State education board urges Legislature to transform how schools are funded

If Michigan wants its students to compete academically with students in high-performing states, it may need to change how it funds schools.

That’s the conclusion of a draft report presented to the State Board of Education this week. That report, states that Michigan is now in the “bottom tier” of states in academic achievement, and that there is “broad agreement that the system of organizing and financing education in Michigan is in need of fundamental change.”

The report comes on the heels of the Bridge series, “The Smartest Kids in the Nation,” which is cited in the State Board report. In that series, Bridge reporters visited states that are among the national leaders in academic achievement, and states that had lower classroom learning than Michigan a decade ago, but had instituted reforms that have spurred academic achievement.

Massachusetts, Minnesota, Tennessee and Florida took different approaches to improving student learning, but all invested in specific priority areas, including funneling more money to classrooms with at-risk or low-performing students.

Not all of those states spend more overall on education than Michigan - Tennessee and Florida spend significantly less – but they all focus spending on reforms they believe will help student learning, such as ensuring early-grade reading proficiency, early childhood programs and extra resources for low-income schools.

“We have to spend smarter,” State Board of Education President John Austin told the Board in its meeting Tuesday. “We have not been putting the money in strategic investments that other states have.

“All the high performing states spend money differentially; they put money where it is needed, not equal dollar per pupil.”

State Board Member Eileen Weiser said education reform in other states has worked when it is considered bipartisan. Reform in Michigan, where the State Board of Education is majority Democrat, the Legislature is majority Republican and the governor Republican, would likely need to follow the same middle-of-the road path. “In Massachusetts, it took a Republican and a Democrat to put together a commission, and (the commission) was driven by business,” Weiser said.

That reform began in 1993, when Massachusetts’ scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress were close to the scores in Michigan. Today. Massachusetts has the top schools (by NAEP scores) in the nation; Michigan’s scores in English and Math hover around 38th.

The board is expected to receive a draft report at its December meeting that outlines possible reforms.

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Tom
Thu, 11/20/2014 - 9:49am
Great idea - BUT, let's not go down the slippery slope of assuming we need more money in the aggregate. Reform the way we spend to reflect State and local priorities and if that dictates a new funding methodology, implement it, but to keep everyone honest, let's also build a restriction in the law to prohibit additional aggregated allocations to the level of inflation or a nominal percentage, whichever is less for perhaps 5 years. Smarter, targeted priorities and spending caps should allow us to cut low priority programs and reduce waste, thus allowing more money for priority spending.
Jordan
Thu, 11/20/2014 - 4:17pm
Tom, how would you know when there is no more waste left to cut? Or do you take the position that there is always waste that could be cut?
William C. Plumpe
Fri, 11/28/2014 - 10:48am
There always will be some waste. That cannot be avoided. But you want reasonable controls and requirements in place and operating that minimize waste. It appears that such controls are not now in place and operating but should be. And legislative funding mandates particularly for education can be so broad based and unrestricted that you can spend the funds on almost anything you can imagine. There needs to be more focus and direction on exactly how money can be spent. That is what budgets and accounting controls are all about.
Rich
Thu, 11/20/2014 - 10:11am
Make any increase in funding contingent upon getting rid of the MEA. People (teachers) with college degrees do not need unions. In fact those people would probably be better off without a union. They have the leverage of their education and degree.
John
Thu, 11/20/2014 - 10:28am
It is sad to see such a negative attitude toward the MEA. I do not agree with them on different issues like tenure but realize their importance for some teachers. You assume that "all" teachers with a college degree understand how to negotiate a reasonable contract for their services. Most teachers are concerned on how to educate kids in their expertise. Maybe you should talk to some elementary teachers.
Dave
Thu, 11/20/2014 - 12:09pm
The MEA is needed more than ever...it also needs to be strengthened after the state legislature did everything it could do weaken it. The idea that tax dollars should go to corporations that are for profit is dumb to say the least. All money spent for public education needs to be dedicated to the mission of educating...not profits first and then education second. One person (with any number of degrees) is no match for a well funded and lawyered up corporation.
Duane
Mon, 11/24/2014 - 10:51pm
Dave, How does MEA provide for better learning by our students? Why do you see spending more important than the learning of the students? It seems you would disqulify an orgainzation that earns a profit (including all the investments they may have made) from educationg students simply because of a profit and never give them a chance to be evaulated on how effective in helping our students succeed in their learning. Which is most important to prevent profits or for students to learn? I don't see how they would necessarily be mutally exclusive.
William C. Plumpe
Fri, 11/28/2014 - 10:52am
Blaming everything on the unions is a classic ploy of the uninformed, timid and lazy. I assume you are none of these or so I hope. Please prove me correct by thinking before you write. I'd appreciate it.
Leon L. Hulett, PE
Sat, 11/29/2014 - 10:15am
William C. Plumpe November 28, 2014 at 10:52 am Hi, it sort of looks like you are speaking for the MEA here. Let's put your ideas to a test right here: You said, 'Blaming everything on the unions is a classic ploy of the uninformed, timid and lazy.' I suggested, “I (teacher’s name) have the knowledge and skills to teach each student in my charge to the next grade level by the end of this school year. If I can do not do this, I will personally hire a tutor, to accomplish this fact, per the Michigan Constitution, before the start of the next school year.” So William, please tell me straight from your heart and soul. I assume my suggestion would have a great positive influence on education in Michigan and reduce costs. Who would you say would be the primary moving influence, if any, that might want to stop my suggestion from being implemented as a primary way to improve education by means of the way we finance education in Michigan?
Leon L. Hulett, PE
Thu, 11/20/2014 - 10:28am
Ron, I do not see this draft report as 'transformational.' (Draft: Recommendations for Change to Michigan School Organization and Finance) I feel the vision is parochial. It invites the reader to take the short view, to compare what this state is doing compared to other states who are our friends and trade partners, instead of making the comparison to our international competitors. Such as China which has a GDP growth rate of 10% trending over the last 25 years. Why are we comparing ourselves to our friends nearby when there is an elephant in the living room? The report fails to fundamentally transform the accountability of our teachers the way a simple Liquidated Damages Clause in each of their contracts would. Example Clause: "I (teacher's name) have the knowledge and skills to teach each student in my charge to the next grade level by the end of this school year. If I can do not do this, I will personally hire a tutor, to accomplish this fact, per the Michigan Constitution, before the start of the next school year." I have worked in Environmental Engineering on State of Michigan contracts. Is there any one of them that does not have a similar Liquidated Damages Clause for non-performance by a specified time? We are spending 19 billion dollars a year on this, we need to do it right. Would any of our sister states fail to follow our lead if we did this? Is this fact related to how we fund education? Absolutely! It should be in the report.
Matt G
Thu, 11/20/2014 - 1:27pm
I believe people need to stop trying to apply their field of work to teaching. Just because you went to school doesn't mean you understand how to educate a diverse group of students. Just because a contract clause works for your situatuon doesn't mean it works for teachers. It seems extremely naive (or a strawman argument) to suggest teachers be required by contract to advance students. What if the tutor fails? Should the teacher have to have a liquidated damages clause in a contract with the tutor as well? Furthermore, your suggestion indicates a profound misunderstanding of the reality that students are diversexpected learners and come from a variety of backgrounds. Getting students to learn is a community effort...you seem to want to put all the onus on individuals. What purpose or whose set of interests does that serve? Not the students, I assure you.
