Credit: Claremont Graduate University
Carl Cohn

Nearly two decades ago, when I was superintendent in the Long Beach Unified School District, the superintendent in nearby Palos Verdes asked me if he could send some of his teachers to our workshops to help them improve their skills in teaching kids how to read.

I wondered why one of the state’s wealthiest and most successful districts, at least as measured by its test scores, would want to send its teachers to learn skills from an urban district like ours, with test scores that were far lower.

When I looked at the superintendent with a puzzled expression, he said: “If most of our kids didn’t come to our schools already knowing how to read and write, we’d be exposed for the frauds that we are.”

This superintendent implicitly acknowledged what isn’t often known by the general public: Teachers at suburban school districts like the one in Palos Verdes have to do far less for their students to get high test scores than those at urban school districts like mine.

I was reminded of that conversation after the recent ruling in the Vergara lawsuit that declared several key laws governing teacher employment unconstitutional under California law. What’s wrong with the ruling is that it reinforces a completely false narrative in which incompetent teachers are portrayed as the central problem facing urban schools.

Serving as superintendent in both Long Beach and San Diego for 12-plus years, I didn’t see the “teacher jails” or “rubber rooms” – the places where teachers are assigned and do nothing while any of a range of charges against them are adjudicated – that have become a part of the popular-media-driven narrative about urban schools and districts.

I saw remarkably heroic classroom teachers who delivered high-quality instruction on a daily basis. Sure, there were times when a teacher wasn’t performing up to par and needed help. And yes, there were times when a teacher needed to find a new career. But the notion that the only choice facing an urban district is to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars removing such teachers says more about poor leadership and poor human capital management in that district than it does about the existing state statutes under consideration in this court case.

In my experience at Long Beach, the biggest help in counseling a teacher toward finding a new career was the head of the local teachers union, who understood that keeping a sub-par teacher in the profession was bad for both the district and the union. Most of the heavy lifting on getting that resignation was done by the union, not the district.

In recent years, it has become fashionable to suggest that the battle in urban districts is all about adult interests versus the interests of schoolchildren. The truth is that an effective leader of an urban school system goes to work every day trying to figure out how best to motivate, inspire and develop the adults who work with kids. Those superintendents who feel that they can transform kids’ lives by fiat from the superintendent’s suite are kidding themselves and fooling the public. Enlisting, engaging and collaborating with classroom teachers are the only ways to genuinely move the needle on student achievement.

In California, there are only two districts that have won the prestigious Broad Prize for Urban Education. Both Long Beach and Garden Grove accomplished that feat by bringing a laser-like focus to improving the capacity of their teachers through high-quality professional development, and using data to target kids who are behind. Neither district chose the path of firing their way to excellence or denying their teachers their hard-won due-process rights. And, I might add, neither district saw gimmicks like iPads as the formula for educational excellence.

The Vergara ruling also addresses the twin issues of layoff procedures and length of time needed to gain tenure.

I teach a course at Claremont Graduate University called “Strategic Management of Human Capital in High-Performing Districts.” My doctoral students always go into that course thinking that changing the current system of layoffs based on seniority would be an easily accomplished reform. However, after several hours of discussion, most readily acknowledge that hardworking teachers may still need to be protected from political retribution from some school administrators who might abuse the system to punish teachers who exercise their right to free speech by criticizing the actions of administrators, or who have become an economic burden during cost-conscious budget-cutting times. Though current laws regarding teacher tenure are admittedly imperfect, repealing them, in my judgment, might subject teachers and the students we care about to even greater chaos and confusion.

When I arrived in San Diego in 2005, one particularly disturbing admission came from one of the district’s area superintendents. She indicated that she had transferred an excellent elementary teacher from her inner-city school because the teacher had exercised her free speech rights in disagreeing with the top-down nature of the previous superintendent’s “Blueprint for Student Success.” The transfer, however, did not silence the teacher. Just the opposite, in fact. The next year, she was elected president of the San Diego teachers union.

Proponents of abrogating the rights of teachers often argue that incidents like this one in San Diego were common decades ago, but no longer happen today. My experience tells me that they are wrong on that score.

Some change may well need to be considered in the length of time teachers must serve before gaining tenure. Most observers are waiting for some grand bargain to be crafted at the state level. But I think this would be best done from the “bottom up” in urban districts like San Jose and others, where district and union leaders are coming to the same conclusion that some beginning teachers are better served by lengthening the probationary period. State leaders and CTA need to get out of the way and let this happen.

The work of improving urban schools is a long, hard slog. It requires stability of leadership and governance, along with taking the time to develop mutual trust between administrators and unions on building the capacity of the vast majority of the teacher workforce. Unfortunately, there are no shortcuts.

California is a great state that should never consider turning back the clock either on the civil rights of urban students, who have the right to a high-quality public school education, or on the employment rights of the dedicated teachers who I saw serving them so well in both Long Beach and San Diego.

•••

Carl Cohn, former school superintendent in Long Beach and San Diego, is director of the Urban Leadership Program at Claremont Graduate University and a member of the State Board of Education. He is also chair of the American College Testing (ACT) Board of Directors, and a member of the EdSource Board of Directors.

The opinions expressed in this commentary represent solely those of the author. EdSource welcomes commentaries representing diverse points of view. If you would like to submit a commentary, please contact us.

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  1. Richard Moore 2 years ago2 years ago

    Long Beach had credentialed librarians in all schools, K-12 when Cohn was Superintendent. Garden Grove had them in grades 6-12. That was more staffing than in the vast majority of CA schools. THAT is why kids in LB and GG learned to read — and why they got the Broad award. Today, 10% of CA schools have qualified LMTs — and why we are at the bottom of the national rankings.

  2. Don 2 years ago2 years ago

    When the upcoming cover story of TIME magazine is a positive spin on Students Matter and Vergara, the teachers unions know they have no quarter.

    Replies

    • FloydThursby1941 2 years ago2 years ago

      I'm amazed when I read the comments on sites like this. Most liberals support Vergara. It's just that a small militant group has such disproportionate power that they go en masse on blogs and scare politicians and create an illusion that they have popular support. Obama is not a corporate shill, he's pretty liberal. A higher percentage of African Americans and Latinos support Vergara than whites. Really those who oppose … Read More

      I’m amazed when I read the comments on sites like this. Most liberals support Vergara. It’s just that a small militant group has such disproportionate power that they go en masse on blogs and scare politicians and create an illusion that they have popular support. Obama is not a corporate shill, he’s pretty liberal. A higher percentage of African Americans and Latinos support Vergara than whites. Really those who oppose it are a dwindling band of well-funded and well-organized militants who want to adhere to a discredited past against all odds, with no compromise. They wish to live in the past. They are constantly making more enemies by defending more of the indefensible. Berndt was so well defended he got over 40k. They made an enemy of me when they made it so kids couldn’t go to a neighborhood school in San Francisco and forced many families out. They are living in the past. They are a quarter of the population tops, and under the delusion they are the majority.

      In debates, notice they always try to falsely move the argument to the middle while defending the extreme left. For instance those who oppose the 5 steps and pure tenure/seniority are said to be “against due process” and for “a complete corporate takeover of education and mass arbitrary firings”, but they show themselves by never proposing anything in the middle, because the goal of the false claims is to maintain a system far to the extreme left of the mainstream thought, and this in a reliably blue state.

      The lack of honesty has begun to cost them many allies.

      • navigio 2 years ago2 years ago

        When I read vindictive comments on this site that attempt to manipulate public perception about public opinion in a way that is neither knowable nor relevant I am not amazed. I am not amazed because like the old saying goes, "it takes all kinds". What I am surprised about is that edsource has been able to remain immune from of the kind of "commentary" that focuses more on manipulation of perception than on the issues … Read More

        When I read vindictive comments on this site that attempt to manipulate public perception about public opinion in a way that is neither knowable nor relevant I am not amazed. I am not amazed because like the old saying goes, “it takes all kinds”.
        What I am surprised about is that edsource has been able to remain immune from of the kind of “commentary” that focuses more on manipulation of perception than on the issues for so long. That was part of what made it valuable. Unfortunately I expect that was partly due to how little people in our culture actually care to think about public education. Too bad.
        But regardless of what public opinion might actually be, I am confused at the value that you and your doppelgänger place on it. To be sure, public opinion is everything when it comes to what policy is eventually made, but contrary to your implications, the mere fact that it exists says nothing about its depth of wisdom. It is very easy, and in fact more common than not, for public opinion to drive public policy that is destructive. Examples of that even abound. It may feel schadenfreudlichly comforting to claim something you want to be treu. That doesn’t make it so, and more importantly that doesn’t make it matter.
        And I don’t think calling people delusional liars does much to increase the value of your comments.
        But of course I am a delusional liar so my opinion is invalid anyway. Oh wait…

      • Carl Cohn 2 years ago2 years ago

        I’d like to know who is well-funding me…LOL!

        • Manuel 2 years ago2 years ago

          Well, sir, I was told that you were a principal member of this well-organized and well-funded group that would princely reward me for my tireless efforts as an unpaid union thug.

          Does this mean the deposit onto my overseas account will never be made? That I’ve been lied to and have wasted my superior intellect on nothing?

          Dang it…

    • el 2 years ago2 years ago

      The Newsweek puff piece (it read like an advertorial) about Michelle Rhee with the impressive accidental irony of the picture of her standing in front of a bunch of chalk outlines of kids from a few years back didn’t really seem to give her the all-powerful image boost she hoped for.

      • Don 2 years ago2 years ago

        El, there’s a cover story about to be released in TIME magazine called Rotten Apples about Vergara, Welch, Students Matter and the difficulties in dismissing teachers. That’s what I’m referring to.

        • FloydThursby1941 2 years ago2 years ago

          I’ll buy it.

      • Gary Ravani 2 years ago2 years ago

        Below is an excerpted article from Salon by Glen Greenwald. The topic was a Tea Party rally held in DC and he critiques Time’s coverage of the number of participants. The point is: Time’s inability to present the most factual picture of events in favor a “false media balance” that does no favors to readers’ understanding. Interestingly both the NY Times and the Orange County register have taken up the same topic (media "narrative") recently. … Read More

        Below is an excerpted article from Salon by Glen Greenwald. The topic was a Tea Party rally held in DC and he critiques Time’s coverage of the number of participants. The point is: Time’s inability to present the most factual picture of events in favor a “false media balance” that does no favors to readers’ understanding. Interestingly both the NY Times and the Orange County register have taken up the same topic (media “narrative”) recently.

        The smart take on the upcoming Time article on “rotten apples,” is that it should be taken with a shovel full of salt. Time tries to equate the opinions of education experts with those of Silicon Valley tech cowboys.

        It should be recalled that Time infamously posted a cover picture of Michelle Rhee in her short term in DC schools with a broom in her hands and implying the broom was a mechanism of school reform. We have all come to know that, in educational policy terms, it was actually her mode of transportation.

        From Salon:

        “But Time isn’t allowed to critique right-wing claims even when they’re totally false. Doing that would make Rush Limbaugh and Fox News angry. So rather than pointing out what actually happened … they have to pretend that this is, as always, nothing more than an irreconcilable dispute about reality between the Right and the Left, and it’s not up to Time to tell their readers what the truth is, because that’s not their role, since they’re objective and unbiased. According to the rules of establishment journalism, there is no truth and no facts — only competing, irreconcilable claims from “the Right and the Left,” and their only job is to mindlessly repeat those claims …“balance” is needed and thus the two sides must be posited as equal …because, as Stephen Colbert famously pointed out, “reality has a liberal bias.”

  3. Don 2 years ago2 years ago

    Floyd, on the subject of studying, there’s been a great deal of research and though there is some general correlation between higher grades and norms test results in relation to more studying in high school and to a lesser extent in middle school, in elementary there no overall correlation at all. And when you break down the results of those studies it appears only a few percentage points of achievement gains are attributable to homework … Read More

    Floyd, on the subject of studying, there’s been a great deal of research and though there is some general correlation between higher grades and norms test results in relation to more studying in high school and to a lesser extent in middle school, in elementary there no overall correlation at all. And when you break down the results of those studies it appears only a few percentage points of achievement gains are attributable to homework and study. In fact, no overall achievement gains are seen past about 1.5 hours per day even in high school. This runs counter to your idea which simply stated is more is better. Almost no education experts subscribe to that belief because they have no evidence to back it up.

    You can read more here add the standard nomenclature before the link:
    nctm.org/uploadedFiles/Research_News_and_Advocacy/Research/Clips_and_Briefs/Brief%20-%20Homework%20What%20Research%20Says.pdf

    Since this area seems to be your interest, I hope you have familiarized yourself with the literature on this subject going back to Behaviorism vs. Constructionism and the many studies done in more recent times like the metastudy including in the above article.

    On a personal note, your opinions on this subject seem to imply that only learning that can be measured on a test is worthwhile and that hours studying regardless of the quality is all that matters in the quest for learning.

    Alfie Kohn has some interesting views on many of the popularized notions about homework, grades and test scores. Many of the education apologists cite his writings, but he’s someone who has successfully popularized areas of philosophy much to his credit. To be sure, he has plenty of detractors. Worth a look for a better understanding of the issues surrounding homework – the issue you seem obsessed with.

    By the way,if you pass laws “to take away profit”as you said, what’s left of American enterprise will entirely disappear. Sorry, but totalitarian remedies have not been very productive, if history is any judge.

    Replies

    • Don 2 years ago2 years ago

      correction: Constructivism,

    • FloydThursby1941 2 years ago2 years ago

      I agree but come on Don, 95% to the top 1%, so in a time people were hurting and losing homes and suffering and we had 10% unemployment, the rich, who have the power to decide who gets paid how much and set the salaries, decided that 95% of the increase in the economy was due to the top 1% and they deserved it, and 99% of people deserved 5%, not enough to keep up … Read More

      I agree but come on Don, 95% to the top 1%, so in a time people were hurting and losing homes and suffering and we had 10% unemployment, the rich, who have the power to decide who gets paid how much and set the salaries, decided that 95% of the increase in the economy was due to the top 1% and they deserved it, and 99% of people deserved 5%, not enough to keep up with inflation? Salaries are trailing inflation. I agree, you don’t want to take away incentives, but the rich have lost their ability to claim fair-mindedness. Yes, totalitarianism is unfair, but the rich are not using their power any better than many totalitarians. They had absolute power and it corrupted absolutely. Anyone who challenges their decisions is seen as a communist or totalitarian, so we don’t question it, but maybe we should question decisions claiming 95% of GDP increase belongs in the pockets of the exact 1% who needs it least. If we’d spread it out evenly, we’d have gotten rid of poverty, the 1% to the bottom 1% would make a real difference and to the top not so much but they are already well off.

