Weinberg: Rules requiring struggling schools to replace half their teachers are misguided

Steven Weinberg, a retired Oakland teacher and Education Report contributor, hopes state and federal education officials pay close attention to a new study about teacher replacement.

Steven WeinbergOne of the most divisive elements of the “turnaround model” being used to improve test score results in many low scoring schools throughout the country, is the requirement that half the teaching staff be replaced.

State and federal projects that funnel increased funding to those schools often require such staff changes, arguing that they are necessary for school improvement, while teacher unions and parents oppose them because of the disruption they create.

Now a study, reported in Education Week, says that provision doesn’t seem to make any difference at all.

The requirement that half the teaching staff of a school be replaced assumed that less effective teachers would be removed and more effective teachers would stay. It does not work that way, according to Michael Hansen of the American Institutes for Research, which has conducted the most complete research on such programs to date. The study looked at 111 chronically low-performing elementary and middle schools in Florida and North Carolina between 2002 and 2008.

According to the Education Week article, Hansen found that “teachers who left schools during improvement were not always the worst performers; in fact, they ran the gamut of effectiveness.”

When a school forced teachers to reapply for their positions, teachers began investigating other positions as a back-up, and some of the teachers, including some of the most effective, who were eventually asked to stay at their original school decided to accept the other positions. “Even when you are trying to fire or counsel out specific teachers, you are going to have high general turnover in these schools and you will have [good] teachers leave anyway,” said Hansen.

Where the “turnaround model” works according to Hansen, it is not a result of getting rid of poor teachers and replacing them with better teachers. What happens is that the increase in funding and professional development helps all teachers, those who stayed and those who are newly-hired, improve their results.

We can only hope that the state and federal government pay attention to this study. By removing the artificial requirement that 50 percent of a teaching staff be replaced, it will allow teachers, parents, and schools to focus on those elements of school improvement plans that actually make a difference.

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • Nextset

    The premise on NCLB is that when minorities don’t learn to read the teachers are bad not the minority students are bad.

    NCLB will be repealed at some point because it is so ridiculous that when it has accomplished what it was actually supposed to, it will be politically discarded.

    It’s compilation of racial educational performance data will accomplish politically what publication of “The Bell Curve” didn’t – make the liberals admit that IQ is racially related. And that educational success is dependent on IQ of the student.

    Educational success is dependent on the IQ of the student.

    And yet we prohibit OVERT IQ testing of black students but students of no other race. Presumably because we know what it will reveal anyway and politically don’t like it. Or maybe we have no intention of identifying bright blacks and promoting them. Whatever…

    I know a liberal public agency that wants to keep themselves Jewish. They tried refusing to hire any blacks but that was becoming conspicuous so they got the bright idea of interviewing them again and deliberately hiring the worst black candidates they had on hand. Stronger black candidates were run off with offensive measures. The new hires were celebrated. Less than a year later – and certainly before civil service rights attached, the celebrated hires were dismissed as having failed probation. And there were no difficulties in finding shortcomings because after all, they were the weakest candidates. In addition to being weaker academically and job experience wise, they were all out-of-towners without local political ties as well as ties elsewhere that might encourage them to go home anyway. So decades later the clique in control of the agency continues in power without training candidates that could threaten them politically. Kind of like big city politics.

    There is more than one way to skin a cat. Works with Hispanics also. Keep a few around for the stats but only hire the easily fired out-of-towners. Likewise if you don’t want women in management, you promote the train wrecks, watch them self destruct and then get rid of them or keep them around to explain why no others get promoted. It takes the supporters of the group affected decades to wise up (their detractors can see exactly what the plan is). I’ve seen it.

    I remember one woman lawyer telling me about her new promotion – unexpectedly. I explained to her that she was brought forward because other actually qualified women were threatening for promotion. I told her she was only selected because she was the most unqualified candidate they could pass off. She would get the pay but be marginalized. Her subordinate staff would secretly report to her boss and ignore her. She would be excluded from meetings and decisions – but she’d be the first informed so it wouldn’t be too obvious. The other women involved would hate her. She blinked, said no one else ever said this to her. I told her that’s a good example of your problems, no one would tell you your house was on fire. She went away and it all happened as I said.

    My point on this thread is that none of this is accidental, it’s planned. There is a reason NCLB was set up this way and the writers knew exactly what would happen and had a good idea what decade it would happen in, to boot.

    So what is the plan, the complete destruction of public schooling as was known at the time of the legislation? The breaking of the teacher unions? The implementation of “legal” segregated schools?