Duane
Mon, 11/24/2014 - 11:06pm
Matt, Why don't you think people could learn from other professions, other organizations, other functions? I believe we can all learn from other profession, other organization, other functions. Organizations and people have similarities and where those similarities exist we can learn to adapt others means and methods of success to our situations. Leon talks about accountability, I am not enamored with individual accountability, accountability of process, procedures, practices seem critical to the success of any organization or function. I would add that many successful organizations have proven successful by establishing well defined purpose for the organization or function. They include the desired results and metrics for assessing the effectiveness of the means and methods put in place to achieve the results. They have found without the accountability programs, protocols, practices become stagnant or wander from initial effectiveness. Similarly, Leon mentions tools/resources that teachers could/should draw on to achieve success when active practices aren't being effective. I have seen the availability of such resources and the expectation for individuals to drawn on those resources has been effective in improving desired results. I may disagree with how those resources are paid for, but the idea of having a pool of resources available to teachers seems an idea worth pursuing. The issue is not to reject out of hand how others are successful, but to better understand how other succeed and try to leverage their successful method apply to the situation/organization at hand to imporve results.
Ray
Thu, 11/20/2014 - 11:05am
Reform, reform, reform. It's been going on for a very long time. The problem is that there is little accountability to whether each piece of reform works. It just keep getting funded. With special education funding, a variety of title (federal programs, tutoring, at risk and on and on, there are plenty of programs for those at risk and the underserved. There are a few major problems, however. 1st is that very few countries have a one size fits all curriculum. Inevitably, some students are headed straight for failue. There is a refusal to come to grips that not all students have the ability to or desire to go to college. 2nd, I have no problem with teachers unions except for one thing-again, it's one size fits all - the gym teacher makes exactly the same as the chemistry teacher. In the real world, some are worth more and are harder to recruit. There is no recognition of that fact with teacher salaries. 3rd, all schools have fixed costs. Heat, lights bussing. If you have 40 or 60 kids on a bus, you still need a bus. This is not reflected in the current funding to schools. Also, if a district loses 20 stuents k through 12 and that averages 1 student loss per class thus reducing that class from 22 to 21, how do you lay off a teacher? And 4th, technology is playing an increasing role in education. But there is no funding set aside for each school. So this scenario creates winners and losers. These are a few examples of issues that I feel should be looked at. Just my thoughts.
Thu, 11/20/2014 - 12:59pm
Truly the Charter School thing is not much good because there are no checks on the kids learning. The ArrowSmith school in Canada seems to have a better way of teaching kids which allows them to learn better. The program has a track record of performance. I guess the Administrators in Michigan schools do not want to do a good job. I guess the Teachers Union in Michigan does not want to help either. They, the Administrators and the Teachers Union are as bad as each other. James Thornton
Leon L. Hulett, PE
Thu, 11/20/2014 - 3:58pm
re: Matt G November 20, 2014 at 1:27 pm Hi Matt, thanks for your thoughts. You said, "Just because a contract clause works for your situation doesn’t mean it works for teachers." Can you tell me how this does not work for a teacher that has the knowledge and skills to advance the students in her charge? It will work for teachers in exactly the same way it works for all other professionals contracting with The State of Michigan, or with any other prime contractor in our complex economy. You said, "It seems extremely naive (or a strawman argument) to suggest teachers be required by contract to advance students." I submit that this is the expectation of every parent who sends a child to school. Is it not the unwritten promise of every teacher that accepts a contract to teach our children? You said, "What if the tutor fails?" I think nearly all teachers, just like any other responsible contractor, would assume sufficient responsibility and the accountability to see to it that the tutor was never needed. They would only contract to do what they can do. You said, "Should the teacher have to have a liquidated damages clause in a contract with the tutor as well?" The tutor should only contract 'to do what they can do.' From my experience they do this already. If they have contracted to help a student through Algebra II in 25 hours, they may exceed the 25 hours, but they certainly do get the student through Algebra II. Best wishes, - Leon
Matt G
Thu, 11/20/2014 - 9:51pm
Leon- Allow me to respond in an elaborated manner. Hopefully it will allow you to more clearly understand the other side of the argument. "Can you tell me how this does not work for a teacher that has the knowledge and skills to advance the students in her charge?" It won't work for teachers because they do not all have equal predictable work from school to school and year to year. Teachers are not in control of the quality of their students. Why would a teacher who is punished for failure (required to pay for a tutor) ever consider teaching in a low income district? "I submit that this is the expectation of every parent who sends a child to school. Is it not the unwritten promise of every teacher that accepts a contract to teach our children?" Not all children learn at the same pace or are ready to learn certain subjects at certain times. Age/Grade level based advancement is an artificial categorization which harms all students that do not "fit the mold" of what, for example, a 5th grader "should be". Who's to say every single child in America is ready to learn XYZ subject by November 1st of their 10th year? Hell, some students are nearly a year apart even though they're in the same grade. Not allowing for wiggle room may increase "efficiency" by some measure, but ultimately it leaves particular students in the dust...and allegedly we're supposed to "no child left behind". This is a frequent mistake people and organizations make in their quest for maximum efficiency...they ignore the tails of the bell curve and are later somehow surprised when the exceptions actually occur. Shouldn't a student's reaction to material be the guide for his/her learning and not some artificial schedule set by the state? To directly answer your question, of course most parents expect that their child will progress to the next grade by the end of the year. I think it should be abundantly clear, however, that parents' perceptions of the abilities of their children are inherently biased and ultimately, functionally irrelevant to a teacher's work. It doesn't matter in the classroom if you think your 8 year old is gifted, just as it doesn't matter if you think your child has dyslexia. You're not entitled to your own facts. "I think nearly all teachers, just like any other responsible contractor, would assume sufficient responsibility and the accountability to see to it that the tutor was never needed." Again, this assumes even distribution of students among regions/cities/districts/classrooms when we know that is impossible. I might be inclined to agree with you if only we lived in a perfect world. "If they have contracted to help a student through Algebra II in 25 hours, they may exceed the 25 hours, but they certainly do get the student through Algebra II. " What is your experience with this, exactly? Are you referring to paid one-on-one tutoring services? I think education funding would need to be increased significantly to pay (through your teacher failure punishment idea) for that for every student who might benefit from tutoring. I'm not sure how any time frame like "25 hours" is reliably predictable in say, an urban school district. Comparing a classroom with 30 students to tutoring doesn't seem useful to me. In my opinion, our schools need to be more democratic, or "rule of the people". Students need more control over the how/what/when they learn, and parents need to be engaged in their kids' schools. Everyone needs to be part of the process rather than insiders versus outsiders. We have to ask ourselves what we believe the purpose of education is. If we're supposedly educating students because we need educated citizens of our democracy, then they need to learn how to participate in democratic discussions and deliberation. Ultimately, that means we all need to learn the art and process of democracy at a young age. What better way than allowing students to make decisions about their own learning? Behavioral economics studies have shown us that money isn't what drives us. Once you're paid enough to not have daily money worries, money stops being a serious motivator for all but a very few money-obsessed people. Using money as reward or punishment often produces unintended consequences. Plans like your liquidated damage clause idea would likely demotivate teachers rather than incentivize results and behaviors. Rather, emphasizing purpose and autonomy leads to an intrinsic desire to learn and achieve (as opposed to extrinsic reward or punishment). If not "educating for democracy", what is the purpose or goal of education in your opinion? Is it economic? Corporate? Perhaps mulling over that will help to reframe the argument for you. I appreciate your replies even though we don't agree. -Matt
