Note to Steve Jobs: unions are only half of school’s problems

Steve Jobs is right that unions are corrosive on the quality of our schools. Our schools are bad because we can’t get rid of bad teachers. But, it’s worse than that — Steve Jobs’ fix wouldn’t fix the total problem. Patrick’s Mom was a teacher for a while. She left for a variety of reasons, but partly because the pay is so bad for the work you put into that job.

If you want better schools, pay teachers $80,000 a year or more, AND give the staff power to get rid of bad apples (bad pun, given the cause of today’s post, I know) and you’ll see school quality turn around in an instant.

The problem is that the political system here won’t allow politicians to increase taxes to pay for higher school wages and the unions won’t allow reforms to get rid of bad teachers. Instead we get stupid patches to the system like the “no child left behind” initiative which tries to improve results by mandating tests (most teachers I talk with say that initiative is a disaster).

Translation: the school system is just going to keep getting worse and worse. It’s so bad in my neighborhood that people openly talk about how bad it is and most parents here drive their kids 30 to 50 minutes to private schools in Silicon Valley.

We all know the school systems here (especially in California, where per-school spending is behind most other states) sucks. We just aren’t willing to do the things that need to be done to correct the problem.

Steve Jobs deserves praise for at least speaking half the truth.

Aside: he also says that he expects to lose some business because of his stance. I think he’s being disingenous there. I was on the technology committee at my son’s school. The teachers had almost all the power. If the school bought technology they didn’t like (hint: it almost always was Apple tech) they rebelled against it and caused the school management a lot of trouble.

Teachers don’t like this system either, which is why they cheered Steve Jobs’ remarks. Think about it. If you worked with someone dragging your profession down (or, worse, ill preparing kids in a grade before yours) wouldn’t you want to get rid of them too?

UPDATE: Dan Farber says pretty much the same thing I do too. So does Don Dodge, who then goes further and says the problem is a lack of incentive. I totally agree with that too. I know many college professors who are teaching the same class they did years ago. There’s no incentive to innovate, even when the world is changing around them.

138 thoughts on “Note to Steve Jobs: unions are only half of school’s problems

  1. NY Times ran an article titled,“ Mothers Scrimp as State Takes Child Support.” It caught my attention because child support is a topic I write about in my book. But you may have skipped it, or not seen at it at all. Why? Because you have to connect with something on an emotional level first in order to express further interest. What you define as a“ must read” may have more to do with your career, your…

  2. NY Times ran an article titled,“ Mothers Scrimp as State Takes Child Support.” It caught my attention because child support is a topic I write about in my book. But you may have skipped it, or not seen at it at all. Why? Because you have to connect with something on an emotional level first in order to express further interest. What you define as a“ must read” may have more to do with your career, your…

  3. Just a note that charter schools are usually non union and many offer incentives for job performance and parent satisfaction or what you would call merit pay. Could this be one of the reasons that charter schools are successful in producing positive results?
    Leslie

  4. Just a note that charter schools are usually non union and many offer incentives for job performance and parent satisfaction or what you would call merit pay. Could this be one of the reasons that charter schools are successful in producing positive results?
    Leslie

  5. As everyone has pointed out, there is plenty of blame and credit to go around. While I have “issues” with the unionization of teachers, those are more philosophical than practical. There are good teachers and there are bad teachers. There are teachers that work hard and teachers that don’t. That has nothing to do with unionization.

    As a school law and labor law attorney, I can tell you that it is NOT, contrary to the perception of Steve Jobs and many others, impossible to fire teachers. Are there problems (fear of litigation, etc.) that prevent it from being as easy as some would like? Perhaps. But it is not impossible. Nor is it the solution, however.

    I do find it interesting, however, that while some are trying to make it easier for individuals to exercise union rights, others are seking to limit those rights for teachers.

    Just some food for thought.

  6. As everyone has pointed out, there is plenty of blame and credit to go around. While I have “issues” with the unionization of teachers, those are more philosophical than practical. There are good teachers and there are bad teachers. There are teachers that work hard and teachers that don’t. That has nothing to do with unionization.

