25 January 2012

Edu-Incarceration and The Big Mac Effect

President Obama baffles me. He is clearly an incredibly intelligent guy, for the most part he believes in what I might call, "the right things," he's highly educated, and the child of incredibly educated, curious parents, he has lived in a variety of places which should have given him a global perspective...

And yet...

Listen, Barack Obama isn't amoral like Mitt Romney or immoral like Newt Gingrich or a potential Taliban leader like Rick Santorum or even a guy totally confused about the meaning of "society" like Ron Paul, but he appears, as I've thought about it, to lack anything resembling empathy.

I don't want to pick and choose from the President's words, so let me quote the entire education section of his State of the Union address, and then, break out a few things.
"At a time when other countries are doubling down on education, tight budgets have forced States to lay off thousands of teachers. We know a good teacher can increase the lifetime income of a classroom by over $250,000. A great teacher can offer an escape from poverty to the child who dreams beyond his circumstance. Every person in this chamber can point to a teacher who changed the trajectory of their lives. Most teachers work tirelessly, with modest pay, sometimes digging into their own pocket for school supplies - just to make a difference.
"Teachers matter. So instead of bashing them, or defending the status quo, let's offer schools a deal. Give them the resources to keep good teachers on the job, and reward the best ones. In return, grant schools flexibility: To teach with creativity and passion; to stop teaching to the test; and to replace teachers who just aren't helping kids learn.
"We also know that when students aren't allowed to walk away from their education, more of them walk the stage to get their diploma. So tonight, I call on every State to require that all students stay in high school until they graduate or turn eighteen.
"When kids do graduate, the most daunting challenge can be the cost of college. At a time when Americans owe more in tuition debt than credit card debt, this Congress needs to stop the interest rates on student loans from doubling in July. Extend the tuition tax credit we started that saves middle-class families thousands of dollars. And give more young people the chance to earn their way through college by doubling the number of work-study jobs in the next five years.
"Of course, it's not enough for us to increase student aid. We can't just keep subsidizing skyrocketing tuition; we'll run out of money. States also need to do their part, by making higher education a higher priority in their budgets. And colleges and universities have to do their part by working to keep costs down. Recently, I spoke with a group of college presidents who've done just that. Some schools re-design courses to help students finish more quickly. Some use better technology. The point is, it's possible. So let me put colleges and universities on notice: If you can't stop tuition from going up, the funding you get from taxpayers will go down. Higher education can't be a luxury - it's an economic imperative that every family in America should be able to afford.
"Let's also remember that hundreds of thousands of talented, hardworking students in this country face another challenge: The fact that they aren't yet American citizens. Many were brought here as small children, are American through and through, yet they live every day with the threat of deportation. Others came more recently, to study business and science and engineering, but as soon as they get their degree, we send them home to invent new products and create new jobs somewhere else

"That doesn't make sense."
OK, now, piece by piece:
It is clear that Barack Obama cannot be bothered to do the
math when the impact is on people unlike his family.
The Big Mac Effect - and - its the teachers' fault: "We know a good teacher can increase the lifetime income of a classroom by over $250,000. A great teacher can offer an escape from poverty to the child who dreams beyond his circumstance." This is the Horatio Alger nonsense peddled by the American right for years. There is nothing wrong with our schools, if only those lazy, unionized teachers were better... poverty would disappear. First, the President bases his claim on a suspect study which does indeed suggest that a "great" teacher (that is, one who raises test scores) might raise the weekly earnings of an impoverished student by almost enough to buy a Big Mac each week.
It is surprising, in light of all the publicity, that the differences produced by the high value-added teachers are relatively small. Baker shows that the income gains are only about $250 a year over a 40-year working span for each of the students.
As [Rutgers University Professor Bruce] Baker writes: "One of the big quotes in the New York Times article is: 'Replacing a poor teacher with an average one would raise a single classroom's lifetime earnings by about $266,000, the economists estimate.' This comes straight from the research paper. BUT ... let's break that down. It's a whole classroom of kids. Let's say ... for rounding purposes, 26.6 kids if this is a large urban district like NYC. Let's say we're talking about earning careers from age 25 to 65 or about 40 years. So, $266,000/26.6 = $10,000 lifetime additional earnings per individual. Hmmm ... no longer catchy headline stuff. Now, per year? $10,000/40 = $250. Yep, about $250 per year."
Obama's disregard for the facts when it comes to escaping poverty is only one example in this one quote of his empathy and understanding problem. "A great teacher can offer an escape from poverty to the child who dreams beyond his circumstance," which, obviously, implies that the reason we have so many people in poverty right now is that we don't have many great teachers. Take that all you fools who waste your days with our children. Now, yes, to be honest, we don't have great teachers everywhere, just as we don't have great people everywhere in any job - even President - and I'm the first person to criticize bad teaching, but, Mr. Obama, teachers are not the cause of poverty.

