5 steps to improving education

Poverty. Physical and mental abuse. Drug use. Traumatic home life.

As a teacher, I have seen everything. Yet I have seen many kids from horrible backgrounds succeed. Why?

It’s the teachers, stupid.

The single greatest in-school factor affecting student success is teacher competency. My personal experience in the classroom aside, the data support this. As a teacher, I have worked with colleagues who were astonishingly good and others who were barely mediocre. Good teachers go to work. They nudge, inspire, challenge, and get the best out of their kids. Given the same kids, lesser teachers grumble about kids and administration and parents and technology. Set up for failure by our current teacher education model, many of these good people were never taught the pedagogical skills necessary to reach their students.

It is time to create a system that creates a foundation for master teachers before, not after; they are placed in a classroom. It is far too easy to become certified as a teacher. Certification is not mastery.

Raise the bar. Raise student performance.

If we examine another profession, we see that while some doctors are less competent than others, even less-competent physicians are still pretty darn qualified. Why? It is very difficult to become a physician.

Harvard’s Office of Career Services estimates that just 17% of their freshmen who self-identified as ‘pre-med’ will actually apply to medical school. Of those, nearly 93% will be accepted.

The qualifying medical exam, the MCAT, is very difficult. The highest possible score on the MCAT is forty-five. The average score, in 2010, for acceptance at the University of Michigan Medical School was thirty-four. That’s 5 points above the national average. The higher the average score, the more competitive the school.

Regardless of one’s MCAT exam score, you have little chance to enter medical school if your GPA is less than 2.75. In 2005, of 18,000 students admitted to allopathic (M.D.) schools, just 155 applicants had a GPA of less than 2.75.

The process starts anew with residencies. The competition for residencies at top-shelf hospitals in competitive fields is often tougher than medical school acceptance. Nearly 30% of applying residents were left out in the cold in 2012. (Additional supporting documents here).

Medicine sets a high bar.

Ed schools too easy

On the other hand, education has long been the biggest puff major on campus. Get accepted into an undergraduate education program with a 2.75 GPA and watch your GPA soar by 0.5 to 1.0 points. (Additional supporting documents here)

After eight years of school, and five years of residency, a surgeon is allowed to operate without supervision. After three years of undergraduate work and several weeks of classroom observation, a student teacher is set free to ride herd on 150 highly energized young people eager to push the limits of teenage behavior. Is it any wonder that 10 percent of all teachers quit after one year, and another 40 percent quit within four years? Victims of poor training, and their own academic shortcomings, those newbies should never have made it into the classroom in the first place. Our current system is a set up for failure.

Here are five common-sense steps to improve education:

1. Raise the bar. The fact that student GPAs soar once in an education program, yet only 8% of recent UM-Flint education students passed the new, more rigorous Professional Readiness Exam (PRE) tells us that the bar is set much too low. Mere content competency is not enough. As undergraduates, classroom management skills must begin to take root. The latest in neuroscience and educational research must be incorporated into a quality teaching practice. Teachers must master the complex technology at their disposal. The foundations of good teaching must be laid in the classroom, and refined during supervised training. When one begins a full-time, professional teaching career, one should have seven years of education and training, plus a meaningful master’s degree to one’s credit. For all the talk of “teacher accountability,” it is time to hold Colleges of Education equally accountable.

2. Require lengthy supervised teacher-training by trained instructors. In teacher education today, a teacher trainee might receive instruction in lesson planning, coupled with a few minutes of videotaped lessons given in front of one’s teacher trainee cohort. Too frequently, trainees receive scant training in the most mission critical area: classroom management. Nothing a teacher does in class is as paramount as the ability to create and maintain a positive classroom atmosphere. Yet, personal experience suggests this skill is taught “on the fly” and learned “by the seat of the pants.”

Unprepared for the true test of the classroom, the trainee is turned loose on a school. A more experienced teacher ‘supervises’ the introduction to teaching. There is often no curriculum for the trainer to follow. There is rarely a realistic training curriculum for the new teacher to master. Far too many young teachers are left to fend for themselves, as the supervisory teachers leave them to learn on their own.

The solution? Require a well-vetted curriculum for both trainer and trainee. Require the trainer to complete teacher-trainer coursework before she or he is entrusted with training a new teacher. Pay the trainer appropriately for his/her time.

3. Lengthen the training period. Whether or not you buy into Malcom Gladwell’s idea of “10,000 hours to mastery,” one semester of supervised training is clearly inadequate. New teachers need one full-time year of supervised teaching included in their three full years of postgraduate education.