    As a school law and labor law attorney, I can tell you that it is NOT, contrary to the perception of Steve Jobs and many others, impossible to fire teachers. Are there problems (fear of litigation, etc.) that prevent it from being as easy as some would like? Perhaps. But it is not impossible. Nor is it the solution, however.

    I do find it interesting, however, that while some are trying to make it easier for individuals to exercise union rights, others are seking to limit those rights for teachers.

    Just some food for thought.

  7. Its not the teachers or even the schools that are to blame for our educational systems lackluster performance.

    It is the parents.

    The entire perfomance curve is dragged down by parents that can’t afford to invest in thier children cause there too busy just trying to figure out how to put food on the plate.

    Kids that go to preschool or early childhood education of some sort are much more likely to succeed.

    Education is just like any other investment..if you start early and keep a stable input…your going to make out allright.

    Unfortunately many can not afford to invest in thier children let alone a 401k.

    Jobs would do better to imitate his geekie arch rival and start working on the solution to the problem instead of just bitching about it.

  8. Its not the teachers or even the schools that are to blame for our educational systems lackluster performance.

    It is the parents.

    The entire perfomance curve is dragged down by parents that can’t afford to invest in thier children cause there too busy just trying to figure out how to put food on the plate.

    Kids that go to preschool or early childhood education of some sort are much more likely to succeed.

    Education is just like any other investment..if you start early and keep a stable input…your going to make out allright.

    Unfortunately many can not afford to invest in thier children let alone a 401k.

    Jobs would do better to imitate his geekie arch rival and start working on the solution to the problem instead of just bitching about it.

  9. There isn’t any “the” problem. There are many interrelated issues, involving parents, students, gov regulations, and
    sure, teachers, principals, and unions.

    $80k salaries won’t fix it. (I’d pay, if it would.)
    Read joelonsoftware.com for essays on how to compensate programmers. Similar ideas apply — money is important, but the various psychic environments and rewards can be even more important.

    Simplistic solutions remind me of the apocryphal
    difference between democratic and republican
    responses to a man drowning 50 ft off shore.
    The republican throws out a 25ft rope and tells
    the man to swim halfway, since it’s good for
    his character. The democrat thows out 100ft
    rope and then walks away looking to do other good deeds.

    BTW, check out:
    http://www.donorschoose.org
    It might not save the world, but it lets you funnel money to individual teachers for specific projects, when they can’t get support from the schools.

    bobg

  10. There isn’t any “the” problem. There are many interrelated issues, involving parents, students, gov regulations, and
    sure, teachers, principals, and unions.

    $80k salaries won’t fix it. (I’d pay, if it would.)
    Read joelonsoftware.com for essays on how to compensate programmers. Similar ideas apply — money is important, but the various psychic environments and rewards can be even more important.

    Simplistic solutions remind me of the apocryphal
    difference between democratic and republican
    responses to a man drowning 50 ft off shore.
    The republican throws out a 25ft rope and tells
    the man to swim halfway, since it’s good for
    his character. The democrat thows out 100ft
    rope and then walks away looking to do other good deeds.

    BTW, check out:
    http://www.donorschoose.org
    It might not save the world, but it lets you funnel money to individual teachers for specific projects, when they can’t get support from the schools.

    bobg

  11. Robert, and Steve;

    You make me want to go out and be a teacher (their are some good teachers working in a bad system). Make sure you address the system and not kill the people in the process because you do not have the insight to seperate the good ones from the bad ones. There are bad people in everything and everywhere you go, thus repeating and driving the point home about bad teachers does not help your cause.

    Same thing goes for bad parents. I am of the mind set that everyone who has influence like you Robert, you should let your money do some talking and stop waiting on the government to solve our problems. In a country where someone has as much free enterprise start a nation of large private schools sweeping the country, where free enteprise is so available. We spend more time in shouting matches and protest instead of taking action.

