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Rep. George Miller, D-Contra Costa, visited with EdSource Today staff shortly after announcing his retirement after 40 years in Congress. Credit: Lillian Mongeau, EdSource

Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, visited with EdSource Today staff shortly after announcing his retirement after 40 years in Congress. Credit: Lillian Mongeau, EdSource

Rep. George Miller, a leading architect of the No Child Left Behind legislation, says he never anticipated that the landmark education law would ignite the testing obsession that engulfed the nation’s schools, leading to what some have charged is a simplistic “drill and kill” approach that subverts real instruction.

EdSource sat down with Miller, D-Martinez, last week for a lengthy and wide-ranging conversation on his accomplishments, philosophy and hopes for the future of public education. The Contra Costa County congressman, who served as chair or ranking minority member of the House Education Committee and the Workforce Committee since 1997, announced earlier this month that after 40 years in the House of Representatives, he would not seek re-election when his current term expires.

In an animated discussion, Miller, 68, defended what has become one of the more controversial aspects of NCLB, testing and accountability. He said the purpose of the 2001 law that he co-wrote with the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., and Republicans Rep. John Boehner of Ohio and Sen. Judd Gregg of New Hampshire was to inspire a broader discussion of how children learn and to hold states responsible for ensuring that all students were learning, especially those at risk of failing due to income, ethnicity, race and disability. To Miller, the most important part of the law – which was championed by then President George W. Bush – was to require districts to publish data on how well students were doing. 

“In this education system, if you’re not counted, you don’t count,” Miller said.

Testing was intended as a way to measure schools’ progress based on how well their students scored and to show schools where they needed to make improvements. Instead, said Miller “the mission became about the test.”

“I don’t believe you can drive a car blindfolded,” Miller said. “So all we asked was, ‘How are the kids doing in your test?’ And it turned out to be a nuclear explosion, because it wasn’t in the interest of the school district to tell the community how each and every kid was doing on their test.”

He was particularly ruffled early after the law’s passage in 2001 when school districts argued that they could never meet one of its key goals – having 100 percent of their students score proficient or above by 2014 on state exams. At the time, many schools had proficiency rates in the single digits.

“School districts and states came in, in the first year, and waved the white flag, and said, ‘We can never make the goal,’” recalled Miller. “Their proficiency was like 7 or 8 percent. I said, ‘Come back when you’re at 70 percent.’”

“I thought it was a legitimate question,” Miller said: “‘Is my son or daughter in her fourth-grade class reading at her fourth-grade level? Just let me know. It’s not a big thing. And then maybe I’ll get them a mentor, a tutor, or something.’

“It turned out to be a firestorm.”

Rep. George Miller (back row, second from right) watches as President Barack Obama signs the Affordable Care Act in 2010. Credit: Whitehouse.gov

Rep. George Miller (back row, second from right) watches as President Barack Obama signs the Affordable Care Act in 2010. Miller said the moment was a high point of his career. Credit: Whitehouse.gov

Miller has also become involved in a smaller testing conflagration in California. He’s working behind the scenes, at the behest of U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, to help broker a waiver that would allow California to postpone state testing until the new exam aligned to Common Core State Standards is operational. That test is a year away, and is only for math and English language arts. The congressman doesn’t agree with the state’s position, but doesn’t want California to face multimillion-dollar fines either – as Duncan has threatened. Instead, Miller wants California to use data from this spring’s Common Core field tests, known as the Smarter Balanced assessment, to measure student progress.

“My position, I think, is that we should extract the data (from the Smarter Balanced field tests) that we can extract because it would be helpful. I think it would be helpful for teachers. If the kids in your classroom didn’t thrive, what would you change for next year?” Miller said. “And from what the people at Smarter Balanced say, they’ve developed a range of data that can be extracted, and supposedly, if this is a road test, you’ve got to bring something back to analyze.”

The congressman is also guarded about California’s two most significant education reforms, Common Core State Standards and the Local Control Funding Formula. He likes Common Core’s focus on college and career readiness, but worries it may be premature to establish a higher bar beyond the proficiency required by No Child Left Behind, given how many California high school students can’t read well or do basic math, based on their scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress and statewide exams.

He’s more skeptical about the Local Control Funding Formula, the historic change in the way California allocates money to public schools, particularly the local control part of it. He noted that districts had some local control until the 1970s, when a series of court cases found California’s method of school funding violated the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution.

“That system wasn’t really working very well for most kids, and it certainly wasn’t working for poor or minority children,” said Miller, adding that this time around the state must have accountability. “You’ve got to have some system of determining how that local control is going.”

Miller brushed aside speculation that he is retiring due to polarization between Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill that has brought most legislation to a standstill. This includes reauthorization of NCLB, formally called the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. He said chances are “slim” that the current Congress will take action on the legislation, even though it should have been reauthorized in 2007.

In fact, Miller said his decision to leave Congress took root one day when he stood behind President Obama for a bill signing that he had spent years working on. And it wasn’t an education bill, it was the Affordable Care Act.

“I ran in 1974 on national health care and ending the war in Vietnam, and when he signed the (Affordable Care Act) bill … if I wasn’t on the stage behind the president, I probably would have jumped up and down. It was just a physical reaction, like, ‘Whoa, We just did it! It’s the law.’ And I started thinking, ‘Well, Jesus. You’re standing here on top of Mt. Everest, you know. There ain’t no up.’”

 

logo_edsource_sow4_v1-0-0Here are some additional excerpts from the interview with Miller:

NCLB reauthorization

No Child Left Behind, the name given the to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act during President George W. Bush’s administration, received strong bipartisan support when it first came to Congress in 2001. That harmony has since ended and reauthorization of the federal education law is now seven years overdue.

EdSource: What is the likelihood that No Child Left Behind will be reauthorized this session?

Miller: I think it’s pretty slim. We have probably less than 90 legislative days left in this session of the congress, and this is a controversial issue, certainly, within the Republican caucus in the House of Representatives. We did pass out the bill that our committee wrote, on a partisan vote, and I think that bill will have a very difficult time in merging with the Senate. There’s very little support for the Republican-passed bill.  … I don’t know if you can hammer out the differences at this stage. But the Senate is continuing to work on it, so if we get a breakthrough there, that would probably look more like a bill that you could pass and have the president sign. I think the House (Republican) bill has no merit, no legs, in the legislative process.

EdSource: What are the prospects of reauthorization beyond this year? Is it possible that this will just go on for years, not being reauthorized?

Miller: Well, it’s quite conceivable that that could be the case. I think that’s unfortunate, because No Child Left Behind is just so outdated. … I think the Race to the Top (a competitive $4.35 billion federal program for school innovation) program has … been very important (in giving) districts or states that really want to go to the future a chance to go, with some assurances about equity, about the use of data.

