Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Economist Walter Williams evaluates whether teachers are earning their huge salaries

I wanted to review a previous post before I go on to discuss some news regarding teacher’s unions and whether they contribute to improving the academic performance of their customers (students).

Here is my recent post about Walter Williams, on the education system.

I want to highlight this part where Williams explains how the schools that charge taxpayers the most money achieve the worst academic results for their customers (students):

The teaching establishment and politicians have hoodwinked taxpayers into believing that more money is needed to improve education. The Washington, D.C., school budget is about the nation’s costliest, spending about $15,000 per pupil. Its student/teacher ratio, at 15.2 to 1, is lower than the nation’s average. Yet student achievement is just about the lowest in the nation.

In that same post, I linked to an L.A. Times article about a charter school that produces amazingly high academic output for a tiny fraction of the cost, and with some very poor students who are from first-generation immigrant families that can barely speak English.

Here is the secret of this high-performing school:

That, it turns out, is just the beginning of the ways in which American Indian Public Charter and its two sibling schools spit in the eye of mainstream education. These small, no-frills, independent public schools in the hardscrabble flats of Oakland sometimes seem like creations of television’s “Colbert Report.” They mock liberal orthodoxy with such zeal that it can seem like a parody.

…School administrators take pride in their record of frequently firing teachers they consider to be underperforming. Unions are embraced with the same warmth accorded “self-esteem experts, panhandlers, drug dealers and those snapping turtles who refuse to put forth their best effort,” to quote the school’s website.

Read the whole post for the whole amazing story.

Below, Ed Morrissey explains why public schools suck up so much taxpayer money, while providing horrible results.

Do teacher unions help students to learn?

This is a MUST-READ story from Ed Morrissey, writing at Hot Air. (H/T Ace of Spades)

In a free market capitalist system, teachers, like other grown-ups, are paid based on their performance. Parents should have a choice of schools, and they should be able to pull their children out of any school that doesn’t produce a quality education for their customers, the children. But what happens when the government, to please their union supporters, decouples teacher pay from educational outcomes?

Yahoo News reports:

Hundreds of New York City public school teachers accused of offenses ranging from insubordination to sexual misconduct are being paid their full salaries to sit around all day playing Scrabble, surfing the Internet or just staring at the wall, if that’s what they want to do.

Because their union contract makes it extremely difficult to fire them, the teachers have been banished by the school system to its “rubber rooms” — off-campus office space where they wait months, even years, for their disciplinary hearings.

The 700 or so teachers can practice yoga, work on their novels, paint portraits of their colleagues — pretty much anything but school work. They have summer vacation just like their classroom colleagues and enjoy weekends and holidays through the school year.

…“You just basically sit there for eight hours,” said Orlando Ramos, who spent seven months in a rubber room, officially known as a temporary reassignment center, in 2004-05. “I saw several near-fights. `This is my seat.’ `I’ve been sitting here for six months.’ That sort of thing.”

Unbelievable. These unions got Obama elected and they are no different than the auto union workers who expect something for nothing. Who cares about whether children learn anything? So long as Democrat supporters get their taxpayer money, why should they have to produce any results?

Ed Morrissey continues:

If ever one wanted an argument against Card Check, this would be it.  Imagine if you will an entire private sector with “rubber rooms” filled with employees left dangling in limbo because their union contracts made them “extremely difficult to fire.”  There are enough teachers in these rooms in NYC to fill several schools, and yet the taxpayers are shelling out money to have them sit in rooms, play Scrabble, and act like children.

The Big Apple isn’t alone in this process, either.  Los Angeles has almost 200 teachers in rubber rooms at the moment.  Apparently, neither system has the competence nor the inclination to process wrongful conduct or poor-performance hearings with any speed, which is not just unfair to the taxpayers, but also unfair to those teachers wrongfully accused of either or both.

If this was the private sector, it would at least get handled expeditiously, as no business can afford to have hundreds of people sitting around and producing nothing.  Perhaps as well as a cautionary tale about Card Check and the expansion of unions, it also serves as warning to those who want to replace the private sector in health care and energy production with public employees instead.

This is why I am a small-government capitalist. I want Democrat-supporting unions abolished. Let them earn their salaries like everyone else who works in the free market economy. Consumers deserve performance in exchange for their hard-earned money. And if consumers don’t get value, we should demand refunds so that we can take our money to a competitor.

To understand why school choice matters, take look at this video posted over at the Heritage Foundation, featuring 14-year old Johnathan Krohn. Notice how he is the only one of the panel of 3 kids who isn’t reciting memorized facts but is actually make a cause-and-effect economics argument.

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Walter Williams evaluates American academic performance

The article is here in Townhall.com. The left is always complaining that they need more money to raise test scores, and that schools are underfunded. But is more money the answer?

Excerpt:

The teaching establishment and politicians have hoodwinked taxpayers into believing that more money is needed to improve education. The Washington, D.C., school budget is about the nation’s costliest, spending about $15,000 per pupil. Its student/teacher ratio, at 15.2 to 1, is lower than the nation’s average. Yet student achievement is just about the lowest in the nation. What’s so callous about the Washington situation is about 1,700 children in kindergarten through 12th grade receive the $7,500 annual scholarships in order to escape rotten D.C. public schools, and four times as many apply for the scholarships, yet Congress, beholden to the education establishment, will end funding the school voucher program.

Teacher’s unions are not interested in being paid to perform, they want to be paid regardless of whether they perform. That is why they oppose voucher programs, which give parents a choice. If parents can choose, then schools that insist on retaining teachers who can’t teach will finally come under pressure to fire those teachers and find some better ones. More money thrown into the fire is not the answer.

