Morning Ed: Education {2018.01.31.W}

[Ed1] Good on FIRE for doing the FIRE thing.

[Ed2] While you want a conviction rate above 0%, you probably want one below 100% too.

[Ed3] This strikes me as intuitively true to the point that I was probably guilty of it. Apart from a possible expectation that women need to accommodate, there is also the expectation they be polite if they don’t and so it’s easier to ask because they won’t yell at you.

[Ed4] Sometimes, objective metrics that often have disparate results can still actually be helpful to minority applicants. I wrote a bit about that at Hit Coffee a while back.

[Ed5] If only there were ways to send people to schools based on on some criteria other than precisely where they live. But more seriously (because of course that’s not what Vox has in mind), while it make sense to throw statistics out for the South, a lot of people are going to come away with this with the impression that the problem is worse in the South than elsewhere. It isn’t. Also, questionable statistics.

[Ed6] Should teaching be political? Four perspectives. It can’t be entirely apolitical, but if it’s not minimized by effort, it can go in all sorts of directions.

[Ed7] Assessing what works in the classroom is really, really difficult.

[Ed8] Chinese education institutes are invading our campuses. Perhaps Russia should have tried this.

[Ed9] Relatedly, economic professors for hire!


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Will Truman is a former para-IT professional who is presently a stay-at-home father in the Mountain East. He has moved around frequently, having lived in six places since 2003, ranging from rural outposts to major metropolitan areas. He is also on Twitter. ...more →

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64 thoughts on “Morning Ed: Education {2018.01.31.W}

  1. Ed2: Many progressives and progressive institutions sincerely believe that all sexual harassment and assault are true. They act accordingly. They also seem to believe that due process doesn’t matter in these proceedings because it might allow guilty people to go free.

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  2. ED3: I find the student requests (for extra credit, for handing in late work against my stated policies, for taking exams at “alternate” times to accommodate things like vacations) annoying and burdensome. I am polite about saying no, but honestly….I wonder if they ask such outrageous things of my male colleges (or even the female colleagues I have who present as less gentle and soft-spoken).

    A friend of mine, when I complain about this stuff, regularly responds, “[fishing] Ask Culture” and I think that’s part of it (My MO is not to ask for something if I am likely to hear a no, and also not to ask for things that feel to me like they would burden the other person). A lot of the students have, after asking for some ridiculous thing I’d never allow (e.g., “Can I retake the exam because I felt a little ‘off’ this morning when I took it?”) responded “Well, it never hurts to ask!” and sometimes I silently think “Sometimes, maybe it SHOULD.”

    We also often get hit with the But You’re A Role Model from the administration (at least for women in STEM, and I suspect the African-American, Hispanic, and Asian profs get hit with that too, seeing as we tend to be fairly low-diversity in terms of profs) so a lot of us get asked to do extra recruiting duty and the like. (That’s another whole aspect of it: that women are sometimes expected to render more service. Or maybe anyone in a minority is expected to render more service….) The irony is that in my department, women are not really in a minority; we are close to 50% of the faculty….

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    • I have the same ambivalence you do about “ask culture.”

      When I was a student, I observed other students ask for things I wouldn’t. In particular, the number of times people asked to turn a paper in late really bothered me, who always turned in the paper on time. (When I went to grad school, there were some papers I turned in late, but as an undergrad, I never did unless the professor extended deadlines for the entire class.) One thing I didn’t know then, but that I think I know now, having taught, is how poor quality those late papers probably were. Extending the deadline didn’t make them better.

      When I taught and TA’d, I also got requests that I would never have asked for as a student. Some of those requests seemed reasonable. But I often wondered about those students who just assumed it wasn’t something that could be requested and just bore the burden like they were expected. In other words, at least for me, it’s not so much a question about whether it’s true that “it doesn’t hurt to ask” as it is a question about “what about all the others who might of asked but didn’t because they didn’t think they could?”

      Well, I realize I haven’t touched the gendered dynamics, but it doesn’t surprise me if those are a real thing.

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      • Yeah, I wouldn’t ask for a lot of things as a student but at the time I thought it was because my dad was a professor, and I kind of knew the culture, and also I knew how annoyed my dad got by the (few, then) “ridiculous” students he had who didn’t have their poop in a group and so, asked for things like exam retakes.