Testing and accountability

Miller is a strong proponent of testing, but says states went to the extreme after No Child Left Behind became law by putting all their efforts on teaching to the test instead of focusing on changing teaching methods to improve student learning.

EdSource: When you started out with No Child Left Behind, didn’t you have some expectation that this would have had more of an impact on closing the achievement gap? What happened?

Miller: To me, (it) was the failure to appreciate how the system would revert to a default position that the test became primary, as opposed to learning. So all of these different things were used to try to get kids over the hurdles, “drill and kill,” or however you wanted to do it, and we dropped everything else out.

In some cases, because of a lack of resources, (schools) reverted to this very simplistic approach. It turned out to be a disaster. But it was followed for over a decade, even when it was proving that nothing was going on.

EdSource: Can you fault districts for getting test-conscious when “proficiency” became the only measure? Isn’t it natural that that’s how they will respond?

Miller: That’s why we said, “Whatever test you’re giving, just let us know, how are the kids doing on that test, and are they proficient?” … I thought it was a legitimate question. “Is my son or daughter in his or her fourth-grade class reading at his or her fourth-grade level?” Just let me know. It’s not a big thing. And then maybe I’ll get them a mentor, a tutor, or something. It turned out to be a firestorm. … And now you’ve seen this come full circle, and people said, “We’re never going to get that proficiency standard if we don’t figure out how kids learn, because, obviously, what we’re doing is not working.”

But remember, there were people who believed that drill and kill could lead to learning. And there were people who were drilling and killing and saying “This is absolutely wrong. But that was the policy.”

The mission became about the test.

EdSource: Are you saying that the extreme focus on testing wasn’t the intention of NCLB?

Miller: Sure, it wasn’t the intention, but I didn’t anticipate that that’s what happened. In many instances, we probably didn’t anticipate how poorly so many schools were doing.

From right, Rep. George Miller, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Rep. Tim Bishop meet with student representatives in 2009 about HR 3221, the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act. Credit: Rep. George Miller Flickr stream

From right, Rep. George Miller, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Rep. Tim Bishop, D-NY, meet with student representatives in 2009 about HR 3221, the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act. Credit: Rep. George Miller Flickr stream

Common Core

EdSource: What do you think of the goal of Common Core State Standards of getting students college and career ready, when we haven’t reached the proficiency goal yet?

Miller: Let me ask you this: In the existing system, given the level of proficiency, (what are) your chances of achieving college and career readiness? They may want to dismiss proficiency, but we have pretty good research on what happens if a child is not starting to read at a pretty proficient level in third and fourth grade, what happens to them in tenth grade, and the kinds of decisions they make?

So Common Core doesn’t say you just get to read the last chapter of the book. Common Core says you’ve got to understand all of the chapters in the process; and then you’ll end up with enough flexibility in your understanding of concepts that you’ll be able to pursue different careers or college choices, or the mixture of both.

But, again, if you can’t write, and you can’t understand concepts, and you can’t do basic, fundamental mathematics, your chances in this evolving economy are pretty limited. There’s got to be some benchmark somewhere along the line, because if I show up as a freshman at San Francisco State and I can only read “Jack and Jill,” I’m not going anywhere.

EdSource: So you’re a little skeptical?

Miller:  No, no, no, no. All I’m saying is, you can’t wait until college to find out whether you’re on track.  So I like the concept of “college and career,” because I think it reflects more what a workplace looks like today. Sort of college never ends, and the career is always evolving.

Teacher evaluations and tenure

School administrators in California have about two years to determine whether a new teacher will be granted tenure. Miller is among the critics of that system, who say that’s not enough time to make a well-informed decision about someone. He is a strong proponent of evaluating teachers’ effectiveness and using student test scores as a measure of teachers’ competency.

EdSource: Do you really think that linking teacher evaluations to student test scores will make a difference? This is such a key issue that it’s become the central stumbling block in terms of federal-state relations.

Miller: I think it’s a shorthand, manufactured issue to keep these reforms away from the schoolhouse door. … From the very beginning, this was a question of whether or not teachers wanted to be the architect of the system, or they just wanted to be the tenant. If you went back to Medicare, doctors chose to fight it at every turn, and they became the tenants of the system instead of those who were designing the system.

In fact, teachers unions have agreed to it in many parts of the country, so apparently it’s not the death knell (for teacher evaluation systems). But I think it’s important. Without any evaluations, after a few years, parents will tell other parents, ‘Don’t let your child get Mrs. Smith or Mr. Smith. You don’t want your child in Mr. or Mrs. Smith’s third-grade class.’ And the evaluation has already taken place because that (teacher) apparently didn’t work out for a lot of students.

EdSource: California has 1,000 school districts and these evaluation contracts are negotiated district by district. Practically speaking, is it possible to do in a state the size of California?

Miller: Of course it’s possible. All your preconditions are excuses to stay in the 19th century. It’s all possible. People are evaluated on the jobsites all the time today. Like it or not, employers want to know, “How are you doing? Is there value added through your participation in this enterprise?” And I don’t think that in something as important as teaching, that the personnel should be exempt from this.

Rep. George Miller greets a young constituent at a 2013 town hall meeting in Lafayette. Credit: Rep. George Miller's Flickr stream

Rep. George Miller greets a young constituent at a 2013 town hall meeting in Lafayette. Credit: Rep. George Miller Flickr stream

EdSource: Would you change the tenure system? Would you scrap it?

Miller: No, but these are just logical questions that people ask in everyday life and everyday employment. You want to know how these people are doing. But to say we want to hire them permanently, but we don’t want to know how they’re doing, is just a really bad decision for the child, for the parents, for the taxpayers – right up the scale, a real bad decision.

Early childhood education

In November, Miller introduced the “Strong Start for America’s Children Act” to improve access to full-day preschool for low-income children. During his nearly 40 years in office, Miller also supported legislation to fully fund Head Start.

EdSource: Do you expect Gov. Brown to pick up on national movement and go forward with an expansion of early education?

Miller: The governor is going to move forward on early learning …  with the use of these federal monies coming through existing programs. … Early Head Start is going to be used to handle part of that load, just as the schools and transitional kindergarten are all used to manage part of that load.

Other governors are running out way ahead of this, so I think there’s a way to do this. There’s a lot of infrastructure in early learning in California; some of it can be better quality, some of it can be better coordinated, some of it may need different leadership, so I don’t think any of that’s a barrier. And I think especially if you really look at the data on what it means to have those quality programs in terms of the future education of those children, (there is) a growing consensus on that part of it.

But the question is, are you going to insist upon quality? Are you going to insist upon skilled people delivering these services? You’re going to have to deal with it somehow. You’re going to have to deal with the question of pay to make this attractive, so you don’t just have this constant revolving door. The children deserve better than that, and the results will be better. …You’ve got to make the investment now, and the investment pays off later. It’s every bit as fundamental in terms of the economy of this state or the nation.

