Saturday, October 22, 2005

NY Times Blames "Teacher Quality" For Shitty Test Scores

Just like the wankers at the Times editorial page to pull their heads out of Judy Miller's ass just long enough to blame teachers for the poor test score results released this week. Here's the editorial:

Happy Talk on School Reform

The Bush administration responded characteristically this week when it put a positive gloss on national math and reading scores that were actually dismal - and bad news for the school reform effort. Faced with charges that his signature reform, the No Child Left Behind Act, was failing, the president played up the minor positive results. He should have seized the moment to acknowledge the bad news and explain what it would take to make things right.

He should also, of course, have reminded the nation that as long as it fails to take school reform seriously, American children will fall further and further behind their peers abroad.

The fourth grade reading scores on this year's National Assessment of Educational Progress were basically flat compared with 2003, even though the states are supposed to be ramping up student achievement and narrowing the achievement gap between poor and wealthy students. Fourth graders' math performance was also a clear disappointment, at a time when the country hopes to catch up with the international competition in science.

Critics of No Child Left Behind were quick to pounce, arguing that student progress was more impressive, by some measures, before the law kicked in. The truth is less depressing, but still extremely daunting. No Child Left Behind has reached that perilous interim phase that all reforms must eventually pass through if they are to survive. It has reaped the easy gains that were achieved by merely paying more attention to the problem. The next level of progress will require deeper systemic change, especially in the realm of teacher quality.

Most states have avoided this core issue and simply opted for repackaging a deeply inadequate teacher corps. Real reform will require better teacher training and higher teacher qualifications, which will in turn mean cracking the whip on teachers' colleges that have basically ignored the standards movement. The federal government was supposed to confront this issue head-on, but has tiptoed around it for several years. This week's test scores are not the end of reform. But they could well spell the beginning of a downward spiral unless Congress, federal officials and the states all pull together to move the country out of this trough and onto higher ground. That will mean hard work and more money - and a direct confrontation with the politically explosive issue of teacher preparedness. Happy talk won't get it done.

Here's my response in the form of a letter to the editor:

In your editorial entitled "Happy Talk on School Reform," you blame teacher quality for the dismal state of education today.

You ALWAYS blame teacher quality whenever there is negative news regarding education, test scores, graduation rates, etc.

You NEVER give parents or students some of the blame for the problems in the public education system today.

Why is that?

Do you think teachers, who toil with 170 students (soon to be 180 after the new UFT contract is ratified) in old, broken-down buildings that are 100 degrees in winter (from the boiler) and spring, fall, and summer (from the warmer weather outside) using broken-down computers and antiquated books and academic materials, are COMPLETELY TO BLAME for the poor test score progress?

Might the parents, who often are working two or more jobs to make ends meets and cannot spend time helping their kids with their schoolwork, bear some of the responsibility for the dismal state of public education?

Might the kids, many of whom will proudly tell you they have never read a book, intend to never read a book, and don't have to read a book because "That is mad old, mister," bear some of the responsibility for the dismal state of public education?

I really wish you pontificating know-it-alls would get out of your carpeted, air-conditioned offices and come see what conditions we teachers deal with EVERY DAY in the public education system before you blamed teachers for all of the problems in schools today.

I also wish you would put your money where your mouths are and come and teach for a year in a public school. We could give you a nice, broken-down classroom with mold on the ceiling and holes in the floor and rats/mice/roaches in your closet with a nice, broken-down computer to grade your 170/180 kids on while you're sweating in the 100 degree heat and humidty the boiler sends through the building in December and January.

But you won't put your money where your mouths are. You're too busy writing "Free Judy Miller" editorials in your air-conditioned, carpeted offices and ignoring the real problems in public education today: class size, physical environments, adequate and updated educational materials, and teachers who are commensurately compensated for their jobs and education levels (thus helping to attract and retain the best teachers.)

Not to mention that the emphasis on high-stakes testing in the last ten years has brought us a "teach to the test" public education system that neither educates nor prepares kids for the future, whether the mandates are coming from the federal level or from city hall.

It's so easy to point fingers at teacher quality while you're writing from the comfort of your ivory tower office on West 43rd Street.

But you rarely see these media finger-pointers quitting their ivory tower jobs to come join the "noble teaching profession."

Nope. That would take hard work, dedication and sweat, not to mention a significant pay cut.

They'd rather take the easy way out and blame teacher quality.


I always figured if you paid them, they would come.

If you want to get your letters published in the Times, you have to make them as brief as possible. They only publish long letters from politicians or celebrities.
I didn't really want it published so much as I needed to blow off steam. I'm simply sick of them blaming ALL education problems on teacher quality.

I've sent similar emails to the guy at Eduwonk and Jay Matthews, the Ed writer at the Washington Post, and I've gotten into long (and mostly fruitful) dialogues with them. Matthews was actually pretty receptive to some points I made after he suggested school be made year round and I (politely) suggested he come into my 150 degree school building to help cart out some of the bodies in August.

Ah, well, blogging and writing letters and emails is so much cheaper than therapy (which I don't believe GHI covers any more anyway!!!)
Eduwonk is a fraud, a virtual neocon who poses as a progressive. He actually had the audacity to criticize Edwize for allowing responses in the blog, when he himself does not.

He supported Moscowitz in her one-sided media circus vilifying teachers. He may as well be Rod Paige saying teacher unions are "terrorist organizations."

Matthews is far more reasonable, though I often disagree with him. The very best education columnist, for my money, is Michael Winerip of the NY Times. Eduwonk hates him, so you know he's doing something right.

I know what you mean about the blogging addiction. Mine, though, is driven by this awful contract proposal. I'm hoping for it to abate afterward.
I'm glad you're picking on the Times for that one. Like NYC Ed sez they won't print anything over 150 words. Not celebrities either -- they get op-ed space. If you took paras #5 and #11 (the last one) you'd still have a decent letter.

(Bash the kids and parents another time, if you have to. Ha ha. The Times ain't gonna defend them).
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