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Chicago Teacher's StrikeFollow

#1 Sep 10 2012 at 5:47 PM Rating: Excellent
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http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/11/education/teacher-strike-begins-in-chicago-amid-signs-that-deal-isnt-close.html?_r=1&hp
The New York Times wrote:
CHICAGO — Teachers in the nation’s third-largest school district went on strike Monday morning after negotiations for a new contract collapsed, giving some 350,000 students an unexpected day off but leading to frustrations among parents and indications that a settlement may not be close.

Some random thoughts, in no particular order:
  • From what I've seen/read, the biggest wedge is some sort of teacher evaluation system that includes standardized test scores. The teachers claim that this is unfair, as factors outside of their control will bring down scores (e.g. poverty, single-parent homes, etc). The city claims that evaluations wouldn't be counted the first year, which would be used as a test run, and that they'd tweak them after the first year to be fair but effective.
  • Rahm addressed the media last night after the union announced that it would strike, and he was all "HULK SMASH!!1!one", which at least gives some hilarious context to the quote from union president Karen Lewis (the online article I found it in has since taken it down) which went something along the lines of "He's got a vision, and he's going to make it happen, and nobody is going to get in his way. If they do, he'll bully them and swear really loudly until he gets his way."
  • The Chicago Public School headquarters is about a block away from my office, and the rally has spread from the sidewalk in front of it in the morning to all of Clark St. (and part of Adams) by the time I left work. I wasn't all that shocked to see a few thousand people out in the streets, Chicago being a festering breeding ground for righteous bleeding hearts who are willing to demonstrate for just about any cause (in this case the "children"). What did surprise me were the number of teachers that had taken their kids to watch and support the protest. It rubs me the wrong way that the only parents whose daytime plans for their kids were unaffected by the teachers strike were the teachers themselves.
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#2 Sep 10 2012 at 5:58 PM Rating: Default
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I'm not sure in what direction that you intended this thread to go but...

1. I don't understand how poverty plays a part in the ability of a child to learn in an equal environment. Are they being compared to other schools with more money? Is the poverty in reference to the child's home or the school?

2. Standardized tests is already a necessary evil for students, there's absolutely no need to do the same for teachers. We should be working in a direction away from standardized tests....

Edited, Sep 11th 2012 2:01am by Almalieque
#3 Sep 10 2012 at 6:00 PM Rating: Default
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Demea wrote:

  • From what I've seen/read, the biggest wedge is some sort of teacher evaluation system that includes standardized test scores. The teachers claim that this is unfair, as factors outside of their control will bring down scores (e.g. poverty, single-parent homes, etc). The city claims that evaluations wouldn't be counted the first year, which would be used as a test run, and that they'd tweak them after the first year to be fair but effective.


Haven't read much about it yet, but I can *almost* see the point here. I'm not clear on the details of this though. What exactly is tied to those scores? And is there really a "fair" way to deal with this at all? At the end of the day, you'd presumably like a system which rewards good results and penalizes bad ones. Is that fair to the teacher who get assigned to a really bad school? Nope. But I think the flip side of this is whether we should be more concerned about the teachers salaries (or whatever is affected) than about the fact that those schools are bad and the kids are failing (or their education is failing them I suppose).


I just think that for most people, the fact that so many students are failing is more of a problem than whether teachers might not get paid as much as they'd like because they're working in a school where kids are failing. We're really focusing on the wrong part of the problem IMO. Fix the failing schools and the issue with evaluations tied to those results kinda fixes itself, doesn't it?
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#4 Sep 10 2012 at 6:05 PM Rating: Default
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Fix the failing schools and the issue with evaluations tied to those results kinda fixes itself, doesn't it?


That depends on how you define "fixing the failing schools". I think that's the problem. People have different views on what is the right solution. For example, student vouchers.
#5 Sep 10 2012 at 6:05 PM Rating: Excellent
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Illinois unions are shooting themselves in the foot. Between the teachers union fight with Emanuel and the state union guys heckling and shouting down Quinn the other week right before the pension reform debate, they need a dose of reality. Some stuff needs to change and biting at the Democratic hand is a pretty stupid decision because the other hand isn't there to pet you.

Granted, in Illinois, the other hand is virtually nonexistent but the point remains that they're making enemies out of allies unnecessarily.

Edited, Sep 10th 2012 7:08pm by Jophiel
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#6 Sep 10 2012 at 6:12 PM Rating: Good
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Almalieque wrote:
I'm not sure in what direction that you intended this thread to go but...