What’s next?

Miller was first elected to Congress in 1974 with a group of first-time lawmakers known as the “Watergate Babies,” who ran on a platform of cleaning up Washington in the wake of the scandal that brought down President Richard Nixon. He said he is leaving now not because Capitol Hill is in a state of gridlock, but because 40 years is long enough.

EdSource: In two years, what might we expect you to be doing?

Miller: I can’t answer the question. I don’t have that kind of plan. I know that this stage is closed. I think I have some talent, and we’ll see whether or not it works in another environment, and we’ll just have to see. People have been very kind, talking about all kinds of different things, but I have not focused on any of them. The response to my retirement was more than I would have ever imagined, and I can just tell you that I’ve happily spent my time returning phone calls to people that have been so very, very nice in their comments, and that’s what I’ve been doing since we got home from Washington.

Kathryn Baron is a senior reporter at EdSource. Contact her and follow her on Twitter @TchersPetSign up here for a no-cost online subscription to EdSource Today for reports from the largest education reporting team in California.


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  1. TheMorrigan 3 years ago3 years ago

    Teacher professional development days are included in absence rates. Most other professions do not have this.

    All sources I checked indicated that 14 absence days for most teachers is an extreme outlier, not representative at all for most districts or schools in CA or even the nation. And I could not find Floyd’s SF 14 days source. Most sources showed fewer average days absent for SF. Hmmm.

  2. Floyd Thursby 3 years ago3 years ago

    I think this is a basic philosophical difference. I just don't think it's OK to take a personal or sick day unless you really need it. In SF, most teachers take 14 days. Next year I'll track it for my kids. I'm interested in being more exact. I'll ask principals. I just don't think it's right unless there's no way around it. I get that some people get … Read More

    I think this is a basic philosophical difference. I just don’t think it’s OK to take a personal or sick day unless you really need it. In SF, most teachers take 14 days. Next year I’ll track it for my kids. I’m interested in being more exact. I’ll ask principals. I just don’t think it’s right unless there’s no way around it. I get that some people get very sick, but it’s not a benefit, it’s just there if you need it. I think kids get hurt by it. I often have my kids not miss a day in a school year. That should be everyone’s goal and I don’t think it is.

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    • navigio 3 years ago3 years ago

      Hi Floyd. You shouldnt try to create conflict where there is none. We have no philosophical difference on teacher absences, in fact, I think I am even more extreme than you in that regard in that I believe PD is not an acceptable reason for losing classroom time. Its not that I dont think PD is important (I do), but I'd structure things in such a way that it was done outside classroom hours, to … Read More

      Hi Floyd. You shouldnt try to create conflict where there is none. We have no philosophical difference on teacher absences, in fact, I think I am even more extreme than you in that regard in that I believe PD is not an acceptable reason for losing classroom time. Its not that I dont think PD is important (I do), but I’d structure things in such a way that it was done outside classroom hours, to the extent possible. That said, I am reminding myself that of the number of hours that American teachers spend in front of the class is much higher than that of teachers in other countries. If PD in those other places is part of that reason, then I probably need to adjust my thoughts on that.

      That said, your response ignored the main point of my comment, which is that teachers can be paid all year round even if they only work part of the year. This is common in jobs that dont span the full year. Check your district’s union website. There is probably a pay schedule for the different options (it should also include a contract that specifies exactly how much vacation a teacher gets).

      • el 3 years ago3 years ago

        I'm with navigio on this - I would like to see professional development time be structured outside classroom hours, and I'd like to see it fully paid. The classic 'ski week' for example would be an ideal time for a paid professional development week. And it's really odd that certain conferences - as wonderful as they may be - are held during the school year. I grew up as the daughter of a teacher, accustomed to … Read More

        I’m with navigio on this – I would like to see professional development time be structured outside classroom hours, and I’d like to see it fully paid. The classic ‘ski week’ for example would be an ideal time for a paid professional development week. And it’s really odd that certain conferences – as wonderful as they may be – are held during the school year.

        I grew up as the daughter of a teacher, accustomed to the rules for teachers in an educational workplace. Imagine my culture shock when I started my first engineering job, and there was a cabinet full of office supplies where I could just walk up and get any pens, papers, etc that I wanted/needed without having to ask anyone or fill out forms. Or that my employer paid for both my time and my expenses to take classes to extend my knowledge or even to study on my own.

        This is one of the things we should consider, as budgets relax a bit – significantly upping budgets for supplies, so that teachers aren’t spending out of pocket and so that their time is used efficiently (ie, they’re not waiting for jammed or slow copiers or printers), and adding in more paid but kid-free days.

  3. Floyd Thursby 3 years ago3 years ago

    The checks are monthly. Are you saying in the summer, they're doing work "outside the classroom"? I know the best teachers do intellectual work, reading, etc., but I'd say they're a minority. Seriously, whatever you call it, if you work 185 days you certainly need fewer days off than someone who works 250 days and may desperately need to take a day to go to the DMV or go to a doctor's … Read More

    The checks are monthly. Are you saying in the summer, they’re doing work “outside the classroom”? I know the best teachers do intellectual work, reading, etc., but I’d say they’re a minority. Seriously, whatever you call it, if you work 185 days you certainly need fewer days off than someone who works 250 days and may desperately need to take a day to go to the DMV or go to a doctor’s appointment. Whatever you call it, if your work year is 185 days, it’s not Herculean to show up every day, especially considering I was 250 for 250 over 10 years in a row. Sorry if I don’t break out the world’s smallest violin.

    Replies

    • navigio 3 years ago3 years ago

      Are you kidding? Are you not aware that teachers usually have the option of spreading their pay checks out over 11 or 12 months even if they are paid for only 10 or 11? I sincerely hope you are not basing your claim of 16 plus weeks of oaid vacation on the fact they may happen to receive a paycheck year-round.

  4. Floyd Thursby 3 years ago3 years ago

    The summer is 12 weeks. Winter adds 2. Then Spring Break is another week. Between all the other days off, I'd say there's an extra week, the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, the Wednesday before, MLK Day, Lunar New Year, Veteran's Day, several others. Maybe that is made up for by prep days, but you're looking at at least 15 weeks. I do believe if you have 15 weeks off the calendar, … Read More

    The summer is 12 weeks. Winter adds 2. Then Spring Break is another week. Between all the other days off, I’d say there’s an extra week, the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, the Wednesday before, MLK Day, Lunar New Year, Veteran’s Day, several others. Maybe that is made up for by prep days, but you’re looking at at least 15 weeks. I do believe if you have 15 weeks off the calendar, you should plan to use that for any vacations, because the kids need you the other 37 weeks. 37 weeks is less than what I work, 50, some weeks 52. I’ve gone 10 years without missing a day.

