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Maggie Mabery, the California Teacher of the Year for 2015, stands with Indiana Bones in her science class at Manhattan Beach Middle School in May 2015. By Sarah Tully, EdSource

When the nation’s top teachers were asked about the biggest barriers to students’ success, most didn’t point to reasons inside the classroom. Instead, they ranked family stress and poverty as the main issues facing students.

The Council of Chief State School Officers and Scholastic Inc. sent surveys to the 56 winners of Teacher of the Year awards from all states and jurisdictions, including Washington, D.C., and Guam. Of those, 46 winners from 2014-15 responded.

The top answer was “family stress” by 76 percent of respondents, followed by 63 percent stating poverty and 52 percent citing “learning and psychological problems.”

California’s Teacher of the Year, Maggie Mabery, works as a science teacher at Manhattan Beach Middle School in an affluent, beachside community in Los Angeles County, so poverty isn’t a core issue there. The median income is $139,259, with just 3 percent of residents below the poverty level, according to U.S. Census data.

But Mabery, a teacher for 15 years, listed family stress as the top concern in her area. In a Washington Post article, Mabery said: “In a rich-kid neighborhood, there’s a completely different set of stresses. The role of the teacher has become so much more than student learning. I teach about 50 percent of the time. The rest is coaching kids how to be responsible, how to be a great adolescent.”

EdSource sat down in late May with Mabery to talk about how she spends her days, the stress she sees in her students, as well as other education topics. Here are her edited words.

Tell me about how you spend your school days.

We work in trimesters here and I think of my life being in a trimester. So right now I’m in the midst of trying a bunch of new project-based learning.

It’s interesting because, when I first became a teacher, I was like, ‘We’re going to take a test. And we’re going to have this formal assessment.’ I’ve just let that go in the last couple of years. I think science is about building and creating and collaborating. … I think those are the skills that our kids need in the worldly society that we’re pushing them toward.

When I was in school, science was like, ‘This is the answer to A. The answer is carbon.’ Yeah, that’s great. But science in the real world is so much more than that. … Coming up with the problems and solving them and building. It’s so much more important than, Do you know every element on the periodic table? I’m like, who cares? Google it.

I say it all the time. ‘I don’t know. Google it.’ They (students) want me to be this expert of science, which is great and I have a very good basis for it. But why waste our brain space on just a fact that you need to know for one second? I’d rather you learn a process of how to build something, how to fail at it. People hate the word failure. But science is all about failure. … I think that’s a life skill that we don’t talk about that’s so important in education right now.

In the Washington Post article, you talked about how half of your time is spent teaching. How do you divide your time?

Half of my time is teaching my curriculum.

That (other) 50 percent is teaching the kids to be humans. How are you going to be an adult? How are you going to collaborate with other students? That is a life skill that there is no measurement for.

I think that’s a push of the Common Core and definitely the Next Generation Science Standards. I don’t want to say, I don’t teach 50 percent of the time because I’m teaching how to work in groups, which is a great life skill. I’m teaching them how to create things, giving them options.

There’s not a standard to measure it. Lets play a little bit and figure it (out). I think those are important things, especially in middle school. Experiment to see what you are good at. When you get to high school – where I say it really counts – you’ve got skills to help you manage your life.

Do you spend time with kids outside of class?

I’m one of these early birds, so I’m here early. Kids come in here to hang out. They’re in during their break times. It seems to be a room that kids hang out in.

Tell me about stress being an issue for students.

I just think stress in kids these days is different. From a parent perspective, I see what my kids do, compared to what I did. In first grade, I walked home from school. I went home. I didn’t have homework. I played. My (elementary age) daughter, on Tuesdays, she has swim lessons. On Wednesdays, she has piano. I think there’s so much information out there now that people get scared.

I think there are so many more worries … because you can go find an answer on Google for whatever you want. … It’s scary to be a parent because you know all this stuff that goes to your child.

Kids pick up on that at 13 and 14. We hear it from our site administrators. Kids are so stressed because we give too much homework. In my head, I’m going, I give less homework than what I had in middle school. So, what’s the give and take here? We want the students to have all these things, but we don’t want them to do homework outside of school? So how is this going to happen?

What’s different?

The students I have here, some will be on traveling teams and they’ll have to miss certain days of school. And so you are missing great curriculum days because you are traveling with a team. And that’s obviously going to affect your academics.