    There was never any intention to improve minority education. Only liberals ever drank the Kool-Aid and believed any of this nonsense. The plan was to profit from the changes and to maintain power in the hands of the authors of the legislation at all times. The same game is played out on small and large political stages across the country when you want to fool stupid people and take and maintain political power.

    Brave New World.

  • Nontcair

    SW’s op/ed is off-topic!

    Once again we see the federal government keeping the general public *distracted* by preoccupying them on compliance with its bureaucratic, pedantic, unconstitutional regulations (the USG has NO legal involvement in K-12) while *it* focuses on policies designed to bleed us dry:

    tranferring our wealth to Wall $t bankers
    bombing Late Stone Age foreigners back into the Middle Stone Age
    deploying Marines when/where US BIG corp interests are threatened
    developing hi-tech weapons (Giga$’s for DoD contractors)
    imposing higher costs on the free enterprise system
    ensuring full-employment for lawyers, CPAs, & all the other feeders

  • http://www.facebook.com/BridgetheChasm Charlie at Bridge the Chasm

    I have done turnaround in Business. While it may require reduced headcount because businesses only have the money available from sales, I have never done it with a strategy of replacing “bad” employees with better ones.

    An effective turnaround is based on the philosophy “it’s never about the people, it’s always about the process”. Oakland, like all school systems, has bright, eager students and teachers who care about their education. What’s missing is leadership that supports teachers in their quest to have students learn.

    In the case of Oakland, a focus on all students learning the fundamentals in math and english is needed. The success of such focus does not require the neglect of other areas, such as music and art. This is not happening now, which makes it impossible for students to move to higher levels of learning in any subject.

    In addition, Oakland should drop the slogans “community schools” and “thriving students” — neither of which is happening anyway — and make the mission statement: “We are committed to every child learing the fundamentals of math and reading as the basis for success in school and life”

    I believe implementing the above would dramatically decrease the drop-out rate and increase the graduation rate, as I believe the number one reason for students dropping out and not graduating is they have not learned the fundamentals.

  • Nontcair

    Once again we see special interests looking to use public education as a *political* institution, ie those who wish to caste the:

    A) low IQs (see #1)
    B) narrowly schooled (see #3)

    #3 actually wants to force totally disillusioned kids to act as guinea pigs in a trial to “prove” management techniques designed to optimize tht resources of profit-seeking firms.

    Very disturbing.

    Only #2 wants the government to LEAVE US ALONE.

  • Rumor Has It

    #5 wants #4 to leave us all alone.

  • Itsa Whatts

    If this legislation targets performance of teachers….kudos to it. My experience in schools is that it is often older, tenured teachers who are the “low performers”, IF they perform at all!!!! Not to say All older teachers are the same,some are gifted and valuable teachers. Once a teacher gains tenure,however it takes moving heaven and earth to get them out. Maybe the solution is to get rid of Teacher’s Unions who I think are the crux of the problem,not the students who are now burdened by the pressure of “No children left behind” legislation, that leaves multitudes behind(Thanks dubbaU) no Union, no tenure and teachers will have to perform like the rest of us in the working world in order to keep their jobs,and collect a paycheck, rather than r work for 2 years, gaining tenure and then are able to be virtually paycheck collectors unless they hit or molest a student !!!!

  • Nextset

    While it’s clear that there are some teachers who are too burned out to remain in a classroom that is not the big problem.

    The problem is children who are not able to keep up with the material they have been saddled with, and no way to remove or transfer them to an appropriate program.

    So the “schools” get low marks, and now someone would have us believe wholesale replacement of the instructors will change anything – as opposed to wholesale removal of the students and the importation of better students.

    I’m with the teachers on this one. Get rid of the bad students and after that, look to replace the less common bad teachers. It’s doesn’t take a lot to teach kiddies to read if they are able to learn to do so. Lots of people are too stupid to ever learn the English language. Get them out of normal classrooms.

  • Harold

    Age has nothing at all to do with *effective* teaching.

  • makeitgoaway

    I agree with Weinberg and Nextset (and right on Charlie at the Bridge) Replacing teachers is not the key, but replacing parents or students is… (just kidding). I am a strong believer in a “no excuses” environment for teachers, as you take your class as you find them every year, BUT it really helps if you have teachers on your staff on the same page doing their best to teach skills with cutting edge effectiveness. Note I did not say just “doing your best.”. There are old burnouts and young ineffectives, but the bottom line is that if a student has a “bad” teacher two years in a row, he or she is academic “toast,” and will never recover.

    NCLB is clearly bad juju for public education because it can never be accomplished.

  • J.R.