    I agree with some time off, people burn out, and vacations are good. I’d even favor the norm going to 4 weeks, up from 2-3 now. I just think if you have 15 weeks off, you don’t need more.

    It’s never right to call in sick when you aren’t sick. It shouldn’t happen. You seem to not care. If no one is doing that, we’d have a high percentage missing no days in a given year. We can improve teaching for children. You don’t seem to want to do that.

    Replies

    • navigio 3 years ago3 years ago

      Seriously? Vacation is defined as paid time off, not unpaid time off, nor paid time doing work outside the classroom.

  5. Floyd Thursby 3 years ago3 years ago

    The private sector wants to keep good employees loyal. These are people who can be fired at will, so the ones who have been there longer are good and contribute and on average, call in sick or absent 2.5% of the time, vs. 7.5% for teachers, and 12% the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. They have a better work ethic on average, and have more qualms about lying. People have said we all get … Read More

    The private sector wants to keep good employees loyal. These are people who can be fired at will, so the ones who have been there longer are good and contribute and on average, call in sick or absent 2.5% of the time, vs. 7.5% for teachers, and 12% the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. They have a better work ethic on average, and have more qualms about lying. People have said we all get sick, have parents and kids get sick, true, but 2.5 vs. 7.5 shows sometimes teachers just want a day off and feel entitled to it, which is not an example of a good work ethic or high morality or prioritizing your students. This isn’t the case for all teachers, but is an average. In the private sector, you can be fired at any time, so you can’t compare the two. Vacation usually goes from 2 to 3 weeks, maybe 4, not 16 plus an average of 7.5 days off, which it is for teachers. I think if you have that many days off and you are a moral, diligent person, you can find a way to have doctor’s appointments and the like on the days you have off anyways, not to mention you can leave at 3:30 or earlier and make a 4 PM Doctor’s Appointment, which you can’t in most 9-5 or 8-6 jobs. Your point is not valid. We need to end guaranteed job security even if you call in sick 7.5% of the time, underperform, and resist reforms. We need teaching to be more like the private sector, not less. In the private sector, lay offs are not based on seniority, and neither is pay.

    Replies

    • navigio 3 years ago3 years ago

      In virtually every one of your posts you have compared (both explicitly and implicitly) the public and private sector. It is confusing that you now say they are not comparable. So you are saying that we measure the quality of an employee by how often they show up, then reward them by telling them they dont have to show up anymore? Doesnt that make them an inherently worse employee using the very metric by which they … Read More

      In virtually every one of your posts you have compared (both explicitly and implicitly) the public and private sector. It is confusing that you now say they are not comparable.

      So you are saying that we measure the quality of an employee by how often they show up, then reward them by telling them they dont have to show up anymore? Doesnt that make them an inherently worse employee using the very metric by which they were measured? If they were truly good employees by your measure, they would not only work while sick, but also refuse to take vacation (remember your argument about the best teacher being the one who refused to take any time off?). Using your type of calculation, a full-time employee with 4 weeks vacation is gone 8% of the time. That’s actually worse than your worse teachers! (though not your tuesday before thanksgiving ones..) Regardless, it is noteworthy that you recognize that the public sector rewards employees in a way that actually harms their core goal but benefits the employee. Noteworthy because of the claim that teachers put themselves before the kids..

      Teachers dont get anywhere near ’16 [weeks] plus’ vacation. Please read your district’s contract and come back and correct your statement.

  6. navigio 3 years ago3 years ago

    floyd, why does the private sector award increasing vacation time based on ‘seniority’?

  7. Peter 3 years ago3 years ago

    Ignorant of reality of NCLB. Extends ignorance to CCSS.

  8. john mockler 3 years ago3 years ago

    I greatly admire Congressman Miller and his passion. But I am struck by both is ignorance of what tests tell us and where his own State of California was when he did his deal with President Bush. California set high standards and a high bar for the definition of "Proficiency" We judged schools by student progress made towards these standards. And we did this before NCLB. Many other states did just … Read More

    I greatly admire Congressman Miller and his passion. But I am struck by both is ignorance of what tests tell us and where his own State of California was when he did his deal with President Bush. California set high standards and a high bar for the definition of “Proficiency” We judged schools by student progress made towards these standards. And we did this before NCLB. Many other states did just the opposite. They set low standards so that most students would immediatly be “Proficient”. Proficient had 50 seperate definitions in the USA. The fact that the congressman did not understand this even though it was happening in his own state is really really sad.

    Replies

    • el 3 years ago3 years ago

      Agreed, john. It’s really disheartening.

  9. Doug McRae 3 years ago3 years ago

    Yes, very good interview. I was struck by Miller's position on the double testing waiver issue for this spring's Smarter Balanced field test, to extract some usable data for local district use from the field test exercise, which Miller indicates SB can do. I support his policy position and efforts on this problem, but I question whether there is time to operationally pull it off given the time remaining before the field test. There … Read More

    Yes, very good interview. I was struck by Miller’s position on the double testing waiver issue for this spring’s Smarter Balanced field test, to extract some usable data for local district use from the field test exercise, which Miller indicates SB can do. I support his policy position and efforts on this problem, but I question whether there is time to operationally pull it off given the time remaining before the field test. There are two hurdles to be solved: (1) administering a common set of items to all kids (usually called an “anchor” set of items) to allow for some analysis cross-walks for the diverse individual subsets of items scheduled to be given to individual kids — SB does have qualified items for such an anchor test design, and it is feasible to include this feature before field testing begins tho it would add to test administration times this spring and that is a negative; and (2) producing a paper/pencil version of the field test for districts/schools without the technology to conduct the entire field test via computer administration (likely roughly half of the districts/schools in the state — an article in the LATimes this week says only 1/3 of LAUSD schools have the tech capacity to do the field test) — the operational logistics of producing a p/p field test for half the districts/schools that require this mode for test administration has now become, at the least, highly questionable.

    Replies

    • Manuel 3 years ago3 years ago

      Doug, the LA Times article referred to the results of a survey conducted by LAUSD at the request of the Bond Citizen Oversight Committee (BOC) to find out how much equipment is on hand to take the test before rushing out and buying too many unneeded tablets. This was because LAUSD's "iPads for All" program has bogged down both due to LAUSD's own incompetence, public outcry, and vendor recalcitrance. The entire iPad project is driven by … Read More

      Doug, the LA Times article referred to the results of a survey conducted by LAUSD at the request of the Bond Citizen Oversight Committee (BOC) to find out how much equipment is on hand to take the test before rushing out and buying too many unneeded tablets.

