Chicago strike ends, but debate continues over how we regard and treat teachers in America

A relieved Chicago sent its children back to school today as teachers agree to tentative contract. (AP Images)

A relieved Chicago sent its children back to school today as teachers agree to tentative contract. (AP Images)

Today, 350,000 students return to school in Chicago where the striking teachers’ union has agreed to a tentative contract.

Much commentary has been written about the seven-day strike but I found this piece by New York Times columnist Joe Nocera among the most interesting. He talks to noted education researcher Marc Tucker, quoted here on the blog a few months on why Finnish schools perform so well.

An ongoing frustration with education debates — including many on this blog — is that we focus on things that don’t matter, that appeal to ideologues and bumper sticker voters who don’t have time to read the fine print.

Georgia is now in a frenzy over a charter school amendment that will do nothing to dramatically alter school transformation. Millions will be spent in the battle, a fair share coming from for-profit education companies that see Georgia a potential new market for their wares.

And the amendment won’t do a thing ultimately for the overall performance of students in Georgia. How do I know? Because we have the examples of other states that have gone down this road before us. And they did not find redemption. Not one has seen remarkable improvements by a dramatic expansion of charter schools.  As I have noted again and again, the states that are gaining on us are doing so by investing in standards, curriculum and teacher quality.

But we don’t seem to benefit from anyone else’s mistakes or successes, locally or abroad.  The countries transforming their education systems have trained, lifted and empowered teachers, elevating the profession to the status of doctors and lawyers. They have not beaten teachers down, marginalized them and run them off.

I agree with the frequent observations of many folks on this blog — Lee, for one — that every profession is working a lot harder for a lot less. I have done something in the last few years that I never did before in 25 years as a journalist, walked away from unused vacation because my workload won’t allow me to take the break.

Here is the difference. If I get burned out and quit, the consequences are not dire. The blog could fade away without loss to the state’s well-being or future. Or Jerry, Bootney, Dunwoody Mom, Dr. Henson, Jordan Kohanim, Catlady or any number of talented writers could apply for the job.

But if we lose teachers in large numbers, there are serious consequences to the state. Their contribution to the public good is more important than many other professions. If you want to see what happens to a country without an effective, functioning education system, look at the third-world nations.

Here is an excerpt of Nocera’s interview with Tucker. Please try to read the full piece before commenting.

“It is not possible to make progress with your students if you are at war with your teachers,” says Marc Tucker.

Tucker, 72, a former senior education official in Washington, is the president of the National Center on Education and the Economy, which he founded in 1988. Since then he has focused much of his research on comparing public education in the United States with that of places that have far better results than we do — places like Finland, Japan, Shanghai and Ontario, Canada. His essential conclusion is that the best education systems share common traits — almost none of which are embodied in either the current American system or in the reform ideas that have gained sway over the last decade or so.

“We have to find a way to work with teachers and unions while at the same time working to greatly raise the quality of teachers,” he told me recently. He has some clear ideas about how to go about that. His starting point is not the public schools themselves but the universities that educate teachers. Teacher education in America is vastly inferior to many other countries; we neither emphasize pedagogy — i.e., how to teach — nor demand mastery of the subject matter. Both are a given in the top-performing countries. (Indeed, it is striking how many nonprofit education programs in the U.S. are aimed at helping working teachers do a better job — because they’ve never learned the right techniques.)

What is also a given in other countries is that teaching has a status equal to other white-collar professionals. That was once true in America, but Tucker believes that a quarter-century of income inequality saw teachers lose out at the expense of lawyers and other well-paid professionals. That is a large part of the reason that teachers’ unions have become so obstreperous: It is not just that they feel underpaid, but they feel undervalued. Tucker believes that teachers should be paid more — though not exorbitantly. But making teacher education more rigorous — and imbuing the profession with more status — is just as important. “Other countries have raised their standards for getting into teachers’ colleges,” he told me. “We need to do the same.”

Second, he believes that it makes no sense to demonize unions. Instead, he points to the example of Ontario, where a decade ago, a new government decided to embrace the teachers’ unions — to treat them as partners instead of as adversaries. The result? Ontario now has some of the best student achievement in the world. (Alas, relations between teachers and the government have recently deteriorated after a two-year wage freeze was imposed.)

High-performing countries don’t abandon teacher standards. On the contrary. Teachers who feel part of a collaborative effort are far more willing to be evaluated for their job performance — just like any other professional. It should also be noted that none of the best-performing countries rely as heavily as the U.S. does on the blunt instrument of standardized tests. That is yet another lesson we have failed to learn.

