Tuesday, January 17

Final Exam

A big thank you to all our participants. After two days of cleansing, spleen-venting, freeform comments, today the monopoly reasserts itself and you get to answer my questions. In keeping with our liberal, touchy-feely, soft-bias-of-low-expectations mission, you may answer as many or as few as you like, and there'll be no self-esteem-damaging "grading" or "labeling". But do try to color within the lines:

1. What is the purpose of public education? a) exposure of students to the widest possible variety of learning and instilling lifelong habits; b) achieving student competence in "core" subjects; c) identifying student aptitude; d) gearing students towards the current job market; e) providing comfy slots for low-SAT scoring college students.

2. Tying teacher "merit" raises, or job retention, to standardized testing should include: a) simple comparison of raw test scores; b) only improvement over baseline scores; c) comparison to national averages adjusted for socio-economic factors, class size, and per-student spending; d) giving teachers the right to fire underperforming students.

3. Vouchers: a) are a union-busting canard; b) are a wealth-redistribution system akin to Lotto; c) amount to taxing individuals without school-aged children without representation when used to send children to private schools or outside their district; d) should be prorated to the amount the parent pays for his own student, not the full per-pupil cost; e) are peachy.

4. The "single manager" principal system: a) will introduce accountability into the public schools; b) will result in petty-tyrant bean counters following the safest possible course; c) will replace the collective wisdom of specialists in various subjects with the careerist decisions of a desk jockey; d) should do wonders for domestic bullhorn sales.

5. Art, music, athletics, and vocational training: a) should be maintained as full partners in the educational process; b) should be eliminated and left to the private sector; c) should be paid for by a tax on museums, CDs, and professional sports.

6) The high relative performance of US fourth graders on international tests suggests: a) comprehensive public education in the US works well but we need to understand the reasons scores fall off by age 15: b) our primary teachers aren't unionized; c) there must be some hidden competition in elementary schools the Liberal Media won't tell us about: d) now would be a good time for a clip from Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

Bonus questions:

1) The period during which an IPS teacher can be dismissed for incompetence is: a) his first six months; b) his first year; c) his first two years; d) never, without a union-mandated flow chart as long as your arm.

2) The period after which an IPS teacher has tenure is: a) three years; b) five years; c) dependent on the subject; e) no tenure.

3) I choose a barber or hairdresser based on: a) his algebra scores; b) his grammar; c) whether he makes my hair look the way I want; d) trade union affiliation.

Thanks again. There's apple juice and healthy snacks in the lobby.


Anonymous said...

No one seems to want to take the exam. Very well, I shall.

1. b and a, in that order

2. If I were to accept that teacher payment should be tied to standardized test scores, I'd have to go with d. Of course that would defeat the purpose defined in question 1, so I'm more prone to negate the premise of the question. But then I think SATs etc. are a joke, so this may color my response.

3. a, though c in an interesting argument that I'd like to see expanded

4. don't know about the program

5. a, in keeping with the second half of my answer to question 1

6. After reading the comments to the last few posts, it seems like the answer would have to be a combination of b and c, at least if one accepts the arguments given. I'd myself go with a tentative a.


1 & 2. Don't know about IPS regulations, and I don't feel like looking them up since I hope that you'll post the correct answers to these.

3. d all the way.


Anonymous said...

Oh, man, nobody told me there'd be a quiz! I've got a migraine again today (when do I ever not? Never mind.) so I'll take a shot here, but no promises it'll be coherent.

1. The purpose of public education, I thought, beyond instilling a certain competence in certain core subjects like reading and math, is to teach kids how to learn, how to find stuff out, and what's out there to be learned.
Exposing them to a broad variety of subjects will help them identify their aptitudes and hopefully give them some idea of where they might want to go with a career.
But we can teach them facts till their heads explode, and there will always be something they need to know ten years down the line that we couldn't teach them. That's why the allegedly touchy-feely liberal emphasis on learning how to look things up, learning where to go for information they might need, teaching them that they *can* find stuff out on their own, and how to apply logic. (All of which are kind of defeated by, say, ID.)
If you teach to the test, which many teachers have to because they have slower kids their schools can't reject and new tests being demanded every year, then all the kids learn is what they are taught, and if something comes up they weren't taught, they crash like a cheap computer.

2. If you tie teacher raises to test scores, you are guaranteeing that your kids will only be taught what's on the test. That's a problem: which of your teachers showed you how to program your DVD player for the standardized home appliances test? There are things teachers literally cannot teach kids, because they do not yet exist, that the kids will need to know in ten or twenty years. Teach 'em how to figure it out.
C seems like the best offered option to measure teacher competency, though I would certainly think taking into account what the students say, what the parents say, what the other teachers and administrators say would be a good idea. You know, the same way we decide whether retail people get a raise, or public defenders, or computer programmers.
And pinning teacher raises to their own test scores is just stupid for many of the same reasons.
But, let's face it, even someone who is good at taking tests and has prepared for a test can have a bad day. Like, say, a migraine on the day of the test. Yes?

