Why don’t we follow lead of countries well in front of us?

I have heard researcher Marc Tucker speak on several panels on international education and always found him compelling. He is president of the National Center on Education and the Economy and author of  “Surpassing Shanghai: An Agenda for American Education Built on the World’s Leading System.”

In this blog, he makes a point that seems lost in the current push for expanded school choice: “A growing number of countries are surpassing the United States in student performance and are spending less per student than the United States.  Not one has used choice and market incentives to do it…Wherever these theories have been turned into policy in the field of education, they have not produced the advertised results.  They have neither raised student performance nor lowered costs at the scale of a state, province or nation.  The record actually shows that they can even make things worse.”

We keep fretting about all the countries outpacing us academically without acknowledging that they’re doing so by focusing intensely on teacher quality. Why don’t we follow their successful game plans rather than scurry down the single reform road of vouchers and charters that thus far — according to the creditable research — isn’t leading to success? The state Legislature has just about made charters its only reform strategy and its only new investment.

While Georgia ought to welcome innovation and fresh approaches in all schools, it shouldn’t ignore the proven role of improved teacher education and quality.

If doctors in China or Finland had a treatment that was improving cancer cure rates, we would go over, study it and bring it back here. In education, we often observe the successful methods being employed elsewhere and then come back and cleave to politically driven models that research suggests won’t make much difference.

And Tucker’s piece explains why. This is a short excerpt of a long Ed Week blog. Please read his full piece before commenting:

By Marc Tucker

We know that the way to drive quality up and price down is to create a market and let competition in that market do its magic.

So it seems obvious that, if we want to improve student performance and drive down the skyrocketing costs of education, we need to create effective markets in education and lubricate those markets with choice.

But do we really know all that? What I have just stated is the theory behind some of the most popular education reform strategies in the United States today.

First, we need to look under the rug of the theory.  The theory says that, given choices, consumers will seek to maximize the value they are looking for in the product or service the industry offers.  The whole theory underlying the voucher and charter movements requires that assumption. But the evidence leads elsewhere. Parents are first and foremost looking for schools they regard as safe. Safety trumps everything else. Next, everything being equal, they are looking for schools that are close to the student’s home.  Beyond that, different things matter to different people. Many, at the secondary level, are looking for schools with the strongest possible competitive sports programs. The quality of the academic program at the school often comes way down the list in the United States. You can advocate increased choice because you value choice in a free society, but you cannot advocate choice because it will improve student performance.  It won’t, either in theory or in practice.

What really calls into question the idea that parents first and foremost seek schools for their children that maximize their academic achievement is what happens when the authorities try to close schools with abysmal student performance.

Communities across the country rise up in anger when an administration proposes to shut down its poor-performing schools and those who are angriest are the parents of the students currently in those schools.  According to the theory, that cannot happen, but it does, all the time.

That is because most parents, apart from the factors I mentioned above, look for teachers who seem to care about their kids, places where their children are comfortable and where people know them.  They want a school with a friendly staff and a principal who will solve the problems that parents bring to the principal’s office. Apparently, when they have all this in a school that is close to home and seems safe, they will take that any day over another school that might have higher test scores, but is an unknown on these other points.  Education reformers may want parents to make choices on the basis of student test scores, but they don’t.  And that blows a giant hole in the theory.

But there is another, deeper reason that the market theory is problematic.  Consider why one school produces students with higher test scores than another.  A famous 1965 U.S. Government report authored by a team headed by University of Chicago sociologist James Coleman found that the one of the most important factors explaining student performance was the socio-economic background of the other students in the school.  Parents, of course, know this, so when they can, they move to the school districts serving the wealthiest and best-educated parents they can afford to be associated with.  School choice is actually severely restricted in the United States even where it appears to be available.  Poor kids cannot choose to get their schooling in rich kids’ school districts.  They can’t even choose to get their schooling in districts that are only slightly richer than their own.  What kind of choice is that, when we know that the parent’s education background makes such a big difference in education outcomes?

