Unruly parents face $1000 fine at school

June 22nd, 2006

22 June 2006
from Punishing/Billing Parents for Student/Parent Misconduct

Irate parents who abuse teachers in front of their students could now be fined $1000.

The increased fine has been welcomed by teachers and principals, who say aggressive parents are a growing problem.

An amendment to the Education Act has increased the fine for abusing, insulting or intimidating school staff in front of students – in and out of school – from $40 to $1000.

It’s the law! You MUST treat teachers respectfully regardless of how they may treat you or your child. Apparently, there’s no freedom of speech right to insult teachers in front of students. It’s a reasonable “time, place and manner” restriction, don’t you know.

I predict that this law will sweep through the U.S. like wildfire within 2 years.

My advice to NZ parents is to agree to meet with educators only outside the presence and hearing of all students, including their own child(ren). If lawful, record the conversation, then play it back to your child(ren) later if you think they should hear it. Better yet, if you think there’s any chance of conflict, send your statements in a letter or email, along with a statement that you’d be willing to speak in person except for the eggshell feelings of some teachers who might be insulted by hearing the truth of what you think.

You know where this is heading next, don’t you? Any parent who insults any teacher on any website will be considered to have done so in the presence of students, since students can access the Internet. Then the law will be expanded to cover administrators, teacher assistants, school monitors, aides, bus drivers, nurses, counselors, janitors, school board members and state education officials.

School Trustees’ Association president Chris Haines said schools commonly served trespass notices to keep aggressive or bullying parents from entering a school.

The association did not keep figures on the exact numbers, but he said they would have talks with at least two parents a month on issuing an order.

The new provision, which would allow prosecution of offending parents, was an extra means of signalling to parents that there was a correct way to deal with issues they had about teachers.

Apparently, the only correct way to deal with conflicts is to say, “Yessum,” since the bureaucracy almost always defends the teachers. I suppose “yessum” would be considered sarcasm, which would be insulting, so fines would be levied for that, too.

“We need to offer a measure of protection to teachers and to let parents know there is a proper procedure rather than bursting into a school and abusing a teacher,” Haines said. “We hope the $1000 will be a good deterrent and we won’t actually have to use it.”

New Zealand Principals’ Federation president Pat Newman said the previous penalty did not make it worthwhile for schools to ask police to prosecute people abusing principals and staff in front of students.

“The new $1000 fine should give the act more teeth and be another string to our bow,” Newman said.

It’s the parents who are powerless, not the schools. Please. Speech is the only power they have. How about a reciprocal law that fines educators for “abusing, insulting or intimidating” parents or students in front of other students?

“Staff are experiencing increasing amounts of abuse by caregivers or relatives who are often under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

“Many schools have no males on the staff and it can be a real problem for younger female teachers confronted by a large male with an anger problem.”

Newman advised schools to use the process with caution and understanding.

“We need to let parents know schools are not going to continue to put up with being verbally threatened and abused,” he said. “But we also need caution to make sure we use the power carefully. In fact, I hope we never have to use it.”

The amendment said a person could be charged with abusing staff within the presence or hearing of students regardless of whether it was at school or any other place where students had gathered for school purposes, Newman said.

So, a dispute at a school sports event or dance is also covered, as well as a dispute in the parking lot when a teacher hits a parent’s car. You could even insult somebody in front of students, not knowing s/he is a teacher, and still be guilty. And the law would likely apply to school board meetings when students attend them on class assignments. Do you suppose kings and queens have similar laws? How much longer before a law requires parents to kneel before teachers, since not doing so would be considered an insult?

Addington Primary School principal Trudy Heath said the school supported the amendment and had sent a letter to parents informing them of the change.

“As a staff, we are trying to encourage and reward good manners and respect for one another,” Heath said. “We think parents and caregivers should provide a role model, just as we do.”

Teachers, like everyone else, have to earn respect. If it isn’t earned, it can’t reasonably be expected, absent a $1,000 fine mandating faux respect.