3. Vouchers are a way to take tax money from everybody and use it to help a very few people in the middle class, while giving cash to a bunch of upper class people to do something they would do anyway, and offering hope but nothing practical to anyone else.
Whether you have kids or not, whether your kids go to private or public schools, you, personally, are affected by the quality of the public schools in your neighborhood and elsewhere.
Not to be overly anti-child, but either we teach them skills and get them started on a good life, or we wait till they get flunked out and rob our homes and end up in jail.
Any kid in a bad school is at risk for dropping out, and very few kids who drop out become productive citizens.
So you'd better hope *all* the schools are good, not just the ones *your* kids go to. That's not going to happen with vouchers. Private schools can, and will, reject kids who they see as too much work. As will public schools with more applicants than space. The rest of those kids are stuck in their same bad schools, with even less funds available. And those kids will primarily be, due to the reality that vouchers won't cover the entire tuition of a good school, and factors like deprivation leading to poor learning skills, poor kids, kids with few alternatives to begin with.

In my state, at least, we require public schools that can't teach learning-disabled kids to pay for those kids to go to private schools. That's a voucher system, and one which the actual voucher movement here points to as evidence of why the education of kids should not be left in the hands of public administrators: it's a waste of money, they say, and proves that the public schools have bad administration skills.

4. I'm gonna guess B&D in most schools, A&C in some schools, and that that's okay by people who figure their kids will be in the few good schools. Why is that?

5. I kinda like C, but it's not practical, if only because the music and sports industries have enough cash to get the whole thing scrapped within four years, and I'm not sure the museums can support them alone. I think art and music budgets should be tied to sports and vocational training budgets. As it is, schools cut sports last, because those parents scream more.

6. Things change drastically between primary and high school. Middle school is supposed to show the kids the ropes and get them used to it, is my understanding. Of course, a lot of our kids develop what we'll just refer to as "outside interests" at that point, and that's probably a factor, too. There are a *lot* of variables there, and it seems reasonable to suspect that part of the problem, or at least easily fixable parts of the problem, are found there. Let's study 'em.

This is too long already, even for my position as Official Blog Stalker, so I'll skip to bonus question 3, which I know about. C. There is no D in the haircutting industry, which is why I tip big. I don't want someone passing out from malnutrition with scissors near my neck, thank you.

Ooh! Sliced oranges! Thank you, Mr Riley!

Anonymous said...

And, oh, can we get Mr Stossel or his alter ego to take the test?

Anonymous said...

I'm copying d. sidhe's answers since they seem likely to get at least a 95 on this test. I'll guess that the answer to bonus question 1 is c, and 2 is e.

A friend who is still a teacher in NYC informs me that they now have a rule dictating that no teacher may be seated when there are children present in the classroom, even for a test. Yup. Turning the whole non-affluent world into a giant Wal-Mart one workplace at a time...

julia said...

Um, Michael Moore is fat?

Anonymous said...

What's the point of making teachers stand at all times? Are we afraid they'll be a bad example to kids who will forget what their feet are for?
Or is this just another pointless little act to make it *seem* like the teachers are doing more, even though there's absolutely nothing accomplished with it but causing more trouble for people already in a hard job?
How the hell are teachers supposed to grade papers or prepare lesson plans or anything else while standing?

Six and a half hour day, my ass. Keeping them from doing something useful while the kids are occupied means they have to spend more time outside of the school day doing it.

What a vicious, small-minded, petty little rule.
I'm guessing the justification is that the teachers should be moving around so they can better keep an eye on the kids? Honest to God, isn't that why the desk is at the front of the class *facing* the kids?

julia said...

Oh, D, you are so missing the point.

As a former manager from a famously worker-unfriendly industry, I was privileged to take part in a seminar on What You Could Do And Get Away With from a lawyer at the headquarters of the enormo conglomerate that owned us on How Not To Get The Company Sued.

One major thing you need to remember is that as long as you require all your workers to do something, and make some sort of a semi-reasonable case for the need to do it, you can wash out all those poor insurance risks who physically can't do it, risk free. Even if it has no particular relationship to the requirements of your job.

See: Mart, Wal-=

Anonymous said...

Holy God.
You're right, I clearly missed the point.
That's... revolting.


Thanks for letting me in on that, Julia. It clears up a lot of stupid workplace rules I thought were just raw power grabs.

Anonymous said...

ditto, porrofatto. D. has said almost everything I would have said, only she's more eloquent than I.

My only addition is in regard to tying too much to test scores, whether it be teacher compensation or which school/classes little Johnny or Janie can attend. It is that little thing known as "teenage rebellion". This is exemplified by thinking of the future as that time somewhere out there after one's 18th birthday bash and by the belief that by failing the test one can really screw up that mean teacher's pay raise.

I know a man who had a 3.75 average, passed the SAT with a score of over 1200 and was accepted into the college of his choice, but who still had to pass the TAAS (Texas high school test) in order to graduate high school. He blew off the test and marked "C" for every answer. He had to spend the next 3 months, not in an elective course, but in a TAAS remedial course essentially tutoring other students in the class. He credits it as a good lesson for him to learn, but his mistake makes him hesitant to tie teacher raises to kids' test scores.