    This is a big indicator that our children are not being prepared(how many students require remediation in college):


  • Nontcair

    We know that when the government starts to implement a new (big government) policy it *always* hires a connected fellow — either *rich* himself or else a front man — who is most vociferous in advocating that policy in the first place.

    See #3.

    You probably wouldn’t have to dig that deep into the backgrounds of our recent US Secretaries of Education to find that they’re associated with special interests who profit from:

    charter schools
    standardized testing
    etc and so forth

    No Bureaucrat Left Behind.

    No matter which empty suit wins next month we can be certain that federal involvement in public education is going to *expand* and test score are going to get *worse*.

  • Nontcair

    American Institutes for Research, which has conducted the most complete research on such programs to date.

    The “research” cited was authored by a bunch of certified, big government hacks.

    AIR is just another government contractor, based in Washington.

    In 2011 its gross/net income was ~$285M/$11M

    I guessed that AIR was owned by group of northeastern liberal elites, but ‘truth-out.org’ identifies it with the Koch Bros.

    From USAToday:

    “If I was leading a private-sector company, my salary would be much higher,” said Sol Pelavin, [now former] CEO of [AIR], who was paid $1.1 million in 2007, the highest in the group. His firm has won $269.6 million in funding from USAID since 2007, government records show, for work that includes technical assistance to education ministries around the world.

  • Seenitbefore

    A great start to getting a handle on this issue…. would be to get our heads out of our…..well, let’s just say…. the sand! The reason that our kids are not being successful in school? SOCIAL PROMOTION.

    … for 9 years…. we tell our kids that it doesn’t matter if they pass or fail …er, well… no one is actually ALLOWED to use the word “fail” when describing a student who completes absolutely no coursework in a class. So… let’s just call them…. oh…scholars!…. who are “teacher responsively challenged”. (probably due to some fault of their teachers, of course)

    It’s not simply an American problem…. Canadian teachers are seeing more and more problems from k-8 social promotion policies, as well.


    And of course there is always the “data driven research” that can be interpreted to support any theory one may have… http://www.education.com/reference/article/grade-retention/

    But if many countries with high student success do not hold students back….so…. what do they do? hmmm… let’s see…

    Japan? Intense maternal involvement and acceptance to high school by ranked test results. Lower performing students are tracked into vocational programs.

    Singapore? character development as well as a rich, and well maintained learning environment.

    South Korea? have students study 13 hours a day for 243 days a year….sure!

    Finland? well..in a nutshell… respect and stop micro managing teachers!!! Actually letting the PROFESSIONAL TEACHER design the teaching curriculum for their class along broader general guidelines. LESS emphasis on grades and competition at the lower elementary (K-4) levels AND less formal time in the classroom for both the teacher AND the student. And once again…. high school tracking into academic and vocational programs. Who woulda thunk???

    So….. should be do what Japan does? Or… maybe Finland…. or is South Korea the better choice?…Singapore?

    Um… I hate to break it to ya…. but We are NOT going to get the results we want by simply trying to “act like” Finland! American kids can’t even FIND Finland on a map, for Pete’s sake!!!! We need to stop trying to be some other country…. and remember what it was that made America the place where poor immigrants from wretched third world countries would give up EVERYTHING familiar…. for a chance to reach the shores of the United States…. and make a better life for their CHILDREN’s children who were not even born yet! The mystifying secrets of achieving the American Dream????….. hard work…perseverance…delaying immediate gratification…personal sacrifice for the good of the family/community.

    Hold our kids accountable for charting the course of their own lives…. and for doing the work that THEY THEMSELVES need to do IN THE CLASSROOM….and MAYBE… our American kids will be successful too!

  • http://www.facebook.com/BridgetheChasm Charlie at Bridge the Chasm

    In reference to “bad” students:
    Short-term, Middle and High schools who haven’t learned the fundamentals need to be taught so in a separate class. It not only increases the learning in the class they were removed from, but also gives them a better chance to succeed.
    If the elementary schools focus on the fundamentals, the problem in upper grades goes away. If the ONLY math target for 1st grade is learning to add up to 9+9 without using fingers, couldn’t that goal be met for ALL students? I think it could.

  • Seenitbefore

    hmmm… in the last few threads I’ve commented on …. my posts do not show up? Am I I the *censored* list, or something?

  • Katy Murphy

    Not at all! Thanks for letting me know. I rescued one post from the spam filter, but I didn’t find others. Sometimes comments with numerous links are flagged by the program as spam.

  • Nontcair

    #14 wrote: If the ONLY math target for 1st grade is learning to add up to 9+9 without using fingers ..

