Join 3,424 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


suing to abolish tenure for teachers in California
February 1, 2014 10:26 AM   Subscribe

"nine public school students are challenging California’s ironclad tenure system, arguing that their right to a good education is violated by job protections that make it too difficult to fire bad instructors." (SLNYT)

"At issue is a set of rules that grant permanent employment status to California teachers after 18 months on the job, require a lengthy procedure to dismiss a teacher, and set up a seniority system in which the teachers most recently hired must be the first to lose their jobs when layoffs occur, as they have regularly in recent years.

"Teachers’ unions, which hold powerful sway among lawmakers here, contend that the protections are necessary to ensure that teachers are not fired unfairly. Without these safeguards, the unions say, the profession will not attract new teachers."

"While several lawsuits demanding more money for schools have succeeded across the country, the California case is the most sweeping legal challenge claiming that students are hurt by employment laws for teachers. The case also relies on a civil rights argument that so far is untested: that poor and minority students are denied equal access to education because they are more likely to have “grossly ineffective” teachers."
posted by d. z. wang (237 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite

 
behind the students stand a Silicon Valley technology magnate who is financing the case and an all-star cast of lawyers

This is my surprised face.
posted by entropicamericana at 10:28 AM on February 1 [91 favorites]


Complaint pdf:

pdf
posted by jpe at 10:35 AM on February 1


I remember going through California public schools and having several grossly ineffective teachers who seemed to be doing nothing but biding time until retirement, and they were doing a huge disservice to the dozens of children they were supposed to be teaching each year, so I'm actually in favor of *something* being changed here.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 10:37 AM on February 1 [22 favorites]


Yeah, this is really tricky, I am generally in favor of the teacher's unions but I think that something needs to change. On the other hand, I think they're right to be wary that the school systems would use a system that was TOO flexible to simply fire the most expensive teachers first when funds became an issue. Which is to say, the people who'd been there longest. And, hey, might as well lay them off when they get close to retiring with that pension, too, because heaven knows how much that costs.

But I think that on the whole the teachers would be amenable to fixing it if fixing it weren't always phrased as "getting rid of tenure entirely".
posted by Sequence at 10:41 AM on February 1 [7 favorites]


Let's try dealing with the insane tax and funding priorities toward public schooling in the country and tripling teacher salaries first.
posted by rhizome at 10:42 AM on February 1 [11 favorites]


I think teachers who are not above average should be fired. We could do this every year. The system will eventually have no below average teachers.
posted by srboisvert at 10:44 AM on February 1 [110 favorites]


It's like our country has been overrun by goldfish; our collective memories are about ten minutes long. Tenure exists only to deny us a good education. It didn't arise for any legitimate reason. Just like all those pesky health and safety regulations holding down our corporations.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 10:49 AM on February 1 [76 favorites]


Yes, the fundamental problem with education is surely the teachers; not stupid things like Prop 13 or poverty or anything like that.
posted by Brocktoon at 10:50 AM on February 1 [25 favorites]


I swear, it seems sometimes like somebody has grabbed the steering wheel of this country and is intent on plowing us into the nearest concrete wall in the name of idiocy.
posted by Celsius1414 at 10:51 AM on February 1 [31 favorites]


The CTA guy on NPR pointed out that study after study has found that the ways to improve education are (in broad strokes) to reduce class size and deal with the poverty kids experience outside the classroom, and that the tech magnate could be putting his money to that, but is instead suing the teachers, which is unlikely to improve outcomes, even if he wins.
posted by klangklangston at 10:53 AM on February 1 [61 favorites]


"I had a problem once with some guy when I was in school, so I want to the educational system without really understanding the consequences or the motives of those backing change."

That's about the depth of most comments in favor of turning our school systems over to capitalist predators.
posted by mondo dentro at 10:55 AM on February 1 [11 favorites]


Do these dumbasses not see the huge irony in destroying tenure in order to fire teachers they don't like? Stunning.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 10:55 AM on February 1 [5 favorites]


As a teacher (in canada) I'm ambivalent about this. I know teachers who need to be let go but who will remain until retirement. On the other hand, I've seen principals target teachers for no good reason. Also, teaching is unlike a lot of other professions. If you are fired from your job, there is zero chance you will get another teaching job in your district. Probably little chance of getting another teaching job anywhere. The process would have to be extremely fair and transparent.
posted by trigger at 10:55 AM on February 1 [6 favorites]


And for the complaints about tenure and first-in-last-out, both of those could be mitigated by less toxic personnel procedures — if you're not tenured, you essentially get fired and rehired every year.

(And I'm not even gonna start in on the billion-dollar iPad boondoggle we're currently in with the LAUSD. They can't even give an accurate count of computers, and so the school board votes to give Daisey total latitude in purchasing? It's one of those times that I hope there's graft there, because otherwise the scale of the incompetence would be too staggering to contemplate.)
posted by klangklangston at 10:57 AM on February 1 [2 favorites]


Coming from a university perspective here, but the issues are similar. Something I wish more people understood is that the primary purpose of tenure is not really to protect employees from arbitrary firing. It's to attract talented people to a profession without paying them terribly much. Job security is a very nice thing to have, and will induce many people to take lower salaries than they might be able to earn on the open market.

Does it protect bad teachers? Certainly. Just like patents and copyrights, it is a system that is ex ante efficient and ex post inefficient. We could revoke all pharmaceutical patents and drive down health care prices, but we'd pay for it by destroying the incentive to develop new drugs in the future. Similarly, get rid of tenure and you make teaching a much less attractive profession. If you throw it out, the average quality of teachers will soon plummet, unless the state spends significantly more money on salaries to compensate.
posted by shadow vector at 10:59 AM on February 1 [37 favorites]



Let's try dealing with the insane tax and funding priorities toward public schooling in the country and tripling teacher salaries first.
posted by rhizome


Average California teacher salary is $68,531, are you seriously saying that we need to pay teachers $205k for kids to get a good education?
posted by 445supermag at 11:03 AM on February 1 [9 favorites]


$205k per child!*

* I'm married to a teacher.
posted by blue_beetle at 11:06 AM on February 1 [10 favorites]


God, this is depressing. Why not sue to establish an equitable funding scheme, so that children don't get condemned to sub-par schooling and attendant long-term life outcomes merely for want of money in the wealthiest nation in the history of the world?

As with so many other serious social problems in contemporary America, more equitable distribution of financial resources would go a long, long way to improving outcomes here, but the right of the wealthy to not share is paramount. How is our society supposed to deal with any real issues when the one inviolable principle of public policy is, once again, that the wealthy get to decide exactly how much they want to contribute to the common good while the rest of us have no say in how much wealth they get to capture?
posted by clockzero at 11:07 AM on February 1 [8 favorites]


Yes, the fundamental problem with education is surely the teachers; not stupid things like Prop 13 or poverty or anything like that.

Sole problem, no, but seriously, yes, a problem. High school valedictorians, kids w/ perfect SATs, kids w/ many AP 5's - they don't major in education, they don't become teachers except through TFA and other secondary pipelines for high-achievers. The defence, that TFA teachers produce roughly the same outcomes as traditional experienced teachers, is itself damning - what does it say when educated outsiders can perform as well with a few weeks' training as those with years of traditional training and experience in the established field?

And sell it as regular old union job protections, whatever, but the idea that it's "tenure" is ridiculous bullshit.

Average California teacher salary is $68,531, are you seriously saying that we need to pay teachers $205k for kids to get a good education?

By 200k, you start attracting people away from Google, hedge funds, professorships, etc.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 11:07 AM on February 1 [13 favorites]


Well, then, how much should a teacher make? And, who should decide?
posted by Benny Andajetz at 11:07 AM on February 1 [1 favorite]


what does it say when educated outsiders can perform as well with a few weeks' training as those with years of traditional training and experience in the established field?

That your metrics of teacher performance are completely busted.
posted by RogerB at 11:09 AM on February 1 [45 favorites]


Why not sue to establish an equitable funding scheme,

Been done many times before, and cases may be pending on this point.
posted by jpe at 11:09 AM on February 1


Average California teacher salary is $68,531, are you seriously saying that we need to pay teachers $205k for kids to get a good education?

That is the average salary for the entirety of an expensive state, and includes everything from the smallest schools to the largest. A beginning teacher's salary ranges from $38,719 to $42,865 (depending on elementary/high school and district size). Not to mention that number is the average, not the median.
posted by Celsius1414 at 11:10 AM on February 1 [6 favorites]


You should not be unfireable for being bad at your job. This is a hammer for crazy right-wing people to beat on the left with because for once they are right and all manner of normally more-unreasonable people can see this. If you are terrible at your job, you should be able to be fired for being terrible at your job. To protect the incompetent in the name of improving education is ... I can't find words. As stunningly shooting-yourself-in-the-foot as anything I've seen.
posted by umberto at 11:10 AM on February 1 [21 favorites]


It weirds me out that when any aspect of education isn't perfect, the first order of business is to bust the teacher's union.

Is "bad sucky teachers who don't give a shit" actually a major culprit in what's wrong with the American education system?
posted by Sara C. at 11:12 AM on February 1 [13 favorites]


Average California teacher salary is $68,531, are you seriously saying that we need to pay teachers $205k for kids to get a good education?

I'm not affirming the consequent, I'm saying that they're incontrovertibly underpaid and that schools are underfunded. Tenure is a red herring.
posted by rhizome at 11:14 AM on February 1 [4 favorites]


If you are terrible at your job, you should be able to be fired for being terrible at your job.

Unless you're Jamie Dimon.
posted by rhizome at 11:17 AM on February 1 [10 favorites]


Why not sue to establish an equitable funding scheme

Because the type of people who sue about things like this tend to be on the "advantaged" side of school funding?
posted by Slothrup at 11:18 AM on February 1 [3 favorites]


In what universe is 68k 'underpaid', particularly outside of STEM and in the public sector?
posted by webwench at 11:18 AM on February 1 [4 favorites]


I want to have strong feelings about how important tenure is, but when I see how teachers are less and less able to teach their own curricula and are more and more focused on short-term test results, I wonder if it's not going to make much of a difference one way or another if teachers have tenure.

Where I'm also going with this is that I'm beginning to lose hope that we can meaningfully evaluate which teachers are even "good" anymore. I mean, if we were to put any effort into that undertaking, it would be relatively easy to see which teachers are good and which ones aren't. But as we commit to evaluating teachers primarily by metrics like the test results of their students, we're not necessarily deciding who is good and who's not.
posted by MoonOrb at 11:19 AM on February 1 [3 favorites]


To protect the incompetent in the name of improving education is ... I can't find words.

But it's beyond obvious that "incompetent" is in the eye of the administrator. Those "crazy right-wing people" are the faction that reflexively sides with the boss and against the worker in any and every labor dispute; you can't convince them, and it's foolish to keep making concessions to them in the name of conciliation because they'll never be satisfied. Just because, for whatever reason, "fire bad teachers" plays better to the peanut gallery than "fire arbitrarily" doesn't mean it's worth dignifying it as though it were the real argument.
posted by RogerB at 11:23 AM on February 1 [22 favorites]


In what universe is 68k 'underpaid', particularly outside of STEM and in the public sector?

What is the average salary across all years of employment for STEM employees in CA? I bet you a nickel it's higher than $68k. Why should we NOT pay someone more to educate our children than to PM the next Farmville?
posted by KathrynT at 11:23 AM on February 1 [23 favorites]


After seeing magnificently incompetent teachers in Ontario promoted to get them out of direct contact with kids (because firing them was completely impossible) I think a change has to come.
posted by sweet mister at 11:24 AM on February 1 [2 favorites]


Yes, the fundamental problem with education is surely the teachers; not stupid things like Prop 13 or poverty or anything like that.

The defence, that TFA teachers produce roughly the same outcomes as traditional experienced teachers, is itself damning - what does it say when educated outsiders can perform as well with a few weeks' training as those with years of traditional training and experience in the established field?


What outcomes are you referring to, more specifically? And what performance?
posted by clockzero at 11:24 AM on February 1


Coming from a university perspective here, but the issues are similar. Something I wish more people understood is that the primary purpose of tenure is not really to protect employees from arbitrary firing. It's to attract talented people to a profession without paying them terribly much. Job security is a very nice thing to have, and will induce many people to take lower salaries than they might be able to earn on the open market.


I thought from a university context the primary purpose of tenure is to allow academic freedom for research, so that professors have the freedom to perform research without the fear that the research may be at odds with the politics of the university administration and the like?
posted by gyc at 11:24 AM on February 1 [11 favorites]


Also, I don't know, maybe I'm protected from this because, as a film production worker, we switch jobs all the time and it's easier to just not hire someone next time than fire them, but is it particularly egregious that teachers aren't at constant risk of getting fired?

I mean, all you folks who work in traditional corporate careers. How likely is it that you would ever get fired, short of egregious misconduct at work?

Why are we all champing at the bit to start firing teachers?
posted by Sara C. at 11:24 AM on February 1 [6 favorites]


In what universe is 68k 'underpaid', particularly outside of STEM and in the public sector?

Funny. What universes do we have to choose from?

How about putting it this way, is $68K enough for what teachers have to deal with?
posted by rhizome at 11:24 AM on February 1 [5 favorites]


An equitable school funding scheme in California would actually shift dollars to middle class schools, because the existing scheme gives more money state money to schools with high poverty and low English competency, and of course federal dollars (under Title I mostly) are dramatically tilted that way too.
posted by MattD at 11:25 AM on February 1 [2 favorites]


Is "bad sucky teachers who don't give a shit" actually a major culprit in what's wrong with the American education system?

"Bad sucky teachers who don't give a shit" seem to be perhaps the major culprit when it comes to actual bad experiences students have with the system, in the experiences I'm familiar with.
posted by 2N2222 at 11:26 AM on February 1 [6 favorites]


That your metrics of teacher performance are completely busted.

Have we any alternative metrics on which TFA/charter teachers underperform traditional teachers? We don't like test scores, fine ... literacy? dropout rate? college attendance? life outcomes? Jeopardy winnings?

"The Union says so," is not acceptable, nor is some measurement of the degree to which the teacher's presence and affiliations support the Democrat party.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 11:28 AM on February 1 [2 favorites]


Man, I am all for getting rid of tenure. I had so many teachers in high school who did not give a damn. My parents had to hire tutors for me in certain subjects so I would do well on the standardized tests, because I wasn't learning anything.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:28 AM on February 1 [1 favorite]


My biggest problem in public school in Texas was that half my teachers all had the same first name: "Coach."
posted by KathrynT at 11:31 AM on February 1 [39 favorites]


Average California teacher salary is $68,531, are you seriously saying that we need to pay teachers $205k for kids to get a good education?

Go to university for X number of years to get a Masters degree and a teaching qualification, spend another year or two in employment limbo while a school decides whether you fit into their culture or not... How is just under $70K unreasonable compensation for a professional degreed position which often has continuing education requirements attached to it, and which actually is shaping whether future generations have any kind of shot at competing in our increasingly globalized work marketplace?

Hell, yes. Make it $250K. This is WAY more important a profession than high frequency trading programming or database administration.
posted by hippybear at 11:33 AM on February 1 [31 favorites]


Median Income in Finland 33,312 EUR
Median Income California 47,798 USD

Mid Career Finnish Elementary Teacher 38k USD - or something like the 32k EUR or so depending on what you think PPP is for USD/EUR.

So teacher comp in California is not less than better performing systems. For some function where PISA actually tells us something other than how different educational styles fair - but that seems to be the bogey a lot of education reformists aim at.

n what universe is 68k 'underpaid', particularly outside of STEM and in the public sector?