        I suspect also different university cultures may foster it to different degrees, or different time periods. When I was a student and where I was a student, the typical pattern was a faculty member had two hours a week of office hours – otherwise, you stopped him or her after class and asked your question quickly. There was essentially no e-mail (when I started grad school in 1990 I got my first e-mail address) and many profs didn’t answer their office phones. I also remember a friend of mine being very discombobulated when she went to our intro chem prof with what seemed like a reasonable question (she didn’t understand something about how he taught thermodynamics) and he yelled at her for not understanding.

        Now, as a prof, I am required to hold 10 hours of office hours. And I have e-mail. (And some profs on my campus give out their personal cell phones so students can text them! Nope, nope, nope). And the general difference in attitudes has led to less of “The Professor is an Expert and do not anger Him or Her” to “the professor is here to serve you!” and I think that’s led to a lot of the more ridiculous asks.

        Granted: my undergrad was at a Public Ivy where the vast majority of us were traditional aged students from the top 10% of our graduating class, and where I teach is a small regional with a lot of non-trads* and a more lax admissions policy.

        But sometimes that’s easy to forget and I wonder why on earth I don’t seem more an Olympian figure like my professors did. Instead, it seems like some of my students see me as a substitute mom and I so don’t want that role.

        (*though then again: most of my non-trads seem to have enough life experience to understand that sometimes you just have to set priorities, or juggle stuff, or maybe accept a B instead of an A because work interferes with studying)

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        • Ten office hours seems like a lot. Too much.

          At the same time, I wish there were a way to have a happy medium between what you describe as the “Professor is an Expert and do not anger Him or Her” and the “professor is here to serve you!” attitudes. A person like your friend should have an opportunity to ask for clarification on something without getting yelled at or condescended to. But the instructor should be allowed to set standards and draw a separation among their roles as private individual, instructor, and researcher.

          In my view, the professors are there to serve the students, except maybe for “tier 1” research schools, and even then they’re there to serve the students, just not as much (and not necessarily all of them). I think requiring an exorbitant number of office hours is the wrong way to go. But I don’t know what the right answer is. I don’t know how one encourages a “professors should serve students” mentality without also encouraging the “ask culture” or what that paper calls “academic entitlement.”

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          • I genuinely enjoy helping (most of) my students when they come in with questions. One of the best parts of teaching is having someone come in going “I’m confused by this” and then you say “Okay, let me think of a different way to explain it” and sometimes you do, or sometimes you just work through another example of the thing for them, and if you’re lucky, you see the light go on and they say “OH I get it now, thank you.”

            It’s the people who refuse to pinpoint what’s wrong and who just come in saying “I hate this class and don’t understand anything” or the people who wait until the week before finals and want make-up explanations for EVERYTHING that I have to take a deep breath over in order not to say something I might regret.

            And yeah, yeah, when I’m at my best I can acknowledge that students are sometimes avoidant of doing things like coming in for help because they’re afraid or anxious or something, but it makes it harder for me to help them.

            the ten office hours thing isn’t currently a terrible burden but if we go to a 5/5 teaching load (as has been hinted) it could become one.

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  3. [Ed1] That’s the reason I like these guys.

    [Ed2] That whole “dear colleague” letter has been a disaster. I long for a few good lawsuits to “sue the pants off” these bastards. It would be well deserved.

    [Ed6] Hell, teaching IS political, and has been. Most of the teachers I’ve interacted with have been on the left, college professors as well, even in rural Washington. Critical thinking isn’t taught and you’re given a “view” that, as a student, you believe is the truth. Later you find out it’s not quite like that. This is why I’d 1) always be down at the school complaining about something or 2) have my kids home schooled/in private school. It does nothing good to indoctrinate kids–you get what we got now.

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  4. Ed5: The thing about this essay is all the examples they picked are cities. This becomes much harder when you are dealing with suburbs. SF doesn’t do neighborhood schools but does school choice/lottery in order to fight against segregation. Berkeley famously has one high school for the same reason. But I imagine the solution is going to be antidemocraric.

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  5. [Ed4] There is a sort of parallel with civil service jobs. Public sector hiring is bounded by metrics- a set of requirements and tests one had to pass (at least this is the case at federal level and in the states I’m familiar with, like PA and OH). It’s supposed to reduce political patronage hires (set requirements should help prevent the mayor from hiring hire his unqualified bil). However, it because it’s based on more objective factors than the private sector, more minorities could get in, and get hired and promoted.

