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The Next Big Thing: Grading Teachers

At the recent Education Committee meeting of the City Council, as reported by Maisie McAdoo, a Tweed official lauded a plan to track pupil achievement data to evaluate teacher performance. The beginnings of pay for performance?

I taught in a large high school with maybe two hundred teachers. Every day I interacted with the teachers in my department, we discussed: lesson plans, shared tests, lesson motivation ideas and the morning traffic, and we all were paid on the same salary schedule. Would I share materials with a colleague who might make more money because his kids did better on Regents Exams? Will setting up a system of competition among teachers improve pupil achievement? It doesn’t work in the private sector why should we think it would work in schools? Management gurus talk in terms of “learning organizations” and “teams of learner,” not individual merit pay.

Why do some schools with similar kids do better than others? Usually a principal who is able to create a team, a faculty that works together, a synergy created by teams of teachers who pool their expertise and increase their effectiveness. In some schools teachers participate in “kid talk,” all the teachers who teach the same students talk about individual kids, and, they talk with the kids themselves. When the English, Social Studies, Science and Mathematics teachers get together to discuss how Johnnie is doing in their classes and map out a strategy Johnnie is the winner.

Teaching can be a lonely job. In too many schools teachers close the door and teach the kids. The job is akin to working in a factory and screwing in the bumper rivets all day every day. Add into the equation that the faster you screw in the rivets the more you’ll be paid. I’m sure you’re going to attract the “best and the brightest” to work in this new style education factory.

Highly effective schools are highly effective teams of teachers who collaborate, support each other, laugh and cry together and the winners are the kids who are lucky enough to be in these energetic, synergistic buildings.

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38 Comments:

  • 1 NYC Educator
    · Dec 13, 2005 at 3:41 pm

    It’s quite ironic how, after having opened the door to merit pay, all the paid Unity hacks seem to be dreading its seemingly inevitable arrival.

    When are we gonna get another brilliant column enumerating the multitudionous reasons the sixth class isn’t a sixth class?

  • 2 institutional memory
    · Dec 13, 2005 at 5:26 pm

    I agree with Peter Goodman that tracking pupil achievement data is part of a teacher evaluation plan that is in nobody’s best interest.

    Aside from the nasty, dog-eat-dog nature of any such arrangement, our current reliance on norm-referenced tests guarantees that we will have scapegoats aplenty. Teachers who work with students from low-income families (a variable that often correlates with low norm-referenced test scores) will be eternally behind the eight-ball.

    This is one more instance of our leadership, and I use the term very loosely, failing to understand this basic tenet of assessment.

    But, then, what can you expect from the non-educators who run the Department?

    And I just thought I’d mention that I comment without remuneration, and identify as neither Unity nor hack. Though some folks at Tweed might disagree on the latter, being that I’m in my fourth decade as a New York City teacher and UFT member.

  • 3 sean
    · Dec 13, 2005 at 5:48 pm

    Wow, very good post. I agree fully about the problems in merit pay. I don’t understand why they try to sell the same pill, over and over again.

  • 4 Chaz
    · Dec 13, 2005 at 8:07 pm

    Peter;

    Another excellent post:

    I almost would like to see the Tweed idiots try it so it could be shot to pieces and ridiculed.

    institutional memory hit it on the head, Tweed’s attempt is doomed to failure.

  • 5 northbrooklyn
    · Dec 13, 2005 at 8:12 pm

    What’s the name of the Tweed official?
    Great piece.

  • 6 no_slappz
    · Dec 13, 2005 at 8:41 pm

    Peter Goodman says:

    “Will setting up a system of competition among teachers improve pupil achievement?”

    Yes. Every teacher I know claims a huge percentage of teachers are incompetent. It would help the students if those teachers found something else to do.

    Goodman writes:

    “It doesn’t work in the private sector why should we think it would work in schools?”

    Goodman has no idea what he’s writing about. Paying for performance is extraordinarily successful. But not every corporate employee is in competition with his coworkers. Some, due to the nature of their jobs, are in competition with one another.

  • 7 curious2
    · Dec 13, 2005 at 10:46 pm

    Does anyone know how I can get statistics on the number of teachers that have been terminated for performance reasons (and not given jobs elsewhere in the system) in the last few years?

  • 8 Peter Goodman
    · Dec 14, 2005 at 10:05 am

    I always give assignments over the holidays …

    Peter Senge and his associates are at the top rung of management consultants … I would suggest beginning with THE FIFTH DISCIPLINE (1994) and THE DANCE OF CHANGE (1999) and move on to SCHOOLS THAT LEARN (2000) … pay for performance in a school setting flies in the face of a mountain of evidence from the private sector …schools must change to survive … these changes point to teams of collaborating teachers/counselors etc., …

    I will omit instuctions on the length of the assignment …

  • 9 NYC Educator
    · Dec 14, 2005 at 6:20 pm

    Here’s a better assignment–Mr. Goodman and his Unity cohorts have happily sponsored a giant step backward with the preposterous new contract they managed to pass.

