Monday, March 4, 2013

How Many Reformers Does it Take to Really Fix a School?

In honor of Betsy DeVos, perhaps the most clueless of all clueless school reformers in the history of cluelessness, I am running the blog post again.

Four years since I wrote this and we still have to listen to political leaders and so-called experts who know nothing about actual teaching. So here is my old post:

IF YOU’RE AN AMERICAN TEACHER it’s likely you’ve noticed a depressing trend. Deep into a second decade of all-out school reform, or third, depending on who's counting, we’re still going nowhere fast.

“Backward” doesn’t count.

School reformers seem baffled; but baffled school reformers don’t stay baffled long. When one reform plan doesn’t work they conjure up another plan. They’re school reformers for god sakes. That’s just what they do.

Perhaps we need to look at schools like automobiles to grasp why it is we’re not speeding down the intellectual Interstate like the reformers say we must. Imagine that there are three autos, all broken down alongside I-10, in the Arizona desert. The drivers are three real teachers. Each has been carrying five passengers, five students. One car is a new Lexus LX 570. The second is a 2006 Honda Civic. The third is a battered 1972 Chevrolet Impala.

None of them will run.

A bus load of school reformers heading for a convention in Las Vegas sees them stranded by the side of the road and screeches to a halt. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan climbs out to survey the dire situation. Other famous passengers include Michael R. Bloomberg, mayor of New York, and Joel I. Klein, his one-time school chancellor. (Klein got worn out after trying for eight years to fix the city schools. Now he’s back in the cozy corporate world, earning millions, giving Rupert Murdoch legal and education-related advice.) Michelle Rhee is a passenger, too, and there are all kinds of politicians and lobbyists and sales persons for big testing companies filling the seats. Sadly, none of them knows a pile of shit from a spark plug when it comes to car repairs.

What could possibly go wrong
when Rupert Murdoch, left, and Joel I. Klein, right,
go to work to fix America's public schools?

Duncan is first to suggest a solution to the problem of the three stalled-out cars. “We are going to paint the Impala red to make it run.”

“We will call this plan ‘Race to the Garage.’ We will offer states $4.35 billion in federal aid if they agree to paint all their cars red.” A call is made, and at great expense, apparatus is brought out to the desert, and the car is painted red. It still won’t run.

Arne scratches his head.

Arne will point the way.
And, no, Duncan never actually taught.

Michelle Rhee pipes up next. Even the other reformers roll their eyes. After hours spent together on the bus they realize this lady’s favorite topic is herself and her second favorite is Michelle Rhee.

“I say we make these drivers apply for new licenses.” she sneers. “If you had better drivers the cars would surely run. I once taught for three years. So I know everything there could possibly be to know about saving children. These drivers must be terrible. Every child deserves an excellent driver. I am thinking... someone pretty much like me.” 

“Yeah,” Mr. Galt agrees. He was behind the wheel of the Civic until it died and he has thirty-three years of experience in the classroom. “Paved roads don’t matter…or guard rails…or laws against drunk driving…or bridges.”

Rhee misses the veteran’s sarcasm. Galt continues: “Or turn signals…or windshields. Hell...not even wheels.”

Suddenly, Rhee suspects she’s being mocked and shoots Galt a look.
Rhee now cashes in on her three years as a classroom teacher.
Trust us:  She doesn't offer free advice.

No matter, because Mayor Bloomberg is quick to agree with Rhee. “The problem in U. S. education is that we hire drivers from the bottom 20% of their graduating college classes—and not of the best schools.”

 The Harvard-educated billionaire informs everyone that the driver of the Honda will have to go. Another call goes out and a graduate of Teach for America is brought to the desert. The young professional gets behind the wheel and tries twice to start the engine. When it won’t turn over, the Teach for American kid exclaims, “Well, I only signed up for two tries. My work is done, my resume is padded.” The car she arrived in is still idling by the side of the Interstate and she jumps back in, saying to the driver, “Take me to the nearest law school, and step on it. I never planned to make a career in education anyway.”