No agenda; I just wanted to see what the usual suspects had to say.

Quote:
1. I don't understand how poverty plays a part in the ability of a child to learn in an equal environment. Are they being compared to other schools with more money? Is the poverty in reference to the child's home or the school?

Here's what a quick Google Scholar search turned up: this study seems to show that poverty is correlated with lower performance in math and reading at young ages (5-8), but not for older kids. This paper seems to argue that the differences in test scores between black and white kids is largely explained by poverty (52%), with an additional 28% explained by "differences in home environment ".

I'm not sure of the mechanics of the teacher evaluation system. They weren't detailed in any articles I read, and considering the deal wasn't agreed upon, we probably won't see any details.

Quote:
2. Standardized tests is already a necessary evil for students, there's absolutely no need to do the same for teachers. We should be working in a direction away from standardized tests....

Edited, Sep 11th 2012 2:01am by Almalieque

They'd be using the students' test scores to evaluate the teachers, not testing the teachers. Smiley: tongue
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#7 Sep 10 2012 at 6:12 PM Rating: Decent
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I'm sure they'll magically come to an agreement in no time though. As you said, they're both pretty much on the same "side" here. As I said earlier, I can kinda see the issue with the evaluations, but can't comment more directly until I learn more details. Other than that though, it seems almost like just the usual rattling of sabers. Can't be sure though. I'm sure you guys know more about the specifics.
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#8 Sep 10 2012 at 6:17 PM Rating: Good
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Almalieque wrote:
Quote:
Fix the failing schools and the issue with evaluations tied to those results kinda fixes itself, doesn't it?


That depends on how you define "fixing the failing schools". I think that's the problem. People have different views on what is the right solution. For example, student vouchers.

You could also argue that fixing the evaluations, and getting rid of bum teachers, is the most important step in fixing failing schools.
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I just think that for most people, the fact that so many students are failing is more of a problem than whether teachers might not get paid as much as they'd like because they're working in a school where kids are failing.

"A Chicago Public Schools spokesperson said average pay for teachers, without benefits, is $76,000."
Not bad for 9 months of work!
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#9 Sep 10 2012 at 6:31 PM Rating: Decent
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Demea wrote:
Almalieque wrote:
Quote:
Fix the failing schools and the issue with evaluations tied to those results kinda fixes itself, doesn't it?


That depends on how you define "fixing the failing schools". I think that's the problem. People have different views on what is the right solution. For example, student vouchers.

You could also argue that fixing the evaluations, and getting rid of bum teachers, is the most important step in fixing failing schools.


But you need some kind of evaluation in order to determine who the bum teachers are. I don't agree that tying them directly/solely to standardized test scores is the best approach, but you have to have some means to make that determination. And then you have to have some sort of change to even allow you to "get rid of" those bum teachers. Unions tend to make that very hard to accomplish just by their nature and it's not hard to see how they'd resist any sort of change to the conditions under which members might be terminated.

Quote:
Quote:
I just think that for most people, the fact that so many students are failing is more of a problem than whether teachers might not get paid as much as they'd like because they're working in a school where kids are failing.

"A Chicago Public Schools spokesperson said average pay for teachers, without benefits, is $76,000."
Not bad for 9 months of work!


Yeah. Not exactly hurting. But that's an average. We can assume that the teacher in the poor district isn't getting paid as much as the teacher in the well to do one already, so there's some legitimate question about tying salary to test results (assuming that's the direction this is going). Honestly, I'd rather that the schools themselves perhaps have some budget areas tied to test scores (and other indicators as well), and then give those running the individual schools the authority to hire/fire as they wished in order to improve things. Create incentives for administrators to improve the outcomes for their students and maybe they will.


I just think that's what's lost in this whole discussion (as I mentioned earlier) is that regardless of what we think should be the impact of bad standardized test results on teachers, we can say that they have bad effects on the students. A student who can't pass those tests isn't likely to do very well in the work force later on. We should be more concerned with them than with the teachers IMO (and yes, I understand that one can be related to the other).
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#10 Sep 10 2012 at 6:36 PM Rating: Excellent
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gbaji wrote:
But that's an average. We can assume that the teacher in the poor district isn't getting paid as much as the teacher in the well to do one already

It's the Chicago Public Schools
Wiki wrote:
Chicago Public Schools, commonly abbreviated as CPS by local residents and politicians and officially classified as City of Chicago School District #299 for funding and districting reasons, is a large school district that manages over 600 public elementary and high schools in Chicago, Illinois. Chicago Public Schools is currently the third largest school district in the United States, with more than 400,000 students enrolled in the school district.

