Oh and if you compare the link I just gave to, on average teachers are paid about well, average, and actually a little less than average. Admittedly, that doesn't count the benefits package, which is nice, but well, you'd think teachers are supposed to be in the top half of wage earners considering they're required to be in the top 40% of education attainment (

    And yes, teachers get summers off. I'm not sure if you've ever tried to plan lessons for 5 hours a day for 10 months, but that takes a LOT of work the first few times you do it. During those 10 months you are marking and adjusting and improvising and trying to actually get the shit together for the class, so you have time 'off' where you're expected to independently figure out how to manage things for the 10 months you are at the front of the room, and that is your vacation time, baring some exceptional circumstances you don't get any other time off for a holiday (which is a fair tradeoff, but one should be clear that teachers don't get 4 weeks paid leave on top of the time they already get).

  • by barefoot_professor (2655607) on Tuesday July 24, 2012 @05:47PM (#40756713)
    Okay, I have to interject here . . . I am currently teacher. Yes, my annual salary is $50,000. During the school year, I arrive at my building at 6:00 am and I do not leave until 4:30 pm. On a good day (all of my students are caught up on their work lol), I get a thirty minute lunch. I get exactly three 5 minute breaks throughout the day to use the bathroom, etc. I am told that at some of the other schools in my district that teachers are expected to be at their door monitoring/greeting students. They are only allowed to use the restroom if an administrator comes to fill in for them. Unfortunately, I am not able to accomplish all that is expected of me at school, so I spend an additional 5 to 10 hours working in the evenings or over the weekend. I do not get the summer off, but I do have a great deal of flexibility from mid-June to mid-August. I get to choose which workshops and trainings to attend during those two months in addition to all of the preparation I am expected to do for the year's upcoming classes. Oh, and of that $50,000 salary, I easily spend $2000 or more of that purchasing supplies that the district hasn't approved or hasn't approved in a timely manner. As far as teachers doing a "shitty" job, just like any other profession there are good teachers and bad teachers. Unfortunately, a lot of good teachers are discouraged by all of the stupid policies put in place to prevent the shitty teachers from doing too much harm. Anybody know of any entry level Software Development jobs in java looking to hire a slightly rusty Software Engineer!?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 24, 2012 @05:54PM (#40756863)

    Does any other line of work that can be performed with a masters degree get the summer off?

    Give *me* a break! No seriously, I'd love the summer off for 70 percent of my annual pay.

    ~Working Stiff :)

    Let’s talk real world. My school district in Arizona is one of the highest paying in the state (Mesa Public Schools). Straight out of college I would make $36352 a year with a bachelors. With a masters it goes up to $39289 and with a PhD/EdD it is $44322. Remember these amounts are all before Uncle Sam takes out his cut for taxes, social security, etc.

    So if we say the average teacher works only 9 months out of the year that equals out to the following: $4039/month with a BA, $4365/month with a MA and $4925/month for a PhD/EdD. An average teacher I would say works between 40-60 hours a week between grading, writing lesson plans, parent teacher conferences and all the other work outside of teaching time. That seems like a decent amount of pay, at least livable (granted what I view as decent pay is a lot lower than most).

    Now let’s look at that same salary divided out to 12 months assuming they get “summers off” as you say. Those values go to $3029/month with a BA, $3274/month with a MA and $3694/month with a PhD/EdD. Remember once again those values are BEFORE TAXES. That might give you a better view at how little teachers really make compared to other working professionals with the same level of education.

    Oh and FYI those “summers off” usually consist of taking development courses that the teachers pay for out of pocket. The source of these figures is on the Mesa Public School district website []

  • by Vancorps (746090) on Tuesday July 24, 2012 @06:28PM (#40757455)

    It's not hard [] to Google something. Of course parent had is almost right, to renew your teaching certification you do have to have 12 college hours or 180 hours of professional development activities. The certificate is good for 6 years in Arizona although this varies from state to state.

    Many teachers will also tutor in the summer months, this is also why a lot of teachers starting out are also in the service industry. I don't understand all the hate towards teachers. They aren't paid a lot for all the bullshit they have to deal with. I have to deal with a lot of bullshit too but I'm paid in relation to how much I have to deal with.

  • by mopomi (696055) on Tuesday July 24, 2012 @06:42PM (#40757703)

    And I think you have a skewed perception of a real teacher's work day and a skewed perception of actual pay rates.

    11.5 hours/day is the norm.