The Chicago teachers’ strike exemplifies, in stark terms, how misguided the battle over education has become. The teachers are fighting for the things industrial unions have always fought for: seniority, favorable work rules and fierce resistance to performance measures. City Hall is fighting to institute reforms no top-performing country has ever seen fit to use, and which probably won’t make much difference if they are instituted.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

86 comments Add your comment

banshee29

September 19th, 2012
10:25 am

Yes but the problem persists…shortening budgets that have to be shored up somewhere. You get what you pay for Maureen. If salaries continue to fall, so will teacher quality. I for one do not alter my teaching effectiveness in the classroom because I continue to get my salary and benefits lowered, but I have begun looking for gainful employment in other fields. Wouldn’t you?

Karl Marx

September 19th, 2012
10:34 am

Banshee said “but I have begun looking for gainful employment in other fields. Wouldn’t you?”

Good for you but here is some advice. Don’t think you will find employment in other fields that has not drop significantly over 2008 levels. Every job in the private sector has been impacted by the “lowering of salaries’” and the outright elimination of benefits. Most people looking for private sector employment are finding it takes at least a year to find something better that a fast food clerks job. Anyway welcome to the real world. Let us know how it works out OK.

Jordan Kohanim

September 19th, 2012
10:40 am

I found a job in two weeks. I don’t want you to leave teaching, but please don’t let the doomsayers tell you there is NOTHING else out there. It is untrue.

dc

September 19th, 2012
10:47 am

I will say that the approach some teachers take in saying “we aren’t responsible for a students performance, because their parents aren’t involved” is really a disastrous approach. What that says to taxpayers is, our (teachers) hands our tied, there is nothing we can do to deal with the situation, and so it’s not our fault. If that’s the case, then why spend so much money on schools and teachers?

I still love the statement from the guy who ran the NYC school system that went something like “people tell me we can’t fix the schools until we fix poverty…..I think they have it backwards, that we can’t fix poverty until we fix the schools”. Now…I know it’s hard, or it would’ve been fixed already. but simply throwing your hands up and complaining isn’t a good way to win back the taxpayers support.

Bernie

September 19th, 2012
10:48 am

Teaching Was at one time, a Noble Profession In America.There is trend afoot that has taking once NOBLE professions and are now slowly turning these same professions into TECHNICIANS. It has already occurred with Physicians and now we see a forward motion to do the same with TEACHERS. We must re-evaluate this trend to insure, we are not doing more harm culturally and spiritually in the long run our attempt make these short term gains. We must seriously consider is it worth the long term harm, we are inflicting on ourselves as a society.

TECHNICIANS ARE not TEACHERS………

catlady

September 19th, 2012
10:48 am

If you look at the Get Schooled for the last (any length of time) you would see why teachers in Georgia feel so beleaguered.

Heika

September 19th, 2012
10:51 am

Colleges of teacher education would welcome higher and rigorous standards for entry – if the esteem and pay of the profession rises as well. If standards are the only thing to rise, then the mediocre students who are currently teacher ed’s bread and butter won’t make the cut, and the better-performing students will not even give the profession a glance. Those colleges would then vanish, and there would be a severe teacher shortage. Standards for teacher ed cannot rise alone without other professional factors improving as well.

William Casey

September 19th, 2012
10:56 am

“Anyway welcome to the real world.” This taunting phrase is somewhat indicative of the problem in American schools. “Karl Marx” seems to think that my 31 years experience as a teacher, coach and administrator in public and private schools is comparable to a weekend in Disney World. Believe me, educating other people’s children is about as “real” as work gets. Teaching was truely a “calling” for me, but I wonder if I would even consider it were I coming along today.

Once Again

September 19th, 2012
10:56 am

One thing is very clear. The pay/benefits/pension/medical for these folks is WAY more than they deserve. The citizens of Chicago, much like the citizens of nearly every city in america will be on the hook for these people’s retirement benefits until the end of time or until the city finally declares bankruptcy. In the private sector a business makes a decision about its ability to fund a long term pension obligation based on its belief in its ability to continue producing products/services that will generate sufficient revenue combined with investment return. In city govenrment, these pensions are all funded through the non-stop theft from the citizens. NOTHING IS PRODUCED. There is no voluntary exchange. While folks in the private sector see their 401ks lose money (a government forced creation by the way), they are forced to cut back, skip meals, etc. in order to pay their ever-rising property taxes so that these non-workers can sit back and enjoy their full salary pensions, full medical, etc. It is just plain disgusting.