Not that that’s a bad thing, but there’s going to be an effect.

Do your students talk about having too much homework?

We hear it from our administrators. It’s typical. A parent is not going to come to me and say, ‘You give too much homework.’ They are going to call my principal. And every couple of months, he’s like, ‘I’m getting all the phone calls about too much homework again. It’s causing too much stress. They have no family time at home.’

So, it’s like a double-edged sword. We want to raise these great kids who are college and career ready. Obviously, as educators, we think it’s an OK call to give these assignments outside of school. So, it’s just how do we get there without that?

How much homework do they have here?

They are supposed to have around 20 to 30 minutes per class. I give way less than that. The only homework I give is reading. So they are supposed to read a section of the book. They are given that on Monday and I give them a formal assessment at the end of the week.

Do you think the principal gets calls about homework because students have so many other things going on outside of school?

Kids have a lot of things that are going on outside of school. I think parents do. Most parents work. They do know when things are tense at the household.

Do you think the kids at this age are already stressed about college?

I think so. I do. I wouldn’t say every one of them, but I do think there are populations of them. I do have a student this year. I feel awful when I have to take off a point because she gets so worked up if the answer is correct. I’ve had so many conversations with her. Yes, you do really well on standardized tests. But, as far as applying what you know in science, which is how we’re moving with the Next Gen Science Standards, I’m not seeing you being able to apply. I don’t want to ruin her day because she got minus 1 on a lab. Who cares? It’s nothing. That’s nothing in life.

Where do you think that comes from? Is it them or their homes?

It’s got to be a little bit of both. Life is competitive now. You hear about it all the time. You hear about college acceptance. It is crazy. I can’t imagine that pressure being on me. There’s no way I would have gotten into the college I got into now. The expectations are just so high.

When you answered that survey, what did you say?

I said family stress. Poverty for me was not an option where I work. It was interesting because many others felt the same way, across the board.

Kids are stressed if they don’t get into the college they want to go to. They are stressed if they didn’t win their baseball game or if they didn’t do well at their private pitching lesson.

How do you think stress affects school performance?

Some stresses make kids move up to the plate and hit a home run. And some kids, I think, it shuts them down. It just depends on that personality.

I do think it’s hard to do when you have so many bodies in a classroom. I have some classes with 36 kids. If student A is responding by shutting down and student B is excelling, I’ve got to get to both of those personalities. That’s what’s hard to do. I have 200 bodies a day I’m responsible for and teaching them science. It’s a lot.

Are there things that need to be done in school to deal with outside stress factors?

I’ve always been a big believer in class-size reduction. I’ve seen it in my own class. This year alone, I have one class that’s 24 kids and the rest are pretty much at 36. That 24 (student class), I know every single one of those kids. That’s 12 more kids in a class. I think it makes an impact.

I know research sways to both ways. But, especially in this class, when you are building stuff and the materials that you have, you can individualize the projects that they need. It’s funny. When we do tasks that other students do in the 4th period class that’s a little bit larger, we spin through them. We’re done in like half the amount of time. So I can get to know them better.

That’s a funding issue. Hopefully with Gov. (Jerry) Brown … that was a big push of his, class size reduction. Hopefully, he goes down that path.


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  1. Bill jones 1 year ago1 year ago

    Ok, let's take the reformer position that poverty does not cause poor educational achievement. I accept it without reservation, regardless of reams of data to the contrary and general observation of the educational performance of impoverished nations of the world I accept the reformers position that the USA does have the highest child poverty rates in the world. That is indisputable. We can also agree on the massive and widening wealth gap. We can also agree … Read More

    Ok, let’s take the reformer position that poverty does not cause poor educational achievement. I accept it without reservation, regardless of reams of data to the contrary and general observation of the educational performance of impoverished nations of the world

    I accept the reformers position that the USA does have the highest child poverty rates in the world. That is indisputable.

    We can also agree on the massive and widening wealth gap.

    We can also agree that the reformers have dalled the wealth gap a moral failing of teachers and a national security tbreat.

    Now, let’s look at the basic precept of our nation: liberty of the individual. That creates inequality in opportunity and outcomes. That is the messy outcome of free markets and individual liberty.