Williams continues:

Any long-term solution to our education problems requires the decentralization that can come from competition. Centralization has been massive. In 1930, there were 119,000 school districts across the U.S; today, there are less than 15,000. Control has moved from local communities to the school district, to the state, and to the federal government. Public education has become a highly centralized government-backed monopoly and we shouldn’t be surprised by the results. It’s a no-brainer that the areas of our lives with the greatest innovation, tailoring of services to individual wants and falling prices are the areas where there is ruthless competition such as computers, food, telephone and clothing industries, and delivery companies such as UPS, Federal Express and electronic bill payments that have begun to undermine the postal monopoly in first-class mail.

Here is an article from the extremely left-wing Los Angeles Times that explains what it takes for a school to succeed. A school needs stay away from unions and educational bureaucrats, and stick with the basics: math, reading, writing and discipline. Let’s take a look at an Oakland school that serves the poorest, underprivileged minorities, but still manages to deliver the goods.

What kind of teachers teach in the American Indian Public Charter schools?

We are looking for hard working people who believe in free market capitalism. . . . Multicultural specialists, ultra liberal zealots and college-tainted oppression liberators need not apply.”

Good start. But are they “progressive”?

That, it turns out, is just the beginning of the ways in which American Indian Public Charter and its two sibling schools spit in the eye of mainstream education. These small, no-frills, independent public schools in the hardscrabble flats of Oakland sometimes seem like creations of television’s “Colbert Report.” They mock liberal orthodoxy with such zeal that it can seem like a parody.

Well, surely they must embrace teacher’s unions?

School administrators take pride in their record of frequently firing teachers they consider to be underperforming. Unions are embraced with the same warmth accorded “self-esteem experts, panhandlers, drug dealers and those snapping turtles who refuse to put forth their best effort,” to quote the school’s website.

But what about the need for compassion, tolerance and empathy?

Conservatives, including columnist George Will, adore the American Indian schools, which they see as models of a “new paternalism” that could close the gap between the haves and have-nots in American education. Not surprisingly, many Bay Area liberals have a hard time embracing an educational philosophy that proudly proclaims that it “does not preach or subscribe to the demagoguery of tolerance.”

The LA Times article shows that conservative, anti-union schools work for the poorest children. But there are challenges that are blocking the expansion of charter schools, such as “hostile state legislatures and arbitrary caps”, according to the Heritage Foundation.

Their article cites Rep. Buck McKeon (R-CA) as follows:

These caps are often the consequence of legislative trade-off – representing political deal-making designed to appease special interests who prefer the status quo rather than reasoned education policy. As a result of the caps, children across the country now languish on daunting wait lists, just waiting to enroll in the public school of their choice, simply because it happens to operate as a charter. An estimated 365,000 students are on charter school wait lists today. That’s enough students to fully enroll 1,100 new averaged-size charter schools.

As I discussed before, there are almost no males involved in education in the classroom, which means that the classrooms will emphasize compassion, tolerance, equal outcomes, non-judgmentalism and self-esteem. Competition and excellence are definitely out. In order for Americans to continue to have the same level of prosperity, we need to focus on academic excellence, not secular-leftist indoctrination.

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How educrats sacrifice academic excellence for self-esteem

UPDATE: Welcome Post-Darwinist readers! Thanks for the link Denyse! For more on the failures of educrats to focus on teaching young people instead of building up their self-esteem, please see Denyse’s post on the subject.

UPDATE: Welcome visitors from Blazing Cat Fur! One of my favorite Canadian blogs! Please take a look around, as I cover a number of issues of importance to Canadians, including health care, education, free trade, tax policy and of course FREE SPEECH! The Wintery Knight is a HUGE fan of PM Stephen Harper, MP Maurice Vellacott, MP Jason Kenney, Ezra Levant, Mark Steyn and MPP Lisa MacLeod.

My friend Richard sent me this:


Apparently, it has come to the point where students may not be given a zero grade for handing in assignments late, or a zero for not showing up the remake test/assignment. Below is a link to a petition a HS teacher in Ottawa has set up to reassess this policy. Please sign it. The last thing we need is to raise a generation of kids that have no concept of deadlines and consequences. That would be the end of our workforce.

The petition is here.


Excerpt from the petition content:

According to the Ontario Ministry of Education policies, if a student misses a test (whether they skip class or are sick) or if they cheat then the evaluation is not valid and they must not be given a zero. The student must have an opportunity to be re-evaluated on the material. Assignments can have a due date but if the student does not hand it in on the due date a zero cannot be assigned. The student must be allowed to hand in the assignment late without being penalized.

In the past teachers would go out of their way to make sure they evaluated students, but when given an opportunity to be re-evaluated, the student had to turn up. Now you can offer the student a chance to be re-evaluated, and if they don’t turn up they still cannot get a zero. Assignments can be handed in at any time during the year. If the whole class is doing the same assignment, the teacher can receive the finished assignments any time between the due date and the end of the year. If the teacher marks the assignments as he/she gets them and returns them as they are marked, then anyone who has not handed in an assignment can, if they are so inclined, copy an assignment that has been marked and turn it in as their own work. The only way around this is not returning the assignments until all of the students have submitted their work, but this delays essential feedback to the students. Teachers have to be able to indicate to students that a zero may given on missed evaluations and give penalty marks for work not done on time.

We cannot succeed in a global economy when those in charge of educating our children fail to teach them the kinds of skills they will need to take on the demanding jobs of the future. This is just another area of life where things have gotten so politically correct that we have forgotten the purpose of school: to gain knowledge! I urge you to consider signing the petition.

UPDATE: I found this story featuring Caroline Orchard in the Ottawa Citizen. And a panel discussion transcript. MP3 audio of an interview with Caroline Orchard from 580 CFRA, the news talk radio station in Ottawa.

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