What is the average salary across all years of employment for STEM employees in CA? I bet you a nickel it's higher than $68k. Why should we NOT pay someone more to educate our children than to PM the next Farmville?


Well I can only give you Bachelor's degrees - but honestly STEM vs All Bachelors on a cohort that large isn't going to be that different - its about 52k as of 09. Not to mention most teachers don't have STEM degrees but rather degrees in Education - which honestly is probably better.

The problem is dispersion of educational outcomes in the US. Always has been - neither paying teacher more nor getting rid of tenure is going to solve that problem.

(teacher comp data is from the OECD)

(Comp by educational attainment is from here.)
posted by JPD at 11:33 AM on February 1 [10 favorites]


How likely is it that you would ever get fired, short of egregious misconduct at work?

People certainly get fired for incompetence or lackluster performance.
posted by jpe at 11:34 AM on February 1 [4 favorites]


As a former CA public school student, yes this is a big problem and they need some way to get rid of the bad teachers. I attended schools in several countries an d states and the CA schools had a very high percentage of dead weight teachers. At a nice middle class school too, it's not a poverty thing, it's a golden handcuffs thing that traps people in a career and often location they hate. Probably has as much to do with ca's boom and bust economy, locally homogenous job markets and insane real estate as it does school funding. You find a lot of public employees in similar straits there- can't afford to quit, can't afford to go back to school, no other viable career locally, can't move because where to? hate job.

I don't think this is the way to go about it though.
posted by fshgrl at 11:36 AM on February 1 [2 favorites]


Why does a teacher not publishing research need tenure? I suggest they change the tenure system to a contract one. Teachers should get a five year contract. If they are laid off or fired for anything but cause, they get the remaining value of their contract with say an 18 month minimum.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 11:40 AM on February 1 [5 favorites]


An equitable school funding scheme in California would actually shift dollars to middle class schools, because the existing scheme gives more money state money to schools with high poverty and low English competency, and of course federal dollars (under Title I mostly) are dramatically tilted that way too.

Well, that's one conception of equity. I would guess that schools in poor districts have less total funding per student in spite of that pattern you describe, otherwise we're in the strange position of talking about how the poor schools actually have more money. I'm saying that education policy should focus on providing the best education possible for all American children, regardless of the wealth of their community, which is not the guiding principle as it stands now.

And that would entail ensuring that the people teaching them are qualified and have good working conditions. It's absolutely not an either-or between sufficient universal funding and a good workforce of teachers, but that fact alone doesn't mean that the two factors are of equal importance.
posted by clockzero at 11:40 AM on February 1


These are my experiences as a teacher in Virginia.

I make around $40,000 a year, being in the business for three years. There are step increases, but due to budget constraints for the last 5 years or so, teachers haven't gone up the steps. If you get a masters, you go up by approximately $3000. A masters + 30 hours takes you up another $2000. A doctorate takes you up another $3000, though I have seen very few doctors at the secondary school level save for counselors.

We get tenure after our third year, though our school district will nearly always rehire teachers every year because it needs teachers badly (its an urban district, and I personally work at a failed school).

I've worked with some very non-great teachers at the two schools I've been at (and some great ones too). The bad ones are very much just ticking time off until retirement. I can somewhat understand: if you're working at a failed school, you either get jaded and quit after a few years, or you get jaded and . . . just keep on going, shutting down the desire to become a better educator.

The problem is, how do you get rid of them? You have to screw up in a major way to get fired once you've been there for several years. Giving substandard instruction to year after year of kids isn't enough. There are things that administrators can do to make being a bad teacher painful, but jaded people have a way of shrugging things like that off and still doing the minimum. All workplaces have that, but with education, quite a bit is at stake, and no one can shore up your instructional weaknesses when you're teaching your class. Do we stow bad teachers somewhere? It's not always their fault their bad at what they do, but that doesn't change they can have severe negative effects while they are so.

Other than to prevent the letting go of teachers too close to retirement for financial reasons, I don't think our tenure system (which is far weaker than a university one) is that effective for anyone. And I don't think most know what it's suppose to accomplish.

Teaching is one of those things where to be an effective one you need a lot of things: talent, education, learning quickly, adaptation, a massive amount of patience, and a real knack for it. Unfortunately, it also is something that we need a huge amount of people for.

Although I would never turn down free money, money isn't the main reason for me not always liking my job. Quality of life is. Working with bad teachers is. Dealing with disrespectful, violent, obstinate, or resistant students are. Each day is a battle, and although those beside me and those above me can cause me a lot of headache, it's those under me that cause me the most. It's a hard job, even for the best people (and I certainly wouldn't lump myself into the best).

I guess, in the end, I don't know. Smaller class sizes, more money, all that jazz sounds good, but perhaps it will always be a really hard job no matter what. I don't really know how to make it better. After a few years of teaching, most of the answers I thought I had seem to drain away.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 11:41 AM on February 1 [28 favorites]


If you think $68k is a lot of money, then you probably don't live in California.
posted by Brocktoon at 11:41 AM on February 1 [22 favorites]


Have we any alternative metrics on which TFA/charter teachers underperform traditional teachers? We don't like test scores, fine ... literacy? dropout rate? college attendance? life outcomes? Jeopardy winnings?

"The Union says so," is not acceptable, nor is some measurement of the degree to which the teacher's presence and affiliations support the Democrat party.

I have a few friends who are very involved in the charter school world here in NYC. My old boss who has multiple degrees from fancy schools and is extremely quantitative in his approach to the world has acknowledged to me multiple times that there is no statistical evidence that shows charter schools do a better job than the really terrible public schools that are the substitute for the cohort of the schools he is on the board of. Really self-selection overwhelms any effects that they try to measure.

And this is coming to me by someone who is a hugh supporter of charter schools and sort of an old line Northeastern Republican.
posted by JPD at 11:41 AM on February 1 [1 favorite]


Here in LA, LAUSD didn't fire a child molester after a big payout to the kids harmed. The "teacher" got a payout as well.
posted by Ideefixe at 11:46 AM on February 1 [2 favorites]


can somewhat understand: if you're working at a failed school, you either get jaded and quit after a few years, or you get jaded and . . . just keep on going, shutting down the desire to become a better educator.

I wonder how much burnout contributes to the "bad teachers" phenomenon?

I think I could agree that the expectations placed on teachers, combined with the carrot of a pension, creates a system where the best response to being unhappy in your career is just to keep your head down and hope the next 15 years flies by without too much misery.

But I just... know a lot of teachers and all of them seem to work very hard and be much more dedicated than your average corporate paper pusher.

I also remember my own education, and while I suppose I was lucky in some ways (I spent my last two years of high school at a state math and science academy), I don't remember Bad Teachers being the worst thing about my educational experience.
posted by Sara C. at 11:47 AM on February 1 [2 favorites]


poor and minority students are denied equal access to education because they are more likely to have “grossly ineffective” teachers.

This is at least partly true. Students are definitely being denied equal access.

My choice for educational reform would be year-round school. And, sure, a pay bump to compensate for extra instructional time.
posted by the young rope-rider at 11:49 AM on February 1 [2 favorites]


I wonder how much burnout contributes to the "bad teachers" phenomenon?

I'm not sure that it matters to a child in that burned out teacher's class.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:50 AM on February 1 [1 favorite]


Hell, yes. Make it $250K. This is WAY more important a profession than high frequency trading programming or database administration.
posted by hippybear


Somehow Harvard manages to attract full professors for less than that.
posted by 445supermag at 11:51 AM on February 1 [4 favorites]


Clockzero -- believe it or not, that's how it is. The state dollars (there aren't really local dollars in California) have long been equalized on a student-attendance basis, with federal dollars overwhelmingly supporting schools with poor students via Title I. Since last year, the state formula now also favors schools with poor students.
posted by MattD at 11:54 AM on February 1 [3 favorites]


Somehow Harvard manages to attract full professors for less than that.

. . . plus tenure.
posted by KathrynT at 11:54 AM on February 1 [17 favorites]


less effective teaching responsible for only 4 percent of the achievement gap, even using a dubious "value added" metric! Why are we so hot to fire people and change everything for 4%, when jack is being done about the 96%?



...Because fixing the 96% doesn't play as well politically as blaming those awful unions.
posted by Dr.Enormous at 11:55 AM on February 1 [18 favorites]


But if teaching is only worth 4%, why the cries to pay teachers more?

Either teaching matters, or it doesn't. If it doesn't, why the push to give more to teachers?

Come on. A lot of you really buy Teacher's Union PR without thinking about it critically. Great that they have a union. Not so great when their talking points are parroted unthinkingly.
posted by the young rope-rider at 11:57 AM on February 1 [17 favorites]



Somehow Harvard manages to attract full professors for less than that.

. . . plus tenure.


The amount of time it takes to get tenure at Harvard makes 18 months look like a joke (and it is).
posted by the young rope-rider at 11:57 AM on February 1 [7 favorites]


Some form of Tenure or enhanced job security is going to be only that much more important in the future as Americans feel increasingly motivated to equate the teaching of basic science and history with pushing a political agenda. Our system has been a bulwark protecting educators from the ignorant and belligerent in our population who would rather their children not be taught facts they don't want to accept since its beginning. Making our teachers more vulnerable to politically and socially motivated harrassment and firing (political purges, if you will)won't do the health of our public education system nearly as much good as it will harm. Enjoy yourselves, those of you so keen on dismantling our institutions. Your side is definitely "winning." But I suspect the phrase "pyrhhic victory" is one we will be hearing a lot in the coming years, assuming there are still folks around who know what it means.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:58 AM on February 1 [12 favorites]


Oh, I think that bad teachers have two main causes:

1) Jaded teachers. They start realizing that trying your best takes an awful lot more out of you than just going through the motions, doing the minimum to get paid. I realize that because I have to fight off that temptation. It's especially hard in difficult schools and districts.

2) Untrained teachers. Teacher programs vary wildly through the country and states. Also, no matter how much education you have, one of the main ways you become a good teacher is to be around and trained by good teachers. You have to see them in action on a daily basis and work with them. The only way I became somewhat decent at designing activities and tests was because I worked with people who are. So, once again, being dropped into a failed school will also enormously stunt your growth.

I'm sure that there are people that join teaching because they were looking for an easy ride, but I have met very few of them. Across the board, the above reasons are why we have bad teachers. Failure is a hard thing to fight, both for students and teachers alike.

Before this, I came from the Naval Officer Corp, and I see a lot of similarities. Both are groups that are by almost their nature enter as idealists. They want to make a difference. They could have dedicated themselves solely to money, but they want to fight the good fight and change things for the better. And just like many Navy officers, they become cynical as their idealism cannot be accommodated by the ground work, by the job, by those above them. At some point, people just phone it in.

By the way, someone asked about qualifications. You do not need a masters degree to teach in the US: just a bachelors and a license. Most teachers knock out the requirements for their license while they're getting their BA/BS. Some get it at the same time they work on their masters (I was about to do this after I got out, but, hey, bills needed paid and I needed a job now), and there are routes for provisional licenses so you can start working immediately (this was me!).

Also, we need way too many teachers to hire at $200 a pop, especially if you want to decrease class sizes at the same time. $40,000 is enough if there's upward mobility and good working conditions (and 10 weeks of summer). If you want us to work all year, I expect $60,000 starting and arrangements for us to take our continual professional development somehow. Sabbaticals maybe?
posted by Lord Chancellor at 12:00 PM on February 1 [7 favorites]


You should not be unfireable for being bad at your job. This is a hammer for crazy right-wing people to beat on the left with because for once they are right and all manner of normally more-unreasonable people can see this.

The right could give a fuck about the quality of teachers. If they did care where are the initiatives to improve education? To improve the quality of teacher? A little funding to keep school and classroom size down would do wonders.

The right's only concern is busting up one of the few remaining powerful unions.
posted by munchingzombie at 12:01 PM on February 1 [20 favorites]


If you want us to work all year, I expect $60,000 starting and arrangements for us to take our continual professional development somehow. Sabbaticals maybe?

Sure, although the model I've seen has breaks built into the schedule, just not as long as the summer break. You could also have better trained substitute teachers, or rotating specials. So say your typical teacher leaves to do continuing ed. Your math class has a special unit about personal finance, taught by a floating sub (who, unlike subs now, gets training, benefits, etc.)
posted by the young rope-rider at 12:06 PM on February 1


This is all about privatization and money, but that aside, the National Assessment of Educational Progress seems to indicate no relationship between union membership and performance (quite the opposite if anything).
posted by idb at 12:06 PM on February 1 [3 favorites]


I do honestly think there there are many anti-tenure conservatives who honestly believe the lack of a market and a lack of competition are why the education system is "failing" - a much greater number than the assholes who view this as an opportunity to bust up a public sector union.

I mean I think they are wrong about what is failing - its the welfare state, not the schools, and I'm very confident competition will just magnify winners and losers - but I do think a lot them are well intentioned if misguided.
posted by JPD at 12:06 PM on February 1 [3 favorites]


I do honestly think there there are many anti-tenure conservatives who honestly believe the lack of a market and a lack of competition are why the education system is "failing"

If market forces are applied to education, the poor will receive no education because they can't afford it. Perhaps education is a right which should be supported and supplied by the state. Perhaps it is not. But if it is not, then like anything that is not a right, there will be entire segments of the population who will never have the opportunity to have even a bad education. They simply will have no education at all.
posted by hippybear at 12:11 PM on February 1 [19 favorites]


One of the requirements to renew our five year license is 180 hours of professional development during those five years. Yeah, you can mark down every seminar, every staff development day on there, but many teachers take two masters classes sometime during that period (a masters class is worth 90 hours). This is where University of Phoenix is really useful for teachers satisfying that requirement.

Now, if you do want teachers to actually go to a real school and sit in a MA (or PhD) class, that takes a lot of time, and doing so while teaching is very difficult for many teachers. Taking away summers is taking away some of the rare time that we get a stretches to handle formal education.

As for substitute teachers, even well-trained ones didn't plan with me or my team to create the curriculum, and I personally would have a dickens of a time implementing someone else's lesson plans effectively. Long-term subs are their own species that actually have to work with the teams, but even they have a hard time in their bizarre niche.

What I'm saying here is: it's hard to teach effectively when you're away from your classroom, and it's hard to teach effectively when you're in someone else's. It's why I still come into work when I'm somewhat sick unless I can make a very easy lesson to implement for a complete stranger.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 12:13 PM on February 1 [1 favorite]


"The question is whether TFA teachers do as well as or better than fully credentialed non-TFA teachers with whom hess school districts aim to staff their schools. On this question, the predominance of peer-reviewed studies have indicated that, on average, the students of novice TFA teachers perform less well in reading and mathematics assessments those of fully credentialed beginning teachers. But the differences are small, and TFA teachers do better if compared with other less-trained and inexperienced teachers."

Hat tip to MeFi's own gerryblog
posted by kewb at 12:15 PM on February 1 [5 favorites]


Nothing significant is going to change unless we start admitting that American teachers are not good at their jobs. Yes, that means you, dear reader, are probably not a good teacher. Your friends who are teachers probably aren't good teachers. Your spouse is probably not a good teacher.

All those excuses about money, administration, tenure, public, charter, union, etc. are mostly just trying to cover up that typical teachers are low-quality professionals.

