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Author Topic: The Obama Presidency Discussion Thread - JSC Healthcare Address
Oshki
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Although this is "The Obama Presidency Discussion Thread",I was addressing the general lack of decorum and making an attempt to show that it is counterproductive. The person of President Obama himself did not enter my mind. There seems to be a general lack of self awareness on the part of many in public office.
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beleaguered
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Well Vadon, in this case I'm reading these responses, since I haven't put in the time to get the text to speech program running.

I appreciate both yours and Lyrhawn's arguments on this issue.

President Obama certainly must gain some approval from the Republican party just to get his policies passed, or so the public can see his policies are getting some conservative approval.

I'm finding something interesting. Both of your responses got me thinking . . . Obama reaches out for Republican approval, yet for the exception of Judd Gregg, has only appointed Democrats to government positions in Washington. Funny thing about Judd Gregg, he's pro life, yet votes For Stem cell research, and he seems to be undecided when it comes to gun control, and he voted against the Federal Marriage Act.

Obama's approval rating could come from many factors, one of which, I believe is that he's the Nation's shiny new toy, and for the time being he can do no wrong. I also think you touched on something, Vadon. I think part of his approval rating is because he's actually doing what he promised he will do, and as you put it, sort of refreshing.

I also think it's interesting how the public seems not to like the majority of his policies, yet they still approve him as a president - supports him for his efforts and the promised positive outcomes maybe? The whole thing confuses me.

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TomDavidson
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quote:
The whole thing confuses me.
It's called "cognitive dissonance."
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Humean316
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quote:
I also think it's interesting how the public seems not to like the majority of his policies, yet they still approve him as a president - supports him for his efforts and the promised positive outcomes maybe? The whole thing confuses me.
Really? I know support for stem cell research is high, and a quick look at Gallup shows that over 58% support the stimulus plan. Furthermore, the new budget enjoys strong support among Democrats, liberals, moderates, and independents, with nearly a 20% difference between positive and negative feelings (44-26, with 30 undecided) overall. 59% say support for homeowners is necessary and done well by the Obama administration, and majorities support tax increases on the wealthy*. Where is the majority opinion here because it sounds like most people support his plans so far?

I do believe that part of the allure of Obama is that he is new and shiny, but I also think that not only is he winning politically (with the Rush thing--who has managed to be less popular than Jeremiah Wright), he is doing things that most people agree with and that he promised in the election. Even more than that though, he seems to be throwing everything he can at this economic crisis, he is acting and not saying no without having a better plan, and I think all of those factors contribute to approval ratings of anywher from 60 to 72%. Of course, majority opinion has no effect on the moral or legal correctness of an action either, but still, I find this argument interesting for many reasons.

quote:
I don't believe Obama's approval ratings are high because he gives Republicans a seat at his table, in fact which Republicans are being seated at his table? The way I see things, the Republican party is being completely pushed out of Washington.
In some sense this is correct, sans the stuff about Obama's ratings. However, I think instead of Republican party, you should have said the extreme conservative wing of the Republican party because, as I argued earlier, I think the part of the Republican party that is being pushed out of Washington is the part run by Rush Limbaugh. Make no mistake, Rush Limbaugh is not the leader of the Republican party, he is an entertainer and an extremist, but by placing him out front, what Obama is forcing Republicans to do is embrace the moderates in their own party. This is directly opposed to how the Bush Administration and Karl Rove worked, they forced everyone to the extremes by arguing absolutes and claiming that we were either with them or against them. On the other hand, Obama is forcing the Republicans to the center so that he can work with them and get things done, and I think later on, he will force the Democrats to the center as well. In some sense too, this is in response to what happened on the stimulus package, I think Obama went in thinking that Republicans would provide ideas and allow him to govern if he would show a willingness to work with them. However, what happened was that the Republicans came to the table with the same ideas of the Bush administration and the extreme conservative wing of the Republican party, and when that happened, Obama calculated that the only way to get things done was to break the cycle of extreme and polarizing politics in Washington.

