Reform wave is exploding liberal education model

By Taxpayer Association of Oregon

The film Waiting for Superman is opening the floodgates for others to jump the reform wave. Oprah Winfrey did a segment last week and NBC News is doing a week long segment called Education Nation. It is like everyone in the media is talking like Rob Kremer! Check out this NBC Nightly News piece that hits a home run! I couldn’t believe my eyes and ears. Seldom on the evening news have I heard the truth spoken so clearly on the topic of education.

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  • TFT

    Any teacher can stay late. No contract refuses a teacher the ability to stay late.

    This is ridiculous. This young teacher has no idea what she is talking about.

    You should talk to teachers with experience.

  • TFT

    And Brian, really? You want to “set the education agenda?” Is that your job?

  • Rupert in Springfield

    I watch Oprah from time to time because if nothing else it is truly a vox populi and gives one a sense of the general centrist thinking out there. I happened to catch this segment when the pixel goddess herself had Kerner and Bill Gates on to talk about the film.

    In the first few minutes she had Michelle Rhee (the Rhee referred to in the video clip) walk on. Rhee was introduced as the schools superintendent who had the teachers unions basically burning her in effigy for firing over 1000 teachers, including as I recall the principle of her daughters school. This introduction was delivered not by a concerned and deliberate Oprah, but by a smiling and ebullient Oprah and the crowd reacted in kind. Oprah may not be a deep intellectual and her audience is hardly that of Crossfire, but when you see a reaction like that it says a lot about the feelings of basic ordinary Americans.

    The next segment was a guest who had a daughter who was in a Catholic school in NYC. There was a tale of woe about how the little girl could not graduate because her daughter had a few month of tuition her mother didn’t pay for.

    How much was owed? Well, a whopping $500 per month in NYC. Now the last time I checked NYC spent something like $12,000 per year on public school students. That’s over $1,000 a month, and Catholic schools are doing a better job for half, and they get no where near the tax breaks of public schools (nitwit caution, I am not necessarily speaking about property tax). Also the last time I checked the Catholic schools had offered to NYC to teach whomever the NYC public school sytem cared to send and do a better job, for less money, to show how to do education right. Of course the teachers union fought it tooth and nail and won, condemning students to a school system most public school teachers avoid – they can and do send most of their kids to private schools.

    Oprah at this point provided a video clip of a representative from the teachers union (I thnk the NEA, but not sure) who talked in the usual vagaries about class size and great teachers and how insulting it would be to everyone to actually evaluate and have performance standards for these lofty professionals. Oprah could not have been oblivious to how bad the teachers union rep looked in the clip. That means a lot as it makes clear even Oprah has lost sympathy with teachers unions.

    After that came the discussion of tenure. This was brought up by Rhee. I frankly profess total ignorance to this. I had no idea that in most public school systems there even was such a thing as tenure. I thought there was de facto tenure through union thuggery but not actual tenure. When Michelle Rhee spoke about it in DC, she pointed out that tenure was gained after two years of merely showing up. No review, no academic scholarship, just a basic lifetime appointment after two years of merely showing up.

    At this the audience was apoplectic. First of all the concept of tenure has no place in grade school. Teachers there do no research thus there is no investigatory academic freedom to protect, which is the whole point of tenure, protecting the investigation of unpopular ideas.

    I think we may be reaching a turning point in this country.

    The statement that teachers are underpaid has no credence with anyone outside of the Upper West Side or Berkley anymore. Teachers make a lot of money and people are catching on that none of it is tied to performance.

    Also the other old excuse – classroom overcrowding I think is losing steam. It always was a no win argument as it simply makes people madder. If thirty students at $10k each with a teacher costing $100k people stop worrying about the overcrowding and start getting pretty mad about where the other $200k in the classroom went. Up the figure even more, say to 35 or 40 kids in the classroom and it becomes increasingly clear to the taxpayers that they are being ripped off, not that they have to pony up more cash.

    I was floored Oprah would have this on her show, especially inviting Michelle Rhee on. That she was treated decently and seemed the only person on the planet even close to as loved as Oprah herself, at least to the audience in attendance was earth shaking.