I'd assume they're all paid on the same union scale.
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#11 Sep 10 2012 at 6:52 PM Rating: Decent
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Jophiel wrote:
gbaji wrote:
But that's an average. We can assume that the teacher in the poor district isn't getting paid as much as the teacher in the well to do one already

It's the Chicago Public Schools
Wiki wrote:
Chicago Public Schools, commonly abbreviated as CPS by local residents and politicians and officially classified as City of Chicago School District #299 for funding and districting reasons, is a large school district that manages over 600 public elementary and high schools in Chicago, Illinois. Chicago Public Schools is currently the third largest school district in the United States, with more than 400,000 students enrolled in the school district.

I'd assume they're all paid on the same union scale.


So that's one school district? Are they the only district that these proposed rules apply to? Or just the one district that's on strike because of them (and whatever other stuff is going on)? If this is a broader change that they disagree with, then can just one district really fight against it? If it's a change just within their district (and their local union), then wouldn't the effect be a wash across the group itself? Or am I missing something?
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#12 Sep 10 2012 at 6:59 PM Rating: Excellent
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The Chicago School District is a single district that covers the entire city. They're all under the same contract. The public schools for the entire city are on strike in response to negotiations that began when Mayor Emanuel took office and proposed changes to the schools (longer days, longer school years, evaluations, etc).

You can get a really brief run down of the dispute here.
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#13 Sep 10 2012 at 7:02 PM Rating: Default
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Demea wrote:
Here's what a quick Google Scholar search turned up: this study seems to show that poverty is correlated with lower performance in math and reading at young ages (5-8), but not for older kids. This paper seems to argue that the differences in test scores between black and white kids is largely explained by poverty (52%), with an additional 28% explained by "differences in home environment ".


I've heard those studies before. That's why I was asking. Admittedly, I'm biased against statistics, but I'm not objectively buying that for a second. There might be some additional factors (i.e. stress) that connect poverty with low grades, but no direct correlation to poor performance. I'm not directing this at you, I'm just "typing out loud".

Demea wrote:
They'd be using the students' test scores to evaluate the teachers, not testing the teachers.


I know, that's what I meant. Those same tests are already a necessary evil for students, now they are going to equally affect the teachers. I would much rather prefer their evaluations on the teachers be them taking tests rather than the students. They should also be interactive tests, not just multiple choice tests. Exams that test their knowledge in their subject and how to interact with students.

We have to be honest with ourselves. Some students just don't care and simply don't try. That is at no fault of the teacher. Some children are just failures. They aren't doomed as such, but we shouldn't punish the teachers because of the students' failures.
#14 Sep 10 2012 at 7:07 PM Rating: Excellent
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Almalieque wrote:
I'm biased against statistics

Smiley: laugh
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#15 Sep 10 2012 at 7:12 PM Rating: Default
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Demea wrote:
You could also argue that fixing the evaluations, and getting rid of bum teachers, is the most important step in fixing failing schools.


Exactly. To me, that is a much better solution than student vouchers. Until people agree on the "best way" to "fix it", the solution will always be unknown and/or impractical.

Edited, Sep 11th 2012 3:14am by Almalieque
#16 Sep 10 2012 at 7:15 PM Rating: Good
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Almalieque wrote:
Demea wrote:
Here's what a quick Google Scholar search turned up: this study seems to show that poverty is correlated with lower performance in math and reading at young ages (5-8), but not for older kids. This paper seems to argue that the differences in test scores between black and white kids is largely explained by poverty (52%), with an additional 28% explained by "differences in home environment ".


I've heard those studies before. That's why I was asking. Admittedly, I'm biased against statistics, but I'm not objectively buying that for a second. There might be some additional factors (i.e. stress) that connect poverty with low grades, but no direct correlation to poor performance. I'm not directing this at you, I'm just "typing out loud".

I've always been under the impression that "low grades" and "poor performance" were synonymous.

However, two words that I know mean different things are "correlation" and "causation." I assume you meant to use the latter, as those studies show pretty definitively that there is a direct (i.e. positive) correlation.

Quote:
Demea wrote:
They'd be using the students' test scores to evaluate the teachers, not testing the teachers.