*Note, there were too many links to link to so just go to Gallup.com to see where I came up with these numbers.

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beleaguered
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Thank you for your opinions, Humean. I don't have time for a lengthy response, nor is one needed, or we would be going in circles. I see you points, and understand what you're saying. I don't think we can argue further about his approval ratings, or about who his staff consists of. As you pointed out, I can just refer to Gallup.com for information about popularity.

Instead of arguing about these points, I'd like you to google something. I'm sorry I don't have the time to research this myself right now- I'm late as it is- but think you're a very capable googler.

Uncle Sam's Plantation, by Star Parker. She's written a book, and that's probably what you'll find most with your Google results, but she's also written a newspaper article about her book, and that's what I hope you'll be able to find. It was emailed to me as an image, so I couldn't just add it to this post. I'll figure out how I can post about this article. I find it very insightful and would like to see what you think.

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Katarain
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quote:
The President's first address at the Forum is unambiguous that we cannot delay health reform: "Our goal will be to enact comprehensive health reform by the end of this year."
quote:
The President concludes his first address to the forum guests, telling everyone to get to work: "this time there is no debate about whether all Americans should have quality, affordable health care - the only question is how?"
quote:
He then addressed the notion that we are taking on too much in attempting reform this year. He said when times were good - when the economy was better and we were not at war, we failed to get it done. President Obama said there is always a reason not to do it - and he could think of no better time than now.
from Blog Post on Health Reform

YAY!

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beleaguered
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Comprehensive health reform doesn't work! Just talk to anyone who comes from a nation that offers something like this already. We have some Canadians in the forums, tell us how health and medical coverage works when then the government is in charge. I know my brother has lived in Canada with his family for about 10 years, and they have had their share of issues. There was some malpractice with the way they handled one of my sister-in-law's last pregnancies, and all they could do is pray everything would heal right and they would be taken care of. They weren't able to sue the government over medical issues, what good would it have done?

I have spent time in Belgium and France (when I say time, I mean I lived there for years, and still keep in touch with some friends from there), and have spoken with some of them on this topic. They've told me they never felt as if they mattered. They are asked to wait a very long time for the simplest of care.

Also, I'm not sure how this plan would incorporate current independent doctors and care practices. It seems to me they would be given the choice of either competing with the government medical facilities and crossing their fingers insurance companies would still back them, joining the government at a likely pay cut, or moving out of the country to practice somewhere else.

[ March 10, 2009, 05:34 AM: Message edited by: beleaguered ]

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Lyrhawn
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Government medical facilities? Independent doctors?

You need to read up on what is being proposed.

I think in your mind, we're going to become France. No one is seriously suggesting such a change. The reform being talked about does cover a broad swath of issues and subjects, but the big thrust of it is in the government mandating a certain level of coverage so that everyone is covered, it doesn't have to do with government running all the hospitals.

Reform is absolutely necessary. Electronic medical records will reduce waste and will reduce errors, which will both prevent deaths and injuries and save us a ton of cash. Having everyone be covered means costs are reduced for everyone, and moves a lot of care for the uninsured out of expensive emergency rooms and into Primary Care Physician offices where it should be. It moves us from a response plan to a wellness plan that aims to keep us healthy and prevent problems rather than focusing on treating more expensive problems only after they've occurred. I'm just barely brushing the surface of the change that is necessary and that will be good for us, but it's late, or rather early, and I haven't gone to sleep for the night yet. Generally when I'm tired I'm not quite as long winded as usual. Well, relatively.

Suffice it to say that the American healthcare system is assbackwards six ways from Sunday and is in dire need of fixing. We aren't going to go the way of France and nationalize the whole thing, but the status quo is utterly intolerable, and we're also not going the McCain/Republican way that pretty much says every man for himself.

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Katarain
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People who can afford healthcare will always be able to pay for care.

Ask someone who can't afford any healthcare if they mind waiting a little while to finally get treatment!