    Teaching such basic skills to desperately poor kids is the only “problem” public education should be expected to solve.

    The so-called “safety net”.

    Better we had NO public schools and private interests performed the task.

  • J.R.

    Seen it,

    Good post, and I have always agreed social promotion is the bane of society…

    post #38 in this thread from way back(have I been here that long?) makes a very good argument….


    Once again, well done!

  • http://www.facebook.com/BridgetheChasm Charlie at Bridge the Chasm


    I agree. Teaching basic skills should be the only “problem” public education should be expected to solve.

  • Nextset

    I agree also.

    I would support OUSD stating it would only work on basic skills and suspend college prep entirely, those students needing that would be encouraged to go elsewhere, to charters and other schools.

    Having typed that I’m sitting here looking at it thinking about the college prep I received in East Bay Public Schools – as well as my family and friends.

    I have to take it back. There is a place for college prep (in public schooling). That place is in restricted schools/campuses where the students have to apply to be let in and to return each year – based on mastery of pre-requisites.

    Kind of like the Oakland Tech/UC Berkeley Accelerated Summer School Program. You had to apply for Chem/Physics/Biology and the other college prep classes – submit grades for pre-req classes and even have a teacher endorsement of the aspplication. They only let in those high school students with reasonable showing they could handle the accelerated workload and kicked out quickly the non performers.

    It kept us running to keep up.

    And it guaranteed a competitive and business like classroom – even with black students like me, my family and some friends there. Nobody held the class up or back. And there were 2 teachers per class of 20-25.

    I don’t know if the program still exists. I don’t know what programs OUSD has to segregate college bound students on it’s campuses to avoid contamination and problems between the brights and dulls.

    I do know that one size fits all ruins the educational experience for everyone.

    I agree the mojority of OUSD black students should be in basic skills and those should be drilled in harded, including deportment and uniforms. They are going to work in uniforms for most of their careers and should get started early.

  • Nextset

    By uniforms I mean uniform dress as well as costumes. regulated hair, nails, all aspects of grooming and dress, as well as rules of addressing each other and the staff.

    You know, like working at McDonalds or Best Buy, or the bus district or a hospital, or Comcast or KTVU.

    As opposed to dressing for court, the Salvation Army or drug rehab.

  • Observer


  • Nontcair

    The role of public education is to teach basic skills to bona fide resident poor kids who actually *want* to learn them. Of course that’s a role I still OPPOSE but at least I could get myself to look the other way.

    We don’t want government high schools providing AP courses.
    We don’t want government colleges providing REMEDIAL courses.

    Why should those who don’t go to college — be they poor, incompetent, or simply unwilling — have to pay higher taxes to subsidize middle class kids who want to party for four years and study basketweaving?

    Why do non-college types tolerate a government sponsored academic system which provides:

    sinecures and tenure to profsters who don’t teach
    multi-million dollar contracts to big sports coaches who do
    social/biz networking opportunities for students
    government hiring preferenes for college grads

    Why do we have to pay higher taxes to subsidize (often *rich*) kids who attend UC professional schools? When:

    a UCSF-trained MD takes a $1M job with a big pharma firm or,
    a UCLA jock signs a $5M contract with the Raiders, or
    a Haas MBA makes a $10M bonus from some hedge fund based in the Bahamas

    do you *personally* get a percentage?

  • Gordon Dannng


    Your rants might be more effective if you got your basic facts right. The taxpayers do not subsidize UC professional schools any more; students pay the same tuition as at private schools. Eg; Haas tuition = $51K http://haas.berkeley.edu/MBA/finaid/costs/index.html

    PS: Uh, what about poor kids who want to go to college? This is the Oakland schools blog, after all.

    PPS: We subsidize public schools/colleges because of the positive externalities associated therewith, and the resultant market failure. Look it up.

  • Nontcair

    The last time I checked UC’s popular, $50K B-school, even its out-of-staters (who paid higher tution) were being subsidized nominally by ~10%.

    Of course we know that government (especially *academic*) cost accounting is completely BOGUS.

    Get back to me when those UC schools are completely spun-off.

    PS: Any educational obligation we might have to Oakland’s poor kids would be dissolved by the time they reach ~8th grade. Basic skills, not football.

    PPS: We subsidize education so that sophisticates like you can feel intellectually superior by learning multi-syllable-word neologisms like “positive externalities”.

    Market failure. Really.

