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Students First

Original post made by The Future, Another Pleasanton neighborhood, on Dec 7, 2010

Michelle Rhee has started the Students First organization in the hopes of changing education in this country so that ALL students are served.

Please check it out!
Web Link

Comments (13)

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Posted by Not so sure
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Dec 7, 2010 at 5:52 pm

Michelle Rhee brings common sense and solutions to our nation's educational problems. Every caring parent should support her Students First organization.

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Posted by So sick of blaming teachers for everything
a resident of Avila
on Dec 7, 2010 at 8:24 pm

I watched Waiting for Superman and thought that it had some great points. But I am so sick of the "lets put all of the blame on the teachers and the union". They are not responsible for parents who do not sit down with their kids every night and make sure their work is done, it is not their fault that parents are not checking Zangle and communicating with the school, and they are not responsible for refusing to get their child counseling even though it has been recommended by the administration.

Come on, people! We cannot continue to blame teachers and the unions for our failures as parents. Even Michelle's mission statement does not call on parents to step up to the plate. It says "We Believe: Parent and family involvement is key to increased student achievement, but the entire community must be engaged in the effort to improve our schools.". NO!!! It should say "We Believe: Parents made a decision to have a child and must stand by their decision. It is a parent's responsibility to provide a loving, nurturing, caring home and if they cannot do so, they will be forced to attend parenting classes until their child's participation in school has improved".

It takes a village to raise a child. The teachers and unions are part of that village, but they are not the entire village.

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Posted by I am a teacher in PUSD
a resident of Foothill Place
on Dec 7, 2010 at 9:12 pm

I too watched Waiting for Superman and have been watching Michelle Rhee with interest since she came onto the scene in DC. I must politely disagree with the post before me. In fact, in the education crisis teachers and unions are the only thing we can systemically change. While it is always easier to teach kids who come from loving homes with attentive parents it is criminal to not put every resource possible into teaching kids who don't. Kids do not have a choice about the family they are born into. I think the dismissive attitude that it's the parents responsibility is an easy out and one that, frankly, I hear too often from fellow teachers. Perhaps it helps them sleep at night while failing to help every child achieve his/her full potential. Blaming it on the parents is always easier than trying to help a non-motivated student achieve.
While we can, and should, continue to educate parents to help them we will always be fighting an uphill battle with that one.
Teachers and administrators on the other hand are being PAID to do a job and they should be putting every effort into being as effective as they can for EVERY child.
I did not get the message from Superman that the teachers and unions in general are to blame. I did get the message that bad teachers are to blame and I wholeheartedly agree. I was shocked when I came into this profession to learn how truly bad some teachers and probably more importantly, some administrators are. And they will be here until they die.
This needs to change.

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Posted by to I am a teacher
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Dec 7, 2010 at 11:22 pm

Thank you. I bet you're an amazing teacher!

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Posted by Arroyo
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Dec 8, 2010 at 6:31 am

Tenure after two years employment, per hard fought union efforts, guarantees mediocrity in the ranks.

When most teachers are pressed (off the record) they will admit that there are many teachers in their schools who are poor performers, but cannot easily be replaced due to tenure. The unions will always circle the wagons around all members, whether they are incompetent and need removal, or not.

Ms. Rhee may be on to something positive for education. Many of her statements make a great deal of sense.

I agree with "so sick" that parents need to be involved in the education of their children. I wish the parents would get involved enough to change the laws on tenure for removing underperforming teachers.

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Posted by A parent
a resident of Amador Valley High School
on Dec 8, 2010 at 10:43 am

Having been educated in Canada; I can tell you parents there are no more or less involved with their children's education than here. Actually, they are less because the system does not require parent involvement in the classrooms at the younger ages. So that leaves the way the classrooms are run, the teachers are educated/trained, and the material presented. There will always be students who refuse to do homework, and there is always a certain time in a student's life when the parents can no longer "force" the homework to get done or if done turned in (I have one of these - who is a junior). The difference is there are longer school days and years which allow for the teachers to let the children work on homework in class, and thus, be available for questions and to help those who need it. Yes, there are changes that need to be done, but the majority of parents in middle-class; upper-middle class schools are involved. The parents in the lower economic class have trouble being involved for many reasons; 2 jobs, language barriers, cultural barriers, and lack of academic education. These are issues that the "villiage" needs to work on, to help increase parent involvement.

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Posted by PEVCatSBUX
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Dec 8, 2010 at 12:15 pm

Every bit helps to make a great school system including parents who work to get better at helping their children, administrators who support the teachers and staff, and teachers who improve their skills. It also helps to channel the resources to student programs and identify and remove poor teachers. All of these help.
So if we assume that 5% of the teachers need to be replaced, what would a 5% boost in teacher effectiveness do to the overall success of the schools? Every bit helps, and PUSD and APT should be proactive to make this improvement at the lowest cost possible. Our kids deserve it.
The parents of Compton's McKinley Elementary School pulled the trigger (see WSJ article Web Link) to force improvements in their low performing school. Tactics, motivation and forces at play aside, the point is that parents want the best education for their kids. PUSD and APT have the opportunity to demonstrate that by showing that there is a working low-cost process for replacing poor performing teachers and improving our schools.
I applaud anyone like Michelle Rhee who is working to improve our kids education system.

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Posted by Me Too
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Dec 8, 2010 at 5:35 pm

Could it be that we just have more stupid people? While that may sound like a joke, its actually quite a serious question. While I don't have a report in front of me, one I read last year sates that our top 10% in science and may are at an equal level (and sometimes measured higher) as any other country. Yes, we fall and fall quickly.