      This was because LAUSD’s “iPads for All” program has bogged down both due to LAUSD’s own incompetence, public outcry, and vendor recalcitrance. The entire iPad project is driven by testing, as its name, “The Common Core Technology Project,” makes clear. The initial phase included 47 schools, many of which were recently built and should already have the networking infrastructure to support computer-based testing. All other schools in the pilot were supposed to have had their existing networks upgraded before the tablets were handed out back in August. Needless to say, that did not happen. In fact, some of the schools have yet to distribute the devices, almost six months after the start of this phase. And new schools could not even access the net at rates expected from their newer networks.

      Consequently, LAUSD’s 1-to-1 project has become a case study on what not to do. The BOC pushed for LAUSD to conduct a survey and the results, not surprisingly, are disastrous. For example, middle schools, which typically have 1,000 students, have currently a 20 Mbps bandwidth to the outside world. Under the CCTP upgrade, that is supposed to increase to 200 Mbps. Will this be sufficient if every kid’s device being tested has to access a central server (presumably ran by SBAC) simultaneously?

      Just for comparison, ISPs recommend 40 Mbps for a household that intends to stream videos.

      So the operational logistics of the test pale in comparison to the logistics of getting schools to take it. You can just forget about the entire district taking it at the same time. An entire state, as in the CST paper-and-pencil era? Fuhgeeddaboudit…

      • Doug McRae 3 years ago3 years ago

        Manuel: I agree with you. The odds that CA would be substantially tech ready for SB's computer-adaptive tests by 2015 have not been favorable since CA committed to that scenerio when it joined SB in 2011; the odds that CA would be tech ready statewide for SB's computerized field test in 2014 have been slim and none from the git go when it was announced that was the revised plan for AB 484 in early … Read More

        Manuel: I agree with you. The odds that CA would be substantially tech ready for SB’s computer-adaptive tests by 2015 have not been favorable since CA committed to that scenerio when it joined SB in 2011; the odds that CA would be tech ready statewide for SB’s computerized field test in 2014 have been slim and none from the git go when it was announced that was the revised plan for AB 484 in early Sept 2013, with the none odds a whole lot better than the slim odds. The underlying facts for these odds are just now surfacing . . . . .

    • Floyd Thursby 3 years ago3 years ago

      Stick with the old test until you get the capacity. I never trusted that it would be 1 year without testing and this is horrible for me not to get stats back on my youngest kids. Now 1 year will be 2. Wait till next year and someone will be squawking about something else and it will be 3. They should have kept the STAR test until the new test was … Read More

      Stick with the old test until you get the capacity. I never trusted that it would be 1 year without testing and this is horrible for me not to get stats back on my youngest kids. Now 1 year will be 2. Wait till next year and someone will be squawking about something else and it will be 3. They should have kept the STAR test until the new test was ready. I agree the new test is better, but we should not skip years, that’s generations of kids whose parents don’t know they need to hire tutors and work harder as parents and think it’s OK. I agree with your point about Cs. Any Californian kid should be deeply ashamed of a C and dedicate all their energy to fixing it. For Asians, a B is an F, and that’s working out great, over 3.5 x as likely as a white to qualify for a UC and more prosperous and happier as adults, yes, statistically happier in polls.

    • PJ Hallam 3 years ago3 years ago

      Doug, Smarter Balanced cannot possibly jump the first hurdle you so competently pointed out. This year’s administration is a “test of the test,” for creating future quality assessments, and will not produce reliable scores of value for any other purpose.

      • Doug McRae 3 years ago3 years ago

        PJ: Yes, this year's "field test" is a test of the test, but last year the Smarter Balanced "pilot" test most likely generated a sufficient number of qualified test items to construct short anchor sets of items for each grade level and content area that if administered to all kids could provide a vehicle for producing sufficiently reliable scores for selected purposes. These anchor items would have to be administered this spring in addition to … Read More

        PJ: Yes, this year’s “field test” is a test of the test, but last year the Smarter Balanced “pilot” test most likely generated a sufficient number of qualified test items to construct short anchor sets of items for each grade level and content area that if administered to all kids could provide a vehicle for producing sufficiently reliable scores for selected purposes. These anchor items would have to be administered this spring in addition to the much larger sets of new items (which the field test will administer on a matrix sampling basis to get a large enuf pool of items for full computer-adaptive tests in future years). So, while “feasible,” it is very questionable whether there is sufficient time to execute this kind of field test design before field testing begins in March.

  10. David B. Cohen 3 years ago3 years ago

    Great interview! Thank you. I’m similarly struck by the sense of surprise about what happened with NCLB. Not only was it predictable, it was predicted.
    Floyd, you seem to have a tremendous degree of faith in the quality and validity of tests and measurement. I’d highly recommend some additional reading and research on that topic. Here’s a sample of why you might want to be a more cautious consumer of those scores:
    http://accomplishedcaliforniateachers.wordpress.com/2013/10/13/teaching-to-the-wrong-tests/

  11. Paul 3 years ago3 years ago

    Floyd, where did you hear that reference checks are not allowed for teachers? The Education Code contains no such restriction. In fact, the "Rules of Conduct for Professional Educators", part of the body of regulations promulgated by the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing, anticipates the use of references in teacher hiring. The "Rules" make certificated personnel -- a category that includes principals of all district-run schools and many principals of charter schools -- legally accountable … Read More

    Floyd, where did you hear that reference checks are not allowed for teachers? The Education Code contains no such restriction. In fact, the “Rules of Conduct for Professional Educators”, part of the body of regulations promulgated by the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing, anticipates the use of references in teacher hiring. The “Rules” make certificated personnel — a category that includes principals of all district-run schools and many principals of charter schools — legally accountable for the accuracy of what they write in letters of reference. See pp. 58-59 of http://www.ctc.ca.gov/educator-discipline/files/CTC-Laws-Rules-2013.pdf

    If you take a moment to examine http://www.edjoin.org , where almost all public school teaching jobs in California are posted these days, you’ll see that the standard, electronic application requests contact information for three professional references. Most of the certificated (i.e., teacher or principal) job postings require applicants to upload three recent letters of reference in addition to providing contact information on the application.

    The letters and the contact information are used. What assistant superintendent of personnel (hiring decisions ultimately rest with the school district, not the school) or principal (principals are typically, but not always, invited to give input into hiring decisions) would want to hire a teacher without contacting references?

    Your writings suggest that you want to control every aspect of your children’s (and possibly other people’s) education, down to the hiring, evaluation and dismissal of their teachers. Your writings also suggest that you have not been trained as a principal or as a school district human resources officer, but that you believe that you are qualified to make such decisions. In a democratic society, we delegate general authority to elected officials, who in turn appoint specialist executives to make specific decisions. (I would add that the notion of professional specialization applies to both the public and private sectors.) Might I suggest a private school, where you could (especially if your financial contribution were large) directly influence the hiring and firing of the teachers?

  12. CarolineSF 3 years ago3 years ago

    Do unintended consequences occur when people with insufficient knowledge and understanding of the field they’re legislating write laws without consulting with those who work in that field? As usual, discuss among yourselves.

