Teaching as a career

by Finn

One profession that seems unrepresented in here is teachers. Some of us have parents, sibs, or spouses who are, or were, teachers, but I can’t think of any regulars here who are.

Why today’s college students don’t want to be teachers

Are any of your kids thinking about teaching? Would you encourage that? Why, or why not?

Advertisements

131 thoughts on “Teaching as a career

  1. My oldest at 8 says she wants to be an art teacher. Sure, I would encourage it if that’s what she wanted to do. We’ve had basic talks about how teachers don’t make that much money but she says she’s just going to marry a man who makes a lot of $ (not sure how to take that).

    I have quite a few friends from college who are teachers, mostly in the NY and NJ area, and I see a lot of stuff on FB about how hard they work with what they feel is little respect for what they do, but I’ve never heard them say they would have picked a different career. I also know a few women who were fabulous teachers, but are married to a higher earning husband, and so quit the profession after the 2nd kid

  2. DD loves little kids. Last summer she came home from teaching swimming lessons, bouncing and happy. Her first words when she got home were, “I forgot how much I like working with kids.” And they love her. When we go to parties, she has a troupe of little kids hanging around her, vying for attention. She has been a camp counselor, youth group leader, etc.

    If conditions in teaching were different, we would encourage her to pursue a teaching career. However, given the low pay, lack of respect and genuinely strange people who work in education, we have actively discouraged her from pursuing teaching.

  3. At the schools my kids attend – the young women who are teaching genuinely seem to like being a teacher. Compared to other professional jobs the pay is on the low side. However, teaching in a religious private school, is I suspect different from teaching in a public school. The teachers with outgoing personalities are rock stars but even the quieter ones are well liked by students. The strict teachers are respected. The parents do a lot to show their appreciation so the whole atmosphere is one of cooperation and partnership. There is also job rotation and emphasis on professional goals, teaching projects and collaboration among colleagues. I have made suggestions and I have always received a response and felt heard. The usual cycle is that young women get married and may take time off but many return. The daily schedule and summers off mean a very attractive family friendly schedule. It has also attracted former professional women after they had families but wanted to continue working.

  4. I would encourage my kids to consider teaching if they were interested in it and understand what it means in terms of lifestyle. DD has periodically been interested in teaching; I think for many little girls, it seems like a socially-acceptable way to be powerful and make everyone pay attention to you and follow your orders (there’s a reason my dad nicknamed DD “Commander” when she was 2!). She seems to be enjoying her work as an aide in Hebrew School and camp counselor, but we’ll see; for now, she’s still focused on being a doctor.

  5. Being a good teacher is hard. (I got slammed for saying the math SAT is not hard, but I tried being a teacher and I couldn’t do it at all. At best after 10 years training and experience I would have been adequate, but needing to grind it out at such an important job seemed to me to be a disqualification). Some have natural gifts, some acquire the skills and techniques (much as some Totebaggers have learned social, management leadership skills to advance in the workplace), and some just perform at an acceptable but no more level either because they love what they do or because they don’t see other options. And of course many are just terrible, burned out, or overwhelmed.

    I guess what I want to say (Milo – I am trying to heed your advice to be a little less longwinded and pedantic), is that I view teaching, especially elementary and middle school teaching, more as a calling than a job.

  6. All of our kids at various times expressed an interest in teaching, but only at a private religious school like the ones they attended. Ideally at the same schools. But older ones ultimately chose different careers. One of them does not suffer fools and wouldn’t last a day in a typically school. The youngest is still in college and I could imagine him teaching. He knows the trade offs so no need to have that conversation. We wouldn’t discourage him. And if his goal was to teach at one of his old schools I would be thrilled.

  7. Meme- ??? I gave no such advice. I’d be like Polonius if I did.

    One of our retired babysitters is at UVA planning to become a teacher. AFAIK, she met all the required Totebag wickets in HS.

  8. When I saw my doctor last week, I mentioned that my endo had retired. She said that she will NEVER work as long as my endo. He was old fashioned, hand written charts etc. My internist is more modern, but he is of that same generation. She is about 20 years younger (late 40s)and she actually compared medicine to teaching as a career. She said that her peers went into medicine BEFORE the whole takeover by insurance companies, and enormous hospital systems etc. They wanted to go into medicine to be doctors, but she said it is so hard to actually practice due to enormous amount of paperwork, liability insurance, hours, and regulation etc.

    I think that teaching has also gone through a shift, but it seems to vary by state/region. The salaries and benefits in certain areas are comparable to other professionals if you teach for at least 15 years. I’m not sure if other states do this, but it is the salaries and pensions of any state employee in NY are public information. There are teachers that carefully lump together salary, and extra sums for coaching, summer camps, curriculum leaders etc. It is very possible to retire with FULL benefits with a pension of at least $150-175k per year in the NY metro area.

    One of the largest expenses that we save for in our future retirement is medical costs. My public school teacher friends in my district don’t worry about that because most costs will generally be covered in their retirement. As I’ve gotten more involved with the schools, i would be the first one to tell you how hard most of the teachers work in my district. The biggest difference that I can see is that I worked hard too, and so do A LOT of people in their jobs. The teachers just work less hours/days per year. If you really look at your pure hourly rate for the number of days and hours that you work vs. the number of days/hours that a teacher works – they still work less even if they are grading papers at night.

    I can’t remember any bank that i worked for telling me that I could have a day off if it snowed or was icy – in addition to paid sick days, and weeks of school breaks, plus federal holidays. It is a tough job that requires dedication, patience, and a lot of other skills. I think they are fairly compensated in certain parts of the country, and that there are some schools where you can get paid for doing something you love.

  9. I wanted to be a teacher when I was in HS. My dad (who majored in education but only did it for a few years) talked me out of it. I agreed a business degree would be more versatile. Glad I did, I wouldn’t have the patience to teach full time.

  10. I thought about going into teaching instead of returning to the law – around here I might make more as a teacher, considering the value of the health care and the pension.

    But I can barely stand my own kids some days, so I haven’t signed up for the course that lets professionals retrain as teachers during the summer.

    I also don’t like the trend toward scripted lessons – teachers here are now required to read the math and reading lessons out loud from the teacher’s guide, and the principal drops in quarterly to make sure they are doing it verbatim. That would drive me bats.

  11. I also don’t like the trend toward scripted lessons – teachers here are now required to read the math and reading lessons out loud from the teacher’s guide, and the principal drops in quarterly to make sure they are doing it verbatim. That would drive me bats.

    ugh

  12. Lauren I have a college roommate who teaches in Westchester and she does really well. Her husband is a teacher too there and combined they make a very good household income for 9 months of work (probably around $200K). My sister who also lives in Westchester is thinking about going back to school to become a teacher (in her mid-30s). Her husband is a college prof and I think she wants a similar schedule in addition to always having wanted to teach (but didn’t go into it originally because of the low salary thing).

  13. Sadly, I think for most teachers I would prefer scripted lessons to what they conjure up on their own.  But while autonomy is declining, as might be expected with common standards so much in focus, most teachers in fact have quite a bit of control in their classrooms.

    Nearly three out of four teachers say they have a “great deal” of control over how and what they teach, but that’s down from 82 percent in 2003-04, concludes a U. S. Education Department survey…

    The lifestyle is appealing to many people (primarily women) who have an interest in teaching, so there’s that.  And yes, in some areas income can be quite good.  My neighbors who both teach have a combined income of about $270k, and then they tutor or do other jobs in the summer and after school.

