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(Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)   Bill & Melinda Gates foundation offer $40 million to Pittsburgh schools, so long as their teachers are held accountable for student performance. Teacher's union: nah, no thanks. That's too much trouble   (triblive.com) divider line 253
    More: Fail, Pittsburgh  
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8339 clicks; posted to Main » on 22 Jan 2014 at 5:44 AM (47 weeks ago)   |  Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



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2014-01-21 09:21:09 PM  
Dear Bill & Melinda,

Offer the parents $40M and you'll see test scores go off the charts.
 
2014-01-21 09:59:10 PM  

whither_apophis: Dear Bill & Melinda,

Offer the parents $40M and you'll see test scores go off the charts.


It would certainly help.  TFA isn't even close to balanced, I'd be interested in seeing what the rules were that they objected to.

Accountability for teachers isn't a bad idea, but it has to be matched with accountability for parents.  There are students who come from homes with no culture of educational attainment, whose parents do not instill the importance of schooling, and who receive no follow-up on school disciplinary measures at home.

I don't believe that any kid is unteachable, but the teacher can't do it alone if there's no support from the parents at home.  If the teacher performance metrics didn't take that into account, the union was right to object to them.
 
2014-01-21 10:19:25 PM  

TuteTibiImperes: I'd be interested in seeing what the rules were that they objected to.


Whatever they were, they agreed to them and then decided they didn't like them:

The union and the district agreed on a metric, but now the AFT and its Pittsburgh local are retroactively arguing that the grading scale is too hard.
 
2014-01-21 10:30:51 PM  

Lsherm: TuteTibiImperes: I'd be interested in seeing what the rules were that they objected to.

Whatever they were, they agreed to them and then decided they didn't like them:

The union and the district agreed on a metric, but now the AFT and its Pittsburgh local are retroactively arguing that the grading scale is too hard.


It's very possible that the system they agreed on didn't work out in practice as well as it did in theory.  Without know the details, it's hard to say what the problems were.  I'm just saying that this article is obviously a hit piece, and it would be nice to hear the other side of the story.
 
2014-01-21 10:36:40 PM  
Un-farking-real.
Farking scum.
 
2014-01-21 10:57:09 PM  
This article has a bit more depth on the issue.

One problem seems to be that the evaluation criteria used under the grant is considerably tougher than used in the rest of the state.  Pennsylvania's public schools are generally very good, so, there may be a legitimate complaint there considering the methods used in the rest of the state seem to be working.

Another issue is a push to hire non-certified teachers through a new teacher academy while certified teachers are still being furloughed.  It's not uncommon for school districts to try things like that, as teacher pay has traditionally been based on years of experience and continuing education.  A teacher who's been around for 15 years and has earned a master's degree costs considerably more in payroll than someone fresh out of college with a bachelor's.  They often try to frame it as bringing in new ideas and new blood, but it's often really about cutting costs.

It also seems to be the case that the grant (along with other state and federal money) has been used to start several new initiatives, but that those initiatives come with high long term costs, and the grant and other special funds are only short term investments.  It's not unreasonable to question the wisdom of adding long term high cost obligations when there's no firm funding in place to pay for them in the future.

Improving education is important, and some form of teacher accountability should play a role in that, but there seem to be plenty of valid criticisms of this plan.  Remember that NCLB sounded like a good idea when it debuted, but it's been a monumental clusterfark since.
 
2014-01-22 12:31:12 AM  

rooftop235: Un-farking-real.
Farking scum.


Maybe read the article Tute linked to before you jerk your knee like that. It's a more complicated situation than subby makes it out to be.
 
2014-01-22 12:40:15 AM  

rooftop235: Un-farking-real.
Farking scum.


I know, right?

FTFA: Richard Berman is the executive director of the Center for Union Facts

What a scumbag!
 
2014-01-22 12:48:18 AM  
The Gates foundation's criteria were straightforward: The school district and teachers needed to agree on a method to evaluate classroom performance and to hold teachers accountable for their performance. The union and the district agreed on a metric, but now the AFT and its Pittsburgh local are retroactively arguing that the grading scale is too hard.
Weingarten, the national AFT and its Pittsburgh local chose, instead, to defend assembly-line-style work rules that entrench incompetent teachers in the classroom based on seniority rather than skill, deny teachers the opportunity to earn raises and bonuses based on their ability to teach, and make it excessively difficult to fire teachers for misconduct.


