(Linda: Bumped Up – A follow up post, by RRR Amy’s cousin EJ will be posting Sunday Morning.)

My cousin, EJ, and I have been having an email exchange on No Child Left Behind and the State of Education in this country in general. She is a Professor of Education, and has been for many years now (not to make her sound old or anything, but she’s older than me, haha!), and also taught high school before getting her Ph.D. Anyway, I mentioned to her that Obama is keeping NCLB intact while making some other changes, like tying teacher pay to student performance, longer days/terms, etc. Do I even need to say that this is NOT what he said when he was campaigning?? Anyway, I am not an expert on Education, but she is (“I’ve been teaching since 1977; I have taught English – gr. 9-11, remedial reading – 9-12 and K-6, regular classroom teacher -5th gr., and at the college level for more than 20 years. I’ve taught in NC, LA, NY; I’ve taught @ public schools (where my heart lies) and private schools.“), so I asked her what she thought about Obama’s changes. She wrote back such a thoughtful response on that and the state of education in our country, that I asked her if I could share it here. She graciously agreed, and her response is below (where necessary, I insert the question I asked for context, I have edited personal comments, and any other changes were for formatting purposes only).

In one email, Cousin EJ wrote:

I had seen he wants longer school days and or academic years. we are the only country that i know of where sports plays such a large role. In other countries, kids have jobs, too, but education comes first.

I responded about a friend’s 9 yr old son, and the amount of time his coaches want him to practice during the school week. That, along with the question from me of what in the world changed in our educational system that students, and PARENTS, expect their kids to get the best grades for no/little work, that too many kids act with disrespect to their teachers, and with NCLB, teachers have to give up teachable moments. I think that pretty much covers it, and you should be able to figure out other questions I asked from her response:

I don’t care that we start sports so young, but the competitiveness that accompanies everything we do is just way off the charts. We put too much emphasis on “beating” the other team … winning (at all costs), and making fun of the losers that we are just overrun with testosterone even as adults. Maybe I am using the metaphor of being too virile incorrectly, but we do seem to let our inner man out way too much.

I would hope we pay teachers better. Compared to other countries, we don’t pay well at all. We do not hold teachers in high regard, which they are in other countries. The countries (at least the ones that I’ve been in) which do not have the level of standardized testing that we do are doing ever so much better at educating their children than we are. 30 years ago, we didn’t want to have our children have the exacting standards that were seen in Japan/China and look where that got us; we wanted to really water the curriculum down and allow kids to feel good about themselves. Well, there’s a difference between academic self-esteem and other self-esteem. By having high standards with high expectations, and by helping children meet those expectations & standards, we can help children feel good about themselves academically. There’s not a lot we can do about what goes on at home.

One of the issues Obama mentioned was proper credentialing, so I asked her how common it is for teachers to teach outside of their specialties:

You would be surprised at the number of teachers who are teaching in fields where they are not qualified-one teacher was teaching math to the 6-8th graders at a school when I taught there. She held permanent certification in home ec and had NOT been to any in-service, except what the diocese provided in the whole time she’d been out of school. Several kids M knew in high school went to college, got a degree (some only a 2 year associates degree) and then decided to be teachers. So they were hired to teach during the day and took classes to learn pedagogy at night. There is the “Teach for America” program which gets people to teach in high needs areas – but who are not certified teachers (see THIS link). I am not crazy about the teaching during the day and learning how to teach at night, because the poor teachers and kids get the short end of the stick-your first year of teaching is absolutely draining. I do really mind that there are teachers (I also know some of these personally) who have been recruited into the TfA program and who make no effort to get certified at all. The TfA program is not the same as a regular, accredited college program. (See THIS SITE which sounds pretty down on TfA but is basically truthful.) Every state practically (I don’t know that all 50 do) has alternative certification routes, which are very much different than the paths students in accredited colleges/universities have to take. Go to any state’s SED website and see what the alternative route for certification is. Sometimes it is as little as 10 credits (for certification, a college student who is an education major has to take 36 plus or minus a couple credits – and there has to be a minimum of 50-100 hours of contact time with students, plus there has to be a concentration or minor in a liberal arts area usually).

Where do we hire these non-certified teachers – to teach science and math, because we cannot get qualified teachers in science and math. People who are good in sci/math don’t as a rule go into teaching b/c there is more money to be made working in the private sector than there is in teaching. Teaching is definitely a commitment to a “service” field – it is not a “get rich” field.

We also have non-certified teachers teaching in high needs areas which translated means inner city schools. Those students really need certified teachers who understand children, how to teach, and the content areas they are teaching in.

Saying that, we still need to pay teachers better and we also need to give them the respect they deserve. When did that start changing, you ask…probably with your parents and my parents’ generation. They led the way for our generation to say “we want equal rights,” “we have equal rights,” “children have rights,” “you have no right to keep my child back just because he/she doesn’t know diddley,” or “I have more rights than you…get over it, worship at my feet” (or words to that effect).

I know exactly what she means here – like when adults ask their 3 yr old to make decisions for the family (and I have seen this with my own eyes), they are setting up a dangerous precedent. A 3 yr old (or any child) does not have the necessary physiological development to MAKE those kinds of decisions, yet allowing the child to control the family has become all too familiar in this country.

Dr. EJ continues:

We have become a nation that has gone too far in the direction of not being willing to take a stand about something except taking a stand for greed – you know, the gold standard. I have to have more money than you, so I can rub it in your face. We are as a nation, overall, exploitive and narcissistic; we focus on things that aren’t issues, well shouldn’t be issues (as in, we should get over our holier-than-thou-priggishness and realize that YES indeed all people have rights to marriage etc./there is not a “genetic” difference for race so the whites are NOT superior to all others), and we fail to recognize that the religious right isn’t…; and we have lost sight of what is important (such as caring about others, being excited about learning, our civil rights and liberties – why was America set up to begin with).

We don’t want responsibility but we complain when we are “taken care of” (that is, when someone like the government steps in and does things…I don’t want to go off on too much more of a tangent so I’ll not fully explain my thoughts). But, we also expect bailouts. On one hand we want this, on the other hand we don’t want that, on our next hand we want a … we are turning into octopi!

Our society is going to hell in a handbasket on a greased rope. We have way, way too many entitlement programs; we want to be the be all and end all to the world without stopping to think of what that means (give me your poor, your tired, your hungry – what? I have to feed them? They are going to take the jobs my kids don’t want to apply for because my kids don’t want to work hard!) Our society is sick. Parents have abdicated responsibility of taking care of their kids yet they don’t want to give the kids up and don’t want others teaching the kids what is right. We’ve let illegal (for example, street drug trade) and legal criminals (insurance companies, banks, etc.) take over the country. Our government is for the rich by the rich and of the rich. The government doesn’t stand up to big business.

There is no easy answer to any of this. We want to allow a lot of things but not have a lot of rules and restrictions then we complain when things get out of hand. Maybe we need to be more centrist – the liberals haven’t got the answers and neither do the conservatives. Pick a little, that is get what works, from both sides of the aisle, to use a current phrase.

OK, that part is a real rant and it didn’t start out to be. You get my drift, I am sure. I am not happy about where we are as a country in general, and with education in specific.

I do get her drift. One of my brothers is also a university professor, as is his wife. I remember him telling me when he was in graduate school that his students, or their PARENTS, would go to the Dean if they didn’t get the grade they WANTED, not deserved, WANTED. Despite his being an English Lit. professor, the tests about which he was speaking were standardized, so what you got was what you got. But the students didn’t want to accept that.

Back to Cousin EJ:

We have let the businesses take over schools – we have a factory model, and have had since the Industrial Revolution; it keeps going back and forth, back and forth-currently more industry run and factory model than not (articles on history HERE or HERE (really good) or HERE) instead of a learner centered model (see HERE).

Many educators were furious at the unfunded mandates of NCLB. Many others were furious about the continued “scientific management” (not stated in those terms, but that’s what it is) being ratcheted up several more notches.

When I taught the history of education class we used to offer, I brought in the perspective that what we call education is schooling and that the hidden agenda is to keep us in our places – my students were appalled and I reckon still are. They weren’t critical thinkers – they still aren’t even now. Less so now since I am seeing a new generation of students. My students want to be told what to think and how to think it. What do I need to do to get an A in your class instead of hard work-can’t I get an A for just showing up (I was asked that last semester, no kidding)?

Holy cow. I mentioned to her that I had a number of very good teachers growing up, ones who really cared about teaching, and about us learning, teachers who looked for those “teachable moments” that are no longer possible with NCLB (or else you get behind in what you must give the students for their tests):

Teachers such as the ones you had are rare. They were rare when you were in school and are so much more rare today. Practically extinct.

Yes the sense of entitlement has mushroomed to include graduate level students. It makes me sick. here’s a little bit of an article about it:

Prof. Marshall Grossman has come to expect complaints whenever he returns graded papers in his English classes at the University of Maryland.