  14. One of my siblings is a high school teacher (second career). He loves teaching and the students. He likes the administration. He doesn’t like the other teachers and avoids the teachers’ lounge at all costs. He says all they do is complain.

  15. I think it is a tough job, and the common core made it more challenging in certain grades.

    I just wish there was a way to pay teachers a fair salary across the country without having to resort to crazy northeast taxes.

  16. I could see DH becoming a teacher as a second career but I think the only way he would do it is if we were financially independent and didn’t actually need the money.

    CoC – maybe my friend is making more than I think!:) Jeesh! It’s been a while since we talked salary.

  17. I just spent time over the weekend with a childhood friend and her husband, both of whom are teachers in a small town. They have always known that they would not make a lot of money and planned accordingly, but it is really depressing to hear how they have not had a raise in like 8 years. However, it’s cool to see all the fun stuff they do (together, as a family, and separately) when they’re off for 2 months in the summer. They have 2 teen daughters who both want to be teachers. The oldest graduates this spring and has already been accepted at their alma mater. It was funny to see how frugal the girls are – especially since I was just posting here on Friday how embarrassed I was at times by my frugal upbringing. My DD has not shown any interest in teaching yet – she seems to be more power-hungry that they typical “bossy little girl” with desires to run for Congress and President, but she’s only 8 so we’ll see…

  18. Well, I think Westchester is a special case. We do pay our teachers well, and treat them right – but it is really hard to get a teaching job in Westchester (except for Yonkers due to its abysmal conditions). And the teachers are for the most part pretty decent, and they actually know their subjects. There are some teachers that I wish we could part with, but honestly, I saw the same amount of deadwood among the people I worked with in industry. And no, they weren’t getting fired. I think we Westchesterites may not realize how bad conditions are for teachers in other areas, and how much that impacts the quality of the applicant pool. In some states, people with little or no subject knowledge can get into teaching with a quick online course. I have a friend who now is considered a qualfied middle school math specialist in Texas, who got that position after a career as an office manager and a 9 month online program that had nothing to do with math!!! Another friend in a similar state is now a SPED teacher after a career as a real estate agent and a one year program. The reason these very unqualified people can get these positions with so little background is because no one wants the positions.

  19. If my kids wanted to teach, I’d totally support that — while letting them know the realities, as others have pointed out.

    As for me, when my ex was in medical school, I was thinking about law school and my mother talked me into teaching instead, “because if you want a family, it’s not good for both parents to have such time-consuming careers.”

    I did two 6-week student teaching gigs. We were in TX at the time, where male teachers were very rare.

    In my 1st placement, in a HS, I mostly observed classes taught by an old, extremely odd man (who actually only had one ear. He had the hole on one side, but no external ear. Not that he wasn’t odd enough, but that really didn’t help his cause). I had little responsibility and therefore caused little reason for the kids to see me as anything other than a welcome break from the regular teacher. They’d wander to the back of the room, where I was, and chat me up. A few kids made me mixed tapes (still a thing then) and would tell me what movies to go see, etc. It was a cake walk, and I figured if this is how easy it would be in this career, then sign me up.

    For my second 6 weeks, I went next door to the MS, into the classroom of the first male teacher most of the kids had ever had. It was World Series time, the Braves were in the Series and this guy was from Atlanta. He could–and did–talk baseball like no one, he was young and very cool and the kids in his class and throughout the school absolutely worshipped him. He made me take over 100% from the first moment I arrived in his class, and while I was teaching, he’d disappear–something the kids were not happy about. The kids HATED me from my first morning, and I drove home every night with a splitting headache.

    One day, I assigned a paper as uninspired as all my other lessons: “What I Want To Be When I Grow Up.” One of the kids wrote that he wanted to be a lawyer. When I read it, I thought, “So do I!”

    I made myself finish the 6 weeks, and in the meantime, I immediately signed up for the LSAT. If there was some physical teaching certificate I was supposed to have picked up in the education office at the college, I never bothered to swing by and collect mine.

  20. There are 150,000 teachers who get pensions in New York State, and 5,000 get 100,000+ So, it still seems an unlikely path to riches.

    I would be worried that my children couldn’t have the lifestyle that I want if they were teachers – secure housing, transportation, ability to have foreign travel, nice restaurant meals, and a new roof without worrying about the expense, etc. I realize that they may have different expectations when they are grown, but I hope they would understand that before going into teaching.

    In my city, the average teacher salary is 48k, the average house price is 550k. That is bad math for teachers.

  21. One of the kids wrote that he wanted to be a lawyer. When I read it, I thought, “So do I!”

    Ris – what were the reasons?

    I debated going to law school for a long time, probably would be very tough being a parent, any of you on here do it after having a family?

  22. Another point to make – it is really hard to tell who the mediocre teachers are. There are some teachers who are just bad, bad, bad. But most of them leave quickly (the teacher burnout rate in the first 3 years is unbelievably high) or are working in schools or positions that absolutely no one wants to be in. I think it is important for people to realize the extent to which personnel decisions are driven by the need for warm bodies.

    But the mediocre teachers – who are they? I have learned over the years that opinions can really vary. My oldest had a teacher for the last 2 years in AP world history (which our district oddly does over 2 years) who I consider to be imcompetent – at least from my perspective. She give reams of useless homework – literally hours and hours of Cornell notes, due every week. She gives no feedback, and won’t tell kids how they are doing because they are just supposed to love history so much that they wouldn’t care about their grades. And she just wasted the entire first quarter on a topic that had nothing to do with AP world history, and which was overly politicized (no, no, no, not too conservative, not too liberal, in fact nothing to do with US politics but still not appropriate IMHO). I didn’t want my kid to take AP world history this year because he had a such a bad experience last year, but he insisted because his friends were all taking it. Well, now, after the first quarter, my son has dropped it. For him, it was too much work for too little payoff.

    But here is the kicker – is this really a bad or mediocre teacher? I know some of the moms of other kids in this class, and they really like this teacher. They liked the lengthy non-AP topic – it think they saw it as more in depth, maybe more like IB. They felt their kids were really learning how to write. But my kid, already a good writer, wasn’t getting any better in her class and was getting nailed on the Cornell notes which he never could seem to format to her satisfaction. So I guess different teachers are good for different kids. As an administrator, how would you know what to do with this teacher if you were in a system where you could get rid of teachers at will?

    Since I am of the opinion that adminstrators are the real problems in most school systems, I really don’t want them having a lot of say in which teachers to keep. And while parents may be opinionated, we are also too subjective. So who decides?

  23. Going to law school as a parent would be easier than practicing law as a parent. However, I myself went pre-kids.

  24. “I think it is a tough job,”

    And your job is a piece of cake? Teaching would be a very difficult job for me, and the jobs I’ve had would probably be very difficult for many who now teach. Different strokes for different folks.

    “I would be worried that my children couldn’t have the lifestyle that I want if they were teachers – secure housing, transportation, ability to have foreign travel, nice restaurant meals, and a new roof without worrying about the expense, etc”

    I worry about that now without my kids considering teaching as a career. There are many other career paths that don’t offer that kind of lifestyle.

    I would support my kids if they wanted to teach, but then I’d support my kids in almost any career they wanted to pursue. (Maybe not the proverbial pole dancing!) I want different things for my kids, but mostly I want them to support themselves and to have a fulfilling life. Teaching could almost certainly offer that.

