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Education Government The Almighty Buck

California Students, Parents Sue Over Teacher Firing, Tenure Rules 399

The L.A. Times reports that a group of students and parents, fed up with what they see as overarching job security in California schools, are suing in the hopes of making harder for poor teachers to stay on the books. From the article: "The lawsuit, filed by the nonprofit, advocacy group Students Matter, contends that these education laws are a violation of the Constitution's equal protection guarantee because they do not ensure that all students have access to an adequate education. Vergara versus California, filed on behalf of nine students and their families, seeks to revamp a dismissal process that the plaintiffs say is too costly and time consuming, lengthen the time it takes for instructors to gain tenure and dismantle the 'last hired, first fired' policies that fail to consider teacher effectiveness. The lawsuit aims to protect the rights of students, teachers and school districts against a "gross disparity" in educational opportunity, lawyers for the plaintiffs said." Perhaps related.
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California Students, Parents Sue Over Teacher Firing, Tenure Rules

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  • Dangerous... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by broken_chaos ( 1188549 ) on Sunday January 26, 2014 @05:05PM (#46075147)

    While in rare cases job security is a problematic issue due to incompetence (or worse, in extreme cases), stripping away job security typically creates even more, worse problems in the long term with an even faster race-to-the-bottom. If this succeeds, they could find themselves, instead, fighting against the school board hiring cheap, less-competent or less-experienced teachers because they can get rid of the expensive, experienced ones quickly and easily.

    Also, teachers are, in most places, unionized (the article doesn't seem to mention if California teachers are or not). Go against the union in such a drastic manner and you may find yourself with a widespread strike on your hands.

  • Suing won't help (Score:3, Insightful)

    by bhcompy ( 1877290 ) on Sunday January 26, 2014 @05:07PM (#46075155)
    The union negotiated contracts are designed this way to protect the union members that have paid the most dues. This is common across the board with union contracts. The unions care about the union members first, then the job itself, even though the individual union members may have different priorities. I'm not saying this is bad or wrong, as looking out for your own is generally a noble thing, but it's something that the courts have supported for forever and it's unlikely to change anytime soon.
  • Tenure? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by benjfowler ( 239527 ) on Sunday January 26, 2014 @05:11PM (#46075199)

    Sorry, did I read that correctly?

    Tenure? In state-funded primary and secondary schools? In a country as brutally meritocratic as the US?

    Tenure is meant to promote academic freedom and allow brilliant scientists with a proven track record to express potentially unpopular idea.

    It's not meant as lifelong guaranteed employment for people who can't cut it in the real world.

    Any idea that seniority should come ahead of ability is fucking bullshit anywhere, but especially when educating our youth. Japan does this, and it's a fucking basketcase. We are better than that.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 26, 2014 @05:12PM (#46075201)

    if when you as parents fail to live up to your responsibilities the teacher can have your child permanently removed from class because they are there to teach and not babysit?

  • Re:Tenure is BS (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Polo ( 30659 ) * on Sunday January 26, 2014 @05:17PM (#46075235) Homepage

    I thought tenure was a way to keep administrators from messing with academic freedom. Without it teachers would "follow the party line" and never research or teach anything controversial.

  • Re:Dangerous... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 26, 2014 @05:19PM (#46075253)
    What make teachers so special? No other group (none that I can think of anyway) has tenure. If you suck at your job you are replaced. Unions would hate that, but they're on the retreat anyway - even in the public sector which is their last holdout. And getting rid of more experienced (higher paid) employees is an entirely different topic (age discrimination, etc).
  • by Frosty Piss ( 770223 ) * on Sunday January 26, 2014 @05:26PM (#46075301)

    It's easy to talk of "bad teachers" and say that unions keep them employed. But the truth is that "bad teachers" are the minority. Unions keep more "good teachers" employed at a livable wage than "bad teachers".

    It is normal that the minority get the spotlight, just as it is normal that the Chihuahua barks the loudest.

  • Re:Dangerous... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 26, 2014 @05:27PM (#46075313)

    As a Californian born into a family of ex-military public educators, I love to rant about these types of discussions when they come up. First of all, why is the Teacher's Union demonized here but the prison guards or border guards' union is not? Food for thought.