Joel I. Klein, who never taught a single solitary minute in his life, offers up another plan. Of course he does. “I have a plan! And my plan is sure to fix the problem. We grade the cars. Then parents can choose the best cars for their children and all mechanical problems will go away. He gives the Impala an ‘F’ and the Honda gets a ‘D+.’ The Lexus gets a ‘B’ because it went a hundred yards farther down the highway before its engine coughed and died. Klein slaps bumper stickers with grades on all three cars.

They still don’t run. 

A Tea Party governor speaks up. It’s John Kasich. (Kasich knows all about schools because he used to be an investment banker.) “We are going to require drivers in failing cars to take tests,” he explains to his reforming buddies, “and prove they know their subject matter. We are also going to give that third grader in the back of the Impala a reading test. If they fail—we will fire the driver and hold the kid back. In Ohio this will be known as the ‘Third Grade Reading Guarantee.’ I will be the hero who saved the Ohio schools and maybe get some fat campaign contributions from lobbyists!”

The three drivers mutter darkly and the third grader stares at the governor in disbelief. Kasich hands the driver of the Impala and the kid the requisite tests and tells them to sit in the shade, if they can find any, maybe behind the stalled-out vehicles.

Kasich decides it’s too warm outside for him and jumps back on the air-conditioned bus. It’s hot and heading for 100° as the sun climbs high in the noon sky. The teacher and the student wipe their sweating brows and finish up their tests.

Sadly, when they’re done, the cars still don’t run.

Charles and David Koch are next to have a say. They’re not school reformers at all; but they love to lobby politicians. They want states to pay for vouchers, allowing more kids to go to private schools, and want corporations to take over whatever public schools manage to stay alive. The brothers hand out five-figure checks to lawmakers and governors seated on the bus. Naturally, Kasich and Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin get their share. The brothers can afford to spread around a little extra cash. Each has a personal fortune of $31 billion and now—money dispensed—they expect some action.

Walker agrees to take union protection away from all the drivers in his state. Calls are made to lawmakers back home and the necessary law (already written by a shadowy “non-partisan group” called the American Legislative Exchange Council, which the Koch brothers just so happen to fund) is enacted quickly. The drivers are ordered to get back behind the wheel and crank the engines or they’ll be terminated.

Regardless, none of the cars comes close to starting. 

The Koch brothers don’t really care about education, generally, or the children stranded in the desert, specifically. They hate unions—because unions usually back Democrats for political office—and what the Koch brothers really care about is political power. And taxes. Those boys loathe paying taxes on their personal fortunes.

Taxes make them mad.

Their wealth has actually increased since 2011.
They can afford to buy a few politicians.
A representative of Pearson Education offers up yet another plan. “What we need are more standardized tests, which my company will be happy to provide for a small fee, just a few million dollars, every year, from every state. We test students in all subjects and grades and maybe charge for scoliosis testing.” She opens a large briefcase filled with tests and all fifteen kids are ordered to get to work again. They complete this new set of tests and turn them in and the Pearson representative hails the next passing auto and climbs inside. She’s taking the tests to the nearest testing center for grading. “I’ll send you the bill,” she calls out cheerfully to Mr. Duncan. Then she’s gone.

Tired of all the delays—not to mention the failures—the various reformers fall to arguing. One insists that if they added new technology to the Impala it would run. Technology, he insists, will save us. A second says the problem with the cars comes down to owners’ manuals. What is needed is a Common Core Standards Owners’ Manual, the same for every car in our great land. A third expert says, no, we need charter garages. If we park a car that doesn’t run in a charter garage it’s sure to start right up—or something.

It’s now a donnybrook and bold plans are flying in all directions.

Suddenly, Rhee exclaims: “I’m late for a speech I’m supposed to give about the future of American education, during which I will hint that I am the savior everyone must follow. I can’t miss out on this. I’m being paid a $50,000 fee.” She jumps back on the bus.  