    Every teacher will now have a building assignment, in perpetuity, and most high school teachers, blatantly denied their choice of leadership by Unity, will now teach six classes.

    In my school, which meets 12 periods a day, they’re going to rope off a section of the cafeteria and have teachers do “small-group instruction” as a building assignment. Imagine them, in the din of the cafeteria, dodging flying cheeseburgers while trying to explain manifest destiny, or whatever they’re tutoring in, whehter or not they happen to know anything about the subject.

    The UFT is infested with Unity, who gives not one whit about the working conditions of teachers, so long as the hacks who praopagandize here can continue collecting salaries well above ours. Edwize is not above renaming one of its best known shills to pose as “a voice from the trenches,” printing pages of lies in hopes of a cushy Unity job for his impending retirement.

    It’s time for high school teachers to say enough of this nonsense and secede from the Unity-infested, undemocratic UFT.

  • 10 paulrubin
    · Dec 14, 2005 at 8:46 pm

    Vote with your feet. If you work in a school where the administration is insane, get out. That’s the most valuable thing in the contract, possibly the only valuable thing. With wages stagnant on the bottom of the salary scale and projected retirements to be unrelenting, the majority of NYC schools are still run by people who at least pretend to care about the kids and they need to staff them. It might not work for everyone but give it a shot and do it asap.

  • 11 Chaz
    · Dec 14, 2005 at 10:30 pm

    paulrubin is correct. Principals can no longer keep teachers at their schools. Good teachers can find a job anywhere in the system, providing that the old principal doesn’t badmouth the teacher to other principals. They wouldn’t do that, would they???????

  • 12 no_slappz
    · Dec 15, 2005 at 6:26 am

    Chaz:

    By urging teachers to follow paulrubin’s advice — vote with your feet — you are embracing one of the chief characteristics and advantages of capitalist free markets — labor mobility.

    It’s too bad, however, that teachers are limited to offering their services to virtually only one employer — the state education monopoly.

    The fact that there’s only one employer assures almost no movement among workers. After all, unless a teacher in a desirable school retires, no opening will occur. Meanwhile, many candidates will “compete” for those desirable positions.

    By what measures will the winner be chosen?

    If, of course, we enjoyed a voucher financed public/private school system, job opportunities would multiply and the concept of labor mobility would have real meaning. Principals would have to recruit teachers rather than virtually indenture them.

    Chaz, you also wrote:

    “Good teachers can find a job anywhere in the system, providing that the old principal doesn’t badmouth the teacher to other principals.”

    In the private sector previous employers are reluctant to comment about departing employees because negative words can lead to lawsuits. Thus, if a principal were to “badmouth” a “good teacher” (whatever that means), injuring the reputation of that “good teacher” — harming his employment opportunities — the principal would very likely find himself named as the defendant in a libel suit.

    Because there are so few schools outside the public system, teachers have little labor mobility, principals have a perverse power. To retain desirable teachers, a principal merely needs to smear that employee’s name in a whisper campaign. To relieve the school of a poor teacher, the principal simply sings his praises, passing the lemon, as they say.

    Alice would be right at home in this Wonderland.

  • 13 paulrubin
    · Dec 15, 2005 at 7:49 am

    They probably would but if anyone got caught doing that with some sort of proof, that’s actually a lawsuit waiting to happen. That’s why in private industry, the bad stuff is usually kept quiet and businesses usually restrict what they say about employees and former employees to things like dates of service. Safer for management that way. I have no illusions that principals will make efforts to keep valued teachers but the crack is there and a full blown free agent system minus the financial compensation is in sight. Opening that crack wider should be in the top 5 list of things to concern ourselves with in the next set of contract negotiations because that has the potential to limit the impact of a lot of the other problems in the system.

  • 14 no_slappz
    · Dec 15, 2005 at 8:52 am

    paulrubin, every teacher I know claims principals play the game of “passing the lemon” while trying to hold onto “good teachers” (whatever that means).

    Meanwhile, in private industry people have resumes that list what they’ve done. While it’s not hard to puff up a resume a bit, false claims are usually detected. However, “bad stuff” is another matter. You’d have to define it.

    Meanwhile, there is no “crack” opening a “free-agent system” in education.

    Teachers have only one buyer for their services — the government education monopoly. This arrangement is the other side of monopoly — from the teachers’ perspective, the sole employer is a monopsony — the only buyer of teachers’ services.

    With only one game in town — and no ability of teachers to sell their services individually to the DOE — no free-agency will ever arise.

    The education monopoly is not Major League Baseball where each player negotiates his own contract. Thus, you will never reach the goal of which you dream.