    This post does make some assumptions that you are not doing anything currently so if that is not the case then I apologize, however if it is the case, that you are doing nothing, well then…

    I pray for our nation, school and children…

    Ed

  12. Robert, and Steve;

    You make me want to go out and be a teacher (their are some good teachers working in a bad system). Make sure you address the system and not kill the people in the process because you do not have the insight to seperate the good ones from the bad ones. There are bad people in everything and everywhere you go, thus repeating and driving the point home about bad teachers does not help your cause.

    Same thing goes for bad parents. I am of the mind set that everyone who has influence like you Robert, you should let your money do some talking and stop waiting on the government to solve our problems. In a country where someone has as much free enterprise start a nation of large private schools sweeping the country, where free enteprise is so available. We spend more time in shouting matches and protest instead of taking action.

    This post does make some assumptions that you are not doing anything currently so if that is not the case then I apologize, however if it is the case, that you are doing nothing, well then…

    I pray for our nation, school and children…

    Ed

  13. Robert — Thanks for tweaking the subject outside of the obvious K-12 echo chamber. Jobs is going to be thrown under the bus or carried atop shoulders because we are more fixated on the either/or mudslinging rather than taking a step back and getting a bigger piece of the horizon line in our view finder.

    The ‘system’ of traditional public K-12 education (this is what he’s talking about, and not colleges or private schools or kindercare programs on the weekends) is seen as an infinite ecosystem that must be saved at all costs. Why? Because we’re all familiar with it, we’ve invested insanely to get to this point, and it’s pretty iconic.

    One of the above comments offered that we still aren’t sure if it’s about education or socialization — and he deserves credit for that statement. True. And because we aren’t really arguing similar terms, and because (this is the kicker) EVERYONE (myself included) is an ‘expert’ since we attended as students (at least), everyone can see where others are to blame. But we rarely can offer a firm foundation based on a unified purpose or a set of solutions that are valued by more than a niche audience.

    What always surprises me is that when the system was born, there was NO guarantee it’d be around 10 or 25 or 100 years later. It was an epic risk. A risk that offered mass literacy, mass voting access, agrarian to industrial transitions, and so much more at a time in our nation’s history when there were very few guarantees that we’d be a global superpower of much worth. And for 150+ years we’ve been insanely successful — regardless of what was going on in society or the ugly view in the mirror we had to face (Brown v. Board of Education and 1970′s Boston Bus Riots and Reagans ‘ketchup as school veggie’ for 3 examples). There was no previous example. We pulled it off. Warts and all.

    But what about tomorrow? Are we spending more time sticking fingers in watery holes or in asking what we really will need for the future?

    Perhaps if we began to imagine that a) we were successful with an epic historical risk at mass proportions and put our nation in a position to chase Sputnik when that seemed so important and b) it’s time to focus on ‘learning’ in ways never before imagined for a change, rather than simply mudslinging about a system that may not have been set up to take us into the future…perhaps then and only then we might make progress other than hunting “Did you hear what Jobs said?” headlines.

    Jobs shouldn’t be thrown under the bus. He shouldn’t be carried atop shoulders, either. If he was just Joe Citizen, it wouldn’t matter. Nobody would listen. Or oooh-n-ahhh. It only got the press it did because ‘Apple’ is named in such a way to endear itself to teachers in the first place (other than the ‘knowledge’ and Eve metaphor if you’re so inclined)…and he seemingly took a shot at those who love him so.

    Ironic. Strategic. Whatever.

    Why are we spending so much time on his comments? Why not spend more time on John Seeley Brown and Ian Jukes and others who are trying to identify where we need to take it, rather than those who simply want to kick it in the backside from a proprietary point of view?

    Just a thought. Blaming one or another or another seems to be only rocks through windows. Either way, we all have to clean it up and all of our property values go down. Loud echo chamber. But the view lacks.

    Scoble — thanks for throwing education sticks and flame together in an area not always discussed on your blog. Brought a smile to my face when the RSS feedtruck came down the street this morning.

    My ONLY question to you, Robert, at this point is:

    When are you going to add a “Future of Learning” video series at PodTech? You’ve got a good portioin of the trends covered from India to the newly named gaming/virtual worlds channel. Perhaps the ONE thing that impacts all as we go forward — LEARNING — oughta grab a bit of vodcast/vloggies love as well? (he smiles with a hint-hint, nudge-nudge).