    Replies

    • Manuel 3 years ago3 years ago

      Of course they do. How could he not have foreseen that a "100% proficiency" is subject to how you define "proficiency?" And if you define "proficiency" at a level that nobody can pass, then what? As an example, what is the real meaning of a "C" grade in a class? I used to be told that "C" is "within the average." Which should mean "proficient" since, after all, you are told that you "passed" the class. But how far … Read More

      Of course they do.

      How could he not have foreseen that a “100% proficiency” is subject to how you define “proficiency?”

      And if you define “proficiency” at a level that nobody can pass, then what?

      As an example, what is the real meaning of a “C” grade in a class? I used to be told that “C” is “within the average.” Which should mean “proficient” since, after all, you are told that you “passed” the class.

      But how far below the average do you have to be to get a “C” in the tests demanded by NCLB? Nobody bothered to figure that out.

      Legislators, CDE educrats, and test-makers were all content to operate in their own spheres and never questioned what was happening in the field. As long as they could get the score distributions to be consistent year to year, they were all apparently happy.

      They never bothered to check if there was any correlation between classroom grades and the CSTs. If they had, they would have realized they had a problem in their hands. Either the tests are not testing what they should or every single teacher in the state is not giving the correct grades.

      But, no, they are instead content on getting a waiver from the “100% proficient” by 2014 demand.

      • Floyd Thursby 3 years ago3 years ago

        Agreed. Caroline, in this case I disagree because teachers rigidly want seniority/tenure/due process. They are so closed-minded on this they defended a teacher in SFUSD who missed 130 of 180 days last year for 5 different reasons and had been pressured out of her previous school for the same reason, and I only found that out later by asking others, when I called to complain and ask, no one would give me that … Read More

        Agreed. Caroline, in this case I disagree because teachers rigidly want seniority/tenure/due process. They are so closed-minded on this they defended a teacher in SFUSD who missed 130 of 180 days last year for 5 different reasons and had been pressured out of her previous school for the same reason, and I only found that out later by asking others, when I called to complain and ask, no one would give me that information, it was hidden, by law. They defended child molesters recently. They never say this teacher is bad, we support firing them. They automatically defend. They want step pay, not merit pay. So you can’t bring the union into this. Look at what happened to Michelle Rhee in DC.

  13. Floyd Thursby 3 years ago3 years ago

    Navigio, I believe 98% are rated as satisfactory in many evaluations. With California near last and the U.S. near last, 98% of teachers, kids, or parents are not "satisfactory". I like evaluations like the kids get. I took great pride in knowing my kids were in the top 3%, and it took a lot of work on my part, but they also had good teachers, with a few exceptions. We should … Read More

    Navigio, I believe 98% are rated as satisfactory in many evaluations. With California near last and the U.S. near last, 98% of teachers, kids, or parents are not “satisfactory”. I like evaluations like the kids get. I took great pride in knowing my kids were in the top 3%, and it took a lot of work on my part, but they also had good teachers, with a few exceptions. We should know if a teacher is in the top 5%, the bottom 5, etc. We need cold, hard statistics based on improvement. We need to see the difference between teachers like LAUSD is starting to do. You’re much less likely to call in sick when you really aren’t if you know your rating will be published, knowing it hurts kids to have subs, and this is no insult to subs, it’s just jarring, they don’t know the kids, they haven’t worked with them before. Some subs are great and some not so great, but having so frequent use of them as we do hurts. Anything that can get absenteeism down and effort up is a good things. We need to rate teachers by percentile, not just say almost everyone is satisfactory in a failing system, and even those who aren’t, most are next year. If you are the bottom 2%, you need to make it to at least average to impress me and show you are truly sorry and working hard to fix it. If you go from the 2d percentile to the 20th, you should find another line of work and stop hurting innocent children. If you go from 2d to 80th, good job. We need these numbers on both students and teachers. This teaching to the test claim is nonsense, always have been, if kids are being taught well and teachers are convincing the parents to supplement and organize the home around education, kids will do great on the test.

    I’ll tell you what, I’m not some genius, my kids aren’t geniuses. It’s simple, we go to the cafe every Saturday and work for 7-8 hours, with athletic breaks, we have no TV in the kids’ rooms or living room, we have the kids do STAR test work books each year, study in the Summers, and do hours of reading each evening. We don’t watch TV, we read history books together. If grades are subpar, we meet with the teachers. In some cases we’ve hired tutors, but mostly we’ve done it ourselves. My wife moved here with nothing from the 3d world. She works very hard to ensure sleep, nutrition, and that they study hard and watch minimal TV. The kids are told nothing is more important than grades, homework, reading, test scores, to your future.

    We are not alone, but we are in the minority. Most Asian parents do this. Most others do not. The testing framework helped us to be better parents, and helped our children to be better students and make more moral decisions between studying and not studying. This can improve teaching as well.

    Replies

    • navigio 3 years ago3 years ago

      re. evaluations, he could have said what you said instead of choosing to say ‘without any evaluations..’ what they mean and why they are is much different than ‘there are none’.

    • el 3 years ago3 years ago

      Unfortunately, lots of teachers are not so fortunate as to have parents like you for the students in their classroom. I am not sure how a teacher is supposed to make up for parents who don't care if their kids do their homework or who don't get them to school regularly. The use of percentiles is always a tricky business. By definition, no more than 5% of anyone can be in the 95th percentile. Ranking is … Read More

      Unfortunately, lots of teachers are not so fortunate as to have parents like you for the students in their classroom. I am not sure how a teacher is supposed to make up for parents who don’t care if their kids do their homework or who don’t get them to school regularly.

      The use of percentiles is always a tricky business. By definition, no more than 5% of anyone can be in the 95th percentile. Ranking is rarely what we want or need for student proficiency or teacher proficiency. What we want is a bar of expectations, and we’d like it if everyone leaped over it cleanly.

      You find the idea that 98% of teachers meet expectations to be not credible. The law says 100% of kids have to be proficient, and it’s even harder to fire the kids than it is to fire a teacher.

      • Floyd Thursby 3 years ago3 years ago

        We have to try to educate the kids. I think teachers should require parents to come in to meet with them before their child returns after a bad report card. We need to see where we are, to tell parents what they are doing wrong and how it will hurt their children. I agree, 100% is unrealistic, I agree with that part. My point is, I don't think the union supports … Read More

        We have to try to educate the kids. I think teachers should require parents to come in to meet with them before their child returns after a bad report card. We need to see where we are, to tell parents what they are doing wrong and how it will hurt their children. I agree, 100% is unrealistic, I agree with that part. My point is, I don’t think the union supports an alternative means of judging teachers which will cause teachers to work just as hard, solve the false absenteeism problem of 7.5% absence vs. 2.5% in corporate America, and lead to terminating the worst teacher rather than the one with the least seniority. Sure, another means is imperfect, but the union’s answer is seniority which is more imperfect. Between seniority and a principal/evaluation system occasionally making a mistake, the latter is by far the lesser of two evils. The union critiques every evaluation proposal, yet supports a worse one, seniority, which removes the ability to pressure teachers to come in more and work harder and doesn’t give principals power to implement reforms. The truth is, they don’t want teachers feeling pressure to only miss 2.5% of days, or be fired if they are not good, for whatever reason, they value job security of adults over the education of children.