  • 15 NYC Educator
    · Dec 15, 2005 at 2:49 pm

    Actually, Paul, with the advent of the new contract, it seems you no longer have as many options as you did last year.

    It is not my administration with whom I have issues, and my school, actually, is one of the very best in the city.

    My problem is with the UFT, which has denied high school teachers their choice of leadership for the last ten years. We don’t support Unity, and we need to establish our own union, one that will be responsive to our membership.

    The UFT couldn’t care less about us, and treats us with outright contempt.

  • 16 frogmugsy
    · Dec 15, 2005 at 8:21 pm

    I don’t see the teacher as the baseball player. I see the teacher as the manager of the team. In baseball, coaches can tell players that they simply don’t have the talent to make it to the big leagues, “Go find something else to do with your life.” What do you say to a third grader who is struggling? “Hey listen kid, the third grade isn’t cut out for you, you better think of something else to do.” Obviously, we keep at it. As teachers, we find a different way to help those that struggle. Even Lou Pinella has been under .500 for the last few years with Tampa. And he is a great manager. Not everyone has an A-Rod, Jeter or a Clemens on their team. I’m sure a lot of teachers strive to be a Lou Pinella. But sometimes no matter how hard we try, and how hard our team plays, statistically, we’re below .500. I didn’t envision myself or my hard working colleagues going through college and paying for a Master’s to be mediocre. Are there a few bad apples? Sure, but no different than any other city work force out there.

  • 17 no_slappz
    · Dec 16, 2005 at 6:50 am

    frogmugsy:

    The baseball analogy was meant to illustrate the position teachers occupy when it comes to compensation.

    A previous poster — paulrubin — suggested a “free-agency” for teachers was about to begin as a result of the latest contract. I think he has misread the terms of the contract and, in fact, the nature of teacher mobility will decrease, not increase.

    And as long as teachers cannot negotiate individual contracts, the concept of “free-agency” is totally absent from teacher employment.

    That aside, the quality issue still stands. Posters here regularly speak of “good teachers”. By identifying some teachers as “good teachers” suggests that it is possible to identify others as “not good”. What percentage of teachers are “not good” and what percentage are “incompetent”, in your opinion?

  • 18 madmatt151
    · Dec 16, 2005 at 11:47 am

    I have caught myself saying the “not good” statement about teachers, and it is false. There are effective and non-effective teachers. Some people just shouldn’t be in this job. I am unsure of why they are in it or why they signed up, but I know that many of you work with people who should not be here. That said, as a HS teacher I do feel that we have been overlooked in the union. I am not sure of the problems with our leadership, but I remember the days when the union Vp of high schools actually TAUGHT in a HS. This does not seem to be the case anymore. Often I hear myself saying the old addage of put your money where your mouth is and I should run for some union office, but I don’t feel I would go very far in the current union heiarchy.

    As far as only having one employer, this is an extremely important point, especially with the new wording of our contract. If a teacher is put on suspension for “sexual” issues with a student, even if cleared (and broke from the 3 months of no pay) where can they get a job now?!? No one will hire them with an allegation that seems true because the DOE put the on suspension. I know they will be rehired and back pay given, but would you want to return to that job? What other choices do you have? This whole part of the contract deeply disturbs me. I work as a dean and see the number of students who are returned to the school they came from, even after a massive case against them was built and they were clearly guilty of atrocities such as assaulting teachers or other students. So tell me honestly if a student who falsely accuses a teacher of sexual misconduct etc. will be removed from their class?

  • 19 Chaz
    · Dec 16, 2005 at 6:24 pm

    madmatt;

    Of course the student will be removed from the teacher’s class, it’s in the contract. But no amount of compensation will pay for the damage that student will have been done to the teacher’s reputation.

    Randi and her cronies are not in the schools and are not subject to false accusations of the students. Therefore, they could care less how it could affect us.

    Unlike Toussant, Randi sold the classroom teacher out for a few pieces of gold.

  • 20 frogmugsy
    · Dec 16, 2005 at 8:57 pm

    no-slappz:

    I guess what I’m saying is that I’m against “free agency”. If my first three years of teaching were like Lou Pinella’s last three years of managing Tampa, I would have been fired. How would I then go about securing a job in the educational field being a free agent?

    I’ll go along with maddmatt and say there are effective and non-effective teachers. I am absolutely non-effective in some areas teaching in the classroom. There are just simply some situations that arise in the classroom where I don’t know exactly what the right thing to do or say or even why things went wrong! And I’ve been teaching elementary for 10 years! And there are some areas of teaching where I know I am damn f’n good! I just simply don’t have those qualities of being a great teacher… yet. I’m hoping that comes with experience and not brains because I simply don’t have the capacity.
    Right now, I’ll stand behind my colleagues in the classroom. Randi and Company have shown they have little empathy for the classroom teacher. I believe our next fight is not the 2007 contract, but getting Randi and Co. out!