This point about the influence of the customers on the quality of the service in the education arena is important for another reason.  Think, for a moment about another industry with which we are all familiar: the grocery business. Go out to the wealthy suburbs and you will find a wide variety of grocery stores, everything from Costco to Whole Foods, Safeway to the local convenience store.  But go to the inner city and it may be impossible to find any grocery store at all.  Why?  Because the big chains can’t make money there. But, you say, that isn’t true in education. Why?  Because state and federal categorical programs provide extra money for the poor and minorities, per pupil expenditures are sometimes higher in many big city school systems than in some of the nearby suburbs.  But so are the costs.  Our inner city systems have high concentrations of handicapped students, homeless students, and students who live in homes where English is not spoken. Even though there is money there, the costs are so high as to make it very difficult to offer a high quality service and still break even.

Ah, you say, but what about the best known of the charter management companies?  Don’t they show that I am wrong, that competent providers will seek out the communities that most need competent providers?  Actually, I don’t think so.  How many of the people who are likely to read this blog are likely to enroll their own children in the Green Dot schools?  Very, very few, I would guess.  They are good enough for other people’s children but not your own, I will wager.

In the end, the choice system and its market incentives will not improve average student performance, but it will, over time, work to make good schools better and bad schools worse.  Is that what we want?

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

135 comments Add your comment


September 29th, 2012
5:05 am

You cannot take lessons in Education from other countries and fit them to the US! As long as the US has a large,poor, urban minority there will be no advance on this issue. The bottom line is ,”Good Raw Materials make Good Students,”and sadly the inverse is also true!


September 29th, 2012
5:18 am

The debate IS about improving teacher quality. Until we stop overpaying teachers, hold them accountable and remove bulletproof job protections, there won’t be any progress.

Peter Smagorinsky

September 29th, 2012
5:57 am

Bc, your wishes have come true. In Georgia, teachers are already underpayed, are held accountable in terms of test scores, and have no job protection.

John Ellison

September 29th, 2012
6:14 am

The source of the problem with public K-12 schools is unions. Union rules won’t allow a great teacher to be paid more than a terrible teacher. It dampens the desire to be your best. On the other hand, a terrible teacher has no reason to work hard and improve his/her skills because he/she cannot be fired for poor job performance. Unions are all about maintaining job security for their members. Our children need to be represented by some powerful organization that will stand up to the Teacher’s unions. Our democrat politicians are in the pockets of the unions so who’s welfare are the politicians more concerned about? .

Grob Hahn

September 29th, 2012
6:39 am

Could it be their standards for teachers are much higher? Could it be that their schools aren’t lying about the achievement gap and are instead trying to work with it? Could it be that discipline is controlled better because they aren’t giving certain, disruptive students a pass? And just how do you figure they are “in front of us”? How can such a comparison be made? Lastly, ALL of us outside of teaching have seen bad teachers who don’t belong in a classroom. If we have seen them, so have YOU. YOU are trusted with policing this and you aren’t doing it well enough. Instead of policing you have turned it into a “Good Ole Boys” club where you all “have each other’s back”.

Who has the student’s back? Oh yea, they’re left to depend on all those useless, uncaring parents you and your ilk like to harp about.

Randy Glover

September 29th, 2012
7:05 am

Union guy and bc. You guys obviously are clueless about the real problems in public education today. I guess, listening to Neal Boortz, you might believe those talking points you hear about teacher quality and unions. A teacher’s union, by the way, in Georgia is illegal, so it must be another issue here. And no, PAGE is not a union!
Ridding systems of bad teachers will not move the needle enough to notice. Until the average people in our culture value education, we will continue to have mediocre results.
By the way, just a few questions. If two students have, generally, the same teachers throughout high school, how is it that one can have a 4.0 and go to UGA while the other can’t even make it into Tech School? Could it be…… the parents?
And can we fire the parents when they have not done their job? How about the preachers when teenagers decide to break the law or get pregnant at 15?
Talk to me when you have taught for 20 years.

HoneyFern School

September 29th, 2012
7:17 am

Well said, Randy Glover!