Prof. Ellen Greenberger studied what she found to be an increased sense of entitlement among college students. “Many students come in with the conviction that they’ve worked hard and deserve a higher mark,” Professor Grossman said. “Some assert that they have never gotten a grade as low as this before.”

He attributes those complaints to his students’ sense of entitlement. “I tell my classes that if they just do what they are supposed to do and meet the standard requirements, that they will earn a C,” he said. “That is the default grade. They see the default grade as an A.”

A recent study by researchers at the University of California, Irvine, found that a third of students surveyed said that they expected B’s just for attending lectures, and 40 percent said they deserved a B for completing the required reading.

“I noticed an increased sense of entitlement in my students and wanted to discover what was causing it,” said Ellen Greenberger, the lead author of the study, called “Self-Entitled College Students: Contributions of Personality, Parenting, and Motivational Factors,” which appeared last year in The Journal of Youth and Adolescence.

Professor Greenberger said that the sense of entitlement could be related to increased parental pressure, competition among peers and family members and a heightened sense of achievement anxiety.

Other good articles on this issue are HERE(interesting), HERE(also interesting), and HERE(VERY INTERESTING).

If you want some good reading, read Alfie Kohn, Patrick Shannon, and Dick Allington. All three take stances against more of the same old, same old.

Wow. Like I said, I’m no expert, but my cousin is. It is nice to get some of the REAL information on the State of Education in our country from someone who works in it every single day, teaching those who will become teachers. I thank her profusely for allowing me to post her thoughts on this (and this was all off the top of her head, just a response to an email I sent).

If change is to be made in the way we educate our children, it will take a concerted effort on all of our parts – parents, teachers, schools, and yes, our government, alike. Change can’t come soon enough. We need to have teachers who can teach, who are ALLOWED to teach those “teachable moments,” not just rote memorization, teachers who are paid decent wages, teachers teaching in their respective fields, children who come ready and willing to learn, and parents who care more about WHAT and HOW their children are learning than whether they get an A or A-. That means a major attitude adjustment from this grandiose sense of entitlement, one which leads to the the idea that just showing up deserves a B. And we need schools that are conducive to learning, that are in good shape, and have adequate supplies for all students.

We owe it to our children, we owe it to ourselves, we owe it to our country.

  • Carlita

    My final comment on this terrific thread-Don’t let’s forget the little-discussed provision in NCLB that orders schools to give personal information about students to recruiters and whomever else they decide. A provision many parents are/were unaware of. Surely no NCLB supporters think that is okay. Just wondering.
    Nos vemos.

    • H.D. Rider

      Excellent point. The military is trolling our schools for recruits and the feds gave them a big leg up with NCLB. Information is power.

      • WhatNow

        In my son’s school, there’s a block to check to “opt out of” having a military recruiter contact the child. I had to fill it in every August at registration.

  • Anti-Harkonnen Freedom Fighter

    Obama Administration Lie of the Day:

    Summers, just now with George “I create Dem strategy every morning with Rahm/Carville/Begala” Stephanopolis, said that Obama inherited a trillion dollar deficit as created by a Republican President and a Republican Congress….

    Apparently Larry didnt notice the Dems winning Congress in 2006.

    Sickening lie, repeated enough, will become truth in the public’s mind.

    Now George is attacking McConnell with vigor, right after kissing Summers’ ring for 20 minutes.

    sickening to allow George to create talking points for Obama with Rahm and then cross examine the GOP about those talking points.

  • Carlita

    H.D Rider has it rght!

    • H.D, please check the response regarding phonics above…

      And again, thank you ALL so much for your thoughtful responses!

      • H.D. Rider

        Watered down phonics still doesn’t cut it. If Asian children can memorize up to seven thousand symbols to learn to read, why can’t American children memorize 26 letters, 34 sounds, and 80 ways to spell those 34 sounds?

        They can, and when they do, they have the keys to the English language. Unfortunately, there’s little money to be made when you reduce the process to its simplest terms.

        Remember the little “horn books” from colonial times? We taught phonics in its simplest forms for hundreds of years before Thomas Mann decided we needed a whole word or “look-say” system…he borrowed such a system, a system that had been developed for the deaf for whom sound was non-existent and therefore couldn’t be taught. I remember reading that Mann’s wife wrote one of the first readers…subject was a dog named “Spot” or some such thing as I recall.

        Hmmmm…that sounds familiar…but, away we went to where we are today. Darn it…there’s that profit motive again. It just keeps popping up, no matter the date on the calendar.

        I await your coming article…

      • Beg to differ on Phonics instruction as the key to everything. A healthy balance of sight and whole language instuction is beneficial, especially for those readers that are not auditory learners or it is not their strongest learning modality. At some point readers quit relying on just sounding out words and need to begin performing the task of instantly recognizing words. When the student begins to turn off of reading you know the devil in the details phonics is to blame, at least partially. Many teachers over-teach phonics because the curriculum for NCLB is heavily phonics based. Don’t get me started on the curriculum choices for NCLB. That is a complete money grab bonus for textbook companies. Bush’s Department of Education Secretary didn’t even have a degree in education.

        Having taught in classrooms under NCLB, the desired purpose was almost immediately lost in the one size fits all students approach to reading. While phonics is an excellent tool for ESL students, it isn’t the only approach that can be used with native language young readers.

        You want a child to increase their word recognition and speed? Have their parents turn the closed caption function on the TV and turn off the sound. No time to sound out the words there.

        Best practices went out the window with NCLB.

  • Carlita

    Sorry Bumbebee. Unfortunately you have bought into the myth of NCLB. There are far superior ways that punish neither the youth or the schools to accomplish what you claim is s great about the abusive legislation. May I ask what contact you have with Black and Brown youth, K-12 schools which are loaded with Anglo teahers and adminisrators with no respect for the students, SAC (rooms where students are put to punish them for ‘misbehavior’), etc?
    NCLB is a huge problem. Why on earth are you apologizing for it?

    • H.D. Rider

      Thank you, Carlita…but, I have to weigh in here one more time. I’ll begin by answering some of your questions.

      I started teaching in a community where the population was 87% low socioeconomic minority, an Hispanic minority. Six years later I moved to the land of beautiful smiles and dark brown eyes…where I as an Anglo was in the 2% minority…98% were Hispanic–some of my students were very, very wealthy and others were very, very poor, but they were all beautiful, they were all smart…they were wonderful. There were 120 some faculty members, but you could count the Anglos on the fingers of one hand. There were zero Anglo administrators.

      Surprisingly, I became the English as a Second Language (ESL) designated teacher for my department. Why? The Spanish speaking students weren’t being served by the Spanish speaking teachers. Amazing.

      I have a masters of education degree with a reading specialization. That degree should have made me an expert reading teacher, right? Wrong. The whole point of that degree was to try to “fix” the children who hadn’t learned to read in Whole Language reading instruction programs.

      I taught phonics to my first grade students from square one…an even more rigorous phonics program than is required by NCLB. Each and every one of my 25 first graders was reading by October. They could decode words they’d never heard, they could spell, and they could write…beautiful penmanship and they were learning how to think. We used lap boards, the chalkboard, dollar notebooks, and library books. I spent $75 on materials while the whole language classes spent over $600 for disposable materials alone. Our end of year test scores were through the roof. My principal loved me. The teachers hated me.

      NCLB was a good idea…at least the phonics for grades K-3 was dead on accurate…but, a lot was lost in translation. Yes, the fat cats moved in to make horrendous profits selling expensive teaching and testing materials. And yes, both students and teachers were throwing up on a regular basis from the testing pressure. But, if every child could leave third grade able to read fourth grade level content textbooks, we wouldn’t have near the problems in grades 4-12 or beyond. Students have to be able to read to learn. If they can’t, they’re lost.

      The problem? We still have education professors who would rather fall on their swords than advocate phonics instruction. These same college of education professors have trained millions of teachers in a failed methodology…the problem in a nutshell.

  • CG

    RRRAmy, I know this is off topic, but I was wondering about your thoughts on this

  • BumbleBee

    So much of what Amy wrote and what many of the comments say is just pure B.S. It shows that folks mostly have only a surface understanding of public education.

    NCLB is not all bad. There are some parts that are, namely the punitive use of the testing data is poorly conceived. Also, you all act like every single school district is bound and gagged by NCLB. Yes, every district must test children. But most states had state testing in place many years before NCLB was passed. So if you are upset about testing then get upset with your states.

    The only school districts that must follow all of the dictates of NCLB are those that opt into the program. And most of those who do simply want the money that comes with the program and which funds reading instruction in those districts K-3. Yes, that is right folks. The actual reading program is only for grades K-3. And a good deal of the money goes to teaching teachers HOW to teach reading based on the most recent research, especially research on how children and how the brain learns to read. What is wrong with that? Would you want a doctor treating you without being up to date on the most recent medical advances? I wouldn’t. Same for those teaching our most precious resource – our children.