  • 21 NYC Educator
    · Dec 16, 2005 at 9:43 pm

    “I believe our next fight is not the 2007 contract, but getting Randi and Co. out!”

    From your mouth to God’s ear.

  • 22 redhog
    · Dec 18, 2005 at 3:56 am

    Randi is equal or superior to any leader we have ever had. Nobody participating in this blog has borne greater witness to the life of a classroom teacher for more than three decades than I. Randi will win re-election by a margin that will make a landslide look like small potatoes.

  • 23 no_slappz
    · Dec 18, 2005 at 9:50 am

    frogmugsy:

    Your perpective on your place in the employment scheme needs adjustment.

    You are certainly the classroom manager. But in the eyes of your employer — the DOE — you are a union worker paid under a collective bargaining agreement. Your paycheck, like the paycheck of every other teacher, is issued by the same central bureau.

    You, unless you are willing to leave the public school system to work at a private school, have no employment options. The DOE or nothing. That you can move from one school to another inside the school monopoly means nothing.

    Therefore, you have no worries. “Free agency” does not exist inside the school monopoly.

    As for your use of euphemisms — effective and non-effective — well, it’s nice that you take a non-controversial view of your colleagues. But you dodged the real issue. That is: what percentage of teachers should find another line of work?

    Meanwhile, no one believes all teachers should know how to handle every classroom situation that arises. Especially when the situations relate to disorderly students. I do think the vast majority of teachers are able to handle most teaching issues, however.

    In the end, however, the school system is like you — able to perform exceptionally well in some areas, but much less well in other areas. In a profit-making enterprise, management would find a better way to improve the weak areas. Selling off poorly performing assets is a common strategy.

    There’s always someone or some organization out there able to do what others cannot. There’s no shame in recognizing strengths and weaknesses of an organization and the individuals within it.

    But the DOE and UFT fear this basic honest assessment like death itself.

  • 24 no_slappz
    · Dec 18, 2005 at 10:04 am

    Madmatt151:

    Teachers are “good”, “not good”, “effective” or “non-effective”,or whatever euphemism you want to use. But it seems you think too many people of the wrong people are teachers.

    That can only be the result of hiring practices and working conditions.

    In a public/private voucher school system, the teachers who made a bad career choice would eventually find themselves unemployed. When bosses can simply fire an employee for lack of ability, the firing happens. And it’s rarely fatal. Everyone manages to find a new job.

    Getting fired is a rite of passage on Wall Street.

    Anyway, competition would solve almost every problem that’s been identified on this website. Why there is such opposition to solving critical problems in the school system is explained only by the unfounded job fears lurking in the minds of union members.

  • 25 Persam1197
    · Dec 18, 2005 at 5:23 pm

    I agree with Institutional Memory. Tracking “data” and making teachers “accountable” would encourage teachers to gravitate towards level threes and fours. Since most of the suits are non-educators, would they understand that EVERY teacher (including art, music, physical education, and other non-standardized test courses) contributes to the holistic well-being of the child? That’s why all of these merit pay schemes are so unsound. You could have breakthrough years with an at-risk student and the next teacher who ends up with the Regents exam ends up with the glory.

    As for “competition,” it already exists. There are tons of private schools for people to send their kids if that’s what they want. The DOE is not a monopoly any more than the NYPD, FDNY, FBI, Department of Health, Department of Sanitation, Department of Transportation, et-al. We provide a public service for the benefit of our children. If you feel that your kids can do better elsewhere, you have every right to send them wherever you choose the same way you can select a gated community with private security to live if that’s what you want. The beauty of it all is that I can send my kid to whatever school I’m willing to pay for and I can transfer to any other school district or private school I want to. (I also don’t expect “vouchers” to subsidize my choices.) Where’s the “monopoly?”

    As for “unfounded job fears,” they are not so unfounded as anyone working in this particular system well knows. The rubber rooms are reknowned with folks who spent time there to be found innocent later. The key is that the educrats are not teachers and are clueless as to the nuances in teaching and administration. This is why the UFT is critical to providing balance in this system. We have a media billionaire and a corporate lawyer running the educational system. Most of the mid-level and school-based administrative people are not seasoned educators. Would a law firm hire a senior partner without a JD? Would a hospital have a chief resident without an MD? Of course not, but we’re being managed by folks with no expertise.

    This doesn’t mean we should walk with our feet. It means that we need to improve our union by voting for leaders that are in tune with our needs. I, for one, am ready for a good fight in the coming years.

  • 26 no_slappz
    · Dec 18, 2005 at 8:42 pm

    Persam:

    Did you ever complete an economics course in college? I doubt it.

    First, the meaning of competition is either beyond your grasp or you are playing dumb.