To explain this let me first turn to Chris Lehmann of Philadelphia's Science Leadership Academy:
"The nation - or at least its politicians, its pundits and its billionaires - has made this debate about labor (read unions) by atomizing this debate down to the teacher level. And while there is room for conversation there, it misses the larger picture. Our schools are structurally dysfunctional places which, therefore, makes teaching and learning much harder than it needs to be, so that teachers -- and students -- have to succeed despite the system, rather than because of it.

"As long as high school students have to travel to eight different classes where eight different teachers talk about grading / standards / learning in eight different ways, students will spend far too much trying to figure out the adults instead of figuring out the work. When that happens, too many students will fall through the cracks and fail. If we built schools where there was a common language of teaching and learning and common systems and structures so that kind people of good faith can bring their ideas and creativity and passion to bear within those systems and structures and help kids learn, we will find that more teachers can be the kind of exemplary teachers that Mr. Kristof wants.

"As long as there is little to no time in the high school schedule for teachers and students to see and celebrate each other's shared humanity, too many students will feel that school is something that is done to them, that teachers care more about their subjects than they do about the kids. As long as teachers have 120-150 kids on their course roster, and there is little continuity year to year so that relationships cannot be maintained, too many students will be on their own when they struggle. If we build schools where teachers and students have time to relate to one another as people - if we create pathways for students and teachers to know each other over time, so that every child knows they have an adult advocate in their school, we make schools more human -- and more humane - for all who inhabit them.

"Let's stop falling victim to the soft thinking that just finding more "great teachers" and getting rid of all the bad ones is the way to reform education and start asking ourselves - "How do we create schools that make it easier for all students and teachers to shine?"
"None discussed the need to address the growing funding gap between rich and poor school districts, and the resulting lack of equitable opportunities for disadvantaged kids to achieve the same goals as every other child in Michigan. Of course not, since that would not be self-serving panning to their respective constituencies.

"It’s ironic that the legislature and governor would tout the term
“best practices” while at the same time they employ some of the worst practices in public school funding. Purposely ignoring the needs of disadvantaged students, who by the way are expected to achieve the same goals as students from more affluent areas, is not what I or any person of intelligence would consider to be a best practice."
Simply put, Mr. President, perhaps if you and our national leaders start to do your job regarding our children, great teachers will be able to do their job, and, I'll bet, a whole lot more teachers will look "great."

The Hypocrite - or - why does Barack Obama think we're stupid?: "
Teachers matter. So instead of bashing them, or defending the status quo, let's offer schools a deal. Give them the resources to keep good teachers on the job, and reward the best ones. In return, grant schools flexibility: To teach with creativity and passion; to stop teaching to the test; and to replace teachers who just aren't helping kids learn." Really? Why would this man assume that we are all "that dumb." Does he think we have not been watching the work of his Department of Education since 2009? The mandates, the requirements, the curriculum written by Pearson and friends. Obama and those governing the American states have denied us the resources children need in order to cut Mitt Romney's tax bill. Teacher pay has been slashed in many places, class sizes have grown, budgets shrunk, meanwhile, do anything Arne Duncan and his Ministry of Re-education doesn't like, and you'll be labeled a failure.

Sorry Mr. President, I know that dealing with the NEA Leadership and your "Reform" friends may have given you the wrong impression, but some of us in education are smart enough to know the gap between your words and deeds.

Edu-Incarceration - or, why would anyone stay in an Arne Duncan school if it wasn't the law: "So tonight, I call on every State to require that all students stay in high school until they graduate or turn eighteen." Well, there's the answer. Our schools have become miserable dungeons of worksheets and tests under the Obama Administration, and many are deciding to Walk Out, so the solution lies in one more giant step toward criminalizing adolescence. We can't be bothered to create better schools, but we sure can lock the kids in.

Yes, I know the President, the son of two PhD students and a private school student who is now a private school parent, cannot comprehend children not being in school. It is simply beyond his rather inflexible grasp, but he ought to at least know that coercion is not the answer. "The president’s proposal is therefore merely the latest example of our tendency to craft policies that address the symptom, and ignore the root. And that’s not change I can believe in," says Sam Chaltain in the Washington Post.

Mr. Clueless about university costs:
So let me put colleges and universities on notice: If you can't stop tuition from going up, the funding you get from taxpayers will go down." This is tough for an Ivy League graduate, I know, and to make it all funnier, good ol' Justin Hamilton, Arne Duncan's Press Secretary - @EDPressSec - DMed during the speech to insist that I was wrong - that universities were spending more than ever,1 but those in Washington might want to know that the actual cost of running public universities has been going down. Those who have been on public campuses during this administration have seen budgets - yes Mr. President and Little Justin - that's the total cost of running the institutions slashed. 

Universities aren't spending more Mr. President,
but students are.
Here's why tuition has gone up boys. These "State Universities" which were once strongly supported by their governments don't get that kind of support anymore. "In the 1970s, the state covered three-fourths of university costs and the rest was covered by tuition. Now it’s almost reversed– state funding provides one-quarter and the rest is tuition," says Michael Boulus, executive director of the Presidents Council, State Universities of Michigan, with, "funding for higher education has been reduced by [an additional] 15 percent for 2012... higher education has lost a billion dollars in state aid over the past decade, amounting to cuts of more than $2,000 per student."

