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'Not much of an upside' to publishing teacher ratings, says Duncan

By the Notebook on Mar 23, 2012 02:30 PM

The Notebook has a content-sharing agreement with Education Week, where this piece originally appeared.

Education Week logo

by Stephen Sawchuck

Publishing teachers' ratings in the newspaper in the way The New York Times and other outlets have done recently is not a good use of performance data, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in an interview yesterday.

"Do you need to publish every single teacher's rating in the paper? I don't think you do," he said. "There's not much of an upside there, and there's a tremendous downside for teachers. We're at a time where morale is at a record low. ... We need to be sort of strengthening teachers, and elevating and supporting them."

So how does this square with Duncan's famous endorsement, in 2010, of the Los Angeles Times' controversial project to publish a database of teacher "value added" ratings?

Duncan told me that while that project highlighted important data that at the time had been collected and unused by the district, its publication was "far from ideal."

"What I was reacting to in L.A. was this mind-boggling situation where teachers were denied access to this data. The only way they could get it was through the newspaper," he said. "There was clearly some level of dysfunction [in the district], that this was the only way they could get it."

In Los Angeles, the city teachers' union still hasn't come around to using the data in a districtwide evaluation system, but such a system is now being piloted in some schools with teacher volunteers.

Duncan's comments opposing the mass publication of this information echo others in the field—including philanthropist Bill Gates and Teach For America's Wendy Kopp. While both are generally bullish on the use of such data as a component of teacher evaluations, they argue that its mass publication amounts to a shaming of teachers.

However, Duncan indicated he supports the judicious disclosure of this data to school principals and to parents.

"My question would be at some point, if you have not just a low value-added score but three or four years [of low evaluations]—are we informing parents? Are we going to do something about it?" he said.

He underscored that any such sharing should also be a comprehensive look at teacher performance, not just test-score related measures, and that all of these discussions will have to be worked out carefully with the various players.

"Having those thoughtful conversations with principals, teachers, parents, with strong union leaders, that's the way we're going to get there. ... It's hard, it's candid, but I think it's important. When [the information ] is being used in meaningful ways, that's the opposite from the newspaper putting everything out there."

Duncan's thinking on this matter seems to have evolved over time. But it isn't likely to calm his fiercest critics, many of whom are likely to accuse the education secretary of trying to have it both ways.

It's also worth noting that states are all over the place in whether they're even allowed to give parents (or others) access to teacher evaluations. Their open-records laws regarding personnel evaluations are exceptionally murky. An Education Week analysis of these laws conducted by Amy Wickner, a research intern on EdWeek's library team, found 18 states plus the District of Columbia in which access to teacher evaluations is theoretically permissible, though it's not at all clear whether that means just the final rating or various components of the system.

We'll have a lot more for you on this topic in a full story, so keep checking back at our homepage,

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Comments (86)

Submitted by Anon (not verified) on March 23, 2012 8:03 pm

guess duncan got his talking points from oh-bama's pollsters to go easy on the teacher bashing till after the election. when does labor get tired of this crap & take a page from the tea party nutjobs & start holding these politicians' feet to the fire till they actually do something for us.

Submitted by bleat_on (not verified) on March 24, 2012 8:43 am

What is it you would like politicians to do for you?

Submitted by Anon (not verified) on March 24, 2012 11:48 am

of the republicans, i expect to get screwed of course. of the democrats, i expect them to represent the interests of their to undo the damage done by the prior administration...give thoughtful consideration to the issue of why urban public school students are struggling and not buy into the knee jerk reactionary response of the "entrepreneurs" who say they can do a better job educating america's urban youth if only we'll turn over the schoolhouse keys to them. do you really believe that there is this whole other cadre of uncertified teachers out there waiting to take our place that will do a better job for half the pay? get real. you wouldn't think that about physicians or cops or firemen or lawyers...what makes the profession of teachers so expendable? many would have you believe because teachers are lazy, greedy scum. obviously that's a very convenient response if you want to dismantle public education and cut yourself a large piece of the pie.

furthermore, why is the charter movement restricted to urban areas. in the burbs, parents fight tooth & nail against them because they recognize that they reduce funding & water down enrollments from the local public schools and teachers that they perceive as doing an excellent job. now, do you really believe that the burbs have a monopoly on good teachers. sorry, i'm not buying into it. i think urban teachers match up very well with their counterparts when you factor in the extreme needs of the children we work with every day. to paraphrase willie sutton's response to being queried why he robbed banks, "because that's where the money is."; why do many of us teach in the city?..."because that's where the need is."

Submitted by bleat_on (not verified) on March 27, 2012 5:37 pm

You teach in the cities because your tenured peers in the suburbs would kill before they gave up their jobs, teaching (in many cases) privileged white kids for twice your pay. Who do you think you're fooling?

Also, you can't see why people in the suburbs would oppose voucher programs? It hasn't nothing to do with the fear of reduced public school funding or to support urban teachers. They simply don't want impoverished inner city kids in their schools. Why do you think half of those people even more to the suburbs? It's to give their kids a better education -- away from poor people.

As far as your comment on republicans is concerned, last time I checked, there hasn't been a republican Mayor in Philadelphia (or a republican majority in the City Council) since the 1950s.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 24, 2012 12:00 pm

Allow teachers to run their own charters instead of giving them to rich, political contributors with absolutely no education experience int he classroom.

Submitted by Brody (not verified) on March 24, 2012 4:23 pm

I'm not sure why we don't have teachers run some of the traditional District schools. It's being done all over the country. Why not here? If we're to be held accountable, then give us decision-making power.

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on March 27, 2012 10:48 am

It's a good idea. How successful have these teacher run schools been?

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on March 24, 2012 5:40 pm

Actually, that is a good idea and it is not a novel idea either. There was and probably still is the "independent school model" provided for by the Pennsylvania General Assembly. They enacted a section of the School Code, 24 Pa.C.S. Section 5-502.1 et seq. which provides for the "Establishment of Independent Schools."