    For this to be on Oprah was huge.

    When it comes to politicians – They are in trouble when the late night TV talk shows start taking it as a given you are a punching bag.

    When it comes to political issues – you are in trouble when you wind up on the wrong side of Oprah to a degree such as this.

    • Rupert in Springfield

      Sorry, left out the system Rhee is superintendent of. Its the the DC school system, the worst school system in the country (the school system Obama doesn’t send his kids to, his kids go to Friends….natch)

  • Rick Hickey

    And as usual the Fact that we are trying to Teach over 5 Million (Who cost us an extra 25%-45% p/CBO 12/07 report of States coughing up $900 Bil. on thier own in ’06 for Ed.) who have Parents that didn’t make it past 8th grade in a 3rd world country, and do not bother to learn our language and so cannot help thier kids if they knew how to. Oh and add another 3 Million Anchor Babies in the last 10 yr.s who are on every “Free” Social Service that Or. & the Feds can “Dream” up.

    Instead we just sit and watch the 2nd largest School district in this state – S/K, hit 5 years now of not passing the low standards of NCLB, mostly from the Failed ESL/ELL programs. So the FEDs just throw more of our money this way, all for naught. Over 1/2 of the Students on “Free” b-fast & lunch, 12 months a year. Yes Virginia, there is a Free lunch after all, and b-fast & housing & utilities & …and no body does a damn thing when an entire District – Woodburn, goes all grades, all students to be in Spanish immersion, or Beaverton or Albany or Eugene or …Because we must have so much to learn from a Failed nation, right?

    Keep skimming do not actually read this true info that is costing our Children their future and us way too much in hard earned dollars. China & Mexico are surely grateful for your apathy.

  • Anonymous

    Hey TFT,

    Why don’t you tell us how good the status quo is with Oregon scoring at or near the top in SAT scores for years?

    And my own daughter’s middle school teacher got heat from the union for coming in 1 hour early to help students who wanted it.

    • Mark

      Can’t she take the heat? She would if she loved the students.

  • Mike

    TFT is mmore comfortable criticizing rather than offering solutions.

    As Anonymous notes, I too know teachers, good teachers, who sometimes have peer criticism for doing the right thing for their students – doing extra work, providing extra time, using their own resources. And principals’ hands are tied, as they are unable to reward or recognize the good teachers that are present in our schools.

    Teachers want to be treated as professionals, yet they are unable to police their own ranks. They should be able to help or expel the few bad eggs that exist. Professionals in other areas focus on results and accomplishments, not seniority, when it comes to acquiring benefits and pay increases. It is sad that an incompetent teacher can be rewarded better than a more competent one in the long run.

    Finally, as Rick notes a bit more inconsiderately, family participation is very important for student success. Unless a student has a nurturing family or mentor, no amount of intervention – class size, compensation, time spent in school, etc. – will have any affect on that student, except for a very select few who have their own intellect and personal drive to succeed.

    Overall, it is good to see that this movie might be more successful in driving the issue towards a realistic solution. Simply throwing more money and benefits to our schools and teachers will not solve the problems we have.

    • Rupert in Springfield

      >Professionals in other areas focus on results and accomplishments, not seniority, when it comes to acquiring benefits and pay increases.

      Well said. If your pay is tied to what someone else negotiates for the group then you are not a professional, you are a union member otherwise known as rank and file.

      >Unless a student has a nurturing family or mentor, no amount of intervention

      I would agree with this although I would say involvement is essential, whereas nurturing is not as essential, but is definitely fantastic to have in combination with involvement. I draw the distinction because involvement can mean simply paying for the child’s education and making sure that because of the money they are putting out, the child does his homework and the parents give a rip about the educational standards of the school. That’s involvement more than it is nurturing, and I think that level of involvement is essential. If the child gets nurturing, thats even better.

      >Simply throwing more money and benefits to our schools and teachers will not solve the problems we have.