    I reject, and the economic data and theory entirely support my position, that we live in a meritocracy. We live in an almost arbitrary system of skill and flat out random luck. But that unfortunate outcome is the result of individual liberty. The greatest economic thinkers and shapers of our economic system said that. To assert a meritocracy is to engage in a lethal intellectual conceit.
    So, to demand that teachers overcome these powerful matket forces that so efficiently separate winners from losers is insanity. And then to punish them if they cannot eliminate that unintended outcome is pure brutality and scapegoating.

    Frankly you are faced with an unpleasant choice: either eliminate the engine of inequality, liberty, or destroy liberty and institute the aggressive redistribution of income and outcomes.

    You refuse to make that choice. So you blame and beat the most defenseless, powerless, and visible actors in education. The real moral failing is upon those eho delude themselves by refusing to see the stark choice. They are the moral cowards here,

    Our nation degrades everyday that we avoid this dilemma: do we embrace the fruits of liberty and accept the brutality of the wealth gap; or do we embrace the brutal compulsion of equal outcomes for the future and impossible promise ofpeace and happiness.

    We cannot do it, and so we blame someone. Teachers are just there and are convenient targets.

    In closing, rather than make the trite “follow the money”argument, the charter schools are attempting to defend our matket system as a meritocracy and that the primary driver of that is education and that efucation is the key cause of wealth.

    God help us if we do not stick to that Protestant story.

  2. FloydThursby1941 1 year ago1 year ago

    Gary, how do you feel about certain groups who do well even when in poverty, such as Asians? Do you feel everyone should emulate their focus to limit poverty to a generation? Yes, adults in poverty are at fault, they generally didn't work very hard when they were in school, most do drugs and alcohol and many miss work. Also they had kids without making sure they were married first or working … Read More

    Gary, how do you feel about certain groups who do well even when in poverty, such as Asians? Do you feel everyone should emulate their focus to limit poverty to a generation? Yes, adults in poverty are at fault, they generally didn’t work very hard when they were in school, most do drugs and alcohol and many miss work. Also they had kids without making sure they were married first or working hard to stay married. Many don’t have the best attitude at work also. Many don’t encourage a best effort among their children. Many watch TV with them all Summer yet don’t ever take them to a library to check out books or sign them up for free tutoring.

    Gary, how can you be so poor you can’t be expected to study hard, but you can watch TV? Why is TV watching or games something which fits in with a lifestyle of poverty but not studying or reading? You are a teacher, do you encourage kids in poverty to study hard or blame others?

    You get out of poverty by blaming yourself and working hard. If you blame others, nothing changes, but if you learn what you did wrong and convince your children to not do that wrong, you make progress. Personal responsibility is important, and that is part of American culture.

    We have failed to reduce poverty because poverty itself is not the problem. The culture of poverty is the problem.

    Gary, you ignore groups who do well in school while in poverty. You simply ignore them. You have to look at the bigger picture. Is it possible? Yes. Then how? Follow those who do it.

  3. Gary Ravani 1 year ago1 year ago

    Looks like EdSource is making an effort to contain comments and make it more difficult to follow any given track. Doing a fine job at that too.

  4. Gary Ravani 1 year ago1 year ago

    Interesting attitudes expressed toward children who live in poverty through no fault of their own. Not that their parents are much at fault either. Other major industrialized nations have reduced poverty and/or the effects of poverty And we can’t? Why not?

    So far the responses have been: “Are there no prisons?” “Are there no workhouses?”

    Will three ghosts come along to rescue these bereft souls?

    I kind of doubt it.

  5. Don 1 year ago1 year ago

    If I was in a parent teacher conference with Ms. Maybery and she told me. " Half of my time is teaching my curriculum. That (other) 50 percent is teaching the kids to be humans," I'd be worried. Great teachers know how to make the content itself human, relevant, and significant to the student. Teachers have limited opportunity to reach students intellectually within the constraints of public school and the large class sizes. It is … Read More

    If I was in a parent teacher conference with Ms. Maybery and she told me. ” Half of my time is teaching my curriculum.
    That (other) 50 percent is teaching the kids to be humans,” I’d be worried. Great teachers know how to make the content itself human, relevant, and significant to the student. Teachers have limited opportunity to reach students intellectually within the constraints of public school and the large class sizes. It is facile and counterproductive construct to conclude teachers should put aside curriculum for counseling/mentoring.