        • el 3 years ago3 years ago

          Floyd, what should a teacher do if the parents don’t come in for a meeting?

          • Floyd Thursby 3 years ago3 years ago

            Parents need schools or they have to take care of their kids. I've been told many times, my kids can't go to school until I spend 4 hours going out and getting them their shots, spending a lot of time and money. I think if you tell them, their kids can't return until the parents sit through a meeting, they'll come. I think many charters require parents to volunteer at the school, … Read More

            Parents need schools or they have to take care of their kids. I’ve been told many times, my kids can’t go to school until I spend 4 hours going out and getting them their shots, spending a lot of time and money. I think if you tell them, their kids can’t return until the parents sit through a meeting, they’ll come. I think many charters require parents to volunteer at the school, come to meetings, and be involved. All schools should require this of parents. Parents who won’t spend an hour meeting a teacher and adjust their home life should be reported to social services, investigated, and fined. I think you should have something similar to the health care fine, where you can’t get the earned income tax credit or get the $1,000 per child or deduct the $2750 from taxable income if you don’t comply with meetings. If you home school you have to meet someone and prove they are up to par on the testing. This is what they do in Korea, Singapore and most of Europe. In England you lose the monthly payments if you don’t show up to a meeting, they give you a follow up date, but if you completely blow it off, you lose the monthly payments which everyone with children gets, rich or poor, per child, in the UK I should say. I believe democracy requires participation. I like the fact that Australia fines you $200 if you don’t vote.

            • el 3 years ago3 years ago

              Floyd, regardless of the merit or not of your suggestions, not one of them is currently legal in the United States. Thus, none of those actions are available to teachers.

              It’s a hard problem when the parents won’t come in. I’m always looking for new ideas to share.

  14. Floyd Thursby 3 years ago3 years ago

    Evaluations aren't very real when it is incredibly difficult to fire bad teachers, schools are not allowed to check references when hiring a teacher transferring in from another school, average absenteeism is 7.5% vs. 2.5% in the corporate world despite 65 extra days off as a matter of course, and you get tenure after two years. Truth is, it's not a matter of # of years, some teachers can be good for 30 years, … Read More

    Evaluations aren’t very real when it is incredibly difficult to fire bad teachers, schools are not allowed to check references when hiring a teacher transferring in from another school, average absenteeism is 7.5% vs. 2.5% in the corporate world despite 65 extra days off as a matter of course, and you get tenure after two years. Truth is, it’s not a matter of # of years, some teachers can be good for 30 years, then start doing poorly. Students need to come first. There is no benefit to a great evaluation and no consequence to a bad one.

    As for testing, it’s been wonderful. I love looking at my kids’ test scores, knowing what I need to work with them on, buying prep books to help them reach the top 3%, seeing their percentile, etc. It enables us to learn things. We can see the Asian-white gap is as large as the white-black gap and see that Asian parenting, if adopted by all parents as a cultural method, would make the U.S. and California both #1, not near the bottom, on comparisons. We can see the average African American child in 12th grade reads at the level of the average white 8th Grader and Asian 7th Grader, and math is more severe.

    I think a lot of the criticism is similar to criticism of communist nations. People love to attack Castro in Cuba, but they forget how bad things were before Castro took over. It was not an equitable country or a country of opportunity, health care was terrible and education for all but the very rich was horrific, similar to Nicaragua, China, even Russia, Vietnam, etc. We forget that.

    Same with education. Before testing, we didn’t focus on the differences. Remember, this has been strongly resisted by most educators. If embraced, it would work much better. If you read these tests, you’ll see a good teacher would teach kids to do well naturally, not have to teach to the test. This exposed that many kids were just socially promoted before. They tried to have an exit exam but it was watered down.

    I don’t like grades as a sole measure because they make kids at top schools like Lowell in San Francisco look less strong than they are. Honestly, a 3.00 at Lowell is a 4.00 at most schools. A test is a morally neutral measure of human goodness, and the SAT does well at this. If you read all Summer, study, pay attention, do math problems, study weekends, turn off the TV, you benefit. If you blow off studying, don’t read much in Summers, don’t look up words in the dictionary, don’t pay attention, the SAT Test and tests will catch your sins and expose them. Testing is great because parents can hire a tutor, help kids, etc. Look at the explosion of learning centers, particularly in heavily Asian areas like Fremont and Cupertino. This is a growth area in the economy and has been a very good thing for kids who use them. Hopefully it will become an equity issue and there will be funding for poor kids to get tutoring also. One on one time is very important. It also encourages more parents to spend Saturday in a cafe or library teaching their kids to read, doing workbooks with their kids, reading history books to them, giving them math quizzes, etc. Parents are their kids’ first teacher, and the tests can point out problem areas.

    I believe the tests should be the first thing colleges look at, before grades, as is the case in most European nations, which do better than us in education, particularly England and Germany. These tests have made many parents better, many kids better. In time, we must convince all parents to put education first.

    Replies

    • Bruce William Smith 3 years ago3 years ago

      My (Asian) wife and I are both educators -- we are now developing a learning centre like those you mentioned in Fremont and Cupertino, and we hope to turn ours into a school -- so there's no realistic argument that we don't value education. That said, it should be borne in mind that education, even if the center of a child's life, is not coextensive with childhood; and that the Asian culture you are praising … Read More

      My (Asian) wife and I are both educators — we are now developing a learning centre like those you mentioned in Fremont and Cupertino, and we hope to turn ours into a school — so there’s no realistic argument that we don’t value education. That said, it should be borne in mind that education, even if the center of a child’s life, is not coextensive with childhood; and that the Asian culture you are praising and we are both writing about on this Lunar New Year’s Day is not, in my judgement (and I lived and taught in South Korea for seven years, and raised two children there) and that of many informed people, the best at raising children and giving them model childhoods. Your reference to Europe, in particular northern Europe, is more apposite: the Netherlands and Sweden have been ranked highest in child welfare in recent years, and their neighbouring countries do comparably well.

