Comments on: Steve Brill’s blinkered view of education A slice of lime in the soda Sun, 26 Oct 2014 19:05:02 +0000 hourly 1 By: mattmc Thu, 01 Sep 2011 04:18:24 +0000 Ravitch is just completely out there.

The problem is not poverty, it is a culture which does not value education. Students from subcultures that value education tend to do well, independent of wealth. Students from subcultures that don’t, tend to do less well.

In any case, your assessment is wrong, because spending per pupil is not correlated with results.

What we need is pressure on parents and consistent messaging to students that doing your homework is important and you have to work hard to learn. Our president, whose mother got him up before dawn to study, should be leading this effort, instead of trying to placate the unions.

By: TheEdudicator Tue, 30 Aug 2011 11:26:24 +0000 It’s a very similar situation here in the UK. Teachers just aren’t supported properly, and everyone acts like the main problem with education is the fact that the teachers aren’t good enough. So the solution is to be more harsh with them, which leads to widespread mental health problems and competent professionals losing their careers and reputations.

By: TFF Fri, 26 Aug 2011 13:16:55 +0000 “In almost every way, shape, and form, new teachers get the short end of the stick, which is why so many of them burn out and leave teaching.”

I taught for a few years in a department in a district where teachers received balanced schedules and all the support you could desire, and the 5-year burnout rate was STILL over 30%.

It is a profession that attracts idealists (young teachers certainly aren’t in it for the pay or benefits), and the reality of managing the work of 125 disinterested students clashes with those dreams. Especially if they hope to start a family, teachers must either compromise or quit.

Has Hollywood ever cast 125 individual student personalities in a teaching film? All with equal talking parts? That would be a movie to see…

By: mfw13 Fri, 26 Aug 2011 11:53:54 +0000 Pigmund,

It’s not LIFO itself, per se, that causes new teachers to burn out quickly, more the fact that because new teachers do not have any job security they get the crappiest schedules, most difficult students, etc. And woe betide the new teacher who gets into a dispute with a powerful parent…in most cases the principal will simply let the teacher go at the end of the year to placate the parent, even though the teacher is usually in the right and the parents in the wrong. And since very few union reps are willing to expend significant political capital defending a new teacher, they usually don’t get much support from that direction either.

In almost every way, shape, and form, new teachers get the short end of the stick, which is why so many of them burn out and leave teaching.

If new teachers were initially hired on three-year contracts instead of one-year contracts, for example, and limited to teaching only one class their first year, for example, it would have a huge impact on burnout rates.

Until you’ve spent your entire first year as a teacher working 12-15 hours a day in deathly fear of making a misstep that will cause your contract not to be renewed, you will have a hard time understanding what I’m talking about.

By: pigmund Fri, 26 Aug 2011 00:56:16 +0000 first to mfw13 – I find it a ridiculous statement that LIFO is one of the main reason why almost 50 percent of new teachers leave the profession before the end of third year. It makes no sense on its face. Why would someone quit a job they want to stay in because its possible that when there are layoffs in the future they will be the first to go. There are real problems caused by the LIFO model but encouraging new hires to voluntarily quit is not one of them.

As for the points you raise clearance42, you have some legitimate points, but I take issue with some of the others. LIFO doesn’t always keep costs down, but it often does. In the world of primary education, I think it is less likely to result in huge savings as it does in academia. Guaranteeing life employment to professors greatly reduces compensation vs the market wages for that professor if he could find employment at another college. LIFO for primary education operates similarly, teachers who are guaranteed employment after tenure can be offered lower salaries than they would seek in the market if they weren’t tied to that school. So even though the lower paid teachers are the one’s being fired, the school district is still saving money by artificially depressing the wages of teachers (in turn by providing job security). As I said there is no doubt that this saves money in higher education because the wages of professors are quite high. But the idea behind LIFO works similarly in many different industries and organizations.

As for whether seniority is a valuable trait, it has its problems. But there is no other objective measure to ensure fairness in employment decisions from the point of view of the union. It is the union’s duty to protect all of their members. Unfortunately if a less objective measure were used to decide who gets fire and who doesn’t, it would pit union member against union member, leaving union representatives in an unenviable position on whom to protect and how to protect them. The reason seniority is the best method because it is objective, and all members know the standard from the beginning and it does have a tangential relationship to the value of loyalty and sweat equity. While there are bad workers who have been with a company a long time, seniority still is a better measure of loyalty than any other available.
As to your last point, I agree with the sentiment. However, when it comes to union contracts nothing invites abuse more than “nuanced” policy. Management exploits any language in a contract that isn’t abundantly clear. I would love to read a clause in a union contract that was nuanced and then would be very interested to see how it is interpreted during the length of the contract.
In my experience I have often been annoyed by union representatives and their actions, but then all to often I am reminded how much more I hate management. LIFO as clunky and outdated as it seems exists because management can’t be trusted.