It's very offensive of me to say this because there is a popular myth that teachers are wonderful people thus good, but that myth harms children, so it shouldn't be propagated.
posted by michaelh at 12:17 PM on February 1 [5 favorites]


As for substitute teachers, even well-trained ones didn't plan with me or my team to create the curriculum

This can change, hence my suggestion of special units that the subs would have expertise in teaching. It might not be ideal compared to a continuous curriculum, but right now that's not happening either. There's a huge gap where kids--poor kids in particular--are learning nothing and falling further and further behind their peers.
posted by the young rope-rider at 12:18 PM on February 1


I mean, if the argument is that you couldn't take time off because it would harm the students, then that would indicate that taking time off now is harming the students. A well-trained sub for part of the year in one of their classes is better than 10 weeks in which they backslide considerably in all of their skills.
posted by the young rope-rider at 12:20 PM on February 1


Nothing significant is going to change unless we start admitting that American teachers are not good at their jobs. Yes, that means you, dear reader, are probably not a good teacher. Your friends who are teachers probably aren't good teachers. Your spouse is probably not a good teacher.

All those excuses about money, administration, tenure, public, charter, union, etc. are mostly just trying to cover up that typical teachers are low-quality professionals.

It's very offensive of me to say this because there is a popular myth that teachers are wonderful people thus good, but that myth harms children, so it shouldn't be propagated.


The really great thing about huge, sweeping claims like this is that you don't have to provide any evidence or propose any real solutions as long as you imply that no one could disagree except due to ideological blinders.
posted by kewb at 12:25 PM on February 1 [51 favorites]


Again, I do not want to bust the union or get rid of tenure entirely, but a few facts:

I did not know that people actually still used the word "wetback" until I heard it come out of the mouth of my eleventh grade government teacher. In the middle of a lesson.

I was the only Hispanic student in my tenth grade world history class, and was assigned the topic of "defend European imperialism" as a topic for a paper that made up a very large percentage of that semester's grade. No other options were presented, even when I requested an alternate assignment because European imperialism was indefensible and wrong.

And I complained about none of these things because all of the students in my high school knew that similar complaints had been levied against these teachers previously had resulted in any changes whatsoever. Because unless you were showing up with lawyers, the school district was not going to do anything, and we were all of us from relatively poor families. I wish I had known back then that there were organizations that would handle the legal side of this for free, but these organizations do not have the resources to provide legal representation for every single individual case. And I think that the school districts are tending towards not handling it until there's lawyers involved because they don't know how to do it any other way. This is the part that needs fixing.

But we do need to not pretend that bad teachers don't have an impact on students from lower-class and non-white backgrounds especially, because they do. Good teachers also have an impact, and I had a bunch of them, mind. But they've got an uphill battle if nobody does anything about the bad ones.
posted by Sequence at 12:25 PM on February 1 [11 favorites]


Nothing significant is going to change unless we start admitting that American teachers are not good at their jobs. Yes, that means you, dear reader, are probably not a good teacher. Your friends who are teachers probably aren't good teachers. Your spouse is probably not a good teacher.

What are you benchmarking this against. If you say transnational testing - you are basically wrong. Those tests themselves are extremely problematic and favor educational systems that focus on rote learning. If that's the discussion you wish to have that's fine.
posted by JPD at 12:27 PM on February 1 [5 favorites]


Regardless of the foundation of the argument, I question whether bad teachers are even the biggest problem in California schools.

On preview, this is along the lines of what JPD says.
posted by rhizome at 12:29 PM on February 1


Is "bad sucky teachers who don't give a shit" actually a major culprit in what's wrong with the American education system?

Schools are factories that attempt to churn out lots of forms with oval bubbles on them filled in correctly. I bet even the techno-libertarian capitalist funding this lawsuit would admit that this industrial model is outdated for the brave new globalized world we live in, but to do that would admit that all along the system has been completely about juking the stats.

It's easier to just blame the greedy, incompetent teachers for not giving the bosses the results they want.

In what universe is 68k 'underpaid', particularly outside of STEM and in the public sector?

That universe would be California.
posted by bradbane at 12:30 PM on February 1


Schools are factories that attempt to churn out lots of forms with oval bubbles on them filled in correctly. I bet even the techno-libertarian capitalist funding this lawsuit would admit that this industrial model is outdated for the brave new globalized world we live in, but to do that would admit that all along the system has been completely about juking the stats.
except irony of ironies - the tests that techno-libertarians rely on to make the argument that schools are failing is pretty much entirely predicated on exams that focus entirely upon a students ability to fill in the correct bubble.
posted by JPD at 12:33 PM on February 1 [2 favorites]


68k is more than the median income for people with college educations in California. If a public school teacher isn't exactly the sort of job that should be middle class I don't know what is.
posted by JPD at 12:35 PM on February 1 [6 favorites]


Techno-libertarians don't support public education in the first place.
posted by Ardiril at 12:36 PM on February 1


American teachers are not good at their jobs

The main problem with this idea is that, inasmuch as K-12 education is compulsory for all American children, we need an awful lot of them.

This means that there isn't a really effective way to keep only the truly passionate, talented above-and-beyond teachers and fire the ones that are just bumbling along trying to do their best. If we decide that only the truly devoted and worthy get to be teachers, we leave the bulk of American children uneducated. Not just educated by someone who doesn't much care, but entirely unschooled.

Meanwhile, as a developed country, we require an educated workforce.

As a practical problem, what's the solution to this?
posted by Sara C. at 12:43 PM on February 1 [1 favorite]


As a practical problem, what's the solution to this?

Actually, many new studies that are being done are coming to the conclusion that class size does not matter, in fact, and that large classes with a great teacher do better than small classes with a bad one.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:45 PM on February 1 [2 favorites]


To protect the incompetent in the name of improving education is ... I can't find words. As stunningly shooting-yourself-in-the-foot as anything I've seen.
posted by umberto


I'm with umberto here all the way. There are millions of things wrong with our culture and rich sons-and-daughters-of-bitches are responsible for most of them. But you don't get very far with me by telling me I can't be critical of certain aspects of the teaching profession.

I happen to be of the belief that we vastly undervalue teachers in our culture, and this overall attitude has led to a lot of substandard teachers ... because it's just not a prestigious profession. I know things have changed somewhat over the years but back in my university days (late 1970s onward), teaching was pretty much the easiest degree to get. Dreams of making law school, med-school etc fading? Go for education -- it's a breeze.

Which isn't to say that some people didn't become teachers for very good reasons, but very many didn't. And given that half my family (and a bunch of friends) are in the teaching profession, trust that I've heard all manner of stuff about the complexity of it all.

The problem is the definition of systemic and we won't get anywhere positive if we can't figure out how to address it as such, and that means being critical.
posted by philip-random at 12:47 PM on February 1 [3 favorites]


Where did anybody say that the teaching profession can't be criticized?
posted by rhizome at 12:49 PM on February 1 [1 favorite]


I had a number of terrible teachers in high school. Consider the Spanish teacher who had absolutely no interest or knowledge of Spanish. He wasn't even licensed to teach Spanish, he was licensed in Philosophy but the school got rid of its Philosophy program and had to stick him somewhere.

Now I'm an adult and I would LOVE to teach. In fact I taught for a couple years in grad school and had a blast, I really felt like I was making a difference in people's lives. But I just can't justify taking a 50% or greater pay cut. I'd take a 20% pay cut without question though.

Pay teachers MUCH more -- average should be 90-110K , not 68K. But evaluate them on their performance and accomplishments, just like other professionals.
posted by miyabo at 12:49 PM on February 1


Let's say this lawsuit is successful and teachers lose their tenure. Then let's say a science teacher is teaching sex ed per approved curriculum and some influential parents who have a problem with, say, condoms, convince a spineless principal to fire this teacher. I think this is why teachers have, and should have, some form of tenure.

I'd have less of a problem with this lawsuit if the technology magnate promised to establish a legal defense fund for the teachers unfairly victimized under a tenure-free regime. But that seems unlikely.
posted by rossmeissl at 12:51 PM on February 1 [4 favorites]


The fact that you're on Metafilter means you probably had good teachers: either you started off at tremendous disadvantage and teachers helped you overcome it, or you have been too privileged to experience the worst teachers in the system.

American teachers are very good at their jobs: they regularly overcome the massive income inequality in our country and are one of our main equalizing forces. However, that skill is not evenly distributed, and the least advantaged students are increasingly the most likely to receive below average instruction. When that happens, poor teachers become one of the ways that we perpetuate inequality.
posted by anotherpanacea at 12:52 PM on February 1 [11 favorites]


Then let's say a science teacher is teaching sex ed per approved curriculum and some influential parents who have a problem with, say, condoms, convince a spineless principal to fire this teacher.

Then that teacher files a lawsuit for wrongful termination like any other employee.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:55 PM on February 1 [4 favorites]


I wasn't thinking of any particular test or statistic, JPD. Though, I have heard that some other countries (not South Korea) sent their bottom 25% back to school and the results were encouraging.
posted by michaelh at 12:56 PM on February 1


Ending tenure to enable firing bad teachers is like burning down a forest to get rid of some weeds.

My wife, teaching in the lower mainland of BC, has seen three teachers fired over 8 years at her school, under two principals. It requires patience and process, but it's certainly do-able, and if the admin isn't willing to do so, that's bad management, not bad teachers or unions. The union isn't trying to protect incompetence, it's trying to provide fair opportunity to do well at your job and mitigate abuse of power by those higher up the ladder.

Nothing significant is going to change unless we start admitting that American teachers are not good at their jobs. Yes, that means you, dear reader, are probably not a good teacher. Your friends who are teachers probably aren't good teachers. Your spouse is probably not a good teacher.

Oh, my mistake, I thought we were here to have a useful discussion.
posted by fatbird at 12:56 PM on February 1 [8 favorites]


Come on. A lot of you really buy Teacher's Union PR without thinking about it critically. Great that they have a union. Not so great when their talking points are parroted unthinkingly.

I'm a dues-paying teacher's union member, and I think you'll find I never said anything of the sort, thinkingly or otherwise; I'm paid fairly reasonably, though I could be making twice that with industry experience and an advanced degree in a STEM field. You'll also find that I'm parroting nothing, but citing an academic study; it's a little something called evidence that is routinely missing from these discussions (partly because it's hard to have an ethical control group).

I'm just tired of being blamed for everything, when 96% of it is out of my control. I work really hard to do the best I can with my 4%, and am lucky enough to teach mostly honors classes in a reasonably good district. In fact, under these metrics, I'll come off fine, for exactly that reason. Doesn't make it right, though.
posted by Dr.Enormous at 12:59 PM on February 1 [15 favorites]


large classes with a great teacher do better than small classes with a bad one.

OK, but to what extent?

Let's say 50% of teachers are "incompetent" and we get rid of them.

Let's say that the average public school class size now, with the 100% complement of teachers, is 30 students.

Now the average class size is 60 students.

How can that possibly be better? I mean, for as shitty as some of my teachers were, at least most of them knew my name. At least they could observe whether I was being bullied or abused at home, whether I was getting fed, whether I had a coat. At least I existed to them as an individual who could either read or not, do math or not, etc. rather than just an entry on a spreadsheet.
posted by Sara C. at 12:59 PM on February 1 [2 favorites]


I have a few friends who are very involved in the charter school world here in NYC. My old boss who has multiple degrees from fancy schools and is extremely quantitative in his approach to the world has acknowledged to me multiple times that there is no statistical evidence that shows charter schools do a better job than the really terrible public schools that are the substitute for the cohort of the schools he is on the board of.

Purely considering education, then, the effect of this evidence along with the various studies that always seem to show charter schools performing slightly better, the same, or slightly worse than traditional public schools is to induce ambivalence, suggesting the decision should be based on secondaries like cost and so on...

Metafilter does encourage me to think politically more often, so I shall try that - in which case I find that the UFT is allied with and possibly identical to the NYC Democrat corruption machine. Now the Democrats are my second-worst political enemy and the ones currently in power esp. locally, so with that I mind I would be glad to see the UFT reduced. I am not so sure Metafilter really wants me becoming more political.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 12:59 PM on February 1


The effect of union protections is to protect incompetent teachers. Unions can either participate in revamping the tenure system or be shut out of it. Either way it's coming.
posted by jpe at 1:00 PM on February 1 [1 favorite]


Then that teacher files a lawsuit for wrongful termination like any other employee.

Except I don't think that's how it would work, roomthreeseventeen. I think the teacher, knowing about the hair-trigger protest parents and the principal accomplice, would probably just avoid the useful/controversial parts of the sex ed curriculum. In any event, forcing teachers to have to consider this dilemma doesn't seem like it would ultimately help the kids out a whole lot.
posted by rossmeissl at 1:01 PM on February 1 [5 favorites]


The effect of union protections is to protect incompetent teachers.

This is dogma, not observation.
posted by fatbird at 1:01 PM on February 1 [24 favorites]


How about we get rid of tenure and in return give teachers things they actually want? Like the ability to throw out disruptive troublemakers without months of administrative process? Or the ability to fail students who deserve to be failed, instead of passing them through the system like automatons?
posted by shivohum at 1:02 PM on February 1 [3 favorites]


However, that skill is not evenly distributed, and the least advantaged students are increasingly the most likely to receive below average instruction.

Absolutely. I think many commentators who have access to decent-quality schools do not realize how bad the problem is in the worst schools. I had a handful of completely useless teachers, and the only real result was that I didn't learn Spanish. Many, many kids in urban schools have a string of these teachers for 12 straight years and are completely unprepared for college.
posted by miyabo at 1:03 PM on February 1 [2 favorites]


I don't know how to "debate" this because if you don't smell the self-interested billionaires you inhabit a different reality than I. There's a charter STEM school near me affiliated with General Electric and Northrop Grumman - really, we're already living in the aftermath.
posted by gorbweaver at 1:06 PM on February 1 [10 favorites]


roomthreeseventeen, most employees in this day and age have precious few avenues through which they can successfully sue an employer for wrongful termination. This is the tricky bit; saying teachers should be treated just like everybody else in this respect is terrible because everybody else's current state of things is absolutely abysmal. If the rest of the employment situation wasn't terrible, that'd be another story. Teachers need protections. Everybodys needs protections. Those protections should probably not go so far as to protect the actually incompetent/racist/etc.

I think training also needs to be another huge part of this. I don't actually care if my government teacher was a racist, if he could have been successfully bludgeoned into not actually using words like that in class anymore; he was quite good at some stuff. And tools--if someone's struggling in some particular area, like making useful lesson plans, can they be provided with more information? Better technology? But these things also cost more money. Basically every solution here that has a prayer of working is going to cost more money. We can have cheap education, or we can have effective education, we cannot have both.
posted by Sequence at 1:07 PM on February 1 [4 favorites]


Then that teacher files a lawsuit for wrongful termination like any other employee.

Even if teaching becomes just another at-will employment position?
posted by rhizome at 1:07 PM on February 1 [1 favorite]


Where did anybody say that the teaching profession can't be criticized?

my impression of many of the early comments in this thread wasn't so much, "don't be critical" as ... "but what about this? what about that?"

Which for me amounts to the same thing. It's a distraction (conscious or otherwise) from the relevant fact that we've got a pile of uninspired, under-motivated teachers in our various systems, which sucks. For everybody. For students, for parents, for administrators, for the "good" teachers who get stuck with picking up the slack, for the "bad" teachers themselves who must feel stuck in dead end situations which they can't exit because they need the paychecks.

And I suspect that there will be no end to dubious initiatives such as the one in question here as long as this remains the case. Because it is a huge problem and so easy to point to.
posted by philip-random at 1:08 PM on February 1 [1 favorite]


One can believe, for instance, that how teachers unions work right now is non-ideal (though I haven't seen a particularly feasible better option), but that it is not the cause of the problems in education.
posted by jeather at 1:09 PM on February 1 [4 favorites]


Let's say that the average public school class size now, with the 100% complement of teachers, is 30 students.