It is not enough that all of these folks made their entire salaries in a marketplace where free choice was prohibited and their wages were stolen from the taxpayers. Now they help further empoverish these same folks for the rest of their lives with benefits that no private sector employee could ever dream of.

When these pension promises are made, they are in perpetuity. It is the equivalent of taxation without representation as multiple future generations will be paying for the decisions of these bought and paid for city councilmen and women. All retirement accounts should be private. They should not be dictated by the govenrment nor funded through this kind of taxation scheme. No citizen should have to make the choice of eating or losing their house just so a $75K government employee can get their regular paycheck and full medical for the rest of their life.

It will be interesting to see how these folks manage when the end comes for the US dollar and our overall economy. No doubt they will be the loudest screamers demanding that grandma be robbed some more so they can enjoy their own retirement.

Mountain Man

September 19th, 2012
11:04 am

“Colleges of teacher education would welcome higher and rigorous standards for entry – if the esteem and pay of the profession rises as well. If standards are the only thing to rise, then the mediocre students who are currently teacher ed’s bread and butter won’t make the cut, and the better-performing students will not even give the profession a glance.Those colleges would then vanish, and there would be a severe teacher shortage.”

That would be a good start – then maybe administrators would get the idea about how to fix education – through making good working conditions and dealing with the REAL problems in the school system and not blaming teachers for things not in their control.

3schoolkids

September 19th, 2012
11:09 am

NOTHING IS PRODUCED????? Wow, that says it all.

Heika

September 19th, 2012
11:16 am

@Once Again Cool story, bro.

teacher&mom

September 19th, 2012
11:18 am

@Maureen: excellent post.

In our district, most new teachers, who have completed a traditional university education program, arrive adequately prepared to face their first year. The non-traditional teachers are the ones who are the least prepared.

We also do a poor job of helping teachers develop and hone their craft. Staff development is weak or nonexistent. Quality staff development is hard to find and costs money.

This post appeared in the Washington Post last week:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/why-people-look-down-on-teachers/2012/09/14/0347c52a-fddf-11e1-a31e-804fccb658f9_blog.html

banshee29

September 19th, 2012
11:20 am

No product? Therefore my work is all for naught? Explain dear sir how you can determine if my pay is way more than I deserve? Are my 4 college degrees useless as well? I concur with 3school kids…you have summed up the issue perfectly.

teacher&mom

September 19th, 2012
11:20 am

Based on my punctuation skills, I’ll never replace a newspaper reporter. :)

I just re-read my post and realized I should never try to post on the way to lunch.

Frankie

September 19th, 2012
11:41 am

THe product is supposed to be n educated teen ager who can impact the world in a positive way.
The realizaton is that the children that are sent to us are the “best kids their parents can send”.
that is not to say that the upbringing has a lot to be desired, but ignorance begets ignorance..
when you have to deal with discipline, ignorant parents, missed school days, guns in the school…did ai say ignorant parents…then how do you expect to successfully teach.
I am all for separation of students/schools based on grades and
achievement.
Students with 2.75 GPA and above attend a school and those with GPAs below that attend another school.
Yuo have to want to learn on order to succeed…..

Mortimer Collins

September 19th, 2012
11:49 am

Cry me a river. Nothing like a storm in a teacup to get the ole juices flowing. Many of these teachers are no more intelligent/educated than those they teach. They massacre the English language, complain, expect more for less then make these noble statements like “I do it for the children” etc.

All bunk and baloney. They do it for a paycheck, benefits and job security.

Let the mollycoddling cease and firing being, IN EARNEST!!

living in an outdated ed system

September 19th, 2012
11:52 am

@Maureen, I return to your blog again for one reason. And I quote:

“Georgia is now in a frenzy over a charter school amendment that will do nothing to dramatically alter school transformation. Millions will be spent in the battle, a fair share coming from for-profit education companies that see Georgia a potential new market for their wares.

And the amendment won’t do a thing ultimately for the overall performance of students in Georgia. How do I know? Because we have the examples of other states that have gone down this road before us. And they did not find redemption. Not one has seen remarkable improvements by a dramatic expansion of charter schools. As I have noted again and again, the states that are gaining on us are doing so by investing in standards, curriculum and teacher quality.”