I'm going to need to see what metrics they use before I judge. If they use test scores and teaching to the test, then fark that.
 
2014-01-22 01:01:42 AM  

TuteTibiImperes: whither_apophis: Dear Bill & Melinda,

Offer the parents $40M and you'll see test scores go off the charts.

It would certainly help.  TFA isn't even close to balanced, I'd be interested in seeing what the rules were that they objected to.

Accountability for teachers isn't a bad idea, but it has to be matched with accountability for parents.  There are students who come from homes with no culture of educational attainment, whose parents do not instill the importance of schooling, and who receive no follow-up on school disciplinary measures at home.

I don't believe that any kid is unteachable, but the teacher can't do it alone if there's no support from the parents at home.  If the teacher performance metrics didn't take that into account, the union was right to object to them.


The best teacher only has a kid five hours a week (high school) vs. parents that don't give a rat's ass the rest of the time? The kid won't learn.

/I bet Windows 8 was involved too...
 
2014-01-22 01:10:49 AM  

whither_apophis: /I bet Windows 8 was involved too...


Many schools are only now getting wired for Wi-Fi, so the computerization of testing has only begun. Taking tests on tablets will be the norm very soon. Where I suspect this is going, though, is a camera in every classroom. The game-changing decline in the costs of digital media storage have been noticed by more people than just the NSA.
 
2014-01-22 01:33:30 AM  
 
2014-01-22 01:38:57 AM  

TuteTibiImperes: It would certainly help.  TFA isn't even close to balanced, I'd be interested in seeing what the rules were that they objected to.


rooftop235: Un-farking-real.
Farking scum.


Pichu0102: I'm going to need to see what metrics they use before I judge. If they use test scores and teaching to the test, then fark that.


I don't know what metrics they asked the schools to use, but according to Wikipedia the Pittsburg Public Schools system has a yearly operating budget of $534 million. The Gates foundation money sounds like a lot, but they were really only offering an additional 7% increase in funding. I can easily see how the school district would turn that amount down, for two reasons:

1) Their assessment criteria may very well not be compatible with the current testing regime, which is typically mandated by law, or it might just be onerous on top of whatever current testing is in place. The students and teachers in struggling school districts are already evaluated frequently (sometimes as much as every week or so, if you consider that a typical high school student is taking six or seven different classes). Each additional evaluation is additional class time that can't be used for instruction, and total instructional time is also typically a matter of law.

The gates money might pay for another couple weeks of school for the kiddos, but how much of that is taken up by assessment requirements?

2) As a school administrator or teacher, I would be very afraid that a $40 million grant from the gates foundation would simply be offset by a $40 million cut in public revenues by city administrators. In that situation, the district would get little benefit from the money, they would be saddled with an increased assessment and reporting burden, and it's notoriously difficult to raise tax money in the current climate. Also, what would the conditions be for withdrawing the support? I assume it's a lot easier for the Gates foundation to stop paying than for the public funding to dry up.

 If the district didn't protect itself, they could very well end up worse off in a few years.
 
2014-01-22 02:06:20 AM  

TuteTibiImperes: A teacher who's been around for 15 years and has earned a master's degree costs considerably more in payroll than someone fresh out of college with a bachelor's.  They often try to frame it as bringing in new ideas and new blood, but it's often really about cutting costs.


This is extremely true. My wife is a teacher a BA in her content area and a master's degree in education, and in the 2009-2010 timeframe she was consistently passed over for people with a BA in education and a minor in their content area. Granted, that was also the timeframe where you'd have 30-50 applications for a job that would register 3-5 applications in the pre-recession days. It's pretty clear that her master's degree was at best unimportant, and in honesty probably hurt her ability to find work.

Politicians and administrators consistently talk about the need for highly trained and skilled teachers with post-graduate degrees, but magically the funding support never seems to match up to the expectations (surprise).
 
2014-01-22 03:47:19 AM  

whither_apophis: Dear Bill & Melinda,

Offer the parents $40M and you'll see test scores go off the charts.


What, like... each?