    Back when Kasich tried going after public employees, there was a study showing why public service jobs were the foundation for the AA middle class. That’s where they could get in with a test or a set of qualifications instead of running into subjective bias at one or another stage of the process.

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  6. Ed3: This seems true. My female friends who become professors complain about requests from students more than my male friends who become professorS. The female professors that I know teach at much more elite universities though, so that doesnt help them. They might get fewer outrageous requests at less prestigious colleges.

    Ed5: I think it’s a lot easier to de-politicize from the Left rather than the Right. Most history is going to be taught with a vaguely or very patriotic lean towards it even when your trying to be neutral. Very few parents are going to want history and literature classes to go even slightly Marxist let alone full.

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    • I teach at a less prestigious university (a regional) and I get crazy requests. Ironically, the students I have who seem to be carrying the greatest life burden (e.g. single parents who are also caring for an ill parent or other relative) seem to be less prone to ask for stuff than the 18 year old living in the dorm and eating in the cafeteria.

      I also wonder perhaps if the men get those requests, but they are less bothered/annoyed by them and remark on them less, because women are socialized to be agreeable (by and large) and for us saying “no” and seeming like the “bad guy” is uncomfortable. There have been a few times over my teaching career where I’ve gotten sick to my stomach (not enough to throw up but noticeable) after having to be the “bad guy” on a big thing, and there’s been a day or two where I quietly closed my office door at the end of office hours and had a little cry at my desk because I was SO SICK of the requests and SO SICK of having to say “no”

      Another thing I’ve encountered is pressure from other women that amounts to “being bothered by having to say no makes you a bad feminist” and can we please not on that? My feelings are my feelings and I get to have them no matter what you may think.

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  7. Ed8: Gets an “eh” from me. I’ve been in Hong Kong for about two and half years and have yet to set foot on mainland China, but I have gotten a sense for some of the differences in how the Chinese communicate. Americans do a lot of work to couch their motivations in particular ways. The Chinese have a much more straightforward way of expressing these things. All of that is to say, that the United States spends lots of money and effort, both directly through the U.S. government and through private non-profits, cultivating soft power abroad and boosting American culture. We just don’t come out and call it propaganda, because that word has negative connotations to us.

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    • The U of Chicago professor quoted in the piece has a lot of problems with the framework of colleges entering into joint partnerships with outside entities for instruction. The U of Illinois has always had a lot of Chinese students, and I think the relationship goes back for generations. The local coverage on these institutes was that the University agreed to the standard contract with some revisions, like the Institute didn’t get to select the instructors, but propose them and required review every five years of the Institute’s compliance with academic freedom expectations. Some colleges have kept the agreements confidential, so I think it leaves open a lot of speculation about what’s in them. But I get the impression that many colleges agreed to whatever was proposed, which is bad governance regardless of the subject.

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  8. “[Ed8] Chinese education institutes are invading our campuses. Perhaps Russia should have tried this.”

    If anyone has learned anything over the past couple years, it’s that trying to influence politics by co-opting bougie tastemakers is kinda useless.

    You plant ideas in the heads of the yokels, then you got something.

    eta: so yeah, irony is that China is doing the Leninist thing, while Russia is doing the Maoist thing.

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  9. ED8: I’m all in favour of teachers advocating for a political view, so long as I get to decide what the view is.

    In all seriousness, government schools should be as politically neutral as can be managed, the alternative invites civic acrimony and yet more culture war.

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        • Seriously, local school boards can be….awful.

          I tell this story a lot, but for a period of about 5 years, my school (a rather solid one, with good test scores, tons of AP and dual-credit classes, and a good percentage of graduates going on to college), was one vote short of being on the national news for “Local School District Goes Full Creationist, Spends Millions Being Slapped Down in Court after Court”.

          And the elections — good god, when they thought they might get that coveted, last vote that would let them mandate full-fledged creationism (not that pansy IC stuff, either), it got ugly. The smears were brutal, ugly, and vile. Apparently when you’re fighting for God, no lie is verboten.

          OTOH, I know a school board member that lost in an election because she ticked off one rather popular teacher by trying to throw her (the Board Member’s) weight around to change a grade for her offspring. Said teacher was backed up by administration, and proceeded to share the incident with every other teacher she knew — and their families. An incumbent about to sail into another term got the boot, most likely from what was effectively an enraged whisper campaign.

