I will admit to not being the smartest person in the world. In fact I’m pretty sure I’m not even in the top 25%. That’s okay, however, since I am smart enough to realize that. So, when something comes along that I don’t understand I can seek out those who do and learn about it. That habit led directly to me getting in touch with several renowned astrophysicists, astronomers and others and those conversations led to the many articles about science that have graced Nude Hippo over the last year. And, thanks to some of our readers, those articles have led to other posts following up on some unusual ideas. Basically, you have been allowed to share in the concept of education in action. And when I’m not writing about boobies and nude criminals, although those can be educational in their own right, I do find it kind of fun to learn something new and share it with you.
Sadly, however, many Americans never get that chance. The Fordham Institute recently published a report which claims that kids in Texas are getting such a heavily politicized view of history that they are ineligible for even the most basic college courses.
A recent report says Texas K-12 standards in history are inadequate, ineffective and “fail to meet the state’s college readiness standards,” and the report’s authors are pointing the finger at Gov. Rick Perry’s State Board of Education.
In the report, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and the Social Studies Faculty Collaborative say that Texas’ K-12 system is “founded upon an inadequate set of standards.” Keith Erekson, the author and history professor at the University of Texas at El Paso, analyzes in the report the entire process of Texas’ history standards — from board approval to the curriculum itself.
The report notes that the Fordham Institute gave the state’s history standards a grade of “D,” calling it a “politicized distortion of history,” that is “both unwieldy and troubling” while “offering misrepresentations at every turn.”
These misrepresentations, Erekson writes, include excluding Native Americans from the standards curriculum until recently and citing states’ rights as a cause of the Civil War when Texas did not cite it in their historical “Declaration of Causes.”
The Texas State Board of Education last May adopted its most recent social studies and history curriculum that revises its teachings of the rationale for the separation of church and state, among hundreds of other topics. The curriculum underwent a contentious monthslong revision process, and will be used in Texas for the next 10 years.
Erekson’s report comes after a separate report by the Southern Poverty Law Center in September called education about the civil rights movement in the U.S. “dismal.” Just 2 percent of the 12,000 12th graders who took the 2010 National Assessment of Educational Progress U.S. History Exam were able to correctly identify two basic points about the historic Brown v. Board of Education case to earn a score of “complete.”
The NAEP also released a report in June that showed dismal history test scores in what U.S. Secretary of Education called an impending “slow-motion train wreck”: just 9 percent of 4th graders could identify a photograph of Abraham Lincoln and state two reasons for his importance.
“People tend to think that history is only memorizing facts,” Linda Salvucci, vice chair of the National Council for History Education, told HuffPost. “More importantly, it’s a way of thinking and organizing the world.”
Texas’ failures, as well as the poor national performance, contribute to a low level of college readiness among the state’s high school students, to the extent that Erekson’s report says college readiness was almost completely ignored in Texas’ revised history standards, “Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills” — presenting history as a series of factual memorization and one-sided analysis.
Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. And, sadly and obviously, George Santayana is not a part of the Texas curriculum. For all I know kids in Texas think Santayana is a guitarist who once played with Everlast, if they think about him at all.
Couple this with the recent report from the right thinking, they prefer that to right wing whack jobs, American Heritage foundation which argues that teachers are overpaid. The report was so distorted and flawed that U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, was forced to release a formal response and protest to it.
As millions of Americans search for work, and millions more scrape by to make ends meet, researchers affiliated with two Washington think tanks — the American Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation — have recently announced a “finding” that defies common-sense: America’s teachers are overpaid by more than 50 percent.
The new paper from Jason Richwine and Andrew Biggs fails on several levels. First, it asks the wrong question. Second, it ignores facts that conflict with its conclusions. Lastly, it insults teachers and demeans the profession.
Instead of asking whether teachers are overpaid, Richwine and Biggs should have asked what it would take to recruit and retain highly effective teachers for all students. Surveys show that many talented and committed young people are reluctant to enter teaching for the long haul because they think the profession is low-paying and not prestigious enough.
McKinsey & Co. did a study (PDF) last year comparing the U.S. to other countries and found that America’s average current teacher salaries — starting around $35,000 and topping out at an average of $65,000 — were set far too low to attract and retain top talent.
The McKinsey report found that starting teacher salaries have not kept pace with other fields. In 1970, beginning New York City lawyers earned $2,000 more than first-year teachers. Today, a starting lawyer there can earn three or four times as much as a beginning teacher.
Money is not the reason that people enter teaching. But it is a reason why some talented people avoid teaching–or quit the profession when starting a family or buying a home. Other high-performing nations recruit teachers from the top third of college graduates. That must be our goal as well, and compensation is one critical factor. To encourage more top-caliber students to choose teaching, teachers should be paid a lot more, with starting salaries more in the range of $60,000 and potential earnings of as much as $150,000.
Great teachers stand at the summit of one of the hardest, most challenging, and most consequential professions for our children and the country’s future economic prosperity. They deserve our respect and should be well-remunerated. Nevertheless, through tortured analysis, and in some instances a disregard of their own data, the authors of this new study reach a predictably contrary conclusion.
Traditionally, economists have analyzed teacher pay the same way they analyze pay in other professions–they have compared the pay of teachers to workers with similar education and work experience. Like many before them, Richwine and Biggs found that teachers did indeed receive lower pay than similarly educated workers — almost 20 percent lower.
I agree that educational credentials are not the best measures of teacher effectiveness — but the researchers go on to assert that teachers should not be compared to workers with similar educational credentials because teachers do not score as well on the Armed Forces Qualifications Test. Setting aside the fact that the AFQT does not measure teacher effectiveness, it is insulting and demeaning to argue that teachers are not smart enough to receive market compensation comparable to their peers based on the results of a test that most of them took as teenagers.