    Tell me when you and John are ready to launch ‘the obvious’ and I’d love to help connect some of the dots for you. Considering that your neighbors-down-the-street at Edutopia (George Lucas Educational Foundation) are doing a brilliant job of cornering an educational story-telling market that you could easily get a video foothold in, perhaps there’s even a bottom-line upside for you as well. Perhaps (again, a smile)

    Or — he smiles — is this post conversation just an excuse to talk about Jobs really, and to use ‘education’ as conversational fodder and left-over bac-o-bits on the salad bar floor when everyone moves over to the nest ‘Who link-baited who?’ controversy? (grin)

    Tell me when you’re in Texas next, my friend. I owe you one for being such a good host in Montana last August and letting me enjoy the hot springs as you were daydreaming the video adventure you’ve recently smacked out of the park. Perhaps I can wrestle down a few CEO’s and geeks for you, too!

    Cheers,
    Christian

  14. Robert — Thanks for tweaking the subject outside of the obvious K-12 echo chamber. Jobs is going to be thrown under the bus or carried atop shoulders because we are more fixated on the either/or mudslinging rather than taking a step back and getting a bigger piece of the horizon line in our view finder.

    The ‘system’ of traditional public K-12 education (this is what he’s talking about, and not colleges or private schools or kindercare programs on the weekends) is seen as an infinite ecosystem that must be saved at all costs. Why? Because we’re all familiar with it, we’ve invested insanely to get to this point, and it’s pretty iconic.

    One of the above comments offered that we still aren’t sure if it’s about education or socialization — and he deserves credit for that statement. True. And because we aren’t really arguing similar terms, and because (this is the kicker) EVERYONE (myself included) is an ‘expert’ since we attended as students (at least), everyone can see where others are to blame. But we rarely can offer a firm foundation based on a unified purpose or a set of solutions that are valued by more than a niche audience.

    What always surprises me is that when the system was born, there was NO guarantee it’d be around 10 or 25 or 100 years later. It was an epic risk. A risk that offered mass literacy, mass voting access, agrarian to industrial transitions, and so much more at a time in our nation’s history when there were very few guarantees that we’d be a global superpower of much worth. And for 150+ years we’ve been insanely successful — regardless of what was going on in society or the ugly view in the mirror we had to face (Brown v. Board of Education and 1970′s Boston Bus Riots and Reagans ‘ketchup as school veggie’ for 3 examples). There was no previous example. We pulled it off. Warts and all.

    But what about tomorrow? Are we spending more time sticking fingers in watery holes or in asking what we really will need for the future?

    Perhaps if we began to imagine that a) we were successful with an epic historical risk at mass proportions and put our nation in a position to chase Sputnik when that seemed so important and b) it’s time to focus on ‘learning’ in ways never before imagined for a change, rather than simply mudslinging about a system that may not have been set up to take us into the future…perhaps then and only then we might make progress other than hunting “Did you hear what Jobs said?” headlines.

    Jobs shouldn’t be thrown under the bus. He shouldn’t be carried atop shoulders, either. If he was just Joe Citizen, it wouldn’t matter. Nobody would listen. Or oooh-n-ahhh. It only got the press it did because ‘Apple’ is named in such a way to endear itself to teachers in the first place (other than the ‘knowledge’ and Eve metaphor if you’re so inclined)…and he seemingly took a shot at those who love him so.

    Ironic. Strategic. Whatever.

    Why are we spending so much time on his comments? Why not spend more time on John Seeley Brown and Ian Jukes and others who are trying to identify where we need to take it, rather than those who simply want to kick it in the backside from a proprietary point of view?

    Just a thought. Blaming one or another or another seems to be only rocks through windows. Either way, we all have to clean it up and all of our property values go down. Loud echo chamber. But the view lacks.

    Scoble — thanks for throwing education sticks and flame together in an area not always discussed on your blog. Brought a smile to my face when the RSS feedtruck came down the street this morning.