  • Works at Oakland School

    There are some valid points being made here. I wonder how we actually decide who is a good teacher though? I have only met a few. The others are simply ineffectual, they don’t have any classroom management skills or they really don’t kn0w how to teach. Their idea of teaching is to tell the high school kids to read the materials and answer the questions at the end and that is the extent of the teaching. They are still using materials from the pre internet, pre-projector era. There is a wealth of material that has been created bu some great teachers, including powerpoints, and resources galore but these teachers aren’t using ANY of them just the book. These are mainly older teachers but some of them are young too.
    The student behavior is horrendous too but instead of disciplining the students and getting them out of the classroom or getting parents to help, they keep them in the class where they disrupt the whole class.

    Maybe a history teacher can answer this query but I was told that the U.S History teachers in 11th grade are supposed to reteach 8th grade history because the students didn’t learn it in 8th grade. So instead of getting to the standards, which basically start post-civil War, they teach history up to the Civil War for the first 8 weeks or so and never get as far as Korea or Vietnam. Kids come out of 11th grade not knowing there was a Korean War or what Vietnam was.

    It seems to me that big problem is a lack of expectations – the poor kids can’t do the work because they are poor so let’s give them a break and make it easy on them. THat is not doing them any favors at all.

  • Nextset

    Gordon, I give Nontclair credit for one point –

    There is no obligation for the taxpayers to provide a football program. If the locals vote to finance such that’s their business, but I see no moral obligation.

    An 8th grade “education” is certainly sufficient for “students” with IQs below 85. We already know that that level is so low that they will never complete any real high school program, and will “graduate” or leave school will little ability to read or write. I believe over half of the OUSD black students are doing worse than this – which includes the drop outs who were once enrolled at OUSD. In no way are we doing more than an 8th grade education for this group presently.

    What we should have been doing with the bottom half is occupational counseling, planning and training. Despite the issues with literacy members of that bottom half may have advantages in occupations that pay living wages such as bus driving, garbage pickups, and a host of other work. I note that driver’s licenses are often key to both male and female earning power and yes, we should provide both driver’s ed and driver’s training classes to this group even if we refuse such classes for the college bound. Think of it as fairly apportioning the budget money.

    Survival classes are key for the bottom half. They should be identified early and moved into the work track by puberty. Football should not be budgeted, it’s return on investment is way too low.

    Brave New World.

  • http://www.facebook.com/BridgetheChasm Charlie at Bridge the Chasm

    I believe if students learned the fundamentals in elementary school, we would be surprised at how many would be considered above average. This is said having taught / tutored at low performing middle schools.

    In math (and presumably all subjects) most Oakland teens can not do 8th grade work – which is Algebra. So I’m good with making sure every child learns the material through 8th grade. After that, let’s see what track the kids are able and want to be on.

  • Nextset

    All men are not created equal.

  • Nextset
  • Nontcair

    #26 wrote: instead of getting to the standards, which basically start post-civil War, they teach history up to the Civil War for the first 8 weeks

    That’s too bad because CA’s Constitution of 1849 was a document worth spending a fair bit of time analyzing.

    I’m sure that the disasterous US history of the late/early 19/20th century (the “Progressive Era”) is not just given a free pass but actually, romanticized.

  • Steven Weinberg

    #26, I’m sorry that you have not seen many good teachers. I have had an opportunity to be in the classroom of scores of teachers at different schools over that past 15 years, and I have seen many outstanding teachers in our district. I never cease to be impressed with the quality of work they do and the quality of work their students produce.
    I taught 8th grade history for 30 years, and I have so insight into the problem you raised about 11th grade teachers needing to reteach material that was covered in 8th grade and not getting to the Korean or Vietnam Wars.
    The problem is not that 8th grade teachers don’t teach what they are supposed to. Given the importance of 8th grade history on CST exams, I doubt any teacher fails to teach it. But human beings forget things if they are not reviewed, and three years is too long to expect students to remember very much. You would never expect a student to take Spanish One in eighth grade and then wait until eleventh grade for Spanish Two.
    Secondly, there are a lot of issues tied to American History that are too complex for most eighth graders to understand, so high school teachers feel compelled to reteach those periods to delve deeper into those issues.
    Thirdly, the AP History exam, which drives the curriculum in many classes, is based on the expectation that all of U.S. History is covered in the eleventh grade.
    Fourthly, there are so many detailed standards in the eleventh grade course of study that teachers find it impossible to cover all of them, so some of the items at the end of the course are missed.
    Finally, even when there was less history to teach, like when I went to school, most teachers did not reach the most recent period because no matter how carefully they planned, they often ran out of time. Things come up during the course of the school year that interrupt instruction, or current events take place that create a teachable moment to make history come alive, and some coverage is sacrificed.