    But some of the testing in NCLB is useful and necessary to help children who satruggle with reading get off to a good start. For instance the Dibbles test. The Dibbles has been shown to be the BEST predictor of early reading success than even IQ scores. Without giving you a lesson in how the brain learns to read, the Dibbles focuses on the phonemes in each word – the sounds of words. Children who have been read to a lot, children who have adults talk to them a lot, and kids with rich expereinces tend to learn these sounds and sound patterns naturally and in the home and generally learn to read rather quickly. Children who do not have these types of expereinces often struggle with reading.

    The Dibbles finds out what sounds and letters are known and those that are not so that teachers can target their lessons to those precise skills that are lacking. What’s wrong with that?

    The pedagogy behind the methods to teach reading in NCLB are sound. The main reason most teachers do not like NCLB is that they can no longer ignore thsoe kids who struggle with reading, but must work with and teach those kids too. Another reason many teachers do not like NCLB is that they can no longer teach using the whole language approach where teachers could have kids read books and they would sit around and discuss them and do fun projects with them. Thsoe that read well flourished. Those that did not just had fun discussing books they had not read.
    Under NCLB teachers musta ctually TEACH. Imagine that!!!!And now if the school district takes fedeal funds (NCLB) they must teach phonics. Teachers have been brainwashed in colleges that whole language is the way to go. But the brain research and imaging shows that good readers sound out the sounds in a word and decode them first and then make meaning out of those words. Those skills must be taught. They are not learned naturally.

    NCLB is not the problem.

    • Um, I didn’t write it – my cousin who is a professor of Education wrote it. Perhaps you need to go re-read the top of the post. And I’m thinking after 30 yrs teaching, and teaching the teachers, she has a pretty good grasp of NCLB and the educational system in this country. Many of those posting here are also teachers, with direct experience of NCLB.

      As for Phonics, my cousin wrote this: BTW, I just read the post about professors who do not advocate phonics instruction – those of us full-timers (P and I) who teach the early grades literacy courses @ my institutions do advocate phonics instruction; we even have our students relearn phonics, so they can teach it. I know many other college professors who do as well, all over the US. I also review and teach grammar-and have since I began teaching. Phonics and grammar need to be taught; they need to be taught within a context so students know what they are doing, so there is conceptualization and understanding, not rote memorization. Even Ken Goodman, the father of whole language, advocated for phonics instruction, but within a context so kids learned, not memorized. Phonics, fluency, and phonemic awareness are three of the “fab five” we teach (what they are, what they look like, how to teach kids to be fluent, have phonemic awareness, and all the bits of phonics). 🙂 This is US wide, not just in my little corner.

      Yes, state testing has been around since forever – but it was not as big a deal as it is now. Not as much time was devoted to testing, kids learned how to take a bubble test, but they did not prep to take the test, that is, teachers did not teach information they knew would be on the test, they just taught. Once the importance of the tests was upped, teachers began the shift to what we see today. Teachers stop teaching new information in Dec. and start reviewing exactly what they know will be on the test. Kids are told this test is important to you, you may fail if you don’t pass it. Teachers’ jobs are tied in to the tests as is merit pay. Housing prices rise and fall based on the ratings schools get, which are based on standardized tests (read the ads for houses, and look to see one of the selling points: “In the ___ School district”). The standardized tests we give were not designed to do this at all. For info re testing, go to http://fairtest.org/. Read Alfie Kohn’s work – all of it as he’s a good writer. He’s written a book specifically against standardized testing, too. Go to http://www.alfiekohn.org/index.html.

      Patrick Shannon, whose work I mentioned the other day, has books available from Heinemann. See http://books.heinemann.com/authors/408.aspx (you can go to Amazon, I’m sure to find his books).

      Gerald Coles is another good author to read. Here’s a link to him @ Amazon. http://www.amazon.com/Misreading-Reading-Science-Hurts-Children/dp/0325000603

      Here’s a link to Dick Allington, whose work I recommend too. http://teachersread.net/About.htm

      AND…I don’t know if you remember this or not. M (her son) started school in an inner city school and went there for three years. It was the best school either of my children went to (and they went to several between them). The population was diverse-black, white, Hispanic, Indian, and Pakistani kids went there. The teachers and administrator were dedicated to teaching and learning. The kids were really TAUGHT there and they loved going to school there (again, this is not 100% of the population, but in general). The school was so good that the governor’s son ended up going there. Inner city schools, just as every other bunch of schools can be very good or very bad.

      Someone posted that there is a preponderance of white teaching faces and kids do not see teachers who look like them. I agree. We have a shortage of minority teachers. We have a shortage of teachers, especially in the elementary grades who are not middle class, white, and female.

  • That was always my argument against NCLB. The students that really had the desire to benefit, were capable, and had an active interest in learning and improving themselves were left behind.

  • tarma

    Great post, thank you for so much food for thought…

    Your observations about entitilement called to mind Martin Seligman’s book, The Optimistic Child. Seligman suggests that self-esteem is a consequence, not a cause, of success and failure. Attempts to instill “self-esteem” or good feelings robs kids of the opportunity to learn skills needed to be successful, for example the ability to tolerate frustration or failure, and persistence. (HRC remains a shining example of these capacities!).Thus, the current cultural tendency to protect kids/prevent “bad feelings” has led to a sense of entitlement, poor self-concept and an inability to persist in the face of failure.

    My 10 year-old son intuitively understands the inauthenticity of misguided attempts to instill a positive sense-concept which, in reality, is derived from “good commerce” with the world: he came home from school with a certificate of recognition for his participation in a project. He pointed out that the certificate had little or no meaning, since everyone in the school was compelled to participate and therefore received a certificate.

    As a parent, I also believe that NCLB has generated a cram-and-test mentality that leaves every child behind. I have watched as my fourth-grader is required to read, write and demonstrate constructivist math skills in preparation for one test after another. Reading for pleasure or curiousity? Writing for self-expression? Computing for the fun and challenge? The cultivation of curiosity and a love of learning has, tragically, been left behind.

    Finally, the excellent and dedicated teachers in my son’s school invest a great deal of effort into bringing the Level 1 and 2 “performers” up to the state minimal standards, or Level 3. This includes time, energy and resources before and after regular school hours. What about the Level 3’s who might become Level 4’s? The Level 4’s, who might be at a Level 5 or 6, if these levels existed? Yup, they’re all left behind.

    • Ferd Berfle

      As a parent, I also believe that NCLB has generated a cram-and-test mentality that leaves every child behind.

      I agree with that statement. How much a child can memorize is not learning and spending valuable time preparing for tests is not teaching. I don’t know what the major malfunction is with education today, but I know that when I was in school during the 60s and 70s, there was no fooling around in the classroom as the board of education awaited anyone that did. I didn’t appreciate it at the time but I certainly do now. Moreover, teachers did not prepare us for tests, either, though we had to take them every year in Oklahoma. Their solution was novel-test on what is taught. Who would have thought?

  • Carlita

    The No Child Left Behind bill is one of the most heinous tools used in education today. Standardized tests in this instance only show whether students can pass tests or not. It does nothing to show they can think, that they are interested in subjects, etc. It is a punitive, unnecessary piece of legislation that puts money in the pockets of the testing companies which are owned by the typical fatcats (including Bush people.)
    People who call themselves educators who support this nonsense should find another profession. It is not about being unfunded or not, it is about being wrong.
    A huge problem in the K-12 system is that it is obsolete. The whole system should be overhauled to be worth anything. The reason so m any people drop out or are pushed out or punished is because the system is inadequate for our times.
    There are lots of other ways to educate youth that this society chooses to ignore because it would lead to a questioning population that had more on its mind than being consumers.
    As far as the notion that “certified” teachers are any better than someone who is not “certified”. This is a joke. Many people have all the paperwork and exams and classwork to be “certified”, yet they have no more business being in a classroom than my kitty. Many people in the K-12 teaching profession do not even like youth, do not like Black and Brown youth, and really do not care. A person who has the sensitivity and aptitude for working with youth in the classroom is better able to serve the youth than all the “certified” folk in the world.
    Majoring in education does not make you more qualified to teach-have you ever been in an education class? Far better to major in something that is needed and do the education/methods classes along with it.
    And by the way, if educators/teachers were any better than the politicians who inflict unjust laws on the youth, they would rise up en masse and protest and REFUSE to implement the NCLB program. But something you CAN learn in an education class-teachers tend to be some of the most docile personalities and rarely rock the boat about anything. Many of them get their kicks from controlling youth rather than standing up for what is right.

    • Outis

      Carlita, your statement is one I would like to underline:

      “There are lots of other ways to educate youth that this society chooses to ignore because it would lead to a questioning population that had more on its mind than being consumers.”