    My ONLY question to you, Robert, at this point is:

    When are you going to add a “Future of Learning” video series at PodTech? You’ve got a good portioin of the trends covered from India to the newly named gaming/virtual worlds channel. Perhaps the ONE thing that impacts all as we go forward — LEARNING — oughta grab a bit of vodcast/vloggies love as well? (he smiles with a hint-hint, nudge-nudge).

    Tell me when you and John are ready to launch ‘the obvious’ and I’d love to help connect some of the dots for you. Considering that your neighbors-down-the-street at Edutopia (George Lucas Educational Foundation) are doing a brilliant job of cornering an educational story-telling market that you could easily get a video foothold in, perhaps there’s even a bottom-line upside for you as well. Perhaps (again, a smile)

    Or — he smiles — is this post conversation just an excuse to talk about Jobs really, and to use ‘education’ as conversational fodder and left-over bac-o-bits on the salad bar floor when everyone moves over to the nest ‘Who link-baited who?’ controversy? (grin)

    Tell me when you’re in Texas next, my friend. I owe you one for being such a good host in Montana last August and letting me enjoy the hot springs as you were daydreaming the video adventure you’ve recently smacked out of the park. Perhaps I can wrestle down a few CEO’s and geeks for you, too!

    Cheers,
    Christian

  15. I was not a math teacher, but I can usually see when things don’t add up. The math from the BLS is still not adding up for me, so maybe some of you math guys can help me.

    In most cases, a teacher’s yearly contract covers approximately 190 days. For the sake of this calculation, I will go with that. If we assume the $34.06 hourly rate over 190 days (8-hour workday, which is what every place I worked in required), then the average salary should be $51,771. This is not taking into consideration ANY outside or “take home” work at all.

    The problem is that I can’t find any stat that says that the average teacher salary was that high. Most I have found are in the $46-49k range. Even if I could find that it was over 51k, that does not take into account the outside hours. I know that other professions also take work home, but it seems that the BLS isn’t taking any into consideration at all.

    Again, I am willing to listen to any numbers to help me understand this. The BLS numbers just aren’t adding up for me. If you were to go with a 7.5 hour workday, then the numbers are believable, but that is not allowing for any take home work at all.

  16. I was not a math teacher, but I can usually see when things don’t add up. The math from the BLS is still not adding up for me, so maybe some of you math guys can help me.

    In most cases, a teacher’s yearly contract covers approximately 190 days. For the sake of this calculation, I will go with that. If we assume the $34.06 hourly rate over 190 days (8-hour workday, which is what every place I worked in required), then the average salary should be $51,771. This is not taking into consideration ANY outside or “take home” work at all.

    The problem is that I can’t find any stat that says that the average teacher salary was that high. Most I have found are in the $46-49k range. Even if I could find that it was over 51k, that does not take into account the outside hours. I know that other professions also take work home, but it seems that the BLS isn’t taking any into consideration at all.

    Again, I am willing to listen to any numbers to help me understand this. The BLS numbers just aren’t adding up for me. If you were to go with a 7.5 hour workday, then the numbers are believable, but that is not allowing for any take home work at all.

  17. Any discussion of performance-based compensation should address criteria to be used in evaluating performance.

  18. Any discussion of performance-based compensation should address criteria to be used in evaluating performance.

  19. Doug, your article made me laugh out loud when I read the part about “paid lunches” and “rest periods” for teachers. Please tell a 2rd grade teacher about a paid lunch when he or she has to monitor 25 7-year-olds while trying to squeeze in enough time to scarf down a sandwich him/herself. I was a high school teacher, and I ALWAYS had some sort of lunch duty or hall monitoring during my “paid lunch” and “rest period” time. I could barely find a spare minute or two to take a whiz most days. Truly hysterical.

  20. Doug, your article made me laugh out loud when I read the part about “paid lunches” and “rest periods” for teachers. Please tell a 2rd grade teacher about a paid lunch when he or she has to monitor 25 7-year-olds while trying to squeeze in enough time to scarf down a sandwich him/herself. I was a high school teacher, and I ALWAYS had some sort of lunch duty or hall monitoring during my “paid lunch” and “rest period” time. I could barely find a spare minute or two to take a whiz most days. Truly hysterical.