I do have a little bit of an issue with the website and some conculsions drawn on the first article list on the main page..
"the United States would get a C, at best, and in math we'd get an F....It tested 15-year-olds in 65 of the world’s industrial economies on reading, math, and science. Once again, the United States’ scores were far from the top: 17th in reading, 23rd in science, and 31st in math."

If we are in the top half (65 countries, we ranked 31 out of 55 in math) how does that translate to an F. What are we measuring ourselves against? I guess if here point is that she not good at math and statistics then the point is well taken.

Don't get me wrong - we seriously need education reform. Our biggest problem with reform is that no one really knows what it looks like. We have some models which at first glance appear to be success but a closer look they are no more successful then others. Others are proven successful but don't necessarily translate to large public education system.

The problem is we have a large number of people with the "it worked for 40 years ago, it should work for these kids." But we have to face reality, that to make extreme change (which is needed) will cause extreme discomfort for eveyone involved - parents, students, teachers, administrators and even those in the community.

Maybe we really shake-up education and make in non-compulsory. A couple benefits would be that education would be privatized which generally leads to improvements and many of the less bright students would not be in school, so our test scores would go up.

Again, that may sound sarcastic, but its certainly food for thought.

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Posted by Me Too
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Dec 8, 2010 at 5:50 pm

"who are poor performers, but cannot easily be replaced due to tenure. "

But to me this is a huge cop out. Its not easy to remove a professional from their job in CA, but it can be done (and yes, I've gone through it)

If the administration supports removing a teacher they should move forward whether its easy or not. Isn't that what they are there for? They need to put the evidence together, work with the school board and remove the teacher. All tenure means is that you have to have cause to fire a teacher. Its not some golden protective cape that make teachers untouchable. Unfortunately, with the size of schools and the structure it does make it a somewhat difficult task.

If you are doing a really poor job and you don't get fired who's fault is it?

There is one very big catch in education though - we do very little in an attempt to improve teachers' effectiveness. In the private sector employees go to all kinds of training seminars, conferences, etc, to try to be a better employee - all paid for by the company. If you look at craftsmen, they start of working as an apprentice with someone who will teach them and train them for years and get paid. For teachers they take classes to become certified and some become (unpaid) student teachers for a few months (although many in CA get emergency credentials and don't even go through student teaching). Then we throw them in the classroom on their own and say here you go.

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Posted by I'm a teacher in PUSD
a resident of Foothill Place
on Dec 8, 2010 at 7:38 pm

What a great & productive thread we have here! You are all correct in so many ways. Let me address a few things with my "insider" perspective.
On the non-compulsory education I believe that one of the greatest achievements of our country is the attempt to educate all. For this reason of course I can not agree that we eliminate compulsory education. It is the very foundation necessary for every person to be able to achieve the American dream and not have their destiny determined at birth.
On the firing of bad teachers. I do believe this can be achieved with a lot of work on the part of administration. The problem is that there truly is not enough personnel to oversee and eventually rid the schools of the ineffective teachers. One step in the right direction would be to hire administrators who care about education and equip them with the tools they need to inspire and assist new recruits. The reality is that a principal who cares and is competent can build a great staff. Hire principals who were GREAT teachers, not those who just need to get out of the class because they themselves were inept. I wish it were not true but it is the case all too often.
Finally on improving teacher effectiveness you are so correct. And those of us that truly care about this craft crave the opportunity for legitimate, high quality professional development. That has not been available since I have been in the district. Our professional development days are spent attending seminars hosted by our colleagues and at least half the time they are only mildly competent teachers who have only signed up to host because of an attached stipend. Not because they actually have anything to offer that would help my students.
Great discussion! I do think if a district like PUSD invests in it's great teachers that we could be so much more fantastic than we already are.

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Posted by I'm A Parent Too
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Dec 8, 2010 at 8:14 pm

I wish You (in the above post) were running our District or School Board.

You must be a great teacher.

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Posted by Me Too
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Dec 8, 2010 at 9:38 pm

One other serious issue is people seem to want to think that bad employees (teachers) only exist in the public sector. I think for anyone who has work in the private sectors knows there are poor employees who stick around year after year for know apparent reason other than someone is too lazy to go about their job. The old saying of "he got promoted to his level on incompetence" did come out of no where. No matter what you do you are going to end up with poor employees in every sector. Its what you with them that becomes the issue.

But here's the problem, how many people would support cutting more student programs to hire a person (or several people across the district) dedicated to teacher development and dismissal? Most people would say "Oh that's the Principal's job, why isn't he doing it." Well, he does have a lot of things to do (I'm guessing a lot of it is dealing with parents). This person could work directly with the union in the removal process if necessary.

I don't know any public school that puts teacher development and increased effectiveness at the top of the list or priorities. However, every major corporation I have worked at, have employee development at the very top of their stated priorities (of course, it doesn't always work out)

So we say the there are so many bad teachers in this country that it is destroying the very foundation of our educational system, yet there has been little to nothing done to help the teachers improve - instead we all sit back and play the blame game (its the unions, its the administrators, its the money).

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Posted by Let's follow Michelle's Plan!!!
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Dec 16, 2010 at 1:19 pm

I'm a teacher in this district and I say we follow Michelle's plan!!! If we did, most teachers in this district would make over 100K a year because our students do so well on the STAR test. But then our district would go broke because it couldn't afford to pay it's amazing teachers.

The Pleasanton School District scored 12th overall, when compared to other districts in the state. We do not have a problem with test scores which, if that is the only way we are going to judge teachers, means we do not have a problem with bad teachers.

It always cracks me up when people complain about horrible teachers in this district. Yes, you might have had a bad experience. But our test scores are amazing.

There are other things we should be focusing on - such as the amount of homework and supporting our students whose parents work two jobs, are unable to help their child, etc.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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