      Very true, and in fact spending more money on schools is absolutely the one solution we can rule out. We spend more than just about anybody in the world on schools and have horrible results. As we have spent more and more over the decades we have seen a lowering of performance, not an increase. Nationwide we find when we spend less on schools, but increase parental involvement, either through choice in schools or through sending kids to private school (our least expensive highest performing education option other than home school) we increase performance. Spending more money on schools can be ruled out as a solution with about as much certainty as we could ever ask for.

  • Bob Clark

    This movement away from the teacher union controlled education monopoly would have more than huge benefits for education. It would also break the grip of the public employee unions over Oregon’s governance, reducing self imposed restrictions on economic activity in Oregon.

  • eagle eye

    In reality (for those who want to bother with that!) national test scores (NAEP) are rising for the various races. And the progress started before NCLB, before Michelle Rhee in DC e.g. check out the results for DC and nationally: (sorry about the long links, if they don’t work, google on , then click on images, the pictures will come up:,r:3,s:0

    or nationally:,r:14,s:0&tx=118&ty=49

    • valley p

      “In reality (for those who want to bother with that!)”

      Boy are YOU in the wrong place! You took a right turn down the hall when you should have turned left. This is the perpetual complaint department, where all thing vaguely liberal are complained about as emotionally as possible. The reality department is back 3 doors.

      Rupert of the perpetually wrong declarative sentence writes: “Well said. If your pay is tied to what someone else negotiates for the group then you are not a professional, you are a union member otherwise known as rank and file.”

      The textbook definition of a professional is someone employed in an occupation that requires specialized training, education, or experience. Since teaching in public schools clearly requires this, teachers are indeed professionals. That they freely choose to unionize does not turn them into dock workers (nothing against dock workers by the way, most of them make a lot more money than teachers do).

      There is no line between being a professional and being a union member. There is a line between being a supervisor and being represented by a union.

      “whereas nurturing is not as essential…”

      I don’t know. I have this theory that conservatives as a group just did not get enough hugs. This has led to all sorts of problems for the rest of us.

      “Spending more money on schools can be ruled out as a solution with about as much certainty as we could ever ask for. ”

      Oh I don’t know. Catlin Gable is pretty well funded and has pretty darn good results. You must think the parents who send their kids there, doctors, layers, corporate execs and the like, are pretty dumb to pay the tuition bills. Why don’t you go up there and propose they spend half as much and see what sort of reception you get?

      • eagle eye

        Goofed there with the mouse.

        But yeah, the unreality here (and elsewhere on the web) has a weird attraction. There’s a certain fascination to posting actual data, especially when it contradicts the mob instinct of the moment (right now, trashing public schools), and to see the reaction.

        The real story is that performance is improving rather sharply for all races, but when you average the races together, it looks like performance is stagnant. The implications are too difficult to talk about, though, at least in this country at this time.

        • valley p

          OK…if I say this Rupert will accuse me of being racist, but since I don;t give a fig about what he thinks of me here goes anyway. The obvious statistical link is that larger percentages of public school students are poor and/or minority than in years past. Educating them is a tougher task than educating middle class kids, which could go a long way towards explaining why we seem to be running harder and harder just to stay in place. Do I have that right?

          • eagle eye

            You got it, pretty much. What the reasons are for the group differences, I can’t say. What to do about it? Nobody knows any good answers, nothing has worked much. But for whatever the reasons, as long as things continue on the same path demographically — a larger and larger fraction of students coming from underperforming groups, including socioeconomic — overall academic performance is unlikely to improve. In fact, it’s a wonder that it’s remained stable. Again, due to pretty sharply rising performance for all racial groups.

            Rupert et al. can deny the evidence all they want. As I said, it’s amusing to watch the reaction when real data and facts are presented, especially when people’s pet notions are shown to have no basis.

          • valley p

            I’ve said this before, but poverty is expensive. Your analysis is one more illustration of that.

          • Mike

            valley p:

            Using Catlin (or OES) is not a good example to cite, as it has selective admissions – not just for academics, but social matters as well. Catlin and other private schools are selective in their admissions.

            Try again to make you point.

          • valey p

            My point Mike, is that selective private schools where wealthy people send their kids spend a lot of money, much more than private schools do per student. Catlin Gable is our best Oregon example of that point.