September 29th, 2012
7:24 am

Nope, I’m actually a democrat who voted for Obama and against most of our GOP representatives currently in office. I think good teachers should make a pile of cash and encouraged to continue doing what they do. But even they should be held accountable and if they get lazy or indifferent, should be removed just like the rest of the


September 29th, 2012
7:28 am

World. This blog panders to the base, which is teachers and other education workers. I remember the good teachers and believe they should be rewarded, but I also remember horrible teachers that are receiving great pensions, etc and that is a travesty. That memory is what motivates liberal voters like myself to vote for the charter amendment and whatever else I can do to change the current corrupt and bloated system. I don’t have children but I pay a huge tax bill every year and hate to see it wasted.


September 29th, 2012
7:33 am

And Randy, before you, cat lady, Mary Elizabeth and others start attacking me for being a conservative idiot, consider that those baseless attacks may be pushing people in the direction you least want. An argument should have two parts. A claim without a warrant is useless.


September 29th, 2012
7:46 am

Seabeau, let the excuses continue. Of course the U.S. is the only country with a lot of poor people and poor people have smaller brains and poor people can’t do as well because they don’t have fancy pencils and poor people can’t…

The reason why the U.S. is behind is simple – the culture. Blame teachers all you want, but until attitudes change, the U.S. will continue to fall farther behind.

Foreign kid: I need an education so I won’t be poor anymore.
U.S. kid: I can’t get an education because I’m poor.


September 29th, 2012
7:49 am

Bc has hit on the biggest deincentive faved by great teachers…being that there is almost zero financial rewar and recognition for their hard work and great performance. As long as the mediocre and even the bad teachers get paid the same as the great ones, we will continue to see the great ones either quit, or see their drive and performance gradually decline.

Its just how human nature works. If kids knew, no matter how hard they workd and how well they did on tests, that they would get the same C grade as the bum next to them, how many would continue to work hard? Very very few and we would end up with complete mediocrity.

Not so fast

September 29th, 2012
7:59 am

While I agree that the US education system can learn much from others, I think we should be careful when making comparisons.
1. Students in China are required to attend school until the US equivalency of 8th grade
2. After that students are required to pay for 9-12 education
3. Only 50% of students in China continue
4. Of those 50% the graduation rate is 60%
5. Which gives them a true graduation rate of 30% for all students in China

Other countries have similar requirements.


September 29th, 2012
8:01 am

@Bc: Word of warning…too often the policies set in place to rid education of mediocre teachers are like large fishing nets cast into ocean. Sure…the nets catch their intended victims but they also snag a lot of innocent victims as well.

And before you vote yes for Amendment 1, you might want to visit one of the MANY rural systems in GA. Bloated isn’t exactly a word you can use to describe systems who have furloughed teachers for 10 days or cut back their school calendars. While the charter amendment may help metro Atlanta, it has the potential to destroy the rural districts.


September 29th, 2012
8:04 am

I do not understand why folks keep blaming the teacher’s union. There is not a teacher’s union in Georgia. I have mentored for business education in schools in very poor neighborhoods and I can tell you, the parents or lack of parenting is 95% of the problem. Other things can be overcome, but unless someone is in a child’s life that values education, works with a child, that child’s teachers, and the school that child attends, the child will not succeed. Even the poorest children I’ve worked with will succeed if the parents are positively involved in their children’s education. Of course there are some terrible teachers, but there are terrible people in every business. For the most part, teachers that I know and have worked with are dedicated and caring until they simply become too worn down from lack of support from parents, administrators, and politicians make them give up.


September 29th, 2012
8:07 am

Good point guest-
We have become so politically correct that the child’s socioeconomic background has become a determinant in their success or failure. I disagree. There have always been students from these backgrounds. From my observation, those from previous generations I believe, thought along the lines of a foreign kid and not the latter. We have used their background to not hold them accountable, thus perpetuating a poverty mindset in them. This was not allowed many years ago, and people from inner cities were able to go on and lead very successful lives. We live in an age of coddling- it shows up as kids who feel they have a say in whether they like to do certain work or not- so teach me the way I want to learn or I will complain to. This crap has gotten so out of hand it is laughable- and parents do not like the truth about their child’s performance. Today- it is the teacher’s fault. Many years ago- it was the student’s fault and that was who was addressed and the problem was solved. Foreign students do not shirk accountability, while our kids would rather text and facebook than do what is required to get ahead, i.e. invoke the discipline and tenacity needed to tackle and accomplish goals- they think this is too hard.


