Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Bellevue Settlement an opinion -- C.R. Hoff

Will the settlement of the teachers’ strike in Bellevue improve education in Washington?

After a little over a two weeks strike in Bellevue the School Board caved in to most of the demands of the teachers’ union. Will this improve the education of Bellevue’s students? I think not! Just as a note the athletic teams did practice and play during the strike, so we do know what is really important!

What the teachers’ union was looking for was more money, better health coverage, and control of the curriculum in a school district that has the highest ratings of any school district in this state when compared to other school districts in the nation. While it is the legal right, according to Washington’s laws, that school boards have this right to determine curriculum, this has just become another unenforced law, like the teachers’ ability to strike, in a state that has been very good at enacting laws and then not enforcing them.

John Stanford, former Superintendent of Seattle was quoted as saying, “This is the only place I have worked where we make all of the decisions for the benefit of the employees.” In Bellevue, and many other places, Superintendent Stanford’s statement would seem to be quite accurate. Who loses in this case? Students and taxpayers are the losers. I will predict that achievement will decline in Bellevue and the costs will rise. We could call this “reverse productivity.”

The former superintendent of Bellevue led an often lonely crusade to bring Bellevue’s schools up in achievement to that of other similar school districts in the nation. He was assailed by many parents who found his idea of excellence was “too stressful” for their children, teachers that didn’t seem to be able to recognize excellence, and those with a “compassion” for those students unprepared for any major exertion in the academic sense. There were actual lawsuits over this.

Where does this come from? Let me suggest a few possible contributors.

1. This state has no accreditation system that sets any minimum standard for a high school diploma, at least until the WASL came along, and when this got to the point where it would have prevented those who could not do mathematics from graduating, our gutless Legislature made sure that this didn’t happen. In other states school boards live in fear of losing accreditation by their actions, or inactions, which might compromise the education of their children. Here there is no fear of this.

2. Many of the teachers in school districts of this state are graduates of institutions that have the lowest admissions standards of any colleges in this state. Nationally there is some pretty good data suggesting that most of the talented graduates of high schools do not attend this type of college, and they do not major in education. Could it be that many of these Bellevue teachers do not have a solid vision of excellence and have a full dose of “compassion?”

3. Graduates of most of the finest colleges and universities cannot get a teaching position in this state. Neither can those who have outstanding accomplishments in their fields without paying a ransom to our educational institutions. The example often used is former President Bush; elected member of the House of Representatives, Ambassador, Director of the CIA, War Veteran, and Vice President. He could not become a Civics teacher in a Washington high school!

4. There is a joke, which is more truthful than one might think, that the first name of every Social Studies and Driver Training teacher in Texas is “coach!” In my experiences in public schools it was not hard to find a group of teachers who were far more concerned about athletics than they were about whatever subject they were teaching.

5. Teachers’ unions have long suggested that reductions in class size would bring about improvements in achievement. The school district has suggested that this agreement will result in a reduction of 60 positions. So much for reducing class size!

Where will this strike lead us to? My guess is that school boards will become even more reluctant to address the issues of quality education than they are at this time. In the case of Bellevue they will compromise on curriculum, use money that is now used to support this excellence to pay more salaries to all teachers who are left, not just the ones who excel, and otherwise dilute the educational effort while continuing to work on excellence on the football field.

Elsewhere in the world those who are watching this issue will shake their heads in disbelief and continue to work on having even more of their children surpass Americans.

Spock and Piaget’s books will continue to sell poorly in India, Korea, Singapore and China and the intellectual abilities of these children will continue to surpass our children.

by Charles R. Hoff


Anonymous said...

Ex-Bellevue Superintendent Riley is the same person who had the language changed in the original contract to include the teaching of Core Plus - a disaster for Washington, that he and district staff benefited from financially.

The only union contract that I know of which included verbage on how and what teachers should teach.

The same could be said for scripted lesson plans - how much did this software platform cost the district and who paid for it?

Rather then research the facts,
Hoff has chosen a coward's way out, serving as a cheap radical mouthpiece for his troublesome friends. His scrambled egg opinions come off half-baked, cooked on a Tombstone sidewalk, and served on filthy, shredded hamster bedding.

Anonymous said...

The Hoff editorial is a chaotic, juvenile rant. He sounds like TB -"There was no education before the WASL."

You should not be asking why minimum standards are important, but why they are not working?

For example, are Singapore Standards a minimum standard or do they 'push the envelope' and prepare more students for careers in engineering. Washington has two standards of excellence. That is why there will never be equal access to education.