Leon L. Hulett, PE
Fri, 11/21/2014 - 9:10pm
Matt G November 20, 2014 at 9:51 pm Thank you for your more elaborate response and your willingness to give me a closer look at this issue. I am basically an advocate here for the student. So I find your opinions such as: 'schools need to be more democratic', 'rule of the people', 'students need more control...', and 'parents need to be engaged...' most refreshing. And most especially your idea; 'Everyone needs to be part of the process rather than insiders versus outsiders. We may disagree on other things, but on these matters we seem to agree. Allow me to change the sequence of my response to your thoughts, as I make an attempt to prioritize our thoughts here. You ask, 'What is the purpose or goal of education, in my opinion.' I made my suggestion to be a simplicity. A simple thing that all may agree upon, or not; that is workable, and could actually solve the state of education that we have. Or much of it. So the purpose of this suggestion is to more closely align what teachers are doing - to what the Constitution already mandates. Teachers already work with contracts and there many requirements, or clauses. One additional Clause is an easy step to grasp or reject. It could have a profound effect. If a teacher did not feel they had sufficient ability to perform at this quality level, this could be addressed by effective enrichment courses. As you said, about diversity, if the school's students were too diverse, then the students could be grouped into smaller groups. I was asked by a local teacher to give a little course on applying knowledge to an Algebra II class. He said the highest student in the class had achieved a 15 on the ACT. He could tell me no more. Since this was to be a class of 18 and the school had about 100 juniors, I estimated that there must be 5 sections, with the bottom of the bell curve consolidated in this one class. So there are remedies available for diversity. Make smaller groupings and hire skilled teachers that are willing to teach them. I wrote the Mission Statement for our local school about 20 years ago, and although they do not seem to follow it much, and have sought to change it, it remains. I realized some time after writing it that I had not written what I believed, but what the school needed to coalesce their thoughts at that time. I would prefer something more inspiring myself, all those ideas do not appear on the school newsletter each month. The one I wrote does. They had also been dead-locked on a statement for their Goal. I submitted one of my ideas, and it remains dead-locked. The school publishes no Goal. I think it is unlikely that a school, or group, will agree on a purpose or Goal unless the school board and superintendent, and each of the individuals involved, has defined these two terms carefully. I use these two definitions: A Goal is a long term objective one intends to accomplish. A Purpose is short term objective one intends to accomplish. I have written three or four statements for a Goal for education, and one The True Goal of Education. One time years ago I did an extensive study on goals. I had put together a newspaper for my Engineering department and interviewed all 25 Project Engineers about their goals and being goal-oriented for a story. It turned out they were not goal-oriented at all. Big surprise to me. So, thirty years later, I work with kids to help them realize their own Basic Purposes. From this viewpoint, the student's own viewpoint, not the viewpoint of a school or education system, I help the student to define his or her own Basic Purpose. It is unique for each person. I first help the student define 'purpose' and then 'goal' then define what a Basic Purpose is: 'A child can be considered to have formed his general basic purpose in life somewhere around the age of two...' 'He will have tried to hold this main purpose throughout his life...' Where he has been successful he will be seen to be working on his purpose. Where he has been unsuccessful, he will be found to have strayed from that purpose. Where he or she has been happy - basic purpose, where he or she has been unhappy - basic purpose not in play. And so on. This Basic Purpose is what the Basic Personality of the individual does. It should be encouraged. A very diligent History teacher told me he had looked at over 30 purposes for learning History. He told me what he had resolved as the best one. I told him, 'The best one was the one that brought the subject alive for the student.' It would most likely be advanced by the student himself. The light bulbs turn on when the student does this. My goal for education, expressed from the viewpoint of the student, is to help the student understand what he or she wants to do in life, and to help him or her to do it. I hope you find this democratic. You gave three reasons why you thought my suggestion will not work for teachers: 1. They do not all have equal predictable work from school to school, and year to year. 2. Teachers are not in control of the quality of their students. 3. Why would a teacher who is punished for failure (required to pay for a tutor.) ever consider teaching in a low income district? 1. This would be true with or without my suggestion. Right? Now this is a broad, very general statement to make, I think. We can qualify it with some facts. Schools are fairly stable, year to year, so there will be so many jobs, year to year, in any case. A school has a stability, the community it serves is also stable, usually. So the nature of the students that attend a school has a known consistency. As I said above, if a school has five sections of a course, no doubt, the brightest will be in the Honor's section. Most of the students will be known to the teachers from the previous years. I think, depending on the skill level of a teacher, this work may be more predictable than you suggest. Right? Accepting a contract, with my suggested clause, for a year gives a teacher a very reliable means to predict the level of effort, does it not? 2. Again this is true with or without my suggestion. Or is it? After the first year with my suggestion, each teacher knows exactly the quality of the students coming to the next grade level from a teacher conforming to the Constitution. So with my suggestion this amounts to a one-year transition period; before - no control, after certainty and predictability. If I have your agreement so far, I have only to show how this first year of transition may be accomplished without too much pain. Here is an Example: When my oldest son was in fourth grade, he had a reading level of one year six months. Big problem for the fourth grade teacher...and my son. We consulted a tutor, who did their own testing and they confirmed my son's reading level, and the specific things he was having trouble with. They estimated 25 hours at so many dollars, to fix it. My wife and I approved, and they delivered the 25 hours. Over the next 9 months my son also read 97 books, from simple to more complex at a local library reading program under their supervision. He tested at 9th grade reading level. We had him tested each year for two years, and he increased his reading rate at 2 grade levels per year, and we did not bother to test him after that. He was then in sixth grade at school. 3. Let me ask this question: Why would any teacher under the existing system consider teaching (and failing horribly) in a low income district? A Guest Commentary here on Bridge by Kary Moss discussed a low performing school and her company's, ACLU's, representation of 8 of their students. If memory serves me that school tested out with a Third Grade Reading Proficiency of 11 percent, and Math and Science were both zero percent. Her commentary connected to case data and presented the actual tested levels of the eight students of the Class Action Suit. One was an 11th grader with the reading proficiency of a third grader. Her Class Action suit charges the state with the failure to teach these children. No one represents the rest of the school. The students of that school were transferred to a Charter and the Charter school seemed to be having about the same horrible level of failure. Those schools represented about 1000 Michigan students. Why would you support such a status quo, over a suggestion that guaranteed improving these students to grade level and compliance with the Constitution? I'll have to continue this tomorrow, I have run out of time. Thanks again, Leon
Matt G
Sat, 11/22/2014 - 10:18am
