Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The Charlie (Rose) and Wendy (Kopp) Show

I'm sure people will find their own favorite moment in her appearance but mine was when Rose asked her what percentage of Teach for America recruits are still teaching and her answer was 65% - are involved in education, some as lawyers doing some work connected to education.

I was waiting for his follow-up:
"I didn't ask you that. What percentage are still teaching kids?"

I'm still waiting.

Questions he could have asked, but didn't:

What would you say is the average time TFA's spend in the classroom - these committed people who have high expectations, which apparently is all you need? Why not look to see what it takes to keep these people in the classroom? Do they leave because of money? Burnout? Does Kopp think paying these people merit pay would make them better, or work harder, which is the mantra of the business community?

Why not put teachers who spend a decade or more in inner city classrooms on the show so we can talk about real ways of solving the problems instead of Kopp's smokes and mirrors?

As one who spent 3 decades, I agree with Kopp that we can really make a difference - I never entered a classroom thinking I couldn't. But I also learned that there was a lot more needed to have a long-term impact. It's not just about teaching, but about getting involved in the political struggles necessary to bring the same resources into classrooms as goes into wars.

Kopp just told anecdotes. I was thinking that in my 2nd year of teaching I also got kids to grow 2 years in one - and that happened to some kids numerous times.
Reforming the system is so not just about that.
She was right when she said all these gains disappear when they go to a lousy junior high - but it was her ad for her husband's KIPP.
When she talked about the difference in the way TFA's (high expectations, hard work) and traditional educators (kids motivations, parental involvement, etc.) see the way to solve the problems - note not one mention of class size reduction or other resources as a worthy goal.

Oh, if only all teachers could be TFA's- Rose was sort of trying to go there to see if that would work - but she slipped away.

It was like when I asked Chester Finn if we made every school a KIPP school, would we eliminate the achievement gap - and he slipped away on that one but did claim we would close it by half, an admission that it was not all about goals and low expectations.

Noel (a parent activist from Manhattan's lower east side)'s comment:

It was frightening to me how enthusiastic she was about the teachers being 100% "goal-oriented", doing "whatever it takes" to get those scores up. And I thought it was very telling that she simply could not, no matter how many times Charlie Rose asked her to, describe what in particular this fabulous teacher Gillette (?) had actually done to help kids. It all came down to sheer, monomaniacal focus on The Goal. Utterly sickening.

More of Noel's comments among others at this PBS site.
Add your own and demand that Rose have real teachers on to present the other side - which is reality.


  1. It was frightening to me how enthusiastic she was about the teachers being 100% "goal-oriented", doing "whatever it takes" to get those scores up. And I thought it was very telling that she simply could not, no matter how many times Charlie Rose asked her to, describe what in particular this fabulous teacher Gillette (?) had actually done to help kids. It all came down to sheer, monomaniacal focus on The Goal.

    Utterly sickening.

  2. Please note the claims made by Neil Sullivan in the comments at the PBS site. I'm suspicious of his claims, for example, his statement that "all independent sources show the Catholic inner-city schools outperform the public schools." Really? While I certainly cannot speak for NYC specifically, the studies that I am aware of comparing private school performance (including Catholic schools) to public school performance do not support Sullivan's claims. Recall the Lubienski NAEP study...and its findings were later confirmed by the DOE's own study (which they sat on as long as they could and finally released as quietly as possible). If Sullivan is disseminating false or misleading information to Charlie Rose, it needs to be exposed.

  3. Re: Charlie Rose Show on Education

    I am always amused how very few people consider the most salient difference/fact of all, while endlessly pontificating on the tired old debate comparing the merits of Public versus Private Education systems.

    I refer of course to how involved are the parents or parent of the child in question.

    While some parents monitor daily the progress and performance of their children in the Public school system (homework, studying for exams, report cards, etc) it is my experience, as a person who spent 37 years in the field of Education, that parents, grandparents and other caretaker/guardians, are far more watchful and vigilant over the progress of the children who are enrolled in Private and/or Parochial schools.