      As for studying, do you know think Lowell kids who study 25 hours a week on average end up smarter than kids who study 5-10? The SAT scores show otherwise. Asians study 13.8 and whites 5.6, with Asians over 3.5 times as likely to qualify for a UC. Is this due to something else? Genetics? Poverty? Buying grades? Luck? I don’t think any of those explains it. Most experts believe all races have equal intelligence genetically even though some may be more likely to use drugs which damage infants. I don’t see how you can claim otherwise. 7.5 hours a week max, or 10.5 if you include weekends, and beyond that there’s no learning going on? Lowell would beg to differ.

      • Don 2 years ago2 years ago

        Floyd, again, if you read the meta-analysis "Does homework improve academic achievement?" (Cooper, Robinson and Patell, 2006) or the summary in the link I provided you will see that many of the assumptions you make about homework are not correct. It is very easy to erroneously arrive at the conclusion you make about hours studied vs. achievement. It is a complicated area and like most complex issues, some people will try to make … Read More

        Floyd, again, if you read the meta-analysis “Does homework improve academic achievement?” (Cooper, Robinson and Patell, 2006) or the summary in the link I provided you will see that many of the assumptions you make about homework are not correct. It is very easy to erroneously arrive at the conclusion you make about hours studied vs. achievement. It is a complicated area and like most complex issues, some people will try to make sense of them by making a black and white generalization.

        Rather than go through those falsehoods I would suggest you read the article yourself. I know you are unlikely to change your position, but it is counterproductive to your attempt to convince others if you don’t seem to be aware of the basic research in the field. You appear less interested in an exchange than in convincing us of your correctness. The problem is that you keep citing numbers and never provide any sources or other back up except Tiger Mom, etc.

        I will provide one example of how you misconstrue the phenomenon. When it comes to hours spent studying, many lower performing students will spend considerably more time doing homework than their counterparts at the other end of the achievement spectrum. The conclusion of the study provided by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics basically states that while there is a clear correlation ( not cause) between more study and higher achievement it is qualified on closer examination by the fact that it is a very weak correlation at best in high school and no correlation in elementary. And any benefit maxes out after 1.5 to 2 hours per day.

        Pop culture books like Tiger Mom are intended to sway people to a certain viewpoint. Since that is already your viewpoint it amounts down to little more than confirmation bias. Read the opposite of what you currently believe and test your views against them. This will either strengthen your current views of cause you a change of mind. Don’t be wedded to ideas.

        • Don 2 years ago2 years ago

          Upon rereading my comment I realize that I should have said that lower performing students will take longer to do the same homework assignment. Obviously, students who don’t study at all are at a disadvantage, but how students do in school has more to do with what they do during school than after.

          • Celeste Phooey Condon 2 years ago2 years ago

            Don, I can't believe I am saying this but I believe with Floyd on this one. How dare you imply eugenics. That belongs in the dustbin of Nazi history and is extremely racist. Poor kids shouldn't bother to study because they are so stupid it takes longer to do their homework? You are priceless. How clever, blame the victim. Perhaps it's hard to be equally effective as a rich Asian locked in their … Read More

            Don, I can’t believe I am saying this but I believe with Floyd on this one. How dare you imply eugenics. That belongs in the dustbin of Nazi history and is extremely racist. Poor kids shouldn’t bother to study because they are so stupid it takes longer to do their homework? You are priceless. How clever, blame the victim. Perhaps it’s hard to be equally effective as a rich Asian locked in their room with nutritious food and supportive parents and all the books they need when you are in a 2-room apartment with the TV blasting for your uncle, who also lives there and molests you, and your mom comes out sweaty giving your uncle money for drugs and asking if he has any extra condoms to satisfy her John in the other room without risking death. You’re a piece of work. You represent white racist privilege. Poverty is the real issue. Poverty, racism, sexism, classism, perversion, capitalism, greed, homophobia, evil, chauvinism, selfishness and hate are the real issues. We need to fight sexual abuse in all it’s forms. And racism. We need to give money from the rich to the poor so they have the environment to study as effectively as the rich. That you can’t see that makes you remarkably obtuse!

          • FloydThursby1941 2 years ago2 years ago

            Phooey, the main problem holding poor students back is TV and Games and a bad work ethic, 5.6 hours a week shows a huge emphasis on short term hedonism and very little on long-term planning. You put a tremendous amount of thought into rare issues. Sure that happens but most of it is a lack of effort. That's way bigger than anything, parents and kids don't put enough of a priority on … Read More

            Phooey, the main problem holding poor students back is TV and Games and a bad work ethic, 5.6 hours a week shows a huge emphasis on short term hedonism and very little on long-term planning. You put a tremendous amount of thought into rare issues. Sure that happens but most of it is a lack of effort. That’s way bigger than anything, parents and kids don’t put enough of a priority on grades, test scores and learning, and immigrants show what can be achieved by sacrificing some fun and games for the long-term goals. Why not focus on that?

  4. Frank Porter 2 years ago2 years ago

    I agree with Carl Cohn’s comments that, “What’s wrong with the ruling is that it reinforces a completely false narrative in which incompetent teachers are portrayed as the central problem facing urban schools.” In fact, as a retired superintendent, with a 37 year career in public education as a teacher (including a 8 years as a local CTA chapter president and lead negotiator) and then later as a principal and superintendent, I concur with most, … Read More

    I agree with Carl Cohn’s comments that, “What’s wrong with the ruling is that it reinforces a completely false narrative in which incompetent teachers are portrayed as the central problem facing urban schools.” In fact, as a retired superintendent, with a 37 year career in public education as a teacher (including a 8 years as a local CTA chapter president and lead negotiator) and then later as a principal and superintendent, I concur with most, if not all, of Carl’s commentary.
    However, I would rebalance Carl’s commentary with the acknowledgement that the issues raised by the Vergara ruling need to be thoughtfully and urgently addressed by the California Legislature because they are, in fact, adversely affecting student achievement.
    To accomplish the important work of developing, promoting and supporting highly effective teaching in every classroom, it is important that we have state statutes in place that don’t adversely and irrationally compel school district superintendents and school boards to make premature and/or counter-productive human resource decisions about granting tenure, and/or compelling the wholesale laying off highly effective beginning teachers, and/or to spend extraordinary amounts of education funds to dismiss grossly ineffective teachers.
    Judge Treu’s ruling and the court record make a clear and compelling case for the need to address and rewrite the current statutes on teacher tenure, layoff procedures, and teacher dismissal. In reading the Vergara decision and the court record on this case, it’s clear that this legal ruling on the constitutional issues will ultimately compel the legislature to bring the relevant statutes into alignment with this constitutional ruling. The legislative work of balancing teacher employment rights with the civil rights of students to have an effective teacher public education will most certainly be a long, hard slog.

    And, while the Vergara ruling may have the unfortunate side effect of reinforcing the false narrative that incompetent teachers are the central problem facing urban schools, the ruling should serve as a much needed notice to the California legislature that the clock is ticking on meaningfully addressing these issues .

    Replies

    • Don 2 years ago2 years ago

      Thank you Mr.Porter. I made the same case earlier on this thread regarding the false narrative as a by-product of the ruling.In that comment I went as far as to say that the defense encouraged this false narrative to promulgate the notion in order to gin up the opposition that Vergara is nothing more than teacher bashing. Anti-Vergara activists construe Treu's cautionary statements not to blame teachers for the difficulties inherent in the laws as … Read More

      Thank you Mr.Porter. I made the same case earlier on this thread regarding the false narrative as a by-product of the ruling.In that comment I went as far as to say that the defense encouraged this false narrative to promulgate the notion in order to gin up the opposition that Vergara is nothing more than teacher bashing. Anti-Vergara activists construe Treu’s cautionary statements not to blame teachers for the difficulties inherent in the laws as nothing more than a token effort to appear fair and balanced in the context of a deeply teacher unfriendly ruling, but the rank and file have not shown any particular resolve to demonstrate opposition, even while the union leadership in conjunction with the other state defendants have appealed.
      I suspect that there is a silent majority who will accept a reasonable rewrite of the statutes, even if they would rather have never ever heard of Vergara.

    • navigio 2 years ago2 years ago

      So now I'm curious. If these statutes are in fact not the primary hinderance to successful urban school districts, what is? And more importantly, why are we not addressing that instead? Are you saying that changing them actually won't bring any meaningful change? The lawsuit claims that minority and low income students' constitutional right to equal opportunity of educational quality is being violated. What could be more important than that? Looking at some 'urban' districts I … Read More

      So now I’m curious. If these statutes are in fact not the primary hinderance to successful urban school districts, what is? And more importantly, why are we not addressing that instead? Are you saying that changing them actually won’t bring any meaningful change?

      The lawsuit claims that minority and low income students’ constitutional right to equal opportunity of educational quality is being violated. What could be more important than that?

      Looking at some ‘urban’ districts I am seeing many with minority rates well over 95% and many with F&R rates well over 80% (lausd’s unduplicated rate is 84% and that district has a tenth of the state’s students). If the lawsuit is correct in its characterization of the effect, those districts are effectively impacted wholesale by these statutes. If that’s true, how could it not be a significant hurdle? Even the biggest one in districts where it impacts virtually every single student?

      • FloydThursby1941 2 years ago2 years ago

        Whether or not it is the primary issue is not the main point here. It damages kids, and makes many parents frustrated. People remember the bad experience and over the years, people have been stuck with a bad teacher or their kid has, and they don't remember the 10 good teachers, just like someone harassed by a cop often is negative towards them and forgets the 10 good cops...and police pay has gone … Read More

        Whether or not it is the primary issue is not the main point here. It damages kids, and makes many parents frustrated. People remember the bad experience and over the years, people have been stuck with a bad teacher or their kid has, and they don’t remember the 10 good teachers, just like someone harassed by a cop often is negative towards them and forgets the 10 good cops…and police pay has gone way up since they cracked down on abuses which were once common.

        Yes, there are bigger problems than bad teachers, but that’s a distraction comment which avoids the main point. We still must get teaching to improve, and the threat of being fired always makes people work harder, and some are just bad.

        It’s true, bad parenting is more significant, the average parent lets their child watch and play on screens 40 hours a week while studying under 6, so I’d say the average parent is horrible by European, Asian or educated standards, take your pick. That’s atrocious parenting…and that’s average. Well parented kids, even in bad schools, will get a good education and Asians prove that.

        Then you have poverty, which Asians overcome but which hurts performance, a culture which is anti-intellectual, lazy kids, and other issues. Yes, these are bigger. However they are vague, and difficult to do something about. We can do something about teacher quality, let go the bad ones, replace seniority/entitlement to earn your promotion/transfer/raise and avoid the lay offs by quality, not quantity (of years). It’s in our power, let’s do it. Let’s work towards the other issues, but we can control this one, so let’s do so.

        If you’re a bad student or worker and part of the reason is a bad boss, a difficult environment, a boring class, bad books, a long commute, a winner focuses on what they can control, work harder, study more, focus more, etc. A loser focuses on what they cannot control and ignores what they can. You won’t change the other things in the short run, so focus on what you do and can control. We can’t make all parents great within a year if the average one is negligent and atrociously indifferent. However, a quick change in laws can drastically improve teacher quality and drastically reduce the incidences of teachers, fully in accordance with their contract, playing hooky and damaging kids by doing so. Let’s do that. Let’s do it now. Not later. The writing is on the wall. Let’s be winners, let’s prioritize kids and focus on what we can control.

      • Carl Cohn 2 years ago2 years ago

        You can get rid of the existing statutes, and still have lousy HR practices that put weak teachers in critical classrooms. You can still fail to provide high-quality professional development to teachers. You can still fail to attract, develop and retain talent. You can still fail to address critical school safety issues in urban schools and classrooms. You can still fail to engage parents in their children’s education.

        • Don 2 years ago2 years ago

          Mr. Cohn, I absolutely cannot fault your comment above. At the same time, I believe those issues are different than the constitutional questions posed by Vergara and do not in any way trump or devalue the meaning of Vergara's challenge. The Brown v. Board decision didn't purport integration as the singular solution to the achievement gap. The idea that somehow Vergara should be faulted for not being the end all to be all … Read More

          Mr. Cohn, I absolutely cannot fault your comment above. At the same time, I believe those issues are different than the constitutional questions posed by Vergara and do not in any way trump or devalue the meaning of Vergara’s challenge. The Brown v. Board decision didn’t purport integration as the singular solution to the achievement gap. The idea that somehow Vergara should be faulted for not being the end all to be all doesn’t comport. I don’t deny that the plaintiffs at times may have overstated the case as a panacea as lawyers will do. That doesn’t diminish the fundamental question of the trial: are students, and in particular students of color, experiencing inequitable educational opportunity as a ramification of the five statutes? I understand that the defense’s case – that the uneven application of the statutes is at fault, not the statutes themselves. Because it was agreed that student do suffer educationally from low quality teachers, if the appellate court agrees that students have a legitimate case of constitutional inequality, will the court determine it to be as a direct result of an imperfect law or will it decide to take a more activist stance and determine the imperfect implementation, with or without imperfect law, is enough to uphold Treu’s ruling? Or will it strike it down?

          In the meantime, it is somewhat of a spectacle to watch as the union-supporting left wing in California tries to grapple with the paradox of backing teaching unions to the detriment of minorities, civil rights, and educational inequality. Ironically, it’s progressive advocates who are lining up to file more educational inequality challenges now that the bar of proof has been lowered from “fundamentally below prevailing statewide standards” to the lesser standard of “real and appreciable impact”.

          No doubt the legal conundrum of how to prove teacher incompetence played no little part in Treu’s decision to overrule the academic logjam on that issue.

          • Carl Cohn 2 years ago2 years ago

            I think some of your arguments against my critique of Vergara are well-reasoned, but we part company on the issue of equating Vergara with Brown, the most important judicial decision of the 20th century, which had a profound impact on the course of our country and its social fabric. In addition, Brown was a unanimous decision of the highest court in the land. While I respect Judge Treu as a jurist, the facts and issues argued … Read More

            I think some of your arguments against my critique of Vergara are well-reasoned, but we part company on the issue of equating Vergara with Brown, the most important judicial decision of the 20th century, which had a profound impact on the course of our country and its social fabric. In addition, Brown was a unanimous decision of the highest court in the land.

            While I respect Judge Treu as a jurist, the facts and issues argued in his Los Angeles Superior Court proceeding in no way rise to the level of Brown. And, his application of strict scrutiny was very thinly argued in the decision for some inexplicable reason known only to him.

