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Education Reform in the US 
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Post Re: Last Movie You Watched
johnny larue wrote:
Waiting For Superman (2010)

Feelings run hot for this documentary with some of the regulars here, but I felt that the filmmaker did an effective job in conveying the story he wanted to tell. "Doesn't give all the facts!" "Shoddy journalism!" "Too narrow of focus!" "The music sucked!" I've read these opinions on this forum. Unfortunately, apart from documentaries on nature, I think most of those charges could be leveled on pretty much every other documentary, depending on your point of view. I guess your level of appreciation for Guggenheim's film will depend on what kind of baggage you bring into it. I am a product of a parochial education through high school. I have dated many teachers and my wife works at a public university teaching "remedial math" to incoming freshmen because they got out of high school lacking those skills. I do "teach" Junior Achievement at a local public grade school, but that is a very limited assignment. And I have 3 kids.

The movie does paint the teachers unions as the bad guys, but I think its larger point is that there are parents out there who want better for their kids, and the system is failing them. No...it doesn't point to the mass of other parents who won't go the extra mile (or, heck, won't even go across the room) for their kids, but like the majority of documentaries, the filmmakers have an agenda. It was interesting in the DVD deleted scenes that they had a story of 2 brothers in 2 different charter schools: one thriving the other not so much (one charter was much better than they other), and they point out that not all charters are the answer. This did not make the final cut because it was probably a distraction from the final point.



"Probably a distraction from the final point?"

Yeah I'll say Johnny. That's like saying "The movie cut the scene where they mention that the death penalty has no effect as a deterrent, costs more than incarcerating a prisoner for life, and takes a disproportionate effect on minorities. Probably because it was a distraction from the film's 'woo death penalty' point.

I'm not one of those people who thinks documentaries need to be "objective" or unbiased. Often the good ones have a point to make. But when you present an utterly disingenuous point and then leave out critical information (namely, that charter schools often have major issues too and CERTAINLY aren't the end-all be-all) I call bullshit on you.

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Sat May 21, 2011 9:04 am
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Post Re: Last Movie You Watched
johnny larue wrote:
Robert Holloway wrote:
Johnny

Your opinion seems right in line, I'm confused

Rob

If you search for past "reviews" on this "Last Movie You Watched" thread, you'll find that most here gave it a "thumbs down" with one writer going so far as to call it a "crock of shit". They weren't all negative, but the majority were. (To be fair, there have only been maybe a 1/2 dozen who have seen it and commented, so the reference pool is pretty small.)


I was one of the few who (really) liked it.

As for the charter school point, space constraints do exist. It is true that not all charter schools do extremely well, but it is also true that charter school do on average better than public schools. And, it's been supported by a pretty good and growing body of research that school choice will lead to improved schools. We have an education crisis in America and while people disagree about the precise solution, I don't think there's any way around recognizing teachers unions as part of the problem.

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Sat May 21, 2011 9:26 am
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Post Re: Last Movie You Watched
firefly wrote:
johnny larue wrote:
Robert Holloway wrote:
Johnny

Your opinion seems right in line, I'm confused

Rob

If you search for past "reviews" on this "Last Movie You Watched" thread, you'll find that most here gave it a "thumbs down" with one writer going so far as to call it a "crock of shit". They weren't all negative, but the majority were. (To be fair, there have only been maybe a 1/2 dozen who have seen it and commented, so the reference pool is pretty small.)


I was one of the few who (really) liked it.

As for the charter school point, space constraints do exist. It is true that not all charter schools do extremely well, but it is also true that charter school do on average better than public schools. And, it's been supported by a pretty good and growing body of research that school choice will lead to improved schools. We have an education crisis in America and while people disagree about the precise solution, I don't think there's any way around recognizing teachers unions as part of the problem.


You realize, right, that there are only three states in America (New York, Pennsylvania, and arguably Illinois) in which teacher's unions have the power that is shown in the film? Is New York's Union an impenetrable clusterfuck? Yes. But does that explain why, say, North Carolina schools suck when they have no Union and gross 27,000 a year?

Look, I'm a teacher. So yes I'm biased. But, at the same time, it gives me an insight into education that some of you don't have. And what matters most (or, at the very least, matters a lot more than the unions) is the parents. If the parents care about their kids' education, the entire system works. Because that means the kids care (nominally at least), and if they aren't learning or are misbehaving the teacher can call the parents and solve the problem.