It provides that the governing body of the school shall include representatives of parents and teachers. Teacher representatives on the governing body (a board of trustees) must be "selected by a vote" of teachers employed by the school. The governing body of the school has the authority to decide all matters related to the operation of the school pursuant to an agreement between the governing body and the school board (the SRC).

It was intended to be a hybrid between a regular district school and a charter school. It was also intended to use teachers already employed by the district and give them the opportunity to control the local school instructional program in collaboration with parents.

There are several school governance models which give teachers power and control over the governance of schools. The SRC so far has not entertained those school models.

I will be happy to look up that section of the School Code to see if it is still in the Code, but I would bet that it is still there. If you like, I will forward to you a copy of a chapter from my book. The chapter is entitled "Independent Schools -- A Superior Model." The chapter explains all about it and the rationale for such schools.

Also, it was the intent of the General Assembly when they enacted the Charter School Act, that charter schools would be run by teachers and give them the control over the educational program. It states that right in the beginning of the charter school law.

Submitted by Brody (not verified) on March 24, 2012 6:09 pm

Thanks, Rich. I'm very interested in finding out if the provisions still exist in the School Code for this model. I tried to email Jerry Jordan about the possibility of setting up teacher-run schools months ago, but I'm not sure if I had the correct email address, which may be why I didn't hear back from him!

It makes perfect sense for us(teachers) to do this. I'm just not sure how to go about getting this ball rolling. How can I reach you?

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on March 24, 2012 9:23 pm

My e-mail address is I will look it up and check when I get home from the weekend. But there are numerous ways teachers can be given power and authority to determine their own learning program.

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on March 26, 2012 8:58 am

Yes, the provision for the "Establishment of independent schools" is still a provision of the Pennsylvania School Code. It's official citation is 24 P.S. Section 5-502.1.

If you like, I will send you a copy of the statute directly out of Purdon's Pennsylvania Statutes Annotated. It is only 3 pages long.

You may be able to get it on line @


I searched it online through the PA General Assembly website and confirmed it with my hard bound version of Purdon's. If you have access to Westlaw or Lexis, you can get it online through those databases.

Again, the essential difference between an "independent school" and a charter school is that an independent school is required to be staffed by teachers who are employees of the school district, and it allows for teachers who work at the school to be on the governing board.

It certainly is a model which will allow for the "local autonomy" of district schools without turning them into charter schools.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 24, 2012 2:02 pm

bleat--PLEASE, let's meet for a drink !!

Submitted by bleat_on (not verified) on March 27, 2012 5:14 pm


Submitted by Joe (not verified) on March 27, 2012 6:05 pm

King of scumbags !! Actually the Prince, Obama's the King.
I agree totally with your post. Obama has not been our friend but NOW is pandering for our votes to get reelected. He should be in Wisconsin condemning that creep Walker but he stays quiet as a church mouse to avoid confrontation with big money.

Submitted by tom-104 on March 23, 2012 10:33 pm

Who does Arne Duncan think he is kidding? It is Race to the Top which rates a teacher and a school by test scores that has created this national witchhunt against teachers. They encouraged this vilification of teachers!

This cookie cutter method of evaluating teachers and schools has been bogus from the start with No Child Left Behind. Using test scores for evaluation does not take into account all of the variables found in all schools such as the socioeconomic makeup of the families in a school, the number of ESOL students in a class or a school, the number of students with special education needs, etc.

To blame a teacher for these variables is criminal. Tests should be only one factor in teacher and school evaluation. They should be used to find student and school weaknesses and then support and resources put towards fixing the problem. Reading test data in an Excel spreadsheet does not explain the numbers. Evaluators must go into a school with low test scores to see what the problems are and how to solve them. That this is not done is because there is a political agenda in using tests in this way and it has little to do with education or fixing it.

They have not begun to comprehend the social disaster they are creating. See this article from The Answer Sheet in the Washington Post:

A million teachers may be on the march — out of the classroom
By Valerie Strauss
The biggest red flag in the new Metlife survey of American teachers: There has been a 70% increase, over the past two years, in the number of teachers who are likely to leave the profession in the next five years. That amounts to about 1 million teachers, and doesn’t include the roughly 1 million teachers who are baby boomers approaching retirement age.

Submitted by bleat_on (not verified) on March 24, 2012 9:19 am

Teachers often cry foul when they are judged on test scores, but rarely do they offer alternatives for evaluating their own performance. If test scores aren't "fair," what is? If there were a "bad teacher" -- that is, someone who is unable or simply unwilling to adequately perform his duties -- how would you propose he be evaluated? Do you even feel he should be evaluated? Are there any circumstances in your opinion, where a teacher should lose his job?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 24, 2012 11:06 am

There are plenty of ways that teachers are ALREADY evaluated. Why do we need to offer alternatives for one of the many ways we are evaluated, when we are only arguing against adding it to the existing methods?

The problems in getting rid of ineffective and poor teachers does not in any way come from not knowing which teachers are at the bottom of the pile. The administration, colleagues, students, and parents already know if they have a bad teacher at their school.

Submitted by bleat_on (not verified) on March 27, 2012 6:22 pm

And barring criminal activity, those bad teachers never lose their jobs. Yet, teachers wonder why parents, taxpayers, etc. are critical...

Submitted by Ron Whitehorne on March 24, 2012 11:59 am

 Bleat, If you are seriously interested in the question of teacher evaluation there is a wealth of comment and information on this blog that shows most teachers believe there is a need for evaluation that really points the way toward improving our skills.   Few deny there are incompetent teachers and one of the purposes of evaluation should be to identify them.   Nor do most teachers argue test scores have no place, but rather that a system that uses them as a primary yard stick is going to be seriously flawed.   Teacher unions have shown a willingness to expedite removing unsatisfactory teachers who fail to show improvement after being given appropriate supports and assistance, but have insisted on due process.

A good evaluation system is critical if good teachers are to be retained, incompentent teachers removed and teachers in between given the guidamce to become more effective.   But figuring out what that would look like is easier said than done. 

Here's something I wrote a few years ago that I think pin points some of the problems in the traditional evaluation system used in the District but now modified.   

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 24, 2012 2:28 pm

bleat is a troller looking for trouble. I wish he and I could meet for a drink. I will further explore this.

