Thomas J. Mertz
Category Archives: Quote of the Day
How one person’s abilities compare in quantity with those of another is none of the teacher’s business. It is irrelevant to his work. What is required is that every individual shall have opportunities to employ his own powers in activities that have meaning.
Democracy and Education, 1916
The current “accountability” madness is almost all based on misusing metrics of questionable value to make comparisons among students, among teachers, among schools, among districts, among nations (see here and here for two recent manifestations). If we are going to be “holding people accountable,” I’d prefer the metric be whether they are providing all students with the “opportunities to employ his [or her] own powers in activities that have meaning.”
Thomas J. Mertz
Excerpts from a speech given to the 1916 Convention of the National Education Association, “The Public Schools and the Working Man,” (full speech linked). Gompers was followed by John Dewey on the program!
From the introduction:
On Vocational Education (more here):
Powerful and important ideas.
For those in Madison, please join the celebration of Labor Day at LaborFest, September 3, 12:00 Noon to 5:30, at the Labor Temple, 1602 S. Park St (poster/flier linked here). Good music, good food, good people, good idea.
Previous AMPS Labor Day posts:
This is the third in a new series on AMPS: Blasts from the Past. The series is devoted to historical materials that comment on or illuminate contemporary issues in education.
Thomas J. Mertz
Children should NOT be sitting, waiting in an auditorium, to find out if they won a lottery to get into a school. A right to a good education should be like the right to clean water. And, since when, did teachers become the demons?
Of course Madison Prep wants the media opportunity of children waiting in an auditorium, some advocates for the school have demonized teachers, the Madison Prep Board has decided that the only way to make the school happen is to employee non-union staff and not pay them for the extended day and year (that they are also seeking African American and Latino staff, makes this even worse). It should also be noted that school choice backers like the Kochs, the Waltons and (Bradley and Koch funded) ALEC aren’t all that keen on “the right to clean water” either.
I don’t think it’s right to be admitting a large number of students who can’t do the work and then flunking them out.
Well that sounds a whole lot like the Urban Prep model of valuing college admissions over learning and college prepardness, which has been repeatedly held up by Madison Prep advocates as a model of success. Although I detest the use that was made of the records, I would also like to note that I think UW should have released the records (with personal information redacted) and used the opportunity to educate about why affirmative action in admissions is a necessary and positive practice. Openness and transparency in public and tax supported institutions is essential.
But where the 4K argument really starts to lose traction is when you consider that there is no solid evidence suggesting that universal preschool programs lead to long-term improved educational outcomes for children….
If you’re still in doubt, and think universal 4K is the solution to our education ills, ask yourself this: When is the last time you heard someone say, “You know what would solve our education problems? One additional year of unionized public schooling.” Given the track record of our public schools over the past forty years, it is completely reasonable to be skeptical that million dollar per year universal 4K programs in Wisconsin will lead to any measurable long-term educational gains for our children. And while preschool can have non-educational positive effects for children, is funding that the taxpayers’ responsibility…. or the parents’?
I happen to think quality 4K and teacher unions are good and things and the worth of the first is well established, but those aren’t the relevant issues.
Both the “Business Plan” and marketing campaign for Madison Prep repeatedly invoke non-academic goals, this can especially be seen in the “Core Values” section of the Business Plan” (starting on page 50). I agree, I think schools should be about more than improving test scores, but Jaekle apparently doesn’t.
I’m also a skeptic and believe in research-based policies, which is a big reason that I oppose Madison Prep. The evidence supporting their educational plan is thin or non-existent. Two quick examples. First on sex segregation, the evisceration of Madison Prep’s “research” by Janet Hyde was devastating (it is a must read). As Nathan Comp reported in the Isthmus “It [ULGM] says science does support gender-specific learning but was unable to provide Isthmus with any empirical data underlying this element of its model.”
Second, on the International Baccalaureate (IB), I have been looking at research on IB in non-selective and semi-selective schools and in programs targeted to low income students. I’ll get that written up eventually, but there isn’t much there to recommend IB as a strategy for addressing achievement gaps and the needs of struggling students. There is however much that calls into doubt Madison Prep’s attrition projections (IB programs have big attrition numbers, especially in 10th and 11th grade) and their assertion that 100% of their students will fulfill the IB Diploma requirements is laughable. All the links on this when I get it written up, meanwhile on the achievement gaps, some quotes from a report by the Denver Public Schools:
There is no available evidence that the IB will increase student achievement in DPS schools or that the IB has had a positive effect on student achievement in similar districts or schools. A thorough search of the literature has netted no empirical studies on the effects of IB on student achievement….