    Second of all, all you parents in the room, all this bitching about poor teachers is a pretty recent thing, and it coincides with the emergence of a few things - The first is that you are no longer doing your jobs as fucking parents, letting your kids do whatever the fuck they want without discipline and demanding that they be allowed to dress like whores and use cell phones in class for "safety" reasons in case one of your otherwise right-thinking kids you addled up with psychotropic drugs because of a bullshit "ADD" diagnosis when, again, you decided real parenting was too hard and thought your kid was crazy for wanting to play outside and not stuck to the fucking X-Box for 12 hours a day.

    Since you won't do your job of disciplining your rotten drugged-up shits, they disrupt the class many ways including nonstop use of the cell phones you bitched and moaned about letting them take into the classroom and wearing see-though leggings with no underwear as they give presentations to the class. Teachers are powerless to take any action because of litigation-happy yuppie parents ("My little Billy's an angel! He would never say a thing like that to a teacher!) and the spineless and often unqualified MBA-style administrators who don't back the teachers up.

    Your children are fucking doomed, new parents, and it's all your fucking fault. Stop blaming the teachers and look in the fucking mirror.

    -- Ethanol-fueled

  • Re:This is a scam (Score:3, Insightful)

    by vux984 ( 928602 ) on Sunday January 26, 2014 @05:28PM (#46075317)

    Interestingly, Obama always supported the all-powerful teachers union in Chicago, who managed to get working conditions so good for their members that the schools had to cut the number of teaching days to afford those gold-plated teachers.

    Great sound bit, lousy argument. Any cost no matter how small would be argued by the schools as some massive threat to their ability to operate. If our kids school division had to pay for new instruments for the music room, or new text books, or turn the heat on, they'd threaten cutting the number of teaching days to pay for it. The Chicago teachers union might well be gold plated... I'm not saying it isn't, but the fact that the school "cut teaching days" to pay for it doesn't tell us anything at all about anything at all.

    As a direct consequence, this is one of the areas in the country with the lowest ratio of college grads.

    Doubtful. Is there any demonstrated correlation between college grads and losing a few teaching days? The teaching year isn't uniform accross states, or developed countries... even local variations such as weather related school closures, snow days, power failures, flooding, not to mention teachers strikes etc also "deprive" kids of teaching days all the time.

    Has anyone linked that to college grads? Or does it turn out that in fact a school year plus or minus a week or so makes very little difference whatsoever? I betting on the latter.

  • Re:Dangerous... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by bloodhawk ( 813939 ) on Sunday January 26, 2014 @05:33PM (#46075343)
    You honestly believe they could find less-competent teachers? the current system is an abomination that has come from unions having too much power and the system being too weak to fight back when they have demanded insane conditions. Tenure should NOT exist full stop. The primary concern of the education system should be the students and the current system sacrifices the students in favour of the teachers. Now it isn't all teachers that are bad, but not being able to get rid of the rotten apples makes the whole batch stink.
  • Re:Dangerous... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Sunday January 26, 2014 @05:43PM (#46075411)

    While in rare cases job security is a problematic issue due to incompetence

    It is NOT rare. 90% of teachers are competent and conscientious. But about 1 in 10 needs to go, and 1 in 10 is not "rare". Nearly every kid will have one or more incompetent teachers during K-12. Both of my kids have had bad teachers. My daughters 7th grade science teacher spoke English so poorly that the kids could not understand her. So she assigned each student a chapter to teach. For the rest of the semester they taught each other, while the teacher sat in the back of the room and watched Youtube videos. Many parents complained about the situation, but that was several years ago, and she is still "teaching". It is absurd that someone like that continues to be employed at taxpayer expense.

    There was a recent report [urban.org] that estimated that a bad teacher can cause $250k/year in economic damage when you consider the lost future earning potential of the ill educated students.

  • Re:Tenure? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Rockoon ( 1252108 ) on Sunday January 26, 2014 @05:45PM (#46075417)

    Saying that teachers should be suddenly stripped of their tenure status/benefits is the same as stockholders saying that CEOs should be stripped of their golden parachutes.

    Umm, no it isn't.

    Nobody forced you to buy stock. The government IS forcing you to pay for these teachers.

    People knew damned well what they were getting into, kicked the can down the road and now someone has to pay the piper.

    People that arent paying for it now, kicked that can down that road. It was wrong of them to do it.

    Now tell me which is worse?

    A) Violating their contracts by firing some teachers that happen to be fucking up our children.
    B) Forcing people that had no say whatsoever in the matter to honor a contract that they never would have agreed to had it been their decision.