Now the average class size is 60 students.

How can that possibly be better? I mean, for as shitty as some of my teachers were, at least most of them knew my name.


Its rather counterintuitive to me - but especially once you get past the elementary years there is precious little evidence that small class size helps raise outcomes.

Even if teaching becomes just another at-will employment position?
You can be wrongfully terminated from an at-will job. That's usually why people get laid off rather than fired. Its much harder to make a case.
posted by JPD at 1:10 PM on February 1 [1 favorite]


Clearly what we need is a foolproof way to protect good teachers from bad administrators and good administrators from bad teachers.
posted by rossmeissl at 1:10 PM on February 1 [1 favorite]


How about we get rid of tenure and in return give teachers things they actually want? Like the ability to throw out disruptive troublemakers without months of administrative process? Or the ability to fail students who deserve to be failed, instead of passing them through the system like automatons?

For one reason, because throwing students out of school and failing students hasn't shown to led to appreciably better outcomes. So, getting rid of tenure in exchange for these concessions might make teachers have a better classroom experience because they can just get rid of the students they don't want to teach, but it's not clearly a better result for everyone.
posted by MoonOrb at 1:11 PM on February 1 [2 favorites]


Then that teacher files a lawsuit for wrongful termination like any other employee.

Removing worker protections from one of the last sectors that retains strong workers' rights and (at least in some states still) collective bargaining, just because no one else has those protections in their industries, strikes me more as social cannibalism than an actual policy argument.
posted by superfluousm at 1:13 PM on February 1 [14 favorites]


On the other hand, I think they're right to be wary that the school systems would use a system that was TOO flexible to simply fire the most expensive teachers first when funds became an issue.

If that were the only worry, I'd be tickled. I'd be more worried about a gang of wackos in Orange County firing all the "bad" teachers who don't go to church or are too gay or who live in sin with someone or who once said something nasty about Rand or who are Democrats. And superintendents or principals firing "bad" teachers who don't kick back 10% of their salaries or who won't fuck them.

Why does a teacher not publishing research need tenure?

So they don't have to worry about being fired if they go to the wrong church, or none at all, or for belonging to the wrong political party, or for being seen coming out of an R-rated movie, or for giving the star quarterback the F he deserved, or for not fucking the principal, or for divorcing the relative of a board member, or for not being a creationist, or for being a creationist, or for being gay, or for being black, or for being white, etc etc.

Really, I see only two options here. Option one is that teachers are civil servants, in which case they desperately need the same protections against arbitrary firing that all civil servants need. If we're not going to do that, then we might as well go to option two and just elect teachers every year or two so that we never have to put up with anyone we don't like for whatever reason.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:15 PM on February 1 [12 favorites]


Since A) everyone always asks my opinion on these things (they don't), and B) I have any influence on things (I don't), I'll offer my opinion on the matter.

Bigger carrots. Bigger sticks.

Start with cutting "administration" roles by 75%. If you're not in the classroom, you better have a DAMN good reason not to be. One of the teachers can double as vice principal for extra pay.

Stop paying by seniority. Pay by performance. There's no reason that a 25 year old awesome teacher should make a cent less than a sixty year old marking time to retirement. Want to make more? Get better assessments -- "360" reviews that take into account student performance, student opinion, admin opinion.

Higher pay will attract more people, and keep pressure on teachers to be productive.
posted by chimaera at 1:15 PM on February 1 [2 favorites]


Then that teacher files a lawsuit for wrongful termination like any other employee.

It wouldn't be wrongful absent tenure. It would just be termination.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:17 PM on February 1 [1 favorite]


If anybody's interested in what tenure actually does: I can give honest feedback on professional development activities without fearing a reprisal, which I couldn't before. I can complain when students miss my class for non-academic activities. I can communicate honestly with parents knowing that I can't be fired simply for one of them not agreeing with me. I can try something new in my class knowing that if it turns out to be a complete disaster, my job won't be in jeopardy unless I keep doing it.

I've done more to improve instruction in my classroom in the time since becoming tenured than in the time before; when I could be fired at will, I had to play it safe, because I have my own kids to think about too.
posted by Dr.Enormous at 1:17 PM on February 1 [37 favorites]


we've got a pile of uninspired, under-motivated teachers in our various systems, which sucks

Every profession has a bottom 10%. "Tenure" is an official term for a condition that exists informally as well, due to various circumstances. It's not been demonstrated that teaching is uniquely terrible (michaelh's assertion notwithstanding) or that bad teachers are uniquely damaging compared to, say, bad lawyers.

One can believe, for instance, that how teachers unions work right now is non-ideal... , but that it is not the cause of the problems in education.

This. If it's too difficult to fire bad teachers, that's a procedural problem. Perhaps trying to address it outside of the context destroying teacher's union might actually get somewhere.
posted by fatbird at 1:18 PM on February 1 [6 favorites]


I'm all for making it easier to get rid of the truly incompetent but too often, the anecdote about a lousy teacher is a red herring for another issue, in this case, an attempt to destroy unions and with that, good, middle-class jobs.

My daughter went through a public high school that had a range of kids from gang members to country club families and had maybe one truly awful teacher (he was rude, condescending to parents, bragged about his boyfriend grading the kids' English papers, among many other things), but could not get fired under tenure rules. However, I've also seen administrators who will do anything they can to lower their budgets and every single one of them would target a more senior, expensive teacher if she/he had to. And I know many teachers who work their asses off for students, with no thanks from the parents for putting up with their kids' bad behavior.

I wrote a story about several teachers who were let go, despite tenure, because they were in a department required to hire ESL teachers, none of whom had teaching experience. So tenure isn't 100 percent safe for everyone. (I've seen this as stunt elsewhere, including a couple of newspapers that decided to get rid of their photo departments by inventing new rules about required tech skills that magically, only the 22 year olds had.)

And I've seen young teachers walking on eggshells, afraid to open their mouths, until tenure is granted. That doesn't seem right, and neither does the standard media description of "younger, enthusiastic teachers fired to save the jobs of senior teachers." That contrast isn't always true. The young ones are, understandably, eager and enthusiastic precisely because they're new at it and because they're not tenured.

And here's my personal anecdote: back in seventh grade, we had a social studies teacher one year from retirement who mumbled a few sentences in whatever the topic was then handed out sheets of paper with a few questions on it. Someone discovered the fact that the guy graded strictly on the basis of how long the answers were, so for the rest of the year, the students simply wrote out their homework for English or science or other classes, filling the pages, and getting a good grade strictly on that basis.

So it's a complex process that should not be resolved through a lawsuit.
posted by etaoin at 1:18 PM on February 1 [3 favorites]


Start with cutting "administration" roles by 75%. If you're not in the classroom, you better have a DAMN good reason not to be. One of the teachers can double as vice principal for extra pay.

Is it unfair to ask whether you have experience working in a school? Maybe I had different experiences, but there were not a lot of extra admin staff floating around who didn't do anything. Education cuts affected a lot of these admin roles first, so there's not much fat to cut here.
posted by MoonOrb at 1:19 PM on February 1 [2 favorites]


I think many commentators who have access to decent-quality schools do not realize how bad the problem is in the worst schools.

But how does "fire all the shitty teachers" solve this?

Do the bad schools soldier on with ludicrous student-teacher ratios?

Do we not educate poorer students?

A major problem with the "fire all the bad teachers" idea is, well, where are all these amazing teachers waiting in the wings to take those bad teachers' jobs? And how do we ensure that they don't become bad teachers? How do we identify new graduates who are likely to become incompetent?
posted by Sara C. at 1:19 PM on February 1 [5 favorites]


180 days school days / 220 normal work days = 81.8%.

68k / 81.8% = 83k / year
posted by otto42 at 1:20 PM on February 1 [3 favorites]


if you don't smell the self-interested billionaires you inhabit a different reality than I.

Oh, I agree, self-interested billionaires are involved in this issue up the wazoo. All they want is the US to have a better-educated workforce so they'll be able to hire more skilled workers (and, ultimately, pay them less since there will be more supply). Then their companies can do better in the competition against Asian and European companies and they can make more billions.

It's just that in this case, my personal interests are aligned with the self-interested billionaires: I want there to be more skilled workers because I think skilled workers are more likely to have happy and fulfilling lives.
posted by miyabo at 1:20 PM on February 1 [2 favorites]


If it's too difficult to fire bad teachers

Honestly, my interpretation of the difficulties districts have with the people they try to fire is that they're probably not trying to fire people who are clearly bad teachers so much as people who are for some other reason a thorn in the administration's side.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:22 PM on February 1 [5 favorites]


For one reason, because throwing students out of school and failing students hasn't shown to led to appreciably better outcomes. So, getting rid of tenure in exchange for these concessions might make teachers have a better classroom experience because they can just get rid of the students they don't want to teach, but it's not clearly a better result for everyone.

I think it pretty clearly is. Students "graduating" high school barely knowing how to read is itself a terrible outcome, one which renders the high school degree laughable and meaningless. And I know normal students and teachers both hate being in classrooms with disruptive students, so making their classroom experience better would again in itself be a hugely better outcome - one that would, by the way, make the profession more attractive to would-be teachers.
posted by shivohum at 1:23 PM on February 1


Another side of this issue that tenure addresses is that who's perceived as a bad teacher isn't necessarily a bad teacher. Survey the teachers at a school and you'll get an earful about who's a bad teacher, but the list won't be consistent. "Good performance" isn't always the same as "visibly good performance".

Teacher's unions protect the incompetent only in the sense that the justice system and right of due process protect "the guilty" from being grabbed off the street and tossed straight into jail.
posted by fatbird at 1:24 PM on February 1 [10 favorites]


At some point, we have to acknowledge the real elephant in the room is that, unlike any other profession, teaching at any level below college is one which requires somehow shaping what may be unwilling people, full of inexperience with the world and perhaps unwilling subjects. There is literally no other profession like it.

You can be the best teacher in the world, but if you have two or three intransigent students in your class causing disruptions, they can ruin the year for everyone. They will demand extra attention, will require some form of whatever behavior controls that teachers are allowed to exert, will refuse to participate... all this takes away from the excellent job the teacher might be doing with the rest of the class.

Unlike any other workplace, a teacher cannot "fire" students who are unwilling to produce. In fact, the simple fact of those students being in the class, under many of the new performance evaluation systems, puts that teacher's employment in jeopardy.

It's silly to try to talk about teaching like it's in any way similar to any other profession. They aren't building cars out of inanimate metal. They aren't pushing numbers around on Wall Street. They aren't working in a warehouse trying to get logistics to flow smoothly. They are trying to shape children into functional, useful, well-educated adults. And the fact is, even the best teacher can be undone by children who do not want to be shaped, for whatever reason.
posted by hippybear at 1:26 PM on February 1 [17 favorites]


And I know normals students and teachers both hate being in classrooms with disruptive students, so making their classroom experience better would again in itself be a hugely better outcome - one that would, by the way , make the profession more attractive to would- be teachers.

The answer to these situations isn't giving teacher's discretion to be heavy handed, it's making available diversion programs that address specific behavioural problems. Expel a kid, get a criminal. Divert a kid, and you can see him back next year participating normally.
posted by fatbird at 1:26 PM on February 1


I think it pretty clearly is.

Yes, a lot of people think this. And while graduating students who can't read is obviously a terrible outcome, giving up on kids and ensuring that they won't be educated--which is effectively what you're doing when you employ the ideas you talked about--is a terrible outcome, too.
posted by MoonOrb at 1:26 PM on February 1 [1 favorite]


People suggesting that TFA volunteers can do the same job for less are forgetting, for one thing, TFA's insane burn-out rate. The attrition rate for new TFA teachers is unbelievable -- practically nobody stays after a couple of years, let alone a full career of teaching. TFA is basically the "adjuncting" of secondary school: a way to cut costs by overworking and burning through smart people who start out genuinely wanting to do something worthwhile with their professional lives.
posted by en forme de poire at 1:28 PM on February 1 [3 favorites]


there is precious little evidence that small class size helps raise outcomes.

But, again, for what value of "small class size"?

Between 5 and 15? Yeah, probably no real difference.

Between 15 and 30? Probably depends on the age group and specific class we're talking about (for instance I'd guess that lab sciences need smaller sections than history lectures).

Between 30 and 60? It seems completely insane to suggest that a six year old would do just as well in a class where the teacher would be unlikely to even know their name. And if that is the case, statistically, we have much bigger problems than shitty teachers. Because to me what that means is that something is very, very wrong in that 30-student classroom.

I'm not even going to talk about classes in the 100-student range, just because COME ON.
posted by Sara C. at 1:28 PM on February 1 [1 favorite]



Honestly, my interpretation of the difficulties districts have with the people they try to fire is that they're probably not trying to fire people who are clearly bad teachers so much as people who are for some other reason a thorn in the administration's side.


There's a pile of truth in this. My brother-in-law (a grade five teacher) describes an overall situation at his school where the principal long ago gave up any hope of getting rid of "bad" (but rule-adhering) teachers, and thus has grown cynical. Meanwhile, a new young grade seven teacher shows up who keeps wanting to try things "outside the box" and encounters nothing but resistance from the principal because he's seen to be rocking the boat. Of course, the kids love him (the teacher), but he's currently fighting to keep his job.
posted by philip-random at 1:29 PM on February 1 [1 favorite]


Education cuts affected a lot of these admin roles first, so there's not much fat to cut here.

Aside from my experience as a student, I speak of my experience as a parent where for several years my kids were in "school districts" made up of a few elementary schools. So in the 100k-population area there were a half dozen "school districts."

Each of these districts had a full cadre of district staff which included Superindendents, Deputy Superintendents, assorted Assistant Superintendents, and so on.

When a school district has more *-superintendents than schools, they are stealing from each child that attends.
posted by chimaera at 1:32 PM on February 1 [1 favorite]


I hope no one takes any of my comments to be dismissive of unions or tenure. I'm a member of the AFT, one of the two major education unions in the country, and I truly believe a revised tenure system would be great for public schools. And no, I don't mean revised as in "watered down" because I think teacher tenure system is already pretty watered down. I'm talking about tenure in a different direction.

One of the union's jobs is argue for its members. It's supposed to be nearly unequivocal support for the teachers who pay it and form it. Think of it like a lawyer and we teachers are the client. Now, that means that everything that comes out of the union spokesperson's mouth isn't the best for society (just as much as a lawyer trying to get his client off isn't always best for society in and of itself), but the union being there, arguing for the profession is. It needs to be there for the profession to set the standards and be what's best for the society at large. So, yes, unions need to be here for public school teachers, and yes, they need bargaining power and all that, but no, not every union idea is the best for everyone else. They're my union; they argue for my interests. That's how I want it. I, in turn, can argue for society's interest.

The greatest reason that education is a really hard job has nothing to do with pay. It's a hard job because students are really hard to teach. Not only have we integrated special education (rightly) into our classrooms in a way that didn't exist 40 years ago, but we teach a lot of students who would have been expelled long ago. People fail at teaching because its a monumentally hard job to do now, especially in failing districts.

Students fail because many of them are raised into a culture of failure. Many of them don't care about passing. Many of them don't realize the massive investiture society has taken to place them there. They fail because many of them are being raised by parents with multiple jobs that never could raise them as well. They are raised by parents that didn't have the time to read to them (which is one of the defining reasons that a child will grow up enjoying to read). In short, the entire culture and society has failed around them. I have kids in seventh grade that are on probation for some serious crimes. I have been punched by a student. I have already broken up four major fights among students. I receive threats on a regular basis.

