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This diary is in response to comments received in yesterday’s diary entry.  The first complaint that was received was that somehow teachers are against all forms of accountability—this is untrue.  Teachers are in favor of accountability, but there is an overwhelming belief that they alone should not be held wholly responsible for student performance.

This diary is in response to comments received in yesterday’s diary entry.  The first complaint that was received was that somehow teachers are against all forms of accountability—this is untrue.  Teachers are in favor of accountability, but there is an overwhelming belief that they alone should not be held wholly responsible for student performance.

This is comparable to a surgeon in a hospital.  If a doctor is faced with a condition, then obviously the doctor should be able to resolve that condition.  However, the life choices that are made by the patient will determine the long term efficacy of any procedure undertaken by that doctor.

As an example, if a patient is told to take XYZ pills at such-and-such a time for X number of days, then that is required for treatment of a condition.  The doctor is not held liable if the patient does not take the required medicine, it becomes the liability of the patient to ensure that he or she adheres to what the doctor has prescribed.

Obviously a doctor is held responsible if, first, he or she exhibits negligence in undertaking a procedure.  Further a doctor is held responsible if the prescriptions, having been followed, were incorrect.

In teaching as accountability is now implemented, the teacher is now held solely responsible for any and all actions taken or not taken outside of the classroom.  If homework is not completed, that is the teacher’s responsibility.  If the child does not get enough sleep at night, that is the teacher's responsibility.  If the student has attention issues because the parents plop their kid in front of an X-box 8 hours a day, it is the teacher who is held responsible.

Now some may say that teaching is nothing like being a doctor, so let us use the example of a car mechanic.  Obviously a car mechanic must be responsible for the work performed in the shop.  The quality of goods that he or she uses must be such that a warranty is offered.

However, in a car if a person drives in a manner that is reckless, or if the owner/operator of the vehicle does not maintain the vehicle, then the mechanic cannot be held responsible.

Further, a mechanic knows that a Honda Civic (no matter how much after market gear you put into it) will never be comparable to a Porsche 911 Turbo.  No one would come into a mechanic and expect that person to turn a clunker into a gem.

Again in teaching this is not currently the case.  As for the quality of goods, many teachers are left with few supplies.  This means that the average teacher spends over 5% of their take home pay on school supplies.  Sites have even been set up so that teachers can beg for supplies that they need to provide an adequate teaching environment.

As for turning a Civic into a Porsche, teachers are required to turn every student into a college ready person.  This takes out the notion that people are born with different talents.  Some will be engineers, and some will be janitors.  Not everyone has the innate ability to be a doctor, an engineer, or an astronaut.

With NCLB (No Child Left Behind) IQ differences are not accounted for.  A Child with a 70 IQ is expected to perform at the same level as a child with an IQ of 100.

Is this saying the performance cannot be increased?

No.

However, increasing performance, just like in a Honda, takes significant investment e.g. money.  Investment or spending on education has not kept pace with inflation.  This means that while accountability for teachers increases every year.  The money needed to keep classroom sizes small; to provide special services to children; to provide enrichment activities has consistently fallen.

Teachers are viewed to make too much money, yet teacher pay has not kept up with inflation.

On the accountability front there is also confusion as to state laws concerning accountability in charter schools.  This caused several people to not realize that charter schools are not responsible to the same standards as a regular public school.

The first question is what is a charter school?  Basically a charter school is a school that receives a "charter" or a document issued by a sovereign, legislature, or other authority, creating a public or private corporation, such as a city, college, or bank, and defining its privileges and purposes.

The privileges that these institutions receive:

  1. Charter schools do not have to meet the stringent guidelines of AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress) as stipulated by NCLB.
  1. Charter school performance is largely unknown, and performance is left to market mechanisms.
  1. Charter school laws have become stronger in the view of The Center for Education Research (a pro-charter school lobby).  Strong in their definition means laws that have "minimal barriers to entry, no restrictions on the number of charters, waivers from rules, aid and autonomy in finance, etc."
  1. Charter schools are able to kick-out children with behavioral and mental handicaps.
  1. Charter schools are able to hire teachers without credentials.

Key Findings about charter schools

  1. Charter schools are largely more segregated than public schools.
  1. Charter schools do not perform better, and often perform worse than standard public schools.
  1. Underperforming charter schools, that are known to be underperforming, have not lost their charter.
  1. Charter school attrition is higher than standard public schools.

As progressives we should be concerned because the biggest push for "school choice" and for the expansion of charter schools has been in urban areas.  There is a significant reason for this, and that reason is tax money.  In rural and suburban districts the majority of funding for schooling comes from local revenue sources.  The chief revenue source is local property taxes.

However, urban areas have seen a significant and unshakable blight that started with the "white flight" which occurred after racial desegregation.  The urban centers experienced a significant loss of revenue stream, and the quality of education has fallen.

As the problems have mounted politicians viewed funding these urban areas as politically unpopular.  Why fund an area with low results?  How can we reduce the amount of state and federal revenue that pours into urban areas?

The answer is charter schools.  Charter schools cost significantly less money than standard schools.  If you can spin it so that the "free-market" is at work, and that parents get more "choice" then in our society that means capitalism is at work.  Capitalism in education must be a good thing right?

When we deregulated the power industry that was great for America!!!

Except it wasn’t.

When we deregulated the phone companies that was great for America!!!

Except that it’s not.

Since we have private for profit insurance companies running our Health Care, American’s have the best health care anywhere!!!!

Except we don’t.

As charter schools in America have expanded, the overall quality of education has continued to decline.  California has the most charter schools of any state, yet its education system languishes.

Now, we have all had teachers that we did not like.  We have all had a teacher we thought was unfair.  Unfortunately, we have also had teachers that we thought were incompetent.  However, personal feelings should not be used to make statements regarding all teachers.

Just as some mechanics and doctors are bozo’s, so are some teachers.

But what do we as a society define as accountability?  Is accountability a measure on a standardized test, or is it how a person works in society for the rest of their life?  Is accountability defined in one year, or a lifetime?

We are a society that has demanded result right the F*** now!!!

However, we are also a society that has decided over an extended period of time that spending on education is something that does not need to grow at the same rate as inflation.  We are a society that has determined that spending 2.1 trillion dollars to support fat-cat bankers is O.K., but that providing modest increases in teacher and education spending is not.

We are a society that has said that we are not willing to punish school children for anti-social behavior, but we are also a society that allows over 1% of its population to be behind bars.

School performance has dropped, no one doubts that.  Not even teachers.

However, before we blame the teachers exclusively, our society might need to look itself in the mirror, and determine if our priorities are straight.  If we input less and less, but expect more and more is this fair, or is it like eating at McDonald’s and expecting 5 star quality?

Originally posted to bartct on Sat Oct 10, 2009 at 01:21 PM PDT.

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