      THAT is the biggest problem with NCLB and this diversionary tactic of blaming the failure of education on bad teachers only tries to hide this truth. NCLB is geared toward proficiency on tests, nothing more. But these tests are the worst indicators of learning possible. Why? Because they do not involve critical thinking in any way. Multiple choice for machine grading, a few short answers and one small essay. A child never need form a complete thought, come to a conclusion, create a hypothesis. NCLB is creating a form of intellectual slavery: students who no longer need to think.

      Case in point, when I taught at a public high school in Los Angeles, standards were coming down full force. At a district-wide meeting, some Liberal Arts teachers softly objected to the fact that to fit in all the standards, they would have to abandon teaching very important lessons. Well, I was brazen enough (I was new to this school) to warn my principal that I was going to say something he might not like (administrators are by nature cowards…I mean politicians) and that he had every right to disavow my comments.

      I stood up and said that as an English teacher, my students deserved to learn more than these useless skills required to pass a test. I pointed out that Liberal Arts has a humanizing effect on students and teaches them how to think and question. In my low income school, the novel I forced my students to read might be the only book they ever finish in their lives. The discussion to follow would require complex thoughts. High school is the time when many students are developing their own opinions of the world and beginning to form their code of ethics, independent thinking and intellectual curiosity that would serve them for the rest of their lives. By stripping them of access to the thoughts in great literature and history, we were depriving our students of their right to think, to decide, to question. In short, we were creating a society of drones.

      The answer was the test only required short readings so that is what would be taught. I left teaching shortly thereafter. NCLB, by focusing on the achievement of the very lowest, and thereby ignoring all higher forms of learning, is ensuring our nation is the least educated of any civilized nation. By cutting special programs for the gifted, so the lower achievers don’t feel “bad”, we are crushing those who could excel. The old saying, “if you want to find the brightest student in the room, they’ll be cleaning the hamster cage” is very true indeed.

      We need to WAKE UP and stop blaming teachers. Sure, there are underqualified teachers, but I must admit, they are in the same proportion to incompetents at any company. In fact, the most incompetent teachers I worked with were long-timers with MA’s or part-time administrators or coaches. The problem is not the teaching force. So many teachers seem to be failing because they are set up to fail. Most of their time is spent on discipline in over-crowded classrooms. All of the teachers I know, and they are legion, complain that they are essentially jailers. When security guards have to police the halls as they now do in elementary and junior high schools and metal detectors and armed guards greet our high school students at the door, do we wonder why our children aren’t learning?

      The NCLB program is yet another way to create a complacent populace. Don’t think, just consume. We’re abandoning all the lessons of the enlightenment and returning to the dark ages. What better way to swallow hope and change wholeheartedly without a bit of indigestion as illustrated in our last election?

  • Colleen in Indiana

    I take issue with those of you who have generalized that teachers are unq1ualified, uninterested and lazy. Although there are teachers who should n ot have their job, most of us work hard and really care about our students. NCLB crippled the education system in our country, Not only were there unfunded mandates, but teaching to the test became the norm. Teachers don’t have time for enrichment as they must get their little auto-motons ready for the next test. Tell me how you would get the attention of a child who was up all night because their parents were in a drunken fight? What about teaching the little girls who came to my school with welts from a belt on their necks because they had missed the bus? Get in the real world people. We do what we can with limited funds in urban schools and all we seem to get is the blame for all society’s ills. I’m sick of it. When all of you and all state and federal legistrators can pass the 6th grade standardized test, you will know what we are up against.

    • Donna Brazile


      Exactly! Most people have no idea what goes on in a real public school classroom. I say to That One, spend a week (undercover of course) in a public school and see the real issues facing those “bad” teachers.

      Let’s ask That One how he defines a “bad” teacher or a “good” one for that matter.

      Stop the lovefest!

  • Oh my goodness, Amy, this is such an incredible post. You could take it apart and do about 10 posts with all the topics you have in there. Our educational system is in such a fix with a handful of truly professional educators like your cousin who have this deep understanding joined up with totally clueless colleagues. I always have a love/hate thing going on with my kids’ schools. It’s so frustrating.

    Please, please, do more posts on education!

    • Will do, Sonic! The conversation has continued with my cousin, and I’ll be posting that in the next day or two.

      It’s amazing, isn’t it, that we DON’T discuss education more? It is SO foundational, and yet many of us don’t know of the inner workings of our schools, why classes are structured the way they are, how curricula are chosen, and on and on. Kind of like many us don’t really know basic anatomy even though we all have bodies. Know what I mean?

      And thank you – I am amazed at the comments here. What an incredible group of people!

      Check this out: The most teacher friendly country?

      Teachers feeling unloved and anxious about a loss of status might turn an envious eye to their colleagues in Uzbekistan.

      The Central Asian republic, where the word for teacher translates as “a learned man and considerate educator”, must rank as one of the world’s more teacher-friendly countries.

      There are subsidies for teachers such as only having to pay half their rent and there are reductions in charges for services. Teachers are also given priority access to phone lines.

      Giving public expression to the country’s admiration for its educators, 1 October is being celebrated as the ‘Day of the Teacher’, a public holiday declared by presidential decree in which the country offers “special honour and respect” to teachers.

      Uzbekistan, which gained its independence from the former Soviet Union seven years ago, has also avoided the problem of unpaid wages which has caused protests among Russian teachers.

      After independence, the education system in Uzbekistan switched from teaching through Russian to the native Uzbeki language, a process that involved an overhaul of text-books and teaching materials.

      There have also been joint ventures with other countries, including a technical institute in the capital, Tashkent, set up with Japanese investment funds.http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/education/184394.stm

      • This is such a goldmine of discussion as is affects our entire labor force, culture, politics, and future. Glad to hear there will be more!

        Uzbekistan? Never would’ve guessed!

  • Donna Brazile

    That One in his speech on education said, “We need to get rid of bad teachers.” Well, I’ll tell ya that was the best speech evah! I never thought of getting rid of bad teachers, it can’t be that hard can it?

    I have a new strategy for That One. Let’s get rid of all the GOOD teachers. Now, that would be change you can believe in.

    Why do people who have NO experience with the system suddenly KNOW how to fix it?

    Stop the lovefest!

  • LisaB

    Wonderful article RRRA! I used to teach too but got out. Teachers have so little control over their professional lives it’s like you’re infantilized.

    A famous writer/ thinker about education (Ted Sizer) said in our culture we reward performance, typically, by one of 3 ways: more money, more autonomy, or more space (bigger offices, more responsibility, etc).

    Teachers are not in line for any of those rewards, no matter what they do.

    And while kids can be pills (it’s what they do, after all), it was the parents that drove me nuts.

  • Katmoon

    As a non-traditional older student, I can see what your cousin is talking about first hand RRRA. It is amazing the level of entitlement to a good grade without work to back it up. I am grateful our college doesn’t give in to this. Also worth noting, for one of our pre-trial classes we have an incredible instructor, a former JAG, teaching us pro-bono this semester, as our small school took a million dollar hit, which means we lost i our pre-law program, big time. However, we put up a sufficient stink to hold on to our teachers for at least another year. We were told that a current staff who does have a JD back ground, however chose library science as her career, was going to teach. No offense, but we wanted someone currently involved in the profession, not someone who chose to leave it for our instructor. I will say those who are dedicated, are generally of the non-traditional student path, such as myself, grateful for our second chance. Yet, there are some fine exceptions of younger students who are a treasure, to spend academic time with. What appears to pass for work from some students doesn’t cut it in our program, the teachers are willing to hold the line on their standard for our work; most of our instructors are sitting Judges. Further, many of the successful students come from either a more traditional small town school, or related parochial school. Also there seems to be less parental “bailing out” here; I don’t know the reasons why, but would guess because they cannot afford to, and have also heard some parents push their children to become less dependent on them and grow up, and behave in a mature manner. Seems rare these days.

  • cynic

    The problem with contemporary American education begins before the kids get to school. The problem is that many parents don’t provide a foundation for teachers to build on. Children often have had no exposure to reading. Often no effort has been made to stimulate their curiousity about the world. Often they don’t even know how to behave, forcing their teachers to waste half of their time and energy simply attempting to maintain order.

    All of the children in my immediate family were beginning to read by the time they were 4. That’s because our parents read to us daily. We arrived in school already having basic skills in arithmetic. We also arrived intensely curious. Learning was a pleasure. What parents do with those preschool years makes all the difference.

  • H.D. Rider

    Sorry, but I have to disagree with many of you…including Rev Amy’s cousin. A lot of what’s wrong in education today is a result of the publish or perish gobbledygook that eternally springs forth from the colleges of education…from professors who also have an unholy alliance with textbook publishers–an alliance that bears a close resemblance to the relationship between big pharma, colleges of medicine, and medical doctors. The emphasis is on profit. What’s best for students is secondary.