Herein lies the problem. You again have made very clear your political bias and not speaking in a bi-partisan fashion. We have talked ad nauseum about the fact that you have to give charter schools a bit of time to demonstrate results. The research is premature at best. As an analogy, read Michael Horn’s criticism of the Daily News counterproductive attack on the NYC “School of One”
http://www.innosightinstitute.org/education-blog/the-counterproductive-attack-on-nycs-school-of-one/

There are no standards in “education journalism,” especially with how newspapers conduct research. As an industry, we need to develop some standards herein. My friend Audrey Waters raised this issue in her blog back in April

http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/HackEducation/~3/j-_ui5IlWTo/

You claim that the amendment won’t solve our education woes. Maybe it will. What we are dealing with is a public education system that has demonstrated time and time again it is incapable of reforming itself. So for that reason, we need to let innovation take place by allowing other public options, and the amendment is necessary because local school board monopolies have not been friendly to charter schools. Examples: Tech High, Ivy Preparatory Academy, Drew Charter, KIPP, etc. The list goes on and on.

Your comment about the charter school amendment has nothing to do with the Chicago teachers strike. I too have read the article above even before you re-published it. Marc Tucker is a very smart guy and I respect his work immensely. The problem with your comments are that teachers unions have shown very little appetite for compromise. And it doesn’t help matters when school districts such as Dekalb have a shortage of math teachers! How can a student not be getting math in school??? This is perfect reason to explore the opportunities that digital learning can afford students, but such recommendations are lambasted by the majority of readers on this blog.

We need to get back to basics, and that means getting back to training and preparing great teachers for a world that is vastly different than the one with bricks and mortar. Peter Mayer of EducationNext talked about the fact that in Chicago, “99.7% of Chicago teachers are rated satisfactory while the graduation rate is just 60%, only 20% of eighth-graders are proficient in reading and less than 8% of 11th-graders are college-ready on state tests.” I am not saying we need more tests, but as an indicator, they show a failure in educating our children. And it is happening everywhere, even in Georgia.

This week marked the Jewish New Year, and I committed myself to getting back to the American values of “civil discourse.” We have forgotten as a society to debate civilly. I acknowledge having made some aggressive posts in the past, but that will not recur.

The Chicago strike indicated one thing: that if all parties cannot collaborate on reform, then we need to look at alternative school designs which will show us the way. That is what the charter school amendment is about. It is not about private vouchers or lambasting teachers unions or taxation without representation. It is about new solutions for Georgia’s students. And lets not be afraid to look at other nations that are doing it well, like Singapore: http://asiasociety.org/education/learning-world/how-singapore-developed-high-quality-teacher-workforce

Lets start thinking of our children and ensuring that our teachers are well educated, well trained, well compensated, and fairly evaluated. And lets get back to basics, which means collaboration or die. I choose the former.

Cindy Lutenbacher

September 19th, 2012
11:58 am

Seems that most of the Chicago teachers’ demands have everything to do with a quality education for the kids. And these demands have actual, independent research (as opposed to bogus) to stand behind them.
CTU demands:

Smaller class sizes.
More playgrounds, recess time, and physical education classes.
More art, dance, theater, music, and foreign language instruction.
More funding for libraries.
Healthier school lunches.
School nurses
An end to the “apartheid-like” Chicago Public School system today and an end to “discipline policies with a disproportionate harm on students of color.”
Guarantee pre-K and full-day kindergarten for all students.
Higher teacher salaries and more teacher autonomy.
Better bilingual and special needs programs.
Higher-quality school facilities.
How many of us have troubled ourselves to learn just what the strike was about? I know I haven’t spent enough time learning the facts.
http://www.ctunet.com/blog/text/SCSD_Report-02-16-2012-1.pdf

Dr. Craig Spinks/ Georgians for Educational Excellence

September 19th, 2012
11:58 am

What are we teachers and our professional groups doing to reach out to parents generally and parents of our own students specifically?

Grasshopper

September 19th, 2012
12:10 pm

Tucker makes some good points. I would add that many professions have suffered the same fate as teachers; retail clerks used to be paid well and command respect as well.

Comparing the US to Finland, Japan, and Shanghai is problematic considering their homogenous demographics of those countries and the lack of significant immigration.

“It should also be noted that none of the best-performing countries rely as heavily as the U.S. does on the blunt instrument of standardized tests. That is yet another lesson we have failed to learn.” — This statement should not be glossed over so quickly. My sister has been a teacher in Cobb schools for 20 years now. She reports the amount of time spent on bureacratic paperwork instead of teaching and planning has gone through the roof. The more govt. involvement esp. at the federal level there is, the less actual teaching will be emphasized in the classroom. Fact.