How Can I Increase My Salary?

June 21st, 2006

Let me count the ways
The real and effective compensation add-ons of teachers

From Saratoga Springs teachers’ raises more than billed

It looks like the list of options for a new car! And it’s all intentionally and politically done to create a public perception that teachers are underpaid even though teachers’ pay on an hourly basis tops many professions. Indeed, S-G teachers earn an average total compensation of $117,000 a year for highly secure, intrinsically rewarding jobs in smaller classes. The goal is to make teacher salaries look as small as possible to create leverage for increasing teacher salaries and contributions for the Democratic Party even though High Teacher Pay Doesn’t Result in High Achievement.


June 9th, 2006

Schenectady, NY: 2006-06-04



School budgets keep going up and voters in some communities keep voting them down. When this happens, school administrators have a problem. If they agree to trim the proposed budget, voters will feel it clearly contained excesses and understandably wonder if even more cuts are possible. If the administration refuses then the district goes on a contingency budget. This contingency budget contains certain cuts mandated by state law: usually involving busing, sports and some other “non-academic” areas.

That’s rather cleverly–or awkwardly–stated. The contingency budget, with lots of loopholes and lots of exceptions, caps the increase in spending. That’s mandated. While districts frequently cut sports and other non-academic areas, cuts in these areas aren’t mandated. School boards have substantial leeway in deciding which cuts to make. However, the administrative component of a contingency budget cannot exceed the cap.

Some school budget critics at this point will point out that a contingency budget saves taxpayers little because most of the budget goes for teacher’s salaries. Well, that’s partly true.

Most of a school district’s budget goes for salaries; salaries for teachers, administrators, bus drivers, school lunch personnel, custodians, guidance counselors, librarians, safety officers, grounds keepers, psychologists, computer specialists, secretaries, substitutes and aides. And I’m sure I missed other people important to the successful and safe operation of a school.

Schools are labor intensive. Approximately 80 percent of a school district budget goes for salaries.

This is not unusual when you think about it. It takes people to run a school, to run a hospital, to get a television show on the air, to publish a newspaper, to provide timely banking services, to make a movie and to provide our communities with adequate police or fire protection.

People’s services cost money. The more training their job requires, the more money they want. The more dangerous their job, the more money they want. The more important their job is to the community, the more money they can command.

That last statement isn’t generally true. In the private sector, it doesn’t matter how important your job is, the salary is “set” by free market forces. For example, paramedics are extremely important. They are the first responders to life and death tragedies. How much do you think they can “command” for such an important job? Part-time paramedics earn “$8 an hour in Schenectady – the same as the clerk at, your local gas station, at the grocery, or fast-food restaurant!”It’s only in the public sector, where compensation is set by politics and power, that the importance of one’s job “commands” a higher salary. But, exactly who doesn’t have an important job? Can schools run without cooks, janitors, secretaries or bus drivers? Every job is important.

It is true that approximately 80 percent of a school district’s budget goes for salaries and will not change whether voters approve the budget or not. Whether they are nurses, police personnel, teachers or bus drivers, the salaries they receive derive from the terms of a negotiated contract. These contracts are not subject to the voting whims of the public.

There’s a keen psychological insight into the attitude of school administrators. Your duty to oversee school spending through elections is perceived as being based on mere “whims.”Let’s assume that’s true. Presumably farmers have important jobs. You have to eat, don’t you? Their incomes–substantially less than educators, especially on an hourly basis–are based on the mere whims of the weather (with occasional disaster relief). The incomes of autoworkers, steel workers and others are based on the mere whims of consumers who prefer to buy substantially similar goods produced overseas at substantially lower costs. In fact, you’d be hard pressed to find any private sector job where compensation isn’t “regulated” by one whim or another.

And even if voters’ judgments are “whims,” these are the “whims” of those who pay the bills. Why should these “whims” count any less than the “whims” of school board members and self-interested teachers and administrators? (Few complain about the salaries of other employees).