          • Don 2 years ago2 years ago

            To be clear, I wasn't equating the import of the Vergara case with Brown v. Board. I was providing an example of another judicial decision where the law of unintended consequences played a part in the aftermath. That said, while Vergara doesn't come close to the societal significance of Brown, it surely could have a huge impact in California and snowball across the country (as already appears to be the case). Thank you for your … Read More

            To be clear, I wasn’t equating the import of the Vergara case with Brown v. Board. I was providing an example of another judicial decision where the law of unintended consequences played a part in the aftermath. That said, while Vergara doesn’t come close to the societal significance of Brown, it surely could have a huge impact in California and snowball across the country (as already appears to be the case). Thank you for your reply. BTW, I agree with most of your article.

        • Don 2 years ago2 years ago

          Getting back to Mr. Cohn's article and his comment above, much has been made of the idea of Vergara as a false solution to the achievement gap and that it may exacerbate that gap as a result of unintended human resource consequences. These arguments, while possibly valid in their own right, are intended to divert the attention of the viewing public away from the constitutional questions at hand and on to some politically … Read More

          Getting back to Mr. Cohn’s article and his comment above, much has been made of the idea of Vergara as a false solution to the achievement gap and that it may exacerbate that gap as a result of unintended human resource consequences. These arguments, while possibly valid in their own right, are intended to divert the attention of the viewing public away from the constitutional questions at hand and on to some politically useful ramifications which are extraneous to the legal challenge itself. For example, without seniority fewer college grads may go into teaching. The purpose of the court is to dispense justice, not to draft education policy.

  5. sam coleman 2 years ago2 years ago

    Well crafted and well said. Improving the state of public education will require collaboration and a student centered approach and Dr Cohen’s comments clearly articulate that.

  6. Gary Ravani 2 years ago2 years ago

    It is always valuable to take the words of expert testimony in context. The following excerpts come from an article that can be found here: http://www.cft.org/news-publications/newsletters/california-teacher/april-may-2013/560-researcher-berliner-describes-how-the-education-“crisis”-is-manufactured.html "Researcher Berliner describes how the education “crisis” is manufactured • David Berliner began criticizing the school reform industrial complex when he co-authored The Manufactured Crisis 17 years ago. He brought his case, strengthened by new statistical evidence, to delegates at the CFT Convention. These so-called declines are a product of deliberate negative framing, … Read More

    It is always valuable to take the words of expert testimony in context. The following excerpts come from an article that can be found here:

    http://www.cft.org/news-publications/newsletters/california-teacher/april-may-2013/560-researcher-berliner-describes-how-the-education-“crisis”-is-manufactured.html

    “Researcher Berliner describes how the education “crisis” is manufactured

    David Berliner began criticizing the school reform industrial complex when he co-authored The Manufactured Crisis 17 years ago. He brought his case, strengthened by new statistical evidence, to delegates at the CFT Convention.

    These so-called declines are a product of deliberate negative framing, he said, and he warned that education policy “cannot be left to the real estate developers and businessmen who populate our legislatures. We need more teachers.”

    Berliner, a past president of the American Educational Research Association, came armed with statistics to support his argument, and used them with scalpel-like precision to eviscerate the myths of the Global Education Reform Movement..

    There are two things preventing public schools from presenting better scores, Berliner said. The first is the disappearance of a broad middle class and the other is a system that ignores the evidence. He linked the war on education and the war on the poor. “We lost a strong middle class through legislation and we can regain it through political action.”

    The evidence shows that public schools serving the middle class and the wealthy are doing very well, suggesting that an unequal economy, not bad teachers, create the problem.

    But when Berliner displays scores to show American schools by the percentage of students in poverty, the picture is different. American schools with fewer than 10 percent of students in poverty score higher than any country in the world. It continues from there: Schools under 24.9 percent rank third in the world and schools from 25 percent to 49.9 percent rank tenth and still above the PISA and the U.S. averages.

    The U.S. results, however, are dismal for the next two fractions: 50 to 74.9 percent of students in poverty score low; schools with over 75 percent of students in poverty have reading scores so low they outrank only Mexico.

    He said exceptional teachers and schools that arise in the midst of poverty deserve praise but they do not change the overall relationships shown in the data..

    Another myth Berliner attacked was the reliability of using the results of value-added student testing for teacher evaluation

    He described a teacher who was rated extremely highly by supervisors four out of five years and who received $7,800 in excellence bonuses over three of five years. The teacher was named “Teacher of the Month” by colleagues in 2010 and “Teacher of the Year” in 2008.

    She was fired after her fifth year. Berliner concluded that a coin toss might have decided her teaching competence as accurately as this… system.”

    Replies

    • Paul Muench 2 years ago2 years ago

      If we can legislate our way back to a healthy economy and society independent of public education…what do you see as the role of public education? There seems to be something left out in that argument.

      • Gary Ravani 2 years ago2 years ago

        Paul: Based on what Berliner has to say in the article I referenced you can see that much of the discussion about educational achievement has the cart before the horse.If we want to see real education improvement we need to work on creating a "Finnish model" in the US. That is, work on social and economic equity first and the educational achievement will follow: "The evidence shows that public schools serving the middle class and the wealthy … Read More

        Paul:

        Based on what Berliner has to say in the article I referenced you can see that much of the discussion about educational achievement has the cart before the horse.If we want to see real education improvement we need to work on creating a “Finnish model” in the US. That is, work on social and economic equity first and the educational achievement will follow:

        “The evidence shows that public schools serving the middle class and the wealthy are doing very well, suggesting that an unequal economy, not bad teachers, create the problem.

        But when Berliner displays scores to show American schools by the percentage of students in poverty, the picture is different. American schools with fewer than 10 percent of students in poverty score higher than any country in the world. It continues from there: Schools under 24.9 percent rank third in the world and schools from 25 percent to 49.9 percent rank tenth and still above the PISA and the U.S. averages.”

        Therefore, if we really want the highest international test scores we need to draft legislation at all levels of government that will insure that no public school has greater than 10% of it’s students living in poverty. Or, if we want to be more modest in our goals and just be near if not at the top, then we need to reduce poverty to less than 25%.

        Berliner’s point is our schools are doing those things right now when the conditions are right. This is the “big lie” of the self-styled reformers and efforts like Vergara. They are a distraction from the problems Berliner talks about. You have teachers with the same backgrounds, preparation, and execution operating under (mostly) the same laws about hiring, layoffs, evaluations, and seniority in all the schools. It’s not those issues and it’s not the teachers. It’s the poverty levels of the students. The huge obstacle the self-styled reformers who blame teacher job protections and the unions for low student achievement have is that those US states with the highest achievement for students are almost all unionized states with teacher job protections in place and the lowest achieving states do not allow for teacher unions and have few protections in place. It’s one of those things that is so obvious that it’s rarely addressed in the media. Targeting “bad guys” makes much better press, if not policy.

        BTW. International test scores and international economic prowess have almost no meaningful relationship. For example, the US has always had middling success on the tests and “always” had the world’s strongest economy. The test scores do seem to be useful indicators of children’s well-being. Finland and Singapore, high scoring countries, have useful educational strategies like little reliance on standardized tests that we could emulate, but don’t. We need those scores to point out the “bad guys,” even if it doesn’t help student learning.

        • Paul Muench 2 years ago2 years ago

          Gary, You don't need to convince me not to measure teachers by student test scores. I don't want teachers tempted with "helping" students on the tests to inflate their scores. It seems pretty clear this happened in Washington DC and in Atlanta when superintendents started to use test scores as a way to evaluate teachers. I like standardized tests because they give me some idea of what my children are retaining for the … Read More

          Gary,

          You don’t need to convince me not to measure teachers by student test scores. I don’t want teachers tempted with “helping” students on the tests to inflate their scores. It seems pretty clear this happened in Washington DC and in Atlanta when superintendents started to use test scores as a way to evaluate teachers. I like standardized tests because they give me some idea of what my children are retaining for the long term. That is a real value that I don’t want to jeopardize.

          My point was really off the general topic and addressed the argument Berliner is proposing, at least as I know it from what you described. I’m not convinced that Berliner is on the right track, but I don’t claim to know is full argument. My counter argument comes from the book “The Race between Education and Technology”, by Claudia Goldin and Lawrence Katz. The very short summary of their argument is that education has not kept pace with technology in that technology has changed the job market and that inequality is increasing due to people’s lack of preparedness for jobs. So they see this increase in inequality as arising from real causes. Perhaps we can say it is manufactured because of political short-sightedness that led to not investing more or smarter so that education did not fall behind technology. But nonetheless we now have a real crisis on our hands.

          • Gary Ravani 2 years ago2 years ago

            I would suggest there is plenty of evidence to suggest the lack of preparedness of US workers, particularly in tech fields, is largely a myth.

          • FloydThursby1941 2 years ago2 years ago

            A myth? I'm a technical recruiter living and raising kids in San Francisco. Most of my friends in SF and cousins in the South Bay long ago left the Bay Area. Very few of them learned enough or were interested enough in tech., our celebrated industry, to have become scientists, programmers, or even work in any aspect of this booming industry. We study 6 hours a week or less on average … Read More

            A myth? I’m a technical recruiter living and raising kids in San Francisco. Most of my friends in SF and cousins in the South Bay long ago left the Bay Area. Very few of them learned enough or were interested enough in tech., our celebrated industry, to have become scientists, programmers, or even work in any aspect of this booming industry. We study 6 hours a week or less on average and watch TV and play games over 40, from ages 11-18, and those taking these lucrative jobs for the most part had those figures roughly reversed during childhood. Most move here from 3d world nations where they would laugh at anyone in housing projects saying they can’t study because they’re too poor, from Russia, India, China, Korea, where they grow up in a manner which make life in the projects seem luxurious by comparison. They fill libraries on Friday Nights at Universities not because they are rich but because other kids are partying. We aren’t motivating American kids to do well in school at all and a low percentage of engineers are American born. This is the furthest thing from a myth you can possibly fathom Gary. It’s absolutely true. In the midst of tech. prosperity, we are not teaching our children to do this work.

          • FloydThursby1941 2 years ago2 years ago

            We ought to run the tests like the SAT and the costs would be worth it. You go to a different location, cameras, a government security administrator ensuring no cheating, and a pure mix of kids in each classroom. Then the test scores are re-calibrated to judge the value add for each teacher. That, combined with an evaluation for each teacher, student and parent reviews, and a multiplier based on attendance should … Read More

            We ought to run the tests like the SAT and the costs would be worth it. You go to a different location, cameras, a government security administrator ensuring no cheating, and a pure mix of kids in each classroom. Then the test scores are re-calibrated to judge the value add for each teacher. That, combined with an evaluation for each teacher, student and parent reviews, and a multiplier based on attendance should give each teacher a rating. It should be possible for a 25-year old to earn more than a 60-year old based on value added, not seniority formulas. The union should negotiate the average, but the district should formulate the criteria in a manner which rewards hard work. A teacher who comes in every day should know that will increase their pay and rating. A teacher who takes days off with no explanation just because it’s in the contract should know it will decrease. Test scores will motivate teachers to teach parents to have a top work ethic. I have countless times been advised by teachers to not have my kids work too hard, have them study about an hour in middle school and then relax, and not worry about As vs. Bs, just get what you get. This is partially because most teachers, though not all, are below average college students in terms of GPA. This leads to us being last in international comparisons. If we pushed a culture of academic diligence, intellectual curiosity and societal engagement, we could be #1 again. Parenting is an issue, but teachers should give parents good advice as to raising kids, from a young age (60% of Asians prepare kids for kindergarten vs. 16% of whites and Asians 11-18 study 13.8 hours vs. 5.6 for whites, the largest group in our trailing Europe and Asia). Universal Pre-K can help, but mostly if the teachers teach parents things they can do to transform their homes into hotbeds of intellectual curiosity and discussion, reading, library usage, diligence and competitive determination.

          • Gary Ravani 2 years ago2 years ago

            Paul: Here is a "sample article" (excerpted) from USA Today re the inability of qualified minorities to find tech jobs. There are plenty of others available asserting that the tech companies are whining about "unqualified applicants" when what they are really talking about is the poor job they do upgrading the skills of current employees and the powerful desire to get access to green card employees who are unable to demand market level salaries and otherwise … Read More

            Paul:

            Here is a “sample article” (excerpted) from USA Today re the inability of qualified minorities to find tech jobs. There are plenty of others available asserting that the tech companies are whining about “unqualified applicants” when what they are really talking about is the poor job they do upgrading the skills of current employees and the powerful desire to get access to green card employees who are unable to demand market level salaries and otherwise get the education system to flood the market with qualified people who will drive down demand for appropriate stating salaries.

            The US business community has a long history of complaining about the qualifications of new employees, and thereby criticize the school system. In the 1980s and A Nation at Risk the auto industry successfully deflected criticism of its own lousy decisions-not enough high milage vehicles of sufficient build quality (planned obsolescence)–and its inability to compete with Japan and fob it off on “a rising tide of” unqualified workers emendating from the schools.

            Tech jobs: Minorities have degrees, but don’t get hired

            Elizabeth Weise and Jessica Guynn, USA TODAY 11:42 a.m. EDT October 13, 2014

            SAN FRANCISCO – Top universities turn out black and Hispanic computer science and computer engineering graduates at twice the rate that leading technology companies hire them, a USA TODAY analysis shows.
            Technology companies blame the pool of job applicants for the severe shortage of blacks and Hispanics in Silicon Valley.
            But these findings show that claim “does not hold water,” said Darrick Hamilton, professor of economics and urban policy at The New School in New York.
            “What do dominant groups say? ‘We tried, we searched but there was nobody qualified.’ If you look at the empirical evidence, that is just not the case,” he said.

          • FloydThursby1941 2 years ago2 years ago

            If you can program Android or iOS Apps, have worked at a company for 2 years without quitting or being fired, you will be at 150k. If you've been doing this. Some people call in sick, or don't try hard on the job. Having a degree is some of it, but if you work like these immigrants work, you'll make 150k developing apps. If you complain and clockwatch, you won't. … Read More

            If you can program Android or iOS Apps, have worked at a company for 2 years without quitting or being fired, you will be at 150k. If you’ve been doing this. Some people call in sick, or don’t try hard on the job. Having a degree is some of it, but if you work like these immigrants work, you’ll make 150k developing apps. If you complain and clockwatch, you won’t. Trust me, it’s all about ability and work ethic in tech.

          • Gary Ravani 2 years ago2 years ago

            Paul: For further reflection re the existence of a STEM worker shortage/lack of qualifications. From: Economic policy Institute-Richard Rothstein (Excerpted) Many of those who see a skills crisis in the American economy, attributable to inadequate education, confuse the fastest growing job categories with the job categories having the largest openings. It is true that many (though not all) of the fastest growing categories require post-secondary education, but this fast growth starts from relatively small bases, so does not … Read More

            Paul:

            For further reflection re the existence of a STEM worker shortage/lack of qualifications.