    Replies

    • FloydThursby1941 1 year ago1 year ago

      Quite a few teachers, my kids say, go on long stories about their personal lives. One math teacher at Presidio Middle School talks about his personal life for the whole class some days, they literally never get to math. He has far left opinions and tries to make 100% sure the kids will always vote Democrat for their whole lifetime. There are quite a few like this. I am a Democrat and … Read More

      Quite a few teachers, my kids say, go on long stories about their personal lives. One math teacher at Presidio Middle School talks about his personal life for the whole class some days, they literally never get to math. He has far left opinions and tries to make 100% sure the kids will always vote Democrat for their whole lifetime. There are quite a few like this. I am a Democrat and I do think an occasional 5-minute story can humanize a teacher and have relevant inferences, but many teachers spend half their time going off on personal tangents, political or personal. One tells stories daily about her cat. No principal can say they are doing this too much because it is all based on LIFO, seniority and thou shall not fire rules put in by the union. One teacher had to tone it down because he was from another country and said things like “gays are freaks of nature” and “if you try marijuana you’ll be a prostitute” and “no one will ever marry a prostitute”. I have heard stats that trying cocaine has a high likelihood of this, but not marijuana, though I guess it leads in. I’m against drugs, but this is weird.

      Presidio has test scores in the top 5% of middle schools, so I imagine this happens even more at many schools. One teacher who went on long tangents in 6th grade once had time for Ancient People, the Middle East, China and India but ran out of time for Rome and Greece, so I had to go over those chapters with my child so they wouldn’t miss out on Western Civilization in 6th Grade and lack the knowledge for 7th Grade, which is about half Western Civilization.

      This is what I have a problem with. Many teachers tell kids things in contrast to my beliefs about hard work. They say college and high school admission is a “crap shoot”. They tell kids not to study “too much” and tell them you can get straight As and a perfect test score and be rejected by Lowell High School, which isn’t true. They say grades are mostly related to personal predispositions, not effort, and never praise the top students or discuss how many ethnic groups overperform even while in poverty. They criticize those who “too narrowly focus on success”. They talk about and encourage marijuana use, which though I feel is exaggerated above, I oppose.

      There are many other examples of this. Elementary School, High School. Counseling and advice can be a side thing, but it too often takes over.

  6. Frances O'Neill Zimmerman 1 year ago1 year ago

    Our teacher of the year was describing her economically comfortable kids from Manhattan Beach and my remarks were about stresses on this particular socio-economic class. I am not feeling sorry for anyone, Mr. Thursby, and while I agree with Gary Ravani's description of the ravages of poverty on our divided society, we are not talking about the liabilities of poor kids here, nor about lazy do-nothing students whom you shred. We are talking about so-called "stress" in … Read More

    Our teacher of the year was describing her economically comfortable kids from Manhattan Beach
    and my remarks were about stresses on this particular socio-economic class. I am not feeling sorry for anyone,
    Mr. Thursby, and while I agree with Gary Ravani’s description of the ravages of poverty on our divided
    society, we are not talking about the liabilities of poor kids here, nor about lazy do-nothing students
    whom you shred.

    We are talking about so-called “stress” in the lives of well-to-do public school students who may be
    simultaneously over-indulged, over-managed, over-programmed at home and and poorly-taught at school.
    Like their poor peers, rich kids too are deprived because our mediocre flawed education system
    lacks coherent consistent purpose, is chronically under-funded by ideologically-impaired politicians and is
    staffed by poorly-trained teachers who identify as union members rather than as professional educators.

    Ravani predictably mentions adults as equally deserving as the kids, which they are not.
    If our education system were laser-focussed on serving students excellently, above everything and everyone else —
    we would not be having this conversation at all.

  7. William Gee 1 year ago1 year ago

    Gary Ravani wrote: "We will continue to harangue the schools for not having the world’s highest international test scores, asserting as Condi Rice did that this is a “national security threat,” and ignore the fact that US kids in schools with 10% poverty rates or less are the highest scoring in the world." Mr. Ravani: This is an interesting and important statistic . . . and one that I want to believe but have not seen before … Read More

    Gary Ravani wrote:

    “We will continue to harangue the schools for not having the world’s highest international test scores, asserting as Condi Rice did that this is a “national security threat,” and ignore the fact that US kids in schools with 10% poverty rates or less are the highest scoring in the world.”

