City Journal Autumn 2014

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Sol Stern
Education Advice for the Next Mayor « Back to Story

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Or you could destroy the parasites of the Teachers Union, and actually achieve something.
DB: You are ignoring the fact that the official workday and work year, for most professionals, is significantly longer that that of teachers AND they are also staying late, taking work home and working on weekends. The idea that only teachers work "outside" hours is ridiculous, but it is often implied. All of my kids, and their friends and colleagues, do significant outside work. Also, not all teachers do much outside work, at least after the first few years and when not teaching a new class or grade - and that's not necessarily a criticism. Doing the basics and doing them well is to be admired; bells, whistles, high-tech and the latest edu-fad are not necessary and are not usually desirable.
Mr. Stern, I enjoyed this column and I agree with many of the points you made. However, I take issue with how you characterize teacher work hours. I think many teachers, my wife and myself included, know that 6 hours and 50 minutes are inadequate to do the job of teaching 5 classes per day well. This means one has to devote a substantial amount of home time to lesson preparation and planning. My wife over the last two years at a new school, has been getting up at 3 and 4 to plan lessons for her classes. A colleague of mine spends a substantial number of weekend hours grading papers because she works in a large school with full classes. You didn't quite outline how many hours per day teachers should work officially but teachers are already working extra for uncompensated hours.
I taught in London Coleges for over ten years, the issue can be if the parents actually want the children to get an education. In the under-class of long term unemployed, I have seen the bright students deliberately fail to avoided being bullied by other students and their parents. Being thick is a badge of honour, there is the permanent dole and cash work.
The working class see being a postman, hairdresser or busdriver, as continuing the family line with a "Council house", the housing ideal, minimal education will do is th eparental mantra.

I don't teach any more, I am a trainer in the private sector. The constant drum banging on "lazy teachers" is sad, as I can tell you the demands of teaching economics and business in a London College and later university far exceed the demands made on a private sector trainer or most of the people I work with, and for a lower salary.

I taught privately 1 to 1 and small group classes to the rich kids after school. About two after starting this I thought I am getting as much doing four evenings a weeks as I am teaching. It was easy to get the kids scores up, the parents put pressure on them to do homework and work, plus they saw the parental wages and were more motivated. I ran a private tutorial business for a couple of years, before emigrating to Australia.

Evaluating teachers based on student testing was always a dubious and destructive idea. I'm very disappointed that the author avoided the main issue that what makes a successful student is parental involvement. Where are the programs to make parents and students accountable and where is the help if the family is dysfunctional?

Poverty is not the issue here, the definition of it has been perverted over the decades. Low income families now get transfer payments in the value of $40k, it's changing the community culture and parental/student behavior that's key. This American Life had a 2 part series about an inner city minority school. It's clear that children are allowed in live in severely dysfunctional families which adds huge stressors in their lives. Add in the tolerance of gangs that are grouped by individual blocks, meaning you're attacked if you venture to the next block. Although there are people who care, drastic intervention is needed.

If Catholic schools are so successful then adopt their practices. With Obama bashing Catholic and Protestant schools (but not madrassas) on his recent visit to the UK, I doubt the left will be embracing them anytime soon.
Read "A Modest Proposal" by J. Swift.
Oh, and one more thing. Cut the budget of the NY Department of Education by 90%, and spend the savings on the school vouchers.
What NY -- and other cities need -- is a serious dose of free-market capitalism in education.

Have the city use the money it otherwise spends on public schools to instead provide parents with a voucher (more $/student for poorer families, less for richer families - but every family gets something) that they can spend, along with any of their own funds as they wish, on the school of their own choice.

Allow both unionized and non-unionized, public and private schools to co-exist and compete in the education marketplace.

Within 10 years, the poor performing schools will be "out of business", and the poor performing teachers and administrators will be (rightly) out of a job.

The best schools and teachers will remain to provide the best education to all students. Whether these remaining schools/teachers are unionized or non-unionized -- let the "free market" (i.e. the parents and students) decide.

Problem solved.

P.S. The reason Bloomberg has let the Catholic schools fall by the wayside is because -- unfortunately -- he didn't have the benefit of attending one. (And those of you who are about to point out how rich Bloomberg is, I will tell you in advance that there are far more important things to learn in school than how to make money.)
What do you mean the racial gap has never been halved in 5 years or less by any school district? Maybe no public school system, but your own publication has taken note of the power of the Catholic Church to improve the scholastic lot of inner city kids right here: http://www.city-journal.org/2011/21_2_catholic-schools.html
What really matters is the child having a grown-up who talks to him or her, asking and answering questions, and reads out loud to him or her for at least an hour a day.
It always depresses me to see teachers begging parents (or books with little blurbs begging parents) to take "only twenty minutes!" to improve "your child's scores!"
Spend $33.00 on Dr. Seuss's beginner book collection and Margaret Wise Brown's Goodnight Moon and then spend the time most parents spend dumping the kid in front of the TV, the computer, or the gameboy READING WITH THE KID
http://www.thecriticalmom.com
I teach high school social studies and was under the impression that the common core is more about teaching skills than specific content. Am I mistaken?

Also, your proposal to increase the minimum hours that teachers work is pretty vague. Are you asking the city to assign us new responsibilities or do you want them to start paying us for the work we already do after school. Because if it's the former, I'd prefer that the DOE go after the "slackers" than give more work to the good teachers. Being overwhelmed with planning and grading is pretty demoralizing, too.
Why would a mayor admit failure?

Just change the metrics or distort the results.

What do the kids matter when our popularity is foremost?