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on March 26, 2012 4:55 pm

I'm glad to hear the teacher unions understand how just a few teachers can give the rest a bad reputation. How about ethics? In my volunteering soujourn, I had a senior "indispensable" Instructional Reform Facilitator try to roadblock the Chess club another teacher and I started. First it was, "There aren't any more EC hours (she had the bulk) so we can't have one"... then when it turned out ASAP provided EC pay outside of the school's budget, and we held it during lunch time (the majority of our kids were bused in), it was, "We can't have it during lunch because the kids won't go back to class..." so forth and so on. She put the kids down whom we had (for just one hour on one day) gardening (to a friend within earshot of us), by saying (quite derogatorily), "These kids didn't make AYP for Literacy" (never mind that she was the Team Literacy Leader (an earlier title that allowed her to be paid by Title I when she was actually an Administrative Assistant which the school budget could not afford)). This same teacher said the teachers shouldn't be required to call parents because "the teachers in the Suburbs aren't required to". She had her retired teacher husband who was not certified in Math or Special Ed fill in the long term (maternity and disability) substitute teacher positions for these. Not only was she not interested in fostering her coworkers; she now is being supported by them in her retirement. The bad teachers do hurt all the teachers.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 24, 2012 12:42 pm

The alternatives have always been to observe the teacher twice during the year. While some complain that there are not "enough" teachers fired as a result of these observations they forget that principals in Philly aren't fired at all. There needs to be an evaluation system of principals by their staffs so the upper administration knows what principals do on their own. You seem to forget that bad teachers are hired by the school district, not the teachers or their union. Maybe the school district needs to look into its hiring evaluations. There are people that should have never been hired for the classroom and it is obvious from the start, but the district does it anyway. What would be your standards for firing "bad principals".

Submitted by MBA to M'ed mom (not verified) on March 25, 2012 10:59 pm

thanks for this comment, I think you have a really good point. I didn't know that about the principals...

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on March 27, 2012 7:31 am

I agree that there needs, even more urgently than a better way to evaluate teachers, a way to evalute principals. The very best teachers will continue to be frustrated by a poor principal. I think the SPI is a starting point along the right lines (it strives to incorporate such things as school climate, caregiver satisfaction, etc.); however because (among other things) it relies on voluntary surveys, it currently is woefully inadequate.

Sadly, it appears the upheavals of school charterizations and closures are the only recourse and an inevitable consequence of poor leadership.

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on March 27, 2012 8:58 am

Apologies, I'm too immersed in details sometimes: I can't help but remember that at my school, the teachers gave a 100% satisfaction rating of their leadership (counts in evaluating a school); And now, when they're under scrutiny (school has lost major enrollment) do they reveal that the principal leadership was inadequate. But this is to be expected because it is the principal who hires/fires them for the individual school. So what's the point of the "satisfaction rating"?... you gotta just shake your head.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 24, 2012 12:20 pm

Bleat, you're still out here. Don't you have a life?

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on March 27, 2012 8:31 am

This may already have been linked by the Notebook, but some material from a recent study (link: ) :

[A new Harvard study has found that elementary and middle school teachers who help raise their students’ standardized-test scores have a wide-ranging and lasting positive effect on those students — not only within their academic lives but also into their working lives.

Robert H. Meyer, director of the Value-Added Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said:

“That test scores help you get more education, and that more education has an earnings effect — that makes sense to a lot of people.

“This study skips the stages, and shows differences in teachers mean differences in earnings.”

The new study, which tracked 2.5 million students over 20 years, is, as yet, the most comprehensive look at “value-added ratings,” writes Annie Lowrey at the New York Times.]

I would have to say that my own personal experiences in the public education system which spans California's and Delaware's, and now observing Philadelphia's would confirm some of the study findings. I can already anticipate comments on the bias' of the NY Times and Harvard...Nothing's ever perfect; however progress is not made by bashing/attacking sincere attempts at progress.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 24, 2012 2:23 pm

You seem to not get it---STILL. They do understand the national chaos and social disaster they are creating. They're doing it BY DESIGN no less. Segregation 101 is their goal while making a nice financial profit for the privateers and the crooked pols supporting them. THEY SIMPLY DON'T CARE.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 24, 2012 2:19 pm

The only way to get rid of bleat is to ignore him and his trolling comments. Only adults need to discuss things here.

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on March 27, 2012 8:01 am

You should be grateful that Bleat can write what others/the rest of the world is thinking. You only discredit yourself when you start to attack the "complainer" instead of the "complaint".

Submitted by Mark J. (not verified) on March 27, 2012 9:42 am

No problem with bleat commenting except that he's disingenuous and plays all sides of every argument. He just trolls on these sites for attention. He's the proverbial wart on the ass of life.

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on March 27, 2012 10:23 am

Honestly, I haven't read all of his/her comments; however of what I've read, there isn't anything that I haven't also heard from a good part of the population (including my spouse). A valid viewpoint that is awaiting a reply from its perspective.

Could we just limit comments to the actual comments, not the commenter? Make a valid defense or reveal the holes in the argument if possible. If it's just a troll, then yes, ignore it. Suffice it to say that I myself have been viciously attacked because I had a valid point/complaint, and those who attacked me were "caught redhanded" so to speak, and couldn't address my complaint, so they went after me with all sorts of emotional justification, making it look like I had a personal vendetta against them (look familiar?). You give up your case when you make personal attacks.

Submitted by Joe (not verified) on March 27, 2012 2:21 pm

No idea what you're talking about--and bringing yourself into it--????? but bleat is a troll while you obviously are not.

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on March 27, 2012 4:54 pm

If bleat is a troll, then all the more reason not to make personal attacks.

Submitted by Joe (not verified) on March 27, 2012 4:22 pm


Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on March 28, 2012 8:12 am

Google it.

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on March 28, 2012 8:08 am

O.K. this is what I read:

Bleat says, "I don't want to pay higher taxes for a failing school system"; and, "Teachers live in an insular world (the same world that Mayor Nutter lives in btw when he thinks increasing property values= increasing disposable income), that of government worker."