    Mr. Ravani: This is an interesting and important statistic . . . and one that I want to believe but have not seen before . . . can you direct me to the data, conclusion, or commentary that supports this? Thank-you.

    Replies

    • Gary Ravani 1 year ago1 year ago

      Mr. Gee:

      I suggest you look up various writings by USC Professor Emeritus Professor Stephen Krashen who often quotes the statistics.

    • Gary Ravani 1 year ago1 year ago

      Yikes, Frances. For a second I thought we were about to agree. Both the opinions of leading teachers across the nation, as well as voluminous research, indicate that poverty is the key stressor affecting a huge number of US school kids. Again, of the world's major industrialized nations, the US has nearly the highest percentage (around 25%) of students leaving in deep poverty. A disgraceful statistic in the world's wealthiest nation and an indicator … Read More

      Yikes, Frances. For a second I thought we were about to agree.

      Both the opinions of leading teachers across the nation, as well as voluminous research, indicate that poverty is the key stressor affecting a huge number of US school kids. Again, of the world’s major industrialized nations, the US has nearly the highest percentage (around 25%) of students leaving in deep poverty. A disgraceful statistic in the world’s wealthiest nation and an indicator of, at the least, a national malaise and, at the most, some kind of sadistic streak in the national psyche.

      Here’s a news flash: Those poor kids live in poverty because they live with adults who live in poverty, most of them working poor. You are not going to help poor kids in significant ways without resolving some of the economic issues that plague the adults they live with. You can’t separate the dancer from the dance. As much as some of a certain political persuasion revel in pointing fingers at adults with fewer advantages and posturing about the well-off’s superior work ethic and fundamental moral superiority it remains plain to see that economic disparities are problematic for the nation, the economy itself, and for children most of all.

      • Don 1 year ago1 year ago

        Yet, Vietnamese students at 79% poverty do better than American students at 22%, and even better than the white subgroup with respect to PISA. So it isn’t really about poverty per se. It is about the culture of American poverty, which is to say it is about culture and in particular the characteristically American-style violence and lethargy of the welfare state.

        • FloydThursby1941 1 year ago1 year ago

          Gary, I posit you could double the income of these families in poverty and barely make a dent in the achievement gap. In fact, I have seen minimum wage rise so fast that families in poverty have seen a 30-50% rise in income over 6 years after inflation, while the middle class has been stagnant. I've seen in my family how a few families had great breaks, one uncle makes a lot of … Read More

          Gary, I posit you could double the income of these families in poverty and barely make a dent in the achievement gap. In fact, I have seen minimum wage rise so fast that families in poverty have seen a 30-50% rise in income over 6 years after inflation, while the middle class has been stagnant. I’ve seen in my family how a few families had great breaks, one uncle makes a lot of money in insurance. With his first two kids he was middle class, maybe slightly below average, then he had three more when he was in the upper 10%, well above average. They went on cruises, vacations, had nice cars. The next 3 kids all didn’t go to college because the attitude towards education didn’t change.

          Gary, we have a place to sleep for these kids and we have food stamps, food banks, free medical care for the poor and school breakfasts and lunches. Inevitably, these programs are voted in to make it so students can do well, but then they don’t. Studies show if you stay married and learn a skill and work hard, your poverty rate is about 5%, even with kids.

          We could try to tax the hell out of people and increase the incomes of these people by 50%. However, they wouldn’t spend the money on books, tutoring or education. How can you be so poor you can’t be asked to study, yet you can watch TV or play games or go on social media, which takes more money? I posit that raising the average income 50% of the poor would do less than having each of them attend parenting classes, teaching them to turn off the TV and use libraries and get their kids studying, and having every family study, really study in their heart, how the Vietnamese Immigrants Don mentions do it.

          If you drive poorly, you have to take a course. If you get arrested for domestic abuse, you have to take anger management. If yo get arrested for drunk driving, you have to go to drug rehabilitation and take classes about the effects of alcohol on driving. If you get nabbed for solicitation, you have to take a course on human trafficking. If you get arrested for gambling related offenses, they make you take gambling anonymous classes.