I absolutely agree with one of the statements on the health reform government website--that healthcare should be a right, not a privilege.

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beleaguered
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Well Lyrhawn,

I'm very interested to see how things pan out. I certainly hope American healthcare doesn't get nationalized, for the very reasons I mentioned before.

I DO believe everyone should have some kind of coverage, but I have a problem with the idea of the government just giving a base or simple coverage to those who can't afford it. I believe people will use that not as the bare minimum, but a base standard to measure coverage by- and I also believe more people will try to qualify for this free coverage rather than having to spend a whole lot each month for pretty good coverage on their own.

Do you believe this healthcare reform package will cause any of these adverse reactions among the US population? And, are you worried at how this cost will affect us as tax payers? I have another worry- who would qualify for this program? Are illegal aliens going to be able to benefit from the government's base healthcare coverage?

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fugu13
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Nationalized health care in many nations similar to ours, such as Canada, has been studied quite thoroughly. It has generally lower costs, better outcomes, higher satisfaction, and shorter wait times.

Or do you think people in the US don't have infinitely more horror stories about their insurance turning them down for a treatment entirely (if they even have insurance)?

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Blayne Bradley
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I'm Canadian, universal healthcare is the right of every canadian.
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Mucus
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quote:
Originally posted by beleaguered:
... We have some Canadians in the forums, tell us how health and medical coverage works when then the government is in charge. ...

I like it. The most important difference to me is I don't have to manage insurance companies* or worry about losing healthcare if I lose my job (especially now).

* We do have a private system for dentists though, so I suspect that the hoops we have to jump through for them are akin to those for health in the states

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Blayne Bradley
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Kinda reminds me of Bush Seniors asinine "If you want to know the nightmares of Socialized Medicine ASK A CANADIAN"

I think its been overwhelmingly proven that Universal Healthcare is a net positive for the population, and that a private system whose only purpose is the generation of monies only hurts the people.

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SenojRetep
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Here are a couple times about Democrats in the Senate and the House that are opposing various portions of Obama's budget. Most of it appears (to me) to be on special interest grounds (the legislators are afraid to anger wealthy donors).

Obama also received intra-party resistance to the $410 billion spending omnibus to get the government through September. Here, though, it seems the resistance was more from those who felt the omnibus was too porcine. Evan Bayh was the spokesperson, and he essentially just pointed out the omnibus was bloated beyond reason. Obama rationalized it by saying it was "last year's business" but Bayh (and Landrieu and Feingold and a couple others) didn't feel that absolved them of the necessity of trying to scale the spending back.

The Minneapolis Star articles suggests a nascent conservative Democrat caucus in the Senate. We haven't heard much from the "blue dog" Dems these days, but the balance of power in the Senate at least should favor a caucus of 5-10 conservative Democrats. I wonder if one will emerge (as the Star suggests) over the coming months. Who would be candidates? Bayh, Landrieu, Ben Nelson, Mark Pryor, maybe Bill Nelson and Kirsten Gillibrand. Others?

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twinky
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quote:
Originally posted by fugu13:
Nationalized health care in many nations similar to ours, such as Canada, has been studied quite thoroughly. It has generally lower costs, better outcomes, higher satisfaction, and shorter wait times.

Yep.

I'm Canadian, but as an example, the system in the UK has been shown to deliver better health outcomes for the working class than those of the richest Americans.

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BandoCommando
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Can anyone help me find some more information about Obama's proposal for merit-based pay for teachers?

Obviously this is a thorny issue, and one that I am not opposed to in principle. The current teacher pay system in public education is almost universally a salary schedule where pay increases with experience and with increased credentials (a teacher with a Bachelor's degree earns less than one with a Masters, etc.) This can present inequities. For instance, a new, energetic, young teacher may be far more effective than an old teacher just waiting out the last couple of years until they can retire. Time-of-service is not necessarily correlated with effectiveness as a teacher, so it follows that it shouldn't necessarily be correlated with salary.