Notebook readers (mostly teachers) response, "You're a welfare bum and a troll."

Conclusion (per posted responses): teachers as government workers are indeed insular and self serving; bleat has been proven right.

Interestingly enough, a BBC reporter presented the same opinion to a striking teacher (believe it was the U.K.), but he (the reporter) was not accused of being on welfare or being a troublemaker. The teacher's answer was, "We do very hard work, and face challenges that most of the public is not aware of; therefore we feel we deserve the higher pay and benefits we are asking for."

Submitted by bleat_on (not verified) on March 28, 2012 11:28 am

I agree with the notion that calling others names or in some cases threatening physical violence is far less effective than presenting a reasonable counter-argument, but I suspect your efforts will fall on deaf ears...

Submitted by Joe (not verified) on March 28, 2012 11:51 am

Phony Baloney.

Submitted by bleat_on (not verified) on March 28, 2012 4:50 pm

Good point...

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 24, 2012 7:43 pm

I don't see anything wrong with the current evaluation system....observations, formal and informal. At any time the principal can come in and give us an informal observation. I believe this to be enough. These "bad" teachers everyone is so worried about are few and far between. I haven't come across any truly terrible teachers.

Submitted by Joe (not verified) on March 24, 2012 8:29 pm

You're right of course but the agenda is the opposite so the fight is on. Hopefully, over time, this will come full circle and rational thinking will take control again. Most of the real issues are in the inner cities where the poverty cycle is excruciatingly bad but that's not even looked at because again, it doesn't fit the agenda. Just lots of numbnuts behavior by the extreme right for the most part though Obama hasn't been helpful either.

Submitted by MBA to M'ed mom (not verified) on March 24, 2012 11:01 pm

I have been horrified how rude, disrespectful and unethical teachers, staff and principals in this district have been and that is the reason I am looking at private and charter school and the reason many parents I have removed their children from Phila school district.

If the district would take a long good look at why parents don't want their kids in their schools and address and change those reason, charter schools wouldn't stand a chance. But when I call a charter school to ask for an applicationcation, I get someone who is polite, not trying to bully or humilate me, and actually can discuss standards, rubrics and performance based and formative assessments. They are professional and polite. But at my child's school I get attitude, hostility, and disrespect like I am a 13 year old crack addict non highschool graduate parent, one step away from losing custody of my child. If the public school district treats me as an adult like that, how should I think they treat my child.

If I hadn't had to walk through a school teacher's cigarette smoke right in front of my child's school as she stood there smoking at 8:30 in the morning, or had a teacher refuse to teach while allowing me to observe my childs behavior, or have a teacher tell me not to visit the school to try to understand a C grade in writing first semester in 1st grade (I was told every first grader in the school received a C), or have another teacher tell me that she has no proof of the grade my child received, and that was the best she could do with so many kids in her class, or watch another teacher give the student I tutor, those fake suspensions 3 times last quarter, or watch a teacher humilate and scream at my neighbor's son who was trying to meet his uncle, or listen to another teacher tell me she thought all her kids were going to end up in prison, or another teacher refuse to call a mom because 'she knew the mom didn't care' before ever meeting the parent, or the teacher who wings it because there isn't really any point to doing lesson plans as the kids are too poorly behaved she feels to learn anything and the teacher who doesn't test, just grades on behavior.

I hate to have to say all this and maybe it's just isolated at the 4 schools I know of but if you don't consider why parents move their kids out of the public schools, you won't be able to ever fix the problem. Please don 't bash me as a parent, trust me, my childs school has made it very clear how much they hate me as a parent and that I should not even question how they grade or even visit the school , I was sat down by the reading and literacy teacher and she told me that she didn't visit her son's school until he was in highschool and it was ridiculous for me to come to my child's school. So it's been made quite clear to me at least how little respect the district has for me as a parent. But my child's education is extremely important and I would be derelict in my responsibilities to just leave his education up in the air and hope and a prayer in a district that is so hostile to my role as his parent.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 25, 2012 12:11 am

Hmmm... I've heard this story somewhere before... Hmmm, I know my graduate school.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 25, 2012 12:03 am

This parent has posted the same story numerous times on the Notebook.

Submitted by MBA to M'ed mom (not verified) on March 25, 2012 10:46 am

yes, I had commented on another article about the lunch abuses and was insulted a bit, so I wanted to make sure it was clear why I was disagreeing with the "comment there a only a few terrible teachers" . I really wish that was true because I believe in public education. But I have yet to see it that many quality teachers. If you are a quality teacher, why aren't you reaching out to me as a parent?? In all honesty I am still shocked about some of the things I witnessed that happen in this school district. These things hurt our kids. And if you care, please, please, please step up and do the right thing. When you see a parent trying to navigate an issue at school, step in and help. Don't assume we don't care. Treat us with respect and learn about us and our lives. Don't yell at our kids, but be invested in learning what works to engage them. I have never seen an organization run as poorly as this school district. I totally support peer review including principals and I actually hate the idea of privatization of public schools. For profit in a public sector hurts the public!

But if you want parents to understand the things that you as teachers see that hurt our kids, you need to stop bashing us, and disrespecting us and our kids and start letting us in to help and telling us what a good educational program could look like. What can we do to help? After all, it's about the kids isn't it.

You think I like the fact that my classmate insults me here, or other teachers insulted me on a blog?? But it was never about me...I wrote what I saw because it is actually about the kids I see every day who deserve better.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 25, 2012 12:48 pm

It's interesting that someone who is so judgemental towards teachers thinks she is the victim. You want teachers to stop yelling then teach your children some manners and to respect their teachers regardless of their race, gender, etc. Support your teachers, especially in the face of an incompetent administration that wants all problems to be solved by others. You insult and stereotype teachers then whine when you become the target of the same thing. Did it ever occur to you that teachers are overwhelmed by the amount of busy work the administration is using to justify alot of fluff positions within the administration. It's the art of looking busy and most of the work is dropped on the teachers. They don't have time to "reach out" to you. Go into the school yourself and help out. Sit in the class and see what teachers have to deal with.