  25. Rare commenter here. One aspect I didn’t see discussed was that these promising college students often sat through 12 years of school (most of their short lives) with some unmotivated fellow students and possibly teachers. The more diverse the background of the college students, the more likely they saw poor schools and working conditions for teachers. Especially in poorer areas, lots of apathy and disruption in classrooms that teachers were essentially powerless to address.

    Back in my school days (when dinosaurs roamed the earth), the teacher and principal also had absolute control over discipline, and kids were well-behaved. Behavior was reinforced in almost every (2-parent) home, which sounds ridiculously “Leave-It-To-Beaver-ish” as I type this. Students emulated teachers because they were smarter than we were and authority figures.

    Contrast that view with what college kids today have seen in their schools. Teaching doesn’t look nearly as attractive as it might have to earlier generations.

  26. I am a former teacher and it is a lovely way to spend time when your students are bright totebag kids with caring parents and a stable home. Opening young souls to the world ( of in my case science and history of technology) puts a song in your heart however teaching in high poverty classroom is a ticket to land of sorrows. Its hard to get teach anyone who doesn’t know where he/she will be spending the night, if mom or dad will be sober , if there will be dinner or not or even heat ( and water) that day. I taught a total of ten years in a totebag school and later in a high poverty school where about 90% of my students were on free and reduced lunch . I believed I was wonderful teacher, a gift to the world of education until I tried my act in a high poverty school. The kids still liked me, they tried their hardest but the misery of their lives was overwhelming . To learn to read , to achieve at grade level takes time and effort, these guys couldn’t do it because they had no stable place to be . I retooled as a social worker and now run an after school homework center/ library for these kids. I started my career as a Phd scientist working in a large medical lab, married, gave birth to several children and then moved with my husband to an area devoid of university research institutions. I then became a teacher and later a full fledged advocate for these kids of poverty.

  27. Wine – I can’t recall my reasons at the time. Gut instinct, maybe? I liked reading and writing, I liked an intellectual challenge, the law sounded cool, people had told me all my life I should be a lawyer. Not particularly great reasons, really, but it turned out to be the right choice for me.

    Are you still seriously considering it?

  28. At one point when my kid’s were little, I had thought that teaching at their school was an option because of the schedule. Since I already had a professional degree, I could do the teaching certificate part gradually (as far as I know). However, I think I would be somewhat Tiger Teacherish trying too hard to instill knowledge in the little heads and that perhaps would get in trouble with the parents.

  29. I agree with MM that it can be difficult to identify good teachers. Like obscenity, we may think that we know it when we see it, but apart from the outliers at each end, it’s in large part a subjective decision. There are some metrics but really not that many that can be specifically tied to the teacher rather than to other factors such as SES or inherent ability. So, unlike other professions in which people can be sorted by the number of widgets they produce or clients who clamor for their services, teachers aren’t generally compensated on the basis of their performance. Add to that the fact that the relatively low entry standards that produce an oversupply of teachers (in some areas anyhow), it’s not hard to see why teacher salaries are low.

  30. There are some metrics but really not that many that can be specifically tied to the teacher rather than to other factors such as SES or inherent ability.

    You should be able to adjust for that. You could test all the kids in September and again in June and see how much progress they made. Then rank that progress against other teachers at schools with similar demographics and distribute substantial bonuses accordingly.

  31. As you all know, my DH is a public-school teacher, so obviously I am biased. Feel free to take the following thoughts with several grains of salt. But here they are:

    Often when people on this board talk about teachers, opinions are expressed that lead me to believe that many of you think that teachers are overcompensated. “The vacations! The unions! The pensions!! We hard-working private-sector people don’t get any of that, so those lazy public-sector teachers shouldn’t either!” (OK, I’m paraphrasing.) Yet, when it comes to encouraging our own kids to go into teaching, the story line changes; it becomes, “teachers don’t earn enough money; you’re never going to have a nice lifestyle if you go into teaching.” So, which is it? Is teaching a field with inflated pay and ridiculously great benefits, or is it is a career that is not even worth the consideration of a Totebag-class special snowflake?

    Also, there seems to be a lot of complaining on this board about the quality of public school teachers. The point is often made that of all professionals, they’re the ones who score lowest on standardized tests. Many of us love sharing anecdotes about how terrible their kids’ teachers are, or about how we know way more than the people who are teaching our kids. Well, if we Totebaggers are not willing to have OUR kids go into the profession, how do we think that anything is going to get better?

    There. Rant over.

    For my DH, Meme’s point is 100% true — teaching is very much a calling for him.

  32. I always hear people say they want to teach because of the schedule, but once you factor in commute times, it may not be that great. My neighbor is a teacher in a district a bit north of here. She has her car packed and turned on in the morning, and walks her daughter to the bus stop. She gives her a kiss and then tears off to make it to her school. Her husband does the drop off at daycare for the little sister. In the afternoon, her school ends later than her daughter’s school, and then she has to stay after for some mandated period – so her daugher goes to afterschool program just like mine have always done.

    My DH’s nephew is a stay at home dad because his wife, a teacher, has to be out of the house by 6:30am to make it to the magnet school where she teachers, and she doesn’t make it home until 5 or later. And then she has to grade papers in the evening. Obviously they could put their kids into before school and after school programs like the rest of us working stiffs – but that is the point – her schedule is pretty similar to other working parents.

    Obviously she gets those lovely summers – but since she spends a week after the school year ends wrapping up, and 2 weeks at the end of the summer preparing, it only ends up being about 6 weeks.

    But the main point is that when school is running, the schedule is not always as family friendly as it may seem. Also, both of these teachers have to do evening events on a fairly frequent basis.

  33. I know it is very different outside of certain burbs, so that is why I mentioned the unfairness of teacher compensation vs. taxes.

    I’ve sat through enough interviews now as the parent representative to be fully aware of how difficult the conditions can be in areas that are nearby. That is why I keep saying it isn’t an easy job, but is the job of the person that cleans the rooms of patients in a hospital easy? no? is it totally safe?. probably not. so many jobs are nasty, and the pay is unfair.

    I can understand why some people do not want to be teachers, but there is one reward that teachers get that some jobs can never provide. If they do their jobs well, they can change lives, or at least impact the life of the child. I can still remember the names and faces of the teachers that truly had an impact on my life. I agree with Mooshi that many were easily forgotten because they were mediocre teachers, but there were a handful that were very special people.

  34. I’m impressed with most (but not all) of the teachers that I’ve met as we’ve progressed through the school system. Teaching is a second career for many of the best teachers. My kids have had teachers that were Peace Corp volunteers, ex-military, former IBM’ers, former pharma research scientists, you name it. One even took up teaching after he sold his company for millions (he didn’t tell us this, but I googled him and found the info). Teachers in my area are paid well, and many of them supplement their salaries by leading clubs, coaching and tutoring. DH says the hardest part of teaching in our area is dealing with the parents. My niece is currently pursuing her masters (in education?) with plans to eventually teach within the next year or so. I’d be fine if my kids wanted to teach.

  35. Related to Scarlett’s comment – I often think that rating teachers is much like rating doctors. If you had a way to honestly get feedback from other teachers, I would imagine that most of them could agree who the best and worst teachers in the building are (well, assuming there wasn’t too much cronyism). Maybe like the ranking of college football programs by college coaches? Much like doctors, outcome measurements can discourage experienced people from doing difficult things.