          Now here’s the rub, the average American family lets their child study 5.6 hours a week and watch TV over 40. I believe that is criminally negligent parenting, a near guarantee a child won’t graduate from college or be productive unless they are lucky. Why not force all parents whose kids test poorly in 1st grade to take night classes on how the Vietnamese and other immigrants do so well in poverty and how to manage your free time to maximize productivity at school and work, how to not use the TV as a babysitter, read with your kids, get them into free tutoring, take them to the library for free story time, etc. Interview these Vietnamese families, and others, and figure it out.

          I find this surrender to poverty by Gary disturbing. It is not poverty itself but the culture of poverty which is causing this. I’ve seen it with friends and cousins. If you don’t believe education is important, you can triple their income, they will still spend more time watching TV with their kids than studying with them.

          • Don 1 year ago1 year ago

            Floyd, no need to posit it. It’s reality. Documentation at present that demonstrates the 2-1 likelihood of middle class black students falling into poverty as adults, including a recent Brookings Institute study. Read an Atlantic Monthly article on the subject of this January.

            • FloydThursby1941 1 year ago1 year ago

              Don, it is disturbing when Gary claims, if we only could eliminate poverty, all kids would do well in school and our problems would be over and there would be no achievement gap. A focus on tutoring and work ethic would immediately improve the situation. I've heard Dennis Kelly say this as well. The reason I feel it is disingenuous when union members say this is that they know we are not … Read More

              Don, it is disturbing when Gary claims, if we only could eliminate poverty, all kids would do well in school and our problems would be over and there would be no achievement gap. A focus on tutoring and work ethic would immediately improve the situation. I’ve heard Dennis Kelly say this as well. The reason I feel it is disingenuous when union members say this is that they know we are not going to have a policy which doubles minimum wage or increases welfare for a family of four to 40,000, and even if we did, it wouldn’t be long before we heard that 40,000 was really too poor. So this is in essence saying we can do nothing, no change in LIFO, no addition of charters, no change in teachers advising parents, no having people like Gary point out to parents that some poor children excel, no parent education plans, we can do nothing until we solve poverty which we won’t solve without solving education first. It becomes a chicken and egg situation. Why not analyze those who do well in poverty and try to set that as an example?

              I’ll tell you what, if you give me a Chinese, Korean or East Indian child at 10 in poverty and a black or white kid in the upper middle class at 10, and you want me to bet on which one will be earning more money at 40, I’ll bet on the Asian kid, and the stats would back me up.

              This focus on poverty by Gary is so pessimistic and so off track. It is based on the ’60s or a socialist doctrine. He never answers the question, why is it possible for a poor person to watch TV and play games 40 hours a week but not possible for them to study 15 hours a week?

              I feel the union knows America will never approve a massive giveaway to completely eliminate poverty, so by saying we need to eliminate poverty, they absolve themselves of any responsibility for the achievement gap or low test scores. I’d rather have teachers say we can do this, let’s all put our minds together and work hard and find a way. If you believe it is impossible even when some students do it, you are in the wrong profession.

  8. Gary Ravani 1 year ago1 year ago

    From the above article: "When the nation’s top teachers were asked about the biggest barriers to students’ success, most didn’t point to reasons inside the classroom. Instead, they ranked family stress and poverty as the main issues facing students." And: "The top answer was “family stress” by 76 percent of respondents, followed by 63 percent stating poverty and 52 percent citing “learning and psychological problems.” Who'd have guessed? It's almost as if I've read similar comments before on this … Read More

    From the above article:

    “When the nation’s top teachers were asked about the biggest barriers to students’ success, most didn’t point to reasons inside the classroom. Instead, they ranked family stress and poverty as the main issues facing students.”

    And:

    “The top answer was “family stress” by 76 percent of respondents, followed by 63 percent stating poverty and 52 percent citing “learning and psychological problems.”

    Who’d have guessed? It’s almost as if I’ve read similar comments before on this site. Maybe even several articles!

    What are the primary causes of “family stress,” learning and psychological problems,” and problems for education “not inside the classroom?” Poverty, as is mentioned.

    We have known this since one of the largest studies sociological studies in US history (The Coleman Report) was completed for Congress in the 1960s. ETS, CA’s testing vendor, which conducts research on test results and the “achievement gap” nationwide has confirmed Coleman’s conclusions in numerous studies. Literally hundreds of other studies support ETS’s conclusions.

    We will ignore this though because the political implications of dealing with the issue of poverty are too complicated and it is much more convenient to scapegoat, teachers, unions and even parents living and working in poverty for low school achievement.

