Mike McClellan is a Gilbert resident and former English teacher at Dobson High School in Mesa.
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Wow! What a "stretch" for you.
We have had a conversation some time ago about many of the points in this article and it appears to me you have come to many of the same conclusions I have. The money is not going to come until reforms are put in place and implemented.
As a retired principal I can support almost every point you have made--even the one about firing principals who cannot show improvement in their schools performance.It starts, however, with your number two--being to rid the school of senior non-performing teachers.
Good points in a well thought art article on appropriate starting points for reform. I think you will get support from reasonable people in the present and past educational establishment on this one!
Great plan. Also, stop allowing the charter schools to skim the most motivated students/parents off the top and then pat themselves on the back at what a great job they're doing. Also, Judging proficiency in content areas by using standardized (high stakes) tests is proving to be inaccurate, unreliable, and unwise.
Is one of the posters questioning if there are a glut of illegal aliens especially in some districts? Is he questioning whether that may create major hurdles to the education process? Either you are lying or ignorant. Ask a teacher in one of those districts what it is like.
Mike: I'm in the same boat as chuckles3. I can agree with just about everything you've mentioned. However, that would decrease the power of the teacher's union, I believe (Not that I have a problem with that), and many would resist some of your ideas. Some teachers should be paid 10X more, others should be terminated. Of course, it's that way with most jobs out there.
I would add that American citizens should not have to pay for the education of children that are here ILLEGALLY. It's simple enough to prove you are a citizen, or that you are here LEGALLY.
multiple posts for same reason as JMJ... EVT at it again!
9.) Fixed costs, overhead and salaries should be payed by the state for all schools, as this varies depending on location and environment. Every school should receive the same amount of funding per student, depending on grade level, regardless of which school they attend. Such an arrangement should obtain parity between schools.
10.) Not only do we not keep the parents involved in high school, we don't keep the students involved. The system is archaic! Define real learning objectives. If you can't define it, you can't teach it. Passing a test is not a real objective. If the student is given a task to perform he or she will learn how to complete the task. When a student is told to study for a test, what good is that. In real life people are not asked to take tests for a living, they are asked to perform tasks.
If parents know what their children are supposed to be able to actually do, perhaps they can get involved. We can't expect parents to become involved in esoteric, pedantic endeavors that are only of interest to scholars. If little Johnny is supposed to be able to recite the multiplication tables, that is a measurable task. If he is supposed to understand multiplication, how do you measure that? Which one can the parents help with? The reason #10 is a tough one is because you haven't defined what it is that you want the parents to do. If you don't know, how are they supposed to find out?
7.) Vocational education is a good idea, although all vocations these days require greater technical knowledge. It shouldn't be complicated. At about 9th grade level students should have the option of focusing on vocational or academic or STEM educations. Community colleges need to be part of this equation.
8.) Since Obamacare is evidently here to stay, there is no reason the public sector should have their own healthcare system. Let the public sector enjoy that which the rest of us are required to endure
6.) Providing teacher performance bonuses is asking the teachers to divert focus from student performance to bonus acquisition. AIMS has had the same effect by making teachers teach the test and not the task. Go back to the real world where people are expected to do a good job and get promotions for exceptional performance. Let a career path be the motivator. Bonuses are only short term satisfiers anyway.
5.) Same as #1. If performance objectives are defined there is no need for other testing. Just as in the real world, if you can do the job well enough to demonstrate competence you've met the pass/fail criteria. Grading “A through F” is silly and sends a message that it's okay to just get by.
2, 3 & 4.) Principals should have management training in addition to teaching experience. There is no reason an MBA shouldn't be required of a principal. Administrators such as those “vindictive” principals you mentioned have no more place in public sectors than bad managers in the private sector. Administrators need to be evaluated based on performance of their schools. Retention of performing teachers is to their advantage.
Mike.. Good letter. Regarding some of your points;
1.) Each grade level needs defined objectives. At the end of first grade the student needs to be able to perform certain tasks. When they can perform those tasks by meeting defined criteria with a pass/fail test they should be able to move to the second grade, and so on. This is called “criterion reference instruction.” Forget the calendar within the curriculum grades and move students relative to their performance. Some may move faster in one subject than in another, so let them. When they come to a “gate” as you proposed, they can concentrate on those objectives that need attention. Maybe math for one student, reading for another.
