You are viewing the most recent posts on this topic.
September 5, 2013 at 6:36 PM
Michael Lundin briefly referred to the great obstacles that keep education in the U.S. dead centered: race and poverty. [“Guest column: How to train great teachers,” Opinion, Sept. 5.]
They are really the same problem. We use race to justify the poverty we see in the inner cities.
The question that rushes to mind is, why can’t we solve this? It seems the richest nation in the world lacks the capacity to provide everyone with the education they need.
Top on the list for attention is a raise in the minimum wage. As finance writer James Surowiecki says in a recent New Yorker, wages have come down, and “the pay is too damn low.”
Studies have shown that a dollar increase in the hourly wage of a parent results in their children having a greater readiness for school and higher grades in it.
Is anyone paying attention?
William DuBay, Poulsbo
Character education and understanding teachers
Michael Lundin is obviously gifted at learning, teaching and writing.
I do disagree with one point, and would want to add one or two other points.
Most college graduates and a lot of high-school graduates would be capable of teaching math well, even if they weren’t in the top third of their college classes. They would need adequate training. What is missing is adequate training and a school curriculum that is set up to improve the areas that students are falling flat in.
Students also need to be schooled in character education to understand that honesty and persistence will pay off.
It is true that an inspired teacher can do all that and inspire a love of the subject, but a school system that develops an educational system and curriculum that includes these values will succeed, even if they can’t hire someone from the top third of their class to inspire them.
Sometimes, it’s a teacher who once had trouble in math that will understand why a student is not understanding a concept.
Keith Wellman, Freeland, Island County
September 4, 2013 at 4:18 PM
Teachers want to teach
The Seattle Times has long portrayed a dim view of teachers’ unions, but it is time for the public to have a clear understanding of what school employees hold dear to their hearts. [“Seattle schools start today as teachers OK contract,” NW Wednesday, Sept. 4.]
Despite the disrespect shown to many school professionals, teachers continue to teach. But we will no longer accept being held accountable for student progress while more students are placed in our classes and more and more is expected of us in our classrooms, without legislated salary increases.
Teachers are ready to teach. Despite strike talk, we have been working feverishly in our classrooms and we were ready to work on Tuesday, voted on a new contract Tuesday evening and greeted students with the same joy we show, year in and year out.
In the area of accountability, new state testing is to happen within two years. One bargaining issue that divided the union and the district is whether or not to put time, energy and money into the old system of evaluation.
The Seattle School District seems to have wanted to spend time, energy and money to prove their success on an old system which may no longer be in place in two years.
After more that 40 years of teaching, serving years as a bargaining-team member, and heavy involvement in my union, I hope someone can find the voice of reason in my arguments.
Devin Gruver, Pathfinder Middle School autism program, Seattle
September 3, 2013 at 6:58 PM
A second to Sara Mosle’s guest column, from a retired public schoolteacher. [“Why parents make better teachers,” Opinion, Sept. 1.]
My success derived from two sources. I had been a lousy student in high school, after my dad died when I was 14. My wife and I raised five children together. Both of these “learning experiences” allowed me to work effectively with all children and understand how to support them by supporting their parents.
Many young teachers have great energy and fervent belief, but schools with a majority of parent-teachers bring irreplaceable depth to the task of loving and teaching every student.
Dale Rector, Seattle
September 3, 2013 at 4:31 PM
A level playing field
Now the big negotiation piece for teachers is being evaluated by test results. [“Seattle teachers to vote on new pact,” page one, Sept. 2.]
Well, let’s make it a level playing field. If teachers are held accountable in this manner, so should the administration, students and parents.
Should class size be significantly lowered for better instruction? Yes. Should new students who speak little English be included in testing? No. Should a child be allowed to pass into the next grade if they have not mastered specific key skills taught at a grade level? No.
Parents should be required to attend conferences. Children should not be allowed to enter kindergarten without knowing the alphabet, how to count to 20, how to read specific sight words and how to write their own name; parents should see to this.
There may be nothing wrong with asking teachers to be evaluated by test results if all those connected to the process agree to do their part too. Teachers, don’t forget to grade your principal.
Jim Thompson, Seattle
September 3, 2013 at 6:55 AM
Teachers and parents should stop whining
Everyone is tired of Seattle area teachers whining right around school start time. This time it is about using test scores to judge them. [“Teachers vote down contract proposal,” NW Tuesday, Aug. 27.]
I have two issues with this anti-test-score perspective.