            So wealthy, successful people seem to think that “throwing more money at schools’ is not such a bad idea when it involves their own kids. That should tell us something,

          • Mike

            RE: money and demographics

            You’ll just have to take a look at the new movie “Waiting for Superman” to counter some of your points.

            One example cited in the movie deflates your premise about $$$ and poor schools being a barrier to success.

            I’m not saying you are all wrong, just that you need to have a bit more data.

            You missed my point about Catlin and other schools having a select group of students, who already have academic advantages. Sure money helps even more, but they don’t let hard to educate students into these types of schools. Charter schools on the other hand prove that less is more.

          • valley p

            If less is more, than why don’t the well educated, successful parents who send their kids to places like Catlin demand that they lower tuition, increase class sizes, and pay their teachers less? Why is less more for poor kids but more is more for rich kids?

            Look, everyone wants to convince themselves that we can have high quality this or that on the cheap. I’m here to tell you it isn’t true. Quality costs money. Its true for cars, clothes, hotel rooms, and education. Follow rich people around for a few days and you will get the picture.

    • Rupert in Springfield

      Look, we all know you two will defend your union buddies no matter how egregious their behaviour. That’s a given. No matter what they do or how bad the performance, if they are a reliable source of support for Democrats you will prop them up no matter how bad they are.

      The fact of the matter is US students perform lower than students in other industrialized countries and have been for a fairly long time.

      The fact is that no one out there would believe for a second that our schools now educate better than they did in the past.

      You can face that or not but all the dopey little comments here wont change the basic reality – people are very dissatisfied with the school system and the release of this movie as well as the reaction I saw from Oprah and her audience tells me you are in some serious denial.

      If Michele Rhee got the kind of standing ovation she got for firing 1000 teachers at a GOP convention that wouldn’t mean a hill of beans. When she gets that reaction on Oprah, that says a hell of a lot to me.

      You two can defend the status quo all you want. The point is you have already lost the throw money at it arguments of the past. The public has moved on and there will likely be less and less support for your notion that everything is just fine with the schools.

      To use the eagle-eye standard argument

      “You think public schools are just fine and are better now than they were decades ago? Go ahead, run it up the flag pole, run for mayor on that position, run for president on that position, see how far you get with it”

      • a retired professor

        You know, Art Robinson is running against DeFazio in our congressional district. And there’s stuff all over the web — conservative sites! — quoting him on education (the real quotes, before he decided to run for office). The ones where he compares public schools to incarceration, to child abuse. Where he advocates abolishing public schools, and replacing them with nothing.

        Something tells me that’s not going to get him elected.

        • eagle eye

          LOL! We’ll see.

      • valley p

        Defend my union buddies? I was merely correcting your false characterization of teachers as not being professionals. In plain English, they are professionals. That is a basic reality.

        By the way Rupert, speaking of reality, where did you get your information that Michelle Rhee fired 1000 teachers? You are only off by a factor of about 4, but I know math is hard for your side.

  • Anonymous

    Why is it that you lefty posters can’t talk abot what your democrats have been doing to our own Oregon schools for the lats 20 years?

    Can’t she take the heat? She would if she loved the students.
    #5.1 Mark on 2010-09-28 12:29 (Delete) (Reply)

    She did and did.

    The teacher was alsolike her many peers who mocked the Democrat’s CIMCAM assault on K-12 that continues today.

    • rural resident

      CIM/CAM was a bipartisan disaster (actually, the “CAM” part never materialized, so it isn’t much of a factor in the discussion). Many Republicans were very much on board with the essential elements–especially all of the additional testing, the focus on basic skills at the expense of electives, and the idea of pushing reform from the top down instead of from the bottom up.

  • a retired professor

    For what it’s worth, the students coming into UO are little different from what they were 20 years ago. At least not in ways that can be measured — SAT scores, for example (and yes, properly taking into account recentering. (High school grades a different matter, but nobody trusts them much.)

    • Joe

      The students coming out of UO are little different than they were 20 years ago.

      • eagle eye

        On what experience do you base this?