The researchers also ignored a chart in their own paper showing that teachers have similar overall benefit packages to private employees. Unhappy with those findings, they then exaggerated the value of teacher compensation by comparing the retirement benefits of the small minority of teachers who stay in the classroom for 30 years, rather than comparing the pension benefits for the typical teacher to their peers in other professions.
Finally, they appeared to create out of thin air an 8.6 percent “job security” salary premium for teachers — despite the fact that hundreds of thousands of education jobs were lost in the recession and teachers continue to face layoffs.
By the end of this decade, more than half of America’s 3.2 million teachers are expected to retire. That demographic shift presents a stiff challenge and a special opportunity. States, districts, and schools have a once-in-a-lifetime chance to modernize the teaching profession and expand the talent pool. But doing so will require dramatic change in the way we recruit, train, support, evaluate, and compensate teachers.
I agree with Richwine and Biggs on one point. If teachers are to be recognized and compensated as professionals, states and school districts must shift away from a blue-collar assembly line model of compensation–and do more to reward effectiveness and performance in the classroom. A performance-based compensation model will enable great teachers to earn more, justify higher salaries, and raise the stature of the profession.
Americans need and deserve an honest, open debate about the teaching profession, framed by evidence, not ideologically-tilted studies like this one. The debate in Washington today should be about how to judiciously invest in education. How can we best modernize schools with crumbling infrastructure so they can teach 21st century skills? How can we keep teachers in classrooms, instead of on unemployment lines? And yes–even when budgets are tight–how can we make teaching a more attractive career and elevate the profession?
The answer to these questions cannot be to cut teacher pay and put tens of thousands of teachers out of work. Even in a time of fiscal austerity, education is more than just an expense. It’s an investment in the future.
I’ll allow Maureen Downey to chime in. She’s a teacher.
Are you sick of highly paid teachers?
Teachers’ hefty salaries are driving up taxes, and they only work 9 or10 months a year! It’s time we put things in perspective and pay them for what they do – babysit!
We can get that for less than minimum wage.
That’s right. Let’s give them $3.00 an hour and only the hours they worked; not any of that silly planning time, or any time they spend before or after school. That would be $19.50 a day (7:45 to 3:00 PM with 45 min. off for lunch and plan– that equals 6 1/2 hours).
Each parent should pay $19.50 a day for these teachers to baby-sit their children. Now how many students do they teach in a day…maybe 30? So that’s $19.50 x 30 = $585.00 a day.
However, remember they only work 180 days a year!!! I am not going to pay them for any vacations.
That’s $585 X 180= $105,300 per year. (Hold on! My calculator needs new batteries).
What about those special education teachers and the ones with Master’s degrees? Well, we could pay them minimum wage ($7.75), and just to be fair, round it off to $8.00 an hour. That would be $8 X 6 1/2 hours X 30 children X 180 days = $280,800 per year.
Wait a minute — there’s something wrong here! There sure is!
The average teacher’s salary (nation wide) is $50,000. $50,000/180 days = $277.77/per day/30 students = $9.25/6.5 hours = $1.42 per hour per student–a very inexpensive baby-sitter and they even EDUCATE your kids!) WHAT A DEAL!!!!
Make a teacher smile; repost this to show appreciation for all educators.
That’s a simplistic view of things, I will admit, but it does have its math right and it makes an honest point. As things are right now, dollar for dollar, teaching is not a good career choice. Do you really want your kids being taught by the least capable people available?
And what kind of world are we looking at if that is the path we choose? Let’s take a quick trip to Florida – where else? – to find out.
If you think your parents are embarrassing, just wait til you hear what this Florida mother allegedly did in front of her daughter.
Winter Haven police arrested Marsia Emanuel on Thursday after she allegedly hailed a school bus and beat the driver in front of her teenage daughter and other students around 6 a.m., The Ledger reports.
The driver, Marilyn Richmond, recognized Emanuel as a student’s mom, pulled over and opened the door. For reasons that are unclear, according to The Ledger’s dispatch, Emanuel boarded and refused to leave the bus.
Hostilities ensued. Emanuel yelled in what seemed to be a foreign language, according to TV station WTSP. The incomprehensible ranting was followed by Emanuel allegedly battering Richmond on the shoulder and arm.
Emanuel fled and police traced her retreat to her home where there was another outburst of yelling, again from the mouth of the accused misbehaving mom. Police claim Emanuel, 37, dropped her underpants in front of them too, reports said.
Eventually subdued, police charged her with burglary of an occupied vehicle, battery of a public education worker, disturbing the peace and indecent exposure, according to the Polk County Sheriff’s Department.
The unruly behavior was apparently contagious that day. The investigative work of Winter Haven’s finest was hindered on board the parked school bus by a 15-year-old boy who interfered with cops’ efforts to canvass passengers for statements about the strange early morning incident. The student was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and disrupting school, according to The Ledger.
The remaining pupils boarded an emergency replacement bus about 90 minutes later and were transported to high school.
Let’s break down both crimes, shall we? The lovely Ms. Emanuel was so upset at something that normal language evaded her so she made up a new one on the spot, beat up a bus driver for no reason and then dropped trow in front of a group of armed cops to prove …… something that I doubt even she understood. Follow that up with the epitome of modern education in action with the 15 year old boy deciding that conducting some sort of poll while the bus is filled with police is a good way to exercise his First Amendment rights.
Just FYI, he was wrong.
There’s a time and a place for everything and that wasn’t either.
I hope he learned that at least. I’m guessing he already knew who to call for bail money.
Listen to Bill McCormick on WBIG AM 1280, every Thursday morning around 9:10!