April 21, 2015

Teachers' Unions find an issue that can appeal to those who are not big fans of public employee unions.

"Scott Walker, the Wisconsin governor and possible presidential candidate, stoked national attention when he stripped collective-bargaining rights from most public-sector unions, including teachers. But testing, [said Nelson Lichtenstein, a labor historian at the University of California, Santa Barbara], offers unions a way to join forces both with parents who object to testing and with Republicans who oppose the Common Core standards as a federalization of education. 'It is a powerful issue, by virtue of the fact that the right is also against it,' he said."

From a NYT article titled "Teachers’ Unions Fight Standardized Testing, and Find Diverse Allies."
The teachers’ push on testing comes as Congress is debating how to revise the 2001 No Child Left Behind law...

Critics of the campaigns against testing, including many state and local education officials, say the unions are not acting out of concern for children but are trying to undercut efforts to institute tougher evaluations. They argue that annual testing is critical for tracking how effectively schools are educating poor and minority students and that evaluations based only on subjective criteria like observations typically fail to identify weak teachers....

Secky Fascione, director of organizing for the National Education Association, the largest nationwide teachers’ union, said reining in testing was the union’s top organizing priority. In the past month, Ms. Fascione said, chapters in 27 states have organized against testing, including holding rallies; petition drives; showings of “Standardized,” a documentary critical of testing; and sessions telling parents they have a right to keep their children from taking tests, as tens of thousands of parents around the country have done.

“Does it give us a platform?” said Karen E. Magee, the president of New York State United Teachers. “Absolutely.” 
The union of left- and right-wing ideology. Who's leveraging whom? Or is this the serendipitous coalescing of natural interests?

43 comments:

Beloved Commenter AReasonableMan said...

My daughter has just finished taking the English common core tests and is currently taking the math ones. They are straightforward tests of basic knowledge and competence. Only crazy people could object to the tests themselves.

The parents who are having their kids opt-out of these tests are being played, first by right wing politicians like Jindal, who has the moral fiber of an over cooked strand of spaghetti, and then by the the teachers, who should know better, but have decided to give a big fuck you to their political overlords.

79 said...

Anytime I find myself agreeing with a Democrat about anything, I reconsider my position to determine where I've made my mistake.

CStanley said...

James- LOL.

What I don't understand is why the teachers are convinced that they have to "teach to the test."

I grew up in the New Jersey school system of the 1970s. There were a few big missteps like the "New Math" but mostly it was sane stuff and testing was a big part of it (I'm pretty sure we had two batteries of tests per year.)

But the rest of the year we were simply being taught. We lean pruned stuff, and then the tests assessed what we had learned. Why is this a big deal?

I know a lot of people identify the problem as the tie between teacher performance and compensation, and maybe that does put extra emphasis on standardized testing. But unless the teachers really are incompetent or there are reasons- beyond teachers'control- for kids to perform poorly, it shouldn't be a problem for the tests to be used as a metric.

Michael said...

There is no problem with the tests.

I would challenge any politician, however, to do a simple math problem using the techniques required by Everyday Math. A methodology concocted by sociologists to make math easier to learn without having to learn by heart the multiplication tables. Impossible.

Hammond X. Gritzkofe said...

I could be wrong about this, but I sense the correct answer is: teach/learn the material, and don't worry about the test.

Why, then, the needless obesessing over tests by Unions and Administrators (but I repeat myself)?

There are many interrelated factors:
..federal, vice local, control of public education;
..destruction of the family through federal "welfare" programs;
..excessive Administration;

but most can be laid at the feet of the Unions or the Federal Government (but, again, I repeat myself).

amielalune said...

While I am anti-Common Core, I'm not opposed to testing in general. I don't think most Common Core opponents are. There has to be a way to see if student are actually learning anything.

Besides, if the teachers unions are against it, it must be a good thing.