    Competition exists only when a consumer can is able to choose between alternatives. Choice does not exist when the vast majority of consumers are prohibited from choosing all but one of the “alternatives”.

    In other words, “choice” and “competition” do not exist when one alternative — public school — is available to consumers simply because they paid their taxes, while the alternative — private school — is available only to those who are able to pay the additional tuition charged by non-taxpayer funded schools.

    Persam, would you rather send your kids to the former John Jay High School or Dalton or Horace Mann or Spence or Trinity?

    Any child can attend John Jay. But only those kids whose parents can afford the $26,000 for Mann, Spence ro Trinity have the option of attending those schools.

    When you suggest “competition” exists simply because private schools are part of the landscape, you display both your ignorance and your callousness.

    You wrote:

    “There are tons of private schools for people to send their kids if that’s what they want.”

    “Want” is the key word in your preceding sentence. Almost every parent “wants” his kid to receive a good education. But only those who can “afford” private school tuition can actually convert their “want” into reality.

    The vast majority of parents have no choice. And you know it. They have no choice but to send their kids to the public school system. The kids get what the school offers, leaving no choice whatsoever. This absence of choice is the defining characteristic of a monopoly.

    HOwever, the expensive private schools do have scholarship programs into which they accept poor students.

    You wrote:
    “The DOE is not a monopoly any more than the NYPD, FDNY, FBI, Department of Health, Department of Sanitation, Department of Transportation, et-al.”

    But they are monopolies. No other organization is legally empowered to provide police protection to the entire city of New York. No other organization is authorized to legally empowered to provide firefighting services.

    The government — state, local, federal — allows only one supplier of these services in each jurisdiction. That’s a monopoly.

    You wrote:
    “We provide a public service for the benefit of our children.”

    Not true. You work for an organization that will not permit consumers to choose between competing education organizations.

    If attending one school is granted as a right to residents of a community, and attending another school is a priviledge gained by paying tuition $26,000 a year, competition does not exist.

    For competition to exist, the pricing of alternative services must be roughly equal.

    In other words, if a student who didn’t want to attend public school had a voucher in his pocket equal entitling him to attend either public school or a private school charging an amount equal to the value of the voucher, competition would exist.

    As it is, there is no competition.

  • 27 firebrand
    · Dec 20, 2005 at 9:01 am

    1. there is no merit in teachers being paid to be stooges and rat other teachers out. Hell it happens in my school for free now. I can only imagine how obnoxious the harpies are going to be once they are paid to be “lead teachers” and whatever ridiculous title my principal and APs have come up with for what amounts to being a paid snitch.

    2.NYC educator &co. Booo Yah. I agree wholeheartedly. We have to get Randi out. I’d rather do it now…but it seems as if we can’t. Lord I hope that my patience holds fast until April/May when (I think)we have the next election for UFT pres.

    Mind you I was a staunch Unity supporter until the toilet paper that we call a new contract was first introduced.

  • 28 firebrand
    · Dec 20, 2005 at 9:11 am

    NYC Educator–you’re very lucky. I also teach in one of the best schools in the city (and it’s my alma mater too so I am doubly sickened by what has come to pass). I didn’t have any problem with my administration until last year. Now I see that they are snakes who smile in our faces and then bite us on our bums when we’re not looking.

    Then again principals sold their souls and their tenure in —when 2000—? APs have nothing left to give up (they’ve given up everything but) except tenure. And they WILL give that up with their next contract. My AP said she’d be the first to vote yes.

    Ever since the principals gave up tenure they have been systematically harassed by the covens, first at the district offices, then at the ROC whatever that is and they have the loss of their positions hung over their heads if they don’t comply. Now APs will have the same problem and since the cowards within our illustrious union made it easy as pie for supervisors to hang any infraction, slight, imagined or real but taken out of context over our heads…we are at the mercy of people who just want to shine magnifying glasses on us and watch us writhe.

    You’re very lucky to work in one of the best schools in the city and still have an administration that is decent.

    Oh and don’t think that won’t change. I’ve watched my administration morph into Satan’s minions and thanks to
    No School Left STanding—excuse me–No Child Left Behind…the quality of student I have has fallen frightfully as well.

  • 29 Persam1197
    · Dec 20, 2005 at 5:21 pm

    No_Slappz,

    It’s interesting to note that you deem it necessary to make negative comments about my character without even knowing me. Since this is where you want to take it, let it be said that my “ignorance” in economics is matched only by yours in education.

    Competition: the act of competing; rivalry for supremacy, a prize, etc.; a contest for some prize, honor, or advantage.

    Monopoly: exclusive control of a commodity or service in a particular market, or a control that makes possible the manipulation of prices.

    Websters New Universal Unabridged Dictionary, 1996.