          And good god, the margins — a city of 20,000 might have 1000 people vote in a school board election. Nobody pays attention to the school board.

          The people that can end up there — talk about easy marks for consulting cons, or eager to “chaperone” school trips to fun places (and then proceed to, you know, not actually chaperone anything, just taking a free trip across country)….

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          • Not to engage in one-upmanship, but in my state there was a bill before the state legislature that would require every single biology textbook (apparently also at the college level, if I remember correctly) to have a sticker pasted in it casting doubt on whether evolution actually took place.

            My state legislature is…..special.

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          • Yeah, no one pays attention to the school board, until they do. Last time around, the two largest of the Denver suburban districts — one that goes back and forth with DPS on which is the largest in the state, the other comfortably in third place — had a “throw the rascals” out moment. In one, where the conservative majority had decided to take on AP American History, those members were recalled and replaced*. In the other, where the conservative majority had spent two-three million dollars on legal fees over some years trying to funnel public money to church-sponsored schools, those members got swept.

            * The recall petitions were fun to watch. Volunteers set up tables outside each of the public libraries in the district. There were lines of people waiting to sign. Took them four days to get the requisite number of signatures, IIRC.

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  10. Ed4:
    Tests matter a lot, though. I was having a conversation about this with a GATE teacher at a nearby middle school that’s overwhelmingly Hispanic and has implemented mandatory giftedness testing for all students.

    She was very happy about the tests they currently use (Raven’s progressive Matrices) because it’s entirely non-language based.

    By contrast, there was a large vocab component to the test that the school had used previously. She said it was more or less a test of words that white people used back in the day but are rarely used today and that her Hispanic students were exposed to basically none of that vocabulary in their day-to-day lives. I remember “pal” was one of the examples she highlighted.

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    • Culturally biased testing is hard to avoid, and easy to abuse.

      IIRC, quite a bit of supposed “scientific proof” on the superiority or inferiority of certain races or cultures rests on such shoddy, biased tests.

      It can be incredibly difficult for even the most well-meaning to avoid (or even understand) that he or she just biased a given question, because it “seems straightforward to them”.

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  11. [Ed7] Assessing what works in the classroom is really, really difficult.

    Bad science, mixed with ideologically desired conclusions, on a highly emotional subject, where the stakes are high, and there are intrenced interests that don’t want any results. It’s a maze of hot buttons.

    Actual answers would be ugly, it doesn’t matter what those results are. The (money/teachers/students/culture) doesn’t really matter, or it matters a lot.

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    • I would more quickly come to the conclusion that things that work really, really well with really, really good teachers in the really, really posh schools that expel the really, really bad students shouldn’t be expected to give the same results in the schools that the longshoremens’ children go to.

      They really, really shouldn’t.

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      • Yep. Students don’t live in the classroom, and their non-school lives are at least as pertinent as their teacher’s skill level.

        What gets even more fun is…..there’s an entire range of students who do fine with, well, “lazy teaching”. They’re smart enough to pass standadized tests even with fairly mediocre teaching, which means mediocre teachers can look darn good by dint of their students.

        And often the best teachers are deliberately assigned the most problematic students — which means they often have crappy metrics compared to less skilled teachers who are given less difficult students.

        I know a teacher that has one of the worst pass/fail rates on state tests for her subject (for her school). She’s only got one class that actually has to take the test. They’re taken in 9th and 11th for that subject, and she teaches seniors. Except one of her classes of seniors is….entirely seniors who have passed neither the 9th nor the 11th grade state tests. She gets about 75% of them to pass both by the end of their senior year.

        Which is, IIRC, about 10 or so points below the average. Because, of course, they took all the students that drug down everyone else’s average and gave them to her to somehow fix.

        It’s a stressful classroom, although she claims she’s got it easier than it sounds because they’re generally more motivated than they were in previous years, because it has finally dawned on many of them that they are rapidly running out of time…

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          • Schools are locally controlled. They’re the most locally controlled bits of government we have.

            There’s very little federal control whatsoever (and the bulk of that is stuff like free lunches or the ADA or Title IX), so States are free to do whatever the heck they want, and inside that local school districts are pretty free to set curriculum inside the limits of the State.

            Teachers are credentialed by each State, requirements are set by each State, and administration, staffing, hiring, firing, and almost all the real decisions are handled by the local school board itself.