Sorry for the multiple posts. The comments "appeared" to be s p a m to the very modern filters for commentary. Don't ask me what it was...never figured it out.
#4 The truth is, there always was a way to fire teachers, long before tenure was tossed off a bridge into the dry riverbed that is education in our state. It was just easier for the foolly-appointed to overlook the elephant in the room and pass along incompetence just as readily as students were, and continue to be, passed along.
#5 When the third-grade gate starts, predictably, to close, next year, the gatekeepers are still the Quasimodos who will not want their particular schools to have 16 third-grade classes multi-aged to 16 years old--it will reflect poorly on the district. Or, the district will come up with a way to blow sunshine around it and call it something else. Repurposed third-graders. That's what we call it when a school is about to fail, so we close it and rename it something else. In Mesa, AZ, anyway.
#6 The idea of other-grade level gates is interesting and quite right. In some countries, notably Germany, students are tracked for trades or university around junior high age and split accordingly. There is no shame in earning a living and supporting a family by being a plumber, an electrician, and HVAC expert. These trades earn livings that pay much better than the teaching profession. The shame lies in not recognizing that we, in education, are not doing students any favors by passing them along on a slide to failure and the inability to sustain a family on minimum wage at the local burger franchise.
#7 The mayors may have some great ideas, but they need to recognize that their friends [yes, friends] in educational leadership [to use the term loosely in an oxymoronic way] section of their city's school system might look great in a suit, but they are not suited to be playing God by appointing their also-incompetent friends to man, or, woman, wink wink wink wink, the administrative positions in a system that is failing due to their own incompetence. The elephant in the room is the incompetence at the top of the Fool Chain.
#8 Would that it were a perfect world and the mayors could actually do something instead of dressing up and shaking hands and ignoring the most glaring, obvious, incongurous problem we have: The Idiots in Charge are the Problem, not the solution. Until and unless that chain of fakery is ever broken and actual leaders installed, all the smoke and mirrors will continue to deflect the light away from that elephant.
#9 I haven't seen any publicity or follow-up on the guru at Carson, the Harvard silver-bullet who was going to turn that school around. Turning something around 360 degrees doesn't count, by the way. What's the progress on that situation, if any?
#3 As to proposed discretionary funding in the hands of said nimrods to reward teacher competency, when the incompetent are in charge of the overcompetent. So not happening in the halls of the places I have been in MPS, where the nimrods will find a way to reward their dolt cronies, and continue to drive away stellar educators who threaten the incompetence of these appointed puppets whose strings attach directly to the top office of the Ivory Tower on Main Street in Mesa.
#2 Are there really any wise men in the Arizona legislature, or anywhere else, regarding education in the late, great state of Arizona?
#2 Are there really wise men in Arizona? In the legislature? In education?
Sorry, my numbers do not coincide with Mike's, but here goes:
#1 Hey, Leon, I haven't had the opportunity in probably a month to assure you that you are still a Froot Loop. There, now, I feel better!
leon... you're hanging around schools too much. I think there are laws regarding that. If there aren't, there should be. It's creepy to hear you describing your observations of these young people you so desperately disapprove of.
I've taken issue with many if Mike's viewpoints in the past but I will echo most of the writers in offering my support for many of the ideas proposed.
If a liberal is merely a Conservative who hasn't been mugged yet, then a reasoned opinion piece from a former-teacher must simply be the natural progression of thought by a person no longer under the spell and enchantment of the public education system. [smile]
In short, I think we can offer a well-intentioned and humorous twist on the old metaphor about Mike "not sweating much for a fat chick."
Nicely done, Sir.
Have to agree with many things Mike says. The deal that administrators should be superior teachers is important. How does someone who hasn't taught very long tell someone else how to teach? Teaching is an art, not a science. It takes time to master the art. Because someone has read a book or taken a course does NOT make them an expert teacher. Many of Mesa's administrators fall into this category. Many principals have less than five years experience in the classroom and don't know how to teach themselves. They had the means to go right to grad school and get the hours. Some of these individuals are not only assistant principals but are principal's in the Mesa district. They don't have a clue what it is like in a real classroom and evaluate from a book. It may be this way in private industry, but when I worked in private industry, you had to prove yourself first. You weren't just appointed.