    If I will be judged on the number of students that make adequate progress, I might game the system and try keep homeless and ESL students out of my class. Many surgeons will not take diabetic patients or smokers – it is bad for their outcome measurements. The surgeons that do – many highly regarded and working at academic centers – are probably superior physicians but have worse outcomes.

  36. I concur with Scarlett that relatively low barriers to entry produce an oversupply of qualified teachers. The education/experience offered to teachers often doesn’t leave them with a good idea of whether their skills are well-suited to the classrooms available to them. I have never lived in a community where my skills would be well-suited to the classroom.

    In the case of teaching, I think the low barriers to entry are at least partly a good thing, because a teacher that is good for a Totebaggy school is likely NOT good for a high poverty school. Our local paper had an article yesterday about the increase in violent behavior by kindergarteners/first graders. In my opinion,this is due to a combination of new-to-us all day kindergarten, standardized curricula that are a poor fit for some students, with little teacher discretion to adjust the curriculum up or down, classes with 30 kids, and children who haven’t received consistent adult attention to curb their misbehavior. One of my four children is challenging and when norms and ratios are set for childcare or public school, the impact of naturally-bottom-quintile-in-behavior children is underestimated. There are also male/female differences, on average, that I am just beginning to observe in person. (I told Baby WCE “No” to something and she burst out crying. All three of her older brothers would have given me a look that said, “I’m going to keep doing it. Try to stop me.” Observations are at less than one year of age when kids are starting to crawl.) In other countries, school days are shorter, class sizes in Asia are larger, and children spend more time with their families (including grandparents) around this age.

    Budgets that only intermittently allow teachers to be hired are another reason people don’t become teachers. Teaching jobs have been scarce in my state due to budget issues since 2008. This year, all day kindergarten and catch-up in the budget have made teachers scarce. What year you graduate in has a huge impact on your probability of being hired.

    Some of you have referred to schools “no one wants to teach in”. For me, that’s probably over half of all schools. When you think about your child teaching, are you thinking about a “typical” teaching job that tops out at $50-$60k plus good benefits after 15 years, or are you thinking NY/NJ level salary/benefits?

    Several of my cousins are teachers and if my kids want to be teachers, that would be fine with me. If any of my sons lacked academic aptitude but needed a stable middle class job, I would steer him toward elementary education. None of my relatives who are teachers think I missed my calling. :)

  37. As you may have guessed, my motivation for this post was more than just to provide a topic for conversation. DS is still not sure what he wants to do after HS, and teaching is still a possibility under consideration.

    Some of these posts, notably A Teacher’s, remind me to discuss with him that not all teaching jobs are like the ones his teachers have. And while the logistics, for his teachers with kids at the school, and his friends with parents who teach at their school, can be ideal, they aren’t necessarily so for all teaching jobs.

    For now, I think he will keep teaching as a second career possibility, similar to A Teacher, perhaps after he’s had a chance to position himself well financially at another job, and when he’s ready for kid, or when his kids are ready for school, similar to A Teacher (not to mention DS’ 6th grade teacher, who had been a lawyer first). He has definitely ruled out majoring in education.

  38. It boggles my mind that the preschools are required to have 2 teachers per 16 students here, then 3 months later, the students go to 1 teacher per 25 students. The summer between the final year of preschool and kindergarten must really mature the 5-year-olds in my area.

  39. Ada – all of our kindergarten classes also have a paraprofessional. Not the case everywhere?

  40. Yes, our kindergarten classes have an aide. But those may disappear soon as the budgets grow tighter (thanks Cuomo tax cap). I suspect that schools in NYC and other more strapped districts may never have had such luxuries

  41. Kindergarten classes of over 30 usually get an aide here, but it’s not a given. I think the Chapter 1 schools are more likely to have funding for an aide. The district has had funding in the past ~4 years to have aides work with elementary students during reading time (so ~30 min of the day) in small groups but that money isn’t always available. My kids have liked school much better because reading instruction has been at their reading level.

  42. We no longer have kindergarten aides as a result of the tax cap. It happened the year after the cap because the district just could;’t afford it. It’s a little nuts for some of the K teachers since the cut off is officially Dec 31, so there are always a bunch of 4 year olds in K. I think the real challenges come with bathroom accidents, zipping coats, and just haven another set of hands in the classroom. There are a bunch of kids that are required to have their own aide for a variety of reasons. I think they try to divide up these kids so there is at least one other adult in most of the
    K classrooms since they do have 20 -22 kids. The average class size in our elementary school from grades 1- 6 increased after the tax cap. It is 24- 26 kids.

    A few months ago I posted about the lice lady and how I learned it was a huge business around here. It was started by two former K aides that lost their jobs. They had a fight, and they each created their own lice business about 10 miles apart. Unfortunately, there is PLENTY of bug business to go around and they will never go back to being aides. When I took DD for her problem she was happy to be reunited with so many former aides from our district. 3/4 of the women that work there were former K aides.

  43. Interesting about the aides. I think the class sizes are under 25 and I believe the aides are district wide (so not just in the “good” schools).

  44. HM, when your kids were in K and 1, did they still have the “3 on 2” program? When my mom taught those grades, they had that program, in which there were 3 teachers for two classes (which at the time, at her school, typically meant 3 teachers for 50 to 60 kids). I think some walls were knocked down to actually make that 3 teachers for one really huge class.

  45. The different cut off ages for different states is a puzzle to me. I spent way too much energy thinking about the date impact. I have now let it go.

  46. “Unfortunately, there is PLENTY of bug business to go around”

    Apparently much of the spreading occurs when kids (usually girls) take selfies together.

    Another reason to not give your kid a cell phone.

  47. “The different cut off ages for different states is a puzzle to me.”

    How about different cutoff ages for different schools and different sexes (I don’t know if schools go by sex or gender these days).

    In DS’ case, I’m glad he missed the cutoff. That means one more year at home with us before he leaves the nest.

  48. Odd thing about our neighborhood school: our #1 child’s grade (3 classes) is about 3/4 girls and 1/4 boys. It makes for a bit of a strange dynamic. #2’s grade (2 classes) is closer to 50/50. In both cases the classes are very small – I think 24 is the max here, and in their classes it is more like 16-18 kids. They usually have a student teacher in addition to the regular teacher, and some kids get a helper teacher along with their IEP.

  49. I’ve never heard of different cut-off dates for different sexes. Is that really a thing? Seems illegal.

    Heard about an acquaintance’s daughter today. She was 5 in August and they deferred kindergarten entry. The preschool teachers are trying to encourage the parents to start her mid-year in kindergarten – she is reading and writing and they think 6 more months of preschool is not in her best interest. Starting kindergarten midway through doesn’t seem like a cakewalk either. I am thankful that my kids all have wintery birthdays – there is no question what year they should enroll in kindergarten.

  50. I enjoyed being a music director in college and law school, but that was with people who were all good singers and wanted to be there; I think I would have a harder time with teaching in an undifferentiated class.

  51. “I’ve never heard of different cut-off dates for different sexes. Is that really a thing? ”

    Most of the private schools here have that. I’ve heard of fraternal twins and triplets split because their birthday was after the girls’ cutoff but before the boys’.

  52. It’s fascinating to me that employer discrimination based on presumptions of capability by sex is prohibited based on the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (from what I understand) but that discrimination based on presumptions of capability by sex by private schools is legal. Why is that?