            From: Economic policy Institute-Richard Rothstein
            (Excerpted)

            Many of those who see a skills crisis in the American economy, attributable to inadequate education, confuse the fastest growing job categories with the job categories having the largest openings. It is true that many (though not all) of the fastest growing categories require post-secondary education, but this fast growth starts from relatively small bases, so does not generate many new jobs for college graduates.
            In reality, during much of the last 40 years, the wages of college-educated workers in science, technology, engineering and math have been stagnant or growing very slowly. The giant wage gains of college graduates in some recent years are attributable to big boosts in compensation of managers and sales workers (for example, in Wall Street and similar finance occupations). It is hard to take seriously a claim that the giant bonuses paid to finance workers in the last decade are indicative of a nationwide shortage of college graduates.

            From: NPR July 2013 (Excerpted)

            We’re Already Generating More Qualified Students Than Jobs
            Our analysis of the data finds that high-skill guest worker programs supply the preponderance of all new hires for the IT industry. The inflow of guest workers is equal to half of all IT hires each year and fully two-thirds of annual hires of workers younger than 30.

            Can it be a coincidence that wages in IT jobs have been stagnant for over a decade?

            At the same time, U.S. colleges are graduating more than twice as many science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) graduates than the number of STEM openings generated by our economy each year.

          • TheMorrigan 2 years ago2 years ago

            You keep wanting us to trust you, Floyd, but the evidence is pretty clear that there is no shortage of STEM graduates out there. The Center for Immigration Studies says, "The findings in this analysis are consistent with other examinations of the STEM labor market. We find no evidence of a general shortage of STEM workers...There may be a specific geographic area or a highly specialized field in which demand really is outstripping supply. However, … Read More

            You keep wanting us to trust you, Floyd, but the evidence is pretty clear that there is no shortage of STEM graduates out there.

            The Center for Immigration Studies says, “The findings in this analysis are consistent with other examinations of the STEM labor market. We find no evidence of a general shortage of STEM workers…There may be a specific geographic area or a highly specialized field in which demand really is outstripping supply. However, it makes little sense to allow public policy to be driven by very narrow interests.”

            Or

            Back in 2004, RAND stated “The analysis found that despite concerns about potential shortages of STEM personnel, particularly in engineering and information technology, there is little evidence of such shortages in the past decade or on the horizon. Economic indicators, notably the low levels of unemployment and rising wages that one would expect to accompany shortages, have failed to materialize.”

            Or

            The Economic Policy Institute stated last year that “the best available evidence indicates that the supply of STEM-potential and STEM-educated students has remained strong and appears to be quite responsive to standard economic signals of wage levels and unemployment rates. In the meantime, the flow of guestworkers has been substantial and targeted to one specific segment of the overall STEM labor market, namely IT occupations and industries. . . the data suggest that current U.S. immigration policies that facilitate large flows of guestworkers appear to provide firms with access to labor that will be in plentiful supply at wages that are too low to induce a significantly increased supply from the domestic workforce.”

            It seems that you, Floyd, being a technical recruiter yourself, are a huge part of that mythos.

          • Don 2 years ago2 years ago

            TheMorrigan, this is just another one of Floyd's informal anecdotal fallacies - his extended family didn't get into tech so the whole US market must lack tech workers. Whether it actually does or not probably depends from which lens the labor situation is viewed. If viewed from the employer side (cheap labor) it certainly does. At the same time domestic production is under pressure from cheap labor overseas in this new world … Read More

            TheMorrigan, this is just another one of Floyd’s informal anecdotal fallacies – his extended family didn’t get into tech so the whole US market must lack tech workers. Whether it actually does or not probably depends from which lens the labor situation is viewed. If viewed from the employer side (cheap labor) it certainly does. At the same time domestic production is under pressure from cheap labor overseas in this new world global market.

            In your comment your third example seems to contradict the other two if your point was to demonstrate an ample supply of American tech workers.

          • FloydThursby1941 2 years ago2 years ago

            It's not anecdotal. How many people who grew up in the Bay Area are scientists and engineers here? I agree age discrimination is an issue and training is another issue, tech. companies should spend more on this, but most kids even now simply don't study at the level needed to become a programmer. The attention to detail is beyond their educational level. I am against off shoring and think W should … Read More

            It’s not anecdotal. How many people who grew up in the Bay Area are scientists and engineers here? I agree age discrimination is an issue and training is another issue, tech. companies should spend more on this, but most kids even now simply don’t study at the level needed to become a programmer. The attention to detail is beyond their educational level. I am against off shoring and think W should have passed laws to take away the profit resulting from off shoring early on as there is no general benefit to the US from it, only to stockholders, most of whom are already wealthy, at the expense of the shrinking middle class. I realize 95% of the economic growth since 2008 has gone to 1% of Americans at the top and support laws to reverse this, such as progressive taxes and minimum wage increases. I think the rich should ensure 95% go to the bottom 99% for the next 6 years to compensate as they control most of the means of production. I just think we don’t educate many engineers. You need a phenomenal work ethic to get a degree in these fields.

          • Don 2 years ago2 years ago

            Floyd, on the subject of studying, there's been a great deal of research and though there is some general correlation between higher grades and norms test results in relation to more studying in high school and to a lesser extent in middle school, in elementary there no overall correlation at all. And when you break down the results of those studies it appears only a few percentage points of achievement gains are … Read More

            Floyd, on the subject of studying, there’s been a great deal of research and though there is some general correlation between higher grades and norms test results in relation to more studying in high school and to a lesser extent in middle school, in elementary there no overall correlation at all. And when you break down the results of those studies it appears only a few percentage points of achievement gains are attributable to homework and study. In fact, no overall achievement gains are seen past about 1.5 hours per day even in high school. This runs counter to your idea which simply stated is more is better. Almost no education experts subscribe to that belief because they have no evidence to back it up.

            You can read more here add the http://www before the link:
            nctm.org/uploadedFiles/Research_News_and_Advocacy/Research/Clips_and_Briefs/Brief%20-%20Homework%20What%20Research%20Says.pdf

            Since this area seems to be your interest, I hope you have familiarized yourself with the literature on this subject going back to Behaviorism vs. Constructionism and the many studies done in more recent times like the metastudy including in the above article.

            On a personal note, your opinions on this subject seem to imply that only learning that can be measured on a test is worthwhile and that hours studying regardless of the quality is all that matters in the quest for learning.

            Alfie Kohn has some interesting views on many of the popularized notions about homework, grades and test scores. Many of the education apologists cite his writings, but he’s someone who has successfully popularized areas of philosophy much to his credit. To be sure, he has plenty of detractors. Worth a look for a better understanding of the issues surrounding homework – the issue you seem obsessed with.

            By the way,if you pass laws “to take away profit”as you said, what’sleft of American enterprise will entirely disappear. Sorry, but totalitarian remedies have not been very productive, if history is any judge.

          • Paul Muench 2 years ago2 years ago

            Gary,

            I think the authors point was not about technology workers. It was about the benefits of higher education and stagnant high school graduation rates. The authors claim their analysis held through the Great Depression so I imagine they believe it will hold through the Great Recession. But that is just speculation on my part.

          • navigio 2 years ago2 years ago

            That discrimination still exists in our workplace should not surprise anyone. Perhaps even less that it also exists in the tech industry. This is partly a function of 'traditional factors' but also stems from the mis-application of the generalization of lower achievement rates for non-Asians to all members of those groups, even those on the 'high achieving end'. Overall, the percentage of stem graduates working in stem fields is not much different than in other … Read More

            That discrimination still exists in our workplace should not surprise anyone. Perhaps even less that it also exists in the tech industry.
            This is partly a function of ‘traditional factors’ but also stems from the mis-application of the generalization of lower achievement rates for non-Asians to all members of those groups, even those on the ‘high achieving end’.
            Overall, the percentage of stem graduates working in stem fields is not much different than in other fields (only somewhere between 20 and 30% depending on study), however, those numbers diverge on ethnicity, gender and age with Asian ethnicity far outpacing any other measure, and the other ethnic minorities under-pacing the average–though by a smaller margin. As long as there is a belief that one group is smarter or simply works harder, those numbers are unlikely to change, regardless of what people claim ‘the realities’ are. (Note that even within the stem fields, compensation also differs by ethnicity for people that get hired.)
            And even though most of the people involved there are arguably scientists, they are for the most part probably even less willing than others to let go of such perceptions and more willing to apply them once they have them. Tech people revel in taking risks with technology and money, not so much with people.

          • Gary Ravani 2 years ago2 years ago

            Paul: From a 2012 WAPO article: "For the first time in U.S. history, the national high school graduation rate surpassed 80 percent in 2012, according to a new report. If the rate of improvement over the past few years is maintained, the country would see a 90 percent rate by 2020, meeting the goal set by America’s Promise Alliance, the group founded by former secretary of state Colin Powell that produced the report with other organizations. The national rate … Read More

            Paul:

            From a 2012 WAPO article:

            “For the first time in U.S. history, the national high school graduation rate surpassed 80 percent in 2012, according to a new report.

            If the rate of improvement over the past few years is maintained, the country would see a 90 percent rate by 2020, meeting the goal set by America’s Promise Alliance, the group founded by former secretary of state Colin Powell that produced the report with other organizations.

            The national rate has risen an average 1.3 percentage points annually since 2006. Hispanic students have seen graduation rates grow 15 percentage points since then, while graduation rates for African Americans rose nine percentage points. Still, they lag behind their white counterparts. Whites have an 85 percent graduation rate, compared to 76 percent for Hispanics and 68 percent for blacks.”

            A reflection on the “stagnant” HS graduation rates. Yet another myth I would suggest and yet another attempt to link a societal problem, growing inequality, to the schools. As I mentioned it has been a historical truth that business in the US, and those who are their cheerleaders, have (with considerable success) been able to divert public and political attention from their own misdeeds and used the schools as the whipping boy.

            I just heard Lt Governor Gavin Newsom talk about how technology has so revolutionized our world that the “old model” of a 4 year college degree program is obsolete. What he’s talking about, of course, is not college education it’s job training. This is a huge debate. Just what is the value to an individual or society in having a person actually educated, in the full sense of a “liberal education?” Should the state only subsidize those in STEM courses from now on (to the extent CA is subsidizing anyone today) and say those who are art, music, social science, etc. majors are on their own? Is education just a function of economic competitiveness or does it have some other, larger, value to individuals who partake and the societies they live in? I’d say, to our loss, that the former assertion has the momentum. Some will say, everything else in our culture is weighted towards the ultimate monetary rewards available, why not education? Why not?

            The “diversion” aspect, publicly and politically, re the issue of inequality is pretty transparent I think. The US is the wealthiest nation on earth and tolerates a child poverty rate that is near the top in the industrialized world. The assertion is education will “cure” this poverty. Actually, the evidence points to “curing” poverty will go a long way to solving educational inequality. But that means going back to Progressive Era and New Deal solutions, meaning active government action to redistribute wealth more equitably. That’s how Finland solved its educational problems. But if you bring these ideas up here, today, all you get is hysterical slogans about “making excuses.” Diversion.

          • TheMorrigan 2 years ago2 years ago

            Gary, I would argue that rises or falls in graduation rates are highly suspicious. We could have gotten there by lowering the hurdles for the students: by not having rigorous coursework; lowering graduation expectations; making teachers take late work; not having homework but only classwork; not giving zeros but half credit; adding more accommodations to IEP students; giving more students IEPs; and having questionable summer school or credit recovery programs. While we have increased hurdles … Read More

            Gary,

            I would argue that rises or falls in graduation rates are highly suspicious.

            We could have gotten there by lowering the hurdles for the students: by not having rigorous coursework; lowering graduation expectations; making teachers take late work; not having homework but only classwork; not giving zeros but half credit; adding more accommodations to IEP students; giving more students IEPs; and having questionable summer school or credit recovery programs. While we have increased hurdles in some areas, with the CASHEE for instance, we have significantly lowered it in others.

            Or we could have gotten there, as in the case with LA Unified, by just changing what graduation rates actually mean so we could have a higher percentage.

            While these two points do not negate the hard work that teachers and schools put into helping students meet their graduation requirements, they certainly muddy the waters and make it difficult to determine if rates are actually rising because schools, parents, and teachers are doing a better job. There is no doubt in my mind that we are doing a better job than what we did in the 1960s-1980s but it is after that where we start to see through a glass darkly.

          • Gary Ravani 2 years ago2 years ago

            To the Morrigan: Yea, we "look through a glass darkly" because we want to look through that glass. There is a long historical tradition of getting hysterical about what's going on in US schools. For the media, "if it bleeds it leads," and if it's good news it goes on page 14. Back in 2007, as I recall, the US Dept of Labor put out a news release: High School Graduation Rates Highest in History--- it … Read More

            To the Morrigan:

            Yea, we “look through a glass darkly” because we want to look through that glass. There is a long historical tradition of getting hysterical about what’s going on in US schools. For the media, “if it bleeds it leads,” and if it’s good news it goes on page 14. Back in 2007, as I recall, the US Dept of Labor put out a news release: High School Graduation Rates Highest in History— it was ignored.

            Below find the Wiki article on “educational attainment” which links to Census, Dept. of Labor, Labor Statistics.

            To my knowledge there has been no more/less manipulation of data then at any other time in history. Poor kids struggled at height of recession with HS, but we’ve accepted that for a long time.To paraphrase Jack Nicholson: We can’t handle good news!

            Educational attainment in the United States
            From Wikipedia

            ]
            The educational attainment of the U.S. population is similar to that of many other industrialized countries with the vast majority of the population having completed secondary education and a rising number of college graduates that outnumber high school dropouts. As a whole, the population of the United States is spending more years in formal educational programs. As with income, levels differ by race, age, household configuration and geography.[2]
            Overall the households and demographics featuring the highest educational attainment in the United States are also among those with the highest household income and wealth. Thus, while the population as a whole is proceeding further in formal educational programs, income and educational attainment remain highly correlated.[2]

            General attainment of degrees/diplomas[edit]
            Educational attainment in the United States, Age 25 and Over (2013)[3]
            Education Percentage
            High school graduate 88.15%
            Some college 58.33%
            Associate’s and/or Bachelor’s degree 41.50%
            Bachelor’s degree 31.66%
            Master’s and/or Doctorate and/or professional degree 11.57%
            Doctorate and/or professional degree 3.16%
            Doctorate 1.68%
            In 2005, the proportion of the population having finished high school and the percentage of those having earned bachelor’s degrees remained at an all-time high, while the growth in both categories has slowed down over the past two decades. The vast majority of the population, 85.2%, had finished high school and nearly a quarter, 22%, had earned a Bachelor’s degree. The percentage of both college and high school graduates has continued to increase since 2000.[2]
            Since 1983 the percentage of people graduating from high school has increased from 85% to 88%. The greatest increases in educational attainment were documented in the 1950s, 60s and 70s. In the 1950s and much of the 1960s high school graduates constituted about 50% of those considered adults (25 and above). For young adults aged between 25 and 29, the percentage of high school graduates was roughly 50% in 1950 versus 90% today.[2]

          • Don 2 years ago2 years ago

            Gary, there’s no national standard for high school graduation so increases don’t mean much. More students are starting college unprepared due to the ease of high school which could account for the increase. Many high schoolers consider the CAHSEE a joke. But your point that it isn’t all gloom and doom is worth keeping in mind.