    The school year for students is 180 days. Teachers must be there a week early and leave a week later. They also have work days throughout the year that the students are not there for. This gives about 200 days per year of work.
    200 days * 11.5 hours/day = 2300 hours per year.
    The 40-hour work week gives 2088 hours per year.

    The pay schedule for teachers in my area ranges from $30,943 for a BA, first year to $60250 for a BA+100 (or MA+60; A JD from George Mason requires a BA+89 hours) and 22 years experience.

    $30,943/2300 = $13.45 per hour.
    $60250/2300 = $25.56 per hour.
    These include benefits, so the take-home is significantly less than this.

  • by LateArthurDent (1403947) on Tuesday July 24, 2012 @06:45PM (#40757743)

    His lessons are too slow. It's like getting a lesson from Grandpa Simpson. He only teaches one tiny basic concept per video and it takes him at least five minutes to get there and another five repeating, and repeating, and repeating. I can't watch more than half a video before I can't take it anymore.

    Wow, I'm not the only one!

    When I first heard of Khan Academy, I thought it was a great concept. I visited the website, saw a great deal many subjects and thought this was probably the greatest thing ever. And then I tried watching the videos...

    Very small amount of content, presented in the most uninteresting way possible, in an extremely repetitive way. I couldn't make it through a full video.

  • Re:Ad Hominem (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 24, 2012 @07:23PM (#40758265)

    Mathalicious is a site that provide innovative lesson plans for mathematics teachers. they didnt really explain that in the article anywhere. Thus, the product is for teachers not for students and therefore it is not a competitor with Khan academy.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 24, 2012 @07:26PM (#40758303)
    Your link is...creative. It takes the length of Illinois' school day (300 minutes) and says that this is equivalent to the length of the teacher's work day, and then multiplies this work day by the number of days in the school session (176) to get the total hours worked. Add in daily preparation time, daily after school activity supervision (how few teachers don't have a sport or activity assigned to them?), grading, calling parents about low performing/absent students, lesson development, etc. and you will double that per day number. Add in mandatory meetings that take place outside of school days, teacher development classes, additional education, and you will probably add an entire month or more to their actual days worked. The pension plan is a filthy little bit of creativeness too: teachers don't get social security (save that from hours worked outside the teaching profession) and that pension is their replacement. So by the time we cut away all of Mr. Carter's creativity he's overstated teacher compensation by a factor of two at a minimum, and a factor of three would not be surprising.

    Really the only commentary worth reading on that link of yours is in the responses to Mr. Carter and I suppose the humor value of his desperate flailing.
  • by ShanghaiBill (739463) on Tuesday July 24, 2012 @07:43PM (#40758463)

    Who would rather have teach you physics, someone with a degree in Education or someone with a degree in Physics?

    Having a teacher with a degree in education is negatively correlated with student performance. Our schools could be improved if they refused to hire anyone with an education degree.

    On the bright side, the damage is limited, since a teacher with a masters degree in education is no worse than someone with just a bachelors degree (but no better either).

  • by Director of Acronyms (232303) on Tuesday July 24, 2012 @08:11PM (#40758805) Homepage
    Use VLC - it will speed up and correct pitch
  • by jim_deane (63059) on Tuesday July 24, 2012 @10:42PM (#40760031) Journal

    About the only teachers that work any significant about beyond the 6-7 hour school day are teachers that must grade essays. So, your myth is already busted.

    I teach physics. There are some problems with the statement I put in italics above. I recognize that the facts vary from district to district, but I have also never met a teacher in any district that had a regular 6 or 7 hour day.

    Our contracted day is 8.5 hours long, which includes one 22 minute lunch. Technically, I'm finished at 3:45. Almost every day of the week, I am there at least one hour late, often two. There are labs to plan and setup, students who need help, and meetings to attend. If I average an hour and a half of extra time at school, that's already 10 hours per day. I also take work home if I can't get it done after school because, for example, students come in needing help or reassessment. Perhaps on average an extra half hour per night.

    If I average 10 hours a day at work and a half hour a day at home, that's about 1880 hours per academic year. That's 90% of the 2080 hours a normal 8 hr/day full time job.

    There are also the other professional activities and duties I participate in, such as continuing education, networking with other science teachers and scientists, and keeping current on research in physics and education. I take classes and attend workshops and conferences during the summers. For example, I have spent about four hours per week researching and planning, plus five full days on-site at workshops this summer.

    I'm not complaining, I just prefer that people take a more factual look at teaching careers, not the mythical "6 hour day part time job" that many people would have you believe.

HELP!!!! I'm being held prisoner in /usr/games/lib!