The problem isn't (solely) the teachers. Students fail because they did not receive the same sort of culture of academia, success, achievement, and trust that I did. Despite my parents being poor, they were academics. I owe more to the culture they instilled in me than anything I consciously did.

That being said, the battle of education is a lot bigger than who is teaching what.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 1:34 PM on February 1 [26 favorites]


Between 5 and 15? Yeah, probably no real difference.

Between 15 and 30? Probably depends on the age group and specific class we're talking about (for instance I'd guess that lab sciences need smaller sections than history lectures).

Between 30 and 60? It seems completely insane to suggest that a six year old would do just as well in a class where the teacher would be unlikely to even know their name. And if that is the case, statistically, we have much bigger problems than shitty teachers. Because to me what that means is that something is very, very wrong in that 30-student classroom.


It's more like no difference between 25 and 45 for high schoolers. At the Elementary level its more like 15 to 25
posted by JPD at 1:37 PM on February 1


Sure, but those are numbers we're already seeing in a lot of places.

If a high school class already has 40 students, and you fire half the teachers, now high school classes have 80 students. Which is untenable.
posted by Sara C. at 1:39 PM on February 1


I have also never heard of a public elementary school (outside of maybe the ritziest districts) where elementary school classes have fewer than 20 students.

It seems like those stats are speaking more to whether more teachers should be added to bring class sizes down by a few students per class, not supporting the idea that class size doesn't matter.
posted by Sara C. at 1:40 PM on February 1


Wait, are people suggesting we fire teachers and replace them with no one? Because this argument about class size seems like a derail to me.
posted by MoonOrb at 1:41 PM on February 1 [1 favorite]


Where are all these amazing teachers that aren't already teaching?

If we fire all the bad teachers, who do we replace them with, and how to we ensure that those teachers aren't "bad"?
posted by Sara C. at 1:43 PM on February 1 [1 favorite]


Start with cutting "administration" roles by 75%.

So the solution to having bad teachers is to reduce teaching time and experience generally by diverting a teachers hours to paperwork?

Stop paying by seniority. Pay by performance.

This is a common idea raised, and it has superficial plausibilty, and it dies on the rocks of the difficulty of measuring teacher performance in an environment full of complex influences, and without the measuring adding its own distortion to the mix.

The flip side of pay by seniority is that your earning potential is capped; your upside as you continue in the same position is carefully limited. This is largely the reality in the private sector now, where (at least in STEM), switching jobs is the only way to take a serious jump in pay. Buying into a limited, stepped ladder is, in its way, a concession, or at least a tradeoff where you take predictability over potential upside. That's not a bad thing. For a lot of people, being able to choose that is a benefit, and the idea of paying by performance relies on a very dodgy assumption about motivation, namely that only money motivates. Social performance inducers are much stronger; a culture of performance is much more effective than test-driven bonus schemes; pride in outcomes does far more than a few thousand extra a year that might land you on the next layoff list when budget cuts come down.
posted by fatbird at 1:43 PM on February 1 [4 favorites]


no one is suggesting that, rather hiring more teachers to bring class size down is probably a poor way to spend money.

Sara - I went to a public elementary school with less that 16 kids per class by rule. Actually the G&T class had 12.
posted by JPD at 1:43 PM on February 1


The BULLSHIT indicator is strong on this story.

(1) I love to see the New York Times giving its attention to problems with an education system NOT in New York City

(2) As a kid who grew up in L.A. (many years ago, yes) and was taken out of L.A.'s Public Schools in favor of an expensive Private School (with children of celebrities, some of whom bullied me), I can proudly declare that almost ALL the Private School teachers were there because they were not qualified to be Public School teachers. Now, one History teacher, years later, could've made it as a star on Fox News...
posted by oneswellfoop at 1:43 PM on February 1


Florida politicoes fighting our state's class size amendment worked with a bunch of lobbying firms and PR flaks to generate and promote biased scholarship to support their opposition to following the law of the state (it's been well over a decade since voters adopted a ballot amendment to require smaller classrooms here, but that law doesn't count to these scofflaws, and they've got all the manufactured data in the world to justify their intransigence). Considering the actual, broader sociological goals of a classroom (as opposed to the new post-MBA goals defined for society by various education privatization advocates and their mercenary armies of "experts"), it should be immediately obvious that there are benefits to smaller classrooms.

America is screwing up its education system so quickly now, and running so blindly in the wrong direction with its reform attempts, I have a hard time not losing hope over it entirely. I think we're failing an entire generation of kids in ways both subtle and grotesque, and it's not the fault of the teachers or their unions, but of "reformers" who are motivated by greed and bad faith contempt for public institutions.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:43 PM on February 1 [3 favorites]


shivohum: "Like the ability to throw out disruptive troublemakers without months of administrative process?"

It turns out that disruptive students take so long to remove from the classroom for the same reason that incompetent teachers do: Students and teachers in a public school system have Constitutionally-protected due process rights because the acting agent in either scenario is a governmental entity.

chimaera: "Start with cutting "administration" roles by 75%. If you're not in the classroom, you better have a DAMN good reason not to be. One of the teachers can double as vice principal for extra pay."

Out of curiosity, at your place of business, how many employees does a manager manage? Average in corporate America is something like 10 employees for 1 manager. In school systems, you might be looking at 1 principal for 50 teachers, 8 janitors, 2 counselors, 30 parapros, 5 cafeteria workers, 2 secretaries, and 600 students. DEFINITELY CUT THAT ADMINISTRATIVE STAFF BY SEVENTY-FIVE PERCENT. His one leg should be able to do the job.

chimaera: "Get better assessments -- "360" reviews that take into account student performance, student opinion, admin opinion. "

Who will be performing these assessments with 75% of administrators gone? We're doing "360" reviews and it's an enormous, enormous input of administrative and managerial time. Like, ENORMOUS. Almost unmanageable without drastic increases in staff. How can one person possibly do a 360 review of 50 employees in 180 days, AND manage a building, AND discipline students, AND do building schedules, AND oversee budgets, AND manage extracurriculars, AND fill out paperwork for the 8 million things that require paperwork, AND deal with angry parents?
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 1:47 PM on February 1 [15 favorites]


Wait, are people suggesting we fire teachers and replace them with no one? Because this argument about class size seems like a derail to me.

Well, like Sara C., I'm wondering what happens to all the kids whose terrible teachers have been fired. Who teaches them? The not-terrible teachers already at that school? Does the school hire more teachers - and assuming that they do, then what are they going to do that they weren't doing before to keep those new hires from becoming terrible teachers? Presumably they didn't start out hiring people they thought would be terrible, so either they need to refine their "terrible, don't hire!" measures or do something to keep those burnouts from becoming burnouts in the first place.

Re class size: A major limiting factor is going to be your physical plant. Most high schools don't have the huge lecture halls that many universities do. The standard classroom of my high school would never have fit more than 30 people (and their desks/chairs/other classroom furniture). Are you going to renovate every school to accommodate a minimum of 60 students? Who pays for that?
posted by rtha at 1:53 PM on February 1 [5 favorites]


Where are all these amazing teachers that aren't already teaching?

If we fire all the bad teachers, who do we replace them with, and how to we ensure that those teachers aren't "bad"?


You and I probably agree that ending tenure and engaging in the wholesale firing of teachers isn't desirable as a rule; I just question the argument that we shouldn't do it because we have no one to replace them with. I can tell you that when I graduated with a teaching certificate, it was goddamn hard to find a job, and I would have been thrilled to have an opportunity. Maybe I'd be just as ineffective, but I would have been passionate and cheaper and still at a point where I thought I could have made a difference.
posted by MoonOrb at 1:53 PM on February 1 [2 favorites]


Honestly, people, if we were to suddenly fire every marginal employee in every industry, we'd have a metric fuckton of unemployed people. And, yet, so many people are willing to jump on teachers, and only teachers.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 1:54 PM on February 1 [15 favorites]


What's interesting to me is that you never hear this same talk about incompetent paramilitary people, like cops, from the right wing. I wonder why that is...gosh. It's always teachers. Funny how they all had awful teachers and a ton of success anyway. I guess they really did do it all themselves.

(The comment above about firing all the below-average teachers until all teacher's are above average is an excellent bit of parody, and exactly how people who don't actually think things through come to support absurd ideas.)
posted by maxwelton at 1:54 PM on February 1 [21 favorites]


We sure do spend a lot of time talking about how we can spend less for education, despite the almost universal proclamations people make about how we "value" it so much...
posted by saulgoodman at 1:56 PM on February 1 [2 favorites]


One reason is because teachers affect the lives of hundreds or thousands of people in their careers in a possibly profound way, unlike how a below average employee in most other industries primarily affects the bottom line of his company and maybe the morale of his coworkers.
posted by MoonOrb at 1:57 PM on February 1 [2 favorites]


Start with cutting "administration" roles by 75%. If you're not in the classroom, you better have a DAMN good reason not to be. One of the teachers can double as vice principal for extra pay.

Have you seen a school any time in the last several years? We have a principal, a vice principal, and two deans and we need them badly. Who do you think deals with discipline issues? Parent conferences? 504 plans? School board meetings? District mandates? Oversees schoolwide testing? And probably a thousand other things I totally don't know about because I don't have to deal with it. Administrators (or at least good ones) allow teachers to focus on teaching. You need fewer administrators for better schools, yes, but you need a lot for failing schools.

Get better assessments -- "360" reviews that take into account student performance, student opinion, admin opinion.

I'd like all of my reviews on PS4, thank you very much.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 2:09 PM on February 1


Pay by performance always reminds me of those stories from tech firms that evaluated by lines of code checked in, without ever taking into account whether it was bugged or poorly-commented. Then they wise up and evaluate by comments, so people comment everything. So then they evaluate by bugs found, so people start kickback programs with the debuggers...
posted by Dr.Enormous at 2:11 PM on February 1 [8 favorites]


Yeah, pay by performance is the worst idea ever. Promote by performance, in the sense of job performance as a teacher, not test scores, but giving bonus money to teachers that have good kids, just keeps the best teachers on the best kids.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 2:12 PM on February 1 [1 favorite]


In school systems, you might be looking at 1 principal for 50 teachers, 8 janitors, 2 counselors, 30 parapros, 5 cafeteria workers, 2 secretaries, and 600 students.

One of the major problems with discussing school reform in the U.S. is that the systems vary so much, not only from state to state, but from district to district within a state.

In my district, your hypothetical school would have at least 2 principals who would not be directly responsible for any of those workers except the teachers.
This is good, in the sense that the principals can concentrate directly on school related administrative duties, but bad in the sense that all of those other workers have at least 2 layers of extra management.
posted by madajb at 2:17 PM on February 1


If literally doubling teachers' salaries gave a significant boost in performance there would be plenty of private schools that do just that. Instead, we see that private schools tend to only pay their teachers somewhat more. They can have much nicer amenities and extracurricular activities (though I don't know whether the last is a plus for teachers) but the teachers generally don't earn very much more in exchange for the loss of tenure. This tells me that either the very best teachers aren't much better than the "good but not exceptional" ones, or that schools don't believe they can identify them. Scrapping public school tenure in exchange for higher salaries might improve performance, but the evidence is actually against it.
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:28 PM on February 1 [1 favorite]


68k is more than the median income for people with college educations in California. If a public school teacher isn't exactly the sort of job that should be middle class I don't know what is.

Should be upper class. Doctor, lawyer, banker, executive, teacher.

Obviously we need to start attracting & producing these superior teachers, keep them from burning out... I offer no swift solutions.

(Just having a union in America tends to mark a job as low-status and potentially low-skill. I know a couple "elites" who talk somewhat idly about dropping out to become a teacher - first thing to note is that that's considered dropping out - second thing is that union teaching positions are out of the question, it's charters or privates that are seen as worthwhile potential employers.)
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 2:29 PM on February 1 [1 favorite]


So $68k is more than the median? Does this prove that you can live a decent life in California with this pay? Perhaps if you never want to own a home or have a family, or you love really shitty places like Riverside.
posted by Brocktoon at 2:29 PM on February 1 [2 favorites]


Joe in Australia, have you seen Scot's College or SKEGS? Much nicer amenities and extracurricular activities is a bit of an understatement. And I wouldn't think that teachers at such institutions spend a lot of time dealing with people from lower socio-economic backgrounds, which can have a reasonable effect on educational outcomes.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 2:33 PM on February 1


Instead, we see that private schools tend to only pay their teachers somewhat more.

Actually my understanding is that private schools tend to pay teachers less, because good teachers enjoy schools where they get curricular freedom and can effectively discipline disruptive students.
posted by shivohum at 2:38 PM on February 1 [6 favorites]


I don't understand the commentary that removing failed teachers would mean larger class sizes. Here in Ontario, and I think in most of Canada, teaching is a relatively desirable profession. It is difficult now for recent graduates to find teaching jobs. Clearing the deadwood would give younger people opportunity to start their career. The best teacher I ever had was about 23 at the time he taught me. There's value in new blood that can relate to the students. Now teachers here retire with pension and come back for extra cash as substitutes, further pushing new teachers aside.
posted by TimTypeZed at 2:42 PM on February 1 [1 favorite]


Here's a piece from KQED public radio about what it would cost for a family of 4 to live "comfortably" in San Francisco (it's about $84K). There are links there to the organization that developed the calculator.

Here is the pay schedule (PDF) for teachers in the SFUSD. A teacher who maxes out all their education bonuses and stuff AND has worked for 28 years maxes out at $82K.
posted by rtha at 2:45 PM on February 1


So $68k is more than the median? Does this prove that you can live a decent life in California with this pay? Perhaps if you never want to own a home or have a family, or you love really shitty places like Riverside.

The issue is affordable housing, not salary. Yes you should be able to live a decent salary on that wage. It is after all more than most people in the state make. That's what is meant by median.

They also receive better benefits and a DB pension plan.

I'm not saying they are overpaid - just that it appears to provide a middle class lifestyle. Being middle class doesn't mean you don't commute, it doesn't mean you can live where ever you want. In 1963 a UAW job wasn't putting you in Grosse Pointe.

Don't have to live in SF proper, a four person family implies two adults, two salaries.

No to mention median household income in SF is 73k. So according to KQED I guess more than half of SF is not "comfortable."
posted by JPD at 2:52 PM on February 1 [1 favorite]


I'd bet my last dollar that, to the financiers of all these public-sector shenanigans, 82k is chump-change. They value their time and abilities much more highly. 'Cause, you know, they're worth it.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 2:55 PM on February 1 [1 favorite]


Have we any alternative metrics on which TFA/charter teachers underperform traditional teachers?

The fact that it would be really useful to have a good metric for evaluating teachers does not mean you get to pretend that the one you're using actually works.
posted by straight at 2:59 PM on February 1 [2 favorites]


otto42: 180 days school days / 220 normal work days = 81.8%.

68k / 81.8% = 83k / year


Ohohohohohohohoho ... while the equation seems simple, it is not. My mother was an elementary school teacher in California for her entire professional career, and my wife has taught high school in California, and now teaches high school math in New Mexico.

There may be only 180 school days, but that doesn't mean there are only 180 days of work. There are in-service days and other mandatory training when students aren't present, there are days spent preparing the class room and the curriculum, and days upon days upon days grading. Mind you, these aren't 8-hour days, either.