Leon- Thank you for continuing to respond at length. This is definitely the level of effort we need to address these sorts of issues. Unfortunately, it is all too easy to become overwhelmed with the complexities of the task we have before us as citizens. I believe people generally have two responses to being overwhelmed by complexity. They either advocate for a simplistic "common sense" (usually top-down) approach or a hands-off (bottom-up) approach. Think of various political issues and whether or not people argue for bottom-up or top-down solutions. I'll give you some examples to frame the idea. Business (liberals want top-down regulation, conservatives want bottom-up "free market" Abortion (liberals want bottom-up "leave it to individual choice" and conservatives want top-down "make it illegal at the federal level") Immigration (conservatives want top-down "keep illegals out" and liberals want bottom-up "you can't stop people from getting in, so let's embrace it" Economy (both mainstream political parties advocate for top-down control of the economy (federal reserve, etc) Now, not all of these examples are as cut and dry as I'm making them, but the point is to illustrate the difference between the two types of solutions and point out that both are argued for by everyone at some point (except for the most extreme people). Note that "bottom-up" doesn't mean "no rules"...it just means the people at the bottom level are responsible for making the rules and not the people at the top. I would argue that your solution is top-down, and I hope you will come to see it for what it is and that bottom-up solutions are a very good way to ensure complex systems are as healthy as possible. If you want to advocate for students, then you MUST advocate for teachers as part of "the bottom" in the hierarchy of the State's education system. Top-down solutions require predictability, whereas bottom-up solutions do not. Top-down seems elegant on paper and bottom-up feels uncertain. That said, I would argue that predictability of complex systems is an illusion at best and bottom-up solutions are required. We need unpredictable systems to deal with uncertain futures. We convince ourselves that we are smart enough to predict, but humans collectively fail at prediction with terrifying regularity (banking/housing crises, war in Iraq, standardized testing, etc). Think about the following: Let's shift your suggestion to another domain. Would your contract clause work for the military? Can sergeants in the military predict combat? Could you have a contract with a sergeant requiring him/her to assault a position with zero casualties by a certain time or date? How many soldiers would it take to achieve zero casualties? Would you consider it possible for a sergeant to hire extra soldiers to fulfill his/her contract? Most people would consider the above questions to be obviously facetious, however I assure you: THAT is exactly what you are asking teachers to do. Everyone knows the sergeant is not in control. The sergeant in combat is awash in an ever-changing sea of unpredictable circumstances. While a certain solution may work on one battlefield, the next will have different terrain. The weather changes day to day. Equipment fails. Disease spreads. Soldiers have mental difficulties. I'm sure we could both come up with many other examples. The teacher exists in a similar environment, yet somehow we all expect the teacher I believe the comparing teaching to combat ends there, but I hope you get the idea: predictability is often an illusion. Steven Norton replied to you (in a different thread below) with a similar notion: "It’s fairly easy to make sure middle-class kids from stable homes are at grade level (unless they have a disability of some sort, which is yet another issue). But can a teacher reverse the effect of poor pre-natal care? Of lead contamination in early childhood? Of homelessness? Of poor nutrition? The list goes on. Did you know that one in four Michigan children live under the poverty level?" Teachers cannot predictably correct for these things any more than a sergeant can correct for the weather or lack of a soldier trained in the use of a particular weapons system. Let's look at a few of your premises: 1) "Schools are fairly stable, year to year, so there will be so many jobs, year to year, in any case. A school has a stability, the community it serves is also stable, usually. So the nature of the students that attend a school has a known consistency." I think this is both irrelevant and inaccurate. Large school districts often lose and gain many hundreds of students each year. While the overall numbers may be relatively stable, there is lots of flow in and out of a given system. This premise is irrelevant either way, however, because the notion that you can rely on "the usual" is a fallacy. When the most important thing is the outcome, you need to be highly concerned with the tails of the bell curve...the outliers matter. If a given district happened to be stable, then ONLY the outliers would affect the outcome. Do you see? When you ensure "stability" of a certain type, you guarantee that eventually the system will be turned on its head by an outlier and you will be flabbergasted that your perfect system has failed. 2) "After the first year with my suggestion, each teacher knows exactly the quality of the students coming to the next grade level from a teacher conforming to the Constitution. So with my suggestion this amounts to a one-year transition period; before – no control, after certainty and predictability." Don't be a turkey. Try this: A turkey gets fed every day for 600 days. Every day the nice farmer comes and feeds her. The turkey is quite content with the predictability of the feeding schedule and the nice farmer. Imagine a graph of the turkey's total amount of food eaten over time. The turkey goes to sleep on November 25th, assuming the feeding trend will continue, but oops...Thanksgiving is coming up and it turns out the turkey is actually not being fed on the 26th. You get the idea, I hope? Can you predict the amount of stress on your body? Today? Tomorrow? Next year? In 15 years? The advocate for predictability would argue that humans are inefficient...that two kidneys or lungs are ugly and redundant. Yet, given the right kind of stress, not having both kills you. Not having redundancy and "wiggle room" changes outcomes when stress changes. Evolution tells us that redundancy is often worth the extra resources. Don't want to give up a lung or kidney? Interesting.... Again, I think you're convincing yourself predictability can exist where it cannot. We have a cultural problem with prediction. 3) "Why would you support such a status quo, over a suggestion that guaranteed improving these students to grade level and compliance with the Constitution?" I think we already established that I do not support the status quo...? I just don't in any way share the idea that your suggestion is "guaranteed improvement". I think it would be a guaranteed detriment.
Leon L. Hulett, PE
Wed, 11/26/2014 - 8:31pm
Matt G November 20, 2014 at 9:51 pm Matt, you raised some other excellent points and asked some additional questions on your Comment that I would like to talk about: "Again, this assumes even distribution of students among regions/cities/districts/classrooms when we know that is impossible. I might be inclined to agree with you if only we lived in a perfect world." You have invented a simple way to reject any new idea; you say something I did not assume, and then you say that we know this assumption is impossible. Therefore you may reject the new idea with a simple sweep of the hand. That is not my assumption, I do not believe there is an even distribution of students. I said, “If they have contracted to help a student through Algebra II in 25 hours, they may exceed the 25 hours, but they certainly do get the student through Algebra II. ” What is your experience with this, exactly? I am a tutor, and I am a father that purchased a tutoring package, 25 hours, to solve a Reading problem my oldest son had long ago when he was in the fourth grade. The tutor tested my son before before the tutoring and that agreed with the school's assessment. He estimated how long it would take and did it in that time frame. The quality of his product was vastly greater than I had dreamed. He tested my son after the tutoring. I had him tested each year till he passed 12th grade reading level. "Are you referring to paid one-on-one tutoring services?" Yes, for my son. But I do not do one-on-one tutoring, and I do not charge anything. I do two or more students at one time. "I think education funding would need to be increased significantly...for every student who might benefit from tutoring." I think not. I think it would more likely reduce the cost of education substantially, or let's say we kept the costs the same and a great increase in quality could be achieved. Using my son's case as one of many possible examples; He had trouble in Reading and was in 4th grade. He was 1 year 6 months level. The tutor estimated 25 hours to fix it. This was done. He after nine months he was at 9th grade Reading level, and by Grade 6 with his own outside interest in and extensive Reading, he was as 12th plus. This 25 hours was the tutor's estimate. I think each tutor would make their own estimate. Let's guess that each student would be different, and each amount of gain would be different. Now what is the cost to do as you or others suggest which is to ignore me, ignore 'reformers', ignore parents that have a higher estimation of what their child can do? If I had done that I would have had a child at First Grade Reading level, where the school had given up on him, when the school placed him in Sixth Grade. He would have felt he was a failure instead of a powerhouse that powerhouse my wife and I knew was there. The five grades, from 1 to 6 that would have been wasted would cost $14,000 for 5 years ($70,000) at current rates in Michigan and the product would have been failures, just like Kary Moss's 8 kids in her ACLU Class Action law suite with a school and the state of Michigan. Let's see if he continued on 12th grade, that would be about 10 years, or $140,000 for one student. The $500 I spent for that 25 hours that resulted in a 12th grade product, in sixth-grade seems a lot more enlighten choice. 'I’m not sure how any time frame like “25 hours” is reliably predictable in say, an urban school district. Comparing a classroom with 30 students to tutoring doesn’t seem useful to me.' My son was three years below grade level. I did not present that number as a reliable prediction for each student in a class of 30, or all of Michigan. I presented the fact, the knowledge, that tutoring can and has, done such things. How many students in Michigan would say would test out as 3 years below grade level? 