By: clearance42 Thu, 25 Aug 2011 19:23:39 +0000 Pigmund,

Thanks for your response, but I see several holes.

– LIFO does not keep costs down. By definition, and as pointed out by Ravitch, LIFO ensures the highest cost earners stay employed (although she couched it in terms of preventing ageism). Note this does not mean highest efficiency earners, these long-tenured relatively high paid employees may be terrible teachers, but they are nonetheless protected. Management has no ability to fire a 30 year veteran who has long since stopped taking an interest in their lesson plans and students.

– Solidarity is a good thing. I’m with you on that one. However, I strongly disagree with your (and more broadly, the union’s) take on seniority. Seniority is not in and of itself a valuable trait. In every industry, education included, there are employees who have reached levels of seniority by dumb luck, mismanagement, regulatory structures (ie LIFO firing), nepotism, etc, yet contain few of the traits we want to see in our leaders. Blindly equating seniority to significant sweat equity contributions strikes me as misguided. It’s subscription to this idea that allows young, energetic teachers to be fired while entrenched, mediocre teachers just grinding it out till their pension kicks in get to remain employed. This brings us back to the challenge of appropriate measurement systems, which is clearly a difficult issue – but giving up on it is not the answer.

– Lastly, I think I alluded to this in my first post, I’m not opposed to keeping some form of employment protection for teachers (although I absolutely disagree with your sentiment that jettisoning senior teachers in favor of keeping younger teachers is necessarily a bad thing, emphasis on necessarily). Strict LIFO firing simply allows too much moral hazard, there needs to be nuance to this policy. If all employment protection for teachers is abolished, then yes, we will see a whole host of other issues. This is not what I’m proposing.

By: mfw13 Thu, 25 Aug 2011 08:08:47 +0000 Pigmund,

The problem with LIFO is that it make new teachers extremely vulnerable at a time when they need a great deal of support. In most districts, new teachers have virtually no job security their first three years, which means that they get dumped on in just about every way imaginable…scheduling, assignment of students, interdepartmental power struggles, parent complaints, etc., which leads to high levels of burnout.

LIFO is one of the main reasons why almost 50% of new teachers leave the profession before the end of their third year as a teacher.

By: pigmund Thu, 25 Aug 2011 07:37:29 +0000 clearance42,

It is very simple. LIFO exists for one very simple reason with many union contracts. It perfectly aligns the interests of the union and management. The interest of management is to limit its expenses as much as possible. For jobs such as teachers there is a limited amount of compensation that can be paid out. Since teachers can never make significant increases in pay they take other forms of compensation. One form of compensation is job security. This job security allows management to artificially keep salaries down and limit the amount of money spent on replacing teachers, presumably because the job security has purchased a certain amount of loyalty from the teachers. The union is interested in ensuring the job security of their union members, so that they remain loyal dues paying members. Solidarity is the most important aspect of union membership. It is an accepted union value that seniority is the preeminent value when making decisions about fairness in termination or reassignment of roles. Sweat equity is important to unions, and sweat equity is measured by one’s longevity.

There certainly are problems with how this works out in the education system, but there are several more and in my opinion worse problems that will occur if LIFO is abandoned and we see younger teachers being kept on and jettisoning more senior teachers.

By: samadamsthedog Thu, 25 Aug 2011 02:17:43 +0000 The real problem is that the world is going to hell in a handbasket.

And as for deniers, well, i always thought deniers were for nylons….


By: hsvkitty Thu, 25 Aug 2011 01:22:07 +0000 “There are many other, less stressful ways to make a living.”

Amen rgod8855. if I were teaching in an area (like Wisconsin) where I was berated constantly and told I wasn’t working hard and wasn’t worth my wage or benefits, I would have left by now. And now you want to tell teachers they are under-performing because the student’s test scores didn’t hit the curve…

Not one of the whiners could spend a day with their own kids, let alone 30 of other people’s children… AND tasked with trying to have something stick in their brains that isn’t something flashing on a game screen.

Evaluate all you want. Evaluations with the pressure to have every child perform at certain levels where no child is left behind means there will be an exodus and firing of bright and wonderful teachers. Ones who chose teaching knowing it was their vocation.

Coming to fill that huge void will be those who couldn’t think of what they wanted to do with their lives … but hey, they heard from their whining parents teaching was a snap and had marvelous benefits!