    Colleges of Ed have long been cash cows for their universities. So, yes, the university systems, the colleges of education, and professors of education have fought alternative forms of teacher certification tooth and nail. Alternative certification is a serious threat to their money train. I sat through a number of state board of education meetings regarding alternative certification when state troopers with sidearms had to be present and highly visible to ensure the safety of those present. I was glad they were there and, yes, it was that desperate and that scary.

    Sorry to disillusion you, folks, but if university colleges of education were the be-all-end-all of training teachers, we wouldn’t even be having this discussion.

    Alternative forms of teacher certification were created out of desperation by state legislatures because the colleges of education were failing the public schools’ need for qualified, well trained teachers.

    I went through a college of education program and I can personally testify that the vast majority of my “education” courses were a total waste of time. One course was outstanding, but it was taught by an adjunct instructor, an administrator from the local public school system who was so dissatisfied with the college of ed’s graduates that she decided to spend her nights teaching some of their classes herself to ensure that graduates had at least some of the skills needed to ensure student success.

    And, yes, far too many of today’s college graduates can’t pass high school level basic skills tests in reading, writing, and math…don’t even mention critical thinking skills. It’s pathetic.

    Part of my job was reviewing basic skills exams. There were many days when I wanted to take my own diplomas off the walls and chuck them in the trash since a college degree no longer represented advanced learning and critical thinking abilities.

    Thoroughly disillusioned, I threw in the towel, took early retirement, and returned to the community where I once taught first and second grade. I was saddened to learn that many of my tested and officially designated gifted and talented students had been dumped in special education classes as they moved through the system. Why? They were different and more challenging to teach…can we say “non-conformists.”

    Far too many high school dropouts are gifted students. I taught fine arts, a common dumping ground for many such students at the high school level, but I was too late and in the wrong subject area to save them. I saw many of “them” again at the community college in developmental education courses as they sat with many other bright students who quite simply had never been taught in the public schools. Sad, sad, sad.

    So, we condemn our best and our brightest to oblivion, serve up touchy feel-good crapola to the remaining students, and then we scratch our heads and wonder why our students compare so unfavorably to other countries. NCLB comes along and ostensibly forces schools to ensure the success of all students…not just the teacher “pleasers”…there’s a big difference between teacher “pleasers” and gifted and talented students by the way. From the wailing and crying, from the gnashing of teeth, the lies, and the cheating that followed, one would assume that ensuring every student’s success was an edict from the devil himself. The blame slides directly down hill.

    The colleges blame the high schools, the high schools blame the middle schools who in turn blame the elementary schools. The elementary teachers blame the parents, the mother blames the father, and the father doubts the kid is even his…and so it goes. These untaught children are “Nobody’s Child,” except when there’s money to be made.

    Yes, it’s a nasty cycle. But, whom do we blame? I lay the blame at the door of the colleges of education. They have monopolized teacher training in America since Horace Mann in the nineteenth century. They had plenty of time to get it right, but obviously failed to do so. Where do all those expensive, crackpot, failed instructional programs come from? Right out of some prestigious college of education…you can go to the bank on that one.

    If I had young children today, I’d home school them. I observed middle school history and science classes where two thirds of the students couldn’t read their grade level textbooks and the teachers had to resort to videos to get concepts across to their students. Even if your children are bright and can read on an advanced level, they are, in all probability, wasting their time in today’s public schools.

    • andrew191

      Your post directly relates to mine upthread. We have unwittingly arrived at the same conclusion even though we’ve approached the problem from opposite directions, sort of like convergent evolution. You start at the top of the educational ladder and show quite well how poorly taught, or wrongfully taught education majors can derail the natural yearn for learning that children have. I started at the bottom of the ladder with the primary and most important launching pad of learning, the parents. The system seems busted on both ends. I took my role as my childrens primary teacher very seriously, and it was with great reluctance that I passed the baton to teachers with whom I had little confidence. My kids tell me that half of their teachers smell of booze and cigarettes. But since they’re tenured, there’s no getting rid of them. Unfortunately, Obama’s approach is a thinly disguised payback to the teacher’s union, and he only gives his usual noncommital lip service to the core problem. Obama has no real interest in having a well educated population, his power and position would not exist without ignorance.

      • H.D.Rider and Andrew191–Where is the best place to get home school material? Is there a place to look online at ‘standardized’ grade level curricula (as a starting point)? And do either or you know where I can find information on grade level curricula from other countries that place high on the PISA or other comparable tests? I would like to get the school board to discuss it.

        One of my kids is going into 6th grade next year and I will need to supplement what the teachers are doing. It’s a ‘black hole’ grade at this school.

        Thanks for any suggestions you may have.

        • H.D. Rider

          Sonic Ninja Kitty,
          I wish I could help you here, but I have no direct experience in selecting a home-school program. But, here’s what I would do if I were to begin a search for the best coursework for my children.

          I would start by checking my home state’s requirements for homeschooling. I would also look for an online program or at least one with a strong online component that should include coursework, resources, tutors, mentors, etc. I observed many classrooms and the students that were consistently engaged in learning were the three or four seated at the classroom’s computers.

          I would also look for a program that allows students to move ahead at their own pace. They’ll zoom through some content and bog down in others. Just be sure the flexibility is in place that will allow them to simply test out if they can, and yet provide in depth opportunities to learn, practice, test, and retest when it’s needed.

          I was the first chair for an online college level distance education program before I retired. I know Internet courses work, but I also know course content can be good, bad, or flat out ugly…very similar to what we find in face-to-face classes. If your state requires home-schooled students to take an annual achievement test, find out which curriculum programs deliver the highest test scores. Surely they are tracking this information.

          Google the blogs for parents who home school in your state. Your task would be much easier if only a few programs were available, but their numbers are legion. You have your work cut out for you, but I’m sure the perfect program for your children is out there. Even if you find the perfect program, you will have to be engaged as well. But, I think you will enjoy the journey.

      • H.D. Rider

        I agree with you and wish that every child had a dedicated and capable parent such as yourself…but, sadly, it just doesn’t happen all that often. In fact, you’re pretty rare.

        While I wish all parents could have their children reading by age three, I also know that most parents are not trained professionals with multiple degrees and years of experience in education. The colleges of education have failed…not the children or their parents.

        • H.D., just so you know, I have another post to put up soon from Cousin EJ, and part of it deals directly with your first comment. I thought you’d like to know! 🙂

    • Fran

      I agree, as I said above, that as long as schools of education do not change, the education system will not improve.

      These comments caught my attention: “I was saddened to learn that many of my tested and officially designated gifted and talented students had been dumped in special education classes as they moved through the system. Why? They were different and more challenging to teach…can we say “non-conformists.”

      Far too many high school dropouts are gifted students.”

      My son exactly. He qualified in the John’s Hopkins Talented Youth Search and took the college boards when he was 12 years old. Our school district had him in a special ed class where, he told me, he was doing 3rd grade work! He ended up doing a dual major, in another district, in academics and fine art. I would have let him drop out, but he was so young that there was no point. I would have home schooled him but I had to work to support us. My niece was as you described: gifted, dropped out.

      btw, our teachers are among the highest paid in this country, so that is NOT the issue here. Also, for that reason, the jobs are given according to connections, not according to ability or performance. Our school taxes are very high and it all goes for salaries.

      • Yes, my point in my last post correlates with the comments on the colleges of education. Affirmative Action started the downward spiral by requiring the removal of the competency tests given to the college of education undergraduate applicants.

        There are other mitigating factors, such as, the publishing requirements colleges often put on the professors, and the unpreparedness of students entering college. But the largest problem, by far, is the lack of regulation of who may enter the teaching profession.

        Don’t get me wrong, I worked with many excellent minority teachers at the beginning of my career. But the difference was they had to take those undergrad competency exams just like I did.

        Many new teachers do not survive the profession today simply because they themselves do not have the passion or background to teach.

      • tarma

        My child is also a Johns Hopkins CTY kid. When he complained of not being challenged in the classroom, I requested a meeting, and found myself facing his classroom teacher, his gifted teacher, the school psychologist and the principal. Sigh…I ended up entrusting my child to behavioral therapy with a dear friend, so that he can learn to be more politically astute and compliant. We’ve also invested a great deal of time/money into enrichment programs outside of school; these programs are my child’s lifeline, both socially and intellectually.

        When he took the CTY test, he received an award for high honors. I chose to write up a press release and request that it be sent to the local paper. I did this because of what I see as the high level of attention and acknowledgment given to sports participation (much of it deserved) in contrast with what I view as minimal celebration of academic excellence.

        • H.D. Rider

          Ah, that administrator and his staff circled the wagons on you…they love to do that. The parent walks in with a legitimate concern and is stunned to suddenly be facing a legion of “experts” whose sole purpose is to denigrate the parent. I, too, as a parent earned that T-shirt and after I entered the profession I saw that scenario repeated again and again. It’s an old, cheap trick. Unfortunately, it works.