Yes, Mike, a very good article indeed.
Anyone else out there.
Is Leon expert at anything other than typing in CAPITALS? Apparently not! Each time I read something he has written in my mind's eye I see one of those shrunken beheaded figures carried by the tribes in Borneo! Is Leon from Borneo?
Leon, you seem bitter. Why is it that you never mention that I have contributed handsomely to the retirement system that I am a part of. When I signed on to be a teacher I knew that I would never make the wages I could have made in the private sector. When I complain about teachers getting low wages people like you say, "You knew what you were getting yourself into." You're right. And the retirement system was one of the things I got myself into. My employer matches my contributions much like a private company does with a 401k. (Wait. You are gonna tell me that private industry doesn't match. Maybe you shoud find a different emloyer.) The contributions gain interest. After 30 years I have roughly 425K in the retirement system. Not small feat. Give us some credit for contributing to our own retirement.
Um, Leon, well, maybe you should seek some counseling? Your posts are way out there dude. Have some anger issues perhaps? Wow, an angry conservative, that's not typical at all.
A teacher in Finland explains why her country’s school system is the best in the world. “We pay teachers like doctors, students enjoy over an hour of recess, and there’s no mandatory testing—The opposite of what America does.”
Forgot to mention the "GORILLA IN THE ROOM".....you know the one that the Libs never, ever mention = TENS OF THOUSANDS OF ILLEGAL ALIEN STUDENTS AND ANCHOR BABIES"...........MIKE, YOU KNOW THE ONES THAT HARD-WORKING (they don't get 3 months off with "PAY" like you did as a Mesa teacher and that ...........TEACHERS ARE GETTING AS WE SPEAK..)......MIKE.
THE 10-20-30,000 MEXICAN, GUATAMALAN, EL SALVADORAN AND HONDURAN STUDENTS THAT COST TAX-PAYERS...............$7,670.00.....PER ILLEGAL ALIEN/ANCHOR BABY STUDENT......PER YEAR....MIKE, MULTIPLY THAT TIME 12 GRADES AND YOU GET A COST TO THE HARD-WORKING, ARIZONA TAX-PAYER OF MORE THAN............$100,000.00...FOR EACH AND EVERY ONE.
SO MIKE............IF YOU AND YOUR CEO/BIG-SHOT MAYOR BUDDIES ARE SO CONCERNED.........SO INTERESTED IN HELPING GET MORE REVENUE INTO OUR SCHOOLS AND TO RAISE THE SALARIES OF ARIZONA'S TEACHERS....THEN CALL, WRITE OR EMAIL YOUR LOCAL POLITICIAN AND THE WHITE HOUSE AND DEMAND THAT THEY ENFORCE THE US CODE ON ILLEGAL ENTRY INTO THE UNITED STATES AND ..........DEPORT.....EACH AND EVERY ILLEGAL ALIEN IRREGARDLESS OF AGE BACK TO THEIR COUNTRY OF BIRTH...........CALL THE WHITE HOUSE AND TELL ...BARACK HUSSEIN OBAMA TO STOP BEING THE...."GLOBAL" PRESIDENT AND START ACTING LIKE THE ..........."AMERICAN PRESIDENT".....FOR A CHANGE.
LET'S SPEND OUR HARD-WORKING TAX PAYERS TAX MONEY ON ..."AMERICAN".....STUDENTS FOR A CHANGE, MIKE !!!!!
Good job, Mike! Let's hope the mayors can have a positive effect on education here in the East Valley. We have many points of agreement, especially on these:
3. "... too often we have teachers entering the classroom as new teachers hellbent on getting out as quickly as possible and becoming administrators. Often, because of their classroom inexperience, they have little understanding of what teachers face, and are thus less effective." And why shouldn't they? Three years in the classroom (if that) and suddenly you get a huge pay raise, sometimes in the $30,000 range, while teachers have had their pay frozen for years.