The movie postulates an imaginary fantasyland in which parents and children all deeply care about their education. GOD DO I WISH THAT WAS THE CASE. Do you know what I could do with 25 kids like the ones in the movie? But, I forgot. According to Guggenheim, the teachers are just shitting all over the children.

Don't get suckered in by the film's shit sandwich of facts

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Sat May 21, 2011 9:38 am
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Post Re: Last Movie You Watched
JamesKunz wrote:
You realize, right, that there are only three states in America (New York, Pennsylvania, and arguably Illinois) in which teacher's unions have the power that is shown in the film? Is New York's Union an impenetrable clusterfuck? Yes. But does that explain why, say, North Carolina schools suck when they have no Union and gross 27,000 a year?

Look, I'm a teacher. So yes I'm biased. But, at the same time, it gives me an insight into education that some of you don't have. And what matters most (or, at the very least, matters a lot more than the unions) is the parents. If the parents care about their kids' education, the entire system works. Because that means the kids care (nominally at least), and if they aren't learning or are misbehaving the teacher can call the parents and solve the problem.

The movie postulates an imaginary fantasyland in which parents and children all deeply care about their education. GOD DO I WISH THAT WAS THE CASE. Do you know what I could do with 25 kids like the ones in the movie? But, I forgot. According to Guggenheim, the teachers are just shitting all over the children.

Don't get suckered in by the film's shit sandwich of facts


I agree that there was a selection bias in the cases of the movie (virtually inevitable when one is covering kids who want to have a way out of failing schools), showing only cases of involved parents and not parents who couldn't care less.

But there are some easy solutions that can go to addressing the crisis, and teachers unions spend a lot of money lobbying Congress to ensure that they don't happen:
1) Longer school year. There's no reason to have three months off on the summer. School should be year round. An artificial three month break hurts information retention by giving kids three months in which they likely will not use anything they learned.
2) Longer school day. This helps mitigate the issue of parents, and is particularly important in lower income neighborhoods.
3) School choice. The best way to see what works is to let competition reveal it.

I think I've pimped Khan Academy here before but I'll mention again that my idea for the future of the classroom is Sal Khan's: a setting in which every student can work at his or her own speed. The notion that kids should have to wait until 9th or 10th grade to do trigonometry, and 11th or 12th to do calculus, is silly.

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Sat May 21, 2011 9:50 am
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Post Re: Last Movie You Watched
Actually, that whole "longer school year" thing is mostly been proven untrue, there's several other countries whose schools have two and a half months off for summer, and they're test scores are through the roof, so no, summer vacation DOSEN'T really hurt kids as much as people would like you to believe. Besides, most teachers simply do NOT want to teach school year-round, summer vacation is they're vacation too ya know! I actually went to a year-round school so I know what i'm talking about.


Sat May 21, 2011 12:29 pm
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Post Re: Last Movie You Watched
Vexer wrote:
Actually, that whole "longer school year" thing is mostly been proven untrue, there's several other countries whose schools have two and a half months off for summer, and they're test scores are through the roof, so no, summer vacation DOSEN'T really hurt kids as much as people would like you to believe. Besides, most teachers simply do NOT want to teach school year-round, summer vacation is they're vacation too ya know! I actually went to a year-round school so I know what i'm talking about.


Countries that test better than us tend to value education more than we do. So in India, you can have a two month gap, because the students aren't going to be avoiding books and anything else that remotely resembles something educational like the plague during the two months off. We don't have that.

Of course, if we enable school choice, we'd be able to plainly see what the ideal school year length is, because the better school designs will produce better results.

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Sat May 21, 2011 12:33 pm
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Post Education Reform in the US
I think that pretty much all attentive people in the US acknowledge that our education system is failing. Many inner city schools are drop out factories in which half or more of students fail to graduate, and many of those that do are borderline illiterate. We are falling behind many other countries in our mathematics and language skills.

So, how do we fix it?

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Sat May 21, 2011 12:39 pm
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Post Re: Education Reform in the US
Getting rid of "No Child Left Behind" is a good start, the Bush Administration may have had good intentions with that law, but in the long run it's hurt far more schools then it's helped.


Sat May 21, 2011 12:45 pm
Post Re: Last Movie You Watched
JamesKunz wrote:
You realize, right, that there are only three states in America (New York, Pennsylvania, and arguably Illinois) in which teacher's unions have the power that is shown in the film?