Why is Hoff pushing for minimum standards? Is he a xenophobe? Wouldn't it be interesting if that was what all this was about? To keep non-English speaking children from getting an education in the US. Lets start with NCLB and bypass Title I. Hoff is too careful to criticize his friends. You have to read between the lines.

Anonymous said...

Reducing class size increases the number of inexperienced teachers and increases costs because more rooms need to be provided. Hoff is an exasperation. I think WEA's position would be reasonable and practical, since it represents the teachers' and students' best interests.

It is unlikely that an increase in salaries caused the reduction in teachers. This could have occurred for a variety of other reasons, but of course none would ever be examined carefully by a raving moonman, like Hoff.

Anonymous said...

I predict there is going to be a crash in college education enrollment. I don't see how our achievement levels in high school can meet the expectations of colleges. Already you see dropping enrollments of foreign students and colleges are now moving campuses overseas.

The first thing to do is throw out the dirtbag rabble running education into the ground by publishing pretentious, bogus classroom studies that purport to evaluate curriculum. Get the publshers out of the textbook industry - nationalize the curriculum and create one standard for everyone.

Anonymous said...

I predict there is going to be a crash in college education enrollment. I don't see how our achievement levels in high school can meet the expectations of colleges. Already you see dropping enrollments of foreign students and colleges are now moving campuses overseas.

The first thing to do is throw out the dirtbag rabble running education into the ground by publishing pretentious, bogus classroom studies that purport to evaluate curriculum. Get the publshers out of the textbook industry - nationalize the curriculum and create one standard for everyone.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Hoff - I suspect 1 of the biggest problems teachers had with the curriculum was that the district did little or nothing to help kids in classes they didn't belong in, much less move them to a class they'd do better in.

If teachers were more than doormats for the latest admin-cure-all fix-all, they might be interested in being partners in helping our kids.

anon north

dan dempsey said...

I sure wish that comments could address the substance of the posts and substance of other comments rather than the attacks on individuals.

Example: " by a raving moonman "

Anonymous said...

What substance are we addressing? Cheese?

Politics should bite down hard on fools. Hoff makes parents and students feel terrible.

He doesn't imagine the atrocities committed to children in the name of 'their' education. People are mad and Hoff is talking from a different planet - moonman is perfectly clear and appropriate because it states how I feel and I'm gonzo.

He might write opinion, but he's not a journalist, so I'm sure he can take the heat. And his message is not even close to the mark. SNL is much worse. Hoff and Berg probably play cards together.

I spent three hours tonight teaching algebra to my daughter. Her mother, a community college graduate cannot help her, not because she can't, but teaching is stressful for students that don't understand. Some even start to cry because they don't understand - its not because they're stupid mind you, but the teacher failed to get their point across. Somewhere the message got lost.

That makes me mad too that some teachers don't have the required touch or sensitivity if you will. But lets be reasonable and stay down to earth. Algebra is just algebra. Why do we make such a big deal about it. Lets start by writing good textbooks.

She had 5 worksheets of at least 20 problems each (Math with Pizzass and Houghton worksheets) - doing the same old garbage in triplicate (2-step problems, 3-step problems, combine like terms, and practice with distributive law. Foreplay to writing this letter and how I FEEL.

Her class doesn't use the textbook, they use worksheets. They bring their books, but they have yet to open them.

The teacher uses an electronic pallete and the kids don't understand what he's writing - white boards work much better.

My kid has had 4 classes of 'math' - one CMP, one traditional taken together over two years in middle school. She gets it, but one also suffers from overload too.

You can't get it all right when its thrown at you like a firehose. If its not done right it can be confusing as hell and then all of a suddent instead of right answers, they are all wrong. It doesn't take much to unlearn a child.

This is a typical HS algebra class. That's why you need a better textbook. The one kids have to truck back and forth to school doesn't get used.

Why? The teachers say its too difficult for students. More BS. Then why did the textbook get adopted in the first place. Didn't Bellevue just go through that with their district? Who's teaching my kid? I am and if I wasn't then she would be all by herself and that is exactly where half her classmates are right now. Struggling to pass algebra with a D.

Here's another good story. - her whole class of third year Spanish just failed a test where they had to put accent marks in correct places. Accents were never taught to my daughter. She didn't know what to do. And there are lots of rules for where to put accents. I tell her life gets better after high school.

90 words in a half hour. The teacher's comment: Well that sure brought everyone's grade down. Sheeshkabob! Give the monkey a football, way to go Teach.

Anonymous said...

You do understand what I'm saying I hope?