Mitch

September 19th, 2012
12:11 pm

We are certainly the most diverse country in the world with people from over one hundred countries right here in Georgia. We are involved in every possible occupation and activity. Yet, we want to teach every student exactly the same things, This cheats the high and the low achiever equally. Some students in the middle do OK. Teachers can only teach what is on the script for the day.
Regardless the teacher’s skills, everthing they teach is determined by State Board of Ed. and the Federal Dept of Ed. I have a vision of these people working in a windowless silo with no way to communicate with the outside world. There is no logical way to compare us with Finland or Japan. We still have many winners in our system.

Solutions

September 19th, 2012
12:19 pm

I agree with Mortimer Collins, I would just add that esteem is earned by a lifetime of hard work and performance. Comparing education majors to physicians is insane, pre-med along is many times as demanding as any education degree, let alone the four years of medical school, and the three plus years of residency. I will not defend the worthless lawyers, I suspect teachers are marginally better than the worthless, parasitic lawyers.

Maureen Downey

September 19th, 2012
12:24 pm

@Grasshopper, I talked yesterday to a Race to the Top liaison/teacher from a local elementary about the pre and post tests being piloted at her school and it sounded like a nightmare, as much due to the cumbersome and convoluted process to record and share the data. Teachers had to administer these tests one on one to the youngest students. The first grade test was three pages; the third grade test was nine. Then, the tests had to be copied to be scanned into computers. The worst part is that this liaison does not think these tests, developed by her district rather than purchased off a shelf, will tell much about where students started or ended up. Her school only has one lead administrator, the principal, who is out of the building a lot at district meetings. So, the school has had a challenge getting all the required teacher/classroom observations completed as well.
She also talked about how rushed the RTTT program is becoming. Still wonder if this is going to end up being a disaster because the time frame is unrealistic, as may be some of the goals.

Jordan Kohanim

September 19th, 2012
12:32 pm

Solutions said “I suspect teachers are marginally better than the worthless, parasitic lawyers.”

That explains most of your posts. Is this all teachers? Should we get rid of all of them?

Cindy Lutenbacher

September 19th, 2012
12:51 pm

Also, if one accepts international tests (as do all who say that the U.S. public education system is broken), then the U.S. scores very well when we control for rates of poverty. Poverty is not an “excuse” for anything. Poverty affects everything from nutrition to access to books to school attendance, and so much more. If the richest country in the world did not have the highest rate of child poverty in all industrialized countries, our scores would shine.

I do, however, like some of the thoughts in the piece–that teachers should be respected as professionals and that unions are important. Well, at least, those are some things I took.

But I don’t trust Marc Tucker, who has made his fortune from creating entities that toot his horn and serve the corporate takeover of education. I also wonder why the NYT thinks Joe Nocera, whose entire life and background are in business, profits, financial matters, and the like, should be writing about education. Perhaps both men are symptoms of a deep lack of respect for the profession of teaching.

another comment

September 19th, 2012
12:53 pm

I was fortunate to attend schools up North in a small school district with union teachers. My school district consisted of 3 small towns and part of the unicorporated town of a larger town/village. We had only one high school, one middle school and 3-4 elementary schools. This district with the district next door, which is the one everyone in the area (including my Parent’s, Aunts and Uncles went to until 1960 when they open my High School) share a Vo-tech school. Those who want to learn a trade go 1/2 a day to the Vo-tech school every afternoon of Jr. and Sr. year. They are fully prepared for a trade career. If they want more trade training they can go on to a 2 year school in the State Univ. System. They have no problem of being accepted.

The communities are all stable and have diverse economic backgrounds. I have one set of Grandparents that moved out from the city in 1934 and bought a part of one of the Estates at a Foreclosure Auction. My father grew up with a Nanny and Cook, his mother drove around as a socialite in her Packard. My mothers immigrant family moved out to work on one of the Estates as a the gardner and the maid. They lived a 1/2 mile from each other. The town had the Fisher Price toys factory, now closed, it is the Corporate Headquarters. It also has an electronic factory. Another town in the district has Moog synthisisers, factors. There are small business, as well as people commute into the city.

The main thing about the union teachers and the small districts. The teachers have always been well compensated. They are able to live a middle class life and live within the community. Sure the tax rate is higher, but then does everybody need to live in a 3,000 to 4,000 sq. ft. house. The answer is no. The square footage of the houses up North are smaller, because the taxes are higher. It also costs alot more to heat alot of unused space. Most of us could live just as easily in 2000 sf. as in 3000 sf. But this area like Texas has become the build more as better.