          Like you, I too searched high and low and spent inordinate amounts of money, and probably drove a million miles to provide horizontal enrichment for my four children. And, yes, it made a difference in their lives.

    • Diana L. C.

      Your comments are right on! I agree. I don’t know how many of my concerned younger friends with small children have asked me what to do. I always say, “If you can, please home school them.”

      The education classes I took were also useless–I keep saying it. Teachers need to know their subjects. The pedagogy crap that is taught is useless and wrong headed.

      I sat it a mandated “motivation theory” class once being taught by my own vice-principal (a real jerk). I was the only one who ever dared to speak up. Now tell me you have academic freedom in a class taught by your boss. I said that since I HAD to take the class, I would, but I did not want it to be on my transcript because I wouldn’t be proud of having it there. (He was working through a college in another town.) They really didn’t know how to take that.

      We got to one night when he was touting the tactics of the jerkish shop teacher. This teacher would call parents and say things like this: “Well, young Johnny says you won’t let him use the car Friday. Don’t you think you should because he did such a fine job on his shop exam?” That was his method of motivating students.

      I raised my hand and said point blank: “Boy am I glad you weren’t my brother’s teacher since if you had called my father, he would have told you the truth. My brother’s right to the family car was in no way logically connected to how he did in shop class.” Then my brother would have been called on the carpet for even mentioning my father’s denying him the use of the car. It was none of the teacher’s business.

      I could go on about the stupid things that were taught for education credit. I sat through many district-sponsored sessions and was given certificats of CEUs for all of them to turn in for renewing my license. I threw them out because most everything I sat through was crap. I renewed my license each time by taking classes in my subject.

      I’ve always said, since I am an English teacher, that my students are indirect objects of my teaching, not direct objects. I always learned the most from the teachers I had who really loved their subjects. Heck, I am not mathematically inclined, but my Algebra and Geometry teacher in high school was amazing. You couldn’t sit in his class withouth realizing how much he loved his subject and without wanting to learn it from him. It’s why I learned it. It wasn’t any pedagogical principle he was using, like group work or self-esteem building, or whatever buzz word that was current. It was his real love of his subject.

      It’s my subject that I love. I want them to be inspired to see its value in their lives. If I don’t know it and love it and like to learn it, how can I expect them to? I do not teach students. I teach my subject to students.

      My classroom discipline comes mainly through being totally prepared for class with thorough lesson plans and being absolutely consistent with my stance that NO KID has a right to disrupt someone else’s right to learn what I want to teach. And since I DO know my subject, I can explain it many different ways to make sure everyone who wants to learn it can learn it. No question is “stupid” if it is sincere. I want the questions so I can be sure they are thinking.

      Every time I had a young teacher for my own kids gush and go on about how much she/she just loved little kids and that is why she/he was teaching, I would say to her/him, “I love my kids plenty. You don’t need to love them for me, but you do need to love them enough to want to teach them something. By doing that, you will have loved them enough.”

  • AF catfish

    In our inner city, in our city, rather, the public schools are improving. This is due to a lot of middle class people who can’t afford to move out of the city and flee to the suburbs, and a lot of middle class people who suddenly can’t affort private schools.

    The middle class parents get really involved in applying for grants for their kids’ schools to use.

    Oh – and some of the charter schools went from educating inner-city kids to mostly kids bused in from Marin. Why? The kids bused in from wealthy Marin upped the test scores of the charter school.

  • TeakwoodKite

    Public schools are held hostage by the state. The state is held hostage by the Feds. The “entitlement” your cousin speaks of is very real.

    We are “educating” a student body at the k-12 level that is a puppy mill of mediocrity.

    I heard BO say that he wants merit pay. That is viewed as a poison pill to the teachers union. In California they endorsed him for POTUS. It must really sting now. There was a software program for evaluating the students performance and it took 4 years for the district teaching staff to understand it would not be used to evaluate the teachers performance as well. There were many teachers, until recently, that were not certified in the courses they taught.

    Classroom discipline at the high school level is a shambles in many cases. It has gotten worse in the last decade.

    Such is the Ipod generation. All headsets and very little discipline.

  • TeakwoodKite

    At the end of 5th grade my daughter was an F student and had some educational issue besides which the “504”‘s where not passed from one grade to the next.

    We requested that she be left behind so to get a better academic leg up.

    We were told by the District Superintendent that it would “hurt her social skills” if that was done.

    Now if you met my daughter you would see right away she is a social butterfly and actually has very good skills in that arena, even at that age.
    We took her out of public schools until 10th grade.

  • to77

    “I would hope we pay teachers better. Compared to other countries, we don’t pay well at all. We do not hold teachers in high regard, which they are in other countries.”

    Teachers starting salary:
    Italy – $25,000
    Germany – 37,000
    Spain – 32,000
    France – 25,000
    US – 34,000

    Average salary in Japan 45,500 average salary, in norway it is 39,000 in the US – The average salary for traditional public school teachers increased 4.5 percent in 2006-07 to $51,009, according to the AFT’s latest teacher salary survey, marking the first time average teacher pay exceeded $50,000

    How are they paid less than other countries, which ones?

    • bart

      It’s a fair point, but don’t get caught in averages. Today’s teacher corps is fairly middle aged and that skews the average pay. Beginners or even teachers with 5 years experience don’t make so much.

      Many teachers don’t make it to 5 years, but many stop teaching at that mark.

    • Not from what I saw:
      #1 Switzerland: $33,209.00
      #2 Germany: $29,697.00
      #3 Denmark: $28,140.00
      #4 Netherlands: $25,896.00
      #5 United States: $25,707.00
      #6 Australia: $25,661.00
      #7 Spain: $24,464.00
      #8 Norway: $22,194.00
      #9 Ireland: $21,940.00
      #10 Austria: $21,804.00

      Bear in mind, too, that in many of the countries above, there are more services available, like health care and long term care, thus fewer out of pocket expenses. AND, our country has a broad spectrum of cost of living. CA, NY, MA are going to be higher than AL, SC, and MS, for example. Just a thought.

      • kinthenorthwest

        I think you would be better off looking at where you are getting your averages from. NY and Ca do pay the highest. Believe it or not we still have many states where teachers start below 30 k.

        Overall most teachers pay grade starts in at about 30 to 33 k per year and thats for an average of 190 working days a year of teaching (holidays and vacation taken out.) Now mulitiply that by the 10 to 12 hours a day a teacher has to put in to plan, grade and required extra curriliular activities you will find they work far more hours than a regular worker. If you multiply 11 times the 190 days you get 2090 hours a year and thats the mean. If you take 48 weeks (4 weeks of holidays and vacation) you get 1920 hours. So that means a teacher puts in an average of 170 hours more a year than the average worker. Then take out from their pay, the 10 to 20 % that most teachers spend on supplies. Boy teachers are so over paid arent they.

    • WhatNow

      You can’t just compare the different pay scales among the different countries. Many countries, such as Germany have school 6 days a week and their breaks are much shorter than ours but they get more vaction days.

      Without doing an analysis, many of the other countries have a longer school year than we do.

  • As a veteran teacher of 25 years, I can attest to the demise of education in the US. Once the warm fuzzies and Affirmative Action started and the standards went out the window, education went into a slow spiral downward. The university I went to for my prep was required to remove the admissions test to enter the college of education. They were told that minorities would not be able to pass and the tests could be seen as discriminatory. They were tests of academic acumen, communication skills, mathematic skills, social interaction skills, and general knowledge. I took them, but three years later the university had to drop the admissions battery of tests. This was for a BA degree!

    The teachers that have entered the field since then have never to rarely had to prove themselves capable of teaching. Universities didn’t care if the education candidate had a passion for teaching. Rarely were the lesser candidates counseled to seek another degree.

    My last student teacher told me she simply didn’t have time to create lessons and put forth any effort to be an integral part of her preparation to teach. She showed up part time at best and never did turn in a completed plan to teach a lesson – NOT ONE! She is one of the entitled generation.

    When I would not agree to give her a pass her college supervisor called me and begged me to let her pass. Why? Because the college (university) didn’t want to jeopardize their NCATE standing which was up for review that year.

    I rewrote her evaluation to include that she wasn’t prepared to take on the duties of a teacher and that any district that hired her would need to provide a strong mentoring and performance objectives based plan for her to be successful. That at least got her college supervisor off my back. The student teacher was angry but accepted my evaluation.

    The next fall a human resources officer of a school district called me and thanked me for the honest and frank evaluation. The officer said that if all master teachers were that honest, it would save districts a ton of money and agony. As almost an afterthought the HR officer mentioned how the children would have suffered with such an unmotivated and unprepared teacher.