September 29th, 2012
8:07 am

A different perspective regarding education in U.S. vs other countries:

Test scores vs. Entrepreneurship

World Class Learners

Read carefully the author’s conclusions about Shanghai’s test scores:

“China’s Shanghai took the No. 1 rank in all three areas of the 2009 PISA, but the scores do not have any bearing on China’s creativity capacity. In 2008, China had only 473 patent filings with or granted by leading patent offices outside China. The United States had 14,399 patent filings in the same year. Anil K. Gupta and Haiyan Wang put those figures in a broader context, writing in The Wall Street Journal last year: “Starkly put, in 2010 China accounted for 20 percent of the world’s population and 9 percent of the world’s GDP, 12 percent of the world’s [research and development] expenditure, but only 1 percent of the patent filings with or patents granted by any of the leading patent offices outside China.” And 50 percent of the China-origin patents, the writers added, were granted to subsidiaries of foreign multinationals.”



September 29th, 2012
8:11 am

Trace a wayward, undisciplined child’s history and you’ll likely find his/her parents were uneducated and who were born in similar circumstances. Better teachers and stern opinions won’t change this tragic cycle. A system that supports this behavior is at fault and should be overhauled to reward healthy family planning and punish promiscuity.


September 29th, 2012
8:13 am

@ Teacher & mom- I would bet that those filing patents from the United States were students who did not shirk their accountability but put in the elbow grease to accomplish their goal. I am also sure they were students of the differentiated learning, individualized learning plan generation.


September 29th, 2012
8:14 am

I apologize- they were NOT students of the differentiated learning, individualized learning plan generation.


September 29th, 2012
8:15 am

First, @John Ellison…educate yourself in the basics before you jump in that mud puddle
Second, @Bc…I don’t really care what your politics are – Dem or Repub – the only thing they seem to be able to agree upon is Education policy. You bring up the old saw about how you KNOW there are horrible teachers enjoying salaries and benefits they don’t deserve because you had them and everyone knows who they are, etc. etc. etc. My response to that, as a veteran educator is yes – you are right, there are ineffective teachers in our systems (we would probably disagree on the percentage, but let’s just gloss over that for now). And I agree that everyone knows who these ineffective teachers are….but as a teacher, I have no control over whether that teacher remains in the system. I can offer to guide them and help them improve, but at the end of the day, I have no power over that teacher remaining in their position.
Who does?
The administrators at our school.
Is this a post about bashing administrators and blaming them for all the evils of our schools?
But they have always had the tools to rid the schools of ineffective educators. New way (TKES), old way (GTOI)…it doesn’t really matter…all they have to do is document the failure of that teacher and that’s all it takes. I have worked under some administrators who use their power and some who do not.
There are many reasons as to why they don’t – some I know and some I’m still wondering about.
So, now that I have clarified that – back to the subject of this particular post…which has some excellent points that many of us don’t want to admit to agreeing with. Tucker is spot on – mot parents who care about which school their children attend have much more in mind that just improved academics – the sports thing being a major one. And the parents who are too busy just trying to keep a roof overhead and food on the table don’t have the means or more importantly the time to research, apply and deliver their children to the schools that would have a chance at improving their children’s education. This is probably the best written argument (and a reasonable, non-fire-breathing one) against Georgia’s charter ammendment that I have read.


September 29th, 2012
8:16 am

@Jack- uneducated parents are not knew- their value or lack of it regarding education is the overwhelming factor


September 29th, 2012
8:18 am

**not NEW- what is it this morning.


September 29th, 2012
8:21 am

While teacher preparation and accountability is important, the one piece we seem to ignore or foolishly believe is irrelevant is teacher support.

Find a copy of “Why Great Teachers Quit” and read it.

Maureen Downey

September 29th, 2012
8:26 am

teacher and mom, I don’t think you can have teacher quality improve without addressing teacher support. I see it as one package.


