Sunday, April 26, 2009

Innovate or Die (Part 2)

The for-profit, market-based education experiement is something we discuss often.

This is a commuter click, as I suggest Liprap's tirade and additional research on for-profit management for schools for your perusal.

The telling quote (amongst many):

The charter's administrators will pass that blame on to teachers, who weren't teaching well enough to attract students that would stay, who couldn't establish a superhuman mentor/therapist/counseling/advocating role with each student along with their daily duties of imparting reading, writing, and arithmetic skills needed to pass every standardized test on the planet and show what a great school it desperately needed to be to survive.

We already hit on that the sustaining force behind many charter school movements is based on teachers whose lives become consumed with their work, or the thing doesn't work.

The first priority to ensure good, professional teachers get in and stay in your schools is to treat teaching like teaching is a profession, where you get to go to work during a certain time of day and go home during a certain time of day and enjoy your life, family, friends and hobbies.

If you need more, competent teachers, you shouldn't require them to be absolute superheroes to be successful. Because, if you do, your pool of applicants will be very, very small, and your turnover will be very, very high.

And, as a post-script, we should remember that one of the biggest "blame teachers" public officials in the United States is gearing up for another run at the Georgia Governor's mansion.



patsbrother said...

Cousin Pat,
Regardless whether there are other factors of professionalism lacking in public education systems, the one you actually mention is one you get flat wrong.

If you want teachers to get actual time off from work, then you do not want to "treat teaching like teaching is a profession." Have you ever watched a lawyer or doctor show? You should know that these people rarely go home.

Generally, in a modern American profession, you are expected to work so much. At a minimum. This minimum is kind of a lot. Then, if you want your salary to increase or you to get a promotion, you have to work more. A lot more.

In the practice of law in particular, there is a high rate of attrition due to burnout, where people (mainly women who want children) leave the profession.

I am not saying teachers don't work a lot. However, I am saying that if your problem is teacher retention and your goal is giving teachers more time away from work, your solution is not to treat teaching more like teaching is a profession. You might presume other benefits of treating teaching like a profession (such as a greater sense of personal worth), but more personal time would not be one of them.

True, you could point to me. Usually (but not always), I work normal hours. As far as lawyers are concerned, it's like I grabbed the brass ring. The problem is that, within the practice of law, I'm the low man on the totem pole. I bring down the average salary of my graduating class so much that they factor me out for the purpose of attracting new students. Thus, there are two listings for salary statistics: one for everyone, and then one for everyone minus the "public interest" lawyers.

Cousin Pat from Georgia said...

The first telling thing is that you cite doctors and lawyers examples of professional positions. Then you say that though you're low man on the totem pole, you bring down the average salary. I'd bet you make more as a first year lawyer than many teachers with 5 years experience. I'm sure if we paid teachers like we pay lawyers and doctors, retention would go up.

But we don't need to do that, we need to expand the pool of eligible workers, not limit it.


In the practice of law in particular, there is a high rate of attrition due to burnout, where people (mainly women who want children) leave the profession.Yes. This is also a problem in the medical industry (we blogged about how less and less people are chosing to become doctors because of the ridiculous schedules).

What are three areas our society is at the breaking point? Litigation, health care, and education.


patsbrother said...

First: Yes, if you paid teachers like lawyers and doctors, teacher retention would go up. But that's not what we were talking about.

So I assume you concede that treating teachers like professionals will not give teachers more free time. Cool.

Second: your final paragraphs now appear to argue a need to treat teaching LESS like a profession. If the two main professions in America are "at the breaking point," why in the world would you want to treat a thrid area more like a profession? Especially if the three of them can already be grouped together as failing?

Again, like I said before (twice), I'm sure there are perfectly valid reasons why someone might want to treat teaching more like a profession, such as the better pay = better retention syllogism you mentioned in your comment. (Although, without more, this would work to retain all teachers, and not "the good, professional" ones you want to keep).

I posted merely to express that I think your argument that treating teaching as a profession would bring about more personal time is an invalid one.

Cousin Pat from Georgia said...

So I assume you concede that treating teachers like professionals will not give teachers more free time. Cool.Again, your internal dialouge is just running away from the actual point. Maybe I can make this easy for you.

-Imagine if you (a lawyer) had to go to work, and instead of just put in extra hours of doing legal stuff, you actually had to go out and investigate cases.

-And not ivestigate by "interviewing witnesses" but collecting physical evidence, too.

-Then, once you had collected that physical evidence, you had to take it to the lab and run your own tests. Find your own fingerprints, test for gunshot residue, run your own DNA samples.

-You have to do this for other people's cases, too, when they don't show up for work or they don't do the work required.

-You have to conduct your own psychological diagnoses on your clients. Not "you hire a psychiatrist to do it," you interview them and make the diagnoses yourself.