“I’m a brilliant billionaire,” Bloomberg reminds the others. “Surely no one can expect a man as important as me to stand here in the desert and cook my mega-brain.” He climbs aboard the bus. All the politicians and lobbyists and testing company execs follow and off they go.  

“Good luck, kids,” a former Texas governor named George W. Bush shouts from an open rear window. “No Child Left Behind!”

Bloomberg might try teaching;
we know he's more than smart enough.

THE THREE TEACHERS AND THEIR FIFTEEN STUDENTS watch as the bus disappears into a glorious red and orange and yellow Arizona sunset. They’re on their own again. Ms. Beasley, the driver of the Lexus, turns to face the others. “The key to moving forward in any car or any school,” she says, “comes down to just one word.

“That is: ‘motive.’”

“Like ‘motivation?’” asks Wanda, one of Beasley’s better students. 

“Yes,” Ms. Beasley agrees. “If we expect to get out of this desert it doesn’t make an ounce of difference what color the cars might be or what kind of garage we’re going to park in once we arrive. We’re going to have to put our backs into it and shove.”  

Rick, a high school senior who had been riding in the Civic, immediately grasps her point. “The key part of ‘automotive,’ is not ‘auto,’ but ‘motive.’ The car can’t move without some source of motive power.”  

“Looks like we’re going to have to do some sweating if we expect to move these cars along,” says Shaquille, who was riding in the Impala. “If we expect to get anywhere in education we, as students, are going to have to push.”

“Teachers must push, too,” Ms. Beasley notes. 

They all look off down the highway. Only twelve miles to go to Tucson and it isn’t going to be getting any easier. Still, even Carlos, a first grader, has the proper attitude. “Well, I guess we better start,” he says and prepares to put his fifty pounds of muscle to work. 

He thinks a moment, though, and adds:  “It would have been nice if all those people on that bus had stuck around to help.”

The three drivers give each other knowing looks. Then all the teachers and all the students lean in together and do their part.



P. S. Answer to the title question: NONE.

ADDENDUM:  Several of my administrator friends have read this post; to be fair, I should include a principal who comes looking for the missing teachers and students and gives one of the cars a tow.

In the real world, we should also keep in mind that not ALL teachers and not ALL students are really anxious to push. Again, motivation becomes the key.

The key in education is always motive power.
School reformers don't get it. They think the key is some new plan.


If you liked this post, you might like my book about teaching, Two Legs Suffice, now available on Amazon.

Or contact me at and I can probably send you a copy direct, a little more cheaply. My book is meant to be a defense of all good teachers and a clear explanation of what good teachers can do, and what they cannot do.

Two Legs Suffice is also about what students, parents and others involved in education must do if we want to truly enhance learning. 


  1. I wish they'd hurry up, finish ruining education so that if there's anyone left to teach, we can fix it the way it should be.

    1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. It is pretty sad when schools set out to reform what works better for their own school. I didn't realize this until my son's IEP meeting, that there are two high school diplomas now. Can anyone guess what the difference is? Also I found out that they are phasing out standardized testing now. If the student is passing classroom work and test and/or exams, the student won't be held back because of low scores on the standardized tests.

  3. Interesting timing on this; just came back from the middle school practice OAA test night, and we learned about the new new Common Core and the even newer standardized tests that will be implemented in 2014-2015. More tests, no books being issued, different levels of diplomas, and we think this is going to work?
    As a parent, I'm beyond frustrated. As educators, I can't imagine what you're feeling right now.
    I'm so tired of watching teachers bashed for this country's educational issues. SMH...

    1. I could have include more examples, too. We had state testing in the 80s, and the Third Grade Reading Guarantee in Ohio was actually tried out once before.

      I'm glad I'm retired.

  4. You forgot Bill Gates. What's he driving?

    1. I think he's just throwing his money out the window as he zooms by; he means well, but he really has no idea what we need to do.

    2. Don't be fooled, Bill Gates does NOT mean well. He expects a hefty return on all those dollars he seemsm to be flinging out the window.