The thorniness of the issue comes into how exactly teachers are evaluated.

Standardized test scores? This will only increase the phenomenon of teaching to the test. And what about teachers (like me) who teach in a subject that isn't tested?

Administrator evaluation? Favoritism (or animosity) becomes an issue here, and what if building-level administrators are pressured to give poor evaluations so that the schools can save money on salaries? Currently, schools like to hire younger teachers to replace retiring teachers so that they can save significantly in salary. Would we start to see districted intentionally hire inferior teachers to save money?

I'm not saying that merit-based pay is a bad thing, but a great deal needs to be considered before it can be implemented. Obviously, teacher unions are generally very much opposed to any merit-based systems; but when has education every functioned like a real-world business?

Anyway, if anyone has information about Obama's thoughts on how to determine merit for teachers, I'd love to see it.

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fugu13
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My preference would be to leave it up to states (who would hopefully mostly leave it up to school systems, who would have small rotating committees), but fund a series of experiments for different systems in different contexts, strongly encourage states to adopt systems like those tested that worked out well, and provide assistance with evaluating merit-based systems (perhaps even require it).

I suspect successful systems would look at performance of taught students in future years, dropout rates for similar students, to some extent test scores on tests administered across the department (to similar students), and a certain amount of district discretion. Probably other things as well.

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Paul Goldner
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Wrote this over on ornery about a week ago.

Obama has in his budget something that looks like teacher salary incentives based on effectiveness.

The way this can work, rather then being a disincentive to teaching in certain districts, levels, or subjects, is to make sure that teacher evaluations based on student performance are evaluated to remove as many variables as possible.

Assuming that what will be implemented is some sort of bonus system (I.E. compensation above base salary based on performance of students,) here are some of my thoughts on how to evaluate teachers so we evaluate the skill of the teacher, not externals:

1) Within district. Boston has a different student population, and different complications for teachers, then do "The W's" in massachusetts (Wayland, Westford, Weston, Wellessely, are four of the best school districts in the state). A teacher in Boston Public shouldn't be compared to a teacher in Weston... he'll almost always come out looking worse.

2) By standardization, not grades. Grades are a carrot/stick that is highly variable from teacher to teacher.

3) By grade. Especially within small schools or districts, the distinction between students taking English 2 one year, and English 2 the next year, can be dramatic. An increase or decrease in standardized test scores is sometimes reflective of that fact. Look at how the class of 2012 does as a whole on all tests, look at how the class of 2013 does as a whole on all tests, and take the distinction into account when evaluating teachers.

4) By subject. Scores are different on different tests simply by virtue of being different subjects. Examination of MCAS results in massachusetts shows this quite clearly.

5) By teacher. A teacher certified in Physics asked to teach one course in biology for a year because of district or administration issues (hey! this could be me!) shouldn't be penalized when his biology students inevitably do not do as well as the biology students of a teacher certified in biology. This type of situation is a fault of the administration, not of the teacher.

I think whats left after you take all this into account is the effectiveness of the teacher.

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BandoCommando
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Paul, this is great stuff. Thank you. Do you have any thoughts on how effectiveness will be evaluated for teachers in elective subjects (like...say... band?) where there isn't a standardized test score? What about P.E., which often isn't actually an elective course at all?
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Paul Goldner
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Well, this isn't to say how it will be evaluated. Its what I think needs to be taken into account when doing evaluations.

I have no idea how band, gym, art, etc. teachers will be, or even should be evaluated, but I think those same variables need to be taken into account.

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rivka
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I think what's left after you take all that into account is not measurable to any reasonable extent. Which is precisely my problem with such proposals.
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Artemisia Tridentata
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Bando, When I was in your shoes, the District attempted an evaluation model. The criteria they decided for music (and other electives) was participation in the program. The more kids signed up, the higher the evaluation. I even got some "help" from the counselor. The straw that redirected my career goals, was his assigning 10 drummers to my string orchestra. I tried explaining that there were only 40 string players in the school. His counter-arguement was that I had the biggest classroom in the building, and that a class of 40 was unreasonable and would certainly dampen my performance evaluation.
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Paul Goldner
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"I think what's left after you take all that into account is not measurable to any reasonable extent. Which is precisely my problem with such proposals."