'In my opinion, our schools need to be more democratic, or “rule of the people”. Students need more control over the how/what/when they learn, and parents need to be engaged in their kids’ schools. Everyone needs to be part of the process rather than insiders versus outsiders.' I agree. If this idea is important to you we should talk, shouldn't we? 'We have to ask ourselves what we believe the purpose of education is. If we’re supposedly educating students because we need educated citizens of our democracy, then they need to learn how to participate in democratic discussions and deliberation. Ultimately, that means we all need to learn the art and process of democracy at a young age. What better way than allowing students to make decisions about their own learning?' I agree. I have done a program to learn just how to do this, at least one way to do this. Would you know about it? 'behavioral economics studies have shown us that money isn’t what drives us. Once you’re paid enough to not have daily money worries, money stops being a serious motivator for all but a very few money-obsessed people. Using money as reward or punishment often produces unintended consequences. Plans like your liquidated damage clause idea would likely demotivate teachers rather than incentivize results and behaviors.' I can assure you that if a teacher feels they are being prevented from teaching as well as they can, or they no longer like teaching because it is different from what they dreamed it might be. Those two factors are more powerful than what you have outlined. 'Rather, emphasizing purpose and autonomy leads to an intrinsic desire to learn and achieve (as opposed to extrinsic reward or punishment).' I think you have somehow confused my suggestion with a 'Rewards/Punishment Philosophy.' I would guess that to be some modern restatement of Pavlob's 'Pain Drive Theory.' My suggestion has absolutely nothing to do with Pavlov, and it is wrong of you assume that it does. 'If not “educating for democracy”, what is the purpose or goal of education in your opinion? Is it economic? Corporate? Perhaps mulling over that will help to reframe the argument for you.' As I have said, I have 'mulled this over' for many years. I found that a goal, may have two sides. For example, my definition of goal is possibly different than yours. A goal is 'a long term objecting one intends to achieve.' So a negative to that would be what we must NOT do, what we do not intend to do when we are working towards our goal. So here is a statement of a goal written from that viewpoint: "To preserve the Intelligence, Creativity and Initiative of the individual while increasing the social, moral and cultural level of society." 'I appreciate your replies even though we don’t agree.' Yes that is true, we do not agree. But we are still talking. I would like to write something for you on the 'infinite valued logic' I mentioned. Would you like it? Warm regards, -Leon
John Rose
Thu, 11/20/2014 - 4:10pm
Thanks Matt G your response is spot on!! Everyone thinks that they are an expert in education and want to apply their own work place situation to education...not going to work. I wonder if the American Medical Association would allow all folks without any training in medicine to make determinations regarding how they should do things such as operation procedures or dealing with specific illnesses. Yet in education, anyone who has a voice thinks that they are an expert. Before we start poor mouthing things like MEA/AFT or Administrators et al. we should look at and design strategies that have an impact on improving what needs to be improved. Also, those with educational expertise should be involved with process to help improve education...what a novel thought!
Leon L. Hulett, PE
Thu, 11/20/2014 - 5:33pm
re: John Rose November 20, 2014 at 4:10 pm Hi John, Regarding your thought on Matt G's critical comment to me, "Spot on!!", may I tap into your expertise? You said, "we should look at and design strategies that have an impact on improving what needs to be improved." Could you discuss what you feel, as an expert educator, needs to be improved and compare the relative merits of your suggested strategies, to my suggestion (at the state level) to have a liquidated damage clause in each teacher contract in Michigan, requiring every teacher to teach their subject to grade level per the Michigan Constitution. This would effectively eliminate 'social promotion' as Tennessee did in two grade levels only, and effectively eliminates 'holding students back' as well. Best wishes, Leon
Fri, 11/21/2014 - 11:09am
You are making the assumption that everything that matters is under a teacher's control. That's far from the truth. If this kind of clause is so wonderful, why don't we see it being used in medicine or law? It's because the same effort on the part of the practitioner can result in wildly different outcomes in different cases. And sometimes no amount of effort will be enough. So should we develop a system where we punish people for taking on challenges unless they know they can be successful? Your underlying premise is similar to that which lies behind most of the so-called "reform" legislation we have seen over the past few years. That is: the notion that successfully educating any student is a process which is known and fairly easy to accomplish with a reasonable amount of work. In fact, all schools are struggling to address the needs of many different kinds of students. It's fairly easy to make sure middle-class kids from stable homes are at grade level (unless they have a disability of some sort, which is yet another issue). But can a teacher reverse the effect of poor pre-natal care? Of lead contamination in early childhood? Of homelessness? Of poor nutrition? The list goes on. Did you know that one in four Michigan children live under the poverty level? We need to build a system where we do the best we can for all children, and ensure that those who work with the most challenged children are assisted and not punished for taking on a more difficult task. Your proposal, like most of the legislation we have seen recently, would do the opposite.
R.L.
Thu, 11/20/2014 - 7:54pm
Rich what planet are you from. The fact that a teacher has a college degree doesn't give him or her THE LEVERGE to negotiate their own contract. I agree tenure has it's disadvantages and at times has been abused but AT WILL contracts gives way too much opportunity for districts to get rid of people who cost to much or don't agree with the administration. What's your occupation? R.L.
Duane
Thu, 11/20/2014 - 8:34pm
What is disappointing is that there is no talk of what to change except how and who spends the money. The reality is that Mr. Austin and the State Board of Education have less leverage/control then they want with the current per pupil allocation of funding. If the per pupil funding is changed or eliminated then the distribution of tax dollars will be place either in direct of indirect control of the State Board and its President, and he/they will then pcik their winners and losers. The impact of local school boards and taxpayers will be eroded. What is most concerning is that we only hear from Mr. Austin about how other states spend not how they get results and how Michigan will get better results. I wonder if Mr. Austin will divert moneys from the successful schools risking their successes to simply expand failing schools spending with no accountability for the effectiveness of the added spending. All this articel suggests is another power play to get control of more money without any change in results or accountablity. I would be more interested if Mr. Austin would have more interested in explaining the successes around our state and how they could be leveraged in other districts and then how incremental funding changes maybe made to facilitate the successes. Maybe I have become to sensitized to being considered a 'stupid' voter but I am ever more skeptical when the talk is only about money and nothing about results and holding programs/agencies accountable for the results they get for spending other people's money.
Duane
Thu, 11/20/2014 - 8:42pm
I have now become very sensitzed to the claims of a need for 'bipartisanship' in just the past year, it seems those that make such pleas are those who are most partisan and are least interested in results. When we talk about education it should be about students learning not about partisanship or bipartisanship. The article points out the partisan make-up of the Board and the Legislature, that suggest to me that Mr. French sees education less important to the partisan parties in these two bodies than partisanship. With his including this in the article makes me even less likely to support anything that is coming out of the School Board for I would have thought they would have been more concerned about student learning and program successes than party politics. Mr. Austin only sees money and the Board only sees partisanship, Mr. French has made me more dougthful about the value of the State School Board and the hope for learning success in our schools.
Harris
Fri, 11/21/2014 - 7:39am
The State Board is more nuanced than the commentators here would have it. And really less partisan. Can any one read the following recommendation without the sense of the haircut that is coming? • Mushrooming costs of the retirement system: the total unfunded accrued liability for MPSERs increased from $12 billion in 2009 to $25 billion; and to cope total MPSERs specific funding has increased five-fold from $155 million in 2012 to $883 million today [citing CRC Report, October 2014]. Likewise there are some useful recommendations regarding Prop A that should be considered, too, specifically the differential treatment of technology.