Beloved Commenter AReasonableMan said...

amielalune said...
While I am anti-Common Core,


Why are you anti-CC? It is just a reasonable set of educational standards originally created at the request of Governors such as Jeb Bush and Jindal.

CStanley said...

ARM- I know you directed this to another commenter but I see two problems with it:

First, there's the ideological problem of centralized control over education. I'm somewhat in this camp but I could be persuaded that a more consistent curriculum might be needed since people move from state to state.

The second thing is more problematic to me- it's the teaching methodology, especially for math. Have you looked at it. It is whacked. It appears to be an attempt to systematically teach the intuition of math instead of the traditional method of memorization followed by abstraction later after practicing the computations. If you've ever tried to teach kids or help them with their homework, I think you'd see that it doesn't work if you try to skip ahead to the abstract thinking. And the kids who need help the most are the ones who are going to struggle the most with this.

At the very least they will need to train the teachers how to teach with the new methods, and then there's the problem that the parents don't know it so they can't help with homework.

Ann Althouse said...

"Why, then, the needless obesessing over tests by Unions and Administrators (but I repeat myself)?"

I think when the education is bad, teachers (and students) look for shortcuts, and that leads to "teaching to the test." Eliminating the test as a solution is just letting people loll in stagnant, bad education.

In law school, some students will just skip the experience of deep, critical reading of the cases and classroom analysis of the readings ,and they'd like to be able to do something else, something quicker, to prep for the test.

There are commercially prepared outlines that can be read and studied in a learning-for-the-test shortcut. But a student who COMPLAINS about spending his time on the shortcut is ridiculous.

Now, in my class, I think the complaint is that the shortcut won't work. How can one prepare for the class OTHER THAN by doing the readings and attending class and engaging? I try to make it so you CAN'T do well with the shortcut.

So, ideally, make a test that can't be "taught to." Then the teachers' complaint won't work. They should be doing their normal teaching, and the test should only be checking whether they are successful in doing what they should be doing. Deprive them of the argument that they are forced to teach to the test.

Fernandinande said...

Bush Introduces New Timmy Blanchard Left Behind Act

SJ said...

I know a person who worked as a teacher in Detroit Public Schools (up to the year of the bankruptcy/re-organization, if I remember rightly).

Her complain was not about tests, but about mandates.

The Federal law called NoChildLeftBehind mandated improvements in test scores.


Somewhat-jokingly, she said that all the students had to become above-average.

If the mandated improvements didn't happen, the individual school had to go through a large number of changes. Often to no effect, such that a similar set of changes would be done again two years later.

It's not tests, it is tests coupled with mandates that appear to be the problem.

(Personally, I think that education-as-a-government-run-factory is a problem. But that's just me.)

Roger Sweeny said...

Why do lots of teachers oppose testing? As a teacher, I suspect this is much of the reason:

Ed schools try to convince us that "all children can learn": that with proper training, a teacher can teach just about anyone just about anything. Education officials say it, politicians repeat it, and we at least pretend to believe it.

But all of us know, deep down or not so deep, that we can't teach lots of things to lots of kids. We are deathly afraid that testing will show this and we will be blamed.

We will be blamed for failing to achieve an impossible task. But we are afraid to say just how impossible the task is.

Which leaves stopping the testing, so everyone can keep pretending.

Lewis Wetzel said...

Why are local public schools, financed largely by local property taxes, having their curriculum dictated to them by the federal government?
Does the federal government love the kids more, and want to see them succeed more, than their parents and their parents friends and neighbors?

Roger Sweeny said...

Ann,

I hope this is not playing word games ... In a good learning environment, teaching and testing are integrated. Teachers "teach to the test" and the test assesses what is important.

Alas, developing and then grading such tests is often difficult and time consuming, if not impossible.

In any case, students are going to "learn to the test." It really can't be otherwise. They need to pass to graduate and many of them would like a good grade, too. Every teacher hears, "Will this be on the exam?"

Roger Sweeny said...

Terry, For years most local schools have had their curriculum dictated by the state government--and been the recipient of significant "state aid."