  53. I don’t think being admitted to kindergarten counts as “hiring, promoting, or firing”.

  54. I thought that discrimination for admission to graduate school was prohibited but maybe that’s just a principle that universities encourage, not a legal requirement. And if sex discrimination is prohibited for 17th grade, why would it be OK in kindergarten?

  55. I don’t think being admitted to kindergarten counts as “hiring, promoting, or firing”.

    Excellent. Then we don’t have to take the minorities? I don’t really understand the law here at all, but it seems like you can’t discriminate based on protected status, even if you are a private school and even if you are just talking about five year olds.

  56. I’ve wondered about the legality myself, but I suspect that the short answer is that no one has yet sued over it so no court has had cause to review the policy. AFAIK it’s just a couple of very selective private schools here making the boy/girl distinction for starting K, and I doubt that serving a complaint along with your K admission packet would be the most effective start to your child’s career there.

  57. So it’s like most discrimination law- it’s only enforced in favor of people with the time/energy/money to follow through with a lawsuit.

    It seems like schools should make delayed attendance for boys a “guideline” and not a “rule”. To do otherwise is the crudest form of sex discrimination, which would be allowed almost nowhere else in society. It’s not easy to be a boy who reads at 10-100x the word per minute guideline for kindergarten AND have to leave your twin brother alone all day, so getting into kindergarten “eventually” isn’t enough.

  58. Discrimination laws do depend on people suing and/or bringing complaints to the relevant state or federal agency. I suppose the alternative would be having a government agency that essentially went around hunting for discriminatory practices, and I don’t really see that as preferable.

    I agree with you that the boy/girl discrimination in start date is not a point in those schools’ favor. I thought it was ridiculous that my nephew, with a July birthday, was already 6 by the time he could start K at one of them, and in fact had already done a year of K at the public school. But, apparently no one directly concerned is interested in rocking that boat.

  59. If they’re private schools, they can simply refuse to admit boys or girls altogether, can’t they? Private schools can be single-sex.

  60. HM, I didn’t think about a complaint to the relevant government agency. That is, in my opinion, how such laws should normally be enforced.

  61. I’m with RMS. If private schools can be single gender then why can’t they have different cutoffs for boys and girls?

  62. We have neighbors with boy/girl twins that have a very late December bday. The parents enrolled them in a preschool that had an extra year of pre K with the intention of holding them back. The recession hit, and both parents were out of work. They couldn’t afford the extra year of school for two kids. Our district will take any child with a birthday that is before December 31, but the school evaluates every child that registers for K. The school evaluation concluded that their son was not ready for K. They didn’t want to split the kids up, so they took a chance and sent both of them to K even though they wouldn’t turn 5 until the holiday break. I think they had a lot of regrets for a few years, but both kids are doing well in school now. They are almost done with middle school.

    We have other neighbors with boy/girl twins that are currently in elementary school. Late November bdays, and they were both held for an extra year. They had the opposite problem because their daughter has some learning disabilities. They wanted to keep them together so they held both of them. There are 11 sets of twins in their grade, and 5 of the sets are boy/girl. The middle school neighbors also have 5 sets of boy/girl twins in their grade.

  63. I forgot to mention earlier that DH was completely horrified when he learned that in some states (or at least in some districts in some states), teachers are forced to read from a script. He first heard of that concept a few years ago when he was catching up with an old college friend of his, who now teaches in California and who is forced to read scripted lessons. DH would leave the profession in a heartbeat if that particular “reform” were instituted here.

  64. I would have been furious if my two boys had been held out of kindergarten longer than the girls. My boys, especially the oldest, were more than ready for kindergarten at 5. I would have gone to court over it.

  65. If I had to do scripted lessons, I would be gone in a minute. Scripted lessons go away from what we need to do, which is to treat teachers like professionals rather than warm bodies “covering a class”.

  66. I did scripted lessons when I taught SAT prep. I’m not sure I can blame the poor teaching on the fact that the lessons were scripted (it could have been me), but it didn’t help.

  67. “had already done a year of K at the public school.”

    That’s pretty common among the late born kids.

  68. “teachers are forced to read from a script.”

    Why not just take a video of a teacher reading the script, and play the video for all the kids? Or have the kids watch the video on their own, and devote the class time with the teacher to discussion of the script?

  69. For us, the one year in mid elementary when older child didn’t understand that the expectations had increased and was not doing the required work in one subject, somehow the teacher attributed it to his age. DH and I disagreed strongly, I stepped in and made sure he understood the requirements and did the work. Not reviewing prior to a test is just that, nothing to do with age.
    This year DD being the same age as my first kid was, I shared this observation with DD’s teacher after many in DD’s class did badly on a test. The teacher showed the kids how to review and gave them more practice/review pre test. This has helped a lot.
    My neighbor who had four kids was right in that barring any disabilities and given the Totebaggy nature of the school, kids would eventually read. I have also learnt that some kids are not born readers despite all sorts of efforts to make them one. This part is very hard for Totebaggy natural born readers to understand.

  70. Why not just take a video of a teacher reading the script, and play the video for all the kids? Or have the kids watch the video on their own, and devote the class time with the teacher to discussion of the script?

    Actually, that’s one of the latest experiments innovations in education, called flipped classrooms.  Watch video at home and then class time is used for discussions and projects.  The jury is still out as to benefits, but it seems the teacher would necessarily play a key role in success.  BTW, scripted lessons do not necessarily mean that class discussions and student engagement do not take place.  That’s the myth when “lectures” are denigrated as a teaching method.  Whole class lectures done properly can be very effective.

  71. You could test all the kids in September and again in June and see how much progress they made. Then rank that progress against other teachers at schools with similar demographics and distribute substantial bonuses accordingly.

    This type of testing to evaluate teachers could work if implemented properly, although teachers argue that they are “more than just a number on a test” *.  New York botched its attempt to do this, and now testing is off the table for a few years.  So it’s back to rewarding teachers based on years of service and classes taken.  The politics and culture that affect education reform present huge obstacles to improvement.  And top-down reform rarely seems to work.

    Teaching can and has been characterized as not quite a profession.  The standards and common knowledge base that exist in many other professions are not quite so distinct in teaching.  It’s hard to imagine many other professions where a “Teach for America” program would fly. The problem starts with schools of education, including their low barriers to entry.

    *    I once had a dust-up with a teacher who may have been referred to in a previous post, when she made it clear that AP test scores did not reflect at all how much students learned in her class.  So she refused to “teach to the test”. That didn’t sit right with me, and I made the mistake of letting her know.

  72. “Actually, that’s one of the latest experiments innovations in education, called flipped classrooms.” DD’s 6th grade (?) math class was taught this way, and it was *awesome.* Kids were expected to read the chapter, take notes, and do a problem set the night before, which allowed the teacher to focus on the issues people were having. The teacher also reviewed the notes and basically taught the kids how to take good notes.

    The problem is the chicken and the egg. There are many, many good ways to engage students and get them learning, but they all require good teachers. But the pool of teaching candidates is, on average, not the highest-performers in school, and there are knowledge gaps in what teachers learn (e.g., the continuing dearth of STEM teachers), so there is a lot of public focus on protecting kids from bad teachers. So you end up with new approaches like “let’s just set up a standardized lesson plan and have the teachers read it word-for-word”; of course, this merely results in scaring off the best-trained and best-qualified teachers, who rightfully resent being treated like a clueless widget. Rinse, repeat.