  21. The only problem with your post is that unions are also responsible for what we pay teachers. What prevents a superintendent from paying a better performing teacher more than an average teacher isn’t politicians – it’s the collective bargaining contracts.

    There’s also some recent research which finds hourly teacher salaries pay above average: http://www.manhattan-institute.org/html/cr_50.htm Perhaps most surprisingly, public school teachers are paid 61% more per hour than private school teachers.

    It’s a bit disturbing to see you attack NCLB with such a broad bruch but don’t seem to understand what it actually does. You seem to miss that it includes nearly $3 billion to help support increased teacher salaries as well as bonuses for teachers who work with at risk students, hard to staff subjects like math, or improve student performance.

    You also make the claim that NCLB is underfunded which is based on the misguided notion that “authorized” funding levels in legislation are somehow promises. They’re not – they’re spending “caps.” Look back at the Clinton budget when the democrats also controlled congress and you’ll see similar patterns where neither the president’s budget not the congressional appropriations provided the full amount authorized.

  22. The only problem with your post is that unions are also responsible for what we pay teachers. What prevents a superintendent from paying a better performing teacher more than an average teacher isn’t politicians – it’s the collective bargaining contracts.

    There’s also some recent research which finds hourly teacher salaries pay above average: http://www.manhattan-institute.org/html/cr_50.htm Perhaps most surprisingly, public school teachers are paid 61% more per hour than private school teachers.

    It’s a bit disturbing to see you attack NCLB with such a broad bruch but don’t seem to understand what it actually does. You seem to miss that it includes nearly $3 billion to help support increased teacher salaries as well as bonuses for teachers who work with at risk students, hard to staff subjects like math, or improve student performance.

    You also make the claim that NCLB is underfunded which is based on the misguided notion that “authorized” funding levels in legislation are somehow promises. They’re not – they’re spending “caps.” Look back at the Clinton budget when the democrats also controlled congress and you’ll see similar patterns where neither the president’s budget not the congressional appropriations provided the full amount authorized.

  23. The world is becoming ever more demanding of intellectual ability but people are not getting any smarter. We have the same genes as our stone-age ancestors. The schools cannot fix what nature did not choose to provide.

    Sure, teachers’ unions, etc, etc, are a drag. But this is a secondary phenomenon. With increasing desperation, well informed, educated parents are concentrating their children in private schools or pricy suburbs – leaving the rest of the population to its fate.

    Until we face up to the essential truth that children vary widely in their intellectual ability, all this discussion is futile.

  24. The world is becoming ever more demanding of intellectual ability but people are not getting any smarter. We have the same genes as our stone-age ancestors. The schools cannot fix what nature did not choose to provide.

    Sure, teachers’ unions, etc, etc, are a drag. But this is a secondary phenomenon. With increasing desperation, well informed, educated parents are concentrating their children in private schools or pricy suburbs – leaving the rest of the population to its fate.

    Until we face up to the essential truth that children vary widely in their intellectual ability, all this discussion is futile.

  25. “Steve Jobs deserves praise for at least speaking half the truth.”

    Sorry. We (America) are where we are today as a society because of compromising truth.

    Everything that comes out of Steve Jobs makes me cringe. He’s nothing but the best example of America gone bad but still appearing to be “cool”. Whoopee. What a jerk.

    If you think the US school system is screwed, try mixing it with the German system. Here’s a post of mine that is a bit winded, rants too much, has some bad language, is way too long, but does come full circle and provide first-hand insight into a really screwed up school system.

    http://worstwriter.wordpress.com/2007/01/31/when-bourgeois-women-cry-their-tears-sting/

    Tommi

  26. “Steve Jobs deserves praise for at least speaking half the truth.”

    Sorry. We (America) are where we are today as a society because of compromising truth.