Just because you model (verb) a two step problem for a child does not mean the child is going to understand.

With Singapore there is a model (noun) that gets taught with 2-step problems. Also, we model (verb) the problem-solving process.

Cognitive approach - CPM and Singapore teaches a model (noun) and the teacher models (verb).

Structural approach: Traditional textbooks model (verb) and that's why you have to rely on a teacher (to model for students). It goes from simple to complex. This is why there are more topics to address in American textbooks.

Reform math uses a structural approach, known as embedded learning, that is even more radical (and incomplete) because it does away with model (noun) and model (verb). The student creates the structure and the teacher or textbook provides the relationships.

Anonymous said...

Because I'm opinionated and had more training than the whole department, some of my 'colleagues' got pissed off, and so I am currently teaching science.

And I don't mind a bit. I'm on vacation. Its better for my blood pressure and now I ride my bike home and make furniture with my neighbor and I make the same salary. And what do you know, math test scores went down. Oh dear, what a bunch of clueless monkeys. They get to sit in endless meetings, listening to someone from the Dana Center!!

Anonymous said...

More on radicalization or rather hyper-structural learning - when the teacher is left completely out of the picture and relationship building is done with just the text. Definitely a Michigan/Annenburg thing and expands learner settings to include online programs.

Anonymous said...

The grade my daughter gets in math is no better than a coin toss.

In one class she gets A's and the other class she gets D's. Standards say its the same class. The classes were taken concurrently and for two years. What idiots would design a math program like that?

Do you understand that with Washington being out of compliance (waived twice?) there is no plan for improvement in place? How do Washington schools plan on improving?

Why doesn't Hoff write about that - He was a school board member?

Anonymous said...

Washington schools are leaderless and instructional staff can do anything that they want so long as it sounds reasonable.

For instance, an alternative school that graduates 17% is apparently within Washington's reasonable standard. Here's what they do for taff development - Eat at a local Mexican restaurant and comment on the food (pay lip service).

The average time that a Hispanic male is enrolled at this school is about 4 months. Some kids don't get tested for English, but they get placed into English-speaking classes anyway.

The conversation is partially in Spanish. How old are you? 19. The young man was from Sunnyside. What are you doing here so far from home? Trying to finish high school (ninth grade) and get this working framing houses for a real estate developer at $20 per hour.

The majority of female Hispanics here either got married or pregnant within a year.

In fact, this community has one of the highest teenage pregnancy rates in the United States and its not just Hispanics either. I'd be hopping mad too - because that's precisely what happens in a community where schools are dysfunctional (forget why they exist). You can sure lose your taste for small town appeal. Lost Boy City (ICP speed freaks) No thanks!

War of the Worlds is a historical study of conflict. I forget the author's name, but he does ethnic studies and he says that as ethnic mixing increases, the potential for human conflict increases. The complexity is tremendous, but his studies show a pattern exists. He can't explain it, but there it is.

You know its one thing to post WASL scores on the Internet. But even NASA figured out that they had to go out and verify what they were seeing on their spreadsheets.

TB, the WASL queen and NCLB resident expert has to resign. I've never seen such a load of bs. Get a clue.

Anonymous said...

Examples of juvenile ranting:

"President Bush couldn't be a Civics teacher" [not credentialed] and never mind that most people don't have credentials, nor do they allow torture in Guantanemo.

"The former superintendent of Bellevue led an often lonely crusade to bring Bellevue’s schools up in achievement to that of other similar school districts in the nation." [Toff's words that's why he can't become an English teacher].

... and then he [Riley] was assailed by parents [oh my, never mind he is using a Sanford quote and talking about Riley [unnamed] at the same time.

Hoff sounds just like Calvin. How was school today Calvin?

"After a little over two weeks strike in Bellevue, the School Board caved in!"

[What did the teacher's union want?]

"More money, better health coverage, and control of the curriculum."

"Will this improve the education of Bellevue's students?"


"Just as a note."

"The athletic teams did practice and play during the strike."

"So we know what is really important."

"[Bellevue] has the highest ratings of any school district in this state when compared to districts in the nation."

[Hee hee - What is he saying in this sentence?] Hoff is so busy ranting that he stops making sense. Oh Calvin? Bed time?

Anonymous said...

I suppose with that last quote Hoff was unintentionally dissing. Meaning he wrote Bellevue was the best of the worst or at the top of the garbage heap and Riley was responsible, although parents and teachers assailed? him afterward and so now Bellevue students and taxpayers are the losers.

I wundert howt Hofft spillt shmasht putatos naut?