    Based on the above definition of competition, this goes against the collaborative nature of the educational process. We actually believe in fostering a collaborative relationship with our students, colleagues, and community. “Rivalry,” “supremacy,”
    “prize,” etc. are antithetical to what we as teachers are trying to accomplish.

    As for “monopoly,” the exclusive control of our “commodity” lies not in the City but in the New York State Board of Regents. It is the governing body that sets the standards, tests, and authority to serve our children as a public service entity. They give the schools the authority to operate and they have the power to withdraw the stated authority.

    Your adamant insistence that the DOE is a “monopoly” as opposed to a government agency providing a public service is illogical. You do, believe it or not, have every right to have your child educated in a manner of your choosing. If you feel that we’re not good enough for your child, take your child to Dalton, Horace Mann, Spence, or Trinity and may God bless you and your child. You, however, do not have the right to take our tax dollars and divert them where you want to. Our tax dollars belong in the NYC school system and we want to see every dollar well-spent. That’s my obligation as a teacher, parent, and taxpayer. We can make the administration of any school accountable; we can do precious little to a private entity except stop patronizing it.

    You asked me which school I would prefer to send my child. The answer is one in which I agree with the pedogogical philosophy of the institution. A free market system does not mean that things are free for you. If you don’t like what you see in a school, do something to fix it! In other words, WE OWN THIS MONOPOLY. It’s apparent that you obfuscate the issues with your obsessive and manic insistence in privatization. This leads me to my final comment: why are you posting in a UFT blog?

    We are all teachers here discussing educational issues in our schools. We work hard to make a difference to the kids in our schools. To date, you have offered nothing constructive except to condemn the so-called “monopoly.” How about offering real solutions that we can use in our schools TODAY?

  • 30 Persam1197
    · Dec 21, 2005 at 6:59 am

    No_Slappz,

    Another interesting note about vouchers and competition, the schools you cite and most private institutions were never designed to serve the masses. I hate to say it but public education is the most segregated institution in America, second only to churches. Yes, there may be a very small number of children of color or poor whites in the elite schools, but they are far and few between. People who have the means will always live, educate, and worship within their own strata.

    Even the black upper class in America, as noted by Lawrence Otis Graham in his best-selling book “Our Kind of People,” make sure that their children are not too close to their lower class brethren.

    So now, you expect these institutions that exist for a certain population in our society to open their doors (with vouchers, no less!), embrace OUR children from Taft H.S., Jamaica H.S., Park West H.S., etc. with their Title One funding and lunch forms into Dalton? Park Avenue kids eating lunch and hanging out with my children? You don’t believe that nonsense yourself.

    What you really pay for in private education is to control who is sitting next to your child. That’s why the specialized high schools are in such demand. You send your kids to a place in which the “right” kind of child is there next to yours. Even Parochial schools can and do separate the grain from the chaff. We, as public school teachers, work with everyone.

    Even adults are not immune to class issues. I have friends who work in some of these private institutions, earning less than we do with inferior benefits. Why do they stay? They don’t want to earn a Masters degree and get certified and they want to work with a particular kind of student, one that has a solid middle-class or upper-class background, does not need “special” services, and knows how to behave.

    If you believe that a free market system is in order and that it would produce viable schools for our kids, than you must as an economist accept complete laizzez faire policies; that means no government intervention in the market. Thus, no vouchers. Let the market decide. In reality, the market already has decided who gets what. WE take care of the rest!

  • 31 no_slappz
    · Dec 21, 2005 at 1:12 pm

    Persam:

    As I have stated, your knowledge of economics is lacking. You provided dictionary definitions of “monopoly” and “competition” and were still unable to recognize that the very examples you gave in support of the public school system were, in fact, excellent examples of monopolistic practices.

    You wrote:

    “Your adamant insistence that the DOE is a “monopoly” as opposed to a government agency providing a public service is illogical.”

    But your preceding paragraph exlicitly demonstrates that you understand the DOE is a monopoly.

    You wrote:

    “As for “monopoly,” the exclusive control (money) of our “commodity” lies not in the City but in the New York State Board of Regents.”

    You added:

    “It is the governing body that sets the standards, tests, and AUTHORITY (money) to serve our children as a public service entity. They give the schools the AUTHORITY (money) to operate and they have the power to withdraw the stated authority (money).”

    The power to control the finances of an industry says it all.

    You wrote:

    “You do, believe it or not, have every RIGHT to have your child educated in a manner of your choosing.”

    The preceding sentence shows how you’ve confused the meaning of “right” with “monopoly”.

    Even the poorest parent in this city has the “right” to send his kid to Dalton. But that poor parent doesn’t have the means. Thus, except in the event of a huge scholarship, that poor child has no choice but to attend a public school, and not necessarily the public school of choice.

    You wrote:

    “You, however, do not have the right to take OUR tax dollars and divert them where you want to.”