[T]he model is not proven to improve student achievement in schools with low-income populations, to narrow the achievement gap, or to bring low-achieving students up to proficiency in reading, writing or mathematics.
There is no doubt in my mind that the research supporting 4K and quality early childhood education is far superior to the research supporting Madison Prep.
So from abandoning improvement of public schools in favor of choice that serves few students, to embracing models that send unprepared students to college, through ignoring research while planning an educational program, you can see why I’m confused by these people’s support for Madison Preparatory Academy and willingness to serve on the Board of Directors.
Thomas J. Mertz
Voting information can be found at the City Clerk’s site
Learn more about all the races and candidates via the League of Women Voters.
For those in District 13, Madison, some things on the election where I am a candidate for Common Council.
Video from the Bay Creek Forum District 13 Forum is up on YouTube . I want to thank the organizers and participants for a great exercise in democracy. Here is one excerpt:
Capital Times, Laptop City Hall overview(very well done).
Because of the current attacks on public workers and unions, I’d also like to use this opportunity to encourage all to work to defeat Governor Walker’s proposal. More information here (linked).
Last, some quotes about voting I put on my campaign literature, and a couple of songs.
Nobody will ever deprive the American people of the right to vote except the American people themselves — and the only way they could do this is by not voting. — Franklin D. Roosevelt
Suffrage is the pivotal right. — Susan B. Anthony
Voting is a civic sacrament. — Theodore M. Hesburgh
Thomas J. (TJ) Mertz
“It is precisely because education is the road to equality and citizenship, that it has been made more elusive for Negroes than many other rights. The walling off of Negroes from equal education is part of the historical design to submerge him in second class status. Therefore, as Negroes have struggled to be free they have had to fight for the opportunity for a decent education.”
“The Negro has no room to make any substantial compromises because his store of advantages is too small. He must press unrelentingly for quality, integrated education or his whole drive for freedom will be undermined by the absence of a most vital and indispensable element — learning.”
“The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically… Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.”
“Cowardice asks the question, ‘Is it safe?’ Expediency asks the question, ‘Is it politic?’ But conscience asks the question, ‘Is it right?’ And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular but because conscience tells one it is right.”
Thomas J. Mertz
“The study suggests that people who say we know how to make failing schools into successful ones but merely lack the will to do so are selling snake oil. In fact, successful turnaround stories are marked by idiosyncratic circumstances. The science of turnarounds is weak and devoid of practical, effective strategies for educators to employ. Examples of largescale, system-wide turnarounds are nonexistent. A lot of work needs to be done before the odds of turning around failing schools begin to tip in a favorable direction.”
So much of the discussion of a “lack of will” devolves into blaming teachers, unions and “the Education Establishment” and is characterized by false promises of “the market” or unspecified “innovation” that reminders of the reality like those found in the Brown Report are drowned out in the blather. The vast majority of public schools serve their communities well; the vast majority of those employed in education want students to be successful and do their best to make that happen.
Related and timely:
Thomas J. Mertz
In the 2009-11 biennial budget, Wisconsin was forced to reduce state general school aids by $147 million each year compared to FY 2009. Despite increasing poverty and rising fixed costs, the level of general aid available to Wisconsin school districts for the 2010-11 school year is roughly equal to what it was five years ago.
To learn more about the Harkin bill, see here and this New York Times editorial: “Saving the Teachers.” I also liked Harold Meyerson’s recent Washington Post op ed, “Deficit hawkery’s harsh impact on education” (although with most states deficits aren’t allowed and much of it is about the equally insidious budget hawkery).
USA Today is reporting that:
Federal, state and local taxes — including income, property, sales and other taxes — consumed 9.2% of all personal income in 2009, the lowest rate since 1950, the Bureau of Economic Analysis reports. That rate is far below the historic average of 12% for the last half-century. The overall tax burden hit bottom in December at 8.8.% of income before rising slightly in the first three months of 2010.
So there is plenty of reason and room to be talking about real tax reform that makes needed adjustments and provides necessary revenues.
While on that topic, the Penny for Kids campaign is going strong. Join the thousands calling for an sales tax increase dedicated to education in order to meet the crisis and start Wisconsin back in the right direction.