-If your clients attack you, with fists or with chairs, you still have to meet with them the next day.

-You have to clean up your clients' cells when they tear them up.

-You only get 20 minutes to eat lunch, in a room with all your clients, with the food they eat, without any guards around, because if they get in any fights, you have to break them up.

-When something goes wrong, like, the people who are supposed to pay you don't, you don't go to the courthouse to rectify this situation, you go to the DMV to have the problem corrected.

-You have to take your own time off work to do this.

-The DMV says they can't help you but maybe the County Public Works office can. Then you drive over there. They send you to a firehouse across town. They send you back to the DMV.

-You have to plan all your cases three months in advance.

-Your clients all talk loudly and profanely through every court proceeding.

-Before a judgement is rendered, the court gives each client an exam on the legal processes they are experiencing, if they don't pass, your case is not heard and you have to start all over again.

-Every few weeks, another, less competent lawyer would take all your case files away from you for a day so you could attend a "professional development" excercise where people who study medicine tell you how to operate your case load. When you get back, the stand-in lawyer has given all your case paperwork to your clients, and they have made spitballs of them and thrown them at each other.

-They have done this in your office.

-As an extracurricular activity, you have to give up the only planning time you have between 6 am and 5 pm (your usual "business" hours) to teach welding to your clients.

Now, think about if that was your job. That's not very professional. Laywers would sue if they worked under those conditions.

patsbrother said...

Perhaps I've been watching too much South Park recently, but your hypothetical rundown was hysterical.

Some comments:

I'm a defense attorney. If I had to investigate my cases and collect evidence for the State, I just wouldn't do it. This would be be to my clients' benefit. Ditto on scientific reports.

We would PREFER to do our own psychological evals. We would love not involving any actual psychologist. We would LOVE to say: yep, he crazy. Don't try him.

Now, cleaning up cells WOULD be a problem. But really, we just wouldn't do it. We don't go there; who cares if it's messy?

What happens if we don't break up the fights? If they're both clients, do we get to conflict out?

We DO have to plan our cases three months in advance.

The Court DOES give each client an exam before it renders a judgment. It's called a "plea colloquy." And if the client answers incorrectly, we DO have to go back and do it again.

I think welding would be fun.

Knowing you had to do all this crap is not what is amusing. That would suck. What's hilarious is your inability to admit something you said might be wrong and move on.

You said: to solve this problem, we should do X, because Y. (We need to retain teachers, so we should treat teaching like teaching is a profession, because that will let them have more personal time.)

I said: we might still should do X, but not because Y. Because Y is incorrect. (Treating teaching like a profession will not lead to teachers having more personal time.)

At no point have I ever said "we should NOT do X." I explicitly said there are probably other good reasons to do X. It's just that Y is not one of them.

In essence, what I said was actually substantively appropriate to the conversation. I'm not running away from the actual point. Your main example of how more professional treatment would benefit teacher retention - more personal time - was one I disagreed with. And so I said so.

At no point have you actually addressed my point. Since my first post, you have brought up the issue of pay; a nonsensical argument about the breaking point of law, medicine, and education; and a rundown of the symptoms of what is wrong in New Orleans.

But through your (once again, hysterical) hypothetical lawyer scenario, you have now provided what appears to be the problems that need to be addressed.

Cool. None of that effects whether treating teaching like a profession will end up giving teachers more time.

That's the argument you made. I have not wandered from it. You have. I said nothing about pay, and I said nothing to negate the existence of the problem.

Here's a hint. If you want to move the conversation to OTHER possible ways that treating teaching like a profession might help retain teachers, don't do it in ways that appear to attack someone who made a valid point. (Well, YOU get paid more...) Especially if that retort has nothing to do with the point that person made.

As far as the REAL problems plaguing New Orleans (which, oh joy, you found a way to make about me), I'll say this. You don't need people to treat teaching more like a profession to solve these problems.

However, you DO need people to treat teaching more like teaching.

Dante said...

"The first priority to ensure good, professional teachers get in and stay in your schools is to treat teaching like teaching is a profession, where you get to go to work during a certain time of day and go home during a certain time of day and enjoy your life, family, friends and hobbies."

I'm in IT. That's outside of your aforementioned big 3. Finding a job that is really only 40-45 hours per week in my profession takes years of searching and/or a massive pay cut. I grew up doing residential construction. You can work as long as you want there but if you actually want to continue getting work, you had better be willing to put in at least 50-60 hours per week. The 40 hour work week exists, but it's not the norm. Take out low-paying full-time government positions and it's an outright rarity. The grass just isn't greener on the other side.

You want to make teaching more like other professions? Let's start by paying the government teachers 60%-80% of what they could make in a private school.