I know, that's what I meant. Those same tests are already a necessary evil for students, now they are going to equally affect the teachers. I would much rather prefer their evaluations on the teachers be them taking tests rather than the students. They should also be interactive tests, not just multiple choice tests. Exams that test their knowledge in their subject and how to interact with students.

The goal of grade school isn't to increase the knowledge of the teachers, so I'm unsure why we'd really care about their encyclopedic knowledge of "Catcher in the Rye." Less formal evaluations are probably a good idea; it's always been my understanding that department heads were responsible for this type of "soft" evaluation.

Quote:
We have to be honest with ourselves. Some students just don't care and simply don't try. That is at no fault of the teacher. Some children are just failures. They aren't doomed as such, but we shouldn't punish the teachers because of the students' failures.

I'm fairly sure that the fine folks at Freakonomics wrote about this in one of their books. It's a valid criticism, but it doesn't completely discredit the idea that teacher compensation should be in some way tied to measurable outcomes, but rather forces us to be creative with the ways in which we define and measure those outcomes.
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#17 Sep 10 2012 at 7:40 PM Rating: Decent
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Almalieque wrote:
We have to be honest with ourselves. Some students just don't care and simply don't try. That is at no fault of the teacher. Some children are just failures. They aren't doomed as such, but we shouldn't punish the teachers because of the students' failures.


It's a tricky issue, but we also have to consider the question of what someone is being paid for. I guess this is a larger philosophical question about labor in general, but I tend to be in the "you're being paid for the results of your labor" rather than the "you're being paid because you expended effort" camp. I know that it's not quite that simple, but at the end of the day, the owner of a factory isn't going to continue paying his workers if no one will buy the product that they are making. And while imperfect, standardized tests are a means by which we determine how educated the students are (the product we're making so to speak). That's a measure of the value of the education they have received in practical terms. We can talk about how important class sizes are, or computers, or school books, or drama club, etc, but ultimately the purpose of a school is to educate the students, presumably sufficiently enough to become productive successful members of society (or to at least be able to get and hold a job).


As I've suggested a couple times earlier in this thread, I think sometime we get so caught up in all the side issues of labor (compensation, work hours, pensions, etc) that we lose sight of the purpose of labor: To produce something of value. If the value of what is being produced is low, can we justify paying a high price for it? Obviously, this issue isn't as simple as a decision to close down a poorly performing restaurant or factory. We have made a decision to provide publicly funded education to our children. So we can't just say "sorry, you're not doing well enough, so you're all fired". However, I do think we need to keep the eye on the end goal here. The purpose of our education system isn't to provide good paying jobs to teachers. It's to teach the students. I really think that we forget that sometimes.
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#18 Sep 10 2012 at 8:16 PM Rating: Decent
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Demea wrote:

I've always been under the impression that "low grades" and "poor performance" were synonymous.


Yes, but "poor performance" and "poverty" aren't synonymous.

Demea wrote:

However, two words that I know mean different things are "correlation" and "causation." I assume you meant to use the latter, as those studies show pretty definitively that there is a direct (i.e. positive) correlation.


You are correct. I meant the latter.I was wrong.

Demea wrote:
The goal of grade school isn't to increase the knowledge of the teachers, so I'm unsure why we'd really care about their encyclopedic knowledge of "Catcher in the Rye." Less formal evaluations are probably a good idea; it's always been my understanding that department heads were responsible for this type of "soft" evaluation.


Because grade (k-12) teachers are more notorious for teaching out of the book in comparison to university professors who are actively engaged in their fields. Professors tend to be more up to date on what's going and more accurate with a better insight on how their field interacts within society. Young teachers fresh out of college have that insight, but then over the years, they tend to lose it, because there is no incentive.

Forcing teachers to stay on top of their fields, enhances their knowledge, which in return gives the students a better learning experience. A good professor only uses the textbook as a guide to what to teach what when.

Demea wrote:
I'm fairly sure that the fine folks at Freakonomics wrote about this in one of their books. It's a valid criticism, but it doesn't completely discredit the idea that teacher compensation should be in some way tied to measurable outcomes, but rather forces us to be creative with the ways in which we define and measure those outcomes.


That is true to a degree. Even at the college level, a classroom full of a failures results differently if the professor has tenure or not. A classroom of failures should be an indicator that something is wrong; however, the blame shouldn't automatically be put on the students. There should be an investigation to see what's going on. If the entire school is failing, then it's probably not the teacher. If you have honor roll and C students failing, then it's probably the teacher.