September 29th, 2012
8:37 am

Schools are failing because the underlying society is failing. The great do what you want to do experiment of the sixites has brought forth a societal disaster on a scale historically unimaginable. Now, public education simply reinforces the underlying problems of the culture and vice versa. It is a chain link problem that can’t be resolved with a quick fix from the left or the right.
Parents who are children themselves, broken homes, undisciplined kids, collapse of societal consensus, lack of value of education, a mindset of dependency and victimhood, despair, violence, abuse are all accelerating to levels unimaginable just a few decades ago. We are witnessing nothing less than the voluntary train wreck of our society.
For increasing numbers of parents and taxpayers, the public education system is no longer a wise or cost effective choice. It’s not the right alternative for their children and is increasingly a waste of their money.
Entitled teachers protected by webs of bureaucracy, administrators more interested in protecting the status quo than in educating children, leadership of school boards fighting race wars and for personal advantage all combine to make the public education landscape pretty bleak. However, schools are the consequence, not the underlying cause.

A Conservative Voice

September 29th, 2012
8:40 am

Question – Why don’t we follow lead of countries well in front of us? 2:52 am September 29, 2012, by Maureen Downey

Answer – Oh c’mon, it’s not that hard – bhusseino and arne duncan, idiots both and should be fired. bhusseino doesn’t want young people educated, he wants to keep them dumb so most can’t get a job and thus become dependent on the US Govt. (taxpayers) for assistance. When you’re being supported by the govt., who you gonna vote for? Duh. Oh, I forgot arne (easy to do) he’s just a puppet following orders.

Solution – November 6, 2012, VOTE RESPONSIBLY


September 29th, 2012
8:48 am

by the way, it’s not all gloom and doom…we’ve been bashing public education for years – specifically thinking of Sputnik….read this:


September 29th, 2012
8:53 am

Bc: You know what you are. I don’t have to call attention to it, or even name it.

Take the 100 best teachers (by whatever measure you care to use) and put them in the school with the worst performing students. Give them the supports the teachers at that school commonly have. And what will you get? Minimal improvement, if any, and the same problems and performance issues as before. (Perhaps even worse, as many of the teachers you will bring in have limited experience with students from more difficult backgrounds.) Bring in the best from Finland or anywhere else. Same results.

I wish for once that would be done. It might clarify things for those who want to blame the teachers for student quality.

At any time, if you want to join the teacher corps, please come on!

Beverly Fraud

September 29th, 2012
8:55 am

“A growing number of countries are surpassing the United States in student performance and are spending less per student than the United States.”

See what happens when you don’t let students say “F–k you b-tch! I’m not doing sh-t!” and then central office mandates the child gets a FIFTY instead of a zero?

You think a child can do that in Shanghai and have no consequences?

Another view

September 29th, 2012
8:56 am

I love Peter.


September 29th, 2012
8:56 am

@Maureen: But how often do we hear anything about teacher support?

Rarely….and even then it is just lip-service.

Teachers in my building serve so many additional roles outside of classroom teachers. We are now the guidance counselor for 25-30 students (thanks to the DOE’s Teachers-as-Advisors program). We are IEP/504 paperwork managers, grant writers and program coordinators, unpaid coaches and club sponsors, technology trainers, social workers,…and the list goes on.

Yet….the one thing we are held accountable for….classroom instruction…is the very first thing to take a backseat to all other “initiatives.”

I’m just really, really tired of the being told I’m not quite “up to par” to teachers in other countries by folks who are completely clueless about what my day-to-day job requires.

Beverly Fraud

September 29th, 2012
8:59 am

You think a child can do that in Shanghai and have no consequences?

You think a child in Shanghai can do that and get a FIFTY on the assignment?

Beverly Fraud

September 29th, 2012
9:00 am

“You think a child can do that in Shanghai and have no consequences?”

You think a child can do that in Shanghai and the first thought they would have is “We have to improve the TEACHER???”

This isn’t rocket science folks…

Beverly Fraud

September 29th, 2012
9:04 am

“I wish for once that would be done. It might clarify things for those who want to blame the teachers for student quality.”

Catlady you must not be aware of the research that brought a group of top notch Ferrari mechanics over to Yugo…and as a result the Yugo team successfully competed in the 24 Hours of Le Mans race.