We believe this is poisoning our schools. Remember when the principal's job (after many years of teaching) was to manage a school so that teachers could focus on actually teaching? Now, these inexperienced administrators are held out as "instructional leaders" -- they're woefully unprepared and inaequate, and they know it. That's how we get vindictive principals (see your #2 above) that create toxic environments for employees who aren't in the good old boy network. Our kids pay a price for trying to learn while an administrator plays favorites or plays doctor behind closed doors with subordinates.
4. "Administrators’ jobs ought to be just as on the line as teachers’ jobs." Many districts have something akin to peer review for principals ... the peers being the teachers, staff and parents of students at that school. Some districts also have that kind of review system set up for superintendents. Instead of acting as a gatekeeper to stifle communication to and from the board, a superintendent should be working every day to ensure that all voices are heard. We were sympathetic to students who said it was a shame they could not vote in the last election when so much was at stake for schools.
5. "How to decide if a school’s underperforming?" We like the idea of uniform pre and post metrics, but as long as teachers have to take whichever students are assigned to their classroom, fairness may still be lacking. Who wants special needs students if a teacher's compensation will be imperilled? ELL students? Who gets the gifted students? Do you randomly assign kids or consider a teacher's strengths with specific groups? How do you keep a system fair to all teachers when demands on elementary teachers and high school teachers are so different? Here's the real solution: ASK THE TEACHERS!! (No, we didn't mean to sound like Leon, sorry.)
6. "We should find some way to reward our best teachers." How about respect? That's woefully lacking at top levels of school district management. When we put the focus on the classroom, giving teachers the respect and autonomy they have earned as professionals, we might get it right for students. Teachers are the only indispensible people in a school district: they're in the classroom every day accomplishing the mission of the school district. Everyone else should be working to SUPPORT THE TEACHERS so they can teach our children.
1) Too many kids are passed onto the next grade when they aren't ready. However, I imagine parents are the driving force behind this, not teachers.
2) You probably have too much faith in your fellow teachers. And teacher's unions would never allow this.
3) In the "non-academic" world, a good boss doesn't have to know how to do your job in order to properly manage you and your goals. I don't see why schools should be any different. I'd even go a step further and say only allowing those who teach to become administrators severely limits your pool of qualified administrators.
4) I thought they could/would be fired if their school did poorly?
5) Makes sense.
6) No objection.
7) Agreed. We need more vocational schools.
8) Sounds good, but as you mention, autonomy comes into play. Especially when dealing with union vs non-union districts.
9) It needs to be reevaluated, but the poor will still have less resources than the rich, even if government funding is the same across the board. You'll have booster clubs, field trips that are out-of-pocket for students, etc.
10) You can't turn people into "good parents".
One thing most citizens agree on is that the United States has a very good educational system.
If you do not agree, it is not because other countries tax their citizens to provide more ‘choice’ through private education.
To say that more ‘choice’ is the answer to better educational outcome is elitist. The poor will continue in poorly funded schools and the wealthy will continue in highly funded schools.
I agree with a lot of what Mike says here also. My ears perk when I here words like "fully fund education". I have heard countless times when people talk about more funding for education, but I never seem to here what that magic number is and why- just more than what it is. This is why it falls on deaf ears. Odd question here. From a total taxes standpoint, there has been a lot of money for a lot of years paid in to the education pot. Presumeably to people whoes job is to better education. Nothing above sounds like any groundbreaking idea that logic should not have come to long time ago. So why has the education system not come to this and implemented?
Leon,Can't you find some way to blame Obama, while you are spewing your bile?I suppose that the parents of these children are blameless? Come on, Leon, put the hatred aside and try to see the truth here.Do the teachers you revile dress the "Fallen Doves" you see walking back and forth on Main Street around Extension Street?Do they dress the Male Students dressed like Black or Hispanic Gang members?Leon, it's not 1956 any more.
Nicely done article, Mike!In particular, I liked the accountability measures--for teachers, adminitstrators, and students. I also liked the nod to the importance of parents, in their children's education.
It's unfortunate that these problems must fall to elected officials, who are much better suited, at least at this local level, to drumming up business and thinking of ways to raise taxes, without calling it taxes.
I would hope that the mayors would seek the expertise of a range of folks, to help them, in their efforts. Not just professional lobbyists, and other political leeches, but people involved in the education of our children, as well as motivated parents.
Alas, I think the tendency is to follow the path of least resistance--that is, whomever promises the most, at the least cost. Which brings us right back to the privatizing crowd.