First, if tests are good enough to affect or determine the future success of the children (for example, whether they go to college), they should be good enough to determine a qualitative review of the teacher.
Second, if teachers were confident the children would do well at these tests, they wouldn’t have this issue.
The curriculum does not support test success. This is not because tests are an irrelevant distraction, it’s because of the parents selfish impact on curriculum.
Over the past decades, in the name of progress, the curriculum at almost all public schools has been softened, and made more entertaining and fun.
The rhetoric around that is that it encourages learning. The resulting curriculum gives kids higher grades, and makes parents happy, so they don’t complain to the teachers and/or school board. Of course, parents don’t want their kids to have homework, because it takes away from things they enjoy more, such as their children playing sports.
Test scores are, for the majority of able students, a good barometer of their ability to focus and succeed in the world after school is done. We should embrace them, and so should the teachers. What stands in the way is the parents, who should be calling for a more rigorous curriculum at school.
Gretchen Marks, Seattle
August 13, 2013 at 6:23 AM
Teachers can only do so much
As a high-school teacher with 32 years of experience, I read your Sunday editorial and once again reflected on the fact that everyone seems to know what is best for education, particularly if he or she has never been involved in the system except as students or parents. [“Teachers, districts should embrace reform,” Opinion, Aug. 11.]
This “embrace-all” solution advocated by the editorial board fails to address the reality of public education. Teachers are not miracle workers. They are forced to deal with whoever walks into their classroom. As many students with learning disabilities are meshed within a classroom of 30 students or more, teachers can only bring those students so far.
The new evaluation system takes time to learn and to implement, just as any new, complex, professional program does. Most districts offer a single day of “professional development” and begin the evaluation process in that same year, so asking teachers and districts to “embrace” the new system, particularly when the stakes are so high, shows complete ignorance.
Test scores, while currently regarded as the “be-all, end-all,” face the same problem as listed above. Students need time to adjust to new curricula, new methodology, and a new means of assessment.
This reeks of sudden-fix pontificating.
Toni Nyman, Shoreline
July 23, 2013 at 7:09 AM
There are other underpaid people out there
Mayor Mike McGinn expressed concern about the $16 hourly wage at Whole Foods, while most teachers and child-care workers in the city earn much less than that. [“McGinn goes all out on Whole Foods,” NW Sunday, July 21.]
Mayor McGinn, are you saying that people who work with food deserve to make more than people that work with young children at the most crucial time in their development?
While the city of Seattle has been a tremendous leader nationally in supporting young children and families, especially those in poverty, the average child-care wage is closer to $10 an hour. The city contracts with child-care centers through their levy-funded early-learning program, in which teachers have no health-care benefits at all.
When child-care staff members live in poverty, so do the children they serve! Talk about a social justice and equity issue.
I would suggest that the mayor look closer in his own back yard. While I know it is complicated, I have never understood why the city wouldn’t take a more active role in improving the quality of life for child-care workers, especially regarding health care and salaries.
Ilene Stark, Seattle
July 22, 2013 at 6:08 AM
WEA wants what’s best for kids
Liv Finne blames all that is wrong in our schools on the Washington Education Association (WEA). [“Guest column: WEA blocked education reforms,” Opinion, July 16.]
Were she to step away from the motive of demonizing the teachers’ union, she might discover that a huge shift has recently occurred in education in our state. With union support, our Legislature adopted a rigorous teacher-evaluation system.
Teachers who do not meet the standard will lose their jobs. Additionally, with WEA support, Washington has adopted the federal Common Core State Standards for K-12, bringing rigor and high expectations to every classroom.
Both of these shifts mean teachers will be focused on their practice, with the goal of constant improvement.
Finne also fails to mention that schools closing early one day per week means teachers have the time to plan meaningful lessons, accomplishing her goal of better teaching. This occurs with no loss of classroom contact for the student in overall minutes.
Because Finne is outside the field of education, she can’t possibly understand the layers of complexity involved with being a good teacher. She might try supporting those of us in the field by admitting even the WEA wants what’s best for our kids.
Jennie Knapp, Kirkland
July 19, 2013 at 7:23 PM
Column was false
Liv Finne of the Washington Policy Center is entitled to her opinions, but she shouldn’t make things up. [“Guest column: WEA blocked education reforms,” Opinion, July 16.]
Her claim that “the most important factor in whether students are learning is the quality of the teacher in the classroom” is false. Longstanding research confirms two things: about 75 percent of the determinants of student learning are related to out-of-school factors, and teachers are the most important in-school factor.