          • TheMorrigan 2 years ago2 years ago

            It doesn't have to bleed to lead. It could, as in the case of Deasy, Rhee, Moskowitz, and New Orleans, be hip for hyperbolic hype. My gut feeling tells me graduation rates fall into this hip to hype category. While the extremely slow and gradual graduation rates probably have some truth to them, punctuated jumps, like what occurred in LA Unified signal manipulation. I've learned that there are no miracles in education. Anyone selling … Read More

            It doesn’t have to bleed to lead. It could, as in the case of Deasy, Rhee, Moskowitz, and New Orleans, be hip for hyperbolic hype.

            My gut feeling tells me graduation rates fall into this hip to hype category. While the extremely slow and gradual graduation rates probably have some truth to them, punctuated jumps, like what occurred in LA Unified signal manipulation. I’ve learned that there are no miracles in education. Anyone selling them definitely profits from it.

          • navigio 2 years ago2 years ago

            Gary, great comment at 1:27. Liberal education in that sense is done for. We've already changed the priority in reading away from literature and toward 'non-fiction' in our standards (I expect if reading weren't so correlated with so many other 'skills' we'd get rid of it altogether). We've done away with non-core electives, including music, art, trades and sometimes even PE. We've limited community college's ability to provide non-goal-based coursework and given some of them … Read More

            Gary, great comment at 1:27.
            Liberal education in that sense is done for. We’ve already changed the priority in reading away from literature and toward ‘non-fiction’ in our standards (I expect if reading weren’t so correlated with so many other ‘skills’ we’d get rid of it altogether). We’ve done away with non-core electives, including music, art, trades and sometimes even PE. We’ve limited community college’s ability to provide non-goal-based coursework and given some of them the ability to provide 4-year degrees (in interesting contrast to Newsom’s comments). We even have people arguing against the value of going out into the world to have real experiences (eg via field trips, etc) and instead staying indoors studying, due to the ‘urgency’ surrounding ‘economic competitiveness’ (and that fact alone highlights the core difference between a liberal education and a workforce-driven one).

            I might argue that we are the wealthiest nation on earth partly because we have such a high poverty rate. This is why trying to address it is so difficult.

            And it’s too late if the remedy is to redistribute wealth. The differences between our culture and ‘more equitable’ ones stem from the priorities of the culture itself, not the extent to which they redistribute. Here it’s arguable that stagnation would occur if financial incentive is removed because of the value we place on competition with others within our own society. In other cultures there are priorities other than individualistic financial and competitive ones. This often manifests in a comparatively smaller income gap, and thus less need for redistribution in the first place (although admittedly it also provides less resistance to the concept of redistribution when it does exist).
            This is one reason I believe, even if we wanted to, we could never be like Finland (or most other–especially northern–European states).

  7. Gary Ravani 2 years ago2 years ago

    Excerpted from the Larry Cuban site and something to think about and you might reread my article on "School Reform That Works" from the Washington Post for further reflection: "Many school chiefs, of course, believe--a belief is a covert theory--that they can improve student achievement. They hold dear the Rambo model of superintending. Strong leader + clear reform plan + swift reorganization + urgent mandates + crisp incentives and penalties = desired student outcomes. Think … Read More

    Excerpted from the Larry Cuban site and something to think about and you might reread my article on “School Reform That Works” from the Washington Post for further reflection:

    “Many school chiefs, of course, believe–a belief is a covert theory–that they can improve student achievement. They hold dear the Rambo model of superintending. Strong leader + clear reform plan + swift reorganization + urgent mandates + crisp incentives and penalties = desired student outcomes. Think former New York City Chancellor Joel Klein, ex-Miami-Dade Superintendent Rudy Crew, [Michelle Rhee] ex-Chancellor of Washington D.C., and ex-school chief Alan Bersin in San Diego. Don’t forget John Deasy in Los Angeles Unified School District.

    There are, of course, other less heroic models that mirror more accurately the complex, entangled world of moving policy to classroom practice. One model, for example, depicts indirect influence where superintendents slowly shape a district culture of improvement, work on curriculum and instruction, insure that principals run schools consistent with district goals, support and prod teachers to take on new classroom challenges, and communicate often with parents about what’s happening. Think ex-superintendents Carl Cohn in Long Beach (CA), Tom Payzant in Boston (MA) and Laura Schwalm in Garden Grove (CA). Such an indirect approach is less heroic, takes a decade or more, and is ratchets down the expectation that superintendent be Supermen or Wonder Women.”

  8. Mary 2 years ago2 years ago

    He is certainly right about the strength of city vs. suburban teachers. When I taught in a teacher education program in NY I found that suburban districts routinely pirated NYC-trained teachers who were so much better at their jobs than suburban-trained. The same is true for administrators and secondary dept. chairs. Of course they go. Twice the money for much better working conditions

  9. E Winston 2 years ago2 years ago

    Bravo to this well-articulated and balanced critique of the problematic Vergara decision by a long time educator, administrator, superintendent, and real expert on public education. Notice that a true education professional, like Mr. Cohn, understands the complexities within the field and is able to offer intellectual acumen and real world experience when writing on the subject due to the many roles he had in and out of the classroom, as opposed to the self-anointed "reformers", … Read More

    Bravo to this well-articulated and balanced critique of the problematic Vergara decision by a long time educator, administrator, superintendent, and real expert on public education. Notice that a true education professional, like Mr. Cohn, understands the complexities within the field and is able to offer intellectual acumen and real world experience when writing on the subject due to the many roles he had in and out of the classroom, as opposed to the self-anointed “reformers”, those classroom armchair quarterbacks, who hide behind their mantra of putting “kids first” to attack the teaching profession, the public education system and maneuver to put in policies that in the long run harms the very students they so callously use to push their agenda.

    Mr. Cohn, would you please relieve Dr. Deasy of his role as LAUSD Superintendent for we surely need someone like you in charge who will actually work for the students and his staff?

  10. Elaine C. Johnson 2 years ago2 years ago

    Great piece, Carl. A few weeks ago my letter to the editor of the Marin Independent Journal got published, pointing out that the Ed. Code 1) doesn’t use the term “tenure” to describe the job status of K-12 teachers, and 2) that the Ed. Code already had over 11 provisions for termination, among them “unsatisfactory performance.”

  11. Carl Cohn 2 years ago2 years ago

    An "amoral assault" that didn't go anywhere in court...Sometimes, judges don't share the outrage of editorial writers... Read More

    An “amoral assault” that didn’t go anywhere in court…Sometimes, judges don’t share the outrage of editorial writers…

    Replies

    • Don 2 years ago2 years ago

      Mr.Cohn, sometimes judges do share the outrage, as in the case of Vergara.

      Manuel, plaintiff and defense attorneys mutually agreed that ineffective teachers comprise between 1% and 3% of all teachers.

      • TheMorrigan 2 years ago2 years ago

        Actually, Don, it is an exaggeration to say that the plaintiff and defense attorneys mutually agreed on the 1%-3% number. You could argue that one or more of the defense and plaintiff expert witnesses might have agreed on this issue but not the attorneys. This happened when Rothstein provided his testimony for the defense. However, there were plaintiff expert witnesses who gave a higher percentage number (Kane cited a single percent--5% and documentation from Students … Read More

        Actually, Don, it is an exaggeration to say that the plaintiff and defense attorneys mutually agreed on the 1%-3% number.

        You could argue that one or more of the defense and plaintiff expert witnesses might have agreed on this issue but not the attorneys. This happened when Rothstein provided his testimony for the defense. However, there were plaintiff expert witnesses who gave a higher percentage number (Kane cited a single percent–5% and documentation from Students Matter was a single percent–5% as well). If you were basing this on expert witness agreement from opposite sides, then those expert witnesses didn’t even agree. Even if you modified the percentage range to 1% – 5% to reach a sorta consensus with the information, it doesn’t mean that the attorneys mutually agreed with it, though.

        Or you could even argue that the defense did not refute the 1%-3% claim. However, just because they didn’t refute it, it doesn’t mean that they mutually agreed with it. For instance, they may have avoided it because it would have called into question the rest of Rothstein’s testimony. This might have proved troublesome for them or they might have decided it wasn’t worth refuting or there might be a reason that I do not know about. Whatever the case, not refuting a point does not mean or imply that the attorneys mutually agreed with the 1%-3% claim.

        • TheMorrigan 2 years ago2 years ago

          FYI, the plaintiffs never brought up 1%-3%. They consistently argued 5% in their paperwork, their PowerPoints, and their closing summation. The point can be easily verified here with Mcrae's closing summation for the plaintiffs: http://studentsmatter.org/marcellus-a-mcrae-delivers-plaintiffs-closing-arguments-in-vergara-v-california/ Notice that 1%-3% is NEVER cited. 5%, however, is stated 2 or 3 times in various modes that might be connected to the predicted amount of grossly ineffective teachers in CA. But, Don, I thought they "mutually agreed" on 1%-3%? Where … Read More

          FYI, the plaintiffs never brought up 1%-3%. They consistently argued 5% in their paperwork, their PowerPoints, and their closing summation. The point can be easily verified here with Mcrae’s closing summation for the plaintiffs: http://studentsmatter.org/marcellus-a-mcrae-delivers-plaintiffs-closing-arguments-in-vergara-v-california/

          Notice that 1%-3% is NEVER cited. 5%, however, is stated 2 or 3 times in various modes that might be connected to the predicted amount of grossly ineffective teachers in CA.

          But, Don, I thought they “mutually agreed” on 1%-3%? Where did you even come up this this?

          Perhaps here: The only person to address the 1% -3% was Jesse Rothstein, an expert witness for the defense, who brought it up during testimony. Judge Treu paraphrased Rothstein in his tentative ruling to prove that 1-3% is still significant enough to be a problem and that even the plaintiffs implicitly acknowledged that there was a problem there. There was never mutual agreement between opposing attorneys on 1%-3%. NEVER. My guess is that you just erroneously assumed it from Judge Treu’s tentative ruling.

          It is extremely clear that your “recollection” is in error.

          • Don 2 years ago2 years ago

            I corrected my statement yesterday shortly after the first comment to reflect that it was witness testimony not attorneys when I commented a second time under the proper comment. If you scroll down you'll see that. Both David Berliner and Jesse Rothstein have been associated with that 1%-3% comment though I did not see or read the testimony itself. At least one plaintiff's witness put the figure higher around 5% so I guess it … Read More

            I corrected my statement yesterday shortly after the first comment to reflect that it was witness testimony not attorneys when I commented a second time under the proper comment. If you scroll down you’ll see that.

            Both David Berliner and Jesse Rothstein have been associated with that 1%-3% comment though I did not see or read the testimony itself. At least one plaintiff’s witness put the figure higher around 5% so I guess it would have been more precise to say that they AT LEAST agree that it is at a minimum 1-3%. Thank you for pointing that out, The Morrigan.

            As for you contention that the defense did not refute their witness, I’m not really following that logic. The witness was called by the defense. No defense witness testified to the contrary. The Morrigan, really, only the most gung-ho rah-rah union extremist could contend that the teaching profession has a far lower ineffective rate than virtually every other profession is more stringent.

            I’d like to add while I’m here that the big deception from the Vergara opposition has to do with the interpretation of Treu’s decision. He never says that tenure is inappropriate or liable to cause educational inequality. He faults the timeline of how it’s delivered under current law. He also expressly validates the value of a due process hearing – just not one that is onerous in its requirements relative to all other state law.

          • TheMorrigan 2 years ago2 years ago

            Thanks for getting your facts straight, Don. BTW, "The Morrigan, really, only the most gung-ho rah-rah union extremist could contend that the teaching profession has a far lower ineffective rate than virtually every other profession is more stringent." That's a possibility, Don. But I do not know; I just stated that someone could argue it--not that I believed it. I said as much in that paragraph, right? I will repeat it for you since the integrity … Read More

            Thanks for getting your facts straight, Don.

            BTW,

            “The Morrigan, really, only the most gung-ho rah-rah union extremist could contend that the teaching profession has a far lower ineffective rate than virtually every other profession is more stringent.”

            That’s a possibility, Don. But I do not know; I just stated that someone could argue it–not that I believed it. I said as much in that paragraph, right? I will repeat it for you since the integrity of your “recollection” isn’t all that good these days: “One could argue . . . or there might be a reason that I do not know about.”

          • Gary Ravani 2 years ago2 years ago

            The Rothstein testimony was an argument that the 1% to 3% of ineffective teachers was so TINY that dismantling protections for 99% to 97% that make up the majority of teachers did not make practical sense. And he made no argument that the best alternative for the 1% to 3% was to dismiss them. He too believes that we cannot “fire our way to Finland.”

          • Don 2 years ago2 years ago

            TheMorrigan, since you are so concerned about this issue you should now it wasn't a matter of getting facts straight. I simply corrected the words when I accidently wrote "attorneys" instead of "witnesses." My mistake. To be clear, as I said before Rothstein wasn't the only defense witness who spoke about the 1-3% as Berliner testified to that effect as well. Whether these numbers are accurate is another issue. Admittedly, the witness were making … Read More

            TheMorrigan, since you are so concerned about this issue you should now it wasn’t a matter of getting facts straight. I simply corrected the words when I accidently wrote “attorneys” instead of “witnesses.” My mistake. To be clear, as I said before Rothstein wasn’t the only defense witness who spoke about the 1-3% as Berliner testified to that effect as well.

            Whether these numbers are accurate is another issue. Admittedly, the witness were making guestimations to use Berliner’s word. And whether one should throw out the whole law based upon 1-3% is a legitimate question. But let’s face it – it’s a lot higher than 1-3%, though we’ll never know because teacher evaluations are hidden from public record. To that effect, there’s a reason why the CTA has prevented the CDE from reporting STAR information by class instead of by grade. If they did it by class we could see directly which classes are doing better than others, that is to say, which teachers are doing better. Of course there is more to it because all classes are not the same, but even an adjusted class score is not reported.

          • TheMorrigan 2 years ago2 years ago

            Thanks, Don, then for fixing that mistake or error or oversight or typo or whatever you want to call it.

          • Don 2 years ago2 years ago

            Your welcome!

