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Old 05-18-2009, 01:41 PM
943 posts, read 3,160,779 times
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People are getting bogged down regarding the concept of the best teachers. My definition for the best teachers are those instructors who are the best the educational establishment can find for the particular student body and environment. Basically my question is: will bad schools turn around if the teachers are excellent? Or is any real turn around impossible because of IQ, social, economic, racial and cultural issues.
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Old 05-18-2009, 02:22 PM
Location: Sandpoint, Idaho
3,007 posts, read 6,288,574 times
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The material taught in K-12 is not rocket science. Teachers are highly substitutable on the technical subject matter in schools. Great teachers inspire, support and kick butts (when necessary). They are organized. Those soft skills are not easy to replace.

In my university experience, ony 20% of a class is teachable (the top half of which really locking on and demonstrating that the seeds planted were germinating) and willing to be inspired. 20% are a nuisance. The other 60% punch their timesheets and go through the motions. My best teacher ratings came when I dumbed down the class and minimized challenge to students. lol!

I may be off, but I would think the inner city numbers would not be too different. Perhaps a bit less. Probably more defensiveness and attitude. The "talented tenth" of WEB DuBois is about right...which would match what I saw in uni.

in class teaching is the least of their worries...
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Old 05-18-2009, 02:44 PM
Location: New Mexico
8,396 posts, read 9,443,995 times
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Originally Posted by wade52 View Post
It might make a slight difference, but not enough to be significant.

All of this standardized testing that's been the be-all and end-all over the past few years will just boil down to one valid conclusion: every school performs as well as the demographic it serves.


This over-emphasis on standardized testing as the basis for comparison and main measuring tool is bogus. The tests are minimum standards designed primarily to test whether a school's below average students can pass a non-challenging test. I've been around this for more than a decade. Good students see these tests as a joke. Average students don't have any difficulty with them.

The only students who are truly "tested" are the below-average kids. Reducing the measure of their success to a single high stakes exam is hardly valid, but it's easy for the government to generate statistics from the data.
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Old 05-19-2009, 04:17 PM
Location: San Jose, CA
7,688 posts, read 29,156,794 times
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Originally Posted by leftydan6 View Post
Ever seen Dangerous Minds or Stand and Deliver? Those are both true stories about great teachers in bad schools who DID make a difference.

Great teachers will make a difference regardless of the demographics. That being said, it would make more of a difference to put good teachers in bad schools than bad teachers in good schools.

Take the students at Phillips Exeter and give them crappy teachers and they're still the cream of the crop, from families pushing for college and a school with nearly unlimited resources.
Dangerous Minds is about students from a bad area (East Palo Alto, CA) who are bussed to a good school in an upscale suburban area (Carlmont in Belmont, CA). And Ebert rightly ripped that film apart for using Bob Dylan lyrics instead of the rap lyrics in the book, but that's another topic..
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Old 05-20-2009, 08:17 AM
Location: Eastern time zone
4,469 posts, read 7,196,936 times
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Originally Posted by Weekend Traveler View Post
When students in poverty stricken ghetto schools fail most of the blame always goes to the teachers and principal. Very little official blame goes to our messed up culture, the parents, or the sweet little students. It is easier to blame the teachers and administrators.

I know there are some really bad teachers at some really bad schools, but I wonder if even the best teachers and principals could turn around some of the terrible under performing schools.

If the hundred best teachers in the country were assigned to teach at the worst school in America would there really be that much change?

It's hard to tell. How do you quantify "best teacher"? Most teachers do well with a specific set of children. Someone who is absolutely magnificent within their current milieu may do far worse if uprooted and asked to teach elsewhere-- or even within the same milieu, may be really good with exceptionally bright kids, or learning disabled ones, or artistic kids, and merely adequate with others. Even different personality types may cause the teacher to teach differently (and probably should).

And as others have noted, it doesn't change the other two parts of the equation-- the kids themselves, and their environment (including, but not limited to, their grownups).

I don't know that there will ever be anything remotely close to a level playing field in the schools. Certainly not as long as we insist upon sticking to the "one size fits all" model, because that's patently impossible.
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Old 05-20-2009, 08:25 AM
Location: Eastern time zone
4,469 posts, read 7,196,936 times
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Originally Posted by Spagettio View Post

There is an interesting op/ed piece about this in the NY Times.

It is an interesting piece, thanks for posting it.

I'm not sure the Center results could be replicated wholecloth, across an entire system. Charter and magnet school kids are not representative of the system at large, simply by fact of being motivated to enter the lottery for something potentially better. That in itself separates them from the families who don't GAS-- those folks are already weeded out before the rigorous training begins.
I'm not saying that it wouldn't be good to try to serve more kids than we already do. Clearly, it would be. It's just not a cure-all.
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Old 05-22-2009, 07:30 AM
Location: Los Angeles (Hollywood)
174 posts, read 516,875 times
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I opened the NY Times article linked above with a truckload of skepticism. Charter Schools in Urban California rarely produce significant increases in standardized test scores without being selective about their enrollees.

Then I read this line in the article:

"The basic theory is that middle-class kids enter adolescence with certain working models in their heads: what I can achieve; how to control impulses; how to work hard. Many kids from poorer, disorganized homes don’t have these internalized models. The schools create a disciplined, orderly and demanding counterculture to inculcate middle-class values."
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Old 05-22-2009, 08:06 AM
Location: Mississippi
314 posts, read 1,105,361 times
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I taught in the public schools of the rural Mississippi Delta for four years. An earlier poster mentioned something about teaching to the two or three in each class who actually wanted to learn- truer words were never spoken when it comes to teaching in this environment. A high percentage of the students we graduated weren't even functionally literate, but we teachers were encouraged to pass them because of their "home situations". The few students I had who actually cared about learning anything were viewed as oddballs.
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Old 05-27-2009, 10:33 PM
Location: South Coast of Nebraska
252 posts, read 733,007 times
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On "What Constitutes Great Teaching"

Teaching is an art. Brilliance, in one's subject matter, is not always, an indicator of one's ability to communicate that knowledge to one's students.

I have worked with many teachers and I know that success is the magic combination of both knowledge and the knack for teaching it.

However, when it is time to entrust my own treasured children to a teacher who possesses only one or the other, I still choose the one with brilliance.

Having thought this through and having experienced each, first hand, I conclude this: A community will get back whatever it invests in a school.

The interest paid, to that school community, will be the language skills, the mathematics, the science wonderings, the music theory, the world and cultural histories....et c...that are found within the faculty. But, the initial investment--the work ethic and the behavior and the attitude of students--is the principal. It is there when school begins and, will be there, when parents pick up what they sent.

Some concerts are just scientific. Some paintings are only academic. But, they succeed at what they are....more so than the great artists with no understanding of what they are expressing.

It would be wonderful if all schools could get teachers with both the art of teaching and the knowledge.
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