    3. It's not money he's flinging...

    4. He was there videotaping the whole thing so that he and his foundation could determine what makes the best driver.

  5. I have my own three step plan to fixing all this. Ready? 1. Fix our schools so our children's basic needs are met (Maslow's hierarchy of needs). Fix the heating, the leaking roofs, and the cafeteria food that makes them crash or hyperactive in the afternoon. 2. Reduce class size. Yep, ALL educators can do better when there are fewer they have to reach and motivate. 3. PAY the teachers what someone working a demanding, stressful, and important job deserves.

    I left teaching and doubled my salary in two years. Summer vacation or not, twice the pay and not spending Sunday evening planning for the week... We have all this money to throw around, let us use it. But wait! If we hire more teachers to reduce class sizes, spend money on facilities and quality food, and pay teachers to keep and attract those who are there really to work, how are these reformers going to make six figures?

    1. I hear you; I'm really worried that the current reforms will dissuade people from entering the profession.

    2. John, you're right, except for a grammatical point.
      "the current reforms are dissuading people from entering the profession."
      And you might want to expand the point,
      "and convincing others to leave."

    3. Oh, BPF, I thought this didn't post. I entirely agree. I loved teaching for 33 years; I'm afraid they are destroying all that is good in the profession, and testing (for example) doesn't even work.

    4. I have been a substitute teacher for 4 years and cannot get a job. I have had many long term sub positions and my students love me but it doesn't matter. The teaching positions are granted to whomever knows the right people- apparently, I don't! What type of job did you get that pays double of a teaching salary. I am seriously considering giving this up. I am 43 years old, cannot even begin paying back my $50K of student loans---need some advice!!!!

    5. You sound like me. I am in the EXACT situation as you down to every last point. My certificate expires next year and I have kids about to graduate meaning MORE student loans I will not be able to afford. As passionate as I may be about teaching, I can't sit here and wait for politicians to get out of education so teachers can get back in.

  6. I might have added... "meanwhile, in between the testing and conjecture, the teachers have been instructing the students in auto repair. As the bus is about to leave they give a list of needed parts to the bus driver in the hope that he would send back some actual help."

    1. Of course; but the reformers would tell them, "We can't help, the tax levy failed again." Good addition to the scene, madam or sir. You are obviously familiar with how schools work.

    2. Anonymous, (why "Anonymous"?) Oh,I know why...

      Your three-step program is the Real Deal.

      I've been teaching math to wacked-out high schoolers for 7 years and I know your plan would work.

      I'm throwing this elsewhere.

  7. Best thing I've read all week. My favorite line was "Michelle Rhee pipes up next. Even the other reformers roll their eyes. After hours spent together on the bus they realize this lady’s favorite topic is herself and her second favorite topic is Michelle Rhee." Rhee is a freaking miracle. How many people can be given a powerful position they are wholly unqualified for, run the entire train into a wall in less than three years, burn bridges like the Nazis retreating across Belgium, get publicly fired, AND THEN become even more influential and powerful? Bravo, Ms. Rhee. You're an idiot, but respect for your ability to create the illusion that your head isn't a full foot up your ass.

    1. Jason, your summation of Ms. Rhee is even better than mine. If you are a teacher spread this blog post around.

      I believe we need to start fighting back.

      Drop me an email ( any time, with your thoughts about teaching.

    2. I agree: we (as teachers) have to enter the fray.

    3. Please, in the area of truthfulness and accuracy,
      you should mention that 
the Michelle Rhee quote
      for the Newsweek cover story 
      not originally "I'm not done fighting,"
but "You want this, don't you?"

    4. I thought the headline was, "I'm God, don't ya know!"

  8. this is the best article i have ever read on the mess. public education is getting destroyed weekly by people in power that are completely out of touch with the needs of children and educators. the over-measurement and reduction of the child as a bottom line product (corporate model) is manufacturing violence and poor emotional development. i love teaching, i love my students, and can't believe how hard i must push the children with each passing year. the money is getting thrown at computer companies for better and faster equipment. the speed and "control button" is too much immediate gratification for brain development. why isn't there any critical thinking about effects of machines on a child's brain? we don't even have a school nurse and it's not a priority - when it comes to getting a better fiber optic cable for higher speed computers. are there any healthy adults in power? not to mention the constant lawsuits that rob the district of funding.

    1. Please do me a favor and spread it among your teacher friends.

      I truly fear that we are ruining American education. Keep up the battle as best you possibly can.

    2. Anonymous - You are speaking my truth during my twins' last year in elementary school. On top of getting rid of the nurse, we also got rid of the librarian and library rotations until a parent was found to step-in, but who was not trained in library science; reduced our special ed teacher's .5 fte position to zero; and brought in "Imagine Learning" computerized literacy programs (is the air sparkling around your head yet?), which required taking away a classroom for yet a second computer lab in our seven year-old school. Mind you, we already had a state-of the-art computer lab that accommodated 30 kids. So now we have no librarian, but probably 100 computers and rolling carts of laptops to teach our children literacy. What do you suppose the computer sees when it looks into my kids' eyes to see if they really comprehended the passage they just read as they spoke into a stuffed animal microphone, cleverly named, yes, you guessed it....Mike. Well, Mike won't be able to see those "ah ha" eyes when they do understand, or the confusion if they don't understand academic words-of the week (like SCHEMA).

      One element I notice missing in this thread is that mentality and leadership style of "divide and conquer." This is how our new principal controlled the school. Culture and climate be damned! Parent community was strongly advised to not enter the building before or after school to pick-up kids, but drop them off at the curb. Parents were told to leave school play ground 15 minutes after pick-up so teachers could "sweep" to see if there were stragglers. Never did you see our principal out in the trenches of the school (at the bus, in the cafeteria, in the hallway in the morning to greet families (remember, we were discouraged from coming into the building). You get the point. Oh, and yes, this divide and conquer approach toward parents gathering bled into interactions between parents and teachers, as well. Pitting constituencies against each other is their strongest strategy. It's time to stand up and say "Hell No! We aren't going to take it anymore!" Open your windows......(Peter Finch in Network, 1976, with Faye Dunnaway and William Holden).

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  10. This comment has been removed by the author.


    You want people to take you seriously, you've got to get your facts right.


Joel Klein did spend several minutes teaching Math once, a long time ago. 
He has, more recently, been a brilliant instructor when it comes to 
hubris, arrogance, delusion and deceit.
An on-line course will be available soon from Wireless Generation.


Pearson's fee is hardly a few million dollars. 
It is many millions of dollars - nearly $500 million for Texas alone. Yee-haw.

    1. Ha, you must be following education news closely. I know Klein once spent part of a summer tutoring kids. In my opinion that does not count.

      I'm actually trying to put together a post now about Wireless Generation and Rupert Murdoch getting his hooks in American education.

      That's a disaster waiting to happen, Ruthless business ethics applied to schools...

      As for the math, I'm pretty much going: a few million per state per year, which x50 x ten years of idiot reforms...well, you see we agree. In an earlier post I noted that Texas will spend $1.2 billion by 2015 on testing.

      BPF, if you are a teacher, are you as worried about what's happening to education as I am? These so-called reformers have me scared.