    The problem with public sector unions and these "in the future" provisions is that none of the people at the negotiating table have to face the consequences they are negotiating over. None of them have to face the consequences so long as we continue to say that the contract must be honored above all else.

    I say fuck that, the contract was immediately void because the contract imposed an obligation on unrepresented people (people that werent even born yet, in fact.) The people still around who are in the greatest position to have known the injustice of such a contract if upheld and could have made choices about it are precisely those teachers with tenure, yet they chose to try to benefit from that very injustice for which we are discussing. They neither deserve nor should they entertain the protection of law on this matter at all, yet here they are trying desperately to use the law as a weapon against innocent people so that they themselves can benefit. Fuck them. Fuck them. Fuck them.

  • Re:Dangerous... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Sunday January 26, 2014 @05:45PM (#46075421) Journal

    Second of all, all you parents in the room, all this bitching about poor teachers is a pretty recent thing, and it coincides with the emergence of a few things - The first is that you are no longer doing your jobs as fucking parents, letting your kids do whatever the fuck they want without discipline and demanding that they be allowed to dress like whores and use cell phones in class for "safety" reasons in case one of your otherwise right-thinking kids you addled up with psychotropic drugs because of a bullshit "ADD" diagnosis when, again, you decided real parenting was too hard and thought your kid was crazy for wanting to play outside and not stuck to the fucking X-Box for 12 hours a day.

    Really? If I had a teacher who said something like you just said, I'd want him fired too.

  • Re:Dangerous... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 26, 2014 @05:50PM (#46075443)

    They're doomed to become adults who can't utter or write two sentences without using the F-bomb multiple times, like the above critic.

  • by bhcompy ( 1877290 ) on Sunday January 26, 2014 @05:54PM (#46075459)
    And that was an unprecedented show of government authority when it happened. It is highly highly unusual, and generally requires intervention from the highest level, such as when Reagan told the aircontrollers' union to fuck off
  • Re:Tenure is BS (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lister king of smeg ( 2481612 ) on Sunday January 26, 2014 @06:01PM (#46075519)

    Since when have k-12 teachers been researchers?

  • Re:This is a scam (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Electricity Likes Me ( 1098643 ) on Sunday January 26, 2014 @06:03PM (#46075535)

    Except professors don't teach at high schools, which is what this seems to be about.

    And probably more to the point, the bigger problem is no one can agree on what a bad teacher is to be measured by beyond anecdotes. But I strongly suspect its "shouldn't have given my child a bad grade!"

  • Re:This is a scam (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 26, 2014 @06:08PM (#46075559)

    Uhh huh... Meanwhile in the real world there is a real teacher shortage. And a move like this sends what message? When my niece asked what do I think she should study I told her anything other than teacher. Why? Because they are under paid, over worked, glorified baby sitters having to wipe the asses of both the kids and the parents.

  • Re:Dangerous... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by codepigeon ( 1202896 ) on Sunday January 26, 2014 @06:22PM (#46075653)
    "Second of all, all you parents in the room .... pointless stereotyping and rage ...."

    I am a parent in this room. My son is nothing like that. I would say that I don't know any of the kids in his school are like you describe. Those stereotype that people like to throw around are just bullshit. They are probably the same things people said about you when you were in school; and its just as invalid now, as it was then.

    What IS different know, is a concerted 'attack?' on PUBLIC school teachers. I am not sure why. My sister is a third grade teacher, I assume she does a good job. She is however, dirt poor because of low pay and still ends up buying her own room supplies. I am not sure why anyone would want to be a public school teacher these days. Maybe thats the goal.

    Why don't you look in the mirror and ask yourself why you like to think and write about whore school girls in see through leggings with no underwear.
  • Re:Dangerous... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jedidiah ( 1196 ) on Sunday January 26, 2014 @06:25PM (#46075679) Homepage

    > First of all, why is the Teacher's Union demonized here but the prison guards or border guards' union is not?

    Who is going to complain about prison guards? Felons?

    Out of sight, out of mind...

    Teachers, on the other hand, will be coming into contact with plenty of respectable types like voters and homeowners and small business owners.

    No one cares if the prisons fail to rehabilitate people. Felons have already been written off by society. The same can't be said of schools and teachers.