4. Pay teacher trainees a living wage. When a teacher trainee begins the supervised teaching period, she or he should be paid. The ‘unpaid internship” marginalizes the trainees’ skills and minimizes their standing with students, supervising teachers, and administration.

5. Pay full-time teachers accordingly. Let us significantly raise the barriers to a truly professional teaching career. Let us advance only those who have proven themselves as undergraduate students; those who have demonstrated content and pedagogical competency. Let us grant a master’s degree to those who have been well-trained, and are now truly masters’ of education. Let us reward them commensurate with their dedication and talent and mastery.

In 1998, I sat in a lecture hall at the University of Michigan, a 40-year-old man who decided to finally put his bachelor of science in zoology to use. Weeks away from certification as a high school science and English teacher, I had recently taken the Michigan Test for Teacher Competency (MTTC). The test was less than challenging. Among the multiple choice arithmetic questions featured: If a right triangle has one side of 3 cm and another of 4 cm, how long is the hypotenuse? The biology questions were no more difficult: The monk _________ _________ is widely regarded as the father of modern genetics.

Next to me sat a woman in her early thirties. Brow furrowed, she was studying the prep manual for the MTTC. Never one to avoid putting my foot into my mouth, I said, “Takin’ the test this Saturday? No worries. It’s easy.”

She glared at me. “I’ve failed it twice.”

I blushed and shrugged in apology. She moved her seat.

I asked around on the student grapevine. She passed the test on her third try.

For a useful debate on the value of education degrees, click on this link to the NY Times “Room for Debate.”

David Stanley has been a teacher, coach, and corporate executive. He is now a freelance writer and the owner of My Voiceover Masters. His writing can be found at Dads Roundtable and his own blog Rants and Mutters.

Bridge welcomes guest columns from a diverse range of people on issues relating to Michigan and its future. The views and assertions of these writers do not necessarily reflect those of Bridge or The Center for Michigan. Bridge does not endorse any individual guest commentary submission.