    Needless to say, I’ve had little use for Affirmative Action and unfortunately had witnessed how it lowered the standards of our educational systems.

  • elise

    My husband grew up in a small town and he still complains about how much money was spent on athletics and how little was spent on science labs and academic activities. There was never a shortage of funding for uniforms for teams or busing to games. He is a geek with an astounding intellect and scientific curiosity, but the schools failed to provide a challenge so he learned on his own by taking apart everything he could find and building his own lab. In all of the years since, nothing has changed and our grandchildren have almost a phobia for anything scientific. He works so patiently with them trying to instill what the schools have failed to do: a genuine curiosity and interest in wonder of physical science. I agree with your cousin, RRRA. There is too much emphasis on competition and winning and not enough on the intrinsic joy of learning.

  • CentralMass

    Teachers,students,parents, and even coaches are bigger then NCLB.

    My wife and I devoted a lot of time to our 3 daughters, now in their teens, during their early years. We read to them starting when they were just months old on daily basis. We’d walk around and point at house hold item and say their name. We had unlimited amounts of paper for scribbling and chalk boards, magnetic alphabetic character on the refrigerator, blocks, and books. They were all early, advanced readers. Even the twins, born two months premature. They are straight A students and are also very well behaved.The first few years are critical.

    My wife, now 44 went back to school at 40 to become a teacher. She taught a year at a private school, grade 5, and is now in her first full year teaching 5th grade English and social studies at a publics school. IMO, she is making a difference in her students lives.

    Like the memorable teachers, some my coaches had a big impact on me. They taught me mental toughness, self-esteem, competitiveness, sportsmanship and even ethics.

    I’ve coached my daughters in youth soccer and like to think I’ve instilled a little extra sense of self esteem in them and their team mates. How to play competitively and win and lose gracefully.

    There are some parent,student, and teacher that need a boot in backside but the glass is half-full. People are the key, not the system.

  • Babs

    If I could do anything to change education in America, and were given the money and opportunity to create one experimental school, I would first begin by hiring only graduates of Liberal Arts colleges to teach the non-science and math classes. Liberal arts students are the sponges. the ones who go to school for the love of learning, the excitement of the discovery, the pursuit of tangents that lead to more and more learning opportunities. If kids are not taught that love of learning from someone who knows it, and lives it, and communicates it, then history is just a bunch of dates in a book, social studies is just laws and government without background or debate, English is just grammar and spelling and words, without appreciation of the beauty of the written word, and the infinite opportunities awaiting those who learn the fine art of communication.
    For all science and math, I would hire nothing but ex-military people with backgrounds in those areas. The discipline and organizational skills of the ex-military people with whom I work are unparalled, and I think they would set a great example for children in those areas, as well as providing a positive learning environment so absent in many of our classrooms today.
    OK, I’ll shut up now….

  • WhatNow

    I also had excellent teachers when I was school and expected the same for my children. Was I disappointed! My children were military kids and between both of them (who were born 12 years apart) they have been in 16 school districts. I can only think of 4 teachers that were excellent, the other teachers should find another line of work.

  • kinthenorthwest

    Good Test Scores does not necessarily mean good teachers.
    If you look at any city newspaper when they print the city’s and/or state’s test scores you will see what I mean. Over 90% of the time the low test scores are tied into districts with lower income families and the higher test scores are tied in to districts with majority of higher income districts.
    Education takes both the school and home working together to insure that students obtain and retain what is being taught to them.
    Often where students score low on tests are the areas influenced by what they are exposed to as they are growing up.
    An example is a child in a very low income inner city family is not going to totally understand things outside of his enviroment. The same holds true for a child in a very low income rural area.

    • WhatNow

      I grew up in the inner city. My parents were immigrants and spoke no English. We were dirt poor but fortunately for me, the teachers at my schools, cared. This was over 30 years ago. Today, I would have been sidelined somewhere and never reached my potential.

      All students have the potential to be smart and well educated, teachers make sure the students don’t get what they need. One size fits all – NOT.

      • kinthenorthwest

        One size does not fit the whole class and that is what a good teacher knows and plans his/her lessons around.
        Yet there are only so many hours in every day and so much one teacher can do.
        Now a days most schools are way over crowded with teachers having 25 to 30 students in every grade…Kindergarten through graduation. Sadly many teachers are more bogged down with discipline that other aspects due to this over crowding.
        In the lower income areas kids enter school totally unprepared for any of the basic expectations that are needed to be able to learn (folowing along, listening skills, manners, and the list goes on). I have watched the best of teachers floundering, mostly due to the lack of parental support at home for what is being taught in the classroom. What is being taught in the classroom usually requires homework and reinforcement at home. Sadly many parents are too busy working to provide this to their children.
        To top this off look at what the average pay for a teacher is….About 30 k to start and usually after about 20 years they might get into the 50 k bracket. Most teachers work an average of 50-60 hours a week during the school year, with summers and vacations getting shorter and shorter every year.

        • CentralMass

          You a right on with many of your points.

  • Babs

    RRRA: I stopped considering teachers as professionals many years ago as my four children went through public school, and I saw the weak and the ineffectual and just plain horrific teachers being protected by that nationwide security blanket, the teachers’ unions. Are there wonderful, inspiring teachers out there? Of course. But anyone with children in public school for any length of time can tell you horror stories of children who do not get those teachers, of union-protected, lazy, ineffectual teachers with tenure, and no matter how parents complain, there is no way to get rid of them save a major misstep on their part. Until we figure out a way to reward the good teachers and get the bad ones the hell away from our kids, I do not consider teaching a profession, but rather another union-controlled industry failing miserably.

    • andrew191

      I think the problem lies locally for the most part. School boards need to be more proactive in recruiting parents into the program, not just to help, but also to make them more scholastically invested in the futures of their children.

      Just like generational welfare, the cycle of educational indifference needs to be broken, or the children of unconcerned parents will barely maintain the status quo of our society.

      I am deeply gratified when my children turn to me for help with their schoolwork. I home schooled my kids until they were ready for 8th grade. Every moment was a teachable moment. Very few parents that I know these days have a clue what their children are doing in school, and fewer even care. They assume that the teachers and school are going to give them all the tools the kids need to enter an adult world. They assume incorrectly. I find I spend more time disabusing my kids from some of the nonsense that they are being indoctrinated with daily at the public school, then I spent teaching them myself. Because of the wide rift between a classical education and the current curriculum that seems to have evolved out of a leftist propaganda generator, many parents throw up their hands when asked to help, because the lessons being taught to their children today are not even vaguely familiar to what they learned in school.

      Just yesterday, I asked my high school senior son where he gained most of his knowledge. Without hesitation he told me that I had taught him most of the things he has learned. Reflexively, I used that as a teachable moment. I asked him who wrote “The Iliad” and “The Odyssey”. He quickly answered “Homer” (he knew because I made him read them). I told him he was half right; Homer didn’t write “The Iliad” and “The Odyssey”, he simply wrote them down, he had learned them through the oral tradition. It’s the same way my son has learned as much as I can pass on to him. And when modern and disturbing teaching methods and subjects interrupt millenium old ways of passing on knowledge, the results will be dissapointing.

  • Diana L. C.


    Your cousin’s frustration is well founded, and I agree with most of her points about the problems with education in our country.

    The one thing that makes me even more skeptical that we can turn it around it sthat now the many new and certified teachers coming from our universities are also really undeducated and unable to really understand the content they are supposed to teach. They got their degrees by attending class and jumping through the hoops and being thus, “entitled” to the certificate.

    As I posted once before, I am appalled at the young teachers who come into a public school system, then immediately, their first year of teaching–which should be, as your cousing said, a year in which they are drained from the constant planning and grading and learning the ropes–begin an online MA program at night in education in order to earn their MA and thus more salary. They never then go on to earn credit in their subject area. They hand out multiple choice worksheets or fill in the blanks, etc. They aren’t really teaching. And they have “student assistants” doing the grading. They set up grading systems which give credit for turning in papers. Students copy and know their answers don’t matter.

    Your cousin is an Education professor now but appears to have put in her time in the trenches, but I do not have respect for most people with MAs in education UNLESS the person has also earned lots and lots of grad credit in their subject matter first. I have nothing but disgust for young teachers who do not really KNOW their content.

    And, I will disagree on one thing. In most of the schools I taught, there were many, many parents who were relieved when they discovered I KNEW my subject area and was most concerned that my students learn it. I found that working with parents was easy. Many were delighted to help keep their kid in line and doing the work, if they felt the work was really teaching them something. I remember only a few who just wanted their children to get the grade without the knowledge. Maybe it was where I taught, though I taught in five different public school districts.

    The thing I agree with most is your cousin’s dislike of the “testosterone” problem. I have always thought the arguments that sports and education should be together were bogus. Usually it was the classical Greek idea of a sound mind in a sound body. But I think we’ve worked far too hard on the sound body and not hard at all on the sound mind.