    Yet another statement of monopolistic power. Your use of “our” is interesting. To whom are you referring with this word? In my view, “our” should refer to ALL the kids in the city. However, I’m pretty sure you think “our” refers to the employees of the public school system.

    You also wrote:

    “Our tax dollars belong in the NYC school system and we want to see every dollar well-spent.”

    Says you. Obviously many parents and students disagree. However, those who disagree can only act on their disagreement if they have the money to finance an education at a school outside the public system.

    YOu wrote:

    “You asked me which school I would prefer to send my child. The answer is one in which I agree with the pedogogical philosophy of the institution.”

    You dodged the question with an answer so vague as to be meaningless.

    On the other hand, it’s obvious there are hundreds of schools in the public system with a pedagogical REALITY that no teacher or parent would praise. And those schools are filled with kids. Teachers at this site regularly admit their schools are underperforming.

    Would you send your child to one of those schools? In the general population. No fair if you finesse your answer by finding a bad school with a decent gifted program in which your kid might be enrolled.

    You wrote:

    “We can make the administration of any school accountable; we can do precious little to a private entity except stop patronizing it.”

    You must be joking. If it were possible to hold the DOE “accountable” — which is impossible when the organization is a government-backed monopoly — we wouldn’t have the school-system problems that plague the city.

    Meanwhile, you once again nailed the mechanism that brings improvements — competition — when you added “we can do precious little to a private entity except stop patronizing it.”

    Exactly. Stop financial support for an ineffective competitor. In other words, PARENTS won’t pay to send their kids to a private school if they believe they are not getting value for their dollars.

    Parents do not have the power of the purse-strings when it comes to public education. Again, no choice, no competition.

  • 32 Persam1197
    · Dec 22, 2005 at 3:12 pm

    Wow, you’re frightening me! You really believe this stuff. You really believe that public money should be re-routed into private interests and that some board of directors out there will do right by the public trust like Enron, TYCO, Poloroid, Worldcom, etc.

    Private companies answer to their boards and to their investors, not to us. You just don’t get it: the government and its agencies are not monopolies. They belong to us. It’s that simple. SONY does not give Samsung “the power of the purse strings,” nor does any entity public or private need to sponsor another private enterprise. If any parent wants to send his/her child to “better school,” either work to improve it or transfer to another within the system. Again, it’s yours; you and I own it.

  • 33 no_slappz
    · Dec 22, 2005 at 3:57 pm

    Persam:

    First, you have developed your own oddball form of economics.

    You clearly have no grasp of the meaning of “corruption” and you refuse to accept the rather simple and well understood principles of monopoly.

    You wrote that private companies report to their boards and investors. While that statement is not untrue, it is of secondary importance. Companies — first and foremost — exist due to the good will of their customers. If GM isn’t keeping its customers happy, the unhappy customres buy similarly priced cars from Toyota.

    You should understand that the customer is king in the private sector.

    Meanwhile, as you repeatedly state, there are a thousand problems with the public school system that are never remedied. This is an operating condition that separates monopolies from customer-sensitive organizations.

    If parents discover that the private school to which they send their kids is doing a poor job of educating those kids, the word will get around and other parents will spend their tuition money at a school that’s doing the job right.

    The poorly performing school risks having to shut its doors if parents are no longer willing to support it with tuition payments.

    No such disciplining power exists in the public school system because the government does not permit the existence of competing schools — that is, schools who compete for public taxpayer funding by producing educated kids.

    As you for most ridiculous claim — that the government and its agencies belong to us — well, if that’s true, try selling your piece of ownership and see how far you get. You’re a marxist at heart. Did you know that?

  • 34 Persam1197
    · Dec 24, 2005 at 11:29 am

    No_slappz,

    Last time I looked, we were still in America, you know, the one with a constitution. The America that says “We the people…” – yeah, that one.

    Your ridiculous claim that the government does not permit the existence of competing schools is nonsense. Side by side, there are plenty of private schools for you to send your children to. Your beef is that our government won’t divest itself from its constitutional responsibility to educate our children. There’s plenty of competition. As an example, my father was not satisfied with the public elementary school I attended and transferred me to Catholic School. It was his choice (and trust me we were poor). I stayed in that school until I chose LaGuardia High School. We had a choice and we made it. You act like there are no alternatives unless the government coughs up vouchers for you to spend as you want. That’s not free market; that’s welfare.If you don’t like what you see, you can do two things: help us fix the problems or complain that the government won’t give you a check so that you can “choose.” If I’m Marxist, then the U.S. is Marxist because we buy into the “ridiculous claim-that government and its agencies belong to us.”