            Even the much-hated Common Core has jack-all to do with the Feds, and is a 30-odd State initiative that the Feds aren’t involved in at all.

            You can’t get much more “local” than schools.

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              • Do you think there should be more local control over schools than their currently is? If so, which parts of control that you deem non-local would you turn back towards a more local level?

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                • Well, I suppose I’m complaining more about egregores possessing various bodies than mandates requiring possession.

                  “Whole Word Learning” rather than “Phonics”, for example, was not a government mandate (at least, I don’t *THINK* it was).

                  But this whole wave of “Hey, this is the new hotness!” that takes over and dances a jig before moving into “estimating and repeated addition is the new hotness!” before it jumps into something else.

                  Different things work differently with different classroom populations. “New Hotness” works really well with really good teachers in the really posh schools that expel the really bad students.

                  But here’s the secret that nobody wants to talk about: pretty much anything would.

                  As such: pretty much anything won’t scale well.

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                  • Fun fact: By and large, school boards are far more predisposed to buy into an educational fad than teachers.

                    Mostly because teachers are, by and large, pretty conservative. They don’t like to change approaches without being pushed by sufficient data.

                    School boards, however — even the State level ones — are rarely actually composed of people with education experience or knowledge. (Texas’ was famously led by a Creationist Dentist for many years).

                    Everyone knows about “new math” but the real killer, year in and year out, is a zillion school boards grabbing and dumping concepts every year or so, often based on what overpaid consultants pitched in a snazzy powerpoint. And if it’s not them, it’s the Superintendent resume padding. (Even if you have a good new educational approach, they take years to actually show up in kids. You have to commit).

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                    • Yeah, that’s an argument to get localer.

                      Though I suppose I could see how someone might argue that we should, instead, just make sure that the right people are in charge of everything (but that strikes me as a recipe for putting the Creationist Dentist in charge of everything… see, e.g., Trump).

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                      • You seem to think “more local” means “more qualified”.

                        You know how many people notice their school board before there’s a major screw-up? Nobody.

                        Towns of 30,000 people, and school board elections might have 1000 votes total.

                        Leave it to the teachers? Or principles? Do you know how much damage a teacher can do, monitored? Or a principle, unchecked?

                        “More local”, “less local” — its slogans in lieu of thought. Inserting of pre-existing ideology to “fix” a problem you haven’t explored the contours of.

                        More local, less local? How do you think that will help? Which problems will it fix? And have you considered which problems it can create?

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                        • I think that “more local” means “actually interacting with the students that they are trying to get to learn shit” rather than “this worked on this side of the tracks, therefore everybody should do it.”

                          Do you know how much damage a teacher can do, monitored? Or a principle, unchecked?

                          Less than if one of these people make it to Superintendent?

                          You seem to think that if people make it to some position of leadership then they must be qualified to have gotten there.

                          How much more damage would that Creationist Dentist do as head of the NEA than where he was?

                          Because, I assure you, the general consensus is that schools should “teach the controversy”, even today.

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                          • Less than if one of these people make it to Superintendent?

                            Who gets watched more? The Superintendent or the teacher?

                            Again, you’re not actually considering the potential harms — you’re just spouting your “more local” and assuming it must be better. Because it’s more local!

                            Maybe it will be, but you’re not showing the work. You’re just assuming.

                            Which is great for you, because you’re not actually part of hte problem or the solution. We’re guys at a bar, talking about how we’d fix it all if we were in charge, without knowing a damn thing about how it really works, under the hood.

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                            • Again, you’re not actually considering the potential harms — you’re just spouting your “more local” and assuming it must be better. Because it’s more local!

                              No.
                              I’m *ASSUMING* potential harms and thinking “at least if the harms are local, they’ll be kept there rather than going out on a school district level or a state level or, gosh help us, a national one”.

                              The examples of the stuff that went wrong? Even you agreed happened at the superintendent/school board level.

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                              • I’m *ASSUMING* potential harms and thinking “at least if the harms are local, they’ll be kept there rather than going out on a school district level or a state level or, gosh help us, a national one”.

                                Ah now you’re assuming the cumulative effect there is smaller than the current setup. Or a federal one.

                                But you don’t know.

                                And let’s be honest — they won’t be your kids. They’ll be poor kids, somewhere else, in all likelihood.