    The sports influcence has damaged rural schools the most, I think. To hire a teacher, they often require one who will agree to coach something also. Again, teaching all day and coaching all afternoon leaves little time for planning and grading. I’ve been in schools in which people with 4.0 GPAs in the subject matter were not hired because they didn’t want to coach. People with average grades with a minor in the subject matter were hired instead because they agreed to coach. Then, that person who was an absolute drain on the department because he/she cared not a whit for the subject he/she was supposted to be teaching, would refuse to coach the minute he/she earned tenure. The department was then stuck with a bad teacher. The teacher’s whole goal was to get a job that had two and a half months off in the summer. Teaching was definitely not a calling for these people.

    I should go now–I get really upset over this topic.

    The main thing wrong with standardized testing now is the “teaching to the test” as if they hadn’t been doing that all along, which unfortunately many were not. Heck, back in the Cretaceous Era when I was in public schools, we had to take the Iowa Test of Basic Skills each year. But it was one day of testing. The teachers never really said much about it in advance because they knew that we should be able to handle it IF we had been doing our regular work all along. Parents could count on it as a good measure of what kind of student they had. And they knew it wasn’t the teachers’ faults if their children did badly because there were also all those kids who did just fine. It was NOT a big deal, and it gave an overall idea to the community of how their schools and teachers were doing.

    • Diana L. C.

      Sorry about the typing mistakes–typing too fast with a cat on my lap and dogs wanting attention at my side.

  • Fran

    When my son was in school, the teachers kept saying that school was important so that you could get a good job so that you could earn more money.

    Kids were told that grades were the only thing that mattered because they lead to money, which is really the only thing that matters ultimately. And we wonder why young people have this attitude?

    I think it is too late to really address issues in the classrooms, as far as teaching goes. Most teachers now are probably practically illiterate themselves, or at least lacking in intellectual curiosity. I think it will have to be addressed in the schools of education.

    I have done graduate work in education and have taught in various schools. I love learning and I am good at teaching. I had to leave due to the incredible frustration I had with the educational system. It is almost counter-productive to real education. If you really care about any of it, you will burn out. In fact, you will probably be ostracized. There is no support for a healthy system.

    I think recognition for achievement has its place. But, I think that praising every little thing a child does creates a monster. btw, I also think that achievement, or success, is different for different people/ students, based on what is realistic.

  • WhatNow

    My first reaction was to write a short novel. I will spare everyone here the sordid details and just give a short background. My 2 children have roamed the world with their military parent for their entire education. My daughter has been in 8 school disticts and my son (12 years apart) has been in another 8 school districts. So, there are 16 school districts and I had to supplement their education because the teachers in all of the districts didn’t know the material besides the basics.

    The teachers can’t teach and the students learn very little. There were only a handful of teachers that I think were above the norm and those teachers should get a pay raise. The other teachers should get out of the teaching environment or get remedial training. I have no respect for the teachers that were condenscending to me and treated my children as idiots. To get respect, show some respect to the students and their parents.

  • Ani

    Great post, Amy. There is nothing more noble one can be than a teacher, I think. There are techers I had back in high school I still remember vividly to this day. I remember specific things they taught me, I remember how there were there for me and inspired me to grow and strive for more. I am heartbroken that our drive by get everything now live on credit culture has encouraged the kind of blanket (and destructive) entitlement you are talking about. Perhaps with this economic downturn, at least a few with be forced to rethink their priorities.

    As long as we are fed the same goop of reality junk TV and advertising — more and more pablum– less and less critical thought, I don’t know if we are going to get away from these problems.

    • I know exactly what you mean, Ani. I had teachers like that, too – I can still see them in my mind’s eye today.

      And yes, teachers, like nurses, are the unsung heroes of our society. Where would we be without them, yet we take them so for granted. My cousin has taught in both England and Australia (on sabbatical), so she knows first hand how teachers are treated in other countries (she’s also traveled fairly extensively for work, like giving papers and all).

      It is shameful, and says a lot abt our priorities.

      • H.D. Rider

        Rev Amy, your comment begs yet another response from me…semi off topic, but perhaps not.

        Classroom teacher, nurse, secretary, child care provider–each category equals “women’s work” in the USA. Women’s work equals low or no pay with minimal or no respect.

        Didn’t this country, with much fan fair and publicized leg tingles, recently elect a pair of pants sans vetting, with little or no qualifications, but great teleprompter skills for POTUS while it collectively bashed, belittled, and marginalized the best qualified candidate, who unfortunately, on occasion, but not too often, wore a skirt? Alas, she was “…a crowing hen…” and deserved everything she got and more.

        There are many wrongs to right. Where do we start? Off hand, I’d say women need to get up off their knees.

        • Amen to that, H.D.

          And you are absolutely right – these areas have been traditionally “women’s work.”

  • cygnet

    Obama wants to have the best education system in the world. He also wants to continue importing people whose children are barely capable of being educated.

    • Linda C.

      This isn’t true. Why are you putting the responsibility on “imported people” and somehow their “offspring” are less than intelligent. What a racists and elitist statement. Our problems are ours brought on by ourselves without help from anyone else.

      We have worried too much about our children’s little egos instead of worrying about building their character.

      • cygnet

        It is true. Also, your grammar is terrible.

        • Eidnoreid

          wow, you’re just changing the subject without bothering to reply to the comment, but you can believe whatever you want, kool-aid drinking o-bot.

  • Babs

    And pity the poor employers who hire these “entitled” ones when they graduate from college. That sense of entitlement does not end when they receive their degrees, and added to that is the pathetic need of these kids to be constantly praised for average work, “Good job” and high fives for tasks performed routinely by older employees with no need for constant affirmation of their worth.

    • Exactly – the mediocre is now celebrated like it’s some kind of accomplishment. Someone misses a free throw in basketball, for example, and they get exactly the same response as when they make it – high fives and all.

      When did this start, that kids were praised for every little thing they did, no matter the result or importance? Graduation ceremonies from 5th to 6th grades, and stuff like that? Sheesh…

      • FLDemFem

        I remember when it started, back in the late 70’s. People started worrying about “self-esteem” and the effect of low self-esteem on children. It ended up permeating the school system and a child’s self-esteem became the criteria for successful education rather than actual accomplishment. As a riding instructor, I ran into this sort of thing a lot. I used to get parents who actually told me I should train the horse for the child so the child would do well in the saddle. My answer was that when the child learned how to do what was needed to get the horse to go well, then the horse would go well. The horse doesn’t care if the kid has self-esteem, the horse only cares if the rider is correct in their application of the aids. This takes a lot of work to learn. And those kids had a real sense of accomplishment when they did the work and the horse went well for them. I have had students come back to me years later and thank me for making them do the work. It stood them in good stead in years ahead. They knew that to get the result you had to do the work. The horses taught them that, and so did I. These days it’s not about the work, or doing it well, it’s about the pats they get for just being them. Even my horses know better than that. They may get pats and treats when they aren’t working just for being horses, but when they are under saddle and working, they know they have to earn their pats. And they do.

        • What an OUTSTANDING example, FLDemFem – thank you for this. You have hit the nail on the head (especially abt the horses teaching the kids, and the horses knowing they have to work hard).

      • FLDemFem

        I remember when it started, back in the late 70’s. People started worrying about “self-esteem” and the effect of low self-esteem on children. It ended up permeating the school system and a child’s level of self-esteem became the criteria for successful education rather than actual accomplishment. As a riding instructor, I ran into this sort of thing a lot. I used to get parents who actually told me I should train the horse for the child so the child would do well in the saddle. My answer was that when the child learned how to do what was needed to get the horse to go well, then the horse would go well. The horse doesn’t care if the kid has self-esteem, the horse only cares if the rider is correct in their application of the aids. This takes a lot of work to learn. And those kids had a real sense of accomplishment when they did the work and the horse went well for them. I have had students come back to me years later and thank me for making them do the work. It stood them in good stead in years ahead. They knew that to get the result you had to do the work. The horses taught them that, and so did I. These days it’s not about the work, or doing it well, it’s about the pats they get for just being them. Even my horses know better than that. They may get pats and treats when they aren’t working just for being horses, but when they are under saddle and working, they know they have to earn their pats. And they do. I see no reason why children shouldn’t be held to the same standard as horses. Do you?

        • FLDemFem

          Sorry about the double posting, not sure why it’s happening. Seems that it posts itself halfway through the writing. Grrrr..

  • jbjd

    The NCLB Act mandates performance levels in standardized tests, tied to federal funding of state education programs,without which funding state education programs would be severely constricted. However, Congress has never fully funded the NCLB Act. In order words, like with so many other federal legislative schemes, the NCLB forces states to make do with less; or to fudge test results to ensure continued funding.

    • jbjd

      in order words = in other words