Wednesday, September 01, 2010

The Misguided DOE’s Gainful Employment Rule & Public Education Reform

Posted By CotoBlogzz

Rancho Santa Margarita, CA - Larry Sand, the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a self-described non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues—information teachers will often not get from their school districts or unions, recently made the argument that the Los Angeles Times may have started a revolution in teacher accountability by measuring  teacher performance and posting it in its Los Angeles Teacher Ratings web page using a technique called value add, where value add is the difference between a student’s expected growth and actual performance.

From the various media reports, the response has been predictable:  teachers' unions characterize the LA Times  rating process as flawed, while those seeking accountability, like Mr. Sand, think it is about time.

Now consider  that research by Adam Schaeffer of the Cato Institutes Center for Education Freedom shows that The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD)  spent $29,780 per student in fiscal year 2007-08, way above the $10,000 advertised by the school district. Diane Lenning, seeking a post as Superintendent of California schools argues that in order to fix the LAUSD-  a district she characterizes as an albatross - it should be broken “into about ten smaller mid-size  districts to  bring more efficient and effective oversight of Los Angeles Schools.”

While Gabriella Holt, a local community leader recently appointed to LA County Board of Education suggested that perhaps Charter Schools could help - in our Facebook exchange, we understand she is open to home-schooling.

According to Mr. Sand, he began his teaching career in New York in 1971.  Since 1984, he has taught elementary school as well as English, math, history and ESL in the Los Angeles Unified School District, where he also served as a Title 1 Coordinator.

In the case of Ms. Lenning - she  has a point - big government does not work – dinosaurs tend to disappear and albatrosses are not very efficient, and we think Ms. Holt is on the right track.  While it is  very easy to understand why  Mr. Sand would think that starting to measure teacher performance would be the start of a revolution in teacher accountability, this is hardly the case.

Newsflash:  All effectively run private sector businesses have and continue to use some sort of value add metric.  If an employee does not add any value, the employee is let go – many times on the spot.  While if a public sector employee is incompetent or even accused of misconduct, chances are that years and hundreds of thousands of Dollars in legal fees later, that person is still receiving a “pay check”.  So, while Ms. Lenning’s  and Mr. Sand’s ideas may be necessary, these are not sufficient to start a revolution in public education.  by any means. 

What is required in public education is a real revolution.  A paradigm shift – the slaying of the Public Education Hydra, including the Department of Education.

This requires the decoupling of the Evil Twins:  the US Economic Triple Constraint: 1)  Card Check 2)  Health Care and  3) Cap & Trade, and  California’s Triple Threat: 1) Public sector organized labor 2) un-elected, un-checked parasitic bureaucracies and 3)  lobbyists.   and public education.  This requires the privatization of not only K1-12 public education, but also Liberal Arts Education,given that for  profit universities such as Argosy, Kaplan, DeVry and the University of Phoenix, offer a higher quality education, sans the parasites – the move would free up billions of dollars that could be used by the current research universities to make sure the US continues to be competitive in a global arena:

Keep in mind that for the last 30 years in California, students have developed the FDH (Fat, Dumb and Happy) Syndrome, while the union spends some $200 million/every ten years just to pursue its own political agenda, and thousands more in Los Angeles alone to teach students how to prepare sushi, while lobbying the states legislature to "CRIMINALIZE" Home-school.  Wit the last $26 billion teacher bailout the President characterized as "special interest freebie, ONLY if you think it is a special interest"

Arguably, Jaime Escalante, of Stand and Deliver fame,  was a game-changer in education, conclusively demonstrating that when willing and competent teachers want to teach, they can teach advanced math to the most disadvantaged students – such as Garfield HS in Los Angeles, CA.    However, the California Teacher’s Association (CTA) fought Escalante when he argued that he could teach advanced placement math in a class with more than 50 students, despite the overwhelming evidence siding with Escalante.   

More recently  Doug Lemov in  his Teach Like a Champion: 49 Techniques that Put Students on the Path to College book -  featured as the cover and full length feature story in the March 7 issue of the New York Times Magazine -  opines that Escalante was a uber-teacher, the likes of which not too many have seen,  and not a good model for the average instructor, arguing that his 49 techniques can be better scaled to fit the more mediocre instructor, instead of trying to convert every teacher into Escalante-like. “A few teachers may be born with an intuitive gift for teaching, but when I watch a great teacher I see mostly hard work and attention to detail,”  according to Lenov.

The excuse that “Teachers only have so much time with the kids, and teaching to the lowest common denominator is a disservice to those that are learning.” is just that- an excuse - as Escalante, Lenov and a myriad of CTA-independently minded educatiors will tell us.

OK, forget Jaime Escalante - as most teachers would probably not qualify to seat in one of his an advanced placement math class, but what part of Doug Lemov's book " Teach Like a Champion: 49 Techniques that Put Students on the Path to College" does the CTA not understand?

Enough with the excuses.  Enough  with passing the devalued Buck. Enough with the deflection.  As President Reagan would argue, "public sector organized labor is an anachronism in the 21st century" - Privatizing public education is the only sensible answer

But wait, there is more: The Department of Education (DOE) we characterize as a parasitic bureaucracy and largely responsible for the FDH Syndrome and the malaise afflicting public education, in a City of Bell action we affectionally characterize as Bellisimo, has proposed a rule that would limit educational and economic opportunities for hundreds of thousands of Americans in its misleading  Gainful Employment rule would make entire programs ineligible for Title IV financial aid if they fail to meet a one-size-fits-all metric test that has little to do with academic quality. 

We continue to argue legislators, politicians and the general public to take a stand against the Evil Twins: the US Economic Triple Constraint: 1)  Card Check 2)  Health Care and  3) Cap & Trade, and  California’s Triple Threat: 1) Public sector organized labor 2) un-elected, un-checked parasitic bureaucracies and 3)  lobbyists.  

We continue to argue that public education is a national security concern and can only be fixed through a paradigm shift – real revolution, not evolution, or devolution in the case of the CTA
Send a message to the DOE, a most parasitic bureaucracy and tell it to forget about its Gainful Employment rule and focus more on how to extinguish itself and make way for real education innovators.  You can pick up a petition from just about anyone involved in  real  education, or click here, for an example.

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