  • Re:Dangerous... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by KalvinB ( 205500 ) on Sunday January 26, 2014 @06:32PM (#46075719) Homepage

    Because the average person doesn't have to suffer the consequences of the prison system?

    The real problem is, you are right and the anti-union people are right. Last hired - first fired policies do nothing to protect quality teachers. And policy that doesn't consider the teacher is a policy that has no interest in the educational quality being provided by a school. The work environment that administrators continue to force teachers to work in with miserable pay do nothing to attract high quality educators. And the result is a miserable education system.

    The unions fought for the 40 hour work week back in the day and the alleged teacher "unions" force teachers to work unreasonable hours for unreasonable pay.

    Funny how businesses that attract competent talent don't require union protections to keep their employees around.

  • Re:Dangerous... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by femtobyte ( 710429 ) on Sunday January 26, 2014 @06:46PM (#46075783)

    I had my run-in with the occasional terrible teacher, who should not have been teaching. I also had some really excellent teachers, who can be credited with a large portion of my success in life. Guess who gets driven out first when working conditions are made increasingly shitty? When teachers are underpaid, overworked, disrespected by management, then the ones who are best (combination of academic excellence and natural leadership) will eventually burn out on their altruism and take one of the many much higher paying jobs that they are more than qualified for. The ones who are petty authoritarian teach-to-the-test dimwits, with no prospects for better employment, stick around forever. Unions aren't keeping the bad teachers in --- self-serving slimeballs will cling on no matter what, and will gladly game the system to look good on a shallow management-driven metrics system. Unions are keeping the good teachers in, giving people a rewarding professional career.

  • Re:Tenure? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jedidiah ( 1196 ) on Sunday January 26, 2014 @06:49PM (#46075805) Homepage

    > Who was the last poor president?

    Both Obama and Clinton qualify. Reagan might qualify too.

    Meritocracy means that you can be born poor and become rich or a member of what currently passes for the aristocracy.

    It's the ideal of Andrew Carnegie.

    Someone mentioned Truman. Eisenhower also came from a precarious working class background.

  • Re:Dangerous... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Nite_Hawk ( 1304 ) on Sunday January 26, 2014 @06:49PM (#46075809) Homepage

    You aren't thinking very hard. Judges are the same.

    Teachers and professors have controversial jobs and once they've (theoretically) proven themselves to be competent, tenure is supposed to protect them from outside influences just like we try to protect our judges. We (at least once upon a time) deemed academic freedom to be so valuable that we'd suffer some teachers milking their tenure for the benefit that all of the others could teach our society to the best of their ability without fear of retribution.

    Now we under pay our teachers, force them to follow standardized curriculum and testing, and even try to ban subjects that aren't compatible with existing societal beliefs regardless of academic rigor. In a world where teachers are underpaid and have little freedom to teach to anything but a standardized test, tenure probably is worthless. It wasn't always so though, and I for one think we are worse off because of it.

  • Re:My experiences (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Sunday January 26, 2014 @06:56PM (#46075871)

    I'm sorry but the statement that "nothing could be done" is a lie.

    Baloney. I have personally complained about bad teachers, and I know other parents that have as well. I have NEVER heard of a teacher fired for incompetence, or anything other than blatant criminal behavior.

    If the teachers were truly ineffective or incompetent, then you should have complained to the school's administrators and insisted that your students be removed. That is your right. If they refused, then you take the issue to the school board. If that doesn't work, you file a complaint with the state (and also against the teachers license if you actually have evidence).

    Can you cite a single example of any of these things resulting in a California teacher being fired?

    If you failed to do that, it indicates to me that maybe the teachers really weren't that bad.

    This is an idiotic statement. That is like saying that global warming isn't a "real" problem because if it was you would have personally volunteered to stop breathing. The fact that I haven't dedicated my entire life to firing a single teacher doesn't mean that teacher "isn't that bad".

    But let's assume your claim is true: that a group of parents really could get a teacher fired if they are willing to dedicated hundreds of hours of effort. Should we really set our standards so low that a teacher is only fired if they are so egregiously bad that parents are willing to do that?

  • Re:Dangerous... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 26, 2014 @07:00PM (#46075905)

    I think teachers who said what that person just said should be promoted, and should replace the useless administrators.

    Teachers aren't allowed to have a say in what they teach, because it's all dictated to them by politicized "education boards" (see: Texas), they aren't supported by their upper management, and basically they get placed in an impossible situation. Then the very same people who put them there complain that they can't do a job that's simply not possible to do correctly under the circumstances that they themselves created.