The relevant question is, "'Does the federal government love the kids more, and want to see them succeed more, than' the state government?" My tentative answer is "Neither cares more."

Beloved Commenter AReasonableMan said...

Terry said...
Why are local public schools, financed largely by local property taxes, having their curriculum dictated to them by the federal government?


Because a lot of them do a crappy job in teaching, particularly mathematics. Our human capital has become uncompetitive, which is why we need, rather than simply tolerate, immigration from other countries to remain competitive. Look at who creates the new innovative companies and who wins the science prizes, there is a disproportionate contribution by recent immigrants.

Eleanor said...

Why would you test kids on something you didn't teach them? All teachers are "teaching to the test" everyday- or they're not interested in finding out if the kids are learning. I don't know any teacher who objects to the idea of kids taking a test. The argument is always over the content that's being tested and how the results of the test are used.

Phil 314 said...

"But all of us know, deep down or not so deep, that we can't teach lots of things to lots of kids. We are deathly afraid that testing will show this and we will be blamed."

I have a very good friend, life long teacher of emotionally handicapped (bet you haven't heard that word in a while) teens. And he's a Republican and member of the teachers union.

The above quote is the essence of his frustration with the state of the profession.

Lewis Wetzel said...

AReasonableMan unreasonably wrote:
"Because a lot of them do a crappy job in teaching, particularly mathematics."
In Cuba they are a little more straightforward about education, ARM. The state educates you, they own your labor.
You seem to agree that the Feds view the State as having an overriding interest in the education of citizens' children. Do you realize how crazy that is? This is a republic, the government in DC is put there by the same people who elect the local schoolboard and the state politicians.

Peter said...

It's all but impossible to improve a process without measuring its outputs, for if you don't do that then how could you know whether the changes you made actually improved anything?

And claiming that measurements are invalid unless they are perfect is just an argument for not measuring, for there are no perfect measuring instruments (and probably never will be).

To be opposed to testing is, therefore, to be indifferent to the outputs of whatever you are doing. As in, "Just put in the seat-time and here's your credential."

MayBee said...

What happened to "Race to the Top"?

I thought I'd read it had been abandoned. All those administrative hours spent, just to change direction again in a few years.
This is how our education money and time gets spent. It's ridiculous.

Hammond X. Gritzkofe said...

EVERYONE benefits when it's all about the Tests. Well ... everyone but the students and taxpayers.

Teachers are protected because "I followed the Syllabus; I taught the Test. You can't blame me. Gotta be bad students."

Administrators are protected because "We don't do the teaching, we just run the numbers. The answer is more Administrators."

I blame the voters.

Locally, the School Board should represent the Taxpayers. Educators and their spouses/siblings need not apply.

If there is a problem with the local Board, then fix it locally or move to a different District. Don't expect Washington to fix it. Once you hand them control, you've lost it.

Birches said...

I could be wrong about this, but I sense the correct answer is: teach/learn the material, and don't worry about the test.

My children's school has very consciously NOT changed any curriculum for the new Common Core tests. They want to show everyone that it isn't necessary to go blow a million bucks on a new, cutting edge curriculum to meet the Common Core standards. I think they're right. I'm sure the test results will show the same.

Btw, we use traditional math at our school---Everyday math isn't the only way to teach Common Core Math. But I think most administrators think it's the easiest way to get from Point A to Point B and so they overhaul everything, leaving parents in the dark.

Seeing Red said...

It makes no sense to have the kids give speeches about what they learned in math. It makes no sense for the kids to write out five plus five equals ten.

This happened to a friend of mine's children this year.

Then they couldn't take the tests in their classroom, because posters on the wall might inadvertently give answers so everyone has to be tested in the gym.

Seeing Red said...

Insty has a link that the MI lawmakers want homeschoolers to be registered and be subject to social workers.

Michael K said...

"They are straightforward tests of basic knowledge and competence."