    I think teaching is absolutely a profession. I would even call it the highest one, because you need two skill sets to do it well: deep knowledge of the subject matter; and knowledge of child development/educational theory. I think teaching well is a much harder job than mine, and therefore demands the best and the brightest. But I don’t know how you reconcile the need for those best and brightest with low pay + constant oversight/criticism by people who don’t know anything about teaching + need tons of warm bodies to fill the seats. I think some of the charters/privates have tried to tackle the issue by breaking away from the teacher certification/testing requirements, or creating their own lesson plans and training systems, or whatever. Personally, I think it goes in the wrong direction to hire untrained, green kids; we need more and better knowledge and training, not less. But even if their hypothesis were true, most of them still pay for absolute crap — less than the public schools — and many of them have longer work hours too. And you’re just never going to attract the smartest, best-trained people to a profession when you continue to pay peanuts.

  73. We have a flipped classroom for math in the HS. The parents and kids hate it. The kids have posted videos of the teacher playing on his iPad instead of doing the flip during the day.

    This is still a hot topic because the district wants to expand the use of flip, but they don’t have the money yet for more iPads. They got the first set from some corrupt deal with Pearson, but that’s over because NY state suspended tests from Pearson. They get all of the other iPads from the education foundation. The foundation refuses to fund for a flipped classroom since 99% of the feedback is negative from the families. It is the one case where our district had to listen to parents because they don’t have the money (yet!) to expand the program.

  74. when she made it clear that AP test scores did not reflect at all how much students learned in her class

    When dinosaurs roamed, my AP U.S. History teacher told us from the get-go that if we took the AP exam and got a 4 we’d get a B for the class, a 5 and we’d get an A. Didn’t matter how we’d done on all the quizzes and essays during the year.

  75. I think the article made a comment about bright minority candidates going into education. From what I see there is tremendous demand from companies wanting to show a diverse leadership structure for these very same candidates. For example African American women who attended good colleges and are well spoken are very much in demand. So are Hispanic males – if they are first generation to go to college, even better. I would say the same for African American males but they perhaps face a harder path to get to a good college unless their parents are college educated.

  76. Our kids teacher often uses a canned video to teach part of the lesson. She can send out the link so kids can watch it when they are sick. I really like that this puts out “the learn from YouTube format” for learning that people do to run their everyday like.

  77. There’s nothing inherently wrong with using videos in the classroom. But you need a decent human teacher to make it work. True of so many things.

  78. You should be able to adjust for that. You could test all the kids in September and again in June and see how much progress they made. Then rank that progress against other teachers at schools with similar demographics and distribute substantial bonuses accordingly.

    And then you get some kids who don’t like their teacher so they tank on the tests.

  79. And then you get some kids who don’t like their teacher so they tank on the tests.

    That’s fine. Teachers do that to kids they don’t like all the time.

  80. “Actually, that’s one of the latest experiments innovations in education, called flipped classrooms.” DD’s 6th grade (?) math class was taught this way, and it was *awesome.* Kids were expected to read the chapter, take notes, and do a problem set the night before, which allowed the teacher to focus on the issues people were having. The teacher also reviewed the notes and basically taught the kids how to take good notes.

    I think it works in certain niches, like the totebag demographics, where you have very involved parents who will make sure the kids do it and can provide assistance to them. It falls apart very quickly when you lose the parental involvement.

    Not to mention that as a general rule I think teachers should actually be teaching the material to the kids, not just providing supplemental support while the kids are expected to learn it on their own. If it’s so easy for kids to learn all this stuff on their own, then why do we need teachers at all?

  81. And you’re just never going to attract the smartest, best-trained people to a profession when you continue to pay peanuts.

    This is the crux of it. Everyone says “the pay is low because they have all the other benefits of time off, great retirement, etc.”. Well obviously that isn’t attracting people to the profession.

  82. Videos in the classroom….one of my kids does very well if the subject matter is taught is in a video format. Videos on volcanos, glaciers, earthquakes….means top scores on a test.

  83. “And you’re just never going to attract the smartest, best-trained people to a profession when you continue to pay peanuts.”

    But there are a lot of smart (relatively), talented, and well-trained people who are willing to work as professional musicians or stage actors or writers or adjunct professors, even though the pay is peanuts compared to their educational level and what else they might be doing with their talents. Even though there are virtually no tenure-track positions in the humanities, universities seem to have no problem attracting hordes of smart people to their PhD programs.

    So I’m not sure the relatively low pay is the problem. And I’m not convinced that society really NEEDS the smartest people to be teachers, just as I don’t think we need the smartest people to be
    nurses or firefighters or day-care workers, even though all of these folks provide essential services. We need them to be competent and well-trained, but do we need them to be from the top 10% of the IQ pool?

  84. That’s fine. Teachers do that to kids they don’t like all the time

    So you’d be okay if your raises were based on how your clients like you personally rather than your actual job performance? “Well Rhett, you were our leading revenue generator by 20%, but several clients said you have a gruff demeanor and are difficult to work with, so you’re only getting a 2% bonus this year. I know Phil brought in 50% less revenue than you did, but the clients said he was fun to hang out with, so he’s getting 25%.”

  85. Even though there are virtually no tenure-track positions in the humanities, universities seem to have no problem attracting hordes of smart people to their PhD programs.

    That’s because all those people are convinced that they will get one of those few tenure track positions because they are so smart.

  86. So you’d be okay if your raises were based on how your clients like you personally rather than your actual job performance? “Well Rhett, you were our leading revenue generator by 20%, but several clients said you have a gruff demeanor and are difficult to work with, so you’re only getting a 2% bonus this year. I know Phil brought in 50% less revenue than you did, but the clients said he was fun to hang out with, so he’s getting 25%.”

    That is how the world works more often than not.

  87. “We need them to be competent and well-trained, but do we need them to be from the top 10% of the IQ pool?”

    I argue no. The social/emotional IQ is more important anyway – being able to recognize what is going on with the kids & find ways to engage them and help them learn. Especially at the elementary/secondary level.

    I also agree with NofB as well.

  88. I think maybe a quarter of teachers- in math, science, history and English for 4 year college bound high school students- need to have high academic aptitude.

    For other teachers, classroom management, enthusiasm, social/emotional skills, organization, and skill in the subject area (vocational arts teachers should be good at vocational arts, art teachers should be good at art, music teachers should be good at music) are more important.

    This ties into my earlier point that there is not a single group of people who are “the best” teachers. Who “the best” teachers are depends on what/whom they’re teaching. Teachers are not interchangeable electrons.

    A good friend heads the math department at the local Totebag Middle School. She has plenty of kids who don’t struggle with math (and can usually get help at home when they get stuck), but the kids who are behind get a double period of math and, when budgets allow, the smallest class sizes. The math of this means math teachers disproportionately have Basic Math classes. She is tearing her hair out over the requirement that everyone learn algebra. With 100+ repetitions of “M is for mountain, B is for base, B tells you the Base of the mountain and M tells you how steep it is,” she can get most of them to pass an end-of-unit test on y = mx + b. But they have forgotten it all in a couple weeks.

    And they grow up to have jobs and families just like the rest of us.

  89. “Not to mention that as a general rule I think teachers should actually be teaching the material to the kids, not just providing supplemental support while the kids are expected to learn it on their own. If it’s so easy for kids to learn all this stuff on their own, then why do we need teachers at all?”