Looks like our children's futures will consist of a lot more tradeskills, even for those who would be better suited to being rocket scientists. Unless, of course, their parents can afford it.
Mike....I seem to agree with your proposals, maybe because you left out ideology and concentrated on practicality????? :-) In any case, I offer one solution to #9: ....a fairer way to fund education in poverty area schools.....and applicable to all other schools in all other areas as well. That would be by determining a dollar amount per student to be spent in a school year and allowing those dollars to be spent in whatever school the parent decides, public school, parochial school or charter school. After all, isn't "choice" the paramount right in all things? And besides, what could be more fair than to spend exactly the same amount for education on every child no matter his circumstances?
Mike, I agree with you on several of your suggestions. #1. Yes, hold back those students that don't perform at certain levels.
#2. Yes, scrap tenure and find way to grade, review or rate teacher performance.
#3. Yes, hold administrators to a higher standard. Get rid of the bad ones and give bonuses to the good ones.
#4. Yes, out with the bad and in with the good.
#5. Yes, teach to the core and test the results of this teaching.
#6. Yes, reward the good teachers, not automatic bonuses but those that have verifiable improvements from their students.
#7. Yes, why isn't this the norm. Why can't businesses get with the school boards and offer student apprenticeships or specific training guidance.
#8. Yes, school boards should be paying the Obamacare penalty and having all it's personnel on some of the Obamacare programs. That's what a majority of the voters voted for.
#9. No, anytime you use the word "fairer", I get suspicious of more taxes. This would be a good place to reward teachers that work in poorer schools.
#10. Yes, this is one of the toughest ones. Getting the parents involved with older students' schooling and encouragement. Here is where the parents are failing the students. How about collecting their tax refunds from the school. LOL just kidding....
Good article Mike....
I agree Mike, you have outlined some highly constructive ideas and solutions.
chuckles usually never agrees with Mike because he usually supports the structures that undermine public education. For example, Mike McClellan recently wrote a blog about Arizona House Speaker Andy Tobin. Andy recently traveled to Washington DC where he attended the winter meeting of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) (Look it up if you need to know more.) In Mike’s blog he provides a list of the “workshops” that ALEC wants legislators to focus their attention. ALEC is always in the push for privatizing education, which means taking tax funding away from public schools and giving it to private enterprise.
SO, rather than study ways to improve public education our legislators are working hard to let ALEC write the rules to privatize education.
Mike, as usual, put the blame for Arizona's......"FAILED".....PUBLIC SCHOOL SYSTEM.....on everybody else's shoulders but where it belongs.........."TEACHERS EDUCATED IN OUR LEFT-WING LIBERAL COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES WHO........"MENTOR"......INSTEAD OF....."TEACH".
If you don't believe me just drive past one of our Mesa (or any East Valley) High School at the end of the School Day. What do you see????????1. Teachers who look, act, and dress like the Students that they are supposed to have Class Room Authority over.2. Female Students dressed like the "Fallen Doves" you see walking back and forth on Main Street around Extension Street.3. Male Students dressed like Black or Hispanic Gang members.4. Students smoking (let's hope it's only a tobacco cigarette but we all know better).5. Bullying of smaller or more studious Students (and Mike and all the other Pro-Public School cheerleaders wonder why their parents are sending these Students to Charter, Private and Catholic Schools by the thousands and thousands). 6. Displays of Affection (I can't really call it what it is this being a Family Newspaper....be interesting to see the percentage of Student Preganancies in our Arizona Public Schools as opposed to our Arizona Private, Charter and Parochial Schools).7. Notice how Mike never addresses the ....$200,000.00 a year Retirment Pensions that our Public School Administrators are getting over and over again at age 60yo.8. Now that the Democrats have foisted.....'OBAMA-CARE"....down our throats....why do Arizona teachers need a ...."Cadillac Health Care Program"....get rid of this cost and put the money back in the Class Room where it belongs.
Gee Mike, I (almost) never agree with you....but most of what you say here I can support. Nice letter.
The problem is specifics and the will to make hard decisions.
Politicians love big picture speeches, they are easy. When it comes down to hard decisions, forget it. They would rather campaign and schmooze their patrons.
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