For instance, my wife generally spends between 4 and 8 hours on her weekends grading material and preparing for the next week, writing new tests and whatnot. And that's not mentioning the grading she does during her "breaks" at school when there aren't kids asking questions, and grading at home after school. Oh, and the early mornings or long days spent helping kids who want extra help. Yes, teachers can take shortcuts, but that's lazy, and kids catch on to the tricks used by lazy teachers. Even in elementary school, my mom spent a ton of time preparing for class, and writing up evaluations of the students work.

So the summer months off, or solid months between quarters for year-round schools, are the only real "time off" a teacher can expect. Even then, they're preparing for the next semester, or reviewing new text books, or getting ready to teach to new common standards, or filling out paperwork for personal evaluations.

So teachers don't have the cushy, "free time" that so many people assume from looking at school calendars.
posted by filthy light thief at 3:03 PM on February 1 [14 favorites]


Otto: Because of course they don't need to eat or pay bills for those months they are not teaching.

Most schools have a budget for continuing education. However, it tends not to cover everything when a teacher goes to actually get some classes in. Teachers are paying to keep their jobs during the off months (if they, as most teachers I know, spend them doing continuing ed).

On preview, Filthy Light Thief said it better.
posted by Hactar at 3:04 PM on February 1


So according to KQED I guess more than half of SF is not "comfortable."

Well, KQED didn't come up with the metric, but if you've at all been following the stories about the skyrocketing cost of housing in the Bay Area, and especially in San Francisco, then yeah, a huge number of people in SF are not "comfortable."
posted by rtha at 3:05 PM on February 1 [1 favorite]


marginal vs average tho. And yes - it sucks that housing costs are so high - it basically means most people have to commute. Manhattan is mostly the same thing.
posted by JPD at 3:06 PM on February 1


And it's fun to think that it would be so easy to evaluate teachers on their skills, but how do you do that? Evaluate how well the students do? Great, because that's such a fair and even source of data. Say you're a 5th grade teacher, and you have certain goals to meet with your students. That's fine and dandy, but what if the previous teacher failed to meet their marks, or kids have issues at home that make school a low priority in life, or the kid comes in from another state or country. Oh, or they have learning disabilities, ranging from mild test anxiety to something that will probably keep the young person from ever being able to read proficiently. How are those students factored into the teacher's score?

Students aren't widgets to produce, reflecting the productivity and effective rate of a teacher. Students are complex people with a range of abilities and educational histories. So let's test the teachers, right? But that won't reflect their skills in the classroom.

So, how do we rank and rate teachers?
posted by filthy light thief at 3:08 PM on February 1 [1 favorite]


I just want to point out that my original point was that paying teachers more probably doesn't improve educational outcomes by attracting better teachers - there is not evidence that US teachers are underpaid by the standards of other developed countries with supposedly superior educational outcomes.
posted by JPD at 3:10 PM on February 1


I have been teaching in public schools (and a year at an independent school) for 10 years.

High school valedictorians, kids w/ perfect SATs, kids w/ many AP 5's - they don't major in education, they don't become teachers except through TFA and other secondary pipelines for high-achievers.

One: the skills to be a good teacher are not the same as to achieve high grades in school oneself. In fact, for some people, the lack of empathy with what it's like to have difficulties in school caused by a lack of personal experience with that struggle would make it difficult to teach well.

Two: Your assertion is faulty. While it's true that I didn't "major" in education (lots of teachers have subject-specific degrees, btw, esp. at the secondary level), let's see... 3.9+ (oh, gym class, curse you) HS GPA; 3.9+ (oh, stupid required 'welcome to college' course, curse you too) college GPA; 1580 SAT; yes, I did get that 4 on the Calc BC AP (mea culpa), but hey, the other seven exams I took were 5s; Ivy League degree? Check... and I'm a teacher. (Any other arbitrary measures you'd like to insist teachers meet?) And yes, I even know other people who also did well in school who are, in fact, teachers.

Yes, I know my subject very, very well. Better than most teachers do, yes. But while that certainly helps and is one of the (sine qua non) components of being a good teacher, it is NOT the whole picture. As a glance at, say, the current MA rubric for teacher evaluation would tell you.

I am sorry so many people on Metafilter only have experience with bad schools or teachers. I know a lot of (and had myself) really excellent, qualified teachers. In public school.
posted by lysimache at 3:14 PM on February 1 [9 favorites]


If we're going to say that the median of $68K is a useful statistic, then what of locating all schools in the parts of California where housing prices compare favorably to the median statewide? That doesn't seem to make much sense.
posted by rhizome at 3:18 PM on February 1


In the time I was composing my comment flf asked the question really on my mind after reading this thread.

How *do* we rank and rate teachers?

We can't have a system where student evals are the only thing that matter, because students are too incentivized to evaluate teachers on things other than how much they as students learn.

We can't have parents rate them, because many parents don't know what their kids are learning, and some subset would want to act politically (e.g. fire that teacher, he's gay).

We can't use standardized test scores (although we do now) because they don't test the educational outcomes we're actually interested in; developing tests is a for-profit business, costly, and very hard to do well. Also if a teacher gets a class of poorly performing students, and raises them up to average, they would still only have blah scores even if the tests were a good measure.

What about standardized tests that measure improvement of the students over the previous year? at least that would mitigate the effect of what students know before they enter the classroom, but again, writing good standardized tests is practically impossible.

We don't want a completely subjective rating by the principal/other administrators, because the pressure on them to respond to politics (fire him, he's gay; or fire her, she taught evolution) is too great. So is the pressure to cost cut by firing the older great teacher or the teacher about to earn a pension.

But yeah, many of us have had teachers who were dead weight (I went to a large public school and managed not to have mostly great teachers myself, but they were certainly bad ones around). So how do we design an evaluation system that does all of these tasks:
1) reward and motivate good teachers
2) remove the teachers that are burnt out/never were any good
3) educate students in critical thinking etc (skills that are hard to test)
4) protect teachers/students from politics
5) protect senior teachers from being fired for monetary reasons

There are probably other things that belong on this list.

It also occurs to me that maybe this is a solved problem; are there places in the US or elsewhere in the world that *do* have good evaluation metrics?
posted by nat at 3:26 PM on February 1 [4 favorites]


lysimache, I thought one of the strengths of the Finnish system was that teaching was a prestigious and competitive profession there, as opposed to in the US where it appears to be seen more as a misbegotten cross between a retail worker, a social worker, and a petty bureaucrat.
posted by en forme de poire at 3:29 PM on February 1 [2 favorites]


...and set up a seniority system in which the teachers most recently hired must be the first to lose their jobs...

Without these safeguards, the unions say, the profession will not attract new teachers.
These two statements seem wildly at odds with each other, why would a young, just entering the profession, teacher want to join the union?

"Join our union and we promise you'll be the first to be fired."
posted by Confess, Fletch at 3:32 PM on February 1 [1 favorite]


as opposed to in the US where it appears to be seen more as a misbegotten cross between a retail worker, a social worker, and a petty bureaucrat.

And that is a big part of my sense that salaries should be drastically increased. Pretty much everything falls on the teacher, and they have had multiple partial occupations pushed onto them besides teaching the subject they are supposed to be teaching. They are also required to be nice about it.
posted by rhizome at 3:32 PM on February 1 [1 favorite]


How *do* we rank and rate teachers?

Why not have teachers evaluate each other? There would clearly emerge a few which all the other teachers respected, and a few which almost everyone knew were terrible. Get rid of the terrible ones, reward the great ones. Give the principal a veto to safeguard against any abuses.
posted by shivohum at 3:43 PM on February 1


The problems of incompetent teachers or pay are really side issues. the real problem that I encountered when I was teaching was the huge mandated bureaucracy and paperwork.

Let's start with testing and grading. For a teacher with 5 classes, that's 150 students that the teacher has to create lesson plans and tests for, grade and analyze. And you can't just let a spreadsheet handle the students test results- each one as to be looked at individually with comments as needed. Then there's the reports and metrics required by the school, district, state and federal government. That's four bosses right there, even before you get irate parents coming in demanding that little Timmy be allowed to repeat the test he just failed. The lesson plans themselves are complex, and have to involve multiple learning areas and meet radically different metrics. A history unit for example also has to meet standards for writing and other subjects, engage the students several different ways, provide opportunities for homework and group collaboration, and at the same time, meet the guidelines given by the district, state, and federal government- with their associated paperwork. Oh yeah, and then thee's discipline problems, which have their own protocol. In other words, the administration aspect to teaching is crippling.

So yeah, go ahead and fire incompetent teachers, and pay them less for larger classrooms. Tie their pay to performance. Meanwhile, look at this! JP Morgan Chase CEO gets raise after disasterous year!

You know, fuck this bullshit. It's obvious what Americans want and care about, and they'll get the society they deserve.
posted by happyroach at 3:45 PM on February 1 [9 favorites]


What's interesting to me is that you never hear this same talk about incompetent paramilitary people, like cops, from the right wing.

The hell you say! You just need to read some more right wingers.

As to teachers, I've mentioned it before, but The Cartel is an interesting view if you haven't seen it. One of the director's larger gripes is with bloated adminstration engorging engorging money for little work. If tenure is a gimme in response to low salaries, then it would make sense to cut the administrative side of things and put the money in teacher's pockets. (No doubt there are 101 good reasons not to do so....)
posted by IndigoJones at 4:21 PM on February 1


The difference with the teaching profession versus other professions is that in any city or town, there is a single employer: the public school district. Districts communicate with each other, so a teacher fired from one district probably has their profession flushed down the toilet unless they move far away. That's pretty lousy if you've spent six years getting an education for that profession - flushed away because the principal didn't like you that much and he had a friend whose kid needed a job.
posted by RalphSlate at 4:39 PM on February 1


Is "bad sucky teachers who don't give a shit" actually a major culprit in what's wrong with the American education system?

No.

Average California teacher salary is $68,531, are you seriously saying that we need to pay teachers $205k for kids to get a good education?

Yes.
posted by chainsofreedom at 4:41 PM on February 1 [2 favorites]


When people speak so strongly against tenure for teachers, I wonder how many realize that many government agencies have similar set-ups, where you have to be a systematically and repeatedly awful employee to be terminated if you are retained beyond your probationary period, which is typically 6 months to a year. In my last job, they had only ever fired one person, and we found that he had boxes full of files he hadn't dealt with, apparently because they were difficult. Most folks were diligent workers, but some people skated on by.

As mentioned elsewhere, tenure is a benefit to make teaching both safer, in terms of concern from parents or administrators who get riled up or pushed because of "controversial" topics (see: basic sex education), and security for continued employment. I'm a urban/regional planner by trade, and I could work for a government agency and get paid less, but I'll get benefits and a pay check, even when there isn't a ton of work, or when there are personal issues that could result in my termination in the private sector. At the same time, not all employees are working their hardest all the time. But can you really expect 100% effort all the time?

Maybe instead of people getting upset at teachers and their "generous" "vacation" periods, why not fight for better benefits for everyone, including increased paid vacation (and paid parental leave) as a standard for all? The US ranks pretty poorly against other "leading" countries in terms of statutory minimum employment leave and parental leave.
posted by filthy light thief at 4:45 PM on February 1 [2 favorites]


445supermag: Average California teacher salary is $68,531, are you seriously saying that we need to pay teachers $205k for kids to get a good education?

Note also the highest amount of money a teacher can expect to make in California: $85,989

Not a lot of incentive for serious long-term employment, is it, especially compared to salaries offered by career employees in other sectors.

And really, isn't the education of future generations worth more?
posted by filthy light thief at 4:51 PM on February 1


Also, by paying teachers more, you're likely to get an actual competitive pool of applicants, instead of schools scrambling to fill science and math positions with anyone who scrapes by their clearances to teach the subjects.
posted by filthy light thief at 5:01 PM on February 1


Why not have teachers evaluate each other?

This gets at what might reasonably work, if such evaluation included actual observation over time. A teacher can see another teacher controlling a class, preparing a lesson plan, delivering it effectively and verifying the teachables; a teacher can tell if another teacher needs some coaching on classroom management or if they did the best they could in a situation where a student's outside issues prevented a better outcome. But that requires actual supervision or review or time spent evaluating, not just listening to the gossip in the staff room or filling out surveys where they rank their colleagues. And that's expensive and thus, unacceptable to the cutters who'd rather a high-handed principal dispense bonuses and pink slips to keep everyone running around.
posted by fatbird at 5:05 PM on February 1 [1 favorite]


Maybe instead of people getting upset at teachers and their "generous" "vacation" periods, why not fight for better benefits for everyone, including increased paid vacation (and paid parental leave) as a standard for all? The US ranks pretty poorly against other "leading" countries in terms of statutory minimum employment leave and parental leave.

It's a race to the bottom, not a race to the top, dude.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 5:10 PM on February 1 [2 favorites]


In what universe is 68k 'underpaid', particularly outside of STEM and in the public sector?

Well, I pulled up the statewide data available here. So let's see what some other professions average salaries are.
Occupational Title				Mean Annual Wage
================================================================
Marketing Managers				$148,756
Sales Managers					$130,611
Public Relations Managers			$120,064
Advertising and Promotions Managers		$119,733
Sales Engineers					$110,897
Personal Financial Advisors			$93,782
Film and Video Editors				$90,508
Captains, Mates, and Pilots of Water Vessels	$87,122
Multi-Media Artists and Animators		$85,743
Police and Sheriff's Patrol Officers		$85,340
Technical Writers				$83,004
Funeral Service Managers			$82,411
Loan Officers					$82,191
Urban and Regional Planners			$81,863
Court Reporters					$77,879
Pile-Driver Operators				$76,922
Insurance Sales Agents				$75,892
Historians					$75,407
Public Relations Specialists			$74,795
Fallers						$72,817
Dredge Operators				$71,775
Fashion Designers				$71,453
Camera Operators				$70,024
Appraisers and Assessors of Real Estate		$69,630
Boilermakers					$69,388

People make a lot of noise about how important teachers are. That's the ostensible reason for this lawsuit. But we really don't seem to want to pay them accordingly, especially considering how much we expect them to spend in time and money on the education to become one.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 5:12 PM on February 1 [9 favorites]


Ok, so I read (most of) the thread and one thing I haven't seen is...

Is there any legal basis to this lawsuit ?
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 5:13 PM on February 1


My experience with bad teachers is that they were hired to coach something, and in the absence of tenure would probably not be fired while they're still coaching. The teachers who I suspect would be fired are the ones who give fair grades to underperforming kids of entitled parents.
posted by BrotherCaine at 5:14 PM on February 1 [2 favorites]


Also, this stuck out:
Correctional Officers and Jailers		$67,740
That's right. Teachers in California make on average as much as prison guards. Because I guess that's what they're expected to be. May as well qualify them with a 6 month certificate and courses on restraining kids and be done with it.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 5:16 PM on February 1 [1 favorite]


Here in Ontario, and I think in most of Canada, teaching is a relatively desirable profession. It is difficult now for recent graduates to find teaching jobs. Clearing the deadwood would give younger people opportunity to start their career.

In the US there isn't a backlog of people who dream of being teachers but who can't find jobs. Teachers are far more in demand, careerwise, than almost any other job people who major outside of STEM imagine themselves doing.

If anything, the problem with bad teachers is that teachers are in high demand and schools can't afford to be terribly picky about who they hire.
posted by Sara C. at 5:25 PM on February 1


Fallers $72,817

I don't know what this job is, but they make like twice my salary and I am bitter.

I am a teacher.
posted by chainsofreedom at 5:29 PM on February 1 [2 favorites]


In the US there isn't a backlog of people who dream of being teachers but who can't find jobs.

This is not true.
posted by the young rope-rider at 5:29 PM on February 1 [3 favorites]


This is not true.