Submitted by MBA to M'ed mom (not verified) on March 25, 2012 12:19 pm

I guess you didn't realize that since Dec I spend at minimum 15 hours a week, sometimes up to 35 hrs working as a volunteer in school in the philadelphia school district.

Interesting that you think it's ok for an adult teacher to yell at a childt?? Because the little child doesn't have manners, I guess it's ok for you the grown up to yell at them.

I bring in water, snacks, make photocopies, go on school trips, carry stuff for the teacher, clean up in the lunch room, work on the playground every day of the week. Donate books, read to kids in lunch detention, tutor at an afterschool program and give out free lunches in the summer.

And you have the nerve to write that I need to teach my 8 year old child manners or you have the right to engage in verbal abuse and yell at him?


I am always disappointed and disheartened by the hostility this district has towards parents and children. This is yet another example of how little this district thinks about us. I totally support peer review. Maybe then teachers like this one who actually will put in writing that they think it's ok to yell at little kids because the kids are not taught manners by their parents will be outed by their peers and removed from the district. Change starts from within, and until teachers and administators start cleaning their own house, all I can do is merely just 'whine" to quote the teacher who is ok with yelling at kids....

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 25, 2012 7:27 pm

I never said "little kids". I am talking about rude upper graders who think it's perfectly to swear and generally disrespect teachers because parents like you have no respect for them. It's great when parents volunteer, but that so rarely happens. Some may propose to help, but so few do. How about a peer review for rude and incompetent parents? We invite parents to come sit in several days to watch whose kids know how to act in a socially acceptable and those who don't. Let the parents decide who they don't want in their schools and jettison these troublemakers to be homeschooled by their negligent parents.

Your post does come off very trollish. I seem to recall a similar ranting this past year.

Submitted by MBA to M'ed mom (not verified) on March 25, 2012 9:20 pm

Parent's like me?? If my child is acting up, I want to be notified and I will sit there and make sure he pays attention. I actually have pulled my child out of class and took him to the principals office, and he is actually a well behaved empathetic kid who can sit in first class on a plane to Australia for 16 hours without causing problems.

Why don't you invite the parents into your class room?? That's a great idea. Kids when they are little, love the idea of their parents around, and a little embarrassment caused by having mom, dad or caregiver in the class would give you a lot of respect and credibility in your class room.

There are a ton of articles about how to improve your class room environment and a large part of it is by knowing the community you teach in and engaging parental involvement. I have read that parental engagement in urban schools is more difficult unless the teacher is the one pursuing and also that parent involvement in general tapers off more once the child is in high school, so you as a teacher may have to really pursue the parents.

But yes, get the parent in the classroom!! Don't you realize how much that would mean to us??

I am in grad school getting my second master's degree and taking the Praxis 11 in a couple of weeks to become a teacher. My mom, my great grandfather, my aunt and my cousin are, were school teachers and my dad and uncle are college professors. I will be continuing on getting a Ph'd in Urban Ed. You may be my coworker next year and I will remember what you wrote about me and other parents in this city.

Think about how many teachers, principals and parents read this blog. I find when someone is irrational and nasty, there is usually an unpleasant reason for their behavior, usually some ism...

I really feel sorry for the kids you teach that you hate us, the parents so much.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 25, 2012 9:47 pm

Cure your own isms before you go pointing fingers. What makes you think we don't invite parents into our rooms? I have always invited parents, but few can be bothered. It's hard getting parents who can't be bothered to even pick up their kid's report cards to come in any other day. You obviously don't have a clue what is going on in the schools with the statements you make about teachers. Most teachers have their hands tied by an administration that does whatever benefits them instead of the kids. Did it ever occur to you that "pursuing parents" is not something possible in a district obsessed with busy work full of endless data requests and the shirking of administrative duties onto the back of teachers already overworked. We look forward to seeing you in the classroom next year when reality is going to coming crashing down upon your fantasy world.

Submitted by MBA to M'ed mom (not verified) on March 25, 2012 10:14 pm

I can only speak from experience and fact. I tried to volunteer for 2 years and was told no volunteers were allowed because of student teachers. I found out from a teacher that the principal had told her staff to not allow me to volunteer because they were mad at me for requesting the teachers not spoke on school grounds.

I am curious though, why do you think I am a rude incompetent parent? Why do you think I am racist or classist? Why does it seem that you hate parents and kids?

What happen to you? I am sure you didn't start your teaching career this way? If you could change something about yourself as a teacher to improve your experience, what would it be?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 25, 2012 9:11 pm

I'm both a teacher and parent. I teach high school so parent involvement is different from elementary school. My children went to a K-8 charter school and yes, at times, my help was appreciated. But, there were other times when my input was not appreciated. The powers that be in the charter school didn't want to hear about due process for teachers or equitable treatment of staff. Charter schools without unions have all power invested in the CEO/principals and Board. That is dangerous.

Now I have children in SDP high schools. I do not find any interest in my two cents re: teaching/learning by administration. Some teachers are open but not all. As a high school teacher, I would welcome parents who could give me insights into how to work with their student if the student is having difficulty. I also make a lot of phone calls for good and problem behavior and/or lower or improved grades. I like hearing from parents just as I, as a parent, like hearing from teachers.

My point is not all Philadelphia teachers are awful, disrespectful, etc. I have some colleagues that certainly are minimalists - they do the least amount of work possible and aren't even open to colleagues visiting their rooms no less parents. I also have some colleagues that yell - a lot - but certainly not most.

I have no idea if there will be any openings in elementary education next year in the School District, but best in your job search. You obviously feel stereotyped and abused as a parent. Hopefully, you'll be able to share your experience with other teachers so the parent/teacher relationship improves.

Submitted by MBA to M'ed mom (not verified) on March 25, 2012 10:13 pm

Thanks! And you are right about my feelings sometimes I wonder if I can continue to stomach the way that poor parents and kids are treated. I suspect teachers in this city are treated as poorly by the state and admin, and this divisiveness between parents and teachers hurts us all, most especially our kids.