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Thu, 05/29/2014 - 9:42am
Great commentary on higher standards for educators. After two years of teaching many years ago I went on a different career path. I have told many people that teaching is much more challenging than it looks. I also say a good teacher is a precious commodity and a bad teacher should do some reflecting and realize it (or be told it by his administrators) and get out of the profession. Educating our youth properly is extremely important and we need to pay more attention to all aspects of education. In addition to raising the bar for teachers, another aspect that will be much more difficult to overcome is the home life and parenting of our youth. I could go on for a while on that. But this harder to quantify piece of the puzzle has a huge impact on the potential of a youngster and over the last few decades seems to be trending more in a negative direction. When you combine the shortcomings of our teacher training and standards with the poorer structure and support in many student's homes creates something of a multiplier effect on the decline of the overall education experience. But as the author mentions, there are some tough decisions that need to be made if we want to reverse the present course where most of our education system is currently headed.
Mary Kovari
Thu, 05/29/2014 - 9:50am
I thought this article was exactly right. If there is a "silver bullet" for our education woes it would be the teacher. David Stanley does a good job of clarifying what is needed in teacher education but he forgets to mention how critical it is for teachers to be able to evaluate data and shore up student learning, especially when it comes to reading, writing and math. This is not be taught in most schools of ed especially for those teachers who are pursuing secondary education certification. Stanley rightly compares the education profession to medicine. Medicine is not only a more rigorous program but standards of practice are tightly enforced and what medical schools teach are aligned to these standards. Again, schools of education do not do this mostly because education cannot agree on standards. The common core could solve this problem. Lastly, potentially good teachers do not develop their practice when they are work in schools that are at best weak in organizing themselves around recruiting, developing and retaining good teachers. Development as a teacher begins in college but does not end there and without a good school, teachers can flounder and ultimately leave the profession or turn into one of those "whiners" to which the author refers. Mr. Stanley has it right, make schools of education much more rigorous than they are now. But K-12 schools as organizations must also be strengthened if we are to truly serve students, especially those that live in poverty.
Sun, 06/01/2014 - 10:15am
Again it's the teachers. Who sets up the conditions for teaching? It starts at the top with well trained and experienced administrators, a school board well trained and experienced in over seeing education, and don't forget the legislature that is more interested in placing blame and cutting budgets that providing the tools for a good teaching and learning environment. If a doctor today had to provide their own tools of the trade and work in buildings with technology that was obsolete would we blame doctors for the rate of failure. And are we willing to pay teachers what we pay doctors? No, the goals to get teachers at the lowest possible pay.
Patrick Shannon
Thu, 05/29/2014 - 10:07am
Good suggestions but we have a constitutional structural problem. Our education system is grounded in a pre-1837 constitutional context; prior to the Civil War and during slavery. Michigan has a State Board of Education, Superintendent of Public Instruction, Senate and House education committees, Governor, Department of Education, and hundreds of local boards of education; not one of these has the legal ability to set a clear compass course for the direction of public education in Michigan. Maybe our "education leaders" want chaos because chaos provides the opportunity for finger pointing and jobs for the various faction representatives. Until we re-structure public education policy making and truly empower those who are responsible for our children's education, we will continue to be enslaved to a pre-Civil War approach to public education in Michigan.
Thu, 05/29/2014 - 12:18pm
Interesting point about the constitutional underpinnings. My expertise as a education writer is in content and pedagogy- never gave a thought to the legalities involved. Fingerpointing is a big issue. If it weren't for fingerpointing, many people would get no exercise. Thank-you.
Thu, 05/29/2014 - 10:55am
It's about time someone hit the nail on the head. Yes, the teacher is the most important person in the classroom. As a retired Assistant Principal and Principal, I found that providing teachers the tools to teach with and constant supportive supervision was the key to successful teachers and students.
Carol Waltman
Thu, 05/29/2014 - 11:35am
The difference in student outcomes between poor teaching and excellent teaching is profound. Unions do nothing for the great teachers and protect the poor ones, to the detriment of students. Good teachers are professionals and should be paid and treated as such. The rest should be selected out before they enter their first classroom. And before anything else, the structural issues need to be resolved to create the foundation for excellent education.
Thu, 05/29/2014 - 11:47am
I agree, but see an issue with raising the standards to which teachers are tested by. Here in Nevada for example, we are suffering a shortage of teachers at all levels, and class sizes are 20 to 50% larger than they should be. The only way this problem is solved, and your testing works, is by doing as you suggested and raising the pay. It's hard to believe that our educators are some of the lowest paying job fields. We have some of the highest paid police officers and the lowest paid teachers. If we paid our teachers more, we wouldn't need so many of the other. Great article!
Gene Markel
Thu, 05/29/2014 - 3:08pm
In todays society an excellent education is for those who can afford it. All others must settle for the waste product of academia to educate there children. I refer to the euphemism: "Those who can't Teach". This not to say there are many diamonds in the rough, who inspire, inform and teach how to learn.