Leon L. Hulett, PE
Sat, 11/22/2014 - 6:16pm
Steven Norton November 21, 2014 at 11:09 am Hi Steven, Thanks for your comments. You and Matt G are mentioning some of the same factors. I am actually an advocate for students. I am also a problem solver. This one suggestion for teachers, seems to me, to be one very simple idea and an elegant solution that I believe just might work. Let me address your first comment: You said, "You are making the assumption that everything that matters is under a teacher’s control." This is not my assumption, at least in the way you have stated it and that I understand you. I might re-state your words as, 'The things a teacher does have within her or his control, (namely having sufficient; pay, initiative, skills, knowledge, and resources to accomplish a given task with the students she expects to encounter) is sufficient to accomplish bringing a student from the previous grade level up to the next grade level by the end of a given school year, or before the start of the next. I do not believe the wording of a Clause to accomplish that needs to include all the resources we know a teacher in Michigan has access to. If a teacher can not confidently do this, her teacher training and Certification, violates the Michigan Constitution, and should be improved by some means. Do you agree? If a teacher does not have the confidence to sign such a contract, and the initiative to see it through to completion, and another teacher does. Which should I hire to do my work? Which would you, as a school board member, hire to do the work needed? 'That’s far from the truth. If this kind of clause is so wonderful, why don’t we see it being used in medicine or law?' This type of idea reminds me of being an inventor and how certain seemingly harmless ideas, brought forward by others, are lethal to inventors. I am also an inventor. We operate on faith, knowing something is true, and seeing it through till others also see it in more practical terms. A team from Boeing once flew down to Burbank to meet with me, meet with our company. I was in-charge of our Commercial Aviation Group. They had a problem with noise on their 767. They were designing the 767 at that time. Their vibrations people said when the 767 was cruising, the sound of the engines would be too loud for the passengers. Their 767 structures people could not solve this. I looked into it, with the faith that I could solve this, even though no practical end was in sight. I talked to my top three designers separately, each had vast experience in such things. When they understood the problem, they each said, coincidentally, 'You can't have your cake and eat to.' Now, they did not say, 'If a huge company like Boeing can not solve this problem, how could we?' They did not say that, but they also could not solve this problem or even offer any hope. I took my faith in my own ability into a quite room and worked it out by myself. I had my solution drawn up and personally took it to Boeing who accepted it. They were awestruck. I had invented something their Engineers had not thought of. But they had not told me... that they had so little hope a solution, that they had made a decision to move on already. Passengers on the 767 aircraft still hear an uncomfortable buzz when cruising to each city. But it is not because there is not an actual solution for it out there, it is because Boeing did not implement it. If an inventor takes a suggestion like yours to heart, his faith will die, and excellent workable ideas (or possibly poor ones) may suffer the same fate. I do not take your suggestion to heart, it is not that it does not have a certain kind of truth to it, it is more true that that is not where winning ideas or inventions come from. Because a new idea has not been used extensively in the areas you mention does not mean it is not used extensively by the state of Michigan in contracts already. It, your idea, certainly does not solve the problem at hand. 'It’s because the same effort on the part of the practitioner can result in wildly different outcomes in different cases. And sometimes no amount of effort will be enough. So should we develop a system where we punish people for taking on challenges unless they know they can be successful?' Steven, we already have such a system. Its our economy. Ask anyone that starts a small business. I'll wager that each one, that lasts more than 3 years, will say or agree, that if they knew it was going to be this hard, to be this punishing, cause this much stress and damage, that they would not have done it. Where do we find such people? Our economy and way of life depend on them, on this kind of toughness. How do we train such people? Shall we look to our public school system? Will they serve as an example to us in this way? I'm saying let's challenge ourselves, to help teachers accept contracts they know they can be successful with. That Michigan can be successful with. I challenged a team one time to far more than this. My company accepted a contract (was forced to accept a tough contract, which they handed to me with a curious smile.) to design, test and build 88 new parts in 21 days. Each day I heard the same thing from my team. 'Don't ask me to do any more.' 'We can't do this!' 'It can not be done!' Each day I listened patiently. Then I asked, 'Why not?' I came to understand the exact problems they were going to be facing that day, and I came up with a name for it. I called it, 'a why.' Each day I took their 'why' and made it my business to solve just that. Each of 21 days, I gave my team a new target. First day, 'You have three days to get this part made, tested, and inspected.' Three days later, the part failed the testing, and had to be done again. I set a new target. 'You have 2 days to get this part done.' Each day I heard their complaints. Each day, I gave a new target. Each day they became more desperate in their pleas. Each day I asked, 'Why not?' And they would give me a 'why', or more than one. Each day I kept the faith. Each day I made their 'why' vanish before them. Each day I watched as they made their newest target with pride. Soon they were wearing sports coats and had the highest morale you ever saw. They were producing actual products at a rate that was the envy of everyone, all their associates in the company. The last target was for the last 18 parts in one day. They made their target, all parts passed, and my company met its delivery. This is our economy. Desperate, tough, demanding, smart, internationally competitive. So this is my question to you, 'Why not?' What if we take this as an example of a 'supervisor' instead of an 'employee'? What if we envision a Clause for 'the Principal' of a school, that supervises our 'Teacher'? Maybe something like this, a Clause like this; 'I have the knowledge and skills, initiative and authority, to supervise these teachers in such a way that each one can confidently take the students I have given her, from one grade level to the next. If there is any day one of my teachers can not do this, I will personally provide a tutor, or other training, or other services, or another teacher, to correct the teacher deficiency, and keep my students on track to the next grade level.' If you were a school board member, would you hire such a person? 'Your underlying premise is similar to that which lies behind most of the so-called “reform” legislation we have seen over the past few years. That is: the notion that successfully educating any student is a process which is known and fairly easy to accomplish with a reasonable amount of work.' If our teachers are in fact professionals, and are in fact trained to make this a reality, and do in fact sign contracts each year to do these exact things, this is a reasonable expectation. Is it not? If they have a management that cares enough to be tough enough to get it done, then this is reasonable. Or perhaps you feel we Americans do not have this in us anymore? 'In fact, all schools are struggling to address the needs of many different kinds of students. It’s fairly easy to make sure middle-class kids from stable homes are at grade level (unless they have a disability of some sort, which is yet another issue).' 'But can a teacher reverse the effect of poor pre-natal care?' I say, Yes!' I am not saying a teacher does this herself, I'm saying she accomplishes the contracted result by using the tools available to her. Take for example, let's say a very tough example, Down's Syndrome. The water has been very muddied on this issue, but if you understand what I say here, it will clarify less contentious issues. I will try to make it as simple as possible. There is a Dr. Wallace that has demonstrated the cause of Down's Syndrome. He says it is a zinc deficiency. He has taken a simian (monkey) mother and created a Down's child. Then he has taken this same mother corrected the zinc deficiency and produced a normal child. There is a Dr. Turkell in Detroit, who has demonstrated a treatment of Down's Syndrome that brings their capability up to the normal range. He says the extra chromosome produces extra hormones in the body, and his treatment removes most of these extra things. A teacher that has parents seek effective, competent, medical treatment for such impairments can successfully complete her contract, without excuses. 'Of lead contamination in early childhood?' Again, 'Yes.' There are effective treatments out there to remove lead and other heavy metals, in the time frame of a one year contract. 'Of homelessness?' Yes, the teacher can make herself aware of the resources in her area. She does not personally provide the 'home' she uses the resources available to her. 'Of poor nutrition?' Yes. 