I would pay more for better pay and benefits for teachers. I would also expect that we start with the District size and reduce it, to small local control districts. No county wide districts. No school board emprires. We must get rid of one side fits all. We must split up classes based on what the students ability is. Target or Tag doesn’t do it. The kids in the middle or who just miss Target/tag should not be with the 80 IQ kids. Also, kids shouldn’t be stuck in a class with the kid on parole.

There must be higher teacher education school standards. They are way to low in this state. There also must be some sort of oral exam to ensure that teachers can speak proper English. Adminstrators too. Parents should be required to volunteer. Every single free lunch application should be audited. That would solve alot of problems.

If teachers want to be professionals I am all for it. They should be paid as professionals. But please do not complain about extra hours.

Teachers should not have to buy supplies. Some parents also should not be expected to supply the supplies for the school and other children. We all know that only a certain percentage of the students actually bring in the supplies. When my children were at Catholic School they started making the supplies a fundraiser. They had a deal with a supplier that you could pre-order your supplies for about $25 they would be there on the first day in a box for your child, the school would then get free supplies or cash rebate. If you bought by your self it was double of triple this cost to buy these things. It was made clear this was mandatory.

Cindy Lutenbacher

September 19th, 2012
12:54 pm

Maureen, I do think RttT is a nightmare that will cost us far more in dollars (not to mention destruction of schools) than the the grant.

Bubba

September 19th, 2012
12:57 pm

Teachers should be treated for what they are:
employees – nothing more, nothing less

It’s interesting to see how much test scores have improved the past couple of years since:
- Class sizes have gone up a good bit
- Teacher pay/benefits have been cut
- Teachers have more pressure to perform or be cut

Same students, books, school buildings, school buses, parents – just more pressure on the teachers – and test scores have gone up.

Irisheyes

September 19th, 2012
1:19 pm

Cindy had it right. All the media focused on was salary. The teachers in Chicago were fighting for a lot more than that. Did you know that 1/3 of the schools in CPS don’t have a LIBRARY? I find that astonishing. Yet, the BOE can find millions to send to charter schools that are run by private corporations.

Sunday on Up with Chris Hayes, they had a great discussion about the teachers strike. Google Matt Farmer. He’s a parent whose kids go to a high achieving school in CPS, but he understands that ALL students need the same resources at schools his kids have.

TheGoldenRam

September 19th, 2012
1:24 pm

Would we care to do some demographic comparisons between these foreign countries/provinces and Atlanta, GA? Ontario is one of the most marriage/family centric communities in the Western Hemisphere.
http://www.globaltvedmonton.com/marriage+children+still+the+norm+in+alberta+ontario+census/6442718010/story.html

http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/13/1304000.html

http://www.usatoday.com/NEWS/usaedition/2012-04-12-Cohabiting—with-kids—_ST_U.htm

From the article, “About 80% of first children born to black women were outside of marriage; 18% of these women were cohabiting. Among Hispanics, 53% of first children were born outside of marriage, and 30% of the women were cohabiting. Among white women, 34% of first children were born outside of marriage, 20% to cohabiters. Among Asians, 13% of first children were born outside of marriage; 7% of women were cohabiting.”

I’m not a religious person. Not even close. Too many years of studying history & anthropology can do that to a person. However, I have awesome parents and a wonderful family. I’m 39 years-old and I still benefit greatly from my relationships with my mom & dad. There is just no replacement for the “team-work”, “partnership”, “support structure”, etc. etc, that comes from being in a family. It’s a cultural condition that provides tremendous advantages in life.

I watched from the front row for decades as my mom & her fellow teachers marched off into noble battle in public elementary education. Nothing, and I mean NOTHING, made a greater impact in the lives of those kids than the level of stability and support in their homes and communities.

Teachers, schools and the public education system in general cannot compensate for the cultural and moral breakdown in so many communities. The achievement gap and the perception of “failing public schools” are never going away. Teachers would be so well served to constantly make that distinction. Just repeat over and over to the media, “There are so many awesome public schools in our country, but we CANNOT be responsible for the breakdown in family and cultural values in some of these communities. We are professional educators, not social workers”.