    Ok, so I didn’t explain it well. DD’s teacher did not just show videos all day and expect the kids to learn at home. She actively taught the entire class period. The difference was that she was able to spend a lot more time on the concepts the kids were struggling with. I think day 1 of any new concept you get a lot of “deer in headlights,” and the teacher has to go over everything several times and hope everyone gets it — but with the speed at which the syllabus moves, they usually don’t have a lot of time to check on that until they get to the unit test, when it’s too late. By introducing the concept the night before, and having the kids give it a whack themselves first, the kids who picked it up right away got to spend 15 minutes on homework, and the kids who needed more time to puzzle through could spend an hour taking notes and working through the problems (DD was on both sides of the equation at different times). Then if half the class didn’t get a particular part of it, the teacher could adjust the class presentation right then to focus on that. She was much more attuned to what the kids did and didn’t understand.

    I do agree, however, that this requires actual discipline to do the work at night (in our case, it was NOT us teaching the kid — I wanted her to struggle through on her own so the teacher could see what she was missing and address that in class — but we did have to enforce the butt-in-seat requirement). And it was a lot of work on the part of the teacher to reinforce the daily expectations, review the kids’ notes and homework, adjust presentations on the fly, etc. But, wow, that was a fantastic class. This woman wasn’t chair of the department for nothing.

  90. Inspired by NoB’s “rant” from yesterday: I’m wondering if think the reason some people don’t seem to respect teachers and their profession is similar to what’s going on in at least the Catholic church…priests used to be the best educated person many many people knew, so people took what they said seriously, believed and followed. Now that education is, well, more catholic (small c), more people are better educated, think critically and no longer follow because the priest says so.

    Teachers: for a while, let’s say post-WWII thru roughly 1980 when decent-paying manufacturing and other jobs could be had with a HS diploma or even less, many people stopped education when they graduated high school. So like priests, teachers were the best educated people a lot of folks knew / interacted with and they didn’t feel capable to challenge teachers on methods, etc.

    Today, especially in totebag communities, many, many parents have advanced degrees of their own, earned in more competitive environments that teaching programs, so they are perfectly comfortable engaging/challenging/criticizing teachers who often times are not truly masters of their subject(s) or at least the parents feel that way. Ergo lack of respect in a lot of instances.

    I may have known more about some subjects than my kids’ teachers did (e.g. I know a hell of a lot more Spanish than my kid’s current Spanish 1 teacher does), but I honestly have no skill in teaching and limited patience for the average-motivated student, so I would be a lousy teacher, and recognizing this I have challenged teaching methods and intents only rarely.

    (P.S. I am also much more extrinsically motivated than your stereotypical teacher)

  91. “That’s because all those people are convinced that they will get one of those few tenure track positions because they are so smart.”

    Maybe so. But even the lucky few who do get those positions may be making only about $50K, after spending more than ten years in college and graduate school. The rest who insist on academic positions will be working for peanuts in adjunct positions or at community colleges. There seems to be no shortage of smart, well-trained people willing to work for peanuts as academics.

    Teaching is a profession with low entry barriers, but also the one with which we are all most familiar. I can’t think of another profession with such universal exposure . It’s not surprising that so many people THINK that they can be teachers, and that it is a relatively easy way to make a living. They may not be right, but that familiarity also helps fill up the seats in the education departments.

  92. “But there are a lot of smart (relatively), talented, and well-trained people who are willing to work as professional musicians or stage actors or writers or adjunct professors, even though the pay is peanuts compared to their educational level and what else they might be doing with their talents. Even though there are virtually no tenure-track positions in the humanities, universities seem to have no problem attracting hordes of smart people to their PhD programs.”

    But there is a brass ring associated with all of those. Actors/musicians can make it big on Broadway or in the movies or in sold-out concert halls; less monetary rewards include things like standing ovations and the cachet that goes along with being, say, first-chair for the BSO. Assistant professors can hope for tenure and spend their summers doing research they actually find interesting.

    Plus, frankly, a lot of idealistic young people may start off as actors and musicians but give it up by the time they hit 30 and realize they’ll never be able to support themselves with their passion — maybe they volunteer and keep performing on the side, but they give up on making a career of it because of the $$. I think teaching at the ES-HS level is one of the few areas where we expect people to work for 40 years just for the love of it, without any kind of brass ring/public accolades, and with the security (tenure/union contracts) consistently under fire and at risk. There are always going to be people who are willing to make that tradeoff — just like there are always going to be people who follow renaissance fairs around the country to sell their crafts or perform. But I think the data suggest that our current approach is not giving us either the numbers or the overall quality we need.

  93. “100+ repetitions of “M is for mountain, B is for base, B tells you the Base of the mountain and M tells you how steep it is,” ”

    Oy. that is just a horrifying way of teaching math. No wonder the kids forget it

  94. “y = mx + b”
    I actually used that to start a meeting about a month ago. Finance/quant types all around. They agreed it was the only real-world use of it they had ever seen. I know I’d never used it at work before.

  95. I have taught using a semi-flipped model for many years, in fact even in my last stint in academia, 10 years before the word “flipped” was coined to refer to a class method. Why? Because it is the only thing that works when you are trying to get a bunch of non-MIT level students through a programming sequence. Now, I do NOT do videos – I abhor the things, in fact, when I have to learn something. There is this little thing called The Textbook, which has all the explanation in it that a student would get from a video, and has the advantage of having an index, a table of contents, page numbers, and also makes it easy to read and reread individual passages, WHICH YOU HAVE TO DO in computer science.

    We have two meetings a week. I go over the material in the first lecture, doing a bunch of Think-Pair-Share exercises to keep them awake. In the second meeting, they take a quiz over the assigned reading (at some schools they aren’t allowed to do the lab if they don’t pass the quiz but I am not so mean). We go over any questions they have and wrap up the topic, and then they do a lab. A lab is not an amorphous “go learn it yourself” task. Instead, labs are kind of like the traditional science labs – lots of steps, and questions to be answered as they are guided through a particular task. It takes a lot of time to design those labs! And I walk around and peer at their screens incessantly. I like doing this because I quickly learn who understand the material and who is lost. It helps me identify people who are just submitting programming projects that they essentially copy from the tutors too, because I know who can’t write code from watching them in the lab.

    The students have to submit their lab solutions at the beginning of the next class, because we immediatly go over the solution. No late labs are accepted. I want to do the solution immediately so it is fresh in their minds. Then we rinse and repeat.

  96. The standards require teaching y = mx + b. If it were up to her, she’d be putting a lot of these kids (basically bottom decile in math aptitude) in consumer math, in hopes that their future incomes wouldn’t be consumed by credit card finance charges.

  97. But what happens when they hit college and want to major in something that requires college algebra? Like it or not, a lot of those kids will go to college, and a lot of majors require college algebra

  98. Mooshi, where we live, kids who are bottom decile don’t go to college. They might go to community college to become pharmacy technicians or CNA’s, but that doesn’t require algebra.

    In 2013, Oregon had an on-time graduation rate of 69%. Even assuming 2/3 of the 31% not graduating on time will eventually graduate or get a GED, you still don’t have to worry about college algebra and the bottom decile.

  99. I always thought that pharmacy tech programs required college algebra. I looked it up, and it appears they do. Here is some text from City College of San Francisco’s guide to the program
    “A “C” in High School Algebra is a good predictor of difficulty in completing the Pharm Tech program. Also,
    those having no recent exposure to algebra in the last five years do poorly in the program. ”

    https://www.ccsf.edu/dam/ccsf/documents/health_care_technology_documents/PharmacyTechnician.pdf

  100. Yes, but WCE’s friend would rather that these students not take high school algebra, at least that is the way I read her post.