I'm not sure I entirely agree. Take the scores of standardized tests for example, account for the variables, and then look at modified scores. And the differences should be teacher skill. Problem is, you need a lot of data before you can make the model work for you.

I think its COMPLICATED to measure teacher skill. But being able to correctly measure it would be a very valuable thing indeed, and in order to correctly measure it, we're going to need a lot of very good data.

Unless you are saying you don't think there's much variability in student outcomes due to teacher skill? In which case I definetely don't agree with you [Smile]

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fugu13
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Simply put, the data isn't going to be good enough to control for most of those together. The regression will have too much uncertainty to tell you which teachers are better. You'll be evaluating thousands of different treatment variables at once! That's just not a good way of approaching things.

It would also be subject to extreme manipulation by changing the parameters of the regression, probably creating drastic changes in relative rankings (since almost all teachers will be statistically indistinguishable from each other) with even the slightest tweaks.

Furthermore, it ignores that what good performance is will change by the priorities of the school district. If there are a lot of dropouts, a teacher that encourages attendance is much more valuable than one who produces a slight increase in test scores.

edit: also, we already know how to increase test scores -- teach to the test. So that's what you're going to be measuring, in large part: how much each teacher teaches to the test. If that's turned out to be a bad way to evaluate students, why would it be a good way to evaluate teachers?

[ March 10, 2009, 03:24 PM: Message edited by: fugu13 ]

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BandoCommando
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And, most of all, it relies on standardized testing, even if hundreds of variables are accounted for. Subjects with no standardized tests are left out and this system increases our already ridiculous reliance on test, test, test.
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Paul Goldner
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I'm actually not advocating that we evaluate by standardized tests. Its an example.
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fugu13
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quote:
Take the scores of standardized tests for example, account for the variables, and then look at modified scores. And the differences should be teacher skill.
Yes, and the example is incorrect. If you control for all the sorts of variables, the primary remaining variable will most likely be time spent teaching to the test, not teacher skill. That's assuming it is anything; more likely the answer will be too fuzzy to work out. There just won't be enough data available with the right coverage to disentangle all those treatment variables. And that's before you try controlling for teaching to the test (good luck with that notion)!

Simply put, I think time spent coming up with a complicated regression or other statistical model that no one would understand even if it worked (and I don't think it would work) would be better spent having a few open meetings to discuss what important criteria are for the district, controlling for some of the most obvious variables when comparing teachers (but only comparing teachers who are to the untrained eye in similar situations), and using a certain amount of judgement.

This is especially true as there'd be no one model that would work for all school districts, so there'd have to be a corps of elite statisticians constantly developing models based on local priorities.

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fugu13
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On a side note, this is something law firms are grappling with. The culture for lawyers is to have precise metrics for performance, so they have precise metrics. But then everyone sets out to game those metrics, and overall firm performance suffers notably. Businesses that use more flexible performance notions involving judgment and focus on relating employee performance to improvements in firm-level outcomes that matter to them improve those outcomes.
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Paul Goldner
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"Simply put, I think time spent coming up with a complicated regression or other statistical model that no one would understand even if it worked (and I don't think it would work) would be better spent having a few open meetings to discuss what important criteria are for the district, controlling for some of the most obvious variables when comparing teachers (but only comparing teachers who are to the untrained eye in similar situations), and using a certain amount of judgement."

I tend to agree. Problem is, unless something is worked out that transports from district to district, a financial incentive system is going to put a new kink into how good teachers choose which district to work in, and I think it would provide a disincentive to working in certain school districts. Of course, right now, those disincentives are funding, type of student, and salary structure. But you'd be throwing another one in there: Bad incentive program. Which, I think, is more likely to further hurt school districts in need of good teachers.