Following Evers lead and contacting our Senators would be a good idea:
14 W. Mifflin St., Suite 207
Madison, WI 53703
Fax: (608) 264-5473
1600 Aspen Commons
Middleton, WI 53562-4716
TDD (608) 828-1215
Fax (608) 828-1203
If you want to hit State officials too, all the info is here.
Last, WisPolitics is reporting that Supt Evers also broached some school funding reform ideas around the Levy Credits (no link). Addressing the levy credits as the property tax relief they are, instead pretending that they are education aid is a great start, but much more is needed to take our state where it should be and offer a quality education to all.
Thomas J. Mertz
A hopeful voice emerged today in an editorial in the Wisconsin State Journal, a venue that wasn’t always convinced in the past of the need for education finance reform.
School finance reform should be at the top of Gov. Jim Doyle’s to-do list before he leaves office.
Reform won’t be easy.
Yet fixing the state’s broken system of paying for public education has always been a monumental task. That’s why so many politicians — Democrats and Republicans — have largely ignored it for so long.
Doyle, who announced Monday he won’t seek a third term, has advantages in pressing for major change now, even if he’s viewed as a lame duck.
The Democratic governor won’t have to fear the political repercussions of reform because he’s leaving anyway. And his fellow Democrats who control the Legislature might be happy to let Doyle take ownership of the thorny and complicated issue. Then Doyle can be the fall guy if special and local interests balk at difficult yet necessary state decisions.
Without reform, school districts will only face more pressure to scale back, threatening the quality of public education that’s so vital to a strong economy.
Doyle and the Democrats lifted state-imposed limits on teacher raises earlier this year. That means the biggest expense for schools — employee compensation — is about to jump.
At the same time, Doyle and the Legislature cut state aid to schools while maintaining school revenue caps. That leaves schools with less money to pay its climbing expenses. And the vise will only get tighter.
We hope Doyle was serious Monday when he pledged to “move forward” with school finance reform despite his looming departure.
Doyle told the State Journal editorial board in February that he would unveil far-reaching changes to state policy on school finance this fall. Without a lot of detail, Doyle suggested he would require savings on health benefits for teachers. He also would allow districts more revenue if they agreed to a list of best practices to improve student performance with accountability for results.
The effect on property taxpayers is unclear.
Doyle has talked about fixing school finances for years. He’s made a few tweaks but never finished the job.
As Doyle said to his staff at Monday’s press conference: “Let’s get to work.”
I myself remain skeptical, but hopeful, Governor Doyle will “finish the job.” We’ll keep you posted of any new developments.
Statements by three Wisconsin State Senators on education in the 2009-2011 biennial state budget brought to mind three songs by the Rolling Stones, so I’m offering some special dedications. Read, listen, think, act (click on their names to contact the Senators).
Before getting to the excerpts from the statements and the songs I want to say that whatever my opinion of the statements themselves, I want to applaud the Senators for talking about this in public. It takes a little courage to address these difficult issues and if nobody is talking no progress can be made.
“[T]he state’s complex school finance formula…can’t be changed easily.”
In the Wisconsin State Journal.
We all know it is complex and that change isn’t easy. As noted in regard to Miller’s fuller statement, change requires work and that work is the responsibility of the State Senate and Assembly.
“I thought protecting education should have been the top priority in the budget, but instead students and property taxpayers are shortchanged with less state aid,” Schultz said.”…
“State school aid is important for our kids and for property taxpayers and it should have been a higher priority.”
Senator Schultz has been in his position since 1991; before that he served a decade in the Assembly. By the standards generally applied to Republicans in Wisconsin, he has been considered a “friend of public education.” This is mostly because he often says something close to the right things. Words are nice: actions are needed. Leadership would be even better. I am waiting.
“We don’t have the money to do school funding reform,” goes conventional wisdom around the Capitol. It costs money to fix the funding formula and money is in very short supply.
Given the state’s fiscal condition, many considered any reform of school funding impossible. But in our Senate District schools simply can’t wait….
As one man from Pepin said, “We have got to start somewhere and we have got to start right now.”
This last song goes out to all the Senators and Members of the Assembly, but Senator Vinehout seems to display more of the “can do,” “get-er’-done” spirit than most who work at the Capitol (including elected officials, staff and lobbyists). As the Miller quote indicates, many will always find reasons why progress and reform can’t happen. I believe it can and must happen. The first step is trying.
Thomas J. Mertz