But Cummins is simply wrong to imply that voters can’t have a direct impact on employee compensation, even though as a matter of current practice they can’t. School districts around the country have wised up and decided to put the education of students ahead of protecting the compensation of educators. They have written contracts that make raises contingent on the level of state funding and/or on the passing of tax levies. If the money doesn’t come in, it’s not student services and programs that get cut first, it’s the negotiated increases in salaries and benefits. Typically, increases above the rate of inflation are pared back to be in line with the rate of inflation, or slightly below it. Then, if more needs to be cut from the budget, other items are considered. This is fair to the students, the communities and the employees. They get their shot at a higher compensation but only if the money comes in–the iron law of the private sector.

Cummins says nothing about this. He just leads you to believe that the public must accept the premise that they are utterly powerless. It’s true the public can’t alter the terms of the contract, but it’s completely false that the contract must be written in a way that protects salaries and benefits when school budgets fail or when state funding falls.

That annoys some people and I understand why. For one thing, voters ask why are we voting on this budget if our vote affects so little of it.

My answer is this: Imagine what school budgets might be if they were not made public and made subject to voter approval?

People get involved when school taxes get too far out of line. Voters put pressure on the school board and school administrators. This public pressure even puts negotiating units on notice that voters will not accept runaway salaries. Leaders among the budget critics often end up running for the school board on a promise of fiscal accountability. And that is good.

Don’t you wish we could exercise the same direct influence over other budgets that result in higher taxes?

No, and I’ll tell you why. The whole process is a charade that most voters skip. No part of state or local spending, with the possible recent exception of Medicaid, has consistently risen faster than school spending over the decades. This suggests that even though voters don’t have a vote on these other budgets, the processes in place are more effective in controlling costs than the process used to control increases in school spending. Who would want more of a process that produces the fastest increases in spending? Maybe Cummins wishes for direct voting on other budgets, but I say, “Be careful what you wish for.”Educators have seen to it that laws have been passed to completely trivialize the power of your vote. In other states, a “no” vote means “no increase in taxes.” The school gets what it’s getting and no more. But in NY, a “no” vote is always a “yes” vote to increase spending, albeit at a slower pace than desired by the whims of administrators. If we had the right to vote on other budgets, you can be absolutely certain that the same fate would await “no” votes in these elections. NY has essentially outlawed “no” votes on school budgets, which is why lots of people choose not to vote at all.

Let’s not blame everything on higher personnel salaries, though. School budgets are also affected by higher fuel costs, ever rising equipment replacement costs (have you priced a new school bus lately?), equipment repair costs, and building maintenance, just to name a few costly items in a budget.

These have an impact, but it is extremely small. For example, fuel is only 7/1000ths of S-G’s budget. Even if the price of fuel doubles, its impact is less than a 1% increase in taxes. Nothing impacts school spending like salary and benefits because they are around 80% of the budget. Just look at this graph from Scotia-Glenville, where the 1996-97 budget was $24,591,514 and the 2006-07 budget is $42,010,399 for 150 fewer students:



Mandated programs and mandated testing require space, equipment and personnel. Security cameras and metal detectors cost big bucks — plus personnel to monitor and maintain them. The cost of providing after-school programs or supervision for children is passed on to the public. Every accident or disruptive incident today requires an investigation and mounds of paper work — by someone on the school staff.

And therein lies the justification for imposing fees for disciplinary services.

Accelerated programs, enrichment programs or advanced placement programs are wonderful. But we must not forget that these programs are often in addition to existing programs. That means, they require additional space, equipment, and special staff training. Your tax dollars at work, as the highway department likes to remind us in a road-repair zone.

Schools are big business. They often have the largest payroll of any employer in a given community. That means they are often the largest employer of local people in a given community.

As I said before, schools are labor intensive. They require many people to discharge their responsibility to the students they serve. But they also serve the community and, like it or not, generally reflect the values and expectations of that community.

Schools are labor intensive. But that has nothing to do with deciding what the level of compensation should be. Private school educators earn lots less than public school educators. Public schools are labor intensive around the entire country, but educator costs in other states are well below NY’s even after adjusting for living costs. Cummins is making excuses, if not intentionally misleading you.It’s also true that schools generally reflect the values and expectations of the community. But there’s one huge exception to that, and it’s educator compensation. I’ve done two surveys on teacher salaries in Scotia-Glenville with nearly identical results. 70% of respondents believe teachers should earn at least 10% less than they currently earn.

Why aren’t community expectations being reflected here? Because the system has been legally engineered to produce bidding wars between communities for educators, which artificially drive up costs. Combine that with ironclad contracts that put adult entitlements ahead of students’ interests and you have a system intentionally designed not to reflect community values and expectations when it comes to compensation. In fact, the system is designed to twist people’s arms.

And Cummins talks about all this as if these conditions are irrevocable laws of nature that cannot be changed by any human power. It’s completely false.

If you feel your local school budget is out of line, you may be right. The way to find out — and possibly correct the matter — is to get involved in school functions or school committees and make your feelings known. Your local school board would love to hear your suggestions BEFORE next year’s budget vote.

Attend a few board of education meetings and find out what is going on, why and who is paying for it. Then speak up. Voice your opinion. Don’t wait until the budget vote to share your wisdom.

What a hypocrite! Cummins spent the entire article telling you why nothing can be done–why your “whims” don’t count–and now he’s telling you to attend school board meetings and voice your opinion. With the exception of school board members and some school staff members, few people in the entire country have attended more school board meetings than I have. I can tell you that you can spend hours, weeks and years at school board meetings and never have the first clue about what’s really going on. Board members look at secret documents, make cryptic comments, and cast their votes. They are especially careful not to mention anything that could be used to detract from their goals.If you really want to know what’s going on, you have to obtain every document you can via the freedom of information law, and you have to study education law and regulations. Then you’ll have a fair chance of interpreting the cryptic discussions of school boards, but you won’t understand all of it because there’ll always be some recent information you won’t have that greatly impacts the nature of the decisions being made.

Now, who has the time to do that? Beyond that, no one walks into a $40-million-or-more operation, watches a few public meetings, and develops the “wisdom” needed to make practical suggestions about spending practices. Cummins knows that. He just wants you to believe you can have an impact because the more you believe it the less likely you are to seek fundamental change in the laws that dramatically diminish the impact of public opinion. Only on rare occasions does a community member’s opinion have even the slightest impact, or an impact any where close to the impact of the opinions of school insiders.

There are a couple of other reasons why Cummins wants you to voice your opinion at school board meetings. First, he hopes that having a say will psychologically deflate your motivation to campaign against school budgets or to vote against them. Second, he knows that responses like “Nobody else has complained” sound legitimate when aimed at individual opinions. You can’t claim that nobody else is complaining when a school budget is defeated.

Is trimming a school budget easy? As a practical matter, no. But it could be much easier except the powerful and self-interested forces of administrators and teachers have absolutely no intention of letting that happen. Consequently, they flaunt their credentials and write lots of articles telling you there’s not much that can be done, reinforcing the educators’ most dependable companion–the myth of helplessness. Don’t you believe it.

When it comes to disagreements with educators, there’s only one thing they respect–power. Either political power or legal power. Otherwise, you’re just a gadfly or a critic, and that’s true even for the administrators and teachers who live outside the pertinent geographical area. I’ve run for school board seven times without winning, but the closer I come to winning, the more intently the insiders listen to what I am saying. You can make all the speeches and all the Internet comments you want. As former Scotia-Glenville school board member Dan Magruder has said, “You just don’t show up at a meeting, make your speech, and expect things to change. It doesn’t work that way.”

Don’t I know it! Cummins knows it, too.

Inflation Outpaces Teacher Salary Growth