    Everything that comes out of Steve Jobs makes me cringe. He’s nothing but the best example of America gone bad but still appearing to be “cool”. Whoopee. What a jerk.

    If you think the US school system is screwed, try mixing it with the German system. Here’s a post of mine that is a bit winded, rants too much, has some bad language, is way too long, but does come full circle and provide first-hand insight into a really screwed up school system.

    http://worstwriter.wordpress.com/2007/01/31/when-bourgeois-women-cry-their-tears-sting/

    Tommi

  27. My school’s/city’s background…

    inner city (99% free or reduced lunch), a city where 6/100 students have a college degree after five years, the school with the highest DCFS population in the state, one of the highest AIDS rates and special education populations in the city

    …yet we are expected to have all our students testing at a benchmark a wealthy white suburb meets.

    I have yet to log a week less than 50+ hours. That hourly wage doesn’t deduct the supplies teachers pay for out of pocket.

    50% Parents and Students:
    What fails to be addressed is the students interest in education. When students will call teachers a “bitch” or tell them to “Go fuck yourself.” you will have difficulty retaining the best and the brightest. This may only be a few students, but sexual advances and obscene comments on a regular basis is draining emotional. You can’t blame the unions for the students behavior. The parents and a legal rules that allow students to engage and continue in this behavior are responsible.

    I love teaching and accept the comparative low pay (I have a BS in mathematics), but I can feel the exhaustion and frustration with the system setting in. I would accept even lower pay if it was to reduce class size.

    If teaching was an easy job (John Stossel) you wouldn’t have such high attrition rates in low income areas. My last school had a 70+% turnover in 1 year.

    Some teachers are horrible, but some become terrible when they check out. The Unions are flawed, but teachers can be fired. Where I am, unless tenured, you can be let go without a reason.

  28. My school’s/city’s background…

    inner city (99% free or reduced lunch), a city where 6/100 students have a college degree after five years, the school with the highest DCFS population in the state, one of the highest AIDS rates and special education populations in the city

    …yet we are expected to have all our students testing at a benchmark a wealthy white suburb meets.

    I have yet to log a week less than 50+ hours. That hourly wage doesn’t deduct the supplies teachers pay for out of pocket.

    50% Parents and Students:
    What fails to be addressed is the students interest in education. When students will call teachers a “bitch” or tell them to “Go fuck yourself.” you will have difficulty retaining the best and the brightest. This may only be a few students, but sexual advances and obscene comments on a regular basis is draining emotional. You can’t blame the unions for the students behavior. The parents and a legal rules that allow students to engage and continue in this behavior are responsible.

    I love teaching and accept the comparative low pay (I have a BS in mathematics), but I can feel the exhaustion and frustration with the system setting in. I would accept even lower pay if it was to reduce class size.

    If teaching was an easy job (John Stossel) you wouldn’t have such high attrition rates in low income areas. My last school had a 70+% turnover in 1 year.

    Some teachers are horrible, but some become terrible when they check out. The Unions are flawed, but teachers can be fired. Where I am, unless tenured, you can be let go without a reason.

  29. Here’s a perspective that you may not have heard.

    Jobs’ basic argument is that schools hire bad teachers and that they can’t be replaced because of union policies. What might surprise you is that, to some extent, I agree with him. It does seem crazy that a person can achieve tenure after three years, and I have no doubt that many union leaders are more interested in protecting teachers than in protecting quality education. Unfortunately, that’s as far as Jobs argument goes in terms of making sense. He argues that principals need to be able to hire and fire quality people, ignoring that principals and school administrators are often the cause of the problem, and among the least qualified people working in schools . What sounds like a common sense solution, giving principals more power, ignores their frequent lack of qualification and the simple fact that they HIRED the bad teachers that Jobs condemns. Doesn’t that suggest they might not be very skilled at evaulating employees?

    Jobs’ easy answer is just sloganeering, but one that is occuring in enough places to cause concern. Rather than focusing on systemic inequity, violence, family structure, or the host of social ills that are contributing to failures in American education, let’s blame the unions. No one likes them anyway. It’s not a hard sell to a public that is desperately looking for answers. Personally, I am tired of teachers blaming everyone but ourselves for problems in education. We do need to take a long, hard look at our methods, effort, and technique, but if Jobs and other critics of education truly wanted to elevate this debate to a place where we can work on real improvement, they need to offer a little more sophisticated insight than “Unions bad!”

