Saturday, September 6, 2008

Bailing Out the Fannies & Freddies

Well what can you say about today's bailouts? Didn't McCain say the other day there is TOO MUCH REGULATION? Which planet is he living on? My generation had to read Upton Sinclair's "The Jungle" in high school, a book about abuses in the meat industry that one shouldn't read before lunch, especially a school lunch. With the corporate de-reg agenda pushed by Republican/business we are heading to the point where I would boil all my meat for 24 hours - which means we will all be eating flanken which my mother used to cook for 2 weeks. Even Ebola was afraid to go near it.

My usual rant on class size
How many times to we have to be told that reducing class size is not cost effective? Skoolboy at 'Wonkette's place raised the issue recently and we hear a few things repeated when class size comes up:

  • quality teachers
  • what the research shows

and the dreaded
  • COST
Matthew Tabor left a comment that included these points:
As a parent who pays the taxes to fund the class size reduction I'm as skeptical as the next person about CSR becoming a full employment act for the UFT. At the same time I know that Tweed has its own agenda, and isn’t always interested in acknowledging the grains of truth that may be contained in its opponents’ claims.
...the truth probably lies in the middle. Yet none of the actors in the debate seem interested in finding that middle. Just scoring points against each other, once again leaving parents in the middle.

So hear, hear for real research, like the City appears to be undertaking with the ED Hirsch curriculum in ten schools starting this fall. Let’s stop shouting at each other, get some facts on the table and then have a real debate about the cost implications. [Read his entire comment here.]

I guess I get ticked off how class size costs are always put on the table as employment for the UFT while ignoring the larger issue of how much money is wasted in this society in the corporate welfare system. Hey, then try it in a right to work state if you are all so hot and bothered by the union.

Let's try some research, not that I think we need it but we want to make people comfortable.
So let's say we hire scads of teachers - I mean take the 10 most failing schools and literally double the staffs. Inundate the schools with services no matter what the cost. Just throw cash at them. Hey, rename the schools "Fannie and Freddie" if that will make you feel better.
Say you get some teacher clunkers in the batch. So what? Find something useful they can do in the school if their strongest suit is not teaching.

What can it cost to do this with 10 schools? I even suggested this to Chris Cerf at a Manhattan Institute meeting to try it with one school when he said it's been proven throwing cash at the problem doesn't solve it. I said, "You NEVER throw cash. Why not try it with Tilden HS in Brooklyn instead of closing it"?

Skoolboy in his post threw down the gauntlet challenging the DOE to do an experiment on reducing class size. I left this comment:

I'm glad to see you revisit the class size issue but I'm afraid your gauntlet will lie in the gutter untouched by the hands of a Tweed official.

The NYC DOE had many opportunities over the last 6 years to do a study of class size. For instance, instead of closing so many large schools, why didn't they try to reduce class size in one or two schools as a control and compare the impact to other schools?

The answer is class size reduction is not part of the fabric of the ed reform movement. It is much easier - and cheaper - to blame ed failures on lack of quality teaching.

When there's a need for more police, firemen, soldiers, doctors - is the quality issue raised? We know that "qualifications" in the medical field are never related to performance and hospitals in need scrounge for doctors where they can get them as long as they are certified. In these fields people actually die if mistakes are made.

The quality teacher before class size issue is a red herring to support an ideological, not an educational solution, that accomplishes the political goals of privatizing many elements of the public schools while diminishing the impact teacher unions might have. (I say might because of the role the AFT/UFT plays in supporting so much of this ideology.)


  1. Class size will continue to be a major issue until some research is done to back up the teachers' wish to reduce the number of students in front of them. I have thirty desks and chairs in my room- they are always filled and it is actually not uncommon for me to have 32-34 students at the one time.

  2. Cerf is right. Even doing such an experiment would tell us nothing because the effect on one school could be positive but implemented across the system it would be negative, due to dilution of talent. Talent dilution wouldn't be a factor in one school, since there are certainly 20 teachers they could find to reduce class sizes in that school. But across a system, that's roughly 30,000 teachers. I don't see NYC coming up with 30,000 new teachers any time soon. TFA will have to REALLY ramp up!

  3. If Cerf said we should have 80 in a class would be "right" - and I mean "right" - to you.

    So why not 20 schools instead of 1? Think the old DOE couldn't have tried it with all the money they throw around? So what if there's "talent" dilution - really funny since as usual you ignore all the other analogies like police, fire, Iraq and all the industries that have to ramp up in a hurry seem to not spend a lot of time worrying about it.

    We should have waited for 5 years to go into WWII until there was enough talent to build airplanes.

  4. 20 schools in a city with over 1,000 schools still wouldn't address the dilution issue, Norm.

    I ignored the analogy because it's silly and I didn't think you were serious. The answer is obvous: the reason the police, fire, and military ramp-ups don't worry about talent is that they don't think talent is as important in those fields. Fact is, it's more difficult to find a good teacher than a good cop or frontline marine, because teaching requires a higher skill set. To wit, you don't even need a college degree for most of those positions, whereas you need to have or be working on a masters to be a teacher. Are you aware, Norm, that it's easier to find people who don't have a college degree than it is to find people with masters degrees? I didn't respond to your analogy because it was apples-to-oranges.

    Would you prefer that they start seeing teachers as widget-making drones? Because that's what you can ramp up quickly - drones. As you know, teaching is a highly-skilled endeavor, and as such, requires some more thoughtfulness in recruitment and selection than we'd be afforded under a massive class-size reduction.

  5. "Would you prefer that they start seeing teachers as widget-making drones? Because that's what you can ramp up quickly - drones."

    Jeez - exactly what is occurring with the 2 year TFA people. de-skilling the teachign profession. here's a deal - find the 30,000 TFA's and reduce class size.

    And by the way - the 20 school idea is to satisfy the research on whether class size reduction works. Pick school randomly and load them up with TFAs' or whatever you can scrape up and I bet we results because the sheer numbers of personnel managed with some efficiency would raise the so-called talent level or at least maximize it.

  6. well, if you loaded them with TFA you might get those results, but there aren't enough TFA to go around either.

    Let me say it again: we can't study the effect of dilution on a system if the sample size is that small.

  7. Ahh, the usual escapism. When a study that supposdely showed TFA ina good light involved 30 teachers it was blasted all over and I don't think you thought that was too small a sample.
    All research in ed is usually small- oh,except the Star study in Tenn which proved class size reduction works.

  8. and the small study of California schools that proved that it doesn't.

  9. or the study that proved that the California study was tainted and the one that said teacher quality was the most important factor. Since all research has too small a sample I say throw it all out which means the entire underpinning of the data driven accountability which is based on nothing should also be thrown out.

    You're turning in circles.

    Even if there was no proff about class size having suburbs with small classes and urban area with large ones is separete and unequal and academic apartheid spread by all you great fighters for civil rights.

  10. Socrates is right. It is difficult to find people with Masters Degrees. I believe it's only 8% of the population.
    It's funny because New York State teacher certification supposedly requires a Masters. This would make sense as you would hope to bring in individuals who have completed this level of education to teach our children.
    I guess New York City children don't count though, as they keep getting TFA teachers who don't have a Masters, nor are they encouraged to obtain one. So much for highly qualified.

  11. Socrates is always right no matter how much he contradicts himself. Highly qualified? If a TFA - automatic.

    On the other hand, I am no big believer that a masters degree has much to do with being a good teacher. MA's in education were forced down our throats around 1969-70 as a way to get money in teachers' pockets - and to support ed grad schools.

    I still think experience is the best way to learn how to teach but getting some in a supervised way is the key.


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