    Get that? The people who want to destroy public education are the ones in charge of public education, and also the ones beating the drum about getting rid of the one class of people qualified and able to point all this crap out.

    But ok, you go right on ahead believing this is all about unions protecting incompetent teachers. (Yes, incompetent teachers exist, so spare me your anecdotes. Incompetent police officers, doctors, firefighters, pilots, accounts, lawyers, etc. also exist. It's called life.)

  • Re:This is a scam (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 26, 2014 @07:03PM (#46075927)

    And goodness knows, if YOU can't have it, no one should. The same people who bitch about "the war on sucess" or cry about class warfare ruining the country will get in a line to gripe about the sweet pensions and benefits that public workers, teachers, or union auto workers get because it is unfair that they can't get the same thing.

    Working hard is the secret to success until someone gets something you don't then the game is rigged and it is all unfair.

  • Re:Dangerous... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 26, 2014 @07:04PM (#46075929)

    Actually, businesses that pay people properly and provide decent working conditions don't have problems keeping employees around. They also tend to have employees who don't feel the need to have a union.

    Go figure out how it really works. Being anti union AND anti worker is a logically and intellectually stupid position to have, unless of course you simply support the policies in this country of continuing to steal from the poor and give to the rich.

  • Re:Dangerous... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 26, 2014 @07:15PM (#46075973)

    Second of all, all you parents in the room, all this bitching about poor teachers is a pretty recent thing, and it coincides with the emergence of a few things - The first is that you are no longer doing your jobs as fucking parents, letting your kids do whatever the fuck they want without discipline and demanding that they be allowed to dress like whores and use cell phones in class for "safety" reasons in case one of your otherwise right-thinking kids you addled up with psychotropic drugs because of a bullshit "ADD" diagnosis when, again, you decided real parenting was too hard and thought your kid was crazy for wanting to play outside and not stuck to the fucking X-Box for 12 hours a day.

    Really? If I had a teacher who said something like you just said, I'd want him fired too.

    And this is a good argument FOR Tenure systems. This statement of opinion has absolutely nothing to do with the person's teaching ability, and should not be something which would result in a firing, especially since it was done on his own time, outside the classroom, didn't involve his students... and frankly speaking in most cases it's completely 100% accurate.
    Tenure is supposed to protect teachers from being fired over dumbass Political bullshit like this. It's there for situations like when the idiot child of a local Politician is failing a class and needs a passing grade to get his Football scholarship.

  • by Irate Engineer ( 2814313 ) on Sunday January 26, 2014 @07:56PM (#46076293)
    And adding to this, the 90% of the teachers that are competent and conscientious really would LOVE to have the remaining 10% shown to the door. They really would, as those 10% are a drag on the rest of the faculty.

    The problem is the double-edged sword of tenure. Remove the tenure protections and yeah, you get to fire those 10%. But in the meantime you've put those good 90% in the position where they have no job security and get watch their already low salaries stagnate relative to the rest of the economy, and they also need to worry about being fired for personal politics. A lot of those 90% are going to throw in the towel and walk out the door at some point.

    So who will be left teaching your kids? Any recently graduated kid with a bachelor's degree who can pass the mirror test. And they'll stick around just long enough to A) get fired for complete and gross incompetence or B) get some experience and quickly move on to something else far more rewarding and lucrative. Oh sure, you might get a handful of golden souls who really give a damn and can suck up these crappy conditions because they are already retired from another profession or have a spouse who is making good money, but these folks are one in a million.

    Tenure is a flawed system for sure. Bad people will look good just long enough to get tenure, then they will drag their feet until retirement, not caring a whit about anything. But that same tenure is a huge perk that the good 90% enjoy and desperately need for them to do what they do for the pay that they get.

    Full disclosure - I am a tenure-track college professor and a member of my state teacher's union.
  • Re:Dangerous... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 26, 2014 @10:24PM (#46077187)

    Teacher here. Sure, in theory I have a couple of months off in the summer. BUT, the other 9.5 months a year, I routinely work 12 or more hours a day for 5 days a week plus at least another 5 to 8 hours on the weekend. Which is 65 hours a week minimum, not including the extra busy times (parent-teacher conferences, state testing times, finals, etc.) or the extra-curricular activities.