Of course it took the Yugo team 96 hours to finish LOL

John Konop

September 29th, 2012
9:17 am

The problem as I see it is we have not looked at this issue objectively on both sides. The truth is our top 20 percent do as well as any place in the world within the margin of error. The countries that are so called doing better, put students on a different tracks ie vocational education. Most studies I see are comparing USA that is putting everyone on a 4 year college prep verse rational counties that have only 20 to 30 percent tested on college prep work via the track.

Our country today is now sending about 33 percent of students to a 4 year college, which over the last 30 years is way up. The bell curve on IQ tells us this the max at best we could send to college is 30 percent.The reason we are having such a big problem with the other 70 percent is they would be better served on a different track.

Finally, in the last 20 years the amount of students taking the SAT has increased by 60 percent in our country. And that is when we saw scores declining. Our biggest problem is we spend tons of money pounding square pegs into round holes and then we blame teachers. Obviously we can improve the system, but until we track and teach students via the proper aptitude we will not fix the problem.


September 29th, 2012
9:18 am

In China, and other high student performance countries, the focus at the school is on academics. They don’t mix up the classroom with the playing field. As long as we have communities that value a winning football team more than a Merit Scholar then local funds and local support will be channelled to the game. Question the amount of attention and money that flows away from the classroom to high paid non-teaching coaches, athletic facilities, uniforms and equipment while we increase class size, reduce the number of instructional days, deplete instructional resources. In times of reduced funding it is a question of priorities and for many in the community the priority is a winning team. Successful educational systems focus on the academic content and leave extra curricular to be just that, extra.

Dekalb mom

September 29th, 2012
9:18 am

This is why Kittredge in dekalb is so successful. My kids went there. We live in Dunwoody. I spoke to many parents that were willing to do whatever it took so that their kids could be in a school with higher socioeconomic families. What I found even more interesting was that the county created Wadsworth in the southern part of the county, but has not had the number of applicants like Kittredge. Whether it is perception or not, many parents believe Kittredge is better and want their kids in that environment.

Karl Marx

September 29th, 2012
9:21 am

“We keep fretting about all the countries outpacing us academically without acknowledging that they’re doing so by focusing intensely on teacher quality.”

Yes but isn’t the idea behind vouchers and choice to give parents the ability to find better “quality” for their child. Remember some students will thrive in certain environments while others will not. That’s what’s wrong with our current public school system. The other side of this is there is a self-imposed limited supply of teachers because we do the same thing to them, impose a singular set of standards to obtain a “teaching certificate”.

Mr. Tucker makes quite a few assumptions. First he thinks parents look for exactly the same things the first being safety. Sorry we look for safety in all things not just schools. Get to the meat of education an dispense with givens. Any caring parent will chose safety over the best school every day.

Quoting that old socio-economic theory is a cop-out. What is the real percentage of those districts, 10% of the total, 5? Yes that’s true but is that the schools fault? No of course not. What have we really done to fix the problem? I can tell you this until you fix the root cause, poverty, that problem will never go away. What is the fix? Should we follow the old USSR or Red China’s system? Maybe we should follow the European system that beat us and allow the money to follow the child.

In the end Mr. Tucker said that having choices for students “will make good schools better and bad schools worse.” That is an asinine statement. Shoving Kids into a one size fits all system is making everything worse.

Just A Teacher

September 29th, 2012
9:23 am

@Beverly Fraud . . .You think a child can do that in Shanghai and the first thought they would have is “We have to improve the TEACHER???”

Well put. Early in my career, I got punched in the nose by a 15 year old and got called on the carpet for it. I told him he had 2 choices: turn around and be quiet or get out of my class. He chose to attack me instead, and the principal held me responsible. I wanted to put the kid behind bars, but the principal just chewed me out and put the kid in somebody else’s class. And the public wonders why we struggle to acheive their lofty goals. Education is the only field I can think of where people who have no training or experience think they can do a better job than the professionals. I wouldn’t tell my doctor how to do his job, but there are plenty of people out there who want to tell me how to do mine.


