Monday, September 19, 2011

Gotham Schools Elizabeth Green Shows True Colors on Class Size Issue

She [Green] pretty much repeated all the cliches, all of which by the way are factually incorrect. The sort of piece that you would expect from someone who knows nothing and is too lazy  to do any research.   --comment on the piece below

To me the dividing line between ed deformers and real reformers is where you stand on class size.
I've considered Elizabeth Green an ed deformer for quite a while. And I'm not just talking about her love for anyone connected to E4E. See Ed Notes: (The Insidious Nature of Green's Sunday Times Article)

Note this in her Sept. 11 article in NY Mag - Class-Size Claptrap - interesting title:
"Because what is the only way to reduce class sizes? To hire union-dues-paying teachers!"
Is that the ONLY way? Charter schools brag about lower class sizes without union teachers. Is that the answer? Hire cheap teachers?

And this:
"But cutting class sizes doesn’t always produce better outcomes—especially not when hastily imposed size caps compel the hiring of inexperienced teachers [word for word from the ed deform manual]. And there are many other factors, including teacher quality [how about naming even one factor beyond the ed deform one - like the scary P word - poverty], that affect results."

Amazing! Where is the concern for hiring inexperienced TEACH FOR AMERICA Teachers? I get it. They are from "good' schools - supposedly.

And what about this "results" stuff? We know that means test scores. I view results as my being able to spend some quality time with each child in my class to talk about things and help with the issues so many of our children face. Anyone knows that lower class size gives teachers that opportunity. But to deformers like Green they boil it down to "kids throwing things."

NYC Educator brilliantly takes the person running Gotham Schools to task subtle but one-sided reporting. It is so good I have to cross-post:

Is Half a Story Better than None?

I'm fascinated by this article in NY Mag, and the more I think about it, the more I change my mind why that is. At first blush, I thought it did a good job of encapsulating both sides of class size. But on closer examination, it kind of paints class-size advocates as fanatics, while offering little or nothing in the way of why we believe as we do. On the other hand, it portrays the other side fairly well--reasonable class sizes cost too much, and union is bad.

I've taught classes of 15, 25, and 35, and I can tell you there's a world of difference in what you can accomplish. Folks like Bloomberg, Klein and Obama place their kids in private schools with class sizes below 15, but have no problem advocating larger class sizes for our children. In fact, those who administrate schools ought to be required to patronize them, rather than utilizing them as experiments for Bill Gates and the other billionaires who want to tell us how our kids should be treated. The article states class sizes in higher grades may go higher than 27--that's absurd. In my school there are dozens of classes over 34, the UFT contractual limit, and plenty right at 34. This is what happens when you eliminate 10% of working teachers via attrition and hope for the best.

Meanwhile, I hope in vain publications like New York will offer its readers the full story. It's ridiculous those of us in the field, those of us who know from firsthand experience what class size means to call it a "red herring." I'd like to see people who write such things control 35 teenagers at a time and tell me it doesn't matter.

Finally, there's this conclusion:

As it happens, there are people in the city Department of Education working on open-minded, teacher-friendly methods of improving training and evaluation. And, obviously, not all rank-and-file teachers are opposed to structural changes. The problem is that the people who are in charge still believe that school reform is war. And nothing much about New York City education is going to change while that remains the case. 

I'm curious who these people are, and why they're working on "open-minded, teacher-friendly methods of improving training and evaluation." After all, there is a state agreement that mandates any such method be negotiated with the UFT.

Furthermore, since Bloomberg took office, I have seen nothing open-minded or teacher friendly. I have grown used to broken promises, not the least of which entails the billion dollars the DOE took to reduce class size--after which it went up every year. The DOE is engaged in releasing scores it specifically promised not to release. And studies suggest that "value-added" has no validity whatsoever. The last few lines make sense to me, but if it's true they're waging war on us, how on earth are we supposed to believe they're open-minded and teacher friendly? Do people really think teachers can be that stupid?

