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Comparative lessons.

It’s also worth remembering that one of the things these countries don’t do is fire lots of teachers based on extensive standardized testing and hope a whole bunch of good teachers magically show up to replace them.

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  • Reality Check

    So I hear from the Teacher’s Unions a lot that there’s only so much they can do with kids, that socio-economic background determines everything, that kids also need good parenting etc, and that there’s no far way to measure teacher merit. You know what? Fine, if that’s true, let’s start payint teachers standard hourly babysitter rates.

    • So I hear from the Teacher’s Unions….

      Oh, do you? Please, then, share with us your source so that we, also, can see those expressions.

      A hollow man argument – in which you make up a nonsensical statement that you attribute to your opponent and then swat down – is incredibly easy to make.

    • Anticorium

      Yes, let’s. The standard for an adult babysitter is about $10 an hour, plus $1 per hour per additional child. So, taking care of 25 children for 8 hours a day, 20 days a month for nine months out of the year, gives a starting salary for a teacher with absolutely zero experience of $48,960 a year. Oh, please don’t throw the unions in that briar patch.

    • wengler

      DNFTT

      • astonishingly dumb hv

        (this space intentionally left blank)

  • NonyNony

    I’d like to see a comparative analysis of how schools are funded in Finland, Shanghai and the other countries that Ezra talks about. My guess is that the American ideal of “local control” over the schools are subordinated massively.

    And also how much teachers are being paid relative to others in those countries. Because something tells me that if you’re making someone go through almost as much training to be a High School teacher as they do to get a PhD, they’re going to be expecting compensation more in line with their efforts.

    But these outcomes don’t surprise me at all – if you find a way to put highly trained, highly motivated people in charge of their own destinies, you’ll find better outcomes. Our problem in the US has almost always been an unwillingness to actually provide incentives for the highly trained, highly motivated folks to become teachers and instead relying on people making it a “calling” to go do a job that many parents think of as “babysitting the rugrats while I work”.

    One immediate thing I can think of to improve the quality of educators immensely – stop making the first interview question for a new teacher hire “so, what sports can you coach?” That attitude drove me out of the High School teaching arena and back to grad school to get a PhD instead, and I know I’m not the only one out there.

    • Lurker

      About the sports coaching: As a foreigner, I don’t understand the issue at hand in the coaching question. What does it imply? Doesn’t the school have a number of qualified PE teachers, with a degree in Physical Education? Why on earth should, say, science teacher also be able to coach a sports team. I’m quite sure that specialised PE teachers should have, on the basis of their education, all the necessary skills to coach a team in any sport that is in the curriculum.

      Of course, I’m a Finn. In our schools, the PE teachers have a graduate major in PE: four years of theory and practice of sports education. And the extra-curricular sports are not that big a deal.

      • jeer9

        At American high schools, many principals want teachers who can not only raise standardized test scores in the classroom but can also assist with the many coaching positions that need filling. So, say you have an opening for an English teacher but you also have to hire a water polo coach. The student teacher who is highly qualified and recommended by the department chair under whom he taught should be the first choice; however, he has no water polo experience which is a very important sport at the school. Thus he will not receive as much consideration when compared to a less qualified teacher with the requisite coaching experience. That the less qualified teacher has to be dismissed the following year due to classroom incompetence is unfortunate for the pupils but a minor blip in the career of the principal whose great judgment is soon rewarded with a promotion to the district office. Not that anything like this ever happened to me (cough, cough) but it’s the way our school systems are often operated. It doesn’t help that more principals than you can imagine are former coaches. While they understand competition (“Scores need to be higher. Now how are we going to do that? More practice of basic skills.”), they’re not so good at balancing creative and inspired instruction if it conflicts with athletic accomplishment.

        • Murc

          As someone with a parent who has dual masters in both teaching AND educational administration, I have been informed that splitting the career paths of teachers and those who administrate (and, ultimately, boss) them was a huge, HUGE mistake.

          • jeer9

            I have heard of schools that alternate teachers taking turns handling the principal’s duties (mostly at the elementary level), but I don’t know how feasible that is on a broader scale. In my experience, there are only three reasons for becoming an administrator: classroom burnout (understandable – though not so much if the condition stems from less than ten years); more money (understandable again); ambition, ie., more power and control (scary). The whole current standardized testing movement is premised on the idea that learning consists of little more than robotic preparation. Critical thinking may receive its fair share of lip service, though it’s not really quantifiable on the state tests in the way that knowledge of basic grammar, spelling, or literary terminology are, and thus it becomes a tertiary concern, something to be set aside for several months when the testing portion of the calendar intervenes. We live in a world of poetry, but the essentialists have gained the ruling hand and there is only one right answer to be bubbled in. And if they have their druthers, one’s pay scale will be adjusted accordingly. Because in the future when students experience difficult times, it won’t be the literature, art, music, and philosophy that keeps them going but their grasp of how to punctuate a sentence.