/way too many parents don't give one fack
 
2014-01-22 05:48:42 AM  
Re-write the system to track performance via imperial, problem solved.
 
2014-01-22 05:53:52 AM  

TuteTibiImperes: whither_apophis: Dear Bill & Melinda,

Offer the parents $40M and you'll see test scores go off the charts.

It would certainly help.  TFA isn't even close to balanced, I'd be interested in seeing what the rules were that they objected to.

Accountability for teachers isn't a bad idea, but it has to be matched with accountability for parents.  There are students who come from homes with no culture of educational attainment, whose parents do not instill the importance of schooling, and who receive no follow-up on school disciplinary measures at home.

I don't believe that any kid is unteachable, but the teacher can't do it alone if there's no support from the parents at home.  If the teacher performance metrics didn't take that into account, the union was right to object to them.


As a (first-year) teacher, I am appalled at how prevalent an unsupportive household is. I work in a rural area with a high rate of drug use and a disregard for education. I have students who don't know where they'll be sleeping or when they'll eat next. I can go over sight words and we can create fractions all day but if s/he is worried about if Mom or Dad will be there when s/he steps off the bus, then they aren't going to retain that.
Yes, it is my job to teach children. However, if I am the only one willing to invest in that child's future, then what kind of message is that sending?
 
2014-01-22 05:56:09 AM  
I think they are trying to measure the unmeasurable. Noble cause. Wrong angle.
 
2014-01-22 05:56:37 AM  
We spend far too much money on Education in this country.  We should be spending more money on teaching our children.
 
2014-01-22 05:58:40 AM  
Skool stil sux
 
2014-01-22 06:01:48 AM  
Turns out that throwing money at a problem doesn't work after all.  Imagine that.
 
2014-01-22 06:05:11 AM  
Teach your kids at home.
 
2014-01-22 06:05:38 AM  
look for the union label
 
2014-01-22 06:09:51 AM  
How did teachers do things in the days before this obsession with endless testing, back when students were still learning math and geography and taking shop class?
 
2014-01-22 06:11:38 AM  
Just pad the grades like usual. Whats the problem?
 
2014-01-22 06:17:08 AM  

Pichu0102: The Gates foundation's criteria were straightforward: The school district and teachers needed to agree on a method to evaluate classroom performance and to hold teachers accountable for their performance. The union and the district agreed on a metric, but now the AFT and its Pittsburgh local are retroactively arguing that the grading scale is too hard.
Weingarten, the national AFT and its Pittsburgh local chose, instead, to defend assembly-line-style work rules that entrench incompetent teachers in the classroom based on seniority rather than skill, deny teachers the opportunity to earn raises and bonuses based on their ability to teach, and make it excessively difficult to fire teachers for misconduct.

I'm going to need to see what metrics they use before I judge. If they use test scores and teaching to the test, then fark that.


Teachers are already forced to teach to the test and not to the child. This had to have been something different. I can't stand teachers unions. Yes, I get that their purpose is to represent teachers and to ensure that they don't get screwed. If that's all they did, I'd be fine with them. But these days it seems like they exist primarily to collect union dues and make it as difficult as possible to cull bad teachers from the rest of them.
 
2014-01-22 06:19:14 AM  

Mr. Right: We spend far too much money on Education in this country.  We should be spending more money on teaching our children.


Your folksy wisdom intrigues me.
 
2014-01-22 06:21:42 AM  
I don't see the fail, unless it's to the foundation for considering it.
Unless the teacher is not showing up to class, not introducing the material, the rest of it is on the kid. Teachers are already under too much pressure - not to educate the kid, but to make sure the kid does well on a test. And if the kid wants to goof off instead of learn how to reed and rite, then they need to get a failing grade and repeat.

Maybe that's a bit too much personal responsibility for folks.
 
2014-01-22 06:22:52 AM  

digitalrain: Pichu0102: The Gates foundation's criteria were straightforward: The school district and teachers needed to agree on a method to evaluate classroom performance and to hold teachers accountable for their performance. The union and the district agreed on a metric, but now the AFT and its Pittsburgh local are retroactively arguing that the grading scale is too hard.
Weingarten, the national AFT and its Pittsburgh local chose, instead, to defend assembly-line-style work rules that entrench incompetent teachers in the classroom based on seniority rather than skill, deny teachers the opportunity to earn raises and bonuses based on their ability to teach, and make it excessively difficult to fire teachers for misconduct.

