Klein Speaks

Joel Klein has a long piece in The Atlantic reflecting on American education. It’s a must-read and will spark some debate because it lays out his case forthrightly – he’s an attorney after all.  Too many pull quotes to reproduce here, so go read it.

6 Replies to “Klein Speaks”

  1. Truth from Klein?

    Of course not:

    efavorite 22 minutes ago

    OK, Mr. Klein, I did your work for you and it didn’t take long. The comment you referred to are from a speech made by Senator Obama in 2007, not President Obama in 2008, as you said in the article above. Also, you left out the beginning of the sentence about which clarifies that he’s referring to kids once they are in the classroom, which of course changes the meaning. I presume you’d get an F on your senior paper if you tried this in a NYC public school. What are the rules for the mayor?

    Below is the original passage, including context that shows then Senator Obama was being supportive of teachers, pointing out the extra things teachers do once they are with the kids at school. It’s from a speech he gave at the NEAs national meeting in Philadelphia on July 5, 2007 http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu

    “In fact, new evidence shows that from the moment our children step into a classroom, the single most important factor in determining their achievement is not the color of their skin or where they come from; it’s not who their parents are or how much money they have.
    It’s who their teacher is. It’s you. It’s you who can reach the most challenging students. It’s you who will stay past the last bell and spend your own money on books and supplies. It’s you who will go beyond the call because you believe that’s what makes the extra difference. And it does.
    But you can’t do it alone, and it’s about time that Washington realized that. For too long, our politics has been stuck in a cycle where we praise our educators in speeches and photo-ops, but then abandon them when it comes time to offer the resources and the support you need to do your jobs.”Read more at the American Presidency Project: Barack Obama: Remarks to the National Education Association Annual Meeting in Philadelphia http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu

    So, Mr. Klein – I’m waiting for the apology and the retraction.

  2. And here are President Obama’s words of wisdom from the March 2010 issue of Essence magazine:

    “…I’ve never been shy about talking about parents. It remains absolutely true that you can have all the money in the world, you can have the fanciest classrooms in the world, the best computers in the world, nicest textbooks in the world, but you are not going to succeed if parents aren’t instilling in their child at a very early age -‘ We are going to set high standards for you. I’m going to check that you do your homework. I’m going to read to you until you get to the point where you’re reading on your own, and then I’m going to make sure that you’re reading books instead of watching TV and playing video games. I’m going to constantly talk to your teacher etc.” And then he ends on this note:

    “I know in my own life it’s only because I was pushed and prodded by my folks that I was able to succeed.”

    Let’s be frank: We all know this. Mr. Rotherman knows it. Mr. Klein knows it. I know it. You know it. What I’d like to know is this:

    If Joel Klein spent thousands on his own children’s health care, private schools, music lessons, summer camps, tutoring etc., etc. does he really believe “the teacher” is more important than he is? Or is he lying? If so, why? That’s what I want to know.

  3. To phillipmarlowe: Thanks for posting the excerpt from Obama’s speech. I have to admit I’m kind of flabbergasted by this quote: “In fact, new evidence shows that from the moment our children step into a classroom, the single most important factor in determining their achievement is not the color of their skin or where they come from; it’s not who their parents are or how much money they have.
    It’s who their teacher is.”

    Umm, DUH. “From the moment they step into the classroom” — this phrase presumably is meant to exclude all the non-school factors that affect students PRIOR to the moment the student steps into the classroom. Yet Obama goes on to say that the other factors (the color of their skin or their parents or their money) aren’t as important as the teacher…. ONCE you control for the other factors. That’s like saying, “There’s no correlation between income and house size, once you control for income.” Right? Am I missing something?

    I’ve always believed (and studies have confirmed) that out of school factors are much more important in determining an individual student’s level of academic achievement than in-school factors, such as which teacher they get for 5th grade. As a former teacher, I’m getting really sick of non-teachers (such as Obama) continually blaming teachers for the low-achievement of students who come to school with so many problems, such as those stemming from poverty, single parent households, gangs, and many other sources.

    Obama’s words may sound like he’s praising teachers, but I take them another way: I think he’s just setting them up to take the rap.

  4. Another view of education that you won’t hear from Joel Klein or the other professional reformers:
    At DeMatha, Sports and Music Play Well TogetherWhat makes DeMatha most unusual is that students like Peacock are not unusual at all. While high schools everywhere are notorious for their persistent and stereotypical social strata, with athletes often perched near the top and band members near the bottom, DeMatha has largely avoided “those separate empires within the school,” as Daniel McMahon, the principal, said.

    It is cool to play sports. It is just as cool to be in the band. It is coolest to do both.

    McMahon, the principal, said that if there were a hall of fame for band directors, Mitchell would be in it. Tom Ponton, DeMatha’s director of development, called Mitchell “the Morgan Wootten of band directors.”