Mike R
Thu, 05/29/2014 - 5:59pm
Your comments are outrageously insulting to public school teachers everywhere (and I'm not even a teacher). How dare you characterize all teachers who are not teaching in private schools as "the waste product of academia"! Your pathetic back-handed compliment that there are many "diamonds in the rough" does nothing to rehabilitate what is a mean-spirited, uninformed, and just-plain-wrong slur against the thousands of excellent teachers who do the job you clearly didn't care to do. And, by the way, your terrible grammar, spelling, and punctuation is not proof of your thesis; it's just lame.
A. M. Swenson
Sun, 06/01/2014 - 12:32pm
Mike R, did you read the piece above? I find no denigration of public school teachers, no elevation of private school teachers, no grammar errors, no spelling errors, no punctuation errors. I am a veteran of 37 years in the high school Engish classroom, both public and private. I find Mr. Stanley's comments to apply equally to both schools, where I encountered both brilliant, dedicated and creative colleagues as well as ones who were, in truth, lazy, slovenly and uncaring parasites on a system. For the well being of our nation, we must GET THE PARASITES OUT OF THE SCHOOLS, both public and private! And, Mike R, I suggest that you enroll in a reading class in your local community. One is never too old to learn.
Mike R
Mon, 06/02/2014 - 5:25pm
A.M. Swenson: "All others must settle for the waste product of academia to educate there children." "There" children? Instead of "their" children? Are you kidding me??? 37 years of teaching English and you can't find any spelling or grammar errors??? And what do you think is meant by that sentence if not that "All others" (than those who can afford it) "must settle for the waste product of academia." "Afford it" clearly indicates private education, since everyone pays the same for public education. So exactly what do you think is the meaning of that sentence? If your comment is intended to prove that there are poor teachers, then you've succeeded beyond your wildest expectations.
Thu, 05/29/2014 - 11:48pm
"It’s the teachers, stupid." It has nothing to do with student? Has there been a student sitting in the classroom of a 'poor' teacher that succeeded, a student in the classroom of a 'good' teacher that failed? Mr.Stanley, didn't seem to understand about the 10,000 hours. It wasn't the time a student listen to others, it was the time practicing what they were trying to achieve. Mr. Stanley fails to describe what a 'good' teacher does that is different from the mediocre teacher. He suggests that education makes 'good' treachers. The reality isn't how much they were taught, it is how they apply that and adapt to the students interests. I wonder if Mr. Stanley has ever asked the successful students what the difference was between the teachers that help them succeed and the ones that were barriersto their success. Teachers are important, but it is the student that determines whether they learn or not, it is the student that determines whether they study or not, it is the student that determines whether they even pay attention or not. A 'good' teacher is the one the helps the student want to learn, it is the one who modifies their presentation to what fits the students attention, it is the one that opens the student to discovery. It maybe the teacher to Mr. Stanley. For me it is the students and their learning, everything else is there to help the students not to be the more important than the students.
Fri, 05/30/2014 - 12:15pm
I am a veteran teacher in NYC. I agree with you that teachers play a crucial role in student success. I became a teacher after spending time in other fields. At the time the board of education was recruiting people to change careers and become teachers. After one summer program, I was thrust into a school. I went on to complete a masters in Secondary Education. My degree was not particularly helpful. I have gained so much more from my experience in the classroom. Despite this learning on the job, I do feel there are gaps in my knowledge that are not easily filled in from classroom experience and in fact, I have been asked things that I simply don't know which I would think would be taught in an education program. Therefore, raising the bar on education programs is something I greatly support.
Sat, 05/31/2014 - 11:46am
Maybe the biggest difference between successful teachers and those seemingly less so, is the motivational level of their students (and their parents), maybe there isn't any such thing as "mastery" and teaching motivation? We've been trying to learn to do this as long as man has walked the earth. Seems highly suspect that successful teaching can really be reduced to a formula that will apply across the board to all students, family situations and teacher abilities. But there seems to be a lot of people who've invested a lot of time and money and put themselves into levels of importance trying to convince us otherwise. Seems that it's high time to start from scratch, because the education establishment is clearly lost.
Sun, 06/01/2014 - 12:10am
Matt, I agree and disagree. Motivation is the linch pin of educational success. The reality is that each person/student are the only ones that can motivate themselves. Others can supplement, discover and touch that motivation, but it is the individual that actually is the motivator, they decide what is important and why. It is because each of us is motivated differently so there is no formula. I would offer that starting from scratch must begin from a different perspective, for if it uses the same starting point it will most likely end with the same result. Currently the perspective is from the educational delivery standpoint, I would offer it needs to start from the learning standpoint. The technical knowledge of the subject matter, the basic techniques for delievery are teachable, it is the application that is dynamic and dependent on the teacher not on their formal training. It is something they have to discover with each student. The reality is if a more effective approach is developed the money and resources will come forward to support it. The real challenge is to have the discussion that starts from scratch. Where do we have that dicsussion? I feel Bridge has the potential for that, but it appears just as they provide the opportunity for people with strong views (which is much appreciated) they don't seem to be so inclined to offer that opportunity to those who want to ask questions and capture other people's ideas and approached. How did you learn in school, when did you learn, why did you learn, etc., those might be the starting questions rather as Mr. Stanley has said,"It’s the teachers, stupid." is the answer.