  • Gordon Danning

    Works at Oakland School:

    The 11th grade history standards call for a review of key material; I don’t know that it is because 8th graders never learned it; more likely that is important enough for a refresher:

    11.1 Students analyze the significant events in the founding of the nation and its attempts to realize the philosophy of government described in the Declaration of Independence.
    Describe the Enlightenment and the rise of democratic ideas as the context in which the nation was founded.
    Analyze the ideological origins of the American Revolution, the Founding Fathers’ philosophy of divinely bestowed unalienable natural rights, the debates on the drafting and ratification of the Constitution, and the addition of the Bill of Rights.
    Understand the history of the Constitution after 1787 with emphasis on federal versus state authority and growing democratization.
    Examine the effects of the Civil War and Reconstruction and of the industrial revolution, including demographic shifts and the emergence in the late nineteenth century of the United States as a world power.

  • makeitgoaway

    I agree with Steven about memory and the 8th grade vs. 11th grade mind. . Although Advanced Placement classes are much more complex and start with pre- Colombian times and go through Clinton’s 2nd term…

    But you have to get to the “end” as the times demand it (as do the CSTs) think about it- this is the last history course most kids will ever take. At least get to the election of President Obama. It is easily done by mixing in the present with the past…

    No social science teacher I know just has the students open the book and answer the questions…The educational climate and the field of education is changing so rapidly. You can’t have kids with 21st Century tools in their pockets and at home be using 19th Century methodology in the classroom or you will quickly lose them. Blogs, MOOS, Twitter, Socrative, Quizlet, StudyBlue, Google Docs, and Schoolloop are just some of the tools teachers now use every day to allow kids to get those powerpoints from their cell phones, make electronic flashcards, Facebook info to their friends, post projects on YouTube, and more…

  • Nontcair

    11.1) The Declaration of Independence? There’s NO WAY a public school would allow the discussion to drift into pointing out the obvious ways in which the USG has almost from the get go totally disavowed the meaning of the thing.

    2) When does a *public* school ever point out that the dire warnings of the anti-Federalists proved to be way too OPTIMISTIC.

    3) Notice how the much more liberty-oriented Articles of Confederation are tossed down the Orwellian memory-hole and that big government.,USG “Supremacy” line is all the kids get exposed to — esp post Civil War.

    4) Notice the neocon line about the US role as a “world power” and the BIPARTISAN love affair with progressivism.

  • Steven Weinberg

    Go Nontcair–I haven’t seen that clear an attack on the Constitution since Patrick Henry (or maybe Charles Beard).

  • Gordon Danning

    Nonclair (#26):

    OK, just for you, I will explain using 1 and 2-syllable words, since you refused my invitation to look it up:

    1. As a rule, the market increases happiness, because every time goods are exchanged, both sides are happier they were before. (Eg: 1 kid swaps a PBJ sandwich for another kid’s banana. Both are happier as a result [were they not, one would refuse the trade]).

    2. However, sometimes the market fails to increase happiness, because some transactions have costs that are paid by someone other than the buyer and seller. Those costs are called “negative externalities.” Example: I buy a gun in order to murder someone. I am happier; the gun shop owner is happier, but my victim is much, much less happy. Thus, that transaction DECREASES total happiness. That is a market failure. When the market fails, the only solution is for society, usually in the form of the government, to step in (example: background checks for gun buyers)

    3. Sometimes, market transactions have benefits that accrue to someone other than the buyer and seller. Those benefits are called “positive externalites.” Example: I buy deodorant and mouthwash. I am happier, the seller is happier, but who is happiest of all? The kid in the front row of my class. The problem is, because most of the benefit goes to someone else, the market sells “too few” bottles of mouthwash — meaning, society would be better off if more were sold. Again, this is a market failure. So, the solution is for the government to step in by mandating the purchase of the item (eg: yearly smog checks on your car; liability insurance for car owners), or by subsidizing it (eg: education).

    See, that wasn’t so hard, was it? My students seem to get it pretty well, and they are not sophisticates — the top hats they wear notwithstanding.

  • Nextset

    Nontclair has a point about state’s rights not being taught in schools. Libs are much more happy about Federal Supremacy – and glory in the “Civil Rights” movement legislation.

  • Nontcair

    You haven’t *neutralized* the “externality”, merely *shifted* it. We need to identify that as a government failure.

    I’ll see your failure and raise you a hundred thousand.

    Of course we know that the human respiration resulting from market transactions for SCUBA tanks imposes a CO2 cost on society.

    The government either needs to plant redwood forests in the desert or else outfit us all with rebreathers.