Thanks for commenting, I hope that there are more teachers like you, who get and respect kids, parents and teachers and want to do what we can to change things, cause it can only benefit the kids right?

Submitted by MBA to M'ed mom (not verified) on March 25, 2012 9:57 am

yep, you must go to Lincoln University too then?

Submitted by MBA to M'ed mom (not verified) on March 25, 2012 10:16 am

And to my fellow classmate at graduate school, if you think it's cool to bash me, I hope you aren't the teacher who sleeps in class, or the one who thinks 5 year olds are lazy in this school district, or the one who thinks all the kids are bad...because I have no tolerance for anybody who isn't putting the kids first, make NO mistake about where I am coming from.

Submitted by Anon (not verified) on March 25, 2012 5:20 pm

you must've hit a nerve here. i don't know why everyone has their cackles up. you make a perfectly legitimate point in a very calm, coherent way...respect begets respect. i think a lot of our (teachers) problems with parents is initiated because parents perceive an "us versus them, pull up the drawbridges" attitude exuding from teachers. i assure you, it's not everyone who feels that way.

Submitted by MBA to M'ed mom (not verified) on March 25, 2012 10:40 pm

Thanks! : )

Submitted by MBA to M'ed mom (not verified) on March 25, 2012 11:42 pm

Thanks. I actually have seen some really fantastic teachers and I really want to join them and work together to educate our kids in this city. I really wish the comments I would get would be " we would never call our student names in my school, our school has a professional code of behavior" or 'every one knows that yelling at your students isn't good classroom management, you are making stuff up", or 'we don't suspend our students without actually giving them paperwork, that would cause me to be fired" or " dept of agriculture doesn't allow a school to discipline with the free lunch program, you must have misunderstood"

But as you can see, the abuses I mention are sanctioned mostly as an appropriate response because the kids and parents are disrespectful, neglectful and rude to quote the last commentor.

But I truly believe things will get better in this school district for our kids. Because all my comments have been discussed around coffee at our kids sports events, school meetings and performances or play dates prior to me writing them here. My impressions and experiences are echoed by 20 other parents that I know. Additionally all the things I mention have been disciplinary issues that the school district has had to correct so yes, I am touching a nerve on those who look down on the parents and kids in this district.

Kids need a voice and should be respected if we want them to become productive members of our society.

Submitted by Stop Hating (not verified) on March 27, 2012 5:45 pm

Why don't you start naming the schools where you have witnessed this? I have been in several schools and I don't know of any teacher that does not want the support of the parent.

Submitted by Frank Murphy on March 25, 2012 1:45 pm

Should teachers be publically humiliated? Is the use of student test results as a metric to measure a teacher’s effectiveness a valid and reliable measure?   Why has teacher bashing become so prevalent in recent years?   Why has it seemingly become more acceptable in public discourse to pursue personal attacks on individuals as well as groups of people rather than engaging in reasoned and thoughtful discussions on important issues?  

 These are but a few of the questions that occurred to me after reading this post and the comments submitted.   I would like to hear more of the views of the many reflective and insightful readers of the Notebook on these topics.   

Submitted by MBA to M'ed mom (not verified) on March 25, 2012 5:03 pm

Frank, what if principals, AD heads, and the superintendents were evaluated and the results published? If there is a top down accountability and measurements that research has shown demonstrate whether children are being educated, would that be an appropriate suggestion?

: )

Submitted by bleat_on (not verified) on March 27, 2012 6:05 pm

Teachers should never be publicly humiliated. They should be tenured, with absolutely no expectations, and paid salaries and benefits that far exceed those of the citizens who the fund educational system.

Measuring student test results is absolutely absurd. No one in the private sector, including those who fund the educational system, is ever judged on their performance or subject to termination. Why should teachers be?

Submitted by Joe (not verified) on March 25, 2012 6:30 pm

What a piece of crap Duncan is !!!! He starts the ball rolling then complains that the ball is rolling. Hate to admit it but his boss is also disingenuous. He ignored the people who voted for him for 3.6 years but is now pandering for votes since HE NEEDS us again.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 26, 2012 12:35 am

No matter what the issue is, somebody blames a teacher or has had a bad experience with a particular teacher and then blames and applies it to every teacher. Isin't this getting old? We are falling into a trap here, all the attention is on the wrong people....the big coporations, politicians, and money makers can keep sliding under the radar. Public education is being threatened in a MAJOR way, and yet we keep arguing that teachers suck, teachers want too much money, and we should grade teachers on how well they perform on a single test without taking into account all the variables involved.

Submitted by bleat_on (not verified) on March 27, 2012 6:16 pm

Teachers are viewed and criticized collectively because they typically have one view, act in unison, and almost universally, defend their own, regardless of circumstance. Look no further than your union.

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on March 28, 2012 1:39 pm

Here, bleat, I would have to disagree with you. What teachers/their union defend are their wages and benefits and fair treatment, which of course must find a common voice. (Sometimes this actually works against them, but that is another topic.) They do not all think alike, and may be politically pressured to hide their honest criticisms of peers.

I have found that it is a deficient administration that impedes a teacher's ability to perform his/her job far more than that teacher's capability.

Submitted by bleat_on (not verified) on March 28, 2012 4:43 pm

That's fine, but the question was why teachers are collectively criticized. They are criticized because of the actions of their unions, which have historically demanded higher wages and benefits, fought the public's demand for greater accountability and as you note, pressured their own members to withhold criticism of their peers. I can't speak for the rest of society, but I would certainly have greater respect for the views of educators if the vast majority did not present the same, predictable, union-orchestrated responses to any and all public criticism. It may be a difficult proposition for a teacher trying to preserve their career, but presenting the same group-think, herd-mentality responses will do absolutely nothing to curtail public skepticism.