    Then there are those who will say ignore these highly recognized teachers because they are…well… teachers and work daily in classrooms with kids. They are not CEO’s of corporations, don’t work in plush offices in Silicon Valley, are not political appointees to USDE, nor are they billionaires trying to protect their tax breaks, Who cares what they know, think, or say?

    We will continue to harangue the schools for not having the world’s highest international test scores, asserting as Condi Rice did that this is a “national security threat,” and ignore the fact that US kids in schools with 10% poverty rates or less are the highest scoring in the world. Then we will ignore that the US has about the highest child poverty in the industrialized world. (And CA has some of the highest poverty rates for kids in the US.)

    That’s a lot to ignore, but that won’t slow down the chorus of the usual school critics. And it won’t slow down the billionaires who support those critics in order to insure that the public discourse never turns to the need to drastically raise taxes on those billionaires to begin dealing with the abysmal US record on child poverty, poverty in general, low wage jobs, inferior housing, and segregated schools and communities.

    Luckily, with ACA now the law of the land, the “health care gap” that contributes mightily to the achievement gap will over time become less of a problem.

    And, yes, class sizes are a problem in CA. But when your starting point for school spending is “near” last in the nation, class sizes are the largest in the nation, there are fewer administrators, librarians, psychologists, and school nurse in CA’s schools compared to the rest of the nation, just bringing school spending to a little above the national average doesn’t move the needle all that much. Then you have the working school personnel, who have suffered significant compensation losses over the course of seven years and need to have their abilities to support their families reasonably addressed. But, then again, they are “only” teachers.

    Replies

    • FloydThursby1941 1 year ago1 year ago

      Gary, why do you and others accept these lame cop out excuses without question? These kids watch TV, play video games and go to social media sites well over 40 hours a week while studying under 6. Why is it you are so stressed you can watch TV, you can play video games, you can listen to music, but it's totally understandable you can't study and get a good SAT score because you … Read More

      Gary, why do you and others accept these lame cop out excuses without question? These kids watch TV, play video games and go to social media sites well over 40 hours a week while studying under 6. Why is it you are so stressed you can watch TV, you can play video games, you can listen to music, but it’s totally understandable you can’t study and get a good SAT score because you are in such stress due to poverty? Obama said “you are never so poor you can just come home and watch TV with your kids but you can’t study with them.” I know a lot of Asian families are poor and move around a lot, but I’ve never heard one use that to excuse poor grades or test results of their children, they don’t blame society, they blame themselves and they work harder and find a way forward with maximum effort. You are not doing your students a service if you tell them it is OK to not work hard in school if you have economic stress. If you have the time to watch TV, turn that off and study, maybe then you won’t have stress with your kids and can break the cycle.

  9. Frances O'Neill Zimmerman 1 year ago1 year ago

    In the ether of today's upper-middle class, it's as if childhood and the years spent at home have no intrinsic value, that those years are spent preparing for Frankie and Johnny's expensive selective college admission followed by some kind of "career" -- and then what? Grown-up life? Who knows what that is? What will it be based on? By that time, parents will be older and have to relinquish their kids as emblems of personal accomplishment … Read More

    In the ether of today’s upper-middle class, it’s as if childhood and the years spent at home have no intrinsic value,
    that those years are spent preparing for Frankie and Johnny’s expensive selective college admission followed by some kind of “career” — and then what? Grown-up life? Who knows what that is? What will it be based on? By that time, parents will be older and have to relinquish their kids as emblems of personal accomplishment and extensions of themselves. We hope the young adults will make their way.

    But what has really been “taught?” What has been “learned?” Just ask the high school kid who’s been one of 35 students
    in every class for years, working in “collaborative” groups of achievers and slackers, doing meaningless homework assignments
    instead of learning how to write, having projects highly approved by teachers without benefit of a conference or a word of
    constructive criticism, and worrying mostly about “the grade” because it IS the grade that will determine who gets
    admitted to next year’s limited-enrollment AP class.

    I submit it’s not just “stress:” it’s our deeply flawed system.