          • FloydThursby1941 2 years ago2 years ago

            Gary, have you ever had a child in a class of the 1-3%? I think it's higher, but have you ever had one of your children in the class of a chronically bad teacher? If you had, I think you'd feel differently. I have several times. It's probably been 6-8% of the time, and I believe SFUSD is above average, so I agree, 1-3% is very generous. They only put … Read More

            Gary, have you ever had a child in a class of the 1-3%? I think it’s higher, but have you ever had one of your children in the class of a chronically bad teacher? If you had, I think you’d feel differently. I have several times. It’s probably been 6-8% of the time, and I believe SFUSD is above average, so I agree, 1-3% is very generous. They only put it so low to avoid people saying where’s your proof.

            Gary, if this is doubted, why do the unions try to prevent this from being published at every level? When they did publish it by class in LAUSD, it was clear some teahers were far better than others. The argument that teachers are more valuable each year and any teacher with 25-30 years experience is mroe valuable than any teacher with 3-8 years experience was thoroughly dismantled, as it was clear some younger teachers are far better than some older ones. There’s a reason why you guys try to prevent this info from getting out every chance you get, and it is because it clearly disproves your point of view. Or I should say alleged point of view, I believe you know this but pretend otherwise based on your loyalty. I don’t really believe you feel all teachers with 25-30 years are better than all teachers with 3-8 years and deserve more money, and that children wouldn’t be better served if a few really bad teachers were fired, but you pretend to for rhetorical reasons. I’d love to see you claim those two things on a lie detector test. No way you’d pass, no way.

  12. Jim R 2 years ago2 years ago

    Student success is determined by:

    Genetics
    Family & Social peers
    Cultural influences

    All the teacher can do is present the material.

  13. Chris Reed 2 years ago2 years ago

    Before anyone accepts the idea that Cohn was a moderate, thoughtful administrator, they need to look at his actual record. Here is an example: http://www.utsandiego.com/uniontrib/20060305/news_lz1ed5bottom.html An amoral assault District's treatment of charters is appalling March 5, 2006 When it comes to charter schools, the recent record of the San Diego United School District has been so disgraceful that it's hard to believe it could get worse. But what district leaders did last week was so capricious that it moves beyond … Read More

    Before anyone accepts the idea that Cohn was a moderate, thoughtful administrator, they need to look at his actual record. Here is an example:

    http://www.utsandiego.com/uniontrib/20060305/news_lz1ed5bottom.html

    An amoral assault

    District’s treatment of charters is appalling

    March 5, 2006

    When it comes to charter schools, the recent record of the San Diego United School District has been so disgraceful that it’s hard to believe it could get worse. But what district leaders did last week was so capricious that it moves beyond the realm of bad governance to something more awful: an amoral assault on the public interest. And, oh yes, it was almost certainly illegal, too.

    The narrative that school board members John de Beck, Shelia Jackson and Mitz Lee and Superintendent Carl Cohn would have us believe is that their decision to offer use of nine campuses to 15 charters while denying facilities to nine other charters is a reasonable attempt by a beleaguered district to balance the needs of all students amid competing demands for limited district resources. And, oh yes, some charter school advocates are mean people suing the school district.

    But the truth of the matter is that this is yet another display of bad faith by San Diego Unified leaders hostile to independent, innovative charter schools. Unfortunately for charter students and their parents, this hostility amounts to official district policy.

    Given the specifics of state law, this is outrageous. Proposition 39 mandates “public school facilities should be shared fairly and equally among all public schools, including those in charter schools.”

    Yet de Beck, Jackson, Lee and Cohn – who have plenty of empty classrooms they could share with charters – act as if San Diego Unified is either exempt from state law or above it.

    And so we see bureaucratic dirty tricks: District officials sat on charter applications for five months, then sprang demands for additional information on nine schools just before the decisive Feb. 28 board meeting.

    And so we see an arrogant refusal to work with charters: Before presenting its plan to force 15 charters to share nine sites, Cohn’s staff didn’t bother to consult with charter advocates.

    And so we see blatant double-talk: The district argues that it’s wildly inappropriate to have two schools share an underused campus when one is a regular school and one is a charter but that it’s just fine to wedge two charters together on the same campus.

    As these examples and many others make plain, this isn’t about a school district trying to strike a reasonable balance in allocating resources. This is raw power politics, pitting the parents who are fed up with the school status quo against the charter-hating local teachers union (the San Diego Education Association) and its lapdogs on the school board.

    Replies

    • Gary Ravani 2 years ago2 years ago

      So your suggesting the always conservative, and lately far right leaning, U/T San Diego was actually capable of dong a fair and balanced analysis of events in that city’s schools? No doubt it was “fair and balanced” as we have come to know it.

      • Don 2 years ago2 years ago

        Rather than shoot the messenger which takes far less effort and is lnothing more than a cheap shot, why not tell us what it is you find faulty with editorial position of UT?

        • Carl Cohn 2 years ago2 years ago

          The editorial failed to acknowledge that there were legitimate disagreements on the interpretation of Prop 39 at that time. When the school district’s position was put before a Superior Court judge, he found no fault with it…Just setting the record straight…

          • Don 2 years ago2 years ago

            Now there is a reasonable and instructive comment.

  14. Krono 2 years ago2 years ago

    As someone who was heartened by the Vergara decision, I am nonetheless moved by Mr. Cohn's commentary. I don't buy his fear that Vergara is creating a dangerous narrative, but he reminds us that there's a LOT more to successful schools and teaching than simply relief from some wrongheaded (my view; not, I guess, his) state laws. But if the answer lies in areas beyond the scope of Vergara, where is the leadership … Read More

    As someone who was heartened by the Vergara decision, I am nonetheless moved by Mr. Cohn’s commentary. I don’t buy his fear that Vergara is creating a dangerous narrative, but he reminds us that there’s a LOT more to successful schools and teaching than simply relief from some wrongheaded (my view; not, I guess, his) state laws.

    But if the answer lies in areas beyond the scope of Vergara, where is the leadership to create change in those areas? I wish that my kid’s school district had the sort of hard-charging, success-driven Superintendent that Mr. Cohn was … but it doesn’t. I wish it had the sort of school board that hired someone like Mr. Cohn … but it doesn’t. I wish it had a highly educated, affluent, politically savvy, engaged electorate that would elect the sort of school board that would hire someone like Mr. Cohn … but it doesn’t. Should the State of California accept that that’s okay?

    By the way, re Vergara, Mr. Cohn is concerned about the chaos that would result if teacher tenure laws were thrown out, but my understanding that teachers would just end up being covered by the same civil service protections as any other state employee.

    Replies

    • Gary Ravani 2 years ago2 years ago

      Answer: Because most other state employees are not subject to the political winds the way teacher are. You can look up the origins of most teacher due process protections and find that they are the product of legislatures. Many laws were enacted during the Progressive Period. (Watch the PBS Roosevelt series?) They were enacted, mostly, to protect women teachers (who still make up about 70% of the profession) from being fired for dating, getting married … Read More

      Answer: Because most other state employees are not subject to the political winds the way teacher are.

      You can look up the origins of most teacher due process protections and find that they are the product of legislatures. Many laws were enacted during the Progressive Period. (Watch the PBS Roosevelt series?) They were enacted, mostly, to protect women teachers (who still make up about 70% of the profession) from being fired for dating, getting married (scandalous!), or getting pregnant (even more scandalous!). Legislators also noted that senior, more expensive teachers, were targeted when layoffs were necessary. That, of course, was before the wide-spread mythology about how younger teachers, by definition, are more “effective” than more senior (and “coincidentally” more expensive) teachers.

      Then you have the “Monkey Trial,” or Scopes Trial. Try watching “Inherit the Wind.” Good movie as well as instructive. This was about the teaching of evolution. Think in modern times this is not an issue? Try looking up curricular events in Texas or the five other states that “allow” the teaching of “creationism” in lieu of science.

      The look up the topic of banned books. And books banned in schools specifically Somewhere, behind every one of those cases, is a teacher potentially under attack for teaching those books.

      Then there is the usual run of “litigious paranoiacs” who routinely are dissatisfied with their child’s teacher and, often year after year with different teachers each time, file charges (as long as they don’t actually have to face the teacher they are accusing), go to the local board, file charges with the credentialing commission, and/or file lawsuits. Been through dozens of cases.

      Take some time to do all of this stuff and then come back with why you don’t think teachers need a clear level of due process rights different than other general public employees.

      • Gary Ravani 2 years ago2 years ago

        For those who wonder why teachers need due process rights--excerpted from HuffPost: “This assignment upset me because they are presenting Allah as the same God of the Christians and Jews. This paper, in my opinion, is promoting Islam by describing Allahs names as 'beautiful'. To me this is not simply factual like it should be,” Hall wrote about the assignment. The school's principal, Brandon Graham, responded in his own Facebook post over the weekend, saying he wanted … Read More

        For those who wonder why teachers need due process rights–excerpted from HuffPost:

        “This assignment upset me because they are presenting Allah as the same God of the Christians and Jews. This paper, in my opinion, is promoting Islam by describing Allahs names as ‘beautiful’. To me this is not simply factual like it should be,” Hall wrote about the assignment.
        The school’s principal, Brandon Graham, responded in his own Facebook post over the weekend, saying he wanted to correct “inaccurate information” about the assignment.
        “While our high schoolers do study religions, the content is NOT presented to elementary students or used to proselytize in any way,” Graham wrote. “Furthermore, we *do indeed* teach Christianity along with other world religions.”
        .
        “The assignment was to cover the five major world religions: The religions included Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam,” Graham said. “In our social studies classes, we certainly study all those religions to learn how a people, group and culture function. It helps us understand culture.”
        But on Facebook, Hall noted that she still takes issue with the assignment, even though she has no problem with students studying the five major world religions.
        “I was SHOCKED when my daughter showed me the pamphlet that she was required to make promoting Islam in a way 3rd graders could comprehend,” wrote Hall in her latest post. “As a mother who teaches her children that the One True Creator God is the GOD of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, it made me sick to my stomach to see my daughter promoting another god (Allah) as the One True Creator on a pamphlet!”
        Hall wrote on Facebook that she plans to meet with the school’s principal about the issue.

    • el 2 years ago2 years ago

      I hope you are active in your area at recruiting better school board candidates, attending board meetings, and campaigning for good people when the school board elections come around.

      The truth is that school board elections are relatively small and low information races. A few people taking the time to canvass, make phone calls, knock on doors, hold parties/candidate meet-and-greets, and write letters to the editor can absolutely change who is elected when the vote is taken.

  15. Gary Ravani 2 years ago2 years ago

    Thank you, Mr. Cohn. "But the notion that the only choice facing an urban district is to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars removing such teachers says more about poor leadership and poor human capital management in that district than it does about the existing state statutes under consideration in this court case." Wow, the idea that dismissing teachers is not quite the "impossible dream" that some administrators, who are notoriously incapable of actually administering a … Read More

    Thank you, Mr. Cohn.

    “But the notion that the only choice facing an urban district is to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars removing such teachers says more about poor leadership and poor human capital management in that district than it does about the existing state statutes under consideration in this court case.”

    Wow, the idea that dismissing teachers is not quite the “impossible dream” that some administrators, who are notoriously incapable of actually administering a school district, might testify to. And this is coming, not from a teachers’ union representative, but from a demonstrably successful school administrator.

    Leadership and appropriate human capital management piled on top of, “The work of improving urban schools is a long, hard slog. It requires stability of leadership and governance, along with taking the time to develop mutual trust between administrators and unions on building the capacity of the vast majority of the teacher workforce.” Pretty much, then, the same model as used in other successful “school reform” efforts across the nation. The fact that these models are time consuming, resource consuming, require the skill to be collaborative rather than dictatorial, and do not result in wide spread teacher firings make the models very unattractive to some self-styled “reformers.” And it doesn’t matter how successful these models are, if it’s not “off with their heads,” then it just does not fit the neo-liberal orthodoxy. The kids and learning are beside the point.

    And so, what is it that puts Carl Cohn and certain teachers’ union advocates on the same page? That is the opposite page of people like David Welch, Alan Bersin, Bill Gates, Reed Hastings and the “worthies” over at Students Matter [sic] and Students First [sic]?

    Maybe it has to do with the fact that Carl Cohn and most union representatives have actually worked in schools, worked together (more often than not), and mutually worked to improve the education of public school students.

  16. Don 2 years ago2 years ago

    Continued ...It is the State's job to enforce the law. How can it "get out if the way" if the law is existent? I also take issue with the assertion that "Most of the heavy lifting on getting that resignation was done by the union, not the district." The particular case of Mr. Cohn's withstanding, if teacher unions are the main impetus for ridding districts of incompetent teachers as he implies,why have there only been … Read More

    Continued …It is the State’s job to enforce the law. How can it “get out if the way” if the law is existent?

    I also take issue with the assertion that “Most of the heavy lifting on getting that resignation was done by the union, not the district.”

    The particular case of Mr. Cohn’s withstanding, if teacher unions are the main impetus for ridding districts of incompetent teachers as he implies,why have there only been nine such dismissals in as many years?

    Mr. Cohn also claims that due process is at stake. That is not true. As Treu notes it is “uber due-process” that is the problem.

    Replies

    • el 2 years ago2 years ago

      The particular case of Mr. Cohn’s withstanding, if teacher unions are the main impetus for ridding districts of incompetent teachers as he implies,why have there only been nine such dismissals in as many years?

      Because what he’s saying is that those teachers were counseled out, and encouraged to resign and find new careers, rather than fired through the formal dismissal process. IE, they aren’t included in the “nine” you’re citing.

      • don 2 years ago2 years ago

        That’s a remarkable record for counseling out given that there are many thousands of ineffective teachers currently working in CA.

        • Manuel 2 years ago2 years ago

          Where is the proof, Don?

          • FloydThursby1941 2 years ago2 years ago

            Manuel, for any parent on the ground, your response seems very heartless. Most parents have had their kids have bad teachers, teachers who are arbitrary, who take days off to see movies and get full pay, who don't show up to back to school nights, who are rude to your child, who are chronically absent, who give kids bad grades for disagreeing with them, or who are just not trying. Sure, they are a … Read More

            Manuel, for any parent on the ground, your response seems very heartless. Most parents have had their kids have bad teachers, teachers who are arbitrary, who take days off to see movies and get full pay, who don’t show up to back to school nights, who are rude to your child, who are chronically absent, who give kids bad grades for disagreeing with them, or who are just not trying. Sure, they are a minority, most teachers are responsible and do their best or at least close to their best, I don’t know if anyone can say they did their best if they took a day off they could avoid, and I think most do that. However most are acceptable and some are great. But most parents on the ground have had this, and if you talk to the principal or an administrator about them being fired you hit a wall and are told that this is impossible due to the union. People look at you like you said something crazy. Teachers don’t get fired, you can’t even talk about it in this meeting you have to fill out a form and in two months you can meet with an administrator downtown who will tell you it is state law that teachers are not fired. I know chronically terrible teachers whose principals have tried four times to fire them and are still teaching. They exist.