Leon L. Hulett, PE
Sun, 06/01/2014 - 10:02pm
Matt and Duane, OK, you both say to start from scratch on a discussion. Duane says, 'Currently the perspective is from the educational delivery standpoint, I would offer it needs to start from the learning standpoint.' Socrates started by asking questions, to lead another to enlightenment. He wrote down nothing. Plato started by asking questions of the soul, to lead the spirit to enlightenment. Aristotle started by asking questions of the soul about what he had observed, to lead to enlightenment. Alexander started by conquering the world, by applying 'The Most Excellent Knowledge' he had learned from Aristotle. He was a tyrant, and kept it secret thereafter. Willhelm Wundt started by denying the soul, declaring humans to be nothing more than animals, and made the human brain the focus of learning. He said, humans learn by using their brains to agree with their environment. He denies all the virtues of the soul or spirit such as integrity, and all the abilities inherent in the spirit, such as the ability to observe directly and make self-determined decisions. If you start from 'the learning standpoint' what does that mean to you?
Mon, 06/02/2014 - 12:18pm
Duane and Leon, My use of "starting from scratch" wasn't meant to mean that we are in need to going to try to discover and build some new route to human learning and enlightenment. My point is that most or much of the current thought is that we "just aren't doing it right" and some how more teacher training is required and will solve the problem. I am much more skeptical of human nature than this, both from the teacher and the student side that this formula exists. I point to the ideas (from both schools and parents) that schools and students are a failure if a very high percentage of students don't go on to get BAs. The idea that school and learning is only defined by 12 years of 180 days a year, (with 3 mos off for summer!) and anything less is a disaster. The decision get rid of all the shop classes and the general hostility towards the meager trade school offerings we currently offer, because skilled trades have no place in the future, and thus we have no real apprenticeship programs for students who'd be better suited. I point (while knowing perfection doesn't exist) to Europe as an example to move towards, where apparently learning and preparation for future employment is the purpose of their educational systems (with higher attainment while spending far less!) rather than the muddled mix of objectives that characterize the US system. My wish is that we move to a grocery store approach to education with each student picking their course according to their objectives and abilities and that objectives requirements.
Leon L. Hulett, PE
Mon, 06/02/2014 - 1:47pm
Matt June 2, 2014 at 12:18 pm Hi, Thanks for clarifying what you meant by “starting from scratch.” I guess I have become convinced that there is more wrong than meets the eye of the casual observer. So I have done my homework, and right or wrong, I guess I would like to do something. I would like to do something effective. Your idea of, 'My wish is that we move to a grocery store approach to education with each student picking their course according to their objectives and abilities and that objectives requirements.' sounds pretty good to me. It sounds like an effective, democratic approach to things. To a large degree that is what happens when I tutor a child and their parent. I give them the opportunity to express what they want to do, and I support that. I help them to learn the study skills needed to support what they want to do. I clarify what 'a basic purpose' is. If they can tap into their basic purpose in life, what makes people the most successful, the happiest, and all that, then my job is done. My basic purpose is, 'to help others create.'
Leon L. Hulett, PE
Wed, 06/04/2014 - 10:46pm
Duane June 3, 2014 at 11:56 pm I think we are talking about two substantially different things. You are talking about being an effective facilitator. I am talking about being an effective tutor. Let's leave it at that. Leon
Sun, 06/01/2014 - 12:39am
While the reforms mentioned are sound enough, the essay is a bit misleading, or perhaps a bit behind the actual practice of colleges of education. At Michigan State, students in fact spend the year teaching; at Michigan, you apply to enter the college -- gone are the days of simply walking in. Other schools are likewise raising the bar. So rather than simply complain or pontificate, let's also do a shout out to the programs that are already picking up on these reforms.
Leon L. Hulett, PE
Sun, 06/01/2014 - 9:47am
David Stanley, I disagree with you. When you say, 'It’s the teachers, stupid.' That seems arrogant to me. It also seems very wrong, and in a way that might be difficult to articulate. But first of all, let me say I am, was, one of 'those' kids. When you say, 'Yet I have seen many kids from horrible backgrounds succeed. Why?' I will tell you a simple story that illustrates 'Why', at least from one viewpoint. Not only am I one of those kids, after I left the local area, I graduated from Michigan State in Engineering, I became a Design Engineer for a large aerospace company, I became an officer in the United States Air Force, I became one of the youngest Squadron Commanders ever in USAF maintaining the only two American aircraft to drop nuclear weapons during atmospheric testing, and had invented a number of things, I came back to the local a area for a time. One by one, young people, over twenty young people, came to me with sort of a majestic humility, quietly and even some silently. They had a message 'for my eyes only'. Some could talk and told me a part of their story. Some were silent and simply shook my hand with a head bow, silently saying 'Thank you.' At first I was overwhelmed and had nothing to say myself. This was a total mystery to me. Then the story began to take shape as more young people filled in the blanks. They said they had come from a dark place in their lives. One was a rapist, and confessed to me. He told me the details of how he had hurt someone, and all the rest. Others were victims, but said nothing