I'm going to need to see what metrics they use before I judge. If they use test scores and teaching to the test, then fark that.

Teachers are already forced to teach to the test and not to the child. This had to have been something different. I can't stand teachers unions. Yes, I get that their purpose is to represent teachers and to ensure that they don't get screwed. If that's all they did, I'd be fine with them. But these days it seems like they exist primarily to collect union dues and make it as difficult as possible to cull bad teachers from the rest of them.


How the hell would you know, oh loyal FOX viewer? Oh wait, you FEEL it. In your gut. Well, must be true!
 
2014-01-22 06:23:09 AM  

look ma no pants: TuteTibiImperes: whither_apophis: Dear Bill & Melinda,

Offer the parents $40M and you'll see test scores go off the charts.

It would certainly help.  TFA isn't even close to balanced, I'd be interested in seeing what the rules were that they objected to.

Accountability for teachers isn't a bad idea, but it has to be matched with accountability for parents.  There are students who come from homes with no culture of educational attainment, whose parents do not instill the importance of schooling, and who receive no follow-up on school disciplinary measures at home.

I don't believe that any kid is unteachable, but the teacher can't do it alone if there's no support from the parents at home.  If the teacher performance metrics didn't take that into account, the union was right to object to them.

As a (first-year) teacher, I am appalled at how prevalent an unsupportive household is. I work in a rural area with a high rate of drug use and a disregard for education. I have students who don't know where they'll be sleeping or when they'll eat next. I can go over sight words and we can create fractions all day but if s/he is worried about if Mom or Dad will be there when s/he steps off the bus, then they aren't going to retain that.
Yes, it is my job to teach children. However, if I am the only one willing to invest in that child's future, then what kind of message is that sending?


To add another level of complexity, there is also the family that is interested, but the kid is not interested.  Especially around puberty, the desire to do the opposite of the parents' wishes results in the whole 'you can't make me scenario.'  The teacher is ready, trained, and available, the parents are jumping through hoops, and the kid is just going through the motions.
 
2014-01-22 06:26:25 AM  
Right, because if there's one thing teachers need in this country, it's more accountability.

And as Fubini says, all the $40m will do is cause a $40m cut in education funding the next year, so they wind up with the same budget (if not a smaller one) and more administrators breathing down their necks.

If you've been screwed enough times, you know what's coming when someone tells you to turn around and bend over.
 
2014-01-22 06:28:13 AM  
I can't understand why anyone with a shred of self respect and an IQ above room temperature would take a job as a teacher in the public schools today. A low paid, brutal job, in which you are now expected to accept responsibility for parent's inability to raise children that are even behaviorly human.
F**k that with a  Hellfire missile - go educate your own crotch droppings, you stingy, disrespectful f**king trailer trash.
 
2014-01-22 06:30:16 AM  
Bill Gates, for all his brilliance, is as capable of having bad ideas as you or me.
Remember Windows ME?
This is Bill's philanthropic version of that.
 
2014-01-22 06:33:05 AM  

cherryl taggart: To add another level of complexity, there is also the family that is interested, but the kid is not interested. Especially around puberty, the desire to do the opposite of the parents' wishes results in the whole 'you can't make me scenario.' The teacher is ready, trained, and available, the parents are jumping through hoops, and the kid is just going through the motions.


I don't know if I have a knack for it or what, but I've never had a problem getting through to most teens.  But then again I don't have to deal with a school's bullshiat administrators.

In my experience, those "parents jumping through hoops" are doing everything but.  It's the difference between engagement and control, and the vast majority of parents opt for control.  One major problem with handling teens is that teachers are burdened with all sorts of restrictions more intended for parents to keep their kids -- or even their delusional perception of kids -- in bubbles than help the teens grow.  All it takes is one hyper-religious prude, for example, and now the teacher can't even swear when pretty much every kid in the classroom is already more foul-mouthed than a sailor.  And they're smart enough to pick up on that.  The parents assert, "This teacher is my biatch," and that gets the students thinking, "This teacher is everyone's biatch," and that's all she wrote.
 