    This would appear quite logical, given the fact that it requires a certain degree of effort (decision making)for a parent to consider what options/choices are available to educate their children, compare the various choices, weigh the benefits and simultaneously consider the financial sacrifices that may be incurrred in opting for an education that will often mean going without other things which any ordinary family requires.

    In short the parent who even begins to consider an alternative to placing his/her child in a Public school, is ipso facto, an involved parent who is quite aware of the fact that "as the bough is bent - so grows the tree".

    I do not claim, as some might, to possess a final definitive answer as to whether one or the other type of Education produces the highest level of achievement. As Mark Twain aptly said about the use of numbers in making determinations:

    "There are lies, damn lies, and then there are statistics".

    Of course the ridiculously high class registers in the Public schools compared to the smaller registers in Private schools is too obvious a learning factor to merit discussion.

    What most people would have to admit is that in general the levels of behavior and attitude one encounters in the Private and Parochial school settings is somewhat higher than in the Public school settings.

    My own humble conclusion about this apparent truth is that everything starts with the attitude of the student's parents and their degree of watchfulness and involvement in their child's education.

    I do not believe that Private and Parochial schools employ better teachers than the Public schools. In fact, my experience says that the opposite may well be true.

    What does make sense to me is the conclusion that when a parent must sometimes make family wrenching financial sacrifices to choose the Private/Parochial school route, that parent is going to be most anxious to ensure that the child involved is performing in a way to justify those often enormous sacrifices.

    Thus, to borrow a line from politics:

    "It's the parent's involvement-stupid".

    David Pakter

  4. While you make valid points David, I can agree with Wendy Kopp on the point that placing fault on parental involvement or the lack of or motivation of the kids does not solve the problem. Just as the blame she and the regressive ed reformers place on teachers will not solve the problem.

    If there's a lack of parental motivation, what will it take to overcome that? Kopp says - la di da- goals, dreams, hard work, etc. Not small groups so these kids in most needs will get enough attention - and I mean intensive attention - to overcome considerable odds.

    So I agree with Kopp that we can overcome for many more kids - but now with her methods. My way of overcoming is a Marshall plan for the schools even if it starts small in one city. Will money be wasted? Probably. But no more than the defense department wastes.

    In my progressive reform plan, schools would run on 2 or even 3 shifts of teachers with all kinds of stuff going on that are so interesting to kids, they will never want to leave.

    And that leaves out all that test prep. Monitor with a surprise test at various times of the year to check up but just leave schools alone to teach kids.

  5. Re: My comment on schools.

    Did I mention that unlike in the Public schools, where the teachers and students must suffer the most outrageous sorts of disruptive and unruly behavior because it is next to impossible to rid public schools of children who exhibit such deviant behavior, Private, Parochial and Charter schools can simply inform a parent re a troublesome child:

    "Three strikes and you are out".

    Such a situation goes a long, long way to helping establish a healthy and positive "learning environment" with very little wasted "down time" spent on discipline problems.


  6. Re: Comments by EdNotes

    As always, Norm, you hit the nail on the head. The wise allocation of a Nation's financial recources is the key to solving the problem.

    Imagine if the now forecasted final cost of the Iraq tragedy, of Three Trillion dollars had been directed towards Education and establishing Universal Health care for all Americans. It boggles the mind.

    On a separate and even more cynical note, did anyone happen to notice that the photo of President Bush, re his posture and body language is virtually identical to the famous 2001 photo of Bush as he sat in a Florida classroom and turned to hear someone whisper in his ear that a plane had just flown into the World Trade Center Towers in NY.

    Compare the photos. It is uncany.

  7. I agree with David about the private and charter school discipline. In the public schools we do not any discipline. When children misbehave the administrators blame you and you end in the ruber room for lack of classroom management skills.


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