Yes, we need lower costs Mr. President, but the way to do that is not to threaten our universities as you threaten Iran. Not all of us can - or even want to - go to the places you were educated and taught.

You know Mr. President, there were probably parts of your speech which I might have approved of. I surely, for example, appreciate the difference between you and Mr. Romney et al on the automotive industry. I favor, unlike Republicans, people paying reasonable taxes. I wish work were taxed less and sitting at home living off unearned money was taxed more...

But it isn't just that I work in education which makes me so angry about your complete lack of empathy, your complete lack of understanding regarding our children and our schools. I am angry because you are leading an assault on our future, and you are doing it simply because you will not open your eyes.

I expect better from you Mr. President. I really do.

- Ira Socol
1 - "
You don't have your facts straight (though that's not new). Sticker price and net price have skyrocketed." from @EDPressSec around 10:00 pm on January 24, 2012


Miss Shuganah said...

The education part of Obama's speech was jarring to me, and I finally figured out why.

The "don't teach to the test" meme is undoubtedly a reaction to what is not going on at his daughters' school. The rest comes across as spoken by someone who doesn't even know what his administration's education policy really is.

"Quick, get Arne on the phone. Arne, hi. Yeah ( insert chitchat about college basketball.) I need
a study from you about education that I can quote to the folks when
giving the State of the Union. The rest of the speech is going really well, thanks. But I am stuck. I start with talking about not teaching to the test, but then I
don't know what to say after that. That would be great. Thanks."

What I'd like to know, Mr. President, is why did you discard Jeremiah Wright? He's spoken intelligently about education. There are many others you should listen to, Mr. President. Mothers like me, for instance. Educators like Ira. We are the ones who hold the key to education, Mr. President. Not your cronie.

Open up your ears. Arne Duncan may know how to run a business, but school is not a business. School, if done right, has a heart.

David said...

Is it even worth pointing out that school's purpose should not be to produce workers?

(Here's some satire I wrote to try and explain this point: https://plus.google.com/u/0/109984287766356192435/posts/aEmeCqJszTi)

Miss Shuganah said...

Not very satirical if you ask me. But perhaps that is your point. I know someone who is truly a master at satire, incidentally, if you ever want some pointers. Go to Gifthub and learn from the master.

Now... ask to why that is not funny to me....

Special Ed kids are already treated that way. There is a factory in the basement of my daughter's high school. The IEP for most of these, ahem, low incidence students calls for work skills. So, aha, why not collaborate with a company that makes keychains and magnets? The Special Ed kids can learn work skills and the Senior Class can learn how to exploit workers and sell the finished products. I opted out of this for Kid O. a) I think she's smarter than what looks like on the surface, and b) she would be physically incapable of doing the work and c) I do not think this is a good thing for anyone. If work skills are part of an IEP then why not at least provide options other than sheltered workshops?

So much focus on the GenEd population that we often overlook the fact that Special Ed kids are already doing this kind of work. We don't talk about this. We need to. Are GenEd teachers unaware that this kind of thing goes on or do we allow for this to happen because Special Ed kids are somehow lesser?

Your "satire", David feels just as tone deaf to me as President Obama's remarks. Perhaps it's time for me to roll this out from almost a year ago:

Tiny Tim Has a Telepathic and Very Dark Conversation With a Young Woman in Wheelchair


<a href="http://fumblingaboutinthedark.blogspot.com/2011/12/dickens-knew-thered-be-days-like-these.html>Dickens Knew There'd Be Days Like These</a>

Whether you are talking about Special Ed kids or GenEd kids, none of this is OK. None of this soul sucking teach to the test even if we don't really want to say we are teaching to the test mentality is good. It's all harmful. And segregating Special Ed kids from the general population is just plain wrong. We (societal we) assume that these kids don't understand things. We assume they cannot figure out that they are being excluded. They know. They may not be able to articulate it, but they know. Perhaps not in a deep way, but, yes, I do believe that so called low incidence kids perceive way more than we give them credit for.

OK. Off my soapbox. For now.

Please know, David, this is not directed at you in a way to make you wrong. I have found in my
interactions with educators that
many are as unaware of these consequences as people in the
rest of society. Please forgive me if my tone seems harsh. That is not intended.

Steve Johnson @edtechsteve said...

I couldn't believe my ears when I heard the line about states forcing kids to stay in school until age 18. What a tremendously dumb thing to propose. I mean- is he seriously suggesting that the way to decrease the dropout rate is to outlaw dropping out?

I tweeted something like that out as the speech was being presented and got this great response from @21stcenturychem : "I think I have an idea now about curing cancer #bancancer". About sums it up!


Unknown said...

The best commentary on the President's speech I have read all day! Thank you. Many of the same thoughts went through my head as I listened.

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