2014-01-22 06:41:45 AM  
Let's tie the parents ability to collect public benefits with their kids grades and school attendance
 
2014-01-22 06:43:04 AM  

dragonchild: cherryl taggart: To add another level of complexity, there is also the family that is interested, but the kid is not interested. Especially around puberty, the desire to do the opposite of the parents' wishes results in the whole 'you can't make me scenario.' The teacher is ready, trained, and available, the parents are jumping through hoops, and the kid is just going through the motions.

I don't know if I have a knack for it or what, but I've never had a problem getting through to most teens.  But then again I don't have to deal with a school's bullshiat administrators.

In my experience, those "parents jumping through hoops" are doing everything but.  It's the difference between engagement and control, and the vast majority of parents opt for control.  One major problem with handling teens is that teachers are burdened with all sorts of restrictions more intended for parents to keep their kids -- or even their delusional perception of kids -- in bubbles than help the teens grow.  All it takes is one hyper-religious prude, for example, and now the teacher can't even swear when pretty much every kid in the classroom is already more foul-mouthed than a sailor.  And they're smart enough to pick up on that.  The parents assert, "This teacher is my biatch," and that gets the students thinking, "This teacher is everyone's biatch," and that's all she wrote.


The first thing that needs to be done about education is to get parents OUT of the process, and back home actually raising their kids to act like humans. Ever since the revolution iin parental participation, education has been rocketing downhill at a frightening rate.
Parents - go home. leave the educating to the educators. You're drunk.
 
2014-01-22 06:43:27 AM  
personnal observation is that the primary function of a teacher is to maintain control over the students

all other skills come in 2nd place

/ive seen teachers who knew their subject - yet be unable to manage the head cases in their class
 
2014-01-22 06:45:42 AM  

jizzler: Let's tie the parents ability to collect public benefits with their kids grades and school attendance


In the current atmosphere , where they are encouraged to blame the fact that their child is ineducable on the teacher, that would only make things a whole lot worse.
 
2014-01-22 06:47:50 AM  
Despite all the good it does, being the largest philanthropic entity in all of history, why does the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation seem so forced?
 
2014-01-22 06:47:57 AM  

bindlestiff2600: personnal observation is that the primary function of a teacher is to maintain control over the students

all other skills come in 2nd place

/ive seen teachers who knew their subject - yet be unable to manage the head cases in their class


All tools to manage them have been taken away. The parents now run the classroom by proxy, through their lawyers and cowardly administrators. It's snowflake heaven, and the teacher has little or no authority.
 
2014-01-22 06:49:26 AM  

Wolf892: How much of the 40 million do the teachers get to keep if test scores go up? What, none? So, they're going to be paid the same shiat salary whether they work harder or not...so why even bother.
People work just hard enough to earn their salary, if their pay is a joke so to will their work ethic be.


And that's the union mentality.  "Where's mine?"  or ""That's not my job!"

That whole brotherhood thing only applies as long as the people with seniority are getting their "due" from the system, even if they're incompetent or corrupt.  New people are always the first to draw the shiat jobs, deal with being marginalized, and let go in a personnel reduction.  If I want to take a job where I'm treated like that for two years, I'll take a non-unionized one.  No dues, no union leadership bullshiat, and pay/advancement tied to my performance not some negotiated scale.

Yes, I have PLENTY of experience with unions both as a member and as management.  There's a reason they have the reputation they have in this country.
 
2014-01-22 06:51:10 AM  
As an unionized electrical apprentice, I'd have to say I would take exception to some outside billionaire trying to bribe the contractors into giving me a shiatty deal, too.
 
2014-01-22 06:51:48 AM  

starsrift: I don't see the fail, unless it's to the foundation for considering it.
Unless the teacher is not showing up to class, not introducing the material, the rest of it is on the kid. Teachers are already under too much pressure - not to educate the kid, but to make sure the kid does well on a test. And if the kid wants to goof off instead of learn how to reed and rite, then they need to get a failing grade and repeat/


Let's not pretend that there aren't bad teachers, though. Bad teachers with union contracts do tend to get stuck in positions that they shouldn't be in. It's a *rare* problem these days, and certainly doesn't happen nearly as much as conservatives will say it does. I'll give you one such example from my own life.