            The truth is, this is why most Californians support the Vergara ruling. When you suffer something and are told it is impossible to fix and you are making it up and are asked for proof each time when that’s really just a cover for protecting bad teachers, you join the other side. When you are told if you don’t like the status quo you are against due process, and then you learn there are 5 incredibly difficult steps to firing teachers, you switch to the other side. When you see a molester get $40,000 before a 25 year prison sentence in L.A. because the union decides to fight for him, you switch to the other side. When your child suffers and you are told you are powerless, you switch to the other side. There are too many victims out there for you to tell us we don’t exist. We are hurting, and our children are hurting, and therefore we are fighting back.

          • Don 2 years ago2 years ago

            Manuel, my recollection was that both the plaintiff and defense witnesses were in mutual and general agreement that somewhere between 1% and 3% of teachers are regarded as ineffective/incompetent.

          • Gary Ravani 2 years ago2 years ago

            Manuel: Actually Jesse Rothstein, of UC Berkeley, came up with a rough number of 1% to 3% of teachers as being 'ineffective." He did not say this percentage could not be remediated. He went on to write an op/ed for the NY Times where he clarified his statement. What he meant by suggesting the 1% to 3% of teachers was that this was such a TINY number that eliminating due process and seniority rights for the … Read More

            Manuel:

            Actually Jesse Rothstein, of UC Berkeley, came up with a rough number of 1% to 3% of teachers as being ‘ineffective.” He did not say this percentage could not be remediated. He went on to write an op/ed for the NY Times where he clarified his statement. What he meant by suggesting the 1% to 3% of teachers was that this was such a TINY number that eliminating due process and seniority rights for the other competent 97% to 99% majority of teachers would not be worth it in a cost benefit analysis. Disrupting the working conditions of teachers and their security in their ability to advocate for students would have negative, chaotic, impacts on the entire system. These impacts would have more harmful than helpful effects. Obvious, the judge in the case totally ignored the more nuanced position. It does not appear this judge was capable of nuance, nor did he seem to have any interest in actually looking at the expert evidence provided by acknowledged experts in the field of education. Hence the superficial and skimpy ruling.

          • FloydThursby1941 2 years ago2 years ago

            Manuel, here's some proof, and probably there will be more news soon. There is a teacher at a middle school in San Francisco who was just fired, a P.E. Teacher. Parents and students have talked about this guy being a creep and a pedophile for years. The story was he had a lapsitting incident with a girl at a high school, but the union defended him and made a noble cause about … Read More

            Manuel, here’s some proof, and probably there will be more news soon. There is a teacher at a middle school in San Francisco who was just fired, a P.E. Teacher. Parents and students have talked about this guy being a creep and a pedophile for years. The story was he had a lapsitting incident with a girl at a high school, but the union defended him and made a noble cause about him, he needs due process, it’s a misunderstanding, he had a bad childhood, he deserves a second chance, essentially they passionately defended him and won, so he was moved to a middle school. Now he posted obscene pictures to his Instagram account which was connected to hundreds of students. He has been fired. He is trying to survive, but I doubt he will. Hundreds of children suffered because the union “won” years back. This will likely be in the news. This is proof.

        • el 2 years ago2 years ago

          If you counted up all the non-reelects and resignations, I suspect you’d see a pretty large number.

          Of course, no way to know how many of those people are wonderful and sadly lost to the profession, and how many were unsuccessful, either by their own personal measure or their supervisor’s measure. It will always be a mix of both.

  17. Don 2 years ago2 years ago

    With all due respect to Mr. Cohn, I must point out some flaws in his arguments. On Vergara Mr. Cohn concludes as follows: " what's wrong with the ruling is that it reinforces a completely false narrative in which incompetent teachers are portrayed as the central problem facing urban schools." The narrative to which Mr. Cohn refers is neither the fault of the constitutional challenge as it was described in the briefs or the manner in … Read More

    With all due respect to Mr. Cohn, I must point out some flaws in his arguments.

    On Vergara Mr. Cohn concludes as follows:

    ” what’s wrong with the ruling is that it reinforces a completely false narrative in which incompetent teachers are portrayed as the central problem facing urban schools.”

    The narrative to which Mr. Cohn refers is neither the fault of the constitutional challenge as it was described in the briefs or the manner in which the challenge was worded and prosecuted by plaintiffs’ attorneys at trial. However, that is not true of the defense which pushed that narrative at trial as well as in the media and elsewhere. We can see that Mr. Cohn is in fact promulgating it here in his post. In the ruling itself Judge Treu goes out of his way from a legal point-of-view to express that teachers and the profession at large are not the culprits as far as the statutes in question are concerned.

    In Brown v. Board, as a decision central to the civil rights era and integration, there was a narrative that developed in the subsequent years that read as follows: students of color will learn better when in classrooms with white students. The narrative in this case was entirely antithetical to the decision as as it implied a soft racism in the context of an anti-racism decision. But the point is that the narrative was not the fault of the Brown decision itself, but an unintended by-product of it just as the Vergara decision is not an assault on teachers per se, but has been construed by its opponents as one in order to demonize the plaintiffs as anti-teacher and, in the process of so doing, enlist opposition support of the kind expressed in this well-worded article.

    The Mr. Cohn contradicts himself on tenure when he said to the effect that messing with the law might cause chaos and confusion even though he described tenure law as “admittedly imperfect” But then he goes on to say regarding a tenure solution, ” but I think it (a solution) would be best done from the ‘bottom up’.” In essence he’s saying we shouldn’t change the law, but should grant waivers of it, based on his next assertion in which he addressed the process of a bottom up solution attempted in San Jose. There he implicitly faults the State for failing to allow San Jose to craft a local solution as the district’s waiver request was denied at the state level. That denial was based both on prudence in exercising the waiver process and not influencing a pending Vergara case. If said district gets a waiver of the statutory requirements it draws into question the usefulness of statutes themselves which, at the time, were undergoing a challenge in the court. Such a waiver would have sent a message to the court that the State favors the plaintiffs.

    More importantly, if Mr. Cohn agrees that the districts should craft their own local remedies vis-à-vis seniority, dismissal and LIFO, how can it be accomplished from the bottom up with the current five statutes in place?

    Replies

    • el 2 years ago2 years ago

      Of course, San Jose's waiver request was explicitly because it wanted to try out a handful of teachers it considered mediocre for an extra year. No doubt, this was in part because they were unsure if they could find new teachers that would be better than the ones they had but lacked the confidence to keep. Both these ideas suggest that extending the probationary period another year is unlikely to have a significant positive effect on … Read More

      Of course, San Jose’s waiver request was explicitly because it wanted to try out a handful of teachers it considered mediocre for an extra year. No doubt, this was in part because they were unsure if they could find new teachers that would be better than the ones they had but lacked the confidence to keep.

      Both these ideas suggest that extending the probationary period another year is unlikely to have a significant positive effect on the quality of the teacher workforce.

      • TheMorrigan 2 years ago2 years ago

        In addition to El's point, the whole "most states" evidence used in the trial concerning permanent status and found on page 10 of Treu's final ruling is one big appeal to popularity that lacks a sound foundation as "evidence." The implicit argument in the trial and used by Students Matter is that those "most states" have a "better" system (with 3 years) than CA does with the misnomer of 2 years; and because they have … Read More

        In addition to El’s point, the whole “most states” evidence used in the trial concerning permanent status and found on page 10 of Treu’s final ruling is one big appeal to popularity that lacks a sound foundation as “evidence.” The implicit argument in the trial and used by Students Matter is that those “most states” have a “better” system (with 3 years) than CA does with the misnomer of 2 years; and because they have a better system, there are supposedly far fewer ineffective teachers who get permanent status. However, if we looked at what those same plaintiffs, witnesses, and others have said about New York, a different picture emerges. Students Matter, Chetty, Hanushek, Kane, Brown, and the New York Department of Ed have all cited that New York has between 5% to 10% of ineffective teachers. But wait, besides the NYDE and Campbell Brown, isn’t that what they all basically said about CA, too? Shouldn’t we naturally see better results since they have a longer probationary status in NY?

        While it is possible that there are different factors (teacher pool, training, etc.) that determine the amount of ineffective teachers in a state, there at least should be some sorta declining trend of ineffective teachers in the rest of the non-outlier 42 states if a 3-year probationary period is supposedly more effective than a 2-year one. That salient point, however, was not addressed by Treu nor any of the witnesses. It was just assumed that a 3+ year is better than a 2-year one because it just “sounds” better.

        While there is no doubt in my mind that there are better arguments for extending the probationary period for teachers, this particular argument is just very sloppy implied reasoning all around.

        • Don 2 years ago2 years ago

          This is an excerpt of the transcript of Berliner's deposition (from Eduskeptic) used at trial: Lawyer: Dr. Berliner, over four years value-added models should be able to identify the very good teachers, right? Berliner: They should. Lawyer: And over four years value-added models should be able to identify the very bad teachers, right? Berliner: They should. Lawyer: That is because there is a small percentage of teachers who consistently have strong negative effects on student outcomes no matter what classroom … Read More

          This is an excerpt of the transcript of Berliner’s deposition (from Eduskeptic) used at trial:

          Lawyer: Dr. Berliner, over four years value-added models should be able to identify the very good teachers, right?
          Berliner: They should.
          Lawyer: And over four years value-added models should be able to identify the very bad teachers, right?
          Berliner: They should.
          Lawyer: That is because there is a small percentage of teachers who consistently have strong negative effects on student outcomes no matter what classroom and school compositions they deal with, right?
          Berliner: That appears to be the case.
          Lawyer: And it would be reasonable to estimate that 1 to 3 percent of teachers fall in that category, right?
          Berliner: Correct.”

          Also from Eduskeptic – Berliner explained to the journalist Weissman that there was no data available on the percentage of bad teachers and that he was drawing on experience. Some have pointed out that the attorney cited the figure, but Berliner didn’t have to agree.

          Berliner has stated that he’s never met a grossly ineffective teacher so why did he answer the question in the affirmative?

          I would guess that saying he never met one would be considered ridiculous and that he had to give an honest ballpark answer not clouded by personal political beliefs. I suspect that it is statistically impossible to maintain a scholarly and respectable position that does not account for a certain minimum of incompetent individuals working as teachers in the context of ineffectiveness as a inherent aspect of the labor pool at large.

          The reason why there is no data available is because all this information is held in a the legal lockbox of confidentiality. Any effort to nail down a precise figure will always be a matter of speculation.

          Given that at least 2 defense witnesses testified to the 1% to 3% figure, I don’t think it was encumbent upon the plaintiffs to further make the case.

          I think the more cogent point is whether the law should be changed due to some agreed upon and relatively small number of ineffective teachers (though some consider it much larger). That comes down to a matter of constitutionality. If the results of those numbers create a constitutional inequality than the students affected have a valid legal challenge to make.

          I guess you could put it another way. If the total number of ineffective teachers is 5,000 (a ballpark midpoint of the number cited by Treu) and each teacher has an average of 100 students per year (averaging EL, MS and HS classrooms,again ballpark) over a career of 20 years you have about 10 million students adversely affected.

  18. Frances O'Neill Zimmerman 2 years ago2 years ago

    The olympian perspective of Dr. Cohn is always welcome when there is fighting in the streets. He does not mention one of the motivators of the Vergara case -- the scandal at MiraMonte Elementary School in Los Angeles and the outrage of ignored parents everywhere. Cohn is a deep thinker about public education, a right-minded proponent of stakeholders' getting along and a rational man. He was a superb superintendent in Long Beach for years past … Read More

    The olympian perspective of Dr. Cohn is always welcome when there is fighting in the streets. He does not mention one of the motivators of the Vergara case — the scandal at MiraMonte Elementary School in Los Angeles and the outrage of ignored parents everywhere.

    Cohn is a deep thinker about public education, a right-minded proponent of stakeholders’ getting along and a rational man. He was a superb superintendent in Long Beach for years past the norm for superintendents anywhere in the country. Undoubtedly Cohn’s longevity there contributed to the excellence of those schools.

    But by the time Cohn came down to San Diego for what turned out to be a short run, community circumstances had so deteriorated there was little he could do to restore public confidence in the way education was being delivered. Battle lines were drawn among parents and children, educrat administrators, business interests and teachers in unions. What had been ad/Business has today become ad/Labor in the way San Diego schools are managed, with other players going along to get along or dropping out in despair of any change that works for kids.

    As far as the Vergara ruling goes — and it remains to be seen if it will hold, since it is being appealed — I believe good teachers can and should stand on their own without rigid employment provisions that no other class of employee receives. And I believe school principals should have responsibility to fill open teaching positions with the best people for the job — not based on some seniority list. System focus should be on excellent principals, teacher quality and their teacher fitness for the task — with student interests paramount. That is not the way it works now.

  19. Donald 2 years ago2 years ago

    Perhaps if LA Unified would hire Carl Cohn it could make a lot more progress that it has under the current superintendent.

  20. Cleo Lorne 2 years ago2 years ago

    L.A.’s most challenged inner-city schools attract a few senior teachers who genuinely want to be there -- the rest are newly minted teachers who sign on because that’s where the jobs are. When the recession hit and layoff notices, based on seniority, were issued, these schools hemorrhaged staff. Pool teachers with more seniority bumped the newly minted teachers -- yet many of these pool teachers quit within days of being placed. … Read More

    L.A.’s most challenged inner-city schools attract a few senior teachers who genuinely want to be there — the rest are newly minted teachers who sign on because that’s where the jobs are. When the recession hit and layoff notices, based on seniority, were issued, these schools hemorrhaged staff. Pool teachers with more seniority bumped the newly minted teachers — yet many of these pool teachers quit within days of being placed. As a result, countless inner-city students weathered a series of substitutes during those years. These students need consistency more than anyone.

    With the Reed settlement and new LCFF money, these schools and their staff are now receiving extra supports, which is great. But it’s a bandaid. What happens when the next recession hits, if underlying policies aren’t changed?

    Our legislature lacks the will to change. After Miramonte, our legislature and the CTA blocked the common-sense AB1530. Vergara changes the landscape by asking: is the purpose of our education system primarily to educate children? Or should our education system prioritize protecting teachers? Judge Treu has asked the State to show why California teachers deserve the uber due process they enjoy — protections that far exceed those that cover teachers in other states, and even other government workers here in California, including police and firefighters. If Vergara stands, teachers won’t lose due process — just the excess.

    I’d welcome a grand bargain comprised of teachers, administrators and parents working together to improve the system currently in place.