Are states like Florida improving public education with choice and vouchers, as she claims? I wish they were; we might learn something from them.
But the most credible analyses indicate that charters and vouchers have not moved the achievement needle. They are no better than, and frequently worse than, comparable public schools.
In cities and states across the nation — California, Kansas City, Philadelphia, and Miami — the evidence is accumulating that unregulated charter and voucher systems (the Holy Grail of market-oriented think tanks like the Washington Policy Center) are rife with nepotism, sweetheart contracts, financial mismanagement, and bonuses that would make a Wall Street banker blush.
James Harvey, executive director of the National Superintendents Roundtable, Seattle
Fight poverty to help students
Once again, The Seattle Times has published an op-ed attacking workers. This time, it is the piece written by Liv Finne of the very conservative Washington Policy Center.
There are so many unsupported allegations in this piece it is hard to know where to begin. The most egregious is that the Washington Education Association (WEA) is against charter schools because it wants to protect its members.
The larger issue here is whether public money should be taken from public school systems to support for-profit corporations that run Charter Schools.
This is an example of the continuing assault on a public-sector union. Somehow, the writer thinks that if only they could get rid of the WEA, then all the problems with the public school system would be solved.
This ignores the evidence that a strong union that supports its membership results in higher educational achievement. Finland has one of the most successful educational systems, and they have about 75 percent union membership.
Moreover, the people of Finland, whose population is similar in size to Washington, support their school system and their teachers, rather than tearing it down and labeling it a failure, as Finne does. Excellent teachers are a very important factor in a student’s learning, but they only influence so much. The rest comes from the community and the socio-economic status of the student. Alleviating poverty would drastically improve student achievement.
Paul Granquist, Everett
Happy teachers are better educators
I have taught in elementary school settings for 40 years. There are far more able teachers than there are bad ones she would really want to replace. The “lemons” need to be weeded out, for sure, but that takes a process with a good administrator who possesses skills to see it is done respectfully to all the humans involved.
The reforms she touted would have made it possible for teachers to be fired for no reason at all. A principal could decide that the teacher didn’t “fit” in his or her school. This teacher could apply for other positions within a district, but if no one picked him or her, she or he would just be out of a job.
This is not fair. Thank goodness the WEA understands this and helped block such a reckless idea.
I want Finne to know that one thing that benefits students is having teachers who are happy, comfortable and risk-taking. These qualities would disappear quickly if a teacher believed she or he could be fired at the whim of his or her supervisor.
I want her to know that happy teachers result in educated children, for the most part. With education directors like Finne around, our happy teaching environment is quickly disappearing, and it seems this is a result of non-educators believing they know what’s best for educators and the children in their classrooms!
Robert Brown, Fircrest
July 18, 2013 at 6:54 AM
Guest columnist denies facts
Shame on Liv Finne. Her statement that reducing class size is not effective in producing high-performing schools is disingenuous, at best. [“Guest column: WEA blocked education reforms,” Opinion, July 16.]
Research has shown that reducing class size, particularly in K-3 classrooms, can and does boost student performance.
My guess is that Finne chooses to deny the benefits of lower class sizes because the gains are most evident when class size is reduced to a maximum of 18 students. Can you imagine Finne and her employer, the Washington Policy Center, along with the Republican education “reformers” in the state Senate supporting the provision of funding necessary to reduce K-3 classrooms to a maximum of 18 students and initiating real, research-based reform?
Me neither. It’s much easier to go after all those “bad teachers.”
Jeffrey Creager, Lake Forest Park
Washington Policy Center is not looking out for schools
The Washington Policy Center (WPC) that Liv Finne is an employee of supports limited government and is funded by conservative donors like the Koch Brothers, who have been quite successful in Wisconsin in destroying public-employee unions.
The so-called reforms created by the Senate majority were merely an attempt to deflect attention away from what it was ordered by the Supreme Court to do: fully fund education.
Finne’s assertion that the Washington Education Association (WEA) is supporting cutting classroom services by closing schools early two days a week is misleading.
Districts have early-release days so teachers can attend professional development during their work hours, much like doctors and lawyers do, to improve their skills, something the WPC supports.
Educators don’t leave with the kids on these days, unless it is a furlough day, created by the Legislature, in which the educators are not paid.
Finally, Finne and many legislators clearly don’t understand the impact poverty has on a child’s ability to learn. 18 percent of the children in Washington live in poverty. Sleep, nutrition and home life, things schools and the WEA have little control over, all impact a child’s ability to learn.
Martha de Carbonel Patterson, Silverdale
Trending with readers