Where are these people?

I have a lot of friends who are teachers. Most of them do it because, unlike being an art conservator, graphic designer, librarian, or nonprofit administrator, there are actual teaching jobs out there. You may not have your pick of schools, and some subject areas are more competitive than others, but all of my friends who wanted to be teachers have jobs within their particular specialization (montessori, high school humanities, ESL, etc), even the ones who live in major cities.

My aunt is a high school English teacher in rural Mississippi with no more education than a 20 year old General Studies BA.

I mean, like any job, there is a possibility of being unemployed if you're unlucky. But compared to most career paths for people who work outside STEM, it's in relatively high demand.

And if schools have such choice over who to hire, how are we in this situation anyway? Why is the solution firing teachers and not reforming the teacher hiring process, if they keep letting all these incompetent people in?
posted by Sara C. at 5:40 PM on February 1


This gets at what might reasonably work, if such evaluation included actual observation over time.

I'm pretty sure teachers evaluating other teachers was the performance evaluation model we used to have in Florida, back before all the privatization and other reforms of the last two decades. Probably just coincidental that Florida's gone from having one of the highest ranked education systems in the country to being ranked among the worst over roughly the same period of time as this and all those other wonderful reforms went into effect.
posted by saulgoodman at 6:12 PM on February 1 [1 favorite]


I don't know what this job is, but they make like twice my salary and I am bitter.

Fallers are the people on a logging crew who actually cut down trees with a chainsaw. It's a demanding and dangerous job, so I certainly don't think they are overpaid. That said, they tend to live in places where housing is cheap, and they tend to not have massive amounts of student debt. Also, good fallers often become supervisors.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 6:27 PM on February 1 [4 favorites]


Paying teachers appropriately (more than they are now) sounds great... But I've certainly had high-payed coworkers who were bad employees (i'm not in the educational profession) - high pay does not equal quality workers. Certainly it may attract more workers into a profession, but it might also attract folks that don't have a passion for the profession, but are just attracted to the money - see lawyers, tech workers, MBAs.

I have had inspirational, awesome teachers (here is a good benchmark on what that looks like - they teach a subject you didn't care about or hated before you took their class - then you became interested/passionate). But I've also had awful, horrid teachers that shouldn't be allowed near children, let alone teaching them (here's a good benchmark on what a bad teacher looks like - they take a subject you love and are passionate about and make you disinterested/want to avoid that subject forever).

So, there's a bell curve to teachers - and perhaps we can agree that the bottom of the bell curve is *harming our children*, and their future - really, this is what's going on. Anecdata on an awful teacher; telling the entire class of students 'you're all stupid!' [shouting at them, actually].

'Tenure' is the magic word that's used by administrators and others to explain why they can't get rid of awful teachers. What if, just as a thought exercise, what if, the teaching unions made it their mission to enable getting rid of awful teachers, and worked hand in hand with administration and parents to help root out, identify, and then get rid of these people (ideally drumming them from the profession forever).

But the problem, for me, is that the opposition to elimination of tenure doesn't seem to address the root problem - there are awful teachers that shouldn't be near children. Yes, tenure may be a good idea and may solve a ton of abuses by administration and others, but if it comes with the 'we can't get rid of the bad teachers' then it's not a good program.

Giving teachers more money won't make bad teachers good ones (and hell, it may attract a generation of teachers who are there for the money - which would be *awful*).

No, we don't need to fire the bottom half of the bell curve, we don't even need to fire all the *bad* teachers, but for for goodness sakes, can we as a society make a concerted effort to get rid of the *awful* teachers? And if we can't do this, but instead talk about how teachers aren't getting paid enough (probably true), classroom sizes are too large (probably true), most schools are underfunded (sure), and then the end result is we leave awful horrid teachers destroying our childrens childhood... Well, that's just fucked.

And yeah, awful teachers do more than destroy the love for a particular subject - they destroy childrens self esteem, they enable/facilitate bullying, they actively ignore problems in childrens life that require intervention (abusive homes, etc).

While it's true that some conservatives are actively attacking public sector union workers - if we can't actually fix these problems, then may be they should be. [and while I don't consider myself a conservative, I'm openly hostile to at least one public sector union - the police unions].
posted by el io at 6:35 PM on February 1 [1 favorite]


I think there are two important pieces to the puzzle that America is missing.

One is teacher preparation programs. Most teacher prep programs (which often doubles as a M.Ed. program) last a year, sometimes two. Many of them only include a few weeks of practicum.

The teaching profession is badly in need of a new idea of what it means to be "ready" to teach and how one gets to that point. Teachers need a much longer residency/apprenticeship type of model. If every teacher spent 3-4 years working in a classroom with experienced mentor teachers while earning a masters, there might not be absurd teacher turnover statistics (in my city, 50% of new teachers leave the profession within 3 years - it's an absurd meat grinder). Most teachers aren't ready to be effective teachers after one year of classes and a few weeks of practicum - that doesn't mean they'll never become effective teachers, but they need more time, guidance, experience, etc. Even if one believes that learning to be an effective teacher is simpler than learning to be a plumber or an electrician or a doctor, it's hard to believe it's 3-6 times easier to learn. Crappy teacher prep isn't fair to the students, and it's not fair to the teachers. It is horrible to be an ineffective teacher. Ask me how I know.

The second missing piece is teacher pay. Longer teacher residencies are only possible if teachers can look forward to higher pay on the other side. No one is going to spend 4 years living on loans or a tiny stipend from a M.Ed program if they're going to start out at $30k.

tl;dr: (1) Dramatically increase the length, rigor, and amount of in-classroom experience in teacher prep programs and (2) increase teacher pay to attract candidates willing and able to go through such a program.

The discussion of education in the US is a really weird one. There are all sorts of strange codes of morality and brutality that people like to mold the debate around. I wonder if this debate taps into everyone's inner adolescent a little; everything seems very dramatic and black-and-white.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 6:36 PM on February 1 [9 favorites]


I want to emphasize this:

If you teach in America, chances are you had at most 1 year of teacher prep before you had your own classroom. EVERYONE is a bad teacher when they start. Most people are bad teachers for several years. Being a bad teacher is an exhausting, demoralizing, horrible experience, and most people don't survive past those first few years after which they might start to become a better teacher, and a few years down the line, maybe even a good one. I wish my state had required me to spend three years as a teaching resident before I was allowed to inflict myself on students.

Improving teacher education is, unfortunately, a soft, non-visceral solution that won't produce results until the next political cycle.

I'd also like to quote madajb for truth:

One of the major problems with discussing school reform in the U.S. is that the systems vary so much, not only from state to state, but from district to district within a state.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 6:51 PM on February 1 [3 favorites]


Salvor: your point is a good one (it takes time to become a bad teacher) - that being said, all my experiences with *awful* teachers were with ones that had 10+ years experience.
posted by el io at 6:58 PM on February 1


How *do* we rank and rate teachers?

The same way you rank and rate any profession that doesn't lend itself to strict metrics:

A combination of objective measurements, then an evaluation by your boss and maybe your peers if teamwork is an important component of your job.

For example, when I was a network admin in IT, it was a job that didn't really map to an "X number of widgets an hour" framework.
But when the performance review came around, you could objectively measure, say, network uptime, number of new switches deployed, support tickets fulfilled, etc.
Combine that with a subjective evaluation from my boss, and maybe some customer surveys and you've got a pretty good idea if I'm a worthwhile employee.

Similarly, for a teacher, you could measure average test scores for the class vs. average test scores for the grade as a whole, number of kids moved onto the next grade, good scores on a parent survey, etc.
Make it a year over year evaluation, so a teacher doesn't get dinged for just having a crappy class one term.
Combine that with a review from a department head/principal and you've got a pretty good idea of who performs well vs. their peers.

How does tenure fit into this?
Maybe there could be a 5 year contract system, so rather than "job for life", you get a renewable 5 year contract.
Do consistently better than your peers, you get a better raise, and maybe a 7 year contract next time.
Do consistently worse than your peers, when your 5 year contract is up, you are shown the door.
posted by madajb at 6:59 PM on February 1 [1 favorite]


The problem isn't the number of bad teachers in the schools. The problem is that the efforts to identify and drive out bad teachers is creating a shortage of great ones. Basic economics suggest that as you reduce benefits, workers able to find other jobs will start looking. The best teachers are the most skilled and most able to find alternative employment.
posted by humanfont at 7:05 PM on February 1 [5 favorites]


the best teachers should be thrilled about efforts get rid of the awful ones... (and ideally stepping up to the plate to help enable this - they know who their awful peers are).

However, as I've seen in the private sector, when management axes 10-15% of the workforce and it looks random and arbitrary, morale goes down the tubes and people want a job elsewhere.
posted by el io at 7:12 PM on February 1


Let's start with testing and grading. For a teacher with 5 classes, that's 150 students that the teacher has to create lesson plans and tests for, grade and analyze. And you can't just let a spreadsheet handle the students test results- each one as to be looked at individually with comments as needed. Then there's the reports and metrics required by the school, district, state and federal government. That's four bosses right there, even before you get irate parents coming in demanding that little Timmy be allowed to repeat the test he just failed. The lesson plans themselves are complex, and have to involve multiple learning areas and meet radically different metrics. A history unit for example also has to meet standards for writing and other subjects, engage the students several different ways, provide opportunities for homework and group collaboration, and at the same time, meet the guidelines given by the district, state, and federal government- with their associated paperwork. Oh yeah, and then thee's discipline problems, which have their own protocol. In other words, the administration aspect to teaching is crippling.

Almost all of these issues would be directly or indirectly addressed by smaller teacher-student ratios, wouldn’t they?

I’m wondering about the tyranny of grading, and whether there might be room for a return to oral exams, even in early years. (They wouldn't have to be scary for the kids; structured questions could be delivered in a friendly, informal way, and assessments could be agreed the same day.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 7:34 PM on February 1


and ideally stepping up to the plate to help enable this - they know who their awful peers are

"Teachers! See something, say something... and earn merit bonuses based on the number of scalps you collect!"

Seriously, no one is going to bat to make sure that awful teachers don't get fired. You're talking about this issue like there's a conspiracy to protect awful teachers, the way the Catholic Church moved molesting priests to a new diocese.

The first party to blame for a teacher not being fired is the admin. There are disciplinary mechanisms available. You can fire teachers. If the admin won't avail itself of those mechanisms, that's bad management. If that process is too cumbersome, negotiate a better one. The union does not see its mission as protecting awful teachers.
posted by fatbird at 8:01 PM on February 1 [3 favorites]


Good teachers are worried about "bad" teachers being fired because we currently have no meaningful way to ensure that only the bad ones are fired, and they don't trust that if they give up hard fought protections like tenure that we will somehow get it right and take advantage of their reduced job security to only fire the bad ones.
posted by MoonOrb at 8:04 PM on February 1 [2 favorites]


Another thing: education is complicated. It's sometimes the case, as crazy as it sounds, that the teacher that you are convinced is a bad teacher is the same person another student or parent thinks is excellent. And even if that teacher was a terrible teacher for you, it doesn't mean they're terrible for everyone and that we're better off on the whole with them drummed out of the profession. It may sometimes mean this, but it's not as clear cut in as many cases as we'd like to believe.
posted by MoonOrb at 8:08 PM on February 1 [1 favorite]


Like MoonOrb said. The union's incentive is to make sure that a teacher really is awful before they get fired--not just in need of professional development, or a transfer to a different position, or a leave of absence to get their head screwed back on. Their incentive is also to ensure that the process isn't abused to fire teachers who are controversial or who offend a powerful constituency or who just plain don't along with the principal.

Unless you think those are worthless objectives, don't talk about turning the union into the teacher police, because the last thing the union wants is for its own members to distrust it because teachers are worried that the union is also looking to fire them if they put a foot wrong.
posted by fatbird at 8:11 PM on February 1 [2 favorites]


No one should be strongly protected from getting fired even when their work clearly does not merit continued employment, especially public employees who work with children. When I went to a public high school in New York City, I met plenty of teachers who were clearly biding their time and did not care, as well as teachers who were transferred from other schools because they could not be fired, but hadn't done anything quite crazy enough to qualify for the rubber room. This level of protection amounts to theft from children as well as from the taxpayer. I hope that public school teachers are treated like ordinary employees rather than like a protected class someday.
posted by knoyers at 8:20 PM on February 1


roomthreeseventeen: "Actually, many new studies that are being done are coming to the conclusion that class size does not matter, in fact, and that large classes with a great teacher do better than small classes with a bad one."

How do the outcomes for great teachers with small classes and bad teachers in large classes rank?

chainsofreedom: "Fallers $72,817
I don't know what this job is, but they make like twice my salary and I am bitter.
I am a teacher.
"

Fallers are the guys running a large chainsaw (like 36" bar) out in the forest cutting down trees. It's physically demanding and insanely dangerous work far from trauma centers.
posted by Mitheral at 9:05 PM on February 1


Seriously, no one is going to bat to make sure that awful teachers don't get fired. You're talking about this issue like there's a conspiracy to protect awful teachers, the way the Catholic Church moved molesting priests to a new diocese.

Please. The Rubber Rooms are not a myth, though I think they might be at least making them do admin work now.

Unless you think those are worthless objectives, don't talk about turning the union into the teacher police, because the last thing the union wants is for its own members to distrust it because teachers are worried that the union is also looking to fire them if they put a foot wrong.

For contrast, my father was for some years a union electrician, and the IBEW does serve to some extent as electrician police. Fuckup electricians, though, can destroy other electricians' lives, teachers can mostly just mess up non-teachers.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 9:10 PM on February 1 [1 favorite]


I went through a public school system with tenure and there were lots of awful teachers that should have been fired, but instead, they were allowed to continue on being terrible teachers. After I graduated, my principal openly told me that he had problems with a lot of the teachers and the way they taught (one teacher gave all his students As and sent his kids to get donuts for him instead of teaching them), but the tenure system made it so difficult to fire people which meant we were stuck with a lot of inadequate teachers.

This whole debate about paying teachers more is also irrelevant to the issue of tenure. Teachers should be paid more - especially if they're excellent teachers. However, I don't think throwing money at teachers who are checking off the days until retirement will make them any better at teaching. They don't care, they usually don't even like kids and they hate their jobs - giving them a raise won't change that. Firing them will.

Also, I agree the system sucks but it doesn't discount the fact that there are excellent teachers within the same system that bad teachers are operating in. Bad teachers are just bad. Don't make excuses for them and figure out how to make them better (a retraining process?) or get rid of them.
posted by cyml at 9:35 PM on February 1


but it might also attract folks that don't have a passion for the profession, but are just attracted to the money - see lawyers, tech workers, MBAs.

So, why isn't this philosophy ever applied to lawyers, tech workers, or MBAs?
posted by KathrynT at 10:08 PM on February 1 [6 favorites]


programming computers is really fun. it's like solving a bunch of satisfyingly complex logic puzzles for money. and, with any luck, at the end you have a thing that does something useful. it's great, really, truly intrinsically satisfying in a way that most other jobs aren't. great programmers take great joy in what they do. this is why software engineers should accept low salaries for their work.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 10:15 PM on February 1 [13 favorites]


the IBEW does serve to some extent as electrician police

They also function as a certifier and employment agent, and they even have a wage top-up program. The IBEW is, effectively, a service provider to the businesses that hire their electricians, and (IMO) they do a pretty nice job of making a union organization work smoothly within an industry. If teacher's unions filled the same role, it would be reasonable for them to police teachers. They are far from it.

my principal openly told me that he had problems with a lot of the teachers and the way they taught... but the tenure system made it so difficult to fire people which meant we were stuck with a lot of inadequate teachers.