    2. Sorry, but a few minutes teaching is hardly anything worth considering. A few minutes is not nearly enough. I've been teaching for over 10 years and still feel there is a lot to learn. The bottom line is that the reformers aren't qualified to reform any schools because they have never taught. The only one with any credible teaching experience was Rhee, yet her experience is an experience in failure. She bragged about reforming Chicago schools, which are still among the worst in the nation, and was quickly hired by DC Schools without checking the track record of failure. She was hired to reform DC Schools and they are still failing even after she was chancellor there. Ultimately we are hiring incompetent and inexperienced jerks to reform schools. It doesn't work. IF I go into a hospital room and act the way this foolishly arrogant jerks act, the patient would die. IT's time we wisened up and stopped paying attention to such so called documentaries as "waiting for superman" which is full of lies anyway. True reform cannot come from the outside. We teachers need to develop courage to confront our districts when they make all the wrong decisions and stand up to our administration for our students' sake. As a friend of mine once said, everything rises and falls on leadership. If a particular school or district has a dismal track record, it falls back to the incompetency of the district and the principals. Not the teachers. Teaching mediocrity has become the norm because many administrators promote it. How many times, I as a teacher have burned the allegorical midnight oil coming up with an extraordinary lesson plan only to be shot down by the administrator. I even had a principal tell me not too long ago, "I don't care how flimsy the research is on Open Court, I don't care that you are up to date with your research on how the brain learns best. You will teach Open Court because that's what you are hired to do." This was almost simultaneous as a nearby school opted to boycott Open Court (with the principal's support) and have their API shoot up nearly 200 points in a couple of years. Interestingly, the same district that promotes such mediocrity, "promotes' the school's success without knowing that they were successful because they rejected everything that district stood for. We need to reform how school boards are elected and operated and only then will there be change.

    3. Victor, BPF is on our side; he was being facetious. He was making fun of Rhee and Klein in his own way (and there's so much to make fun of there).

      My experience my last year was very nearly the same as you describe. Teach to the test and don't dare question why.

      I feel very sorry for the younger people if this trend keeps up.

      I also agree that teachers must start to protest. Pass this blog post along to teacher friends. I think we almost all agree: these leaders are foolish.

  12. 2nd Fact check!

    Where is Eli Broad?

    Who is Eli Broad and why does he want to destroy public education?

    1. "As the bus went down the Broad highway, ..."

    2. Oh yeah, I think the bus stopped at a few Walmarts along the way too.

  13. and Bill Gates?

    Excerpt from Respect for Teachers

    "While they have plenty of company, Bill Gates, the Gates Foundation, and MET provide
    some of the best examples. Gates himself has become a highly visible proponent of using
    value-added measurement to gauge educational success, even suggesting that policymakers should adopt an approach in which the aim would be “to get more students in front of top teachers by identifying the top 25 percent of teachers and asking them to take on four or five more students.”

    The slogan is “to help more teachers become great” and these top teachers
    would be given a raise; there would, however, be additional savings and the rest could go
    toward “improving teacher support and evaluation systems.”

    The problems with this argument are legion; it doesn’t reckon with grading and personal
    attention and so assumes that increasing class size will not decrease the effectiveness of these top teachers. As several chapters below go on at length to document, it also appears to misrepresent research findings left and right. 19 What may be even more worthy of attention, however, is the effort to connect teacher support and evaluation systems, setting out on a course in which developing the latter defines the former.

    As to how this would effect the teaching profession in the long term, we might look at the
    use of temporary services and contract workers (as well as outsourcing) at Microsoft. The
    contract role is one where the employee is not an employee, or at least does not have the
    benefits of an employee. He or she works on site at Microsoft and is managed by a Microsoft employee and appeals to the company as a low-maintenance/low-cost worker; these “so-called independent contractors are deprived of lucrative fringe benefits enjoyed by the company’s acknowledged ‘employees.’”

    This has resulted in IRS inquires and class-action suits, but it
    is clearly a model that Microsoft wants to maintain to keep costs down.
    The use of third-party employment agencies and short-term contracts “challenges the no-
    tion—proposed by liberal-democratic theories of the ‘knowledge worker’ and industry ac-
    counts of ‘friction-free’ capitalism—that labour conflict is no longer relevant within digital

    Also relevant to this is Bloomberg News, founded by Gates’s fellow education
    reform advocate Michael Bloomberg; here short-term contracts are thought to provide incentives and force employees to be accountable.

    [Excerpt from Respect for Teachers The Rhetoric Gap and How Research on Schools is Laying the Ground for New Business Models in Education]

    1. You are right again: Gates and Broad might even mean well; but they don't seem to have a clue. They also start with the assumption that bad teachers are the #1 problem in education today.