    This week, outside of 'work' hours, I will coach soccer practice a couple of times plus coaching at a soccer game. I will attend a basketball game to further support my students. I will take paperwork home so that I can help students with their homework during school hours, instead. I will attend three meetings and chair a fourth. If the need arises, I will call students' parents. Additionally, I will eat my lunch standing up while supervising the students' lunch time. (Also this week, but not typical, I will chaperon a dance on Saturday evening.) All of this is in addition to my 'job' of teaching the students.

    Why would there be a shortage of teachers? Because not everyone can handle 6 hours a day being *the only adult* in a room with 20 to 30 (or more) teenagers? Not just 'handle' of course, but actually work hard to help those teenagers, even when they are too immature to understand that they need help, and even when they actively fight against your help? Who could pass up a job like this?

  • Re:This is a scam (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mordenkhai ( 1167617 ) on Sunday January 26, 2014 @10:26PM (#46077199)
    Because none of those others who has to get a degree to become a professional have to deal with children. In addition I haven't heard of any CEO having his mother come to the board meeting and complaining that her boy isn't getting the job done because the board isn't helping him after work enough, while ignoring that little Steve Balmer has missed 10 days of work this quarter, and it still isn't his fault that people don't like Windows 8 UI designs.

    Should there be some form of performance metric? Sure. It needs to be very carefully set up though, and the child's own performance needs to be a part of it as well as the parents. NO teacher is going to be able teach calculus to a kid who skips 2 days a week to babysit for his siblings because his parent(s) can't afford childcare. It also needs to be politics resistant, I don't want my kids teacher worried about their job because some new guy won an election. I want them worried about how to best teach the next chapter, and that is it.
  • It's not that rare (Score:5, Insightful)

    by danheskett ( 178529 ) <danheskettNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Monday January 27, 2014 @01:14AM (#46077999)

    It is true that job security is down across the whole economy, (which is another problem, a serious one). In general, on principle, it should not be that hard to understand that you should be terminated for cause or economic reasons. Just because you don't have this security doesn't mean others don't.

    But to answer your question, this is the norm for any industry that has a strong union and a contract. That's one of the essential functions of a union. If you are a teamster and drive a UPS truck, you can be sure that one person complaining about your driving will not result in your summary dismissal. A FedEx private contractor running his supposedly independent business often will have their route terminated summarily without process or appeal.

    For teachers, this is really about being able to fire teachers with students who do poorly on standardized tests.

    The teachers will argue that this is largely, and in my view accurately, out of their control. It is a little bit like firing the weatherman for having too many rainy days or an average temperature outside of your liking.

    Teachers are one factor in a long-list of factors that influence student performance. Many or most of the factors are outside of teacher control. A few big ones:

    - Genetics. Of course we can't talk about this subject in public, but it's the elephant in the room. Every student has a potential. Setting the bar above a student's potential does not make the potential expand to the fill the gap.

    - Home life. The second elephant in the room. Kids with crappy parents are crappy students. It's probably the most reported link in the education. Crap home life, crap parents, crap performance.

    - Curriculum. The corporate education reformers are convinced that if they just tweak the material just enough that students will start achieving at or above potential.

  • Re:Dangerous... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Evtim ( 1022085 ) on Monday January 27, 2014 @02:22AM (#46078251)

    Teachers are not scientist? What the hell are you smoking? I have a teacher's MSc in chemistry and physics. Due to the low image of the profession, the politicized curriculum and the low pay I have worked the job for a few months only.

    Since then I am a developer in one of the most advance high tech start ups in the world [semiconductors].

    There is also something else that you miss - as a teacher in high schools I don't need to know cosmology at the level of Hawking or string theory at the level of Green. But I must be able yo explain Newtonian mechanics [for instance] in a manner that would be suitable for high shoolers. And this, my friend, is a fucking art and it is difficult as hell! If you want to do it properly, of course...

    Trust me, to explain a concept to a researcher or post graduate, who already has all the basics of the scientific method in their heads and years and years of analytical thinking is peanuts, compare to explaining basic concept such as mass/energy relation to high school students.

    Take a look at Richard Feynman. Why was he considered one of the greatest educators of all time? Because of his Nobel price? Of course not. Because he was a bloody genius when it came to transferring knowledge. He also had excellent oratorical skills and was very good actor [you need this as a teacher, trust me]. Feynman was the exception that combined genius level scientist with genius level educator. Such cases are rare, but not needed per se - as a teacher you only need to understand the concepts very well, genius level science-making is not required. And as a general rule - most science geniuses are NOT good educators.

