Monday, September 15, 2008

More on Education...

First, a blog-o-sphere apology to Scott whom I attacked with my title, "don't mess with me on education". It wasn't directed at him, but in retrospect it really was and wasn't intended to be an attack. I said it in person (or telephone), but here it is again in writing... Sorry Scott! Next, this is for Rachel, way off in New York City-land. Totally my very skeptical opinion on what the federal government can and can't do for education. In a nutshell I really don't think they can do anything because everyone cares about it, but nobody will fund it. McCain wants to reallocate the already skimpy existing funds, Obama wants to increase funds that were hard to get in the first place. Sadly, I see this as a lose-lose debate.

Let's start with No Child Left Behind. Do I really want to start here? Yes, because neither candidate will outright say it was a bad idea. Why? Because it's not a bad IDEA, just a bad plan. Teachers are stressing out to become "highly qualified". Yes, fabulous teachers, with incredible insight, a lot of experience, and excelling students are not qualified to teach our children because they don't have the endorsement that the Federal Govt. wants them to have. I actually received a letter from my child's preschool teacher informing me that she was not highly qualified but was working on it. (I promptly made her a certificate, had Tasha sign it, and rolled it up like a scroll to send to school.) Another teacher at her school actually quit because of it. Then, in order to track whether or not the students are not being left behind, we must test them. Don't even get me started on tests that can't really tell you what a child knows other than how well they take a test. In regards to NCLB McCain wants to focus on standards and accountability, Obama wants to fund it. They agree that children should be treated as individuals and reach their potential.

Teachers need to be able to teach. Obama's plan to "Recruit, Prepare, Retain, and Reward America's Teachers" is just hard on the stomach. Paying teachers to mentor new teachers is insulting to both the new and experienced teacher. Any good teacher is happy to share his/her knowledge with a newbie. Any teacher doing it for the money shouldn't be doing it and is doing a disservice to the other teacher. Yes, I think it's a great IDEA but there are too many pitfalls. Pitfall is also the way to describe what will happen if you reward teachers for doing a good job. I totally agree that better teachers should be payed more, but there is seriously no way to make a fair assessment, especially when you have 30+ individual students per classroom as variables. Also, hiring math graduates to teach isn't exactly a good idea. They are qualified in the subject matter, but teaching is a whole different ball game.

Relocating quality teachers to under performing and high need schools is a tough subject. I have no experience in this (maybe Rachel does) and no really good suggestions. Both candidates have plans that seem reasonable but I am always the skeptic. If you fix one school with one group of teachers and then their 4 year service is up or they transfer to another high need district, what happens to that school? I believe that teachers from Teach for America and other groups that supply highly motivated candidates are good for schools. I also believe that most of the Teach for America teachers are serving their 4 years and then running for office. Does that really matter? It suppose that depends. Was their focus on giving students the confidence they need to succeed in life, or getting statistical results that they could put on their resume? What happened to these classes and schools once they left?

I LOVE that McCain wants to give federal funds to the school principals, not the state or district. The spending is to be used to improve student achievement and that is different in every school and classroom. Yes, this has it's pitfalls too... not every school principal will do the right thing and inevitably they will be bombarded with sales pitches from every newest-technological-advantage-gizmo that there is on the market. With a good system of checks and balances though, I find this plan much better than every school getting 100 new computers because IBM gave them a really good deal.

I LOVE that Obama wants to make college more affordable to everyone and make applying for financial aid easier. WooHoo!

My concerns on the Obama plan. (In addition to the above funding for all college students)He wants to: Quadruple Early Head Start funding; Fund No Child Left Behind; Double funds for after school programs; and fund schools to prevent high drop-out rates. Where are we going to get all this money? Everyone cares about education, nobody wants to fund it.

My concerns on the McCain plan. He seems to be very pro-accountability which sounds like more testing. I hate testing! He seems very big on virtual schools/tutoring and online courses. I understand that the future is in technology, but kids in front of computers is not education. I'm also don't understand the funding he suggests. McCain talks about this% of Title 1 and this% of Title 2 money going to different places. Where is this money going right now? Who or what program is going to get left behind?

Ya see, it's all about the all mighty dollar!


April said...

The problem with plans about education is that the problem is not that our teachers are stupid or that the kids are stupid. The main problem is that parents are neglecting their children's needs. Name one family that is activiely engaged in their child's life that has a child failing in school. Stumped, yeah, I thought so!

I'm not attacking you I'm attacking crappy politics and crappy parents. I believe any child can exceed in any school with the support of a caring and loving parent. Period.

Rachel said...

I HAVE to go to bed, and reading this mostly just made me depressed. THANKS H.! J/K, but seriously, it's so hard to do the right thing, why is it soooooooooooo hard??????!!!!

I'm going to bed. I love you H.

P.S. OK I couldn't stand it. April, you really believe all kids need to succeed in school is a caring and loving parent??? What if that caring and loving parent is illiterate or has social phobias or is in an abusive relationship or has any number of challenges that could keep them from being able to guide/advocate for/find resources to help their child. When I taught bilingual 5th grade I had a lot of loving caring parents that still struggled to help their child succeed in our school system.

oh my I'm going to bed!!! ::::::::)

The Turley Times said...

Yep, and I have never ever understood the federal budget...How can you spend billions bailing out all those bank/mortgage companies when you're trillions of dollars in debt yourself? Does the government even have any actual, real money to spend on anything?'

tempe turley said...


You've gotta read this article in the NY Times about Obama's economic plans.

Granted, completely unrelated to education, but it gives you a sense where Obama's coming from.

I'm going to post this article soon, I promise (well looking at this, I guess I just did...)

But here's some good quotes:

"All of this raises the question of what will happen to the deficit. Obama’s aides optimistically insist he will reduce it, thanks to his tax increases on the affluent and his plan to wind down the Iraq war. Relative to McCain, whose promised spending cuts are extremely vague, Obama does indeed look like a fiscal conservative. But the larger point is that the immediate deficit isn’t as big as it was in 1992. Then, it was equal to 4.7 percent of gross domestic product. Right now it’s about 2.5 percent.

During our conversation, Obama made it clear that he considered the deficit to be only one of the long-term problems requiring immediate attention, and he sounded more worried about the others, like global warming, health care and the economic hangover that could follow the housing bust."

"So his policies often involve setting up a government program to address a market failure but then trying to harness the power of the market within that program. This, at times, makes him look like a conservative Democrat."

"As anyone who has spent time with Obama knows, he likes experts, and his choice of advisers stems in part from his interest in empirical research. (James Heckman, a Nobel laureate who critiqued the campaign’s education plan at Goolsbee’s request, said, 'I’ve never worked with a campaign that was more interested in what the research shows.')"

This last quote shows how, more than most, he just really gets it. That unlike what McCain has said, you just can't expect to retrain laid off workers to take jobs they really don't want:

"Some laid-off steelworkers might indeed be able to go back to school to become health-care workers. But many of them don’t want to work in health care or any service job. Factory workers, he said, want to make something. It’s part of their identity."

Rachel said...

Good call on taking the comments off H. on your sleepless post, but I just have to say that I cried when I read it and want to paste it onto my blog so I can have it forever. Thank you, and is that okay? (I'll take the comments off my post too:)

H said...

No prob Rachel. Post away!

I read Davey's interesting article post and was ashamed at all the "mormon money" being spent on defeating a law that had already been passed. Hmm, I wonder how much a temple costs to build and where 5.3 billion dollars could better be spent.