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  • doug deeper

    Dale, I am a big fan and as an entrpreneur who built a very successful company from nothing with no money or prior knowledge and was self taught, I believe you are really on to something. However I must agree with the others who do not understand your defense of teacher unions. The only more reactionary and defensive institution in America after academia, I believe, is the unionized public school. I do not know a single real world entrepreneur who feels the need for such a regressive force in a workplace. Sure if you run a sweatshop I would applaud an aggressive union coming in to protect the workers. But in my 65 years and 41 in the business world, I have seen this need very rarely. But I have watched many companies severly damaged by unions who abused the businessowners as well as the employees. One of the first things you learn in business is that sometimes you have to fire a really awful employee, if you cannot, your entire company may be poisoned. Can you imagine a school that cannot fire awful teachers, ...well just look at Chicago schools. There is some genuine causation in the correlation between the growth of teachers unions and the decline of public education.

  • Joe Hewitt

    Why is it that any time people want to discuss reforming the way that unions participate in protecting a child's education future, its "teacher bashing"? Topics like accountability and guaranteed compensation should not be out of the discussion. Changing the way we compensate teachers does not necessarily mean it will be negative in outcome for the teachers. Who knows....a new combination of income and accountability could end up in a better situation for teachers.

  • hellcat

    I find your flippant attitude about new educational ideas unfortunate (e.g. labeling flipped classrooms as "non-sensical", and wishing MOOCS would just go away). I've taken several MOOC classes and learned a ton (and on my schedule and at my own pace). Also take a look at this guy: ( He completed 33 CS courses at MIT in one year! You are just as bad as the uneducated politicians that you deride. You have different ideas, but you aren't willing to allow other ideas a chance.

    Success in education is complex and subtle. Like so many other aspects of life, it can't be forced into a single box. The solution to the failure of our educational system is to open it up to creative alternatives: allow new ideas to either fail or blossom. This means we have to remove obstructions that maintain the status-quo, which unfortunately, you are one of the gatekeepers for.

  • Donna D.

    This article only serves to emphasize that not everyone is college material. We do have trade schools and vocational training for hands-on learners, but we must have structured learning for higher math, sciences, and engineering. There are many topics and areas that require lectures, textbooks, homework exercises, and tests to monitor how well students are learning. Let those who have the patience, aptitude, and I.Q. go to college and learn traditionally or through online colleges and universities and others who are less suited for that type of education follow the path of internships, apprenticeships, and general experience learn through those methods. It takes all kinds of people with all kinds of interests and abilities to keep an economy and society functioning. We should embrace them all. Open your mind and be appreciative of what we have.

  • Devavrat R

    There's a reason why MOOCs are called a 'revolution'. They provide everyone (with computer & internet) a free access to high-quality educational content and to the global community that forms around it. This is especially helpful for self-directed and lifelong learners and to students with inadequate educational resources. Its true that simply copying the features of a traditional lecture and putting it on a site isn't in itself revolutionary- but don't forget the boost this gives in evolving pedagogy:
    1) Scalability: Thousands of students are taking the courses at the same time and millions can do so too.
    2) Evaluation methods: While objective questions can be easily auto-graded, MOOCs are boosting the developments in evaluating coding exercises, electronic lab simulations and peer evaluation modules for qualitative content like essays and art projects.
    3) 'nonsensical ideas like the "flipped classroom"'- Nonsensical, really? Students watch recorded lectures in their free time at their own pace (with full control of speeding up, rewinding, revisiting selected parts). Several doubts can be cleared by watching it 'once more'. This provides a much better learning experience than a classroom lecture where you can't slow down or rewind a teacher- how can you personalize the same lecture differently for the 60 students in a classroom? So, the students come to classroom with a better understanding of what was taught in the lecture, and class time is now devoted to solving exercises, often in groups. Have you read Salman Khan's One World School House?
    4) Huge variety of courses offered: see Coursera course list
    5) Learning by doing: Udacity's courses are interactive- short videos interspersed with quizzes and exercises keeps the learner involved and alert. Similarly, its fun to learn at sites like Codecademy, Duolingo, Learnstreet, Code School.

    The main point, however, is that the learners need not restrict themselves to what is offered by these MOOCs and online learning sites, but to create their own curriculum by combining these 'units' of learning and add to them their own goals of creating projects in solo or in collaborations with other students.

    I was never so happy while studying in the college. I dropped out and began self-directed learning-

  • carbanel

    Are some teachers wonderful? Yes. Are some awful? Yes. You're not looking at the real issues, which all of the above-mentioned 'villians' are.
    1. The New York City math curriculum repeats the exact same material for children in fifth and sixth grades, which has a fair amount of overlap with the fourth grade curriculum. Want to make kids hate math? Bore the pants off of them and succeed. Grammar, parts of speech, and basic pronunciation rules are no longer taught.
    2. Firing ineffective teachers remains nigh on impossible. I have seen spectacular teachers and teachers who are so bad that even smart children end up in extended day extra help. I know classes where every child who was not afforded outside tutoring scored lower on state tests. With another teacher the following year, their scores popped back up.
    3. Testing, consistent, smart testing, ensures that children have actually learned the material and gives the teacher a regular snapshot of how much material the students retained from the week's lessons on an individual basis. State testing is not a bugaboo. It is a method for us to ensure that our children are being taught what they need to know regardless of location, and to ensure that kids who are ready can advance, and those who need extra help get it. It is far higher stakes for each child than for the teacher. After all, the teachers have the union. The kids only have parents who are facing a protected union.
    4. Charter schools. Yes, teachers who have not joined the union - perhaps because the union is disgracefully corrupt and protects even child molesters in New York City so the affiliation is tainted - deserve a place to teach. I have seen more than one teacher who annoyed a principal fired and have to fight in court. This is fair, but expensive and time consuming. I've seen teachers who don't want to limit children to the curriculum, teachers who have students scoring extremely well on state tests across the classroom across several years, and who are penalized for this. Those teachers often annoy principals and the others who teach the same grade. Where else but charters for these people?
    The list is endless, but that is the gist. There are spectacular teachers and no one is fighting against them. We are fighting a lousy curriculum, lack of funding for excellent testing, and continued support of all teachers, regardless of quality. In no other industry are the failures so well protected. Support to help a teacher who is not doing well should be required. After a reasonable time span, learn the job or leave, please. Our children shouldn't be subjected to a poorly thought curriculum taught by inept teachers.
    Again, many teachers are inspiring and wonderful. My guess is 80%. Are you willing to toss out 20% of our children who have to study with them? Learn from them? I'm not.

    • Xian Barrett

      I feel extremely attacked every day by the exact groups that you describe as our solutions. Your charter school narrative ignores the fact that only 1/6 charters outperforms its neighborhood counterpart, and are far more likely to underperform. You ignore that charters on the average, do not include Special Education and English Language Learners at a representative rate.

      But you ask a key question: Where should teachers who are doing right by kids but are penalized or harassed by the system or their administrators go?

      Answer: They should stay right where they are at helping the communities and children they are making such a positive impact on. The administrators, district leaders and policymakers are the ones we must hold accountability and remove.

      If we do this, this will address the other problems you raise. If as teachers we are properly supported for doing right and protected from bad policy and hateful administration, then it will be far easier to get the support necessary for teachers who are not fitting well with their environment and it will be far easier to remove teachers who are actively hurting children.