    Replies

    • FloydThursby1941 1 year ago1 year ago

      Come on Frances, this poor American kids are overworked victims myth has got to stop! Our kids nationwide study 5.6 hours a week and watch TV and play video games and are on social media and phones, basically goofing off, not doing something artistic or athletic or well-rounded, over 40 hours. Our kids work half as hard in school as European and Asian children. Our kids need to study harder, not less … Read More

      Come on Frances, this poor American kids are overworked victims myth has got to stop! Our kids nationwide study 5.6 hours a week and watch TV and play video games and are on social media and phones, basically goofing off, not doing something artistic or athletic or well-rounded, over 40 hours. Our kids work half as hard in school as European and Asian children. Our kids need to study harder, not less hard. Asian kids study 13.8 hours, not some incredible amount that suffocates any other activity, just a reasonable amount, some get to 30 hours and still have time for sports and/or arts. They just don’t waste time on TV, video games or Facebook, or at least not as much, or listening to mindless pop music. They graduate from college more often and from better colleges and as adults are happier, higher earning and have 1/7th the murder rate and under half the suicide rate. I always heard as a kid, don’t admire Asians, they’ll crack at some point, they’ll rebel, but stats show no point of mass collapse and a resulting better life from more diligence and effort as children.

      These are the facts, and they are undisputed.

      Stop feeling sorry for lazy kids. If the average is 5.6, what do you want to do, make it 0 so they can now have 47 hours instead of 41 to watch TV, play games, listen to pop music and take selfies for Facebook and Instagram? You think that will make them develop into more successful, politically engaged, intelligent adults?

      We tend to ignore the successful in this country to our detriment. In the first 80 years of the 20th Century Jewish Americans clearly had habits which led to more successful children and better lives as adults, on average. There was no real movement to admire and emulate it, in fact there was hatred and criticism which eventually led most to assimilate to mainstream culture and lose this edge. Now instead of following Asians effort as an example, we are creating myths as to why studying hard is somehow bad or doomed which are not based on facts and pressuring them to be more like us. America always disparages the nerd and lionizes the popular.

      These are the facts and they are undisputed.

    • FloydThursby1941 1 year ago1 year ago

      Frances, college admissions are more and more competitive. If you are focused on the intrinsic value of play, you lose out on college admissions to someone who is studying. Are you saying kids should just learn at school, not study at home? Who would enforce this? UC Berkeley just admitted 5500 Asians and 3500 whites, with far lower numbers in the State and many of the whites from out of state. … Read More

      Frances, college admissions are more and more competitive. If you are focused on the intrinsic value of play, you lose out on college admissions to someone who is studying. Are you saying kids should just learn at school, not study at home? Who would enforce this? UC Berkeley just admitted 5500 Asians and 3500 whites, with far lower numbers in the State and many of the whites from out of state. In fact under 9% of California whites are being admitted. Some are saying that UC Berkeley and UCLA need to adjust their admissions to admit more whites and that this is why they are falling down on the rankings, and they must value home life and extracurriculars more and be under pressure to adjust the formula to admit more whites. Others are saying this is a result of hard work of Asians, who should be praised, and whites must adjust their habits and child raising or be left behind. Which do you believe?

  10. Candyce Hagler 1 year ago1 year ago

    I am a retired CA special ed. teacher. You sound like a wonderful person. Congratualtions on your well-deserved award.

    Replies

    • Don 1 year ago1 year ago

      If Brown wanted to go down the path of class size reduction he wouldn’t have allowed for a collectively bargained override of the law for higher teacher compensation instead, particularly given the outsized Prop 98 gains that would allow for a measure of both at present.

      • FloydThursby1941 1 year ago1 year ago

        Bigger class sizes enable higher pay. The truth is, if we had parenting classes and tutors for failing kids at 2d grade to get them back on track, and convince all parents to prepare their kids for kindergarten with flashcards (60% of Asian kids go to Kindergarten prepared vs. 16% of whites), the children would be better behaved. A class of 15 can seem huge with a couple kids acting out, and a … Read More

        Bigger class sizes enable higher pay. The truth is, if we had parenting classes and tutors for failing kids at 2d grade to get them back on track, and convince all parents to prepare their kids for kindergarten with flashcards (60% of Asian kids go to Kindergarten prepared vs. 16% of whites), the children would be better behaved. A class of 15 can seem huge with a couple kids acting out, and a class of 35 seem small if all the children are moral, respectful and focused on getting an education. If all parents in this state put as high a premium on education as Asian parents, we could pay teachers 6 figures and have classes seem smaller. It’s more the behavior within the class than the size.

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