I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Where Do They Find These Guys?

Would it be OK if the people in charge of ensuring the quality of airline pilots had never flown a plane before?

Would it be fine if the folks who made sure dentists maintain high standards had never filled a cavity?

Would you be happy if you knew your accountant had been licensed by people who didn't know how to balance a checkbook?

The man in charge of New Jersey’s latest effort to improve teacher quality easily uses terms like “human capital continuum,” “skill sets,” and “gap analysis.” 
Peter Shulman, the new assistant state commissioner and chief talent officer, is a very much a systems guy. That's hardly surprising for someone not that long from getting an MBA from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. 
Yet Shulman’s education and experience belie his 36 years. While he never taught in a classroom, he has held administrative stints in the Miami-Dade public schools and headed up the teacher quality push for Delaware’s education department, a forerunner in the education reform world. Shulman also holds a master's in education from Penn. [emphasis mine]
Seriously? A guy who never taught is going to be in charge of improving teacher quality?

Can everyone understand why I and thousands of my colleagues are so sick and tired of these clowns in Trenton? Can you understand how insulting it is to have been left out of the process of regulating our own profession from the very beginning until now?

Where do they find these guys, anyway?
This is the second top staff member that Cerf has brought from Delaware, the first being project management director James Palmer. Shulman -- like Cerf -- is also an alumnus of the Broad Foundation’s education network, a large class of reform-minded education officials spanning the country,
An unaccredited, unaccountable, reformy network, you mean. This isn't serious, academic training; it's career building. No one should ever get any credit for going to Eli Broad's little summer camp in Los Angeles so they can line up their next gigs.
Shulman in the interview said Delaware provided some lessons for New Jersey in its teacher evaluation efforts. While it is well ahead of New Jersey in designing a new system, Shulman said it is still at least a year off from having something in place that will have direct consequences for teachers. 
Via Bruce Baker, here are some reasons New Jersey should never, ever emulate "reform-minded" Delaware:

New Jersey kicked ass on the last NAEP; why would we ever want to go backwards toward Delaware?

So it goes down in Trenton these days: unqualified, poorly-trained bureaucrats, making up teacher evaluation and training schemes with almost no input from those of us actually doing the job.



Anonymous said...

roflmao.....Would it be okay if we gave airline pilots guaranteed jobs for life after three years? Seriously, try to read what you write.

Anonymous said...

When they respond with slogans, they've got nothing else.

Don't let'em waste your time, Duke.

Duke said...

Anon, your analogy only makes sense if teachers get guaranteed jobs for life after three years.

They don't.

Anonymous said...

Duke, thank you! This "guaranteed job for life" nonsense, spewed by those who don't read before they write or speak, makes me nuts. I love your blog, and this is a terrific post.

Anonymous said...

Tenure does not guarantee a job for life. It means that a teacher who has proven himself/herself has a contract as long as he/she performs the job satisfactorily. A tenured teacher can still be laid off if there are budget cuts. A tenured teacher can be fired if s/he does not perform a satisfactory job. It's not that different from getting off probation in a job that has a a probationary period. You have a job as long as you do the job well and the job is not cut.

The focus should be on making success possible for all students. A person with a prestigious MBA degree is not necessarily qualified to determine what will make that possible. Schools are not a business. The success of schools depends largely on the values of society which has more to do with parents than with teachers. Look at China, for example. The parents value education and the children are not lazy and disrespectful there the way that American children have become. That is the biggest problem in education today: lack of respect for education and for educators.

The other huge problem is funding. Until funding is fairly distributed to schools, students in poor school districts will be short-changed.

Lisa said...

For a little tenure truth, fast forward to 9:44 in this clip from The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman Part 3.

Then watch the rest.


Unknown said...

Maybe this new guru can come in my classroom and show me how to be a quality teacher. I would love to see him try to tame and teach 34 16-year olds!

Anonymous said...

Come on....Politifact -- two tenured teachers fired for incompetence in ten years:


And the "come try my job thing" is worn thin. Come try being a EMT or a traffic cop or a short order cook or a commercial fisherman or a ditch digger or a nursing home aide for a day. Then ask them what they are making and how their health care is and their pension situation.

Anonymous said...

The point is that you don't see EMTs telling commercial fishermen how to do their jobs or vice versa. Applying a business model to education doesn't work because schools are not businesses.