No doubt she has learned from you that Reagan was a fascist and other interesting facts on the AP test of History.

buwaya said...

Ann has part of it, so many students are so bad at basic skills that the tests, simple as they are (ARM is right), and reasonably simple and cheap to implement, are still going to show many schools in a bad light.
"Teaching to the test" as a complaint, is partly due to the fact that large numbers of kids can't be taught to the test, as they can only grasp material well beneath the level of the test. Part of it is social signalling by snooty leftist parents, whose kids are indeed well past the levels of the test, and the tests seem like insults to their teachers. Part of it is the result of feedback from the tests, which show that improvement is possible through adopting distasteful (to teachers) though effective teaching methods (for many but not all students), such as scripted curricula, scripted teaching, and drill. Part of it is the effect of the one size fits all approach to curriculum and methods as a result of testing, where tracking and targeted approaches would work better, but are politically unacceptable. Part of it is resentment at all levels vs political impositions from above. It goes on and on.

Michael K said...

"Have you looked at it. It is whacked. It appears to be an attempt to systematically teach the intuition of math instead of the traditional method of memorization followed by abstraction later after practicing the computations."

It's as if graduate math students decided to change his math is taught but don;t understand how kids learn.

Education has been infested with fads going back 50 years and the Ed schools of the 50s and 60s. We had "New Math" and "See and Say" spelling. I've seen this since I was in college.

Then the opening of new careers for women who used to prop up the elementary education field but now can be lawyers and doctors. It has devastated education and nursing.

buwaya said...

AP US History (which my kids did) is the most politicized and absurd standard curriculum of all of them.
Effectively, WWII is all about injustice to Japanese Americans. Its that bad, in practice.

Lewis Wetzel said...

What do you think the teachers would say if the price of getting rid of common core was to decertify their union?
Do they care about the kids or not?

tim in vermont said...

God forbid I should come out of the 8th grade and be tested on simple algebra!

and then by the the teachers, who should know better

Sure they *should* know better, yet they don't. No light going on ARM?

Jason said...

We have testing for a reason. It didn't spring forth unbidden from the ether.

The reason we have mandatory testing in the first place is because voters figured out that the educrats and teachers, a profession dominated to an absurd degree by undereducated libtards, could not be trusted to teach basic skills, historical, literary, mathematical and scientific literacy, unless they had a boot of accountability on their necks.

Let up on these libtard little fuckers for one second, and they'll be back to teaching Self Esteem 101 and the other crappy ideas libtard professors Schools of Education put out.

Birches said...

What do you think the teachers would say if the price of getting rid of common core was to decertify their union?

!

Someone should already be working on this.

etienne said...

The premise that kids need to be in school after the sixth grade, is what changed America.

By institutionalizing education, it corrupted education forever.

State education, like state marriages is inherently a social experiment. Having the federal government step in to control it, is like [insert ridiculous analogy here].

Michael said...

EverydayMath is an abomination concocted in the sociology department (yes) of the University of Chicago. The reason our kids are doing especially poorly in math is that they are not being required to do the rote learning required to establish a foundation. Instead they are force fed an insane system that converts two step problems into five, three steps into seven and so on. It is literally insane. I doubt a single administrator in any primary school in American can do it correctly and I would bet my life that not one politician can.

Brando said...

I don't really see how we can do away with standardized testing--we need some way to measure how well children are learning, and how well their teachers are teaching. Surely the assessors can take into account other challenges (e.g, larger class sizes, more students from impoverished homes) but in the absense of a standardized test, how do we measure whether students are learning or improving?

As for "teaching to the test" what better alternative is there? A good teacher can teach without a standardized test, but we'd have no way of knowing if they're teaching anything at all. At least with "teaching to the test" we can guide what material will be covered.

Todd said...

I have always found that argument lacking, teaching to the test.

That is the point of teaching, so that students learn something. If the test is proper and is designed to validate that the student has an understanding of reading, writing, and arithmetic, then teaching to the test is EXACTLY what the teachers are paid to do.