So the principal preferred to let young lives be damaged by awful teachers rather than trouble himself to do something about it? And this is the union's fault? I mean, we're talking here about how awful teachers ruin lives and need to be drummed out of the profession by everyone within arm's reach, but the person who is directly supposed to work the issue isn't at fault for just saying "it's too much paperwork"?
posted by fatbird at 10:25 PM on February 1 [7 favorites]


philip-random: “It's a distraction (conscious or otherwise) from the relevant fact that we've got a pile of uninspired, under-motivated teachers in our various systems, which sucks.”
If you're basing this opinion on student achievement on standardized tests, I think I see where you've made your mistake.


I've said it before, and I'll say it again: If you want children to do well in school and be engaged in their education, they have to have stable homes. That means their parents have to have stable jobs. That means that labor policy in this country is going to have to change radically starting with the idea of at-will employment.

Given the triumph of the Austrian school, this is not going to happen. Therefore, I must conclude we're doomed. Blood and fire it is.
posted by ob1quixote at 10:49 PM on February 1 [7 favorites]


Honestly, people, if we were to suddenly fire every marginal employee in every industry, we'd have a metric fuckton of unemployed people. And, yet, so many people are willing to jump on teachers, and only teachers.

I think that's because teaching is a matter of public policy, unlike most of the other areas where we can talk about incompetent people. There aren't a whole lot of other professions like it.

I've worked with people (in a private corporation) who were utterly, completely incompetent*, but who were secure in their jobs because company policies made it impractical to fire them. It's demoralizing and awful, and I can't really support policies that perpetuate similar situations. If teacher tenure is one of those, it needs to be reformed (perhaps not abolished) so it doesn't do that anymore. No one should be so privileged to be secure in a job they're shitty at.

As a side note, I think reflexively defending workplace polices that protect incompetent people (teachers or otherwise) plays directly into the hands of anti-union groups. Those policies are literally the first thing I hear about whenever I bring up unionization, and frankly, they're compelling. Maybe the unions themselves need to take on some responsibility for enforcing quality work and removing incompetent members, at least as a self-preservation tactic.

* to the point of not knowing basic things about their project, one year after joining the team.
posted by cosmic.osmo at 12:23 AM on February 2 [1 favorite]


Since folks were talking about class size, the research is nowhere as dire as JPD thought: but it's a pretty complicated opportunity cost policy question.
posted by klangklangston at 12:48 AM on February 2 [1 favorite]


Nothing significant is going to change unless we start admitting that American teachers are not good at their jobs. [etc, etc]

Jesus. Armchair education criticism at its worst. Because everyone went through the school system as students, everyone has an opinion of school: what the classes are like, what the administration is like, and what the teachers are like. People don't have these sweeping and generalized opinions about other professions, generally, but everyone and their brother knows just what's up with schools.

For those of us who have actually studied education and have worked as educators, shit like this would be laughable if so many people didn't believe it.
posted by zardoz at 3:38 AM on February 2 [15 favorites]


There are a whole lot of (anecdotal) accounts in this thread of teachers who were just "biding their time til retirement," but it might help to have a more cogent discussion about what that looks like, how it might be detected, and so forth.

Speaking only for myself, I've had some bad teachers, but none who I really recall simply "marking time." I had grade-school teachers who had archaic notions of discipline or rigid models of classroom practice that worked poorly for me, an unmedicated ADHD student. (I also had teachers who worked with me and helped me excel.) I had teachers who had been hired primarily as coaches and weren't that good at anything else, but who nonetheless tried incompetently in classes like health science and physical education. (I also had teachers who coached in their spare time, and were better at teaching than coaching.) And I had high school teachers who tended to be derailed by their particular idiosyncratic fixations, particularly the science teachers at the parochial high school I attended. (I also had teachers whose outside interests or passions for the material, while focused, enriched the classroom.)

I can tell you what each of those kinds of teachers was like, and think of specific things that happened in their lesson plans, assessment models, and classroom management methods. Out of sheer luck, though, I apparently never had a teacher who was genuinely just a jaded punch-clock type. What happens in a classroom when such a teacher is there? How does the instruction, however bad, occur? What do the lesson plans look like?

How does the uninspired, uninterested teacher operate in the classroom? Is it just a lot of "free days," or rote dependence on the textbook (which isn't always the mark of the disengaged teacher; I had some damned strict teachers who treated the textbook like scripture…especially when it was about scripture)?

Because talking about bad teachers and good teachers seems a lot less useful or replicable than talking about good teaching and bad teaching. In the best case, you get rid of the "bad teachers" and replace them with teachers who are trained to do what works and whose employment is structured in a way that maintains their enthusiasm and involvement; in the worst case, if you are too short of teachers for a mass firing, you need some notion of how to retrain.

Or we could go on talking about firing that bad teacher we had once or worked with or met in a hallway.
posted by kewb at 5:43 AM on February 2 [11 favorites]


Much of the negative public attitude comes from the shitty conditions in the US job market coupled with the sour grapes of seeing someone with perks that you don't have. Compare the union teacher jobs with their guaranteed step increases, generous time off, pension, and job security with the average McJob that gives you precisely none of those things. Yes, I know this perception doesn't match up with the reality of most working teachers, but this is the notion.

This won't be remedied by working to elevate all working people to some semblance of dignity, but a real push to drag teachers and other municipal employees down to the cutrate fuck-and-chuck job market that most people in the private sector know today.
posted by dr_dank at 7:07 AM on February 2 [7 favorites]


Much of the negative public attitude comes from the shitty conditions in the US job market coupled with the sour grapes of seeing someone with perks that you don't have. Compare the union teacher jobs with their guaranteed step increases, generous time off, pension, and job security with the average McJob that gives you precisely none of those things. Yes, I know this perception doesn't match up with the reality of most working teachers, but this is the notion.

I've said this here before, but I came to NYC when they were doing international recruiting because they could not staff their (insert term here- lower functioning??) public high schools. Suddenly (or not), ten years later, my formerly "completely undesirable" job that I was given a visa for because legally "no qualified American was able or willing to fill the position" is now a "cushy union job with great retirement perks". What the heck?? When the economy improves again...these jobs will once again be out of the spotlight and back in the shadows. The other real difference now is the corporate money-making focus that seems to have appeared as well. The 1 billion dollars on ipads in LA for example as klangklanston mentioned above and all of the focus on charter schools...

It's all about the money and it's never been about the students. At least that's my experience working in a school in NYC and noting the political and financial changes that have been swirling around since I started.
posted by bquarters at 8:41 AM on February 2 [6 favorites]


I've had some bad teachers, but none who I really recall simply "marking time."

Which is interesting, because I don't remember having more than a few Bad Teachers (I have one obvious choice, and someone else I was acquainted with but who never actually taught me), but I had lots who were marking time. They obviously had no passion for their jobs, didn't seem to be happy people, didn't much care about the students, didn't get involved, taught the same lesson plans year after year, etc.

In a utopia where everything is perfect, yes, those people would be discouraged from staying in teaching to make way for fresher, more passionate people. But to be honest I didn't feel a big gaping lack in my educational life because of teachers who were "marking time".

And to assert that the big failing in American schools is that not every day is a wondrous life lesson teaching bright middle class kids to be self-actualized is highly problematic.
posted by Sara C. at 8:55 AM on February 2 [5 favorites]


Alternative metrics: Paper suggests charter schools increase graduation rate, college attendance/persistence, income, positives not captured by flawed test scores.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 4:47 AM on February 3


the best teachers should be thrilled about efforts get rid of the awful ones... (and ideally stepping up to the plate to help enable this - they know who their awful peers are).

As a manager and employee I've found that the strategy of help us root out your shitty peers most often results in the most politically adept, yet petty people rising to the top. When you are trying to turn a place around any one who has low regard for their peers is someone you should probably look to exit from the organization.

What frustrates me in reading this thread is that in the last ten years there has been a great deal written and demonstrated on what motivates smart, creative and driven people. We've seen how disastrous applying six sigma, TQM and stacked ranking has been for talent driven organizations. Yet against all evidence we continued to ram the idea into schools.
posted by humanfont at 5:28 AM on February 3 [10 favorites]


Alternative metrics: Paper suggests charter schools increase graduation rate, college attendance/persistence, income, positives not captured by flawed test scores.

And if it's that hard to measure outcomes to evaluate the performance of an entire school, it's pretty silly to pretend that we can find measurable outcomes to evaluate the performance of individual teachers.
posted by straight at 10:07 AM on February 3 [1 favorite]


I think the real tough question is parents automatic tenure.
posted by BrotherCaine at 10:11 AM on February 3 [1 favorite]


Upthread there were questions about unemployed teachers and those chomping at the bit to teach who cannot find jobs doing it and where these people might be. They are in New York State. Purely anecdotal here, but I know more than a handful of people with teaching degrees who are not teaching or teaching, but unable to find a full time gig. My guess is that this is due to the amount of teachers the SUNY system churns out (most of the schools began life as State Teachers Colleges, and Education programs are big draws at a lot of them.) but I have no official supporting data.
posted by ridiculous at 10:13 AM on February 3 [1 favorite]


Are we talking the NYC metro area, or the burbs, or upstate?

I can see dwindling populations in Rust Belt towns being a problem (a whole generation of teachers with nobody to teach), and I definitely know there's a scramble for the top suburban school districts.

Meanwhile, somebody upthread mentioned that they were recruited from overseas to teach in the NYC school system. New York City has a special program to recruit teachers from other fields, and TFA is very active there. I went to an NYC college that not only started as a teachers' college but has a very well-known graduate program in education, a large majority of my college friends are teachers now, and they all seem to find work relatively easily.
posted by Sara C. at 10:20 AM on February 3


As a manager and employee I've found that the strategy of help us root out your shitty peers most often results in the most politically adept, yet petty people rising to the top. When you are trying to turn a place around any one who has low regard for their peers is someone you should probably look to exit from the organization.

thanks, humanfront -
couldn't agree more. As always, the problem is more complex than anybody wants it to be.
posted by philip-random at 10:30 AM on February 3 [1 favorite]


The NYC overseas recruiting program closed in about 2007 and there was definitely a TFA hiring freeze for awhile. The "easy to find a job" days are over as far as I know.
posted by bquarters at 11:10 AM on February 3 [1 favorite]


They're also in the Puget Sound area.
posted by MoonOrb at 11:58 AM on February 3


When Is School Reform Not Enough?, Ann Evans De Bernard, Education Week, 03 February 2014
On the one hand, children living in poverty need access to the same types of experiences affluent children enjoy, the same high expectations for learning, the same enriched curriculum, and the same learning environments. To achieve this, we do not need programs like Teach For America that consider our cities third-world countries where the missionary spirit can thrive. Nor do we need the types of charter schools that require poor children to stifle their creativity and listen ad infinitum to ideas about their needs, which are rooted in the condescending belief that certain children need boot camp instead of education. To put it bluntly, poor children need access to the same education affluent children have.
posted by ob1quixote at 2:23 PM on February 3 [1 favorite]


What frustrates me in reading this thread is that in the last ten years there has been a great deal written and demonstrated on what motivates smart, creative and driven people.

So please enlighten us. What works? And what would you do with bad teachers? Are you saying they can safely be ignored?
posted by shivohum at 3:34 PM on February 3


And what would you do with bad teachers? Are you saying they can safely be ignored?

It has yet to be demonstrated that bad teachers are any more of a problem than bad doctors, lawyers, actuaries, morticians, or any profession requiring a significant amount of skill and education. Which is to say that's it not tolerable or to be ignored, but also that it's not worth radical structural changes in the profession in order to root them out, especially not when those radical changes are suspiciously in line with the ideological objectives of powerful segments.
posted by fatbird at 6:43 PM on February 3 [5 favorites]


Nor do we need the types of charter schools that require poor children to stifle their creativity and listen ad infinitum to ideas about their needs, which are rooted in the condescending belief that certain children need boot camp instead of education.

This is what's good for the goose is good for the gander, though - plenty of affluent children go to Catholic school, or military school, or boot camp.

especially not when those radical changes are suspiciously in line with the ideological objectives of powerful segments.

And the traditional teacher's unions are in line with other powerful segments.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 7:11 PM on February 3


It has yet to be demonstrated that bad teachers are any more of a problem than bad doctors, lawyers, actuaries, morticians, or any profession requiring a significant amount of skill and education.

Why would they have to be any more of a problem than these other professions to get the same treatment as these other professions? In those other professions, there is no such thing as tenure.

So wouldn't the logical requirement be to demonstrate how much less of a problem bad teachers are than these others -- which is why it's no big deal if they're sheltered via tenure?

Given the pretty disappointing state of US education, that's going to be hard to demonstrate.
posted by shivohum at 7:36 PM on February 3


So please enlighten us. What works? And what would you do with bad teachers? Are you saying they can safely be ignored?

Drive by Daniel Pink is a good starting point. I wonder how many bad teachers can be made great given the right environment and support.
posted by humanfont at 7:51 PM on February 3


When you demonstrate how much of a problem bad teachers are, we can argue about whether or not tenure is justified based on that level. So far what we have a is a bunch of anecdotal evidence from people's memories from their teen years about teachers who were just obviously awful. We're discussing not just ending tenure, but turning the union and every other teacher, parent and student into the Internal Affairs division of the entire profession to root out the incompetence that is destroying our youth, based on nothing more than handwaving about how awful teachers are legion and if we just fixed that the education system would be fixed.
posted by fatbird at 7:53 PM on February 3 [2 favorites]


In what universe is 68k 'underpaid'

The universe we live in, where teachers are quite literally charged with passing on the knowledge and customs of society to the people who will continue building that society after we are dead.

As far as I'm concerned, teachers should be paid on a similar level as doctors. The function they perform for society is just as vital.

An equitable school funding scheme in California would actually shift dollars to middle class schools, because the existing scheme gives more money state money to schools with high poverty and low English competency, and of course federal dollars (under Title I mostly) are dramatically tilted that way too.

'Equitable' means allocating money where it is needed so that outcomes are equally advantaged across the board. It doesn't mean allocating the same dollar figure regardless of context. But you know this.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:23 PM on February 3


In those other professions, there is no such thing as tenure.

Sure there is, if they do those jobs as civil servants for the federal or state governments. A VA physician, SSA actuary, and so on have jobs that are at least as protected as mine as a tenured university professor.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:42 PM on February 3


Well, yes in other professions there is such a thing as "tenure"...it's called a contract and "wrongful termination" exists in every state in the nation. Many positions, especially in the government, really do have more protections than even teachers.

The real issue with education is that we have decided to educate every child. In the past, we did not do that. This has befuddled many on how to do so under the current model. Our society has not yet acknowledged that we may want to educate year around, use longer days, and approach education on a progression based method instead of boxing children in one category for a school year. Teacher unions stand in the way of making changes on a regular basis when they should be the leaders.

As to salaries and the claim that teachers work all year, none of my friends claim that. They do have time off and probably work 220 actual days total. 180 school days and another 40 days to account before and after actual teaching days. I taught school, I was good, I was a better attorney. All my teacher friends have a very comfortable life. Did they get rich, maybe not but they sure as hell retired after 30 years with a really good pension. They live in the same neighborhood that I do. I don't recall that they had any more complaints than the rest of us about our jobs.
posted by OhSusannah at 9:38 PM on February 8 [1 favorite]


« Older An Alderson Disk...  |  Based in Beijing, Zhang Bin ak... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments