Las Vegas Sun

August 22, 2014

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Letter to the editor:

Accountability outside classrooms

We must fire bad teachers. Taxpayers good, teachers bad.

Clark County has some of the largest class sizes in nation, with some of least involved parents and most transient families. Is it safe to assume that if you increase the workload on any employee that at some point that employee’s effectiveness would decline? Can a doctor cure 200 patients in a day? Can a teacher change the lives of 180 students in day?

Are superintendents, school board members, state legislators and voters who allow large class sizes bad people?

Who is accountable for the long-term substitutes in mathematics and science classrooms? Do long-term substitutes qualify as bad teachers? Are adults with degrees in English, substituting in honors chemistry considered bad teachers?

Schools are being judged by how many parents complete online surveys. Bad or busy parents result in schools being judged as bad. We must fire bad parents. Some parents lie to excuse their children’s absences and text their children during class.

We must fire bad students. Private schools fire bad students and private schools are good. Private schools good, public schools bad. What happens to bad students who fail classes, curse at their teachers, do not come to class, refuse to do homework/class work and who disrupt class on a regular basis?

Perhaps bad students should be held accountable for their actions in school as requirements for driver’s licenses and work privileges, since bad parents seem to be so impotent in dealing with their own children.

Some of my students have been accepted to Yale, Stanford, Northwestern, UCLA and many other fine universities this year because they are good students; some of them have good parents and all of them had some good teachers. Congratulations to them and their families and their school.

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  1. If the author of this letter is in fact a teacher (where is the disclosure statement?) as implied in the final paragraph, I can only think that his students were accepted into those schools in spite of being in his classroom if he teaches English.

    Yes, there are good students and bad students. But it takes good teachers to help good students reach their maximum potential. Mediocre teachers do nothing to help bad students improve, and all too often allow good students to go unchallenged.

    Bad teachers are a blight upon the educational landscape and do far more harm to society than is realized.

    I will admit that the idea of associating performance in school with getting a drivers license might be worth looking into.

  2. airweare,

    I am somewhat surprised by your post.

    Granted that the author's use of "Animal Farm" imagery was entertaining, his placing of blame outside the school system is not entirely warranted.

    There are too many teachers (some of whom post on this site) who are quick to blame students and parents for their (the teacher's) shortcomings in their profession. Although it is a legitimate complaint that too many parents fail to encourage their children to learn, it is *still* the teacher's job and duty to step up and teach that ultimate lesson.

    As I said in my earlier post, good students need good teachers to reach their full potential. A mediocre, or worse, a bad teacher, harms these students just as much as they harm poor students, possibly even more (but I am reluctant to make that argument.) It is teachers who must bear the ultimate accountability for ensuring that every student is given as many tools as they can receive for entering life as a productive member of society.

    Yes, there are some children who simply can't or won't learn those lessons, but that does not remove a teacher's responsibility to give those children the best possible chance to do so.

  3. Commenter Carmine A. DiFazio, distilled accountability in the following,"It's not about more money and bigger and better school buildings and classrooms. It's about dedication, commitment, and pride by teachers, school administrators, students and parents. That's what leads to keen learning and academic achievement and ultimately personal and prefessional success."

    No matter how we evaluate it, it still takes a village, that fierce teamwork, and energy towards success. When we talk about evaluating teachers, support staff, and administrators, one thing that has been sadly lacking are links that disclose the actual forms used to evaluate each school employee. Perhaps the Las Vegas Sun can gather those forms and make links so that their readers will become better informed in which to make decisions and have discussions that can be even more constructive. Since the Nevada State Legislature saw to it that evaluations are part of the employment equation, and the school district has recreated evaluation forms, let the taxpayer KNOW what these forms consist, please.

    If we have objectives and goals that are criteria for determining who is or not is a worthy employee, WE ALL should know what these standards are. You think? On the new evaluation forms, only ONE item ranked involvement and interaction with parents and community. A few evaluation items dealt with teachers following best practices in their classrooms. Much of the rest dealt with teachers paying to go, on their own time, to a university, completing coursework on improving student/school performance, testing, data analysis, bullying, etc., and PRESENTING IT to their colleagues during staff developments and or staff meetings. Many schools missed a performance star due to the lack of parents completing the survey. Who is held accountable over these evaluations and forms ultimately?

    It is time for disclosure, to not only be FAIR, but so taxpayers and families with children in our community's schools better understand the current process.

    Blessings and Peace,
    Star

  4. Are there some bad teachers? Yes
    Are there many more unmotivated students? Absolutely!
    Have many parents abdicated their responsibility for their children? Yes, unfortunately.

    All these elements meet at our schools. It isn't fair to dump responsibility for all the ills of our society on teachers and assume if they can't cure them all, they are incompetent. We can only achieve good outcomes when we all share responsibility and carry it out. Private schools achieve better results because they expel the student if they don't get cooperation from both students and parents. Public schools don't have that luxury.

  5. lets just educate the rich kids and turn the poor out on streets with no ability to make a living except as a shrapnel or bullet catcher in trumped up wars. There's no jobs anyway.

  6. Well stated, Boftx: "It is teachers who must bear the ultimate accountability for ensuring that every student is given as many tools as they can receive for entering life as a productive member of society."

    Our teachers must assume that there is NO ONE in that child's life to be supportive and nurturing. Each and every child that enters a teacher's classroom must receive instruction, direction, practice, and unfeigned care towards not only academic preparedness and success, but social skills and tools that will carry them into adulthood. Appropriate behaviors and manners are part of a person's ability to be successful in life. Depending on the reenforcement 'culture' that surrounds a student/child, you will witness varying degrees of motivation and realized success.

    It is not enough to teach grade level curriculum; imbedded within subject content are above grade level gems that hint of the future grades and demands. Those who are able do glean these gems, excelling even further, confident and excited that they can meet upcoming academic challenges. Such students are motivated to keep moving on and forward. They will tackle just about anything you put before them! Absolutely exciting and contagious!!!!

    Admidst the school learning environment are the distractions that both teachers and motivated students (based on actual experiences) are subjected to: students who engage in bullying, destruction of property, sexual harassment, even threats of carrying weapons to school and the occassional parent dropping in. All this takes AWAY from a productive learning environment. A teacher can have the best prepared lessons, yet, when negative distractions are the rule rather than the rare instance, we have to question why this is and find ways to fix it.

    There are not enough words of praise and thanks to our school's PTAs, those loving and dedicated family and community members who show their support in a million of appreciated ways. Effective PTAs see where there is a need and do their best to fill it. They are NOT paid, but graciously and kindly devote their time and energies towards improving the climate and culture at a school. Schools begin to suffer when it lacks the outside support from those volunteering through school PTAs, and general classroom and school volunteerism. Students truly feel that support. A huge "Thank You!" goes to those who are actively involved with supporting our children at the schools!

    Blessings and Peace,
    Star

  7. "Ready by Exit." Catchy isn't it? That sums up the modus operandi that Mr. Jones presented and hailed by the board and the public. If the student is not ready, the teacher gets the blame, and the teacher is fired. Logical? Perhaps. Smart? NO! Like many 'education reforms' floated around by these so called 'reformists,' it is myopic and set up for failure. These reforms are palliative and do not work! We have been doing the same things all these decades and we are sinking instead of getting out of the 'malodorous hole.'

    To 'support' this push, a Kindergarten teacher proposed her own brand of reform by coining the phrase "Ready by Entry." That, I think is smarter than the superintendent's "Ready by Exit." That is brilliant!

    By age three, a child's brain should already be (let me use an analogy) like a modern highway system with all the roads and freeways connected for easy access to wherever a car wants to go. Consider the car as the skill/lesson being taught at school. If the freeways are present, that car will zippy-de-do-da through wherever it needs to go and get there fast or at least on time, barring traffic congestions (information overload). A child, who does not have those freeways, takes a very long time to learn, just as a car would if it takes surface streets. Guess what. A 5-year old going to Kindergarten, without those freeways, already lost 5 years of building and that's what the Kindergarten teacher needs to do -- TO CATCH HIM UP, in addition to regular Kindergarten curriculum. Now, imagine 30 or 40 of them in a Kindergarten classroom for 2 hours and a half in 9 months. Then whatever roads were built in Kindergarten, without maintenance and repair during the summer months, disintegrate before they even go to First Grade.

    There will be those who will fall in the proverbial cracks. They go on to higher grades with nary a road available for information to travel or to traverse to get to where they need to go. They play catch up at every grade and some of them simply give up and drop out of school.

    Instead of spending billions of dollars giving these children fancy 'cars,' perhaps we should spend some of that money in building roads for 3-5-year olds and maintaining 'roads' for those older so they can finally use the 'cars' to 'exit' the 'malodorous hole.'

    And that my BOFTX is why teachers deserve a better salary for working two jobs -- that of a parent (for 30 children) and that of a teacher; in addition to working in a place where we are told what to do without any say but to do what we are told to do.

  8. "Getting out of the doom of the schools in Clark County looks to be hopeless slog from my perspective - too many anti-learning forces to even broach the subject of improving the lot of the children. In short, the problem is that the entire community ethic and culture lack the value of education. Nothing anyone can do will change the way it is."

    Joe Lamy - I have to agree. I have lived in seven other western States besides Nevada and none come close to puting less value on and commitment to education than Nevada (or at least Clark County).

  9. Sounds like a good idea but the unions or system will never allow firing stupidity. The system has enabled anyone regardless of their knowledge or abilities to remain in their system; they call it tolerance of one's inabilities. They will get their playbook designed by a group where they came to unanimous vote where all nationalizes are appeased and politically correct. Parents are then taught not be a helicopter or Hitler parent and let the system teaching their kids. If the kid isn't learning, the kid must have ADD or some other ailment where they're given pills to cure the infamous excuses made.

    Bottom line, remove the liberal agenda and the system and let parents and teachers teach the kids. Take away the toys and hold kids accountable for their choices and make them do their homework before toy time. Give them chores to do daily or lose the toys. Simply have boundaries that are enforced by all and kids will learn and stop making lame excuses for them.

    Put trades back in school, woodshop, auto shop, FFA, AG, and all the crafts that America was founded upon and stop cramming down their throats that hard work isn't good. What they fail to realize is not all kids want college degrees and they don't need college degrees, trade people today and earn upwards of $150,000.00 annually if they're good and become self employed in their trade. Yet the system tells them, no. And you continue to vote these idiots into office and teachers claim to be teachers, then teach and stop succumbing to stupidity.

  10. "Nothing like broad brush strokes, Tim. My liberal agenda does exactly what you just stated above and my kid is excelling in school. Shocker."

    Shocker for me, yes. You are few and far between in the big picture. In reality the liberal agenda that has infested the educational system that for the most part does not produce educated kids that are ready when they enter into adulthood or the work environment.

    This isn't just an Obama thing; politicians on all sides of the isle have succumbed to liberal way of thinking when it comes to education and none of them are willing to accept what's smacking America upside the head, it isn't working and no amount of money can fix stupid. They've been trying it for years and it isn't working. Kids simply need earned consequences with boundaries and when these are enforced, kids will learn. We don't need to teach them appeasement or excuses or that it's okay to break the laws, we need to educate them, all of them and hold everyone to a higher standard. This isn't occurring and won't occur until we eradicate the liberal system and go back to a proven and tried system.

    "A: No. There is no extra money in our budget. On the contrary, the Clark County School District is struggling to fill a $64 million budget deficit. The funds we do have are accounted for. If a family has $2,000 in their bank account but has not paid their rent and bills, it's not accurate to say they have $2,000 in extra money sitting around. "The funds we do have are accounted for and are needed to cover expenses through the remainder of the school year."

    They've trained people to think their budget is right. Only in the public sector does a budget grow every year and they must spend it all or their budget is reduced the following year. Their shortfall as they put it isn't a shortfall, they're bloated and need to cut their budget and get rid of the fat. The indirects they've fattened up is a waste of our money and need to stop appeasing everyone who is sucking off the budget and get back to basics.

  11. In defense of Mr. Jones, may I say that as the topmost person in an organization, you do not 'get your hands dirty' and you depend on people working for you. What is being fed to him is what he says and decides.

    For example: The last sentence that Shannon was asking. Why would he do that? Indeed?

    Another one: People under him recommend creation of various positions to 'increase district efficiency.' These recommendations are supported by documentations of studies and research that indeed it is necessary to create those positions. Jones himself cannot possibly do the studies himself, so he approves them. He then presents it to the board, who themselves would not have any clue whether or not those positions are necessary. There could be alternatives such as using existing positions/personnel to do the job. Or, deleting redundant jobs and positions. After all, there is no money and layoffs are imminent, as they claim. But... the top bosses know these people who send these recommendations - well, the boss has to trust their subordinates, right? They are all buddies. Recommendations approved! This goes for all other decisions in the district: Change orders for construction defects, any and all purchases, hiring of consultants, school materials and services, etc.

    We all know how much we as executives want bigger offices and bigger staff to make us feel important. Visit any administrative office and you will find people doing practically nothing. They even have answering machines to take calls for them. Meanwhile teachers have 30 to 40 students in their classroom.

    What is lacking is a clear VISION that is explicitly communicated and understood. All decisions that are to be made must be juxtaposed to that vision. If it does not fit, then it must be scraped. I am sure Mr. Jones has a vision of what he wants to do with the district. The problem is a vision that is not communicated and understood clearly is the same as not having a vision at all.

    Those under him seem not to know that there is NO MONEY to fund new positions and fancy equipment.

    OR, MAYBE there IS money, but NOT for teachers and students.

  12. "If teachers can do all these things then why aren't they doing this for each child? Teachers state how wonderful they are when discussing teacher pay but then play the blame game when it's time to review test scores and graduation rates. What's with all this talking, bragging and blaming?"

    Mr. Freeman:

    Why is it so difficult to understand? There are good teachers and there are bad teachers!

    Do all doctors cure all patients? Do all policemen catch ALL bad men? Do all lawyers defend all clients to be not guilty?

    Come one now! Those people handle one patient/client at a time! The symptoms are clear and the medications are there. There are various tests that doctors give and they try many forms of medications until they get the right one. Policemen and lawyers have a cadre of support to do detective work and investigations. And, they have all the time they need!

    We only have ourselves and 30 children. We do our best in the short time we have them, but like a patient, they have to 'TAKE THE MEDICATION!' Or their parents must make them take it and they must come to school to get it! The community must also make sure that there is enough 'medication' available. Guess what, in schools, we are told what 'medications' to give and what 'tests' to use, but when the child does not get better, WE ARE BLAMED, like what you are doing now.

    As I said, there are bad teachers and there are good teachers. The way the district and the public are treating teachers, you may not even have good teachers left in a few years.

    If you want to improve education, STOP blaming just teachers! Include the legislature, the governor, the board, the administrators, the powers-that-be! Blaming only teachers is a defense of those without the necessary cognitive capacity to analyze or the guts to tell the truth.

  13. "Those particular values are learned at home. Teachers don't do "appeasement, or excuses or that it's okay to break the laws." That's ridiculous...and those certainly aren't "liberal values."..."

    I beg to differ, the liberal agenda is to teach kids making excuses for their shortcoming is okay and it's someone else's or something in their life made them do it, breaking the law is okay; they've taught kids it okay to be in America illegally, they've taught kids it's okay smoke marijuana, they've taught kids that same sex marriage is okay, they've taught kids not to be accountable and that they're owed everything by those work make more money than others, and many other sick repugnant progressive movements that liberals cram down their throats.

    Bottom line, until the liberal movement is removed from the educational system, no amount of money will educate the masses how to become responsible self supporting adults. There is a few that will come out okay but for the masses, look at what's occurred and look at what's been produced, it's not working and it isn't about money or the opulence of buildings, it's about educating and teaching kids. Go to any store, buy something with cash, tell the clerk, keep the change if they can count it back in 10 seconds without the use of a machine, they can't.

    There is much more but this isn't the forum to fix a system that is broken and the highly paid people who are supposed to be helping are in reality too stupid to fix it because they don't have the guts or the balls to change what is smacking America upside the head, they want a paycheck nothing more, nothing less and they'll continue to beat to the same drum beat and the sheep follow.

    Good parenting isn't either; kids just know that all they have to do cry foul and the system instantly intervenes and sticks their nose where it doesn't belong. I'm not talking about abusers or bad crap like that; I've heard it all from young adults and the crap they've learned. What I think is being forgot about is that kids enter the work environment and we're having to deal with them. They've learned it somewhere, though it is the parents job to teach right from wrong, it's also educational system that is to blame and well.

  14. It is about what kids are taught; it isn't all about what teachers teach. Teachers though do put their personal morals and believes into their style of teaching. What society fails to understand is that kids aren't dumb, they also learn by example and what is taught to them as a whole. When I use laws are being broken and not enforced, it teaches kids, its okay to break the law.

    Teachers work from curriculum provided by the board or some committee, this is where the primary responsibility starts with the school system. It is their system that is liberal biased and it is messed up. Teachers complain about not being paid enough and all the other issues they deal with, it's broken and it's been broken for 25 years, yet teachers still want to work that system. Until they speak up and fix from within and stop succumbing to the liberal agenda of the board members and their thirst, it's not going to get any better, it's only going to get worse.

    No, I am not a right winged nut job. I just happen to call it like I see it and I don't believe or support most of the liberal agenda and I don't support any of their sick immoral agenda. When liberals get back to basics and see one American, one America, stop their madness and when they start to practice what they preach, I might see the liberal party differently.

  15. Author, what is your point? You really didn't make one. You state mostly obvious facts. And you are a teacher?

  16. Mr. Freeman:

    I have already addressed the same arguments. If you do not understand, there is nothing more I can do about it.

    My best advice is: Be a teacher for at least a year or two. Then perhaps you will understand what I am talking about.

    Meanwhile. Enjoy your brand of truth.

    Thank you.