                                West Texas, perhaps — where I got to see a superintendent drag a school district under to pad his resume. See, administering that school district was just a stepping stone, and he was real good with power point.

                                And after about 5 years there, he could move onto a school district that wasn’t so dirt poor — with a resume full of buzzwords. After all, he’d pioneered so many, many programs…..

                                I mean, he’s gone now, and it was only about 5 or 6 years of education utterly wasted as he swapped out fads every six months to pad his resume. But at least it was locally controlled, amirite?

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                                • But you don’t know.

                                  We’re talking about counter-factuals here but, yeah, it does seem to me that an ultra-local focus would do a better job of limiting harm to localities than a larger focus would.

                                  What studies do you have to prove otherwise?

                                  Or is “but you don’t know” a single-edged sword?

                                  West Texas, perhaps — where I got to see a superintendent drag a school district under to pad his resume.

                                  So my argument is that superintendents shouldn’t be able to do this sort of thing, and your counter-argument is to use a superintendent doing this sort of thing?

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                  • That doesn’t really address my point.

                    If I understand you correctly, you’re advocating for local control of schools.

                    I’m asking how much more local than it already is would you like to see it be?

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                    • Decisions that used to be made by superintendents regarding stuff should instead be made by principals.

                      Decisions that used to be made by the board should instead be made by teachers.

                      I trust the judgment of any given teacher more than any given board member and I trust the judgment of any given principal more than any given superintendent.

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                  • Saints preserve us from “the new hotness” in teaching. I get that college =/= public school but in my not-quite-20 years at my gig, I’ve seen more fads come and go than I can count.

                    Right now, there seems to be a rotation between “Assessment is our god now,” “Retain but don’t reduce rigor,” “we need new ways to recruit that don’t cost the university money,” “Online/TV classes/hybrids/distance learning is the future…” and on, and on.

                    Talk to most of the students here? They want face-to-face classes with minimal online bells and whistles. They even want actual textbooks instead of online ones.

                    At least we haven’t been told to shoehorn our disparate teaching styles into a “flipped classroom” model, which works great for some things but not so well for others.

                    I don’t know why faddism plagues education so much but it does make me kind of nuts because every fall we have to go to a seminar where we are told that everything we are doing (even the folks who have won awards for their teaching) is wrong, and we must change it to THIS NEW MODEL that will save us all.

                    the funny thing is, there’s a different new model every fall, and some of them are in conflict.

                    I just keep on teaching more or less as I always have. I get good student evaluations; I have had students come back from jobs or grad school and tell me what they learned in my classes stuck with them and was useful, so I figure I’m doing OK.

                    The other thing is almost none of these fad methods have actually been tested in any rigorous way to see if students score higher on standardized tests, or retain material better, or have a better chance of getting a job/getting into advanced education. They’re essentially guinea pigs for a model that has never been used, and that seems unfair to me.

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                    • I just keep on teaching more or less as I always have. I get good student evaluations; I have had students come back from jobs or grad school and tell me what they learned in my classes stuck with them and was useful, so I figure I’m doing OK.

                      As I noted — teachers are conservative. It’s administration that falls to fads.

                      That’s not to say all educational concepts are fads, or not worth it — but winnowing the good ones from the bad is hard, and even the good ones fail if you don’t have buy-in from actual teachers. And if you pummel the teachers with crappy methodologies, they’re not going to be willing to try the good ones.

                      Of course the downside to teacher conservatism is….well, “dinosaur” is a term often thrown at bad teachers for a reason. (By other teachers, no less….)

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            • When the Race to the Top grant program was started, there was concern expressed when no states with capitals west of about 100° W longitude won any. Turned out the key factor was the points the scoring system withheld if the state didn’t have authority to impose detailed curriculum requirements on their local school districts. Despite a special round of grants that attempted to address that problem, the overwhelming majority of the money ended up east of the Mississippi.

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    • Actually, the root problem is simpler.

      Children aren’t identical widgets, and their lives aren’t identical year to year, and their existence is not limited to the classroom.

      Why did Teacher X see a 25% drop in students passing Standardized Test X last year? Is she a crap teacher? Did she start drinking? Does she teach English and had a sudden influx of ESL students? Did the local Big Business X close, and half her students had to pick up jobs so their family wouldn’t get kicked out? Did the teacher the year before have a 35% drop, so Teacher X was given students already far behind?