    Replies

    • Manuel 2 years ago2 years ago

      Last time I looked, I did not see an increase in funding for the Reed Schools over and above what other schools are getting. I suggest that if you really believe this that you should check the budgets of those schools and see if indeed they are getting more support. And, in my opinion and experience, teachers do not get greater protections. It is just that the administrators are often too inept to manage the … Read More

      Last time I looked, I did not see an increase in funding for the Reed Schools over and above what other schools are getting. I suggest that if you really believe this that you should check the budgets of those schools and see if indeed they are getting more support.

      And, in my opinion and experience, teachers do not get greater protections. It is just that the administrators are often too inept to manage the process to firing teachers.

      In their defense, though, administrators have way too many other responsibilities to be chasing after bad teachers. Also, I’ve been told by at least two administrators that if they were to fire some problematic teachers their replacements might be worse. You get what you paid for, I guess.

      • Frances O'Neill Zimmerman 2 years ago2 years ago

        I am tired of hearing the canard that it is the incompetent, weak or lazy administrator who causes poor teachers to remain in place. That may be, but it is less and less true as there is more and more pressure for the public schools to perform at some minimum standard of effectiveness -- measured by soon-to-disappear tests. School principals have other tasks than just managing lagging teachers (who may lag for many reasons, including … Read More

        I am tired of hearing the canard that it is the incompetent, weak or lazy administrator who causes poor teachers to remain in place. That may be, but it is less and less true as there is more and more pressure for the public schools to perform at some minimum standard of effectiveness — measured by soon-to-disappear tests.

        School principals have other tasks than just managing lagging teachers (who may lag for many reasons, including gold-bricking and general burned-outedness.) Principals properly should mentor newer young teachers develop their skills. The rest? It becomes a herculean task for the conscientious principal to “document” and “consult” and document some more and consult some more before removing a single inadequate teacher from his/her assignment. “Counseling out” of the teaching profession is the most humane method, but it often requires having something dire “on” the teacher that will be brought forward if there is resistance. In my experience, it is the exceptionally experienced, determined, confident and resilient administrator who successfully removes lagging teachers from a faculty. There are ways to do it in the book, but it is a tremendously time-consuming, confrontational and draining process.

        Other jobs for the principal? Knowing the names of every kid at the school, checking into classrooms to actually work with students; managing the data that should be showing continuous progress for each student; conferring with teachers and parents about the child’s status and any needed remediation. Oh, and don’t forget managing one’s own school budget; making sure there are adequate supplies and equipment; directing clerical and janitorial staff; meeting with worried, angry or concerned parents; going to special ed conferences; meeting with faculty for professional development, morale-building and collaborative planning. It is a huge job which, done well, benefits every person in the community. Weak-link teachers distract and detract from the quality of the principal’s engagement with the work. To function at a high level, every school needs a fully competent and willing team.

        And that’s where Vergara comes in: everyone on the team needs to stand on his/her own two feet.

        • Don 2 years ago2 years ago

          And Vergara comes in because the state supreme court already ruled that the state cannot leave the constitutional mandate of equal opportunity to the idiosyncrasies of districts. Even if local administration is deemed widely incompetent vs. widely competent teachers, students don't get to decide where they go to school or who the principal or teacher will be. There has to be a statewide solution. Between that and the other principle contention of … Read More

          And Vergara comes in because the state supreme court already ruled that the state cannot leave the constitutional mandate of equal opportunity to the idiosyncrasies of districts. Even if local administration is deemed widely incompetent vs. widely competent teachers, students don’t get to decide where they go to school or who the principal or teacher will be. There has to be a statewide solution. Between that and the other principle contention of uber due process, it is clear even to Mr. Cohn that some change is needed, as he noted. He appears to be advocating waivers. That is not a constitutional solution to educational inequality, but a capitulation to it.

          In the meantime, why doesn’t the CTA sue the state for failing to in its constitutional mandate to ensure that administrators

          • Don 2 years ago2 years ago

            cont. follow the law? After all, if Vergara can sue the state so can the CTA. The reason they don’t is because the CTA has been the historical partner of the State of California. Better to fight a different foe than to start cannalbalizing one another

        • navigio 2 years ago2 years ago

          Just because you are tired of hearing it doesn't mean it's a canard. It is curious that you highlight the impact of 'weak-link' teachers yet ignore the even more greatly distracting and detracting impact of weak-link principals, yet on whom vergara is silent. You're right that the principal's task is hurculean (I may have posted a link to an example list of principal tasks about a year ago, but if I didn't, try to find … Read More

          Just because you are tired of hearing it doesn’t mean it’s a canard. It is curious that you highlight the impact of ‘weak-link’ teachers yet ignore the even more greatly distracting and detracting impact of weak-link principals, yet on whom vergara is silent.
          You’re right that the principal’s task is hurculean (I may have posted a link to an example list of principal tasks about a year ago, but if I didn’t, try to find one in your district. It is literally absurd. It’s also a set of tasks that cannot be done alone and this why schools in which there is support and trust and parent participation run better), and that it takes an ‘exceptionally experienced, determined, confident and resilient administrator’ to do it. But we should not be lowering our expectations for that position by merely clearing legal brush just because that happens to be the easiest way to pretend we run our schools well. We should want our principals to be those things. And the last thing we should do if we are not willing to extend those expectations to implementation is give more power to people who are not those things.
          Btw, take a look at UTLA’s most recent negotiation proposal. Note how many of those things are not about teachers per se, but are about having school staffing resources that allows schools to run better (arguably more like they were designed to do but no longer can due to staffing cuts). IMHO, those cuts were the vanguard for vergara: a strategy to make schools impossible to run so that the scapegoats could be attacked.

        • Manuel 2 years ago2 years ago

          A canard, you say? In my experience, it isn't. OTOH, it is true that principals have been saddled with more and more duties. This is, however, a reflection of the relentless drive to make principals CEOs of their schools. At LAUSD they even have to design their own budgets, all in the name of "local accountability." But that is not the point here. The point is the classical conflict between labor and management. If management claims … Read More

          A canard, you say? In my experience, it isn’t.

          OTOH, it is true that principals have been saddled with more and more duties. This is, however, a reflection of the relentless drive to make principals CEOs of their schools. At LAUSD they even have to design their own budgets, all in the name of “local accountability.”

          But that is not the point here. The point is the classical conflict between labor and management. If management claims that labor is not doing its job, then management needs to go through all the steps that management is clearly required to take. It doesn’t matter that “middle” management (principals) are themselves being oppressed by their higher-ups, all the way to their Superintendent.

          A classic example is what recently happened at Jefferson HS in L.A. Students finally had enough and did a walk-out over their not getting the right classes and other horrors caused by the imposition of a nearly-useless master calendar by a principal who clearly was overwhelmed and a “management software” known as MiSiS that was to be used for enrollment. Somehow this got twisted by Superintendent Deasy as being the teachers’ fault for not agreeing to teach these “missing” classes. Really? Anyone who has ever dealt with high schools knows that the master calendar and the ability to timely enroll students is a local administrative responsibility that is made possible by the resources made available by the Superintendent.

          Another example is when Superintendent Deasy introduced his “Academic Growth over Time” system, a VAM-based evaluation process. It got piloted in a few high schools but quickly fell apart because neither the principals nor the assistant principals had the time to do the close supervision that it required. Why couldn’t they? Because of the boat-load of things they are supposed to be in charge of. (And if you are curious what they are, go look through the archives of AALA; somewhere in them is a newsletter listing all the duties of a principal.)

          So, yeah, if the principals can’t do the teacher supervision, is that the teachers’ fault? Or are you asking that teachers police themselves? If that’s the case, then you don’t know what a jungle a high school is. That should not be surprising: they are all human beings, and not all can be perfect.

          Implementation of Vergara will not put a dent on these problems at all. It is my opinion that it will exacerbate them because very few good teachers are going to put up with this. They’ll either retire early or go on to other careers leaving behind only the inexperienced and the dead-wood that can’t go anywhere else.

          And then what?

          • el 2 years ago2 years ago

            The other part of the reason that Principal duties are so long and arguably cannot be done inside the hours allotted is because there is a strong ethic to cut "administrative" costs and to spare the classrooms from cuts. While I completely agree with the sentiment, what is often missed is that those administrators and the related overhead is there to support teachers and kids, and many of the duties that they have that are … Read More

            The other part of the reason that Principal duties are so long and arguably cannot be done inside the hours allotted is because there is a strong ethic to cut “administrative” costs and to spare the classrooms from cuts. While I completely agree with the sentiment, what is often missed is that those administrators and the related overhead is there to support teachers and kids, and many of the duties that they have that are affected end up being done by teachers or end up affecting the classroom in another way. Having responsible adults on campus who are not attached to any particular child but are there to handle whatever need arises during the day – rather like a ‘sweeper’ on a soccer team – is itself an important duty that is significantly underappreciated. A good admin does that job first … but the paperwork, the IEPs, the staff mentoring, the classroom observations, the research, the physical plant monitoring, the budget, the curriculum oversight… that all still needs to be done too.

  21. Manuel 2 years ago2 years ago

    A side note: San Diego's "Blue Print for Student Success" was funded by an $11 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to "transform three large San Diego high schools into high-performing small learning communities" under the leadership of Alan Bersin. This was on top of two previous awards 2001 in partnership with two other organizations ($22.5 million with the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and $18 million with the Carnegie Corporation of … Read More

    A side note: San Diego’s “Blue Print for Student Success” was funded by an $11 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to “transform three large San Diego high schools into high-performing small learning communities” under the leadership of Alan Bersin. This was on top of two previous awards 2001 in partnership with two other organizations ($22.5 million with the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and $18 million with the Carnegie Corporation of New York).

    Most of what I can find through a quick google search indicates that there was some disputed success at the elementary and middle school level but it failed miserably at the high schools. Of course, once the money ran out, it was curtains for the program. By then Bersin had gone on to other things.

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    • Frances O'Neill Zimmerman 2 years ago2 years ago

      You describe in a nutshell one part of what I call the "Advantage/Business" climate of those days in San Diego. Fortunes of private money was granted directly to the business-backed Superintendent and his agent, the part-time Chancellor of Public Instruction, outside the authority of the elected Board of Education. Many low-achieving, low-socio-economic high schools were divided into fashionable "small school" parts. Today there is scarcely a trace of that radical and expensive "reform" still standing. … Read More

      You describe in a nutshell one part of what I call the “Advantage/Business” climate of those days in San Diego. Fortunes of private money was granted directly to the business-backed Superintendent and his agent, the part-time Chancellor of Public Instruction, outside the authority of the elected Board of Education. Many low-achieving, low-socio-economic high schools were divided into fashionable “small school” parts. Today there is scarcely a trace of that radical and expensive “reform” still standing. The high schools remain socio-economically impoverished and low-performing.
      It was and is tragic.

      • Manuel 2 years ago2 years ago

        And, yet, Frances, you seem to support the policies of those who hold views similar to Bersin, Gates, et al.

        Isn’t that called cognitive dissonance?

        • Frances O'Neill Zimmerman 2 years ago2 years ago

          Only if you are hearing-impaired, Manuel. I want smaller classes, excellent principal-and-teacher teams who want to be engaged with educating children without having to check the provisions of negotiated contracts. I want lunchrooms where people don't sit around and bitch, bringing everyone within earshot low, but where people exchange ideas related to enlivening and improving their work experience with students. What we've got in California are huge classrooms of students, many of whom are … Read More

          Only if you are hearing-impaired, Manuel.

          I want smaller classes, excellent principal-and-teacher teams who want to be engaged with educating children without having to check the provisions of negotiated contracts. I want lunchrooms where people don’t sit around and bitch, bringing everyone within earshot low, but where people exchange ideas related to enlivening and improving their work experience with students.

          What we’ve got in California are huge classrooms of students, many of whom are impoverished and/or English language learners; near-lowest funding per student among all states in the nation; and the highest teacher salaries in the country.
          I think this needs to change and a progressive teachers’ union could lead the way. But it isn’t and it doesn’t.

          • TheMorrigan 2 years ago2 years ago

            “I want lunchrooms where people don’t sit around and bitch, bringing everyone within earshot low, but where people exchange ideas related to enlivening and improving their work experience with students.”

            You’d make them work at lunch, too? Or is this just a kumbaya wish of yours?

          • Manuel 2 years ago2 years ago

            I don’t believe I am hearing impaired.

            I just have enough experience to know that supporting the so-called reformers behind all this will never get you smaller classes, better resources for teaching poor or English learner students, and higher funding for the classroom.

            It will get you lower teacher salaries, though. And that will never get people to be the teachers you believe are needed.

            And that is cognitive dissonance by any definition of the word.

          • Gary Ravani 2 years ago2 years ago

            Speaking of "canards" and "being hard of hearing," Frances, you seem oblivious to the fact that teachers' salaries in CA, when looked at in cost-of-living weighted dollars is lower than any other major industrialized state and found by RAND to be below the national average. The only reason you can say CA's student spending is as low as it is by using cost-of-living weighted dollars. Somewhere and somehow you developed a highly biased opinion of … Read More

            Speaking of “canards” and “being hard of hearing,” Frances, you seem oblivious to the fact that teachers’ salaries in CA, when looked at in cost-of-living weighted dollars is lower than any other major industrialized state and found by RAND to be below the national average. The only reason you can say CA’s student spending is as low as it is by using cost-of-living weighted dollars.

            Somewhere and somehow you developed a highly biased opinion of those who have dedicated themselves to work with children in a classroom. For someone who claims an interest in classrooms that is a sad thing. But just repeating the same untruths over and over does not make them any more true. That is merely a propaganda technique.

  22. Paul Muench 2 years ago2 years ago

    Would it be practical to have the state be silent on teacher tenure and seniority rules and let each district manage that by contract with its teachers?

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    • FloydThursby1941 2 years ago2 years ago

      For a long time, if any board or district ever questioned the LIFO/Seniority system, they were told don't bother, it's State Law. It has basically been etched in stone for a long time, a policy which is detrimental to being able to provide what's best for children. This will allow it to go back to the districts. Hopefully the ruling will make it so all districts judge quality. Take a look … Read More

      For a long time, if any board or district ever questioned the LIFO/Seniority system, they were told don’t bother, it’s State Law. It has basically been etched in stone for a long time, a policy which is detrimental to being able to provide what’s best for children. This will allow it to go back to the districts. Hopefully the ruling will make it so all districts judge quality. Take a look at a union web site, UESF for example. All over it, you see examples of the union not wanting any judgement of quality. For instance, on the web site now is a story from years back about how a principal wanted to drop in and observe teaching, get more actively involved. The union pressured the principal not to. Principals when reviewing applicants for transfer are not allowed to check references. It’s not even allowed in SF to check references of principals. There is no pressure to work harder, call in sick less, it’s just how many years have you taught. These rules should have never been put in in the first place. If business ran this way, our GDP would be 30% lower.

      • Paul Muench 2 years ago2 years ago

        That’s not answering the question I asked.