    Mitchell sat nearby.

    “I will never feel successful,” he deadpanned, “until I hear somebody say, ‘Morgan Wootten is the John Mitchell of basketball coaches.’ ”

  5. There are no simple answers to the education of our children. When Joel Klein, the press, governors, mayors and the U.S. Dept. of Education aim all of their reform energies at teachers they are offering simplistic solutions to a complicated problem. The entire educational village must make major changes. Teachers, universities, state districts, mayors, national standard-setting bodies, and parents will all need to change before we have high quality schools in every state of the union. We need multiple kinds of reform in education and multiple entities are responsible:

    1. Teachers need to be educated in a subject before they can learn how to break down that subject in order to teach it. This would call for radical restructuring of pre-service teacher training which now focuses on methods of delivering content instead of content. So we need to call on university teacher-training institutions to change. Teachers need to major in both a subject and methods of delivering that subject. They need to master the complexities and approaches inherent in problem-solving within at least one discipline (literature, math, biology, fine arts etc.) in addition to learning time-honored methods of teaching that and other disciplines.

    2. Teacher unions are absolutely necessary for a lot of reasons and school systems must be able to fire incompetent teachers. Unions need to step aside so that teachers can be removed from the classroom for the sake of children. Universities also play a role in placing teachers in classrooms. They need to fail out the incompetent pre-service teachers before they finish their education major and become certified. Universities hand out too many diplomas to illiterate, innumerate, and disorganized people who then enter the classroom fully certified. Universities, unions, and school districts must all be involved and held accountable for pre-service preparation of teachers as well as for ongoing professional development of teachers after they enter the classroom. Every child deserves a skilled teacher.

    3. Principal training is inadequate and in some cases almost totally irrelevant. Principals need to be trained like doctors are trained, with practical experience and mentors in addition to intellectual coursework. Classroom teaching does not develop the kinds of management skills needed by principals and district superintendents. Principals need to be mentored and to be given small management projects before stepping in to run a school. They need to learn and practice skills in hiring, supervising, and motivating teachers. They need negotiation and conflict resolution skills for working with adults (parents and teachers) who do not respond to disrespectful classroom teacher techniques for gaining order. They need to understand their own budgets. They need to develop complex skills in scheduling. They need building management skills. They need to learn to plan ahead for contingencies. Again, the universities and state boards of education need to set high and different standards and protocols for the training of principals.

    4. Local funding of schools worked in 1776, but it does not work now. Illinois has over 950 separate school districts full of bureaucrats. Chicago is one district with approximately 600 schools. Skokie, a small suburb, has five districts, each with one school. Most of the other districts have 2-6 schools in them. Nationally, billions of dollars could be saved by consolidating school districts and getting rid of those bureaucrats. City, state and national education departments must bite this bullet during this time of fiscal reorganization.

    5. Parents must become involved in their children’s educations. A nationwide attempt to promote parent involvement in schools needs to be funded and ongoing. At the same time schools must be trained in methods of involving and educating parents within their children’s schools. A fully implemented parent program which supports and actively involves parents at all levels is critical and needs funding and staffing in every school.

    6. Schools and parents must actively teach children behaviors that are appropriate for work, play, and strong families. Kindness and non-violent approaches to problem-solving are essential skills for the lives of individuals as well as for the body politic. These skills should be explicitly taught and modeled within schools. Democracy cannot survive without them. Students, who are mostly born with an interest in fairness, must be taught how to listen to and respond to the needs of others. There should be zero tolerance for teachers and administrators who yell in schools. See number 2 above.

    7. Educational research shows that high quality early childhood education is imperative to developing the vocabulary and higher order thinking skills children need to succeed in school. Strategic use of federal efforts aimed at preparing all children from birth to age seven to acquire a large vocabulary and problem-solving skills when their brains are primed to do so is essential. Schools must enlist and educate parents and teachers in this effort. In California it costs $47,000 to incarcerate one adult for one year. This money would pay for the day care costs of nearly six Head Start or State PreK children in that same year. Good longitudinal research shows that high quality preschool education leads to better decision-making in adults and fewer imprisoned adults.

    8. Educational research is routinely ignored by districts and schools. Doctors pay attention to the good, bad, and indifferent research in their field and cite it as rationale for their decision-making. Teachers outside of the university setting rarely do. Teachers should be tested regularly on current research in their fields and evidence of their practical application of research should be observed in their classrooms. The results of such testing and the observation of its application in the classroom should be a part of their job evaluation process.

    Unless our nation works on all eight of these reforms engaging universities, state and local educational districts, mayors, parents, school administrators and teachers, reform will not happen. No simple approach will work. Union bashing is a lazy, intellectually bereft and ineffective way to go about school reform.

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