  • http://high-school-teacher-jobs.intellego-publishing.com/ Thomas Sullivan

    How do they, that being the developers of the “turnaround model” come up with the figure of 50% in terms of teacher replacement. Across the board 50% replacement does not make sense. The whole premise seems to be misguided. If you are seeking employment as a high school teacher in the USA, the following link should be useful:

    Scroll down to the middle of the home page and you find a list of states. Click on the state where you are seeking employment, and you will find a listing of jobs. A very useful site for the high school teacher.

  • Debora

    I have 32 kids in my class. Eight are high performing in reading, writing, math, science and social studies. All were born to parents who were married at the time and both parents were 25 or older.

    I have 12 students in my class who are reading, writing and doing math at 3 or more grades below their grade level. All were born to single mothers who were under 19.

    We should not be talking about the age of teachers but the age of parents. It is nearly impossible for these 12 students to catch up. None of them has come to school one full week with their homework complete.

    The high performing students all come to school on-time and prepared.

    Coincidence? I do not think so.

  • DaveP


    Here’s the million dollar question: Given that at least 40% of your students seem to unresponsive to youyr style/methods… will you adjust your methods. Or is it ok to accept their failures becuase of their parents background.

    it is unethical to choose to teach in a place where you have no clue how to reach 38% of the students. Actively figure it out, or teach somewhere else.

    Here’s the thousand dollar question: There are 32 kids in a class. If 12 don’t complete homework. and 8 are on time and prepared – what are the other 12 doing?

    Hundred dollar question. Do the struggling students understand the work before it’s sent as homework?

  • Observer


    How is she supposed to teach to the lowest section of her class without affecting the other 20 students? Remedial education should not even be considered in a class where 2/3 are performing at or well above grade level. She is one teacher with a select (and mandated) curriculum appropriate for the grade level she teaches and yet she bears the bulk of the blames for the 12 students who come to her 3 years behind? That’s insane. If the were her only students, oh but how expensive it would be to have remedial courses! How expensive it is to NOT have remedial courses!

    Debora—does summer school still exist? Why are these kids passed on through?

  • Jim Mordecai


    I assume you are an educator and are familiar with “The zone of proximal development (in Russian: зона ближайшего развития), often abbreviated ZPD, is the difference between what a learner can do without help and what he or she can do with help. It is a concept developed by Soviet psychologist and social constructivist Lev Vygotsky (1896 – 1934).”

    If one follows the above ZPD idea, then the homework a teacher assigned ideally would be limited by what the lowest performing student would be able to accomplish without help.

    Assuming a teacher assigned a paragraph to be written and all of the 34 students in the class were capable of writing a paragraph independently, a teacher might well find a pattern of the students teacher’s students 3 grades below grade level not turning in their homework anywhere near the rate the other students with two parent families turn in their homework not directly connected to the attribute that they are struggling students.

    I couldn’t find mention of homework policy in the District’s parent handbook. I thought the School Board assigned the amount of time that students are to do homework at each grade level. However, I couldn’t find a homework policy under the Board’s policy regulations except that each school in the District is required to constructs its own policy. Note that whenever the word “may” is employed the school doesn’t have to have a policy.

    Administrative Regulation

    AR 6154

    Homework/Makeup Work

    School-Site Homework Plan

    The principal and staff at each school shall develop and regularly review a school-site homework plan which includes guidelines for the assignment of homework and describes the responsibilities of students, staff and parents/guardians. The plan may identify all of the following:

    1. For each grade level, the amount of time that students shall be expected to spend on homework

    2. For each grade level, the extent to which homework assignments shall systematically involve participation by parents/guardians

    3. The means by which parents/guardians shall be informed about:

    a. Homework expectations

    b. How homework relates to the student’s grades

    c. How best to help their children

    4. Techniques that will be taught to help students allocate their time wisely, meet their deadlines and develop good personal study habits

    5. The access that students shall have to obtain:

    a. Resource materials from the library media center

    b. Assistance and/or tutoring through telephone help lines and/or after-school centers

    6. The means by which teachers shall coordinate assignments so that students do not receive an overload of homework one day and very little the next

    7. For each grade level, the extent to which homework assignments shall emphasize independent research, reports, special reading and problem-solving activities

    Makeup Work

    The Superintendent or designee shall notify parents/guardians that no student may have his/her grade reduced or lose academic credit for any excused absence when missed assignments and tests are satisfactorily completed within a reasonable period of time. Such notification shall include the full text of Education Code 48205. (Education Code 48980)