      The best ways of actually evaluating teachers are incredibly expensive — they require not only dedicated tracking of student performance year-over-year, but they require constant classroom inspections. It takes a ton of staff and time, and that’s not really affordable. The metrics most people use are the affordable ones.

      Most schools try to implement at least rough student specific metrics, but it’s at best pretty crudely done.

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        • Ehh, I’m not so sure it is a great comment. Dark was challenging the idea that there is such a thing as ideologically neutral scientifically determined best-practices in teaching and not that they’re too expensive to implement. Or at the very least, he’s correct that even if their were such identifiable metrics lots of people would disagree they should be the primary driver of our views of education generally.

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      • The best ways of actually evaluating teachers are incredibly expensive

        There are teachers my 3rd daughter knows to avoid because of the experiences of my 2nd and 1st.

        As a Junior in college, I had a prof where 20 minutes into the first lecture (after his introduction), I got up, walked out, and dropped his class. He was that Bad and by that point in my education I was experienced enough to recognize it.

        The system mostly protects teachers. Since we can’t do “the best”, we mostly won’t do anything useful.

        I doubt we can come up with metrics that don’t have corner cases and unintended consequences. “I know it when I see it” seems a useful way to handle this. Give middle management the ability to fire people without more jumping through hoops than we make industry follow. Presumably the Principle understands the difference between incompetent and that teacher with the bad metrics you were talking about to

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        • Presumably the Principle understands the difference between incompetent and that teacher with the bad metrics

          Wouldn’t hang my hat there. Principles are, effectively, low to middle management. Often with little to no experience doing the job they oversee.

          Would you say that’s a paragon of endless success and competence?

          I mean I’ve worked in plenty of companies, and I got to say, coin-flip between a manager that recognized competence and one that thought suck-ups were competence…

          That’s the flip side of the local control Jaybird’s so on about. School districts are very locally controlled. Just pay attention, and you’d be hard pressed to miss it! Whose management can be drawn from the shallowest pools, at times (ie, whomever can be elected to a local school board, in which perhaps 1% of the local population even realizes is a position they can vote on.). Which means you get to see the exact sort of petty politics and tiny power hunger you’d expect.

          Like I said, my local school board spent about 5 years one vote away from wasting millions of our local dollars on a quixotic crusade on Creationism — one which was unsupported by the local citizens. They just didn’t realize that was going on, because who notices the school board?

          And of course the school board is the ones that hire superintendents, upper level admin, and have a lot of sway over who is chosen for principles. You can’t really make it “more local” than the population of a school district electing people to choose who runs the school district.

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        • But:

          I’d hazard that most of those teachers are some other student’s favorite teacher, and their younger siblings are trying to get into that class.

          Both because different kinds of teachers are better or worse at teaching different kinds of students, and because it’s easy to falsely equate how much one enjoys the teacher with how much one enjoys the class overall, despite the latter being affected by a myriad of factors from the subject matter to whether the class is before or after snacktime.

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          • …different kinds of teachers are better or worse at teaching different kinds of students…

            True. In elementary school I got my second daughter into a different class than my first one had. The first one prospered but I didn’t think it’d be a good fit for the second. I’ve had similar experiences in college where I thought the teacher was great but there were style issues I couldn’t handle.

            I’d hazard that most of those teachers are some other student’s favorite teacher, and their younger siblings are trying to get into that class.

            One of them is a Chemistry teacher who is terrible at teaching chemistry at a “best and brightest” math/science magnet school. She’s personally responsible for dozens of students dropping out of the magnet school to go back to their main high school. Only two students were willing to go back to her for advanced Chemistry. That’s an amazingly low number. It’s possible they liked her but more likely they need Chem for their life plans and have no choice.

            The other teacher is a bully. If my kid is the only one being publicly ridiculed and humiliated then there’s “just” a personality clash (and/or this is payback for quitting her forensics team). There are students she likes a lot (and vise versa), so clearly she doesn’t do this to everyone.

            No matter how thick the grey line we want to call teacher evaluation, the first one is clearly over it. The second depends on how much of an anomaly my kid was. In both cases I’d like middle management to have the ability to fire them way more easily than they apparently can.

            Big picture is yes, there are going to be differences of opinion, but there are also going to be clear instances where everyone knows darn well they shouldn’t be there.

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