'The list goes on.' Yes it does, and so the answers are available to any teacher that has the initiative to sign such a contract and seek out the solutions already available to her. 'Did you know that one in four Michigan children live under the poverty level?' Before we go forward from here, I would like you to do a quick calculation. If we add the various state, federal and local contributions to education and other resources available to each of your 'one in four' what does the household income (including benefits now) come up to? If I divide $19 billion by 1.5 million for the state level that is one part, I believe federal is about 6% and so on. Now as to why you bring up all these things, that should be obvious to any competent teacher? Maybe you should tell me. 'We need to build a system where we do the best we can for all children, and ensure that those who work with the most challenged children are assisted and not punished for taking on a more difficult task. Your proposal, like most of the legislation we have seen recently, would do the opposite.' I disagree. You are not doing the best for all children, you are just throwing out a bunch of general things that are difficult to grasp, to hopefully (for you) to counter an otherwise workable suggestion. I request that you read my various comments here and elsewhere on Bridge, take them into a quiet room for your personal inspection, and consider thoughtfully what might be accomplished for students in Michigan if we took a tougher position with teachers and other persons contracted for and personally responsible right now for the education of children in Michigan. China's contribution to the world has increased at a rate of 10 percent each year for the last 25 years. Their influence in the world will surpass ours in two years if we do nothing. We need to act in a new way. We need to be tougher. We need to be tougher with people that tell us they are doing the very best that can be done, while we slip further and further from what is most needed in a global marketplace. I hope I have not roughed you up too much. Best wishes, Leon
Leon L. Hulett, PE
Sun, 11/23/2014 - 12:38am
Matt G November 22, 2014 at 10:18 am Matt- I still would like to say some other things on the other post, but this looks interesting too. 'it is all too easy to become overwhelmed with the complexities of the task we have before us as citizens.' I do not feel overwhelmed, but then no one has expected me to do much of anything. I am not involved in this world (education) all that much. I am not a teacher, but I did do five years as a substitute, long ago, for my own edification. I did run for school board, but was not elected. I did write the Mission Statement for a local school, but that was sort of a fluke. I did get a call from a local television station producer, and did an hour on-camera interview with a reporter, who misrepresented herself. I demonstrated on-camera the cause of ADD, by causing the symptoms to appear to her. Then I removed the symptoms. I demonstrated how to remove these symptoms in children. She had 40 minutes of airtime, but only allowed 18 seconds for me, saying the exact cause of these symptoms. She then spent the other 40 minutes selling something else...drugs, aka Ritalin. Her message was totally the opposite of mine. Mine was one that there is a solution that can be applied academically in the classroom. Basically, she was saying what I represented was ridiculous. I'm unhappy about that, but not overwhelmed. 'I believe people generally have two responses to being overwhelmed by complexity. They either advocate for a simplistic “common sense” (usually top-down) approach or a hands-off (bottom-up) approach.' I understand this logic, as an example of the syllogism, written about by Aristotle. I advocate for children, and parents, I guess. I don't normally think in terms of this 'two valued logic.' I usually think in terms of infinity valued logic. A little more, a little less, like that. I can explain, if you have a place below for something. 'Think of various political issues and whether or not people argue for bottom-up or top-down solutions. I’ll give you some examples to frame the idea.' 'Business (liberals want top-down regulation, conservatives want bottom-up “free market”)' I think both want more government, I want less, and less regulation, and protection from monopolies. 'Abortion (liberals want bottom-up “leave it to individual choice” and conservatives want top-down “make it illegal at the federal level”)' I think most religious people are not in favor of abortion for religious reasons. So they are not in favor of government spending money to promote this or on this, or on contraception. I think liberals are actually talking about funding, and that would mean government funding...top down which does not fit your model. I am an oddball, I suppose, I believe in the human spirit. So if a human spirit is present in a body, I would consider it murder. I guess that is conservative. If the spirit is not present, then I don't much care, except I don't think government should spend people's money on what many hate. Now the definition of 'life' is not much clarified by law, but it is by religion. The idea of a 'human spirit' is more or less completely rejected, when it is considered at all. When the human spirit enters the body, that seems to beyond the imagination. Immigration (conservatives want top-down “keep illegals out” and liberals want bottom-up “you can’t stop people from getting in, so let’s embrace it” 'Economy (both mainstream political parties advocate for top-down control of the economy (federal reserve, etc)' I guess I am at the other end of the spectrum, I advocate for the individual. Only the individual creates things. Now, he may use a group to do it, but he does initiate things. 'I am in favor of a proper definition of money, 'a receipt for deposited goods or services.' When I present my bill as a consultant, or my paystub as an employee, this is a receipt for services. The federal reserve basically has the definition Maynard Kaynes presents, Money is: 'That which fulfills a contract.' If the government prints it, you have to accept it, or ELSE! 'Now, not all of these examples are as cut and dry as I’m making them, but the point is to illustrate the difference between the two types of solutions and point out that both are argued for by everyone at some point (except for the most extreme people). Note that “bottom-up” doesn’t mean “no rules”…it just means the people at the bottom level are responsible for making the rules and not the people at the top.' 'I would argue that your solution is top-down, and I hope you will come to see it for what it is and that bottom-up solutions are a very good way to ensure complex systems are as healthy as possible.' I would guess I have 10,000 ideas. I would agree this one is top-down, as you say. But you will have to agree the context here is how education from the state level will be funded. The subject is inherently top down. How could any suggestion on that not be 'top down?' Now you add, your second part. 'as healthy as possible.' So you are moving quickly out of the immediate context. I can agree that if our context is 'students', 'families', or 'teachers,' then we could think of this as bottom-up. And I agree my most successful actions have been at this level. 'If you want to advocate for students, then you MUST advocate for teachers as part of “the bottom” in the hierarchy of the State’s education system.' I can agree with that idea, but you capitalize must, so I assume you have a special reason for that emphasis, and so I can not agree yet. I just have not convinced you, that this level of responsibility is actually a healthy thing for teachers, even though the context here is 'top down', according to you, so far. 'Top-down solutions require predictability,' I understand. 'whereas bottom-up solutions do not.' I do not understand. 'Top-down seems elegant on paper and bottom-up feels uncertain. That said, I would argue that predictability of complex systems is an illusion at best and bottom-up solutions are required.' You sound like you are overwhelmed by the complexity implied here, or you like this theory. My sister likes this systems theory stuff. 'We need unpredictable systems to deal with uncertain futures.' I don't get this part at all. It looks like you are just inviting someone to buy into that statement. It might be that you understand 'unpredictable systems' in a different way than I. 'We convince ourselves that we are smart enough to predict, but humans collectively fail at prediction with terrifying regularity (banking/housing crises, war in Iraq, standardized testing, etc).' Who are you suggesting should do the predicting (and deciding) if 'humans' do not? I think I have lost you. 'Think about the following: Let’s shift your suggestion to another domain. Would your contract clause work for the military?' Okay, lets look at this example. I would tend to say, 'Yes' at this point and quickly ask, what 'clause' are you suggesting might be workable or not? 'Can sergeants in the military predict combat?' Yes, they can. 'Could you have a contract with a sergeant requiring him/her to assault a position with zero casualties by a certain time or date?' This at first glance, is actually an order (requires compliance) not a contract (requires mutual consent). So, could there be a context where there was such a contract? I don't think so if you were under General Patton in WWII. (joke) My father in-law tells of such a thing. He was watching a film clip of northern Italy one day where one tank was the first tank through a certain famous pass. He realized, he was that sergeant running that exact tank! He said, he had a disagreement with a second lieutenant one day. His lieutenant ordered him to take a certain route back to base where it was known that the German 88's were locked in on that exact crossroads, and it was certain death to be at that exact point. My father in-law went a different way, had his own contract as you say, to have zero casualties, and arrived back at the base, and the Third Infantry general, before the officer. The officer wanted him court martialed for disobeying a Direct Order. The general simply said, did he get his men and the equipment back safely? The officer replied, 'Yes.' The general said, 'Then he knows what he is doing, and you should respect that.' 