Kerry has great idea, bravely presents it, is met with silence.

John Kerry has taken some slammings over allegations that he will tell any group whatever it wants to hear, even if it’s not something he intends or has the ability to do. Whether that charge is generally true is not this debate.

Because there occurred a specific instance where he didn’t do that. Kerry wants to allocate $30 billion of federal money over ten years to “recruit, coach and reward better teachers.” Personally, I think the less the federal government does with local education the better, but it’s not like I can look to Bush to fulfil that philosophy – NCLB was his (originally bipartisan) baby, and he’s about a profligate spender of federal money as one can imagine. So OK, there you go.

But contrary to the “liberal” tag, Kerry doesn’t just want to hand out the money like a Chicago ward captain. He wants, in exchange, teachers to get better than it or get out. And he wants to use the pricing (salary) mechanism to better match supply with demand. “More training, more career choices, and more options for education. And we must ask more in return. That’s the bargain.” And there was silence.

The NEA was able to make himself say some nice things after, (“I think there’s something to work from there.”) But the silence really got to me. If a group that’s so traditionally been out there for the Democrat party can’t even embrace “you need to do a better job to deserve a raise,” what is Kerry to do?

Totally agree. The NEA is not exactly an organization dedicated to quality education for our children, and they’re no more accustomed to even mildly critical backtalk from the Democratic party than the NRA is w/regards to same from the Republicans. They figure their solid financial support of the party oughta guarantee that the party’s candidates not adopt any viewpoint on education that NEA hasn’t embraced, and as an organization the NEA isn’t much inclined to hug anything that looks like it might ever make it easier to fire a teacher.

I hope Kerry doesn’t let it wither in silence. Despite the NEA’s shortsightedness, this would dramatically improve things for teachers who can actually teach. The appeal of the profession would move a little bit away from “long summer vacations and protected employment” and towards “excellence gets recognized and rewarded”. Not everything pertaining to recognizing effectiveness in education means “let’s get rid of tenure and pit teachers against each other”!

I have to agree, I think this sounds like a fine idea. There’s not a group out there that wants to hear that more will be asked of them, though…

Well let’s be fair… teachers have been offered the carrot and the stick before. And the carrot dissapeared and the stick was used randomly. It’s not that long ago that school board members made comments about elementary school teachers along the lines of “She doesn’t need a raise, her husband has a job.”

I think that teachers might accept this carrot and stick path once they no longer have to buy school supplies for their students with their own money. But if your district can’t even afford to buy glue, how much of a raise would you expect it to give out? And with NCLB almost unfunded… well, I can see the where the skepticism comes from.

Another possible issue was that his method of rating teachers was by use of standardized testing, something many teachers view with great (justified, IMHO) supsicion.

This isn’t to say I disagree with his policy, I’d just like to find a different way to rate the teachers.

Great. So the NEA is all for incentives, standards and reform. As long as everyone is treated the same, and it’s not based on standardized tests.

So tell me, where’s the reform? :rolleyes:

Kerry should, I dunno, maybe attack the NEA for being terrorists?

First of all, I am for Kerry, and I think this idea is decent.

But here’s the thing. The problem with education in this country has, IMHO, little to do with the quality of the teachers. It is very unfair to administer the same tests to kids in a wealthy suburb and kids in an inner city school, and assume that because the wealthy suburb does better, the teachers must be better. Let’s face it; teachers are only one small variable. An absolutely brilliant teacher may be able to overcome some of the other problems and inspire some of his/her kids to actually learn, but by and large, the quality of the teacher, as long as it is at all decent, isn’t going to have the impact that upbringing and the culture surrounding the school do. It is not fair to hold the teachers responsible for children not learning when those children are immersed in a culture that does not hold academic learning valuable - that scorns it, in fact.

These days this is more true than ever. The parents with whom I work are consistently involved in their children’s education: they supervise their homework, actively investigate the slightest problem the child may raise, and expect (and get) from their children a fair degree of academic achievement. (When I was a kid, btw, this was far less true - I can’t remember ever getting help with my homework, not because my parents were indifferent, but because it was expected that I could and would do it myself.)

Children from families where the parents themselves are only marginally literate, where the parents are paid hourly and thus are unable to take time off to be more involved in their children’s education, where the “cool” kids are making fun of anyone who does well, and there is no counter-acting popular group of academic achievers - these children are unlikely to do as well regardless of the quality of their teachers.

I’m a Democrat, and I strongly believe in funding education - I will happily pay more taxes to do so despite the fact that I have no children myself and never will. But until we seriously change the surrounding environment from which the children who attend consistently underachieving schools are coming, the education problem is not going to be solved, and we will have what effectively amounts to a perpetual underclass. Oh, the occasional kid rises above it, and gets a real education and becomes successful. That’s great for the kid, but it unfortunately gives those who do not wish to fund such changes ammunition, because it allows them to place the “blame” on the kids themselves - if they really wanted an education, they could get it. That’s true, but how many of us have the understanding during our childhoods to reject the culture from which we come and work hard (despite social scorn) to achieve in a milieu that few around us value?

Help eliminate the poverty, demonstrate to the poorest of the poor that escape is both possible and desirable, and work on eliminating the rampant classism (as opposed to racism, which I believe has been largely subsumed into classism) within mainstream society, and educational achievement will rise. Without these things, motivating the teachers is at best a palliative. It will help a little, but it’s not going to change anything significant. By and large, teachers don’t go into teaching for the money; they want to do well. They don’t need help with motivation; they need help in overcoming the handicaps of culture and background that some of them face in their students.

Or at least that’s my take on it. YMMV, of course.

Any suggestions? I can’t think of any offhand, although to be fair I’ve not finished my morning coffee. Graduation rates? No good, would lead to promotion of all in order for teachers to get their bonuses. Grades? Ditto.

If it does go to standardized testing, then it’s got to be a national test, or else you risk having a different standard for different states/districts. And then some people will freak about “big government” getting into their lives.

BTW, kudos to Manhattan for acknowledging that Kerry can have an occasional good idea. :slight_smile:
The problem with the NEA is that they are essentially a union, and a big problem with unions is that they are generally devoted to protecting the least of their members instead of advocating for their best and brightest.

FWIW, it just doesn’t sound like anything new to me. Candidates are always proposing more money for this or that. There’s already billions being spent on education each year, that I can’t see myself perking my ears up over a ten year 30 billion program, whether I agree with it or not.

And spending money on training teachers? Can’t say that sounds revolutionary to me, no matter what the price tag. I’d imagine 95% or more of the voters believe in some sort of teacher training and payment for hours worked. As for the work incentives part of it, sure we all agree, but remember this is just a campaign, not a final decision by an elected official.

I think that Kerry’s strategy is to move to the center now that he has the nomination. If there’s any bravery in that, it’s that he expects the left wing of the party to forget about Nader.

I agree that the test would have to be a national one, but perhaps schools could be categorized by various socio-economic criteria and then have their test results with schools in similar situations?

Rampant classism? Democrats are not supposed to bring up class warfare. We are just supposed to pretend it doesn’t exist while the Republicans continue to win the violent class war that is raging right now.

The most bizzarre thing to me about our school financing is that the areas with high property values usually have the most upper class students who have the more educated parents, and so the schools need LESS help but get MORE money from higher property taxes. Poor rural and urban schools with low property values often have less educated parents, need more help, and get less money. But if you try to take money from the fortunate areas and distribute it to the areas where it will really do some good, why, you are a property confiscating ogre.