Actually one of the examples used in the movie was in my home state of WI; the one where kids were shooting craps in the back of the class while the teacher was reading the newspaper at the front. Then superintendant Howard Fuller tried to fire that teacher and the teacher was later reinstated with back pay. So while the states you mention may have teacher's union with carte blanche power, there's plenty more where they are a significant force. There was the example in the movie where the DC administrator wanted to institute merit pay in lieu of tenure (where pay could easily rise to 6 figures for the effective teachers) and the union leaders wouldn't even bring it to a vote.

JamesKunz wrote:
If the parents care about their kids' education, the entire system works.

The movie also had the example of the girl who worked with her mother after school on her reading, and appeared to be doing fine in the home, but the teacher was threatening to hold her back for reasons unknown. The mother tried to contact the teacher for a conference but never received any answers back.
JamesKunz wrote:
According to Guggenheim, the teachers are just shitting all over the children.


Actually my takeaway was that there is no way to remove ineffective teachers (due to strong teacher union protections) and the average to effective teachers are further hampered by a myriad of bureaucracies at the federal, state and local levels. There were plenty of positive teachers portrayed in the film.

Obama once said words to the effect that "I think we can all agree that good teachers are not making enough; and that bad teachers are making too much." Well, gee, sure we can. But what can we do to rectify that when bad teachers are protected and merit pay is a non-starter with the unions?


Sat May 21, 2011 2:16 pm
Post Re: Last Movie You Watched
You guys should check out the John Stossell special "Stupid In America" It goes deeper into detail about public schools and teachers unions and does a better job of explaining they're flaws then "Superman" does. Like johnny mentioned, teachers unions make firing incompetent teachers EXTREMELY difficult-one teacher was sexually harassing one of his students, and it took over a YEAR for him to get fired. The only way some schools could deal with incompetent teachers was by paying to keep them in apartments called "Rubber Rooms" That kept the bad teachers away from students, but those bad teachers still got salaries like all the other competent teachers did.


Sat May 21, 2011 2:44 pm
Post Re: Education Reform in the US
A school is only as strong as it's parents. Point to all the problems with curriculum or staff or whatever you want, but most of the problem still comes back to that. The US is a giant collection of different cultures and the sad fact is that some of the cultures place little value on education. These cultures propogate and carry that non-value forward. Educators must design lesson plans for 'lowest common denomonator' students who don't understand the meaning of ambition, as it was never a priority in their home.
My kids are in private school where they can be with children whose parents have similar values to mine. I work damned hard and drive an old car so I can afford this. Their education is my priority and every day (that I want) is a parent-teacher conference.


Sat May 21, 2011 6:58 pm
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Post Re: Education Reform in the US
Awf Hand wrote:
A school is only as strong as it's parents.


So do you think that China, Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore, South Korea etc. just have better parents?

Quote:
Point to all the problems with curriculum or staff or whatever you want, but most of the problem still comes back to that. The US is a giant collection of different cultures and the sad fact is that some of the cultures place little value on education. These cultures propogate and carry that non-value forward. Educators must design lesson plans for 'lowest common denomonator' students who don't understand the meaning of ambition, as it was never a priority in their home.
My kids are in private school where they can be with children whose parents have similar values to mine. I work damned hard and drive an old car so I can afford this. Their education is my priority and every day (that I want) is a parent-teacher conference.

[/QUOTE]

If we implemented school choice then instead of paying taxes for a non-functional system, you'd have the opportunity to go and select said school, while other parents could opt for a school that had lower standards.

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Sat May 21, 2011 8:18 pm
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Post Re: Education Reform in the US
Very complex problem.

As an ex teacher and recently a volunteer at my local school for 2.5 years i would add that parents are the major problem.

Teachers have an ongoing issue trying to get parents to take even minimal responsibility for their kids performance. the attitude is that your the school, educate my kid. I won't ensure they do homework, I won't create a positive environment at home, I won't even help with their homework and I'll be even less likely to show up at the school on open days. I'll then feed my kid all the wrong food so they become obese, i'll let them stay up till all hours so they fall asleep in class because they are so tired.

Some of the behavior of kids and parents that I witnessed repeatedly, was quite simply a disgrace. There was a direct correlation between parental performance and child performance.

And God help the school if they raise issues about parental skills.
Rob


Sat May 21, 2011 9:54 pm
Post Re: Last Movie You Watched
Vexer wrote:
You guys should check out the John Stossell special "Stupid In America" It goes deeper into detail about public schools and teachers unions and does a better job of explaining they're flaws then "Superman" does. Like johnny mentioned, teachers unions make firing incompetent teachers EXTREMELY difficult-one teacher was sexually harassing one of his students, and it took over a YEAR for him to get fired. The only way some schools could deal with incompetent teachers was by paying to keep them in apartments called "Rubber Rooms" That kept the bad teachers away from students, but those bad teachers still got salaries like all the other competent teachers did.