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on March 28, 2012 8:33 pm

If you are talking about how the teacher's union here in PA objected to a system of evaluation being established in order to compete for "Race to the Top" Federal money, I was puzzled/dismayed at first also. Then I heard why, which was that proposed evaluation systems were highly political. That is a valid objection in my opinion. PA has just received federal $$ to develop an evaluation system... wonder how that will turn out?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 27, 2012 7:11 pm

Why do we keep comparing teachers to the private sector? We work for the public, teaching the public

Submitted by bleat_on (not verified) on March 28, 2012 11:29 am

Because the private sector funds your entire existence??? Not to mention, those in the private sector do not earn the same salaries/benefits, and they are often held far more accountable for their own jobs. It's really not a difficult concept. If you want the private sector to stop criticizing you, stop taking their funding. Then the argument is between you and the parents of the children you're "teaching."

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on March 28, 2012 12:59 pm

I need to say that technically it is the lawmakers that fund schools/teachers; and taxpayers fund the lawmakers. So that may explain the accountability gap. In the real world, employees must first be accountable to those who have physically hired them and those who have the power to fire them. Taxpayers aren't the ones who do this.

So yes, in the private sector, there is more direct accountability between worker and patron, here teacher and child's caregiver; however in the public sector, we must hold the lawmakers and administrators accountable first.

Submitted by bleat_on (not verified) on March 28, 2012 4:08 pm

I'll concede the technicality, but I don't see how that eliminates a taxpayer's right to demand accountability. Whether schools are receiving funding from local residents via property taxes, from state residents via income taxes or through a combination thereof, the taxpayer is ultimately providing the financing for public schools. To the extent that appropriations are debated and determined by public officials, they should also be held responsible. That said, I believe the increased scrutiny of public schools from government officials across the country is the direct result of taxpayers demanding greater accountability. So what you're advocating is actually what's currently happening.

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on March 28, 2012 8:59 pm

Of course the taxpayer should demand accountability. Here in Philadelphia the accountability should be demanded from the SRC, and those who chose them (who the taxpayer voted into office), rather than directly from the teachers, who in the PSD do not operate independantly of SRC directives and the superintendent they hire.

Look at the fiscal crisis at the PSD. The current SRC/governing board has admitted that it was the former SRC that was responsible for this fiasco. The teachers were not the ones directing grant (your and my tax) money to expensive fashionably trendy initiatives at the expense of the regular operating budget, yet their union (as well as the maintenance workers union) was asked to make concessions in order to fix this. If you live in the City and own a home, you were asked to pay a higher property tax to help remedy this crisis as well. The mayor was not asked to "stop taking taxpayer money", nor was the governor, yet it was they who chose the SRC board members. The mayor now has a scheme on the table to raise more $$ from home/property owners using the hook/schtick of "for the schools" (and the crisis he helped create), and those who aren't looking close enough might think it was union demands that are to blame.

Besides lower property values resulting in lower per child (property) tax revenues; the children of Philadelphia are underfunded because (and here I will agree with you) there is an element of corruption within the PSD. Perhaps the best investment we as taxpayers can demand our money be used for, is a "watchdog" accountable to us; I would predict the kids' achievement would improve as a result.

Submitted by bleat_on (not verified) on March 28, 2012 8:26 pm

I would agree with your focus on the School Reform Commission and by extension, the Governor of Pennsylvania and the Mayor of Philadelphia were it not for one incredibly inconvenient fact -- they have no ability to remove ineffective teachers or even administrators from the public school system. In fact, I would say it's virtually impossible for them to do so, absent voluntary resignation or criminal conviction.

As far as fiscal mismanagement is concerned, you're preaching to the choir. Elected officials and their puppets, regardless of political party, have universally abysmal records in that regard. It's apparent in virtually every government-run program or agency operating in this country. That said, to act as if unions play no part in driving up a school district's costs is a bit of stretch. In fact, I would wager that the largest expenses for any public school in the city of Philadelphia are the wages and benefits paid to its staff.

Concerning property taxes in Philadelphia, I would agree with Mayor Nutter. Philadelphia county has arguably the lowest property taxes in the region. If its residents are complaining about the state of their schools, perhaps they should pay what those in the neighboring suburbs pay.

The market for homes has less to do with the property tax in Philadelphia than do politics and a history of corrupt assessment practices.

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on March 28, 2012 9:03 pm

O.K., you have a point in that ineffective teachers and principals are never fired. Sadly I can even personally vouch for that. Two years of volunteer work in a "black hole". Even the Title I NCLB law is not enforced in the PSD ("mandatory reorganization for a school in corrective status for specified # of years"), but I'm not sure I'd blame the union on that one.

And yes, the greatest cost for the PSD would be the salary and benefits of its employees, but then again, these should be part of the planning of the SRC.

In terms of property tax, Philadelphia residents also pay a wage tax, higher sales tax, and there is an additional school tax (if you happen to have unearned income in the form of mutual funds, bonds, stocks, etc.) that does not exist in the suburbs. And, of course even if the residents pay as much as their suburban neighbors, they can't be sure it will reach the children as it was intended to.

Submitted by bleat_on (not verified) on March 29, 2012 9:02 am

To the extent that the teachers' union makes it difficult to fire ineffective staff, I would say it is responsible for the circumstance. The union isn't exactly an advocate for employment at will.

Also, the union doesn't exactly make the SRC's life an easier when it comes to budgeting. I don't recall any union, for instance, willingly offering to accept less for its members, regardless of the financial condition of the employer. Again, in my opinion, the union is part of the problem.

On taxes:

1. While residents are subject to the City Wage Tax, the rates on unemployment/underemployment are arguably higher in Philadelphia than in the surrounding suburbs. Also, there are thousands if not millions or workers in the suburbs that contribute to Philadelphia's tax receipts via the same City Wage Tax. It's not as if that is a burden specific to city residents.

2. Though sales taxes are higher in Phildadelphia, consumer spending is largely discretionary. It's not as if residents are without options either (Delaware).

3. The additional school tax is an attempt to further shift the responsibility of funding public education to the "rich." And I think we can all agree, if people are earning enough to invest, chances are their children aren't attending public schools. In other words, again, someone else is footing the bill for public education.

4. Raising property taxes may appear unjust, but I firmly believe that linking parents to their children's schools via higher property taxes is not only warranted but may lead to a greater interest in the quality of their children's schools. How many times do teachers complain of apathetic or disconnected parents? It's easy for parents to feel that way when someone else is footing the bill. It's not so easy when their own economic well-being enters into the equation.