Did you even read the article you posted? Yes, the article states that there was a very small number of teachers actually dismissed on charges of inefficiency. But do you, in your infinite wisdom, have any idea how many teachers were not asked back prior to attaining tenure? How many left the profession on their own because they believed themselves to be ineffective in the classroom? There are many ways to get a teacher out before and after he or she attains tenure that have nothing to do with filing charges. But then again, you would know this if you had ever set foot in a classroom.

Duke said...

Thx almost everyone.

Anon (the trollish one), from your link:

Bruce Baker, an associate professor in the Graduate School of Education at Rutgers University, who is not related to Steve Baker, said the 17 figure is not very meaningful because teachers are dismissed before reaching tenure status or they’re forced out later without charges being filed.

There also is no benchmark of how many bad teachers are out there, Baker said.

I have my issues with Politifact, and will have a post up this week about their latest "fact check."

"EMT or a traffic cop or a short order cook or a commercial fisherman or a ditch digger or a nursing home aide" - all work hard and deserve good health care and a retirement with dignity.

But not one of your examples requires a college degree. It is an expression of your contempt for teachers that you would not instead compare us to accountants or lawyers or engineers or stock brokers or nurses.

Keep my sitemeter spinning...

Anonymous said...

@anon 6:50PM
Your constant rant and whine about teacher tenure is wearing thin. Do you have a problem with innocent until proven guilty? Tenure has been around for about 100+ years, even before the unions. No one is saying that teaching is the only difficult job but it is a difficult and demanding job that is demeaned and routinely disrespected by so many people. The teacher bashers are out there, they may claim to be against the unions and not the teachers, as if that is an acceptable position. As for the health aides in nursing homes, it's an absolute scandal that these people are paid poverty wages without health care. They earn peon wages while all the profit goes to the few top executives in the corporation. If we had a strong union movement in this country, it would help to level the playing field and lessen the income disparity gap in this country. God forbid teachers are unionized and that they fight for better wages and working conditions. Union busting has been going on for decades and it has paid off. The unionization rate for this country is about 11.9%, much lower than Japan, Germany, Canada and most of the western European nations. Finland's unionization rate is above 80% and Sweden's is well above 70%. At the rate we are going, unions will be gone or become totally gutted in 10 years.

Lisa said...

Anonymous (the trollish), your comment compels me to post a very uncomfortable reply for me, as I feel it makes me sound as haughty as you. Nonetheless...

I'm a dean's list graduate of George Washington University currently half way to a master's. In addition to my 14 years as a special ed teacher, I spent over 15 years in corporate America working for such companies as Citicorp, Lucent, and ATT. I was a Certified Financial Planner (six exams over two years), worked as a stock broker (which also required I pass the registered representative exam), and a corporate trainer and technical writer.

I am not unique as a NJ public school teacher and feel honored to be counted among them.

Take a guess what my education has cost, and the time and commitment I've made to it.

Why do you equate our profession, education, and experience, what we do, and how we should be compensated with that of a ditch digger, nursing home aide, etc.?

There is nothing wrong with the jobs you listed and I do not mean to denigrate them in any way. However, they are in no way comparable, and your suggestion that they are is as uninformed as your argument--and demonstrates the palpable disdain you hold for the people without whom there would be no ditch diggers, EMTs, and nursing home aides, as well as doctors, executives, and judges.

Anonymous said...

First off, I am tired of seeing the usual thread of socialized Finland worship woven through these discussions. Do some research. Finnish is one of the simplest languages on earth. It is most closely related to Estonian --oddly, often the second highest testing European country despite its decidely un-Finnish emphasis on Big Education. Where are the union junkets to Estonia to figure out how wonderful they are doing? And while you are at it, take a look at how the Swedish-speaking population in the vaunted Finnish schools do. So much for the Finnish miracle.


Secondly, at Lisa, if you use all that combined life experience and education to teach gym -- I'm sorry, physical education -- at a K-2, setting up dodgeball games for 7 year olds all day for 180 days a year from 9 to 3:15pm, I don't think you should be compensated like someone teaching special ed high school physics. We have a guy locally of that exact description and a masters in "administration" making $118k with family healthcare and pension. Of course he's been there 35 years, (not including all the recent on the job injuries and worker's comp) so my son is getting the best possible core competency in dodgeball, although that young special ed high school physics teacher left for a better paying job.

Anonymous said...