I would watch this if John Stossel weren't a huge douche and I didn't want to rip that stupid mustache out of his douchey upper lip.


Sat May 21, 2011 10:10 pm
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Post Re: Last Movie You Watched
johnny larue wrote:
There was the example in the movie where the DC administrator wanted to institute merit pay in lieu of tenure (where pay could easily rise to 6 figures for the effective teachers) and the union leaders wouldn't even bring it to a vote.


Yes, but that's not just the Union being obstinate--merit pay is a laughably absurd concept for teachers.
johnny larue wrote:

The movie also had the example of the girl who worked with her mother after school on her reading, and appeared to be doing fine in the home, but the teacher was threatening to hold her back for reasons unknown. The mother tried to contact the teacher for a conference but never received any answers back.


Okay yes obviously there are some cases of parents who care and shitty teachers who hold the kids back, but the movie gives the impression that this is the norm. Trust me on this one: it isn't.

johnny larue wrote:
But what can we do to rectify that when bad teachers are protected and merit pay is a non-starter with the unions?


Once again, merit pay SHOULD be a non-starter. It sounds great, but no one has any idea how to test teachers' merit. Actually, scratch that, it's worse. Many people have ideas, and they are uniformly terrible.

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Sat May 21, 2011 10:16 pm
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Post Re: Last Movie You Watched
JamesKunz wrote:
johnny larue wrote:
There was the example in the movie where the DC administrator wanted to institute merit pay in lieu of tenure (where pay could easily rise to 6 figures for the effective teachers) and the union leaders wouldn't even bring it to a vote.


Yes, but that's not just the Union being obstinate--merit pay is a laughably absurd concept for teachers.
johnny larue wrote:

The movie also had the example of the girl who worked with her mother after school on her reading, and appeared to be doing fine in the home, but the teacher was threatening to hold her back for reasons unknown. The mother tried to contact the teacher for a conference but never received any answers back.


Okay yes obviously there are some cases of parents who care and shitty teachers who hold the kids back, but the movie gives the impression that this is the norm. Trust me on this one: it isn't.

johnny larue wrote:
But what can we do to rectify that when bad teachers are protected and merit pay is a non-starter with the unions?


Once again, merit pay SHOULD be a non-starter. It sounds great, but no one has any idea how to test teachers' merit. Actually, scratch that, it's worse. Many people have ideas, and they are uniformly terrible.


I don't understand why it's so objectionable to hold the teacher accountable for their product: the students' performance.

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Sat May 21, 2011 10:38 pm
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Post Re: Education Reform in the US
firefly wrote:
I think that pretty much all attentive people in the US acknowledge that our education system is failing. Many inner city schools are drop out factories in which half or more of students fail to graduate, and many of those that do are borderline illiterate. We are falling behind many other countries in our mathematics and language skills.

Is it failing? How do you define failure in this case?


Sat May 21, 2011 11:17 pm
Post Re: Last Movie You Watched
firefly wrote:
I don't understand why it's so objectionable to hold the teacher accountable for their product: the students' performance.

To start, it requires a gross oversimplification of both what a teacher does and how it all shakes out.

It also frames education as a commodity, which makes about as much sense as framing healthcare as a commodity.


Sat May 21, 2011 11:52 pm
Post Re: Last Movie You Watched
Ken wrote:
firefly wrote:
I don't understand why it's so objectionable to hold the teacher accountable for their product: the students' performance.

To start, it requires a gross oversimplification of both what a teacher does and how it all shakes out.

It also frames education as a commodity, which makes about as much sense as framing healthcare as a commodity.


Well, the status quo is certainly not working in a lot of these failing schools. You say not to treat education like a commodity when all we usually hear is "more money, more money"; the US is already near the top on money spent per student and yet we are nowhere near the tops in achievement. Money is not the answer....so what is?


Sun May 22, 2011 12:15 am
Post Re: Last Movie You Watched
johnny larue wrote:
Well, the status quo is certainly not working in a lot of these failing schools. You say not to treat education like a commodity when all we usually hear is "more money, more money"; the US is already near the top on money spent per student and yet we are nowhere near the tops in achievement. Money is not the answer....so what is?

I'll repeat what I asked in the other thread. How do you define failure in this case?


Sun May 22, 2011 12:22 am
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