of it. They all were there, in my drive way, to thank me, in their own way. To thank me for setting an example. They all felt I had come from a dark place, a place possibly as dark as their own. I had made it out of the local area. I had made a success of myself in their eyes. And following my example, they each had followed, had then been able to, and they left the local area. They had each become a success in their own way. They felt they owed me a heart-felt 'Thank you.' One way kids from horrible backgrounds succeed is when another, that they can believe in, 'Sets a Good Example.' This is a precept, a simple concept that articulates a life lesson, that is valuable from the viewpoint of the kid. There was no 'teacher' in this story. I don't think you have seen everything, you must have been talking rhetorically. Now back to your 'arrogance', the arrogance I mentioned above. I have another little story. But first, may I ask you a little question, 'Did you re-frame my story in your mind to make me 'the teacher?' If you did, you missed the point. And this leads me to my next story about arrogance. I once was asked to show a man from Japan around our company in California. I was told to show him how we did business, exactly how we did things. I was told this man speaks no English. That was of course why I had been selected, instead of our Chief Engineer just showing him around as he usually did. I found that people in Japan have five years of written English, but do not speak it, not a word. So I just demonstrated things to this man, and he wrote down the questions he had. Simple! When I showed him our computer, I had a question for him. I didn't know I was being arrogant and condescending. I suppose I was being, as you say, 'Stupid.' I had been 'showing' him, what I had been taught. That we were the best company in the world, that we had a 90% market share, and on and on. I found his computer was 10,000 times bigger than ours. I found his company was Shawa Electric and was 10 times bigger than ours. He was in fact the Chief Engineer there. His company was going to be our representative in Japan and the markets they influence internationally. I had an epiphany. I had major change in attitude. I had been unspeakably arrogant. I had accepted all the nice things people had said about our company from within our company, and I had failed to look at what was actual. What was the truth? For three days I had this huge emotional revelation. I got embarrassed. I slapped my head. I cried. I had strange sensations, I felt degradation appear and sort itself out. It seemed to have no end to it. I was pretty much non-functional for three days. How could I have just accepted all these things at face value and not simple looked at what was truly there, I sort of whined to myself? When I could look at things with no 'Rose-Colored Glasses' I saw our company in an entirely new light. Our computer was tiny, it was in fact a micro-computer at that time. The analyses we did for Boeing, and Lockheed, and Aerospatiale, and Airbus and others was junk. They threw them in the trash as soon as we left the room, and no doubt laughed behind our backs. Our company was not competitive, it was simply the only one, a monopoly. It was very unresponsive to industry needs. I changed that. I went into hyper-drive and conceived a new computer program for our company using the skills of my experts. We created a 'virtual' computer program, that could solve huge problems. I designed the front part for ease of use and so our Engineers could be easily trained. I designed the end part so all the data was easily read and understood. We purchased the Structural Analysis Programs from CalTech and my micro-computer 'expert', or genius, sorted out all the work done by students and made a highly professional super-fast program out of it. I asked him to estimate how long the effort would take and he said, 'Three weeks.' It took six. Then six more to debug it, and six more to implement it. But, wow! I won seven major international programs with that program with up to 9 tough competitors on each one. Now Boeing was calling me... Aerospatiale called me 'King', whatever that means in French. (I had given them an analysis in a hour, that they estimated would have taken them a week.) As I said, this might be difficult to articulate. I have shown how I was super-arrogant and it took three days, with more than a little pain and soul-searching, to learn this lesson. This is not a simple lesson to learn. I wrote up a set of 10 standards from industry to public education. This is my standard number 9. The student has to have the ability to 'see there is something there to learn.' If he has an attitude like 'I know all about this, so there is nothing there for me learn.' he will not be able to learn that subject. We could call this 'arrogance'. We could get a lot of other emotions and attitudes connected to this. I might oversimplify it and say, 'Willingness'. The student has to be willing to learn. If he has any attitudes, sensations, or emotions or pains, standing in the way of simply being there and being willing to observe a subject, or something, then he or she is 'unwilling' to know it. I think you are being 'arrogant' about teachers. I think you are 'unwilling' to look at the real situation. I think 'the student' is the center of this universe, the universe of learning. The student is the most important factor. Now if the student is 'unwilling to learn', if he can not simply view something and be willing to look at it, he will not learn. If he knows this idea and can use it, then he can approach learning. This is the most important idea in all of study when one starts to learn a subject. If he can not do this, he will fail in the subject. Guess what I handle, as a manager, on the first day of work for new-hires out of public education? Guess what lesson students learn in public school that should not be learned? It could be handled with my 'Standard 9' at the K-12 level.
Chuck Jordan
Sun, 06/01/2014 - 2:12pm
Raising the bar for students and teachers/teacher training is easily said, but how? The article you have a link to argues for better teachers in high poverty districts, not just data to support the importance of teacher competence. The issue of how to evaluate teacher competence is as difficult and complex as evaluating student performance (standardized testing?). The idea of paying teachers more is just not realistic in this anti-teacher state and country. Getting the "best" teachers in high poverty districts is also unrealistic. So in this world where everyone who has gone to school is an expert: how many of your teachers were really great? how many truly awful? And why is it that my English teachers were so much better than my Math teachers? Hmmm.
