Thursday, March 15, 2007

More Studies. What Will Be Done For California Education?

Sometimes it seems like you can't swing a cat by the tail without hitting some new study about what's needed in education. Now is no exception.

The suggestions are part of a package of more than 20 academic studies commissioned by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and other political leaders. The first was released Wednesday and will be given to a bipartisan committee examining the state's public education system that will make recommendations later this year.

Schwarzenegger said that spending more money without substantial changes to the way California distributes funding won't do much to help students or fix schools. The governor said extensive reforms could save the state billions of dollars that can be reinvested in classrooms.

So what do we learn several paragraphs later?

Many of the conclusions in the report stem from familiar criticisms. The research does not suggest specific policy changes but does offer general fixes. They include simplifying state regulations so schools have greater control over their budgets, revising teacher evaluation and salary schedules, and lengthening the school day for schools with many poor and minority students.

The studies also said California needs to revamp its teacher assessments, including one report in which principals stressed their desire for an easier way to fire teachers without bureaucratic hurdles.

Barbara Kerr, president of the California Teachers Association, the state's largest lobbying group, noted that California voters rejected a 2005 Schwarzenegger initiative that would have extended teachers' probationary period from two years to five. Teachers can be fired without cause during that period.

Leave it to Boss Kerr.

I'm curious about one thing, however. What, exactly, is a bad teacher? We all know who they are, but how do we objectively identify them? How many do we have to fire before all the children learn? The devil's in them details, boy, and Boss Kerr ain't gonna help you git to that devil.


Anonymous said...

To find the bad teachers just ask the student population. I understand the problem that some kids dislike their teachers and would like nothing more than to see them without jobs, but I also think that a majority of students would be generaly unbiased. Now I know that this already happens to an extent. Mr. H pulled me aside and asked me to give my opinion on a certain teacher. (Not You) If schools asked more questions of the student body maybe they would get more answers.

Anonymous said...

Five year probationary periods for teachers? If a principal can't determine within two years whether a teacher is incompetent, can we reasonably imagine that three more years will help? It would seem that in such cases, the incompetence is on the other foot, to mix metaphors.

Darren said...

The probationary period for a Highway Patrolman is only one year--and we give them firearms.

Anonymous said...

CARSON is right...ask the kids who is or who isn't a 'bad' teacher.

Bad teachers don't know the subject matter well enough to answer questions from the students without going off on the student and writing him/her up for defiance and disrespect.

Bad teachers never leave their desks, they lecture from the front of the room.

Bad Teachers do not use strategies that are research based.

Bad teachers do not care if a student gets it or not.

Bad teachers almost always blame parents for student failure (even if the parent is obviously illiterate).

Bad teachers have no classroom management. They are also considered to be boring.

Bad teachers do not understand the culture of public schools, and usually enroll their own children in private schools because they believe that public schools are not good enough for their own children.

Ask the kids who the bad teachers are, and who the teachers are that they learn best from.

Obviously bad teachers are those that send you a middle school student from the 5th grade, and the student is so far below basic that you wonder how the student was passed along through elementary school. This is not just a function of high mobility, but this also happens when a student has been at one school since kindergarten.

Bad teachers never 'reach' their students and they blame the students for being too stupid.

Everyone can remember at least one bad teacher in their past. Even 'bad' teachers can remember a bad teacher.

Five years to tenure?

There is no need for tenure if you're not a 'bad' teacher.

Anonymous said...

"To find the bad teachers just ask the student population."

I don't know about that. I can remember being very fond of teachers who strayed from their subjects and talked to us About Life. Wow. Looking back, I realize that I'd been better off if he stuck to their subjects, which happened to be math.

Anonymous said...

Dear Darren:

As a former police officer with more than 16 years experience, I know you make a telling point. In police work, whenever one assumes a new position as a detective, supervisor, etc., they serve a new one year probation for that position. If these probationary periods were five years, I would have literally never been anything but a probationary employee during my time under arms.

Anyone asking for a five year probation for teachers is simply trying to legislate away, dishonestly, even the most minimal due process protection for teachers.

Darren said...

Mike, you're absolutely correct.

I'll agree with those who say that teachers have too many protections, that it's too difficult to fire even those teachers we all know don't belong in the profession. What we currently have is what I call "undue process"--too much process. The fix to that, though, isn't no due process at all.

Darren said...

To the anonymous poster who started with "Carson is right"--bet you don't hear that one very often, do you Carson!--I agree with much of what you said but vociferously disagree with your last statement. It ranks right up there with "If you're not breaking the law, you have nothing to be afraid of" whenever the law starts to intrude upon our freedoms.

You many not need due process if you're a good teacher and you have a good administrator, but barring that two-fer, I can't buy it.