'How many soldiers would it take to achieve zero casualties?' None 'Would you consider it possible for a sergeant to hire extra soldiers to fulfill his/her contract?' Yes, have you seen "Hogan's Heros? 'Most people would consider the above questions to be obviously facetious, however I assure you: THAT is exactly what you are asking teachers to do.' I guess I am not 'most people.' I have a decent respect for the competence of sergeants. (I was a Squadron Commander in the US Air Force in 1972.) I do get your point. But I also disagree with your assessment of teachers, and their competence. I think you are not understanding what competence means. One part is that one is in good control situations, like my father in-law above. 'Everyone knows the sergeant is not in control.' I think that is a gross mis-assessment of the actual situation of a sergeant in nearly all combat situations. Sometimes, yes. 'The sergeant in combat is awash in an ever-changing sea of unpredictable circumstances. While a certain solution may work on one battlefield, the next will have different terrain. The weather changes day to day. Equipment fails. Disease spreads. Soldiers have mental difficulties. I’m sure we could both come up with many other examples.' I don't agree with your characterization at all, so you are not making the point you wish to make. 'The teacher exists in a similar environment, yet somehow we all expect the teacher...' I think you did not complete your thought here. 'I believe the comparing teaching to combat ends there, but I hope you get the idea: predictability is often an illusion.' As I may have said, I have done five years of substitute teaching, often co-teaching with other teachers. You don't sound like you understand teachers at all. I made a vow as a substitute, to always complete the Lesson Plan given to me by the regular teacher. I always did. As a matter of fact I was always able to complete the Lesson Plan from the normal teacher in 20 minutes, about half of the time, with a special trick (I can discuss later). I taught about 3000 students, in 300 different classrooms in 13 different schools. I experienced nearly every type of classroom experience imaginable. I nearly always spent only 50 minutes with these kids. There really weren't that many surprises. It was not at all like a roomful of unfriendly european Engineers. (my toughest) 'Steven Norton replied to you (in a different thread below) with a similar notion:' I replied there. “It’s fairly easy to make sure middle-class kids from stable homes are at grade level (unless they have a disability of some sort, which is yet another issue).' How would you tell. A proficiency test like the MEAP, or ACT, does not measure this? 'But can a teacher reverse the effect of poor pre-natal care? Of lead contamination in early childhood? Of homelessness? Of poor nutrition? The list goes on. Did you know that one in four Michigan children live under the poverty level?” 'Teachers cannot predictably correct for these things' That is not true. 'any more than a sergeant can correct for the weather or lack of a soldier trained in the use of a particular weapons system.' My guess is they do this all day long, every day, not a problem. (unless they lack the training and experience.) 'Let’s look at a few of your premises:' 1) “Schools are fairly stable, year to year, so there will be so many jobs, year to year, in any case. A school has a stability, the community it serves is also stable, usually. So the nature of the students that attend a school has a known consistency.” 'I think this is both irrelevant and inaccurate.' Not true. We are discussing 'predictable work'. If this statement does not answer for 'predictable work' please tell me what 'predictable work' you are talking about. 'Large school districts often lose and gain many hundreds of students each year. (agreed) While the overall numbers may be relatively stable, there is lots of flow in and out of a given system. (true) This premise is irrelevant either way, however, because the notion that you can rely on “the usual” is a fallacy. When the most important thing is the outcome, you need to be highly concerned with the tails of the bell curve…the outliers matter. If a given district happened to be stable, then ONLY the outliers would affect the outcome. Do you see?' No I don't. We are talking about teachers having a contract. They do. About teachers having students to teach. They do. About completing the Lesson Plans that add up to the Grade Level. I don't see how my statement is irrelevant? What are you talking about when you say, 'the tails of bell curve.' I know what a Bell Curve is, I don't know what you are talking about having to do with 'predictable work.' The details of what a teacher does each day may vary within their skills set and circumstances, but the number of hours, the days of the week, the months of the year are quite predictable and manageable. 'When you ensure “stability” of a certain type, you guarantee that eventually the system will be turned on its head by an outlier and you will be flabbergasted that your perfect system has failed.' Please give me some examples of the 'outliers' you are envisioning. I do not understand. My one suggested 'clause' hardly qualifies as a 'perfect system.' Please explain. 2) “After the first year with my suggestion, each teacher knows exactly the quality of the students coming to the next grade level from a teacher conforming to the Constitution. So with my suggestion this amounts to a one-year transition period; before – no control, after certainty and predictability.” 'Don’t be a turkey.' Don't be too insulting here! 'Try this: A turkey gets fed every day for 600 days. Every day the nice farmer comes and feeds her. The turkey is quite content with the predictability of the feeding schedule and the nice farmer. Imagine a graph of the turkey’s total amount of food eaten over time. The turkey goes to sleep on November 25th, assuming the feeding trend will continue, but oops…Thanksgiving is coming up and it turns out the turkey is actually not being fed on the 26th. You get the idea, I hope?' So far, I have not gotten past the insult part. Okay, so the turkey may be in for a surprise on the 26th! Very graphic. Are you saying I would be surprised, my suggestion would suffer a surprise, if a Principal took me into an X-Classroom and said to me very forcefully, 'Show me how your Clause works here?' These kids can not walk, can not talk, can not feed themselves nor take care of normal body functions, like drooling, by themselves!' 'Can you predict the amount of stress on your body? Today? Tomorrow? Next year? In 15 years? The advocate for predictability would argue that humans are inefficient…that two kidneys or lungs are ugly and redundant. Yet, given the right kind of stress, not having both kills you. Not having redundancy and “wiggle room” changes outcomes when stress changes. Evolution tells us that redundancy is often worth the extra resources. Don’t want to give up a lung or kidney? Interesting….' Again very graphic. I recently read about a one room school nearby, from 1938, Mayfield School. The county had sent a letter requesting information about the school. It was K-8, had one contracted teacher, that cost $35/month for 9 months a year. The building was valued at $350. It cost $15/year for coal. There were 35 students. Not very complicated is it? Not much stress in visualizing this is there? But the report was stating that the school was in good order, and one teacher took full responsibility for it all. I would like you to ponder this and understand. 'Again, I think you’re convincing yourself predictability can exist where it cannot. We have a cultural problem with prediction.' 3) “Why would you support such a status quo, over a suggestion that guaranteed improving these students to grade level and compliance with the Constitution?” 'I think we already established that I do not support the status quo…?' I think you made it clear you want to keep teacher contracts as they are, and be no party to my suggestion. Right? 'I just don’t in any way share the idea that your suggestion is “guaranteed improvement”. I think it would be a guaranteed detriment.' The teacher at the above Mayfield school from 1938 did have a teacher contract. Although not as explicit as my statement, it did guaranty each student met the requirements, as I have outlined them, of the Michigan Constitution. The students did graduate at grade level. If they were not at grade level in every subject, they did not graduate. Do you understand? This was predictable then.
Wed, 02/03/2016 - 6:57pm
I just don’t in any way share the idea that your suggestion is “guaranteed improvement”. I think it would be a guaranteed detriment.’ The teacher at the above Mayfield school from 1938 did have a teacher contract. Although not as explicit as my statement, it did guaranty each student met the requirements, as I have outlined them, of the Michigan Constitution. The students did graduate at grade level. If they were not at grade level in every subject, they did not graduate. Do you understand? This was predictable then. Reply