July 15, 2020

Just once, I want to see a national protest for better teaching and more learning

The opening sentence of Howard Blume’s piece today is dramatic:

“Los Angeles teachers are poised to end their first strike in 30 years after union leaders reached a tentative deal Tuesday with the L.A. Unified School District.”

I supposed we are to feel catharsis. Sadly, I don’t.

I look at this and other teacher tantrums with a stoic gaze because between yesterday and today nothing material has changed for the undereducated children of Los Angeles.

This is still the reading picture they live in (red, orange, and yellow, are below standard)….

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And, this is their math picture…

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Given these pictures, and LAUSD’s inability to have the real conversation about their issues, the children are still on track to be serfs in a wealth stronghold.

Their teachers may get a slight pay bump and the ability to prevent district leaders from raising class sizes, even with it’s vital to the solvency of Los Angeles’ financially shaky public schools.

Rick Hess points out “average [teacher] pay is $74,789…California’s median household income in 2017 was $71,805.”

Hess goes further in unseating the teachers’ union rally cry around out-of-control class sizes…

On the class size question, the most recent federal data (from 2014–15) notes that average class size in LAUSD was 25.3, a hair lower than the 25.4 found across the state of California, as a whole. Nonetheless, the UTLA’s interest in putting a cap on extraordinarily large classes is easy to appreciate. No parent or teacher likes to see a class that large. It is worth keeping in mind, though, that such classes are the exception and, more relevant, that the waiver which permits those extraordinarily large classes was negotiated into contracts with UTLA more than 15 years ago, and signed off by the last five UTLA presidents. So, while pushing to eliminate the waiver that permits those giant classes is wholly reasonable, it’s misleading for the UTLA to suggest this is a new practice and peculiar that the union has suddenly decided this long-accepted provision helps to justify a strike.

“Misleading” is Hess’ kind word for dirty.

The unfortunate outcome here is that teachers are learning the best way to solve their differences is to hold the district, students, and parents hostage by walking out, and deploying noxious public narratives about greedy and corrupt forces within and without the schools that are committed to destroying public schools by privatizing them.

After they get their way, then they switch to “just kidding. Public schools are totally awesome. Give us your kids and their dollars.”

Are we supposed to believe a system that was dominated by evil corporate overlords yesterday is suddenly a good place to put our kids today simply because public workers got a 6% salary increase?

If we’re stupid, yes.

The ploy appears to have worked this time. It was fashionable for virtuous people everywhere to sport red shirts in a mindless exercise of shallow contempt for reason. “I stand with teachers,” their social media posts said. It was a perfect national slogan for dullards, and it roughly translates as “I have little time to consider the issues and no capacity for independent thought.”

I heard nothing about better teaching or better systems that protect students from educational malpractice that was once said to “shock the conscience.

Protesters brought no attention to classroom practices, which for me is always the best sign people aren’t serious. Do we overlook teacher performance as a fight worth having, equal to issues of pay and pedicures for teachers, because the actors feel there is nothing there to be improved?

Are the children of Los Angeles sitting before universally talented and effective teachers?

If you’re capable of reading this, you know the answer.

In 2010 a Rand study of LAUSD teacher found an unsurprising variation in teacher performance, even as 99% of them were rated as effective.

Among the study’s other findings:

Highly effective teachers routinely propel students from below grade level to advanced in a single year. There is a substantial gap at year’s end between students whose teachers were in the top 10% in effectiveness and the bottom 10%. The fortunate students ranked 17 percentile points higher in English and 25 points higher in math.

Some students landed in the classrooms of the poorest-performing instructors year after year — a potentially devastating setback that the district could have avoided. Over the period analyzed, more than 8,000 students got such a math or English teacher at least twice in a row.

• Contrary to popular belief, the best teachers were not concentrated in schools in the most affluent neighborhoods, nor were the weakest instructors bunched in poor areas. Rather, these teachers were scattered throughout the district. The quality of instruction typically varied far more within a school than between schools.

Although many parents fixate on picking the right school for their child, it matters far more which teacher the child gets. Teachers had three times as much influence on students’ academic development as the school they attend. Yet parents have no access to objective information about individual instructors, and they often have little say in which teacher their child gets.

• Many of the factors commonly assumed to be important to teachers’ effectiveness were not. Although teachers are paid more for experience, education and training, none of this had much bearing on whether they improved their students’ performance.

That was almost a decade ago. Perhaps LAUSD has solved their teacher evaluation troubles since then.

I’m not an expert, and teacher evaluation issues are complex even for the brightest minds in education, but Parent Revolution’s report last year that exposed LAUSD for lax evaluation of teachers in the worst performing schools sounds the clearest of alarms. It doesn’t appear that the system for evaluating teachers has improved.

According to Parent Revolution….

Last year, 68% of teachers at the Los Angeles Unified School District’s lowest-performing schools received no evaluation of their teaching. At these schools, where only 28% of students met standards in reading and only 20% are meeting standards in math, 96% of the teachers who were evaluated were rated as having met or exceeded standards. This trend is consistent for at least the last three years.

Here’s what it looks like:

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It’s angering that children are not the center of all these grandiose middle-class battles for better compensation packages taken from the empty bowls of the poor. They don’t have unions or newspapers or tweet happy politicians with handlers who bring them red shirts and tell them “where this and dance for this fun tweet we’re going to send out this afternoon.”

Another day, another dollar, another blog post bemoaning the tired story of how America hates its young.

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