Which is why I started this exercise in the first place.

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Blayne Bradley
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I believe Freakonomics showed an example of how a student proved a teacher was cheating for his students in the SATs.
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fugu13
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I think that would be best solved at the state level, by distributing some monies that can only be used in incentive pay to some of the worst-off districts.

I don't think it can be completely alleviated, nor do I think it should. That some districts can afford to pay far more for the best teachers is already a fact, and will continue to be a fact. It isn't going to be possible to completely distribute the funds they would have spent on good teachers equally around -- they wouldn't make them available, were that the case. The focus should be on bringing the worst school districts up in standards (and channeling money to them to do so), and that's going to require a concerted effort no matter what the evaluation system.

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rivka
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quote:
Originally posted by Paul Goldner:
Unless you are saying you don't think there's much variability in student outcomes due to teacher skill?

Definitely NOT. I am a (former) teacher, and the offspring of two teachers. I know good teaching when I see it; I just don't think any reasonable testing method will sufficiently account for the confounding variables.
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kmbboots
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What about, instead of raises, the districts could grant monetary awards to teachers that are deemed by the district to be effective? These could be decided by peer review, administration, PTA, children (in older grades) or some combination. Appoint an awards committee made up of the above and give out a handful of awards every year.
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Paul Goldner
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Email I just got from one of my better high school teachers...

"Why is it that no politician, not even Obama, can get it right? Yes, some of his recommendations are viable, especially mentoring of new teachers, but of course that theoretically happens now in many schools to very mixed results. He'll have to be very, very specific about what mentoring entails, including released time. But it's the merit pay issue that burns my ass. Anyone who has worked in a school knows that collaboration is the key to good teaching, and if you collaborate, how will the "merit" be determined? It's supposed to be by student achievement--improvement, I believe. So more testing, more teaching to the test, and cat fights about who has to teach those low-level kids, the ones who most need the best teachers? Why can't anyone get it straight that the private sector model of incentives doesn't work in the ideal collegial environment of a school? If I"m going to get my merit pay, and I'm in competition with you, do you think I'm going to share my good ideas with you? Maybe, and maybe not. Is that the culture we want to engender in schools?"

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fugu13
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Ideal collegial environment? I went to some very good schools, and there was no such thing. And the teacher jumps the gun quite a bit to tests, especially as Obama has already come out against cookie-cutter tests.

And it isn't like this is an unstudied question. There have been studies surrounding merit pay and other pay differentials in teaching, and a commonly observed effect (among others) has been that pay can make a difference in things like retention rates of effective teachers. Also, merit pay is used successfully in many private schools (and I don't just mean the ones run by larger corporations; small religious ones often use merit pay as well). For something that "doesn't work" there's a strangely large amount of evidence that it can work and a strangely large number of people are using it.

I suspect that it fails to work in many situations due to teacher opposition. I also am all for testing scenarios where merit pay isn't awarded at the individual teacher level, but based on groups of frequently collaborating teachers.

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Artemisia Tridentata
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That old saw "if you can't measure it, you can't manage it." has an unfortunate correlary: "You will manage what you can measure." We are in sore need of really good teachers in our public schools. But, I'm not convinced that we really know what makes a really good teacher. And, even if we do. I've heard no metric that makes more than superficial sense.

Oh, there was one. My dad, a master teacher who usually taught sixth grade, was once evaluated aganst his peers, inversely, by the weight of sweepings collected from his classroom over the evaluation period. He didn't do well. The most successful teacher was a martinet. But, the criteria was certainly measureable.

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Paul Goldner
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"Ideal collegial environment? I went to some very good schools, and there was no such thing. "

Are you sure? This type of thing is easily hidden from students. My biology students would never have known that I was talking to the other biology teachers every day, but I couldn't have taught that class without their help. Same with my classes of chemistry last year, although I was on much more solid footing on my own. All the kids would have seen is once in a while one of the other teachers wandering over to see how their lab was coming along. With my physics classes, the collaboration is more blatant, because we deliberately started syncing the courses and projects so that students from all classes could do much of the work together. But still a lot of the collaboration would have been hidden.