      • Floyd Thursby 3 years ago3 years ago

        One only has to look at the stats Bruce. Asian children in California are 33.5% likely to get into a UC or better, vs. 8.7% of whites. Asian adults earn 30% more income despite most coming from a lower status as kids. Asians are the only group in the U.S. which still does well in school when poor, and studies have shown Asians are happier as adults. I agree some go … Read More

        One only has to look at the stats Bruce. Asian children in California are 33.5% likely to get into a UC or better, vs. 8.7% of whites. Asian adults earn 30% more income despite most coming from a lower status as kids. Asians are the only group in the U.S. which still does well in school when poor, and studies have shown Asians are happier as adults. I agree some go too far. There is sacrifice to doing well in school. The Economist had an article in 2009 entitled ‘America’s Lazy Schoolchildren’. It showed Americans defend kids working less than kids in Asia and Europe by far, even though we work far more hours as adults, and speculated we would not have to work as much as adults if we worked more as kids as we’d have more skills. Childhood is formative. The average America kid spends over 40 hours watching TV and playing video games. Studying 15 hours a week is the Asian average and causes 33.5% to go to a UC. Most of that doesn’t come out of good things like sports, arts, volunteering, most comes out of TV and video games. I would venture to say that if white, Latino and black parents all made their kids study 15 hours a week or more, 20-25 in the case of the truly ambitious, study in the Summers as Asians do, weekends, that they would end up having more productive, more remunerative and happier lives. I’m not saying some parents don’t go too far, but most parents don’t go nearly far enough. I’ve been in SF almost my whole life and they are definitely on average better parents. They’ll sacrifice weekends to study with their kids, most whites take their kids to do what they like doing anyways, it’s a stereotype but true.

        • Bruce William Smith 3 years ago3 years ago

          I'm prepared to confirm 99% of what you write here. My only caveat is to point out that your statistics are about Asian-Americans, who should not be confused with Asians. The spectacular example of the failure to make this kind of distinction concerns India: President Obama (and other mainstream education reformers) regularly mentions India as a serious competitor we should be concerned about, yet PISA data show Indian states to be rock bottom performers on … Read More

          I’m prepared to confirm 99% of what you write here. My only caveat is to point out that your statistics are about Asian-Americans, who should not be confused with Asians. The spectacular example of the failure to make this kind of distinction concerns India: President Obama (and other mainstream education reformers) regularly mentions India as a serious competitor we should be concerned about, yet PISA data show Indian states to be rock bottom performers on that test. Indian-Americans, on the other hand, are the wealthiest and best educated ethnic group identified in U.S. census data. The reason: the competition ratio for an American visa from India is higher than it is for any other nation. Indians (not Amerindians) in the United States are highly selected, and therefore very likely to be successful here; and this is true of the majority of other Asian-Americans, particularly from east Asia.

        • navigio 3 years ago3 years ago

          the poverty-based achievement gap is worse for asians than for either hispanics or african americans.

          • Floyd Thursby 3 years ago3 years ago

            Navigio, that’s within Asians. Poor Asians do better than middle to upper middle income whites and upper income blacks. It’s not income, it’s culture. Culture of obsession over grades is very different than a short term focus on keeping up with the Joneses.

            • navigio 3 years ago3 years ago

              Right, within Asians poverty has a larger influence than culture. That was my point. And do you have a reference for the average child watching 40 hours of tv a week?

    • Paul 3 years ago3 years ago

      Floyd, I'm curious...employee absences seem to be a big issue for you. Do you have citations for your either of those absenteeism rates? To what geographic areas do both figures apply? What kinds of jobs are included in the private-sector figure? Does the teacher figure include absence categories such as professional development, bereavement leave, etc.? My claim is that these are made-up numbers. 2.5% and 7.5% are too pat. I think you'd find very similar absence patterns … Read More

      Floyd, I’m curious…employee absences seem to be a big issue for you. Do you have citations for your either of those absenteeism rates? To what geographic areas do both figures apply? What kinds of jobs are included in the private-sector figure? Does the teacher figure include absence categories such as professional development, bereavement leave, etc.?

      My claim is that these are made-up numbers. 2.5% and 7.5% are too pat.

      I think you’d find very similar absence patterns if you looked at similar absence categories for teachers, other unionized public sector professionals, and unionized private-sector professionals (of whom there are very few; engineers at Boeing are one group that comes to mind).

      I think you’d also find an interesting pattern if you examined private-sector absenteeism in San Francisco, the only jurisdiction I know of in this country that requires employers to provide paid sick leave. (FMLA and state mandates are for unpaid leave, conferring only a right to return to work.) Even in San Francisco, economic pressures operate to discourage less-skilled workers from using their sick leave. Restaurant workers can be fired without cause, for example, and replaced immediately. (You’ve said you support the same employment regime for teachers, which is the point of the current lawsuit.) It would be hard indeed for a restaurant employee to prove that a dismissal was in fact due to use of legally-entitled sick leave.

      Workers ineligible for paid sick leave go to work sick. As private-sector employers cut back on “benefits” (I use quotes here because sick leave can hardly be called a frill) and as union membership in the private sector continues its inexorable decline, it’s no surprise that private-sector workers feel afraid to take days off.

      Although I applaud your efforts to support your children’s learning at home, and although I would never apologize for abuses of employment terms (when such abuses are proven), I find your efforts to paint all teachers as lazy and incompetent distasteful.

  15. navigio 3 years ago3 years ago

    Thanks for posting this. Nice to hear his take. A bit surprised about the lack of foresight and the condemnation of the direction after nclb on one hand and the praise for rttt on the other..

    Also, evaluations already happen, they are just not based on test scores.

    Replies

    • Fred Jones 3 years ago3 years ago

      And it is apparent he doesn’t see the direct correlation between teaching to the test and the unintended but very real “narrowing of curriculum” phenomenon that NCLB has generated … particularly among poor performing schools (goodbye History/Social Studies, Arts, Career Technical Education, even Recess breaks).

      The intentions behind NCLB were certainly noble … but like so many other policy reforms, they must be judged on their real-world impact.

    • PJ Hallam 3 years ago3 years ago

      I met with Congressman Miller before NCLB passed and specifically warned him of the high probability of disastrous effects the then-current high stakes, large scale tests would have on curriculum and student motivation. I was part of a group representing FairTest and low-income neighborhood schools from Richmond, CA. Congressman Miller said that he could not ignore a president who was willing to spend so much money on education, and could not believe that the policy/methods … Read More

      I met with Congressman Miller before NCLB passed and specifically warned him of the high probability of disastrous effects the then-current high stakes, large scale tests would have on curriculum and student motivation. I was part of a group representing FairTest and low-income neighborhood schools from Richmond, CA. Congressman Miller said that he could not ignore a president who was willing to spend so much money on education, and could not believe that the policy/methods could possibly undermine the benefits of increased funding and public reporting. Sadly, he is doing the same thing now by supporting teacher evaluations tied to student test scores. Overwhelming evidence shows this policy also leads to disaster!

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