To say that not all rank and file teachers are opposed to structural changes is easy, but what precisely do these changes entail? We need to know before making judgments. Not all of us are taking money from Bill Gates and promoting corporate-friendly nonsense.

What we need, desperately, is a press that's willing to dig for the truth, a press that will not grant credibility to nonsensical "reforms" simply because billionaires say they're a good idea, a press that will challenge the status quo. I'm sure there are plenty of reporters quite capable of this, and I know a few that rise to the occasion.

Regrettably, those who depend on New York magazine for info are far from getting the full story here.
Here is Green's New Yorker piece:


Class-Size Claptrap

Bloomberg and the teachers’ union discover another education black hole.

  • By Elizabeth Green
  • Published Sep 11, 2011
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Illustration by Martin Ansin  
When Michael Bloomberg ran for mayor in 2001, he cited research that claimed crowded classrooms are “one of the greatest detriments to learning” and vowed to reduce city-school class sizes. Now, in year ten of his reign, principals are overseeing what they say will be, when the final numbers are tallied, the most crowded classrooms in a decade. Class averages may creep north of 27 pupils in upper grades—a source of anxiety for parents and fuel for teachers’-union outrage.
But on the first day of school last week, the mayor evinced no worry about overcrowding, even highlighting the school system’s growing population as evidence of its popularity. He’s even now taken the position that class size does not, in fact, change student performance. Has research on the subject undergone a revolution? Not really. It’s always been mixed enough to be ­cherry-picked to support any argument. What haschanged is the tenor of education rhetoric, which is so polar­ized that it’s sucked even the avowedly nonideological Bloomberg into a fight in which neither side will admit to being anything less than 100 percent correct at all times.
Today, no schools-related decision is just a decision. It is either a brave stand against special interests on behalf of children or a special-interest conspiracy against children. If you’re on one side, you see ideologues trying to bust the teachers’ union and corporations trying to privatize education for profit. If you’re on the other side, you see a desperate labor movement out to perpetuate its influence. And so marginal movements in class size become matters of principle. Because what is the only way to reduce class sizes? To hire union-dues-paying teachers! Thus the administration has taken to treating union complaints as smoke screens for power grabs; meanwhile, the union sued the city for misusing funds meant for class-size reduction. (The suit was later dismissed.)
For what it’s worth, today—as ever—researchers maintain a fairly boring take on the class-size question: Yes, the more children there are throwing things at teachers, the more complicated teaching becomes. Sometimes, this will result in dips in test scores. But cutting class sizes doesn’t always produce better outcomes—especially not when hastily imposed size caps compel the hiring of inexperienced teachers. And there are many other factors, including teacher quality, that affect results.
One way for a policymaker to respond to this reality is by saying, “Okay, then! I will try to create a system that recruits, trains, and retains better teachers. One that includes rigorous data- and observation-based evaluation of performance as well as increases in compensation, improvements to teachers’ colleges, funding of support programs for existing teachers, and overdue repairs to ­often-literally-crumbling school buildings themselves.” Unfortunately, that is a made-up quote. Typically, education reform just bogs down into administrators’ demanding to be more easily able to fire bad teachers and unions’ defending the status quo.
As it happens, there are people in the city Department of Education working on open-minded, teacher-friendly methods of improving training and evaluation. And, obviously, not all rank-and-file teachers are opposed to structural changes. The problem is that the people who are in charge still believe that school reform is war. And nothing much about New York City education is going to change while that remains the case.

3 comments:

  1. You are right on the money Norm! Thank you for bringing this to light.

    ReplyDelete
  2. what is it that you think norm has "brought to light?" he's written a useless rant against a tiny little article that takes the uncontroversial position that the DOE and the UFT are fighting over class sizes.

    ReplyDelete
  3. What was brought to light is that this tiny little article exposes Green a supposedly impartial journalist as an ed deformer. Witness the comment at the top. Given that Green runs Gotham Schools which itself has been charged with bias, the dots are getting connected. So don't invite Norm to your next party full of ed deformers.

    ReplyDelete

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