    (cf. 5121 – Grades/Evaluation of Student Achievement)
    (cf. 5145.6 – Parental Notifications)

    The teacher of any class from which a student is suspended may require the student to complete any assignments and tests missed during the suspension. (Education Code 48913)

    (cf. 5144.1 – Suspension and Expulsion/Due Process)


  • Teaches at Oakland School

    The class I have been observing doesn’t teach any of those points in 11.1. #11.1.1 and part of .2 are covered the previous year in 10th grade. It would be great if the teacher actually used 11.1 as a guide to refresh their memories but the teacher isn’t teaching any of those items, instead it is a crash course in all the events up to the Civil War-there was nothing about the philosophical origins of the American Revolution, nothing about unalienable natural rights, or the debates on the drafting and ratification of the Constitution, or the addition of the Bill of Rights.
    There was also nothing about the discussion between federal vs states’ rights.

    It would have been wonderful if that had all been covered and I agree it should have been because as you say, they are more mature and able to understand it.

    None of the kids in this class are taking the AP exam-a large number are on their phones or listening to music through gigantic earphones so that is a moot point-the teacher isn’t using that to drive the curriculum.

  • Teaches at Oakland School

    Makeitgoaway: There is a teacher who just assigns the questions at the end of the section and uses NOTHING else, including no overheads or Powerpoints. There is no modeling done, no rubrics, no nothing. THe class is back in the 1950s in terms of technology.

  • DaveP

    @Observer. She said 8 kids are right with her, come on time, and do their homework. She left out the ones in the middle.

    Wouldn’t assume thge ones in the middle are anything but a mixed bag.

    Sounds like a normal classroom in Oakland.

    If a teacher can’t deal with that reality… why would they teach in such an environment?

    Also, the teaching standards says she’s suppose to differentiate. I won’t even touch that one.

    Teaching standard 4.5

    Then again, maybe teaching standards are meaningless.

  • J.R.

    You also have situations where tenured(seemingly untouchable teachers)are deviating so far from standards that if tests were anything but “fill in the blanks”, most kids would fail miserably. There are also too many teachers that take the path of least resistance and teach to low standards, which are giving parents the false impression of educational progress. In short there are so many different angles and facets to our educational problems, we should be applauding Debora for raising these issues(and thank her for giving teaching her best effort). Thank you Debora!

  • Debora


    I am in my classroom and have it open to students by 7:30 every morning. My class is open to students until 4:30 three afternoons per week. I am available by phone to my students and their families until 6:00 pm and then again from 7:00 to 8:00 pm. I eat dinner with my family from 6 to 7.

    I do teach differently for those students who are behind. I use pictures. As I sit now I am building the vocabulary list for the class set of novels I purchased with my own money along with the post-it notes with my own money so that students can write the definitions on post-it notes and put it in the novel on the page (also listed) so that they will understand the words as they are reading them. I have purchased 18 iPod shuffles (yes, again of my own money) and an audio version of the book (own money) so that students can listen to the book and follow along before they attempt to read the book themselves.

    I differentiate my classroom into four different groups low, low-middle, high-middle, and high and have purchased textbooks (math, novels, social studies and science) (own money) to meet the needs of the various groups.

    I have applied for scholarships to allow students to have art experiences in our classroom and I have invited in people of color to explain their career paths and the struggle and successes in getting there. I feel like being an educator is a calling.

    All of that said I have three students who are out of special ed this year for the first time because they are not getting their needs served in special day classes. Not aid, not parental involvement – not sainthood or anything close, just the facts as I live them day to day.

    I stress to my students every day the importantance of being prepared for school, life and their choices. I have taught them to use planners so that they learn to plan long-term assignments.

    However, the 12 students I first discussed have not lived one day of their lives above the poverty line. Life is difficult for them. They have not learned to value themselves, others, planning or the things that I buy that I have chosen to take money from our family to buy.

    It is great to have my class. I have to say I really care about each and every student. And it is very, very hard, every day.

  • Debora

    And, Dave P – who said I am not reaching them? This is the first trimester. I have stated where my students were when I got them into my class. I am looking at patterns. These patterns appear year after year.

    How dare you suggest, without asking about my practice accuse me of not doing my job.

    You ask about my practice after you state that 40% of my students are unresponsive to my teaching styles. At the age of 10 – 13 – the age range of the students in my class, there should be some responsiblity for reading 20 minutes per day, free writing 10 minutes in a journal and completing 10 math problems that they have demonstrated in class that they know how to do. I am teaching four to five grade levels of math.

    Please do not ass-u-me with out asking questions first. It gives the appearance of intolerance.