  101. I don’t mean to imply that she doesn’t want them to take high school algebra. I think she just has a realistic view of what the bottom decile nationally (not the botttom decile where you live) is capable of.

    I looked up the syllabus for the college algebra class required for pharmacy techs at our local community college, and it includes this helpful information. “Checking Your Progress: To calculate your percentage in the class at any point, add up your scores on all the completed assignments (the numerators you recorded above). Then add up their denominators. Divide the sum of the numerators by the sum of the denominators to find your percentage of the total points so far.”

    So whatever you call “the level of college algebra where calculating your percentage in the class requires explicit instruction, and (if my math adviser friend is correct) possibly assistance.”

  102. I include those same instructions in my syllabus!! I have found that many students don’t know how to compute their class average – even ones who have taken calculus! In fact, we had a discussion of that last night at my school district technology committee meeting.

  103. What I am calling College Algebra is usually the lowest level math course offered at a university. Below that is usually considered to be remedial. Maybe you are thinking of a higher level course, like abstract algebra?

  104. I think my friend doesn’t consider calculating averages and percentages to be “algebra” and would consider it more important to have those skills than to have more abstract skills, like solving the quadratic equation. The difference is probably nomenclature, not her goals for her students who struggle in math.

    I hope that pharmacy techs with minimal math aptitude wind up at Walgreens or Rite-Aid and not at a compounding pharmacy.

  105. “scripted lessons do not necessarily mean that class discussions and student engagement do not take place.”

    So ad-libbing is allowed?

  106. “I think some of the charters/privates have tried to tackle the issue by breaking away from the teacher certification/testing requirements, or creating their own lesson plans and training systems, or whatever.”

    At my kids’ HS, I know that at least many of the science teachers’ degrees are in science, not education. E.g., his AP Chem teacher’s PhD is in chemistry.

    “We need them to be competent and well-trained, but do we need them to be from the top 10% of the IQ pool?”

    Don’t you need at least some of those to teach the top 10%?

  107. Ok, so I didn’t explain it well. DD’s teacher did not just show videos all day and expect the kids to learn at home. She actively taught the entire class period. The difference was that she was able to spend a lot more time on the concepts the kids were struggling with. I think day 1 of any new concept you get a lot of “deer in headlights,” and the teacher has to go over everything several times and hope everyone gets it — but with the speed at which the syllabus moves, they usually don’t have a lot of time to check on that until they get to the unit test, when it’s too late. By introducing the concept the night before, and having the kids give it a whack themselves first, the kids who picked it up right away got to spend 15 minutes on homework, and the kids who needed more time to puzzle through could spend an hour taking notes and working through the problems (DD was on both sides of the equation at different times). Then if half the class didn’t get a particular part of it, the teacher could adjust the class presentation right then to focus on that. She was much more attuned to what the kids did and didn’t understand.

    Here’s how I’m interpreting this: The “standard” method is teacher introduces concept on day 1, assigns homework, then the teacher reviews what kids aren’t getting and adjusts to focus on that. In this method, the kids try to learn the concept on their own, do homework, then the teacher reviews what kids aren’t getting and adjusts to focus on that. The only difference is whether the teacher introduces the concept or the kids try to learn themselves, so you do save some class time by shifting the “concept introduction” to homework time.

    Again, I don’t think it would work very well outside of the totebag demographic because you need motivated students (either self-motivated or parental-motivated) who are going to put the effort in to try to teach themselves.

  108. “I’m wondering if think the reason some people don’t seem to respect teachers and their profession is similar to what’s going on in at least the Catholic church…priests used to be the best educated person many many people knew, so people took what they said seriously, believed and followed.”

    We’ve also discussed here before how a lot of very bright women used to go into teaching (and nursing) due to the lack of socially accepted career options, and how many of the women from that pool are now engineers, programmers, doctors, lawyers, etc, e.g., how Della Street would now be an attorney herself, and not Perry Mason’s secretary.

    Also, especially in small communities, many parents know their kids’ teachers when they were kids, and are aware of their cognitive abilities. I remember my mom telling me how some of my teachers were academic stars as students.

  109. “A lab is not an amorphous “go learn it yourself” task. Instead, labs are kind of like the traditional science labs – lots of steps, and questions to be answered as they are guided through a particular task. It takes a lot of time to design those labs!”

    ITA. I spent a year doing a senior project which turned out to be developing a single lab. I think that lab would take about 4 weeks (that lab class met once/week): two weeks for fabrication, one for characterization, and one for discussion of results.

  110. @DD — in our schools, usually the second day they were on to a new concept, so the review/filling gaps never happened. It was the way the curriculum was designed pre-CC — they “spiraled” through every topic every year, touching on each concept for @ 1 week, so there was no time for reviews or gap-filling. Heck, the teachers told *us* to check the homework and provide support/supplemental work where our kids weren’t getting the concept, because they didn’t have time to do that (my favorite was the year we were told that it was up to us to make sure our kids learned their multiplication tables, because they had only a week for the multiplication unit. Um, hello?).

    So in that context, the flipped version was a lifesaver. Kids could take two hours if they needed to understand the concept instead of 45 minutes in class, and they got actual feedback and help on the stuff they were getting wrong. And I think it would be even more critical for non-Totebag kids, because at least they could get review/answers from a trained teacher instead of a parent who may or may not remember how to do something.

    But to be fair, I haven’t seen the same class in action post-CC; I know they have gone away from the spiral in favor of more depth, so the standard approach may work just fine or better.

  111. “how Della Street would now be an attorney herself, and not Perry Mason’s secretary.”

    Makes sense to me, you, PTM, Rocky, Meme but how many others really know what the hell you are talking about?

  112. “I remember my mom telling me how some of my teachers were academic stars as students.”

    More to Fred’s point, she also knew that some of the teachers had been marginal students.

    Looking back, I think my mom made a point to know who our teachers were, and when we had a teacher she had reason to believe might not be very good, stayed more on top of things to make sure we were still getting what we needed to out of that class. OTOH, there were other teachers in whom she had great confidence, and was very hands-off.

  113. Della Street was both Perry Mason’s secretary and in the early books, his lover (this was not described at all, but clear to the reader). He proposed to her at one point, and she refused him. She said, if I marry you, I’ll have to quit and keep house and some other woman will be sharing your real life.

  114. LfB, that just sound like poor teaching and/or curriculum and would have still sucked if it was taught flipped. Either teachers review how the kids are doing and fill in the gaps or they don’t.

  115. My experience with flipped teaching was my first semester chem class in college. The way we read the syllabus and the homework, we were doing it a day ahead. The right way was that the teacher would go over material on Monday, then we were supposed to do the assignment that covered that material, and on tuesday the teacher would review it if we had questions. The way we were reading it, we were doing the homework based on Tuesday’s class on Monday. So we were basically trying to figure out the material on our own, as in a flipped concept. So we’d usually have a lot of questions on the homework, and the teacher’s response was that he was going to cover it that day. It took about a week for the teacher to realize we were doing it wrong. Once we started doing on the homework after the material was covered in class, it was so much easier to understand everything.

  116. “but clear to the reader”

    Umm, not necessarily. I think I was in the 4th of 5th grade when I started reading those books, and at that age I tended to read things literally. As you state, it was not described at all, so it was not clear to me.

Comments are closed.