I'd say 70% of the teaching i've done is with collaboration.

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Chris Bridges
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How about not trying to somehow measure and reward good teachers, but focus on removing bad ones? Arguably they'd be somewhat easier to detect, based on reviews and grades and parent/student complaints. Granted, those must be taken with a grain of salt, but I'd have a lot more respect for teacher unions (and the medical profession, for that matter) if they'd do a better job of weeding out their own incompetents.
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fugu13
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I wasn't saying there was no collaboration, but that there was no ideal collegial environment. I was aware of plenty of very good collaboration, but there was also vicious backstabbing and territorialism.

Chris: yes, one of the things that heartened me in Obama's address was the call for firing teachers who do not perform sufficiently (I assume after giving them several chances, including with different job duties).

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BandoCommando
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quote:
And it isn't like this is an unstudied question. There have been studies surrounding merit pay and other pay differentials in teaching, and a commonly observed effect (among others) has been that pay can make a difference in things like retention rates of effective teachers. Also, merit pay is used successfully in many private schools (and I don't just mean the ones run by larger corporations; small religious ones often use merit pay as well). For something that "doesn't work" there's a strangely large amount of evidence that it can work and a strangely large number of people are using it.
Fugu, I'm not saying that merit pay can't work. In fact, I clearly stated my opinion that the current system is woefully inadequate. What I would like to see, if you have them available, are concrete examples of these private schools and their systems for determining merit. It may well be that systems exist that address my concerns and the concerns for others.

For me, I'm specifically worried about being permanently relegated to the bottom of the pay-scale. I'm not saying that I'm an ineffective teacher (I'd like to think that the opposite is true), but that, since I teach a subject that is historically treated as a frill, that they wouldn't even bother to evaluate my merit.

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Samprimary
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quote:
Originally posted by Chris Bridges:
How about not trying to somehow measure and reward good teachers, but focus on removing bad ones? Arguably they'd be somewhat easier to detect, based on reviews and grades and parent/student complaints. Granted, those must be taken with a grain of salt, but I'd have a lot more respect for teacher unions (and the medical profession, for that matter) if they'd do a better job of weeding out their own incompetents.

My mom's a teacher. In the teacher's union.

I think that the teacher's union is a sack of expletive. Recently, I found out my mom does too.

You say 'if they did a better job of weeding out their own incompetents' and I have to make fun of the statement (not you, though).

They can't do a better job of it if they aren't doing a job of it at all. They are actually doing the reverse job: the protection of incompetents. A significant quantity of my teachers in middle and high school were old sacks of poo who were worthless at teaching their subject but because they had seniority they were able to just take that job over more qualified, younger teachers.

They would sit us down, give us some busy work arguably connected to the subject matter, and sit back and try to age sufficiently enough to retire with the teacher's pension-o-matic.

It was awful. Later I would discover that my own mom an extraordinarily talented art teacher who is presently teaching international bacheloriate was once the standout candidate for teaching art at Centaurus and would have gotten the job, but a crusty old math teacher decided that she wanted to try her hand at it and despite having zero qualification for teaching art, the school had to put her in the job. Because of seniority. I took this all in and immediately had a flashback to high school and went "oh my god, that explains like half my teachers"

Every time I google a phrase like "Dance of the lemons" or "rubber room" I sigh a very deep sigh. So broken.

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rivka
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quote:
Originally posted by fugu13:
My preference would be to leave it up to states (who would hopefully mostly leave it up to school systems, who would have small rotating committees), but fund a series of experiments for different systems in different contexts, strongly encourage states to adopt systems like those tested that worked out well, and provide assistance with evaluating merit-based systems (perhaps even require it).