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on March 29, 2012 11:43 am

I can't argue with the fact that the union's stance does not always work for a favorable outcome for those it represents, but this can be improved/worked on. Perhaps if there were some competition for the services a union provides?

In listing the various taxes that City residents already bear, my point was simply to say that we have enough taxes. (I did not even list the City's business taxes). I take it you don't live in the City? Increasing a tax burden will not engender a greater involvement in school affairs. It will only foster resentment and encourage flight from the City (which btw, we're ready to do because our income does not come from a City business). A sidenote to your commentary on the unearned income/school tax: in some ways property tax assumes a certain level of wealth as well. In addition it assumes as a property owner you will have a greater interest in the community/its kids. Ideological viewpoints on funding sources aside (wealthy vs non), these assumptions aren't necessarily true, and don't justify an increase. Especially one that can't directly be linked to quality of endproduct.

A better way to get involvement, especially from caregivers, is to make all the schools special admission in some way (with a corequirement that each must accept a percentage of "difficult" kids, so that they are not all lumped together). This way caregivers are forced to compare their choices, and at least look at what the system is offering them.

Though taxpayers have the right to accountability from the public education system that they fund; they ultimately have little clout to achieve this because they do not directly have the power to hire and fire. Even the lawmakers whom they elect, as you point out, do not have this. The lawmakers do have the power to regulate, and so in my mind, the mayor and governor are not "off the hook".

Submitted by bleat_on (not verified) on March 29, 2012 1:01 pm

Competition and unions are like oil and water...especially in major urban areas like Philadelphia, Chicago, etc. So while I agree with the principle, I doubt that will ever happen in my lifetime.

While I agree that most government entities are well funded (including the City of Philadelphia), those entities are awful when it comes to budgeting and limiting the services (most of which are incredibly inefficient) that they provide. And as you can see with the Nutter administration, politicians are villified the moment they attempt to reign in spending or re-allocate funds to the areas that would benefit the most.

I don't live in the city. I did for a better part of the last decade, however, and I continue to fund it's operations indirectly through the City Wage Tax. As far as driving residents out of the city is concerned, it's already happening and has been for decades. I would also suggest that property values are tied in part to the quality of local schools. So though, you may have upset residents, I think over the long-term, raising property taxes would only serve to benefit the city's residents and their communities. It's very easy to not care about your community or your schools when someone else is funding them.

School choice isn't an option for most children, and I think you would have enormous backlash from parents and the teachers' union alike if you tried to implement specific admissions requirements in public schools. The biggest problem with the public school system is arguably that the interested parties have competing agendas and none want to address the real issues dooming these schools. I think until that changes, you will never see meaningful progress in the system.

Submitted by Stop the Hate (not verified) on March 29, 2012 10:25 am

You have no idea what you are talking about. Ineffective teachers are fired every year. We just happened to have one fired recently. Hearings come up at the union's executive board meetings every two weeks. The majority of those hearings result in the teacher being terminated. We don't want ineffective teachers in the classroom either.

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on March 29, 2012 10:10 am

O.K. Thanks for correcting me on this. So I'm curious: On what grounds was this teacher recently fired? I witnessed a teacher "shoe in" her unqualified/uncertified (in substituted subjects) retired teacher husband to be a longterm (periods of several months, one of indeterminate length) substitute for Math, and Special Ed. She wrote a totally "bs" SIP and presided as Team Literacy Leader during the years the school didn't make AYP, specifically for Literacy. None of this appeared to be enough grounds to fire her, or even transfer her (probably because the principal who was losing teachers and parents, by being basically absent or unreachable and playing favorites, was complicit. She was doing his "cya". Needless to say he was never fired.)

Submitted by bleat_on (not verified) on March 29, 2012 10:43 am

Can you cite some specific examples? Also, how long did it take the schools to terminate these "bad" teachers? I'm guessing if it did happen, it certainly wasn't overnight.

Submitted by A Touch of Reality (not verified) on March 29, 2012 2:50 pm

You are right that there are teachers fired every year and there are even more that are counseled out or harassed out by vindictive principals in retaliation for speaking up. How many teacher firings were taken to arbitration in the last few years? None?

The PFT not only does not take any case to arbitration but they do not take any case through the tenure provisions of the School Code. They do not even advise teachers properly of their tenure rights to a hearing before an impartial tribunal prior to their termination pursuant to the tenure provisions of the School Code.

What the PFT does, virtually nothing, is a poor example of representation. Teacher rights are violated every day and the PFT reps just go along for the ride.

It is a myth that tenure rights and just cause provisions in the PFT contract protect bad teachers. They protect good teachers from being subjected to unfounded charges for political or personal reasons. What protects bad teachers is the plethora of ineffective principals who protect their friends, play petty power games, are lazy, and fail to properly evaluate ineffective teachers.

Good teachers do not want bad teachers in their ranks and the number of good teachers far exceed the number of ineffective teachers.

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on March 28, 2012 9:20 pm

Bleat, reading the comment you were responding to, I have an additional comment for you. Though not stated, I think what the commenter meant by, "we work for the public", is that in the private sector, the amount/quality of service you get is usually determined by the amount of money you can afford/are willing to pay; whereas in the public sector, it is not/is intended to be the same for all.

Submitted by bleat_on (not verified) on March 29, 2012 10:31 am

I don't expect Philadelphia public schools to provide the same education as say Sidwell Friends School. I simply think they should be able to graduate students that possess the same basic knowledge as the rest of the country (which isn't exactly setting the bar high, considering the nation's relative rank in the world). The school district has been failing miserably in that regard for decades. So what you've had is little more than wealth transfers to educators and administrators, who typically have higher benefits and salaries than the citizens funding those failing schools. That's what people are upset. The vast majority of the public wouldn't mind paying for schools or their high paid staffs if those schools were producing self-sufficient, productive members of society.

Submitted by EmilyS (not verified) on May 25, 2012 10:43 pm

People should remind themselves of the real gauge of the effectiveness of a teacher. Who could really say that a teacher is good: the paper or the pupil?

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