This did not used to be an issue. That is what all teachers did. It has only recently become a problem as teachers strayed away from their core assignment and got into all of that "lefty claptrap". Now teaching to the test is a bad thing because it forces teachers to stick to a curriculum that addresses the items being tested on instead of allowing them to inject politics into every subject and go off on tangents.

Not that they aren't still injecting politics and PC bullsh*t into every subject anyway. They also do hate that they are held to a standard, i.e. the students fail, you fail.

I really think the actual answer is a) more local control of curriculum and teaching methods, b) vouters. These go hand in hand. Let each school or district do what they want but also don't allow them to hold students hostage. Doing both of these things will allow the "market" to work it all out.

etienne said...

Brando said......we need some way to measure how well children are learning...

When I went to grade school in the early 60's, the teacher maintained a chart on each of us. This chart was updated weekly. I remember seeing the chart in my mothers hands, and the sad look on her eyes that I couldn't seem to multiply very well. This was separate from the report card.

That was the test in those days. Get the teacher to pass you to the next grade. Do your best.

Teachers know, even before the test, that Johnny can't read, or Betsy can't multiply.

Brando said...

"Teachers know, even before the test, that Johnny can't read, or Betsy can't multiply."

That may be for within the classroom itself, but how would anyone outside the classroom (whether the school board, or the state, or for that matter colleges weighing applicants) know if not for some test that is the same for all students? They can't just take each teacher's word for it, particularly as no teacher will want to admit that no one in their class learned anything that year.

etienne said...

Brando said......They can't just take each teacher's word for it...

True, there has to be checks and balances. Parents also know Johnny can't read, and if the teacher says he is an excellent reader, they know she is incompetent, or a fraud.

Teachers know who is pulling the load each day, and which ones are arriving for attendance.

Just like any other company with employees.

etienne said...

One thought I had that I left out, was when you go to a doctor, and see their diploma on the wall, it doesn't say whether they were a 2.0 GPA or a 4.0 GPA. Whether they flunked every other specialty, or had chosen that specialty and excelled.

High school GPA is also a crock. You can't tell anything from the diploma. The transcript of a 14 - 17 year old person, is like predicting the weather. You can't predict chaos, even if it is statistically sloped one way or another.

Obviously colleges want to attract people who can finish the degree. Most have too many drop-outs, so GPA isn't working. They could throw darts and do as well.

I'm not sure GPA has any relation in degree success, given my experience in college.

Colleges, like Malls, are essentially a herd mentality. Those who can't herd, and wander off the trail, are not failures.

They are merely non-degree life candidates.

Lance said...

But testing, [said Nelson Lichtenstein, a labor historian at the University of California, Santa Barbara], offers unions a way to join forces both with parents who object to testing and with Republicans who oppose the Common Core standards as a federalization of education.

Whoa. Conservatives don't oppose testing, they oppose federally-imposed one-size-fits-all testing. There's a difference.

Conservatives very much support merit-based pay and advancement for public school teachers, which may or may not require some form of testing.

The public unions of course very much oppose merit-based anything. They're trying to pull a fast one here, by focusing on testing in general.

ganderson said...

buwaya puti According to the new AP curriculum WW II is not just about injustice to Japanese Americans- it's also about the Zoot Suit Riots!

The ed establishment acts as if IQ does not exist- that if a kid's not learning it must be because the teachers are bad, or, more charitably that the teachers have not learned the proper instructional methods.
Fact is that some kids are smart, some not- bad schools and bad teachers do exist, of course, but crappy schools tend to have a critical mass of uninterested, (and perhaps low IQ) disruptive students.

BTW- Everyday Math is an abomination- put it right up there with Whole Language reading.

I've been a teacher for 30 years- seen many new methods and systems come and go- they are mostly BS- the best system is a reasonably smart teacher (we don't have to be rocket scientists)who likes kids, and who periodically tests them on what they know. This does not require vast state and federal bureaucracies!