Sun, 06/01/2014 - 8:22pm
Chuck, Creating an effective rating system is relatively easy, select 3-5 (I prefer 5) catagories, then we can create 5 levels, we could even include some weighting and we would have a performance index system. One that could be used and understood by all, teachers, students, parents, etc. It would be effective in any setting/classroom. The issue is do people really want it, will they use it? Do the less then confident teacher really want to know? Do parents want to know, especially those with under performing kids? DO administrators want to know, the ones that will have to take action on the findings? Do politicians really want to know, the ones that will be expected to do something with the findings? As for the students performance, we first need to decide on what do we expect them to achieve, learn. Without knowing what success looks like there is no way of testing to see if it has been achieved. Once we know what they are to achieve developing the metrics is easy.
Leon L. Hulett, PE
Sun, 06/01/2014 - 9:09pm
How is that different than the Carnegie A, B, C, D and E system that has been used for the last hundred years?
Mon, 06/02/2014 - 8:57pm
Leon, The idea is to have the people involved develop the system, to makes it their own so they have confidence in it, so if fits what they see as important, so it is current and reflects their wants/needs, so it is in their words. It is about trust, so much has swirled around every other system/protocol/results the validity of the systems and methods have been lost. A systems the 'professionals' build reflect their prespective so it is their system not the publics. Who do we need to support the system so it will be accepted and supported? The 'professionals' usually want a system that can be rolled up to the national or at least the state so they can use as a political tool. The value is greatest when it is used locally for direct impact on learning.
Leon L. Hulett, PE
Mon, 06/02/2014 - 10:51pm
Duane June 2, 2014 at 8:57 pm You said, 'It is about trust...' 'Who do we need to support the system so it will be accepted and supported?' I would say, students and parents are necessary. What they can admire they will trust and support. What others can admire they will trust and support. The rating system, or any 'system', you are talking about needs to reflect the needs of students and parents. They may not be able to articulate what they want. I have found it to be a bit of a challenge to get people to say what their basic purpose is. (My fifth-grader finally realized and put it on her Facebook page.) This may be what they most want in life. It is still not an easy thing to say. Do they want to get a good job? I think most do. I have seen a child without hope, come to realize this all on his own. Do they want to express themselves artistically? I think many do or might want to. I have seen an ADHD child go from compulsive anxiety to having such an ability. If you have a sensitivity for what students and parents want, you may be able to do these things. If you have a sensitivity for 'trust', you may be able to see that happening and coming into being.
Tue, 06/03/2014 - 11:56pm
Leon, It is not about what they admire, their trust is what they have confidence in not in who. If they don't feel it incorporates what they feel is important they have no confidence it will provide value, they will not trust it. Current testing was established by others, it is used for political gain, it does not change what the public is getting, they don't trust it. An effective facilitator helps the individuals articulate what they are feeling/thinking, the facilitator helps it to be turned into a usable product. The facilitor is not about sensitivity, they are about the process of drawing information our of the participants, they are about process, they are about delieving a usable product. They are about asking the questions so people will articulate what is important. The issue is not a life time of value, it is a tool to help people gain impact on the learning of their children. It is an immediate and personal value, what they learn today not how it will affect their income/social status 10 years from now. They have post high school to affect later.
Leon L. Hulett, PE
Sun, 06/01/2014 - 8:52pm
Chuck Jordan June 1, 2014 at 2:12 pm Here is one answer for your question, 'Raising the bar for students ...but how?' I would ask students to demonstrate things with actual objects. Not just with words, but with solid objects. I would ask them to demonstrate how they can apply the information. This is also a visible test that a tutor, or teacher or parent can do to see if the student really understands it well enough. I would ask them what it may apply to in their life, and have them demonstrate that. This solves the problem of the student seeing the value of something and how it fits into their world. I would take some examples from my professional life and ask them to also demonstrate how they would solve those things. These situations can be quite tough, so it raises the students confidence and certainty that he can handle most situations in life. This solves the problem of non-participation. When the student has to actually demonstrate something with physical objects, he has to participate. Any shallowness tends to shatter. When he has to demonstrate his ability to apply something, it tends to increase his ability to apply it. So if he does not know something well, then he can work it out, and finally demonstrate the ability to apply it. There are a whole set of physical things that happen to students when they study without the actual objects of a subject. They may feel sick, heavy, bent, squashed, tired, support their heads with their hands, and similar things. Do demonstrations and these things tend not happen. This is more likely to happen in subjects where there are heavy masses in the subject. If a student has such symptoms, a simple remedy is to have them demonstrate something with actual masses, small objects. You will see the student brighten up quickly and his understanding and abilities will improve. This also solves the problem of how one works out a greater understanding