      Sorry not to include them; but if my posts are too long no one will read them.

      I am curious about your background; because even some of my teacher friends have never heard of Rhee and Bloomberg's ideas on education.

    2. John --
      If your posts are all of the quality of this one, you will not have to worry about people reading them. This was both one of the funniest and most too the point pieces I have seen in a long time. I posted a link on Diane Ravitch's blog and will do the same on my Face book page.

      To answer your question, I am a teacher -- 15 years in NYC--, and a parent --2 years of parenting in Rhee's DC--, so I know more about the Rhee, Bloom'n'Klein nexus than I do about Vallas and New Orleans or Arne Duncan in Chicago. but I am also a writer on education and neoliberal restructuring of society.



    3. Even more interesting - Gates may push VAM, but anyone who pushes quantitative measures to control qualitative processes risks ruining the system itself (see Campbell's Law).

      I'm not sure what world Gates lives in, but in my world, tell a teacher to produce higher test scores, by golly they will - by teaching to the test and exclusively preparing their kids for tests. Principals like this technique as their future promotions depend on test scores.

      Meanwhile, our kids learn how to pass a test, and they learn very little about how to solve problems and think their way through phenomena.

  14. By the way, I don't think Broad and Gates mean well. They are more like Mr. Potter in a Wonderful LIfe than they would like to let on.

    1. Thanks or spreading the word; I'm working on a book about what real teachers (good ones, anyway) do. These experts have NO clue.

  15. Found this via Diane Ravitch's blog, and will be posting a link to it on my own blog tomorrow (Saturday).

    In the meantime, I have to say your sense of humor is right in my wheelhouse, sir! Well-played...

    I wish I could say you have a gift for fiction, but this is (unfortunately) closer to non-fiction...

  16. Brilliant metaphor and a very entertaining read! Thank you for taking the time to create such a clear picture of what is going on. Thank you Diane Ravitch for posting this on your blog. This should be required reading for everyone!

    1. Please spread the word to your teacher friends; I think we nned to start fighting back in defense of good teachers.

      These "experts" have no clue.

  17. Why would anyone pay $50,000 to hear Rhee (or anyone else in this story)speak? Education needs people with CREDIBILITY to lead the way. Credibility means they've actually taught in the public school system (long enough to know what "work" really is). Or that they've been a well-meaning administrator who has "gone to the wall" for his/her staff/students over and over again only to keep crashing into the "excuse bricklayers." I have done both for a long, long time. The source during Watergate said to "follow the money." Do that in education and you'll find the problems. I wonder why the "leaders/innovators" in this story didn't just invite the passengers in the cars to ride on the bus---with them?

    1. I hope my next post will be about Rupert Murdoch's foray into education.

      What could possibly go wrong with that?

  18. Maybe the Impala broke down cause it was carrying 17 kids, not 5.

  19. Hate eduspeak, reformers, and the latest "experts" on education when there are many of us out here who have spent 40 years in the classroom with too many kids, too little salary, and distractions about integrating the latest "fix." I applied for Social Security last week. That plus my teaching pension will pay me the same as my paltry salary (reminder...after 40 years!) Why beat your head into the wall? And I love teenagers!

    1. As the original author, that's what I fear. The people who like this job get discouraged.

  20. Love your analogy. All these people trying to reinvent the wheel are beyond ridiculous. All we have to do is look at places where school DOES work-and works well-and we've got a place to start. The Netherlands,Japan,Australia, etc., all have good working models. We need to study them in-depth to see what really could work here in the states.

    On a personal note, one thing that makes me crazy is Teacher licensing. I recently moved from TX to OR. Knowing we are not here for a long time, I chose to sub instead of teach full time.

    I still have to qualify for a full teaching license-which includes me paying ridiculous fees, and taking tests that, quite frankly, are insulting to my intelligence. Why do I have to do this? Well, OR will not take my TX credentials as "valid." Madras,OR just wishes it had the passing rates of my old district in Plano TX!