There need to be two distinct worlds in public education. One that pursues the traditional course of academic instruction/achievement and one that focuses on proxy parenting/social skills/life skills/trade skills/etc. I’d be fine with us spending a lot more money on the latter, so long as it exists to keep the atmosphere in the former; cleaner, healthier & more professional. This one size-fits-all approach to public education that we have now is its undoing. Public education should end-run the voucher movement by creating its own voucher system from within the existing system. We are going to end up with this type of model anyway; the only question being who will be in control of it.

williebkind

September 19th, 2012
1:38 pm

So the salary for the Chicago teachers are 80k now with benefits? So more money equals better students? Technicians are not Teachers? I am glad this blog is for teachers and I know teachers are tax payers but the other taxpayers would never visit this blog often. So what am I doing here? Small newspaper?

jarvis

September 19th, 2012
1:41 pm

You are only telling half of the Finnish story though. Here is a great article on their system. http://www.pearsonfoundation.org/oecd/finland.html

Check the key facts on the side. It supports everything you say, but also shows the level of professional that is recruited into education in Finland. In addition to the support of the administration (who have to share in the teaching load) and the nearly 97% of the population being Finnish (no transients), the teachers in Finland are required to hold Master’s degrees and they are recruited out of the top 10% of their college classes.

By contrast, American primary education majors score among the lowest on our nation’s entrance exams. In a recent stud of GRE scores, our Primary Ed Grad Students scored 49, 49, and 46th on the three sections of the GRE in a list of 50 graduate school programs requiring the GRE for entrance.

Why is teaching held in esteem there like Medicine and Law is here? Because specialized skills are more needed for it in Finland.

William Casey

September 19th, 2012
1:53 pm

@GOLDENRAM: Your 1:24 post is one of the best I’ve ever seen on this blog. GOOD JOB!

Mountain Man

September 19th, 2012
1:56 pm

“Same students, books, school buildings, school buses, parents – just more pressure on the teachers – and test scores have gone up.”

We all know how APS achieved their increase.

Dr. Craig Spinks/ Georgians for Educational Excellence

September 19th, 2012
1:57 pm

Do we Georgians value our teachers and their work enough to volunteer to help them do it?

If not, what must we teachers, practicing AND RETIRED, do to achieve that level of valuation from our fellow Georgians?

Bubba

September 19th, 2012
1:58 pm

@mountain man: True. We should not broad brush all teachers/school districts as being cheaters like those in Atlanta.

drew (former teacher)

September 19th, 2012
2:02 pm

How do we regard teachers? Well, I know how Mortimer regards teachers:

“Many of these teachers are no more intelligent/educated than those they teach. They massacre the English language, complain, expect more for less then make these noble statements like “I do it for the children” etc. All bunk and baloney. They do it for a paycheck, benefits and job security.”

Ahhh…to possess the power to look into one’s soul and determine their true motives…must be nice, Morty.

Mort…I’ll concede that there are bad teachers, very much like those you describe. And for every one of them, there are 10 teachers busting their butts trying their damnedest, to do their jobs as best they can. But I guess it’s easier for you to just to throw it all into the teachers’ laps…keeps things black and white, so simpletons like you (and Solutions) can just blame all the shortcomings of public education on “teachers”.

Mr. Tucker has presented the evidence and provided a better way forward, and it’s not like we haven’t seen it before. Finland, Japan, Shanghai and Ontario are showing the way. The problem is that these systems have made progress by lifting teachers up. Don’t know about you, but I just don’t see that happening here. I suspect there’s as much political influence geared toward killing public education as there is trying to improve it.

At least until some enterprising capitalist finds a way to make a buck on it.

BTW…I left teaching and went straight into another job without missing a paycheck (as a matter of fact, I was getting two paychecks throughout that first summer!). Plus I got a pay raise and better benefits, I no longer have to carry my work home, and I get to spend my days with adults. I had forgotten how nice it was to be able to sit down and eat a quiet lunch…without 30 kids at my table. And although I left teaching with the intention of coming back, it’s been five years now and I have no desire to return to it…plus, I can’t afford a pay cut right now.

Halftrack

September 19th, 2012
2:03 pm

Teachers are basically a public servant. They work for the taxpayer; not the Unions. Their mind focus is on “entitlement”. Students are held to accountability through tests. Teachers should have a performance report as any other agency or group for accountability. When taxpayers look at how our State compares to other States on SAT scores, etc. plus how much remedial HS students need to do to be in college; tells a big story. Let’s concentrate on the kids outcome and the rest of the problems will take care of themselves.

Ron F.