          • astonishingly dumb hv

            I have been informed that splitting the career paths of teachers and those who administrate (and, ultimately, boss) them was a huge, HUGE mistake.

            Oh, they have discovered a workaround to the peter principal?

            (Oh, yes, pun intended! I own that nasty little morsel.)

        • Furious Jorge

          Not that anything like this ever happened to me

          My wife is a department chair at a local high school. When it came time to hire a new teacher in her department a while back, her choice was overruled because …… the assistant principal wanted a different candidate who could also coach girl’s swimming.

          Oh, did I mention that the assistant principal is also the school’s athletic director?

          Funny how that works.

          • jeer9

            Yep.

      • astonishingly dumb hv

        I’m quite sure that specialised PE teachers should have, on the basis of their education, all the necessary skills to coach a team in any sport that is in the curriculum.

        Of course, I’m a Finn. In our schools, the PE teachers have a graduate major in PE: four years of theory and practice of sports education.

        Dude, not cool. :)

        First off, those things don’t even exist in the US; they are dodges for athletes that can’t manage a communications major.

        Secondly, be a gracious winner! We know you kick our ass, we’re fumbling around over here trying to figure out what to do about it. If I had a magic button that would do it your way, I’d press it.

      • apocalipstick

        In a small school district like mine (1,400 in K-12), there are 10-12 different male teachers involved in coaching football. That doesn’t begin to include the other sports. And in my community, they would prefer a 10-0 football season to… hell, to anything. We had a kid a few years ago who turned down MIT to attend the Olin College of Engineering. He just graduated and got a job with a starting salary of $170,000, doing exactly what he most loves. Know how they refer to him around town? “Whatever happened to that fat faggot?”

  • asdfsdf

    On the plus side, American students are fantastic at taking standardized tests. Lets see those Chicoms take the SAT! Ha!

    • The Chinese invented the civil service exam.

    • DrDick

      Actually, most of the countries mentioned do better on those standardized test than we do.

  • prufrock

    My wife will be receiving her degree in elementary education in December. Having observed her education over the past two years, I’ve noticed that many of the education practices used in Finland to train teachers are already used here. For example, she has already spent a couple of hundred hours in the classroom as part of her practicum assignments. These involve everything from teaching lessons to classroom control, all under the watch of an experienced teacher. This fall will she will begin a semester long internship, again under the watch of an experienced teacher. From an hours standpoint, this seems very similar to the Finnish model.

    As far as a masters degree, while she hasn’t written a dissertation she has written enough research papers to kill a redwood. In addition, the masters requirement (at least in Florida) is coming. Every teacher I’ve spoken with says that it’s inevitable. Of course this requirement will not be subsidized, making it one more unfunded mandate placed on education.

    • Lurker

      I agree. In fact, the “Finnish” model of elementary teacher education is essentially an acedemised form of the early 20th century teacher seminar anywhere in Germany or Switzerland. While it has a rather heavy theoretical component compared to the old “seminar”, the practical part is essentially the same as it was a hundred years ago.

      These tricks are not new. On the contrary, they were used, with good results, in the 1850’s in Central Europe.

      • astonishingly dumb hv

        On the contrary, they were used, with good results, in the 1850′s in Central Europe.

        How many Enlightenments do we really need?

  • James E. Powell

    I suppose there is no way to convince people to stop looking for or insisting upon the effectiveness of that One Big Thing that will turn our public schools into genius factories.

    I started teaching in 2005 after twenty years civil trial practice. The classes for a teaching credential help me to teach more effectively in the same way that my torts class helped me to be an effective personal injury attorney.

  • Anonymous

    Hmmm. Any chance of any of you writing about the big flap going on over at the UW School of Education?

  • wengler

    No Child Left Behind has basically guaranteed that kids are being taught nothing more than Math and Reading. No history. No science. No problem.

    Being an adult means being awesome at filling out bubbles on a scantron, right?

    • N.C.

      In New Jersey, where I’m teaching now, the standardized tests are on math, reading, and biology, and of course I’m pursuing a certification in chemistry and physics.

      • Davis X. Machina

        If it ain’t STEM, it ain’t taught.

        In twenty years, with the exception of Berkeley and a few others, you won’t be able to get a B.A. at a land-grant university in this country.

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