    As for “competition” with regards to cars, you really lose the case with that one. Toyota and other foreign companies are heavily subsidized by their respectiver governments. Since we’re the only Western power with no universal health insurance, G.M. and Ford have much higher operating costs, thus less capital is available for research and development, “productivity,” etc. You know that it’s not a level playing field. For American car companies to compete, the U.S. will have to provide the same kind of subsidies that the Asians and Europeans get.

    There is a more relevant example of what happens when you privatize a government responsiblity. Edison. These folks attempt to do what you want: private choice with public dollars. They’re failing miserably because they don’t (and you as well) understand the nuances of education. They lost their contract with Philadelphia and the pilot program with New York City.

    What I find puzzling is your method of debating a topic. You tell me (as well as others) how ignorant I am. Nice. Then you offer nothing factual except that your “principles are well-understood” with no evidence to support any claim whatsover. Where have you seen in any educational setting a productive model in which the government does what you adamantly and so obsessively claim? Where is the research? Please cite your sources.

    Finally, you (and I) are guilty of going grossly off topic. This post is about grading teachers. Let’s go back to that.

  • 35 CityTeacher
    · Dec 25, 2005 at 10:40 am

    no-slappz isn’t even a teacher, he knows nothing about our jobs, and as such he isn’t even worth debating. I say let’s stop responding to his nonsense and he’ll go away. This forum belongs to us, not outsiders spouting nonsense.

  • 36 Persam1197
    · Dec 25, 2005 at 2:00 pm

    City Teacher,

    You are so right.

  • 37 no_slappz
    · Dec 26, 2005 at 5:27 pm

    Persam:

    The principles I’ve written about are favorite subjects of Nobel Prize-winning economists such as Milton Friedman.

    Perhaps you should read a little of his work. He’s one of towering figures in the field. He has recently published comments on vouchers and the condition of public education. His been studying the public school system in this country for more decades than either of us has lived.

    What’s especially unfortunate for you is your hope for change in the state-controlled education system. Whether you are teaching thirty years from now or not, you will see, 30 years hence, that not much has changed in the school system.

    Unless, of course, the state were to surrender control of funding schools.

    You are seriously mistaken when you claim the “government” has a “constitutional” responsibility to educate the citizenry.

    Your claim is simply nuts. Review the Constitution for evidence of your belief, which, by the way, would please the totalitarians of the world.

    Meanwhile, you’ve even supported my claim that the public schools have been falling down on the job since you were a kid by mentioning your move from public to parochial school and then your return to a specialized NYC high school.

    You mentioned subsidies. Second to the state-subsidized department of education comes the Catholic school system, which has long relied on the below-market labor of priests and nuns and further subsidies from the Church itself and further subsidies through property-tax abatements for the buildings in which classes are taught.

    What still confuses you is the rather simple difference between the “right” of private schools to exist versus the power of the state to maintain the most unequal co-existence possible.

    Many NYC private school charge tuition of $26,000 a year. Their market is parents who can afford that amount. The existing private schools have no interest in meeting the state head on because the private schools do not compete on price. They compete on quality.

    And that quality is measured by results — in other words, the paths taken by the graduates.

    The public school system long ago abandoned tracking its students after they left school.

    If you ever find yourself inside James Madison High School, you will notice its Wall of Champions, outside the auditorium. The photos and brief biographies of famous graduates are posted. Chuck Schumer, who graduated in 1967 is the last notable student to pass through that school. But many well known people preceded him. Not least was Ruth Bader Ginzburg, supreme court justice. Robert Solow, famous economist and Stanley Kaplan of test-prep fame.

    The state, meanwhile, makes it impossible to compete on price simply by charging tuition of $0.00. The power to distort a market — eliminate competion — through pricing is the defining characteristic of a monopoly. The government sets the tuition at $0.00 which results in a huge market distortion — underperforming public schools for the masses versus highly successful private schools for those who can afford the tuition.

    On another note, Toyota and other carmakers are not subsidized by their governments. I don’t know where you got that nonsense. Meanwhile, Japanese carmakers have been manufacturing their cars here in the US for years. There are at least 60,000 autoworkers in the US building Japanese cars. The workers are not Japanese, though factory managers might be. However, they are not unionized.

    Lastly, is it news to you that we have state-supported colleges and private colleges? They co-exist nicely. State universities charge state residents less tuition than private universities, but the quality of state schools is often high enough to attract excellent students. Meanwhile, there are state universities that attract mediocre students and those schools compete with private universities that appeal to the same average students.

    And there are schools for dummies. But the public and private colleges compete for the same students. And they do well.

    No such luck at the elementary and secondary level, however. The state has, in fact, created a vast gulf between students from prosperous homes and everybody else.

  • 38 firebrand
    · Dec 28, 2005 at 1:51 pm

    Whoa what did I miss? City teacher, Persam WHAT is No Slapz…or I’ll direct the comment to No Slapz myself.

    No Slapz is it true that you are not a teacher?