September 19th, 2012
2:05 pm

“It is not enough that all of these folks made their entire salaries in a marketplace where free choice was prohibited and their wages were stolen from the taxpayers”

I bet you say that to the cops that pull you over too. And what about the firemen and EMT’s we all count on? Or the people who pave our roads or pick up our trash? Are they all stealing wages from taxpayers? By your definition, anyone who receives a salary or wages from the taxpayers is stealing.

Pride and Joy

September 19th, 2012
2:05 pm

We cannot improve education in Georgia until we improve teacher quality. My child’s teachers “Do he need a pencil?” and ” My principal inform me ….” I aksed …..
How did this person ever graduate high school? Does Georgia give black students a “pass” for speaking poorly?
Children learn grammar HEARING it. They learn present and past tense in GRAMMAR school — in kindergarten NOT from a book.
It is absolutely necessary for EVERY teacher in GA to speak English correctly. When we allow uneducated teachers with education degrees to speak to our children six hours a day using poor English, we are making sure our children will be jobless. How one speaks is extremely important. How one writes a resume is extremely important. We don’t have room for teachers who AKSes questions.

RCB

September 19th, 2012
2:07 pm

If you focus on parenting (not parents specifically) and discipline, I would expect these results. There’s no way you can compare the demographics.

Michael Moore

September 19th, 2012
2:13 pm

I once went on strike with my school district for six weeks. We went out in mid November after months of good faith bargaining. We went to fact finding. We did arbitration rejected by the Board. We went to binding arbitration which the board attorneys unbound and rejected and finally with no other recourse we struck at the start of a Western Pennsylvania winter. Issues of salary and benefits had been decided and agreed to in the first week of negotiations and were forgotten.

We struck over whether the independent bus company could dictate the school day, class size and the length of class periods. The bus company served several districts and admittedly was interested in making money.

Finally, the county judge had all the union officers and all the board members picked up by the sheriff and unceremoniously dumped in his court with instructions that no one could leave until there was a settlement. The Board brought in the bus company and settled (for that contract) on the side of kids and schools.

I went back to work earning my public teaching salary that qualified me for food stamps and a few years later I would become a university teacher accepting a cut in pay to do so.

Heika

September 19th, 2012
2:15 pm

@Ron F.: *shhhh* Those professions are mostly staffed by men, so they’re entitled to more respect.

Bubba

September 19th, 2012
2:20 pm

Heika:
It may be that those professions do a whole lot less whining on blogs and everywhere they can find someone to listen (than the female dominated teaching “profession” does).

Mountain Man

September 19th, 2012
2:36 pm

“Same students, books, school buildings, school buses, parents – just more pressure on the teachers – and test scores have gone up.”

I can beat my employees with a 2 x 4 and make them work harder and productivity will go up – temporarily. My employees might put up with it while they have no other choice, but eventually they will get tired of the beatings and find another (better) company to work for.

That is all academic if you don’t believe test scores have REALLY gone up.

Ron F.

September 19th, 2012
2:43 pm

Pride: I’m gonna go ahead and call you out on the racist nature of your comment about language. Pronunciation differences abound, especially here in the South. I wouldn’t want someone from Boston teaching my child about the word “park” anymore than I want the sing-song of Southern English with its added syllables “cay-ut” for “cat”.

It’s definitely no worse than the thousands of teachers imported over the last decade by charter schools for whom English is a second language. I’d rather have someone “ax” me a question I can at least understand as English.

Heika

September 19th, 2012
2:44 pm

Oh really?

Cops: http://www.realpolice.net/forums/, http://theerant.yuku.com/
Firemen: http://www.firehouse.com/forums/, http://detroitfirefighters.net/
EMTs: http://www.emtlife.com/

There, your plethora of other people complaining about their jobs. Ego, you are wrong.

Mortimer Collins

September 19th, 2012
2:48 pm

“Do we Georgians value our teachers and their work enough to volunteer to help them do it?”

Absolutely…NOT! Ive yet to have a teacher, french fry cook, attorney, volunteer to assist me in my job. The teachers wanted it, now they have it and will continue to belly-ache about all issues.

It doesnt take a village. It takes leaders and thanks to this politially correct society we are quite lacking in that area. That area being leaders with character, morals, conscience etc.

All this positive reinforcement is a recipe for disaster. Look at any union as an example but I guarantee you begin firing/terminating some rear-ends and the other worker-bees will fall in line.

Let the firings continue until employee morale improves.

Bubba

September 19th, 2012
3:02 pm

Heika:
You didn’t know about those forums until a few minutes ago – did you?
Don’t see any general public forums (AJC, etc.) for whiners in those professions – or am I missing something?