I suspect successful systems would look at performance of taught students in future years, dropout rates for similar students, to some extent test scores on tests administered across the department (to similar students), and a certain amount of district discretion. Probably other things as well.

I still think this is the best suggestion so far.
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SenojRetep
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I asked before about whether a group of moderate Democrats would emerge to wield power in the Senate. This post at fivethirtyeight.com lists several relatively conservative Dems who are opposing <edit>or not actively supporting</edit> the Employee Free Choice Act.
quote:
[L]ast year at this time, EFCA had 47 Democratic co-sponsors out of 51 members in the Senate: the holdouts were Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, and Ken Salazar of Colorado. This year, however, EFCA currently has only 40 co-sponsors, in spite of the fact that there are now 58 Democrats in the Senate.

Failing to renew their sponsorship are Max Baucus and Jon Tester of Montana, Evan Bayh of Indiana, Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico, Kent Conrad and Byron Dorgan of North Dakota, Dianne Feinstein of California, Herb Kohl of Wisconsin, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, and Jim Webb of Virginia. Freshmen Senators Michael Bennet, Kay Hagan and Mark Udall and Mark Warner have also declined to sponsor the bill.

Interesting (if predictable) thing about this group is they're almost all from reddish states (exceptions are Feinstein from CA and Kohl from Wisconsin): Arkansas (x2), Missouri, Virginia (x2), North Carolina, Lousiana, Montana (x2), North Dakota (x2), Colorado (x2), Nebraska, Indiana.

If these Senators (or some large subset of them) managed to form a cohesive group on policy issues they would wield a significant amount of power within the Senate and in setting overall policy (since the House is so lopsided, and hence strategically weak, currently).

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Blayne Bradley
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I think itld help if we didnt repeatedly teach the same but slightely different course 6 times over like english. or Generic Science classes.
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Lyrhawn
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Samprimary's post is a large part of why I don't think I'll ever return to the idea of teaching. If they fix the system from the ground up, I'd seriously consider becoming a teacher, and I actually think I'd be good at it, but I'm not prepared to sacrifice my life and soul to get sucked into the current system.
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Paul Goldner
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I don't know about other states, but the idea of tenure is gone in massachusetts at this point. If you want to get rid of any teacher, for reasons other then budget, you have to go through an identical process, no matter how long the teacher has been in the school. If its competency, you have to demonstrate the teacher is incompetent, and attempt to help them improve. If they dont improve, and the lack of improvement is documented, you can get rid of them... no matter how long they've been in the school.

Don't know what its like in other states, but...

And what happened to Samp's mother is also illegal here now. Again, don't know how that works in other states.

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fugu13
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It is set at the district level here in Indiana. Our district's contract with the teacher's union requires them remove teachers from least senior to most senior, excepting where a particular competency is required. So if they just need fewer teachers (or can't afford all the teachers they have), they can't fire the worst teachers, they have to fire the newest teachers.

There are procedures for firing teachers for other reasons, too, but those are almost impossible to employ except in the most extreme circumstances.

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Samprimary
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american education is filled with a lot of systematic problems which should have been dealt with decades ago, if not at their inception. One of them is how funding per student is tied to regional income from taxation. A lot of the rest are problems which are exacerbated if not created by the union, and it depresses me.

I'm glad to see that Mass seems to have shucked some of this. There's also a lot of coverage on the issue of how education is being overhauled from the bottom up, with radical overhauls in DC and other failed institutions.

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Paul Goldner
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I've found that a lot of universities that "feed" local high schools with teachers are creating ebtter and better education programs, with a much heavier emphasis on the science of education, and teachers coming out of these programs tend to have a better idea of what they should be doing in the classroom.

I tend to think that there's not much bad in education that wouldn't be worse without unions, but my experience with teachers unions is of course limited to massachusetts. *shrug* I certainly wouldn't work as a teacher without a lot of what shows up in the union negotiated contracts. And a lot of my fellow teachers feel the same way.

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