  30. Here’s a perspective that you may not have heard.

    Jobs’ basic argument is that schools hire bad teachers and that they can’t be replaced because of union policies. What might surprise you is that, to some extent, I agree with him. It does seem crazy that a person can achieve tenure after three years, and I have no doubt that many union leaders are more interested in protecting teachers than in protecting quality education. Unfortunately, that’s as far as Jobs argument goes in terms of making sense. He argues that principals need to be able to hire and fire quality people, ignoring that principals and school administrators are often the cause of the problem, and among the least qualified people working in schools . What sounds like a common sense solution, giving principals more power, ignores their frequent lack of qualification and the simple fact that they HIRED the bad teachers that Jobs condemns. Doesn’t that suggest they might not be very skilled at evaulating employees?

    Jobs’ easy answer is just sloganeering, but one that is occuring in enough places to cause concern. Rather than focusing on systemic inequity, violence, family structure, or the host of social ills that are contributing to failures in American education, let’s blame the unions. No one likes them anyway. It’s not a hard sell to a public that is desperately looking for answers. Personally, I am tired of teachers blaming everyone but ourselves for problems in education. We do need to take a long, hard look at our methods, effort, and technique, but if Jobs and other critics of education truly wanted to elevate this debate to a place where we can work on real improvement, they need to offer a little more sophisticated insight than “Unions bad!”

  31. Carla,

    I support your efforts to teach but there are funds for teachers to improve themselves.

    “Teachers pay for the own education their entire lifetime. That comes out of their yearly wages. Their is no education fund to support continuing education.”

    There are numerous funding sources for a teacher’s education. My teaching certification program was paid, the support program for beginning teachers was paid, as well as many professional development workshops for keeping the certification continues to be paid. New teachers in some states receive tax credits. Plus, some districts will pay signing bonuses for certified teachers. Teachers looking for housing assistance can even get zero down loans. Teachers also receive numerous discounts on products. For example, I received a 150 dollar discount on a cell phone because of my teaching job. Book stores provide discounts because of my job.

    BTW: Two years of allowing a teacher in the classroom to teach, who fails to meet standards, is two years too long. The principal is trying to be too cautious about documentation and therefore has weak decision making abilities. Tell the teacher they have 1 week to get it together – quit hugging and pampering. Give the person the time to submit lesson plans with proper standards or face termination. Period. If the teacher fails then the kids will be better off with someone else.

  32. Carla,

    I support your efforts to teach but there are funds for teachers to improve themselves.

    “Teachers pay for the own education their entire lifetime. That comes out of their yearly wages. Their is no education fund to support continuing education.”

    There are numerous funding sources for a teacher’s education. My teaching certification program was paid, the support program for beginning teachers was paid, as well as many professional development workshops for keeping the certification continues to be paid. New teachers in some states receive tax credits. Plus, some districts will pay signing bonuses for certified teachers. Teachers looking for housing assistance can even get zero down loans. Teachers also receive numerous discounts on products. For example, I received a 150 dollar discount on a cell phone because of my teaching job. Book stores provide discounts because of my job.

    BTW: Two years of allowing a teacher in the classroom to teach, who fails to meet standards, is two years too long. The principal is trying to be too cautious about documentation and therefore has weak decision making abilities. Tell the teacher they have 1 week to get it together – quit hugging and pampering. Give the person the time to submit lesson plans with proper standards or face termination. Period. If the teacher fails then the kids will be better off with someone else.

  33. “The plan states which teaching standards must be brought up to proficient levels in order to meet profiency according to her principal”

    John, I am curious, what happens if she fails to meet these standards? Will the union allow the school to fire her? Will she be transferred to another school?
    The procedure sounds good IF after an unsuccessful attempt at helping her she could face termination for failure.

    -J. Kaiser

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