#19 Sep 10 2012 at 8:41 PM Rating: Good
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Edit: nevermind, reading is hard for me.

**** you, public schools! I am proof of your failure! Smiley: mad

Edited, Sep 10th 2012 9:49pm by Demea
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#20 Sep 10 2012 at 8:50 PM Rating: Default
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Gbaji wrote:
We have made a decision to provide publicly funded education to our children.

Gbaji wrote:
The purpose of our education system isn't to provide good paying jobs to teachers. It's to teach the students.



These are exactly right and the exact reasons why we must accept student failures to a degree. Our job is to educate, not to run a business, so therefore we can not apply business rules. If you're a CEO or a professional coach, then that might apply. We see it all of the time. A coach gets fired because he is given a team of losers. Is it fair? Ehhh.. As I hear all of the time in the military, "that's why you get paid the big bucks". The higher you get in a position, the less control you have, the more responsibility you have, but the more money you earn and credit you get when things go right. If you receive applaud and praise when stuff goes right, then you must also suffer the consequences when things go wrong.

Education isn't "optional" for kids. They go because they are forced to. So, it's not comparable to a business.
#21 Sep 10 2012 at 9:20 PM Rating: Good
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The problem will be the teachers will drill how to pass the test and the test only.
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You could also argue that fixing the evaluations, and getting rid of bum teachers, is the most important step in fixing failing schools.


Not effectively, you couldn't. Teachers aren't the problem. Teacher's unions aren't the problem. There are 100000 studies of non unionized charter schools free to fire teachers at will, they perform exactly the same as public schools in similar demographic areas. Parents education matters. Family socio economic status matters. Culture in the district matters. There's no "most important" step, and honestly it's arguable there is no "fixing" failing schools. Our town has very good public schools, regularly rated in the top 25 districts of the state, some years in the top 10. That's for Massachusetts, of course. I'd assume that easily would make them the top rated district in some ****** backwater flyover state like Illinois. The town next to us has the worst schools in the state. The idea that it's the teachers from each district making the difference is ludicrous. Their kids walk past crack dealers on the way to school and have parents that dropped out in 9th grade. Our kids have parents with PhDs and have business cards with their parents contact information for play-dates (really, Hannah brought some home on her first day of 2nd grade). If the districts swapped teachers, not much would change. Well, our kids would learn more Spanish, probably.
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#23 Sep 10 2012 at 10:00 PM Rating: Decent
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It's a tricky issue, but we also have to consider the question of what someone is being paid for. I guess this is a larger philosophical question about labor in general, but I tend to be in the "you're being paid for the results of your labor" rather than the "you're being paid because you expended effort" camp.

Exactly, which is why you ply your trade on the open market competing against all comers secure in the knowledge that your skills and work of such high quality that you'll secure top dollar as opposed to coasting along at a grandfathered salary left over from a huge bubble largely due to inertia.

Oh wait, you meant OTHER people, right?
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#24 Sep 11 2012 at 4:41 AM Rating: Default
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RavennofTitan wrote:
The problem will be the teachers will drill how to pass the test and the test only.


If you're in reference to me, only if you create that scenario. First, just because a teacher has to take a test, doesn't negate you equally being fired for having a classroom of failures in a non-failing environment. Second, if you make it to where teachers have a combination of classroom evaluations and varying study and teaching questions, the test becomes more difficult to study for without learning the material.
#25 Sep 11 2012 at 6:18 AM Rating: Good
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gbaji wrote:


As I've suggested a couple times earlier in this thread, I think sometime we get so caught up in all the side issues of labor (compensation, work hours, pensions, etc) that we lose sight of the purpose of labor: To produce something of value. If the value of what is being produced is low, can we justify paying a high price for it?
Then why provide the lead-eating, poorly nutrished, addicted in the womb, downs (or ***) babies an education at all?

Wouldn't it be a better bang for our educational buck if we spent it on those with a better chance at success?






Edited, Sep 11th 2012 2:21pm by Elinda
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#26 Sep 11 2012 at 6:49 AM Rating: Good
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Almalieque wrote:
RavennofTitan wrote:
The problem will be the teachers will drill how to pass the test and the test only.


If you're in reference to me, only if you create that scenario. First, just because a teacher has to take a test, doesn't negate you equally being fired for having a classroom of failures in a non-failing environment. Second, if you make it to where teachers have a combination of classroom evaluations and varying study and teaching questions, the test becomes more difficult to study for without learning the material.

Wake up you wise little owl. You're not even in the ball-park here.
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