of something. In Engineering we do this with drawings. We make a layout and work out how something works. A student could do that. But using simple objects may be enough. Doing a demonstration a number of times, tends to increase understanding and his ability to do things at the speed expected of him, as an employee in life. With my students as a tutor, I have them do demonstrations until they are more or less instantaneous. At first this is a few, but soon it gets down to one or two usually. That is, they require no time to figure out what to do, they just see it in their minds and then start to do it. That will raises the bar a lot. A lot more than one might think. A student can ask himself these questions and do these demonstrations to work out a higher level understanding for himself, of as a self-test of his understanding. It answers the question, 'Do I know this well enough to apply it to the things I want to do in my life?' So this is the Self-Test a student can do on himself to see if he 'has got it.' That is a very high standard. The bar does not need to be higher than that.
Denise Nash
Wed, 06/04/2014 - 3:24pm
This article was published in the Detroit Free Press today, and I got angry at the misinformation that is being spread around by articles such as this. The following is what I posted in the Freep Comments section to address the falsehoods. Is there any fact checking at the Bridge Magazine? Just asking. Because here in Michigan, we have the USA's highest ranked education program at MSU. And this author is completely out of touch with the requirements for teaching, perhaps because he went to UM which is not known for their school of education. And I'm sure UM has modified their program since 1998. Sheesh! MSU has a full year of student teaching required. This is not included in their "4 years" as the author suggested, this is in addition to their 4 year degree, which, if they are to deal with teenagers (secondary school age) is NOT in "Education". Their degree will be in the subject they wish to teach: Math, Biology, Spanish, you name it. So I have no idea what this author is spouting other than nonsense that people will then go on to believe as fact! In my school district (hopefully throughout Michigan) no one teaches a subject that they didn't major or minor in. So, the author would have to teach Zoology unless he wanted to change his major at 40. Meanwhile, while the student teachers have a 4 day in-class internship, they also meet on the fifth day with 2 classes, one class with other subject majors, and the other class is with other student teachers in that particular school system. They work on things such as classroom management and earn master's credits. Just because this author went through a sub-standard program does not mean that all programs are sub-standard like his! MSU's program is often copied, in state as well as out of state. Also, I might add that not all MTTC tests are equal. The author gives the impression it's one test. Incorrect, there is a different test for each subject the teacher wishes to be certified to teach. Perhaps his, in English was easy. (Why not Zoology?, that's what would be required today! Whoops! No certification available in Zoology!) The MTTC test for history and social studies is very difficult, and I am sure others are, too. Let's just say that the author is completely out of touch with reality in many areas of this article. If he wants to make it as difficult to be a teacher as it is to be a physician, great! It would be wonderful for all the great teachers out there that would make the cut. If that ever happens, I assume they will also be paid like physicians. HA! Finally, I will say that when all this misinformation is spread around, it eventually becomes urban legend. Lets remember the facts.
Thu, 06/26/2014 - 9:52am
"Poverty. Physical and mental abuse. Drug use. Traumatic home life. As a teacher, I have seen everything." Really? According to (what appears to be) the author's linked-in profile…http://www.linkedin.com/pub/david-stanley/3b/9b/268...he taught in Holly Public Schools for 12 years, a district with one high school that's, again according to his profile as, "...the 2nd highest rated school in Oakland County; the northernmost county in metro Detroit." Are there challenging out-of-school factors in Holly? Sure. Are they as systemic as the districts that struggle the most in Michigan? Mr. Stanley then repeats the oft-heard refrain: "The single greatest in-school factor affecting student success is teacher competency. My personal experience in the classroom aside, the data support this." This is a straw man argument; that is, no one argues that, WITHIN THE SCHOOL ENVIRONMENT, the teachers are the most important factor in determining students' success. You can't, however, move from the anecdotal account of having taught in the conditions of Holly Area Schools… The Village of Holly (median household income of $55K) Holly Township (median household income of $71K) Rose Township (median household income of $66K) Springfield Township (median household income of $72K) White Lake Township (median household income of $66K) …to the conditions of teaching in the City of Pontiac (median household income of $28K). If this were the case, we could take the staff from, as Mr. Stanley says, the second highest rated school district in Oakland County, Holly Area Schools, and transfer them all to the Pontiac School District and see how it goes. My guess is that the factors outside the school environment would overwhelm them.
Thu, 12/25/2014 - 10:40am
I agree with most of the article. How do you propose to attract all the best into education when you pay one of the lowest starting wages. $32000 in our area. The argument has always been the same, you only work 180 days. Well then change that. Most teachers have like many others have 5 years earning their Bachelor degree. Then they are required to earn additional credits in order to keep their certificate. This will expensive and labor intense,but quit making paper and pencil tests one of the only measures of success and improvement . Can the student read the question, can he or she under stand the question and then can they verbally answer it. I am speaking after 35 plus years in the field. Oh yes what about all those others in the schools that can be a positive influence on kids. Cooks custodians,bus drivers ,para professionals administrators. counselors. In truth we are all educators in some small way. R.L.