    End with a quote from my favorite writer:

    "Ponder realized he can explain the theory of thaum very well, provided the other person knew everything about it already"

  • Re:Dangerous... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Monday January 27, 2014 @04:05AM (#46078555)

    There is not a teacher shortage- there is an ability to pay teachers shortage. I know of plenty of teachers with state credentials who cannot find work because there either is not enough room in the schools or schools are pinching their budgets so tight that increasing class room size and decreasing teachers is a way to pay for it.

    There is no shortage in ability to pay teachers. The U.S. spends more on education per student than any other country in the world [cbsnews.com]. It's ludicrous to even suggest we're not spending enough on education.

    The problem is is an overabundance of administrators who siphon away money from teachers and kids. In the few school budgets I was able to dig up, administration payroll accounted for over half of total payroll.

  • Re:This is a scam (Score:5, Insightful)

    by vux984 ( 928602 ) on Monday January 27, 2014 @06:15AM (#46078945)

    By the time they get to college, this "tiny difference" adds up to more than one semester.

    Not all tiny differences add up. My parents used to pull me out of school for a week most years for family vacations etc. Over the course of school from K-12 then I lost a full semester easy. Plus the flus, doctors appointments, deaths in the family, snow days, easily another couple months. I STILL maintain it didn't cost my education anything at all -- and that was me actively "missing" actual classroom time where the other students were still present, vs the school just not having school for that time.

    This applies to everyone, including people from Chicago. If you consider that people "clock out" an hour early, then Chicago students (and teachers) also do, so the gap remains the same.

    Again no. They don't mentally check out an "hour early"; they mentally check out after they've hit their concentration / absorption / knowledge retention limit, or whatever you'd like to call it; or completed their major tasks for the day. Extending or shortening the "day" by an hour makes no difference to how long you can concentrate. It just changes how much time you waste after your 'done'.

    [...] you can discard that because it's a mere 0.13$ in his pockets every minute...

    No I can't discard taht. Because that's 13 cents a minute every minute. Its a small value, but it accumulates in a very understable way. But not everything works like that. Learning is more "chunky"; in that you learn in chunks. When I took math, for example, I was good at it, I absorbed a typical "lesson" within the first 10-15 minutes of the class, and then got bored. Some of my classmates had a rougher time, and it took most of the lesson. Others just didn't grok it even with 45 minutes, and needed after school tutors etc.

    But the point is the lesson is absorbed as a chunk. Adding 1 minute to each math class I ever took would have been several hours more "math class" in my life but with no benefit to me whatsoever. The teacher wouldn't present 1/60th of a new concept in that extra minute that would graually accumulate and be the equivalent of university Calculus I by the end of highschool. That's not how learning works, spending 1 extra minute each day doesn't give you an extra lesson learned after the end of each month.

    Either the teacher has enough time to teach the concepts or they don't. Kids learn at different rates, so the average lesson is designed around most of the kids fully understanding it within the first half of the period; the last half is is for the slower kids, and for practice problems.

    Adding a minute to each class would have accomplished essentially nothing. It doesn't accumulate benefit the way getting paid a few cents extra per minute does.

  • Re:Dangerous... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Archangel Michael ( 180766 ) on Monday January 27, 2014 @12:16PM (#46081179) Journal

    DISCLAIMER: I work in Public education.

    There are plenty of satisfactory to excellent teachers out there. The problem isn't these teachers who work hard and are underpaid, and it never will be. The problem is the relatively few, but numerous enough to affect everyone, that are just horrible. You cannot dodge the rain.

    And teachers complain about poor pay, well I don't want to pay the crappy teachers a nickel, but we have to pay them something, so the Union Negotiates rules and regulations protecting the crappy teachers equally with the excellent ones. THUS, if teachers want better pay, as a whole, then I want better teachers, as a whole. Again, this is not a slam against most teachers, it is a slam against the Unions that protect their members to the point of harming the vast majority of their membership.

    Our failing schools are failing because of three things: Lack of caring parents (society can't fix this), Bad Teachers, enough to sour the whole profession, and funding models that reward failure and punish success. We can fix two out of three, and this will likely impact the third.

Logic is the chastity belt of the mind!