Oh my God, Finnish is one of the simplest languages on earth??!!? According to whom and by what standards? And so what if Finnish is a supposedly simple language, what would that have to do with anything, would it make it's educational system any less effective or successful? Finland is a free capitalistic democracy with some of the best social programs on earth. We can only dream of what the Finns have in the way of social programs. The right wing in this country want to destroy and eliminate the few social programs that we have, including our public school system. Anon's (troll) comments about Finland and Estonia are just laughable.

Duke said...

Now I'm being trolled by people who think they are linguists...

Yeah, I'll tell you, those union junkets are great!


I think it's a sign of how well propaganda works on some people that someone comes here and complains a teacher with a masters degree and 35 years of experience makes barely six-figures in one of the highest cost-of-living states in the nation.

How much do you think this man should get paid? Does he deserve to send his kids to college? Should he be able to afford a house? Take a vacation?

Would you ever consider this as part of the problem instead?


Last thing: I've known great PE teachers whose schools were damn lucky to have them. They make a difference in the lives of kids every day.

Anonymous said...

I guess it is an easy language because even the little kids over there can speak it-- without an accent! Let's end this valse triste--back under your bridge, troll or will set the big billy goat on ya!

Duke said...

"I guess it is an easy language because even the little kids over there can speak it"

You made me spit my tea up laughing...

Anonymous said...

From Anon/troll. lol on the accent joke, although stolen from Steve Martin "even the little kids in the streets in Paris can speak French!!"

I'm sure you all had fun mocking it, but first read the link on Finnish before chortling about the linguist connection. The same thesis has been put forward on the simple structure of Asian language in math ("eleven is ten one, tewelve is ten two," etc). Don't quote me on the semantics there, but the concept is that two year olds struggling to count to 30 get it a lot quicker in Japan. Read the link -- it has very specific examples of the simplicity of the root base of a homogenous language as opposed to English, cobbled together from dozens of influences. And if you discount it, fine -- tell me why no one is excited to study Estonia, the perennial number two on PISA testing.

@Duke. The argument that it takes three years to get tenure dodges the whole point of an argument about firing tenured teachers, and not even particularly eloquently. Someone's skill set, energy level, committment, etc. at 27 may have little or nothing to do with that person at 37, 47 or 57 after they become, in effect, bulletproof on competency. It is an insult to both the teacher profession and our children that so little concern is placed on the performance of teachers and the importance of the teaching process and the damage a poor one does. To me, the great teachers are undercompensated and the lousy ones are unidentified, uncorrected and overcompensated at any price.

@Lisa. Sorry, but it is insane to say because of this education or that job experience anyone deserves X compensation in an relatively unrelated profession. Your time at Lucent is wonderful and the money you spent on your education is your own decision but it deosn't guarantee you a public sector ROI from your fellow taxpayers. A job has to pay what it is worth, and when unionistas say a K-2 gym teacher who hasn't improved his education, knowledge and skill set deserves compensation beyond what a science or math high school special ed teachers does, you just lose all credibility with the audience. Trust me, you do. It doesn't work in any other line of work.

Duke said...

Anon: looks like you had a nice afternoon here commenting on the blog.

I was at work. Teaching.

So I know the thought of teachers have a job for life after three years is ludicrous. I've seen it. Teachers are counseled out of the profession all the time.

When you can provide me with real evidence of tenure affecting teacher performance, let me know. I've done the research, and I will tell you it's not there. Go to Ed Reform 101 at Blue Jersey to see it.

Lisa said...

Anon, it is only insane to say that compensation everywhere, especially in the private sector, isn't tied to x education or y experience, if one has never worked or is entirely uninformed.

Of course it is.

And your view of tenure is equally uninformed. In my own microcosm of one district, I've seen dozens of tenured teachers riffed, reassigned, and, as Duke said, "evaluated and counseled out" of their job--which, btw, IS part of the tenure process. This is the same as the corporate process of "counseling" or forcing employees to quit instead of being fired, plenty of which I've also seen.

And if education is to adopt the corporate model, you'll be paying teachers way more than you are now, which includes respecting, compensating, providing perks for, rewarding, and promoting experience and education. Rarely, if EVER, do you find a corporate employee with over 10 years experience, doing the exact same job with the exact same responsibilities as a green, entry level, inexperienced college grad, and earning less than $10,000 more. Rarely, if ever, does a corporation completely ignore and not compensate for work experience an employee has from another company or industry, as public education currently does.

So you'd rather have the teaching profession compared to and modeled after a corporate career than, say, that of a ditch digger? Go for it. Now, how are you going to pay for it?