    Here is just one question from the CBEST :

    "What is the best way to measure the weight of a pencil? Ounces, pounds, millimeters, tons..."

    Yes sir. That kind of question will weed out the good teachers from the bad, don't you think? Good thing I went to college so I could answer that first grade question!

    ( I am taking this b/c we are settling down in California when our home here is sold, so hopefully taking this test will make both OR and CA happy in the long run.)

    I love what I do. LOVE it. I am hoping I will be in a classroom again this next year. It may just be my OWN classroom, too-I am thinking it's time to be my own school, so I can focus on TEACHING-which is really just the facilitation of knowledge acquisition .

  21. Holy crap! Everyone knows you measure pencils by a pickled peck. I taught 33 years; and I had the same feeling over and over, which you expressed: "trying to reinvent the wheel."

    I wonder, though, if we could ever copy the Japanese with their 240 days of school and huge hours of extra study afterwards. Hope you get a job.

  22. I was a teacher, part time gifted services coordinator and instructional coach for 20 years. I started fighting NCLB as soon as it became clear it was destroying our initiatives we had in place that were clearly successful. I joined in with professors, parents, administrators, authors and civil rights groups in working early on to turn back the tide of high stakes testing. What was missing then? I am sorry to say it was teachers. All on my campus disagreed in philosophy with the high stakes testing mandates,but none of them ever really took a stance and put it into action.Did they protest at the capitol steps? Did they support high stakes testing elimnation bills by talking with every legislator? Did they read studies and communicate with others regarding the effects of excessive testing? When I asked why my fellow teachers weren't standing up for themselves and their students, the common response was "I can't risk losing my job". Really? There comes a time to fight oppression. Sad so many teachers were too busy hanging on to their jobs to be concerned with what was happening in the political realm around them. In unity, we are not powerless. How do you like your job now? Maybe now you have seen enough destruction that you will join together and take a stand against the politicos and standardistos.

    1. Becky, I totally agree. I was out at my old school recently. My old principal said the reforms were doing nothing that "helped children." I talked with three of our "educator of the year" winners and all agreed the testing drive was leading us nowhere.

      I pray teachers stand up and start to protest.

  23. After 7 years teaching in a Title I school (second career after a career in financial services).. dedicated, coaching, encouraging, teaching moral principals, TALKING .. really TALKING to students, teaching them social studies in a middle school, I am leaving teaching .. quitting 5 years before I planned ...! I cannot take the humiliation from the governor, the legislators, the school board and the school administrators. This blog was an insightful and delightful summary of our current state of education. My students are sad ... as I took 2 months of sick leave before coming back for my last 2 weeks of school. Where was the administration when the kids were crying and hugging me, welcoming me back ... oh, that type of 'connection' is NOT part of our new TEACHER EVALUATION program. No check marks for making a connection with the students! Sad .. so sad!

    1. This is exactly what I fear--that the reformers end up doing far more harm than good, that they ruin education and drive out real educators.

      I hope you change your mind; but I don't blame you if you don't.

    2. Anonymous, ( from another) I suspect you teach in Louisiana. Our evaluation system is set up so that unless you practically have your students teaching the class, you cannot get a 4 (on a scale of 1-4) with 4 being highly effective. Guess what you have to score to get more money.
      After school tutoring, parent contacts, time spent modifying lessons to help students get it, none of that is on the rubric.
      Then, in my district, they've decided that planning time is a perk, and that high school teachers should be grateful to teach 7 90 minute classes over 2 days, with 1 planning period, every other day. We should be grateful because we still have our job. I suspect you are leaving before you are so invested in the retirement system you feel trapped.

  24. The Education Reformers need to focus on what will really help our low performing students. Fixing poverty. And don't tell me that hard work cures poverty. If hard work cured poverty, every teacher I know would be a millionaire.

  25. I might quibble about "every" teacher; but amen. I know most of my peers worked incredibly hard.