In high school, junior year, I was in Honors Calculus (this is a misnomer, there is no "regular" calculus class, there is an AP calc class that's a step higher, but this is only an honors class insofar as it is weighted much more heavily). The teacher in this class happens to be the head of the math department, and virtually unfireable. Her idea of teaching is to outline a lesson plan for roughly five minutes of a 40-minute class, and then tell us to "do the homework" in class. If we'd ask for help in understanding, she'd accuse us of not listening before or simply instruct us to read the textbook. Granted, she's teaching to a presumably more "gifted" group of students, but she literally does next to nothing to help us understand the material. She spends 30-35 minutes of the class IMing with her boyfriend, everyday.

I remember getting 37/75 on one particular test. I had the highest grade in the class by 4 points. She did not curve it. She blamed us for this, and took zero responsibility. And this wasn't an isolated incident, either. My older sister had experienced virtually the exact same thing 3 years prior. When classes were being picked, older students would often advise younger students to avoid her class if possible and skip to AP Calc (taught by another teacher). I took that class 8 years ago, and from what I gather from a cousin of mine, she remains in that position and with the same reputation.

Again, I'd like to stress that these types of incidents are *rare*. Most comprehensive studies done on more results-driven teaching incentives fail to show much in the way of positive results, aside from students being able to pass mandated state tests that don't correlate in any way to real-world success. Most educational systems in America are incredibly money-stressed because America hates taxes. As a result, most educational organizers, given a significant reduction in the power of teaching unions, would likely cheap out and fire good teachers with the thinnest of cause. It's already happening these days. Teaching unions do exist for a reason, to be the shield that deflects teachers - who already make next to nothing, are constantly looked down upon and live generally thankless existences - from undue pressure from the outside. The biggest problem with education in America isn't bad teachers. It's the fact that we don't fund education like we ought to, and that keeps smart and compassionate people away from the profession.
 
2014-01-22 06:55:41 AM  

rooftop235: Un-farking-real.
Farking scum.


Stupid people often allow propaganda to do their thinking and dictate their emotions.
 
2014-01-22 06:56:17 AM  
I hear a lot of calls for better patenting, and while I agree that it would certainly help, parents are unreliable. The only factors you can control are in school. If you want to have more control, lengthen the amount of time the child is at school.
 
d23 [TotalFark]
2014-01-22 06:58:51 AM  
Hey!  I have the secret metric right here!

"Metric 1: Is every student taught how to use Mircrosoft Word?"
"Metric 2: Is every student aware that Linus Torvalds is a communist sympathizer?"
"Metric 3: Is the Microsoft tax paid for every student?"
 
2014-01-22 06:59:12 AM  
Ha! An anti-union piece from the Tribune-Review? By an anti-union shill? You don't say.
 
d23 [TotalFark]
2014-01-22 07:00:29 AM  

Tomahawk513: I hear a lot of calls for better patenting, and while I agree that it would certainly help, parents are unreliable. The only factors you can control are in school. If you want to have more control, lengthen the amount of time the child is at school.


Oh geez.. this again?

So we should keep kids in buildings not built for use during 100 degree weather during the hottest days of the year.  Yeah... that always works.  Indianapolis Public Schools is a bastion of high student quality.
 
2014-01-22 07:02:16 AM  
You know, B&M would be better off funding impartial and non politicized studies about why kids to poorly in schools.

What we need as a society more than anything else, is actual, true, credible information about all sorts of things.

My bets are the reasons kids do poorly in school is about as varied as the kids themselves.  Throwing money at the problem as "rewards" sounds like "throwing up hand in hopelessness and just trying a hail mary.
 
2014-01-22 07:06:02 AM  

whither_apophis: Dear Bill & Melinda,

Offer the parents $40M and you'll see test scores go off the charts.


No, you won't. Poor people will almost always spend windfall money they get until there is nothing left, plus they will now be swamped with relatives that didn't give a fark about them earlier. There's a reason why lottery winners are often broke after a year.

It also won't fix broken homes, clear out gang activity or fix drug problems.

A better idea would be to fix the broken tax structure. Tying tax revenue for schools to property values  is probably the best way to ensure death spirals.
 
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