September 29th, 2012
9:24 am

Randy Glover ,September 29th, 2012,7:05 am
Union guy and bc. You guys obviously are clueless about the real problems in public education today. I guess, listening to Neal Boortz, you might believe those talking points you hear about teacher quality and unions. A teacher’s union, by the way, in Georgia is illegal, so it must be another issue here. And no, PAGE is not a union
Randy, what type of group is the GA Federation of Teachers ? Their site link the AFL-CIO as well ?

I love teaching. I hate what it is becoming...

September 29th, 2012
9:26 am

@Dc “Bc has hit on the biggest deincentive faved by great teachers…being that there is almost zero financial rewar and recognition for their hard work and great performance. ”

Hmm. Having worked in education for YEARS, across states and districts, in urban and rural, and high and low SES schools – I have to say I have RARELY heard teachers discuss this as the “biggest disincentive” they encounter. Disinterested parents, unaddressed discipline issues, lack of support for learners who struggle or exceed, poor preparation by schools of education, lack of necessary materials, lack of time, tons of meaningless data collection and paperwork, unrealistic accountability measures, too much testing of students, and a hostile public perception all come much farther up the list.

Do we complain about our less ‘gifted” colleagues? Yes, but more in terms of the damage they do the students than the fact they get paid the same as we do. Do we complain about the pay? Yes, but more in terms of it being low across the board, not using comparisons across teachers.

Teachers generally don’t THINK in terms of “competition” and “competitive salary”. That is a business approach, and teachers don’t THINK in business terms. I find folks who make such assertions really do not know teachers. The teaching culture is NOT based on a business model and you can’t judge it in the same way. The BEST teachers think cooperatively, and work to uplift ALL students, not just their own.


September 29th, 2012
9:35 am

Beverly…AMEN!!! Bert from the Bert Show on Q100 Atlanta talks about the “wussification” of America and I tend to agree. Giving 50s for ZERO work is offensive…forbid the little darlings from actually being held accountable.

catlady: my school is in East Cobb and we have very little true discipline issues. The teachers that have been there 15-20 years and go on and on about middle schoolers CHEWING GUM and TALKING (for goodness sake) need to spend a week at a Title 1 school. These folks on the blog that like to bash teachers should go and volunteer in these schools as well. It’s hard to be effective when admin won’t deal with kids who curse at you and disrupt class all the time. I taught in Austell for 3 years and loved it…you HAVE to love it to survive…

Mary Elizabeth

September 29th, 2012
9:40 am

“In the end, the choice system and its market incentives will not improve average student performance, but it will, over time, work to make good schools better and bad schools worse. Is that what we want?”

In the end, the school choice movement is about more than schools. It is about the type of society in which we wish to live. When we have a society in which “good schools get better” and “bad schools
get worse,” we no longer have an egalitarian nation, but a hierarchial one. The words “school choice” are bumper sticker appealing in their overall connotations, but one must see the forces, and the power, behind this “choice” movement to understand that this movement is more about power, money, and controlling dominance by the same forces that would have America become more hierarchial in its vision (and in its destiny) in order to serve the financial interests of the wealthy elite. That is what an over-emphasis on profit can do to corrupt vision. Profit must stay out of education, as much as humanly possible. Education must remain about developing both skills and enlightenment.

I urge readers to read the below movie review, in full, of the just released film, “Won’t Back Down,” (which was first shared on this blog by another poster – “thank you”), in order to understand those forces, of which I speak, and how they are, imo, through propaganda tactics – such as this film – trying to gather “school choice” advocates for their votes. (Notice that the timing of the release of this movie coincides with November’s election. That, imo, is not coincidental.) Their methods are the same type of “divide and conquer” propaganda tactics that were effective in the last century of dividing poor whites and blacks when both should have been allies for the common purpose of fighting those political forces that were keeping them both from upward mobility and from rising into the middle class and beyond. In my opinion, the tactics of the unseen political powers that are driving the “school choice” movement – through their wealth, influence, and propaganda – are using the same type of demagoguery, now, against traditional public education and public school teachers that was used against black people a century ago to malign them. The political and propaganda “trick” was (and is) to get most people to believe the negatives as stereotypes so that the underclasses would be divided in voting and, therefore, some would, unknowingly, vote against their own best interests (the poor whites). That was the way that power and wealth used to control the destinies of both blacks and poor whites. I urge readers to read the movie review, below, in full. Here is an excerpt from it:

“. . .—’Be the change you want to see!’ Jamie crows to a throng of cheering parents—but democracy is the enemy. Getting rid of representative government and calling in a private entity to handle things, in our current Opposite Day political moment, represents a glorious triumph of people power. The ‘parent trigger’ invites parents to use their vote to give up their vote—that is, to be enormously powerful for one short moment of direct democracy, which they will use to dispose, in the long run, with the ‘public’ part of public school, and thus with any actual power over their children’s education.”


To repeat: Education must be about enlightenment (and skills), not profit. That is precisely why Jefferson supported public education – so that the many would be “enlightened” to see into the stealthy machinations of the wealthy elite, who might use the masses for their own self-interests.


September 29th, 2012
10:00 am

Beverly@9:04: Haha!

Mommamonster: Yes, what I considered a discipline issue in 1973 when I started teaching is quite a bit different from 2012. Just as, what got you suspended in 1970, my senior year, was what we would think of as a minor offense now. My mother, a high school teacher, fortunately did not live to see the nonsense teachers are expected to put up with today. When she had a disrespectful student (she retired about 1980), they were OUT of her class, and her principals knew not to even ask her to relent. (And she taught the only sections of the subject). One time a principal told her to change a grade. She refused, but told him he could come teach the class and she would sit in the office for that period each day.


September 29th, 2012
10:09 am

I love teaching. I hate what it is becoming… You stated my thoughts exactly! Thanks for that! In my years of teaching, I never complained about ineffective teachers making the same or more than me. My concern was what that teacher did to the students. By the way, I saw few of these in my years of teaching. Two principals documented and fired (yes, fired) teachers in the middle of the year. Firing is done by effective administrators, who are willing do what is best for students.


September 29th, 2012
10:12 am

The U.S. is the only “advanced” country in the world where a student can attack a teacher and the higher-ups will blame the teacher.

In Korea, all teachers are treated with great respect from both, parents and students.

This is what happens when you set the bar to the dumbest person in the class. Pretty soon, being able to correctly spell your name will confer genius status on you.


September 29th, 2012
10:16 am

Part of the problem is CHOICE. And I am not talking about school choice. I am talking about curricular choice, particularly in high school. Too many high schools now emphasize college preparatory courses over vocational courses because one is deemed “unsuccessful” if one does not receive a college education. Therefore, public education has created and is creating students who are not prepared for the rigors of college (just look at the Governor’s Office on Student Achievement) nor do they have the technical skills to enter the work force (simply look at the jobs that are currently available in Georgia). The number of my former students that I see in my small community who tell me that they have either flunked out of college or quit is astounding. And since they lack any marketable technical skills, many are relegated to minimum wage jobs. I fear that until the leaders of this State realize this, a lot more money will be spent with little results.

Cliff Higgins

September 29th, 2012
10:19 am

@John Ellison. I love teaching… is correct. In Tennesse, a school system tried an incentive bonus plan for teachers based on student performance, middle school math, if memory serves. Didn’t work. The notion that I teach to a certain level and withhold something and will do better only if paid more is insulting. I currently sub for teachers in my area, after teaching full-time for 15 years. The students of the teachers get the same instruction that my students did when I taught full-time (at 1/4 the pay). I will eventually go teach full time again. My teaching won’t magically improve. BTW, the reason i left was the inept, vindictive administrator that wanted to put a buddy in my job. While unions are not perfect, they would have been helpful in my circumstance


September 29th, 2012
10:20 am

Well stated, RANDY GLOVER. I, too, would like many on here to comment after 20 or my 34 years of teaching. What a change in those 34 years. Seems as if everyone has an opinion; nothing is wrong about people having their opinion. Society, in general, does not value education; it values “material” things where it does not want to work for it, only receive it. I have just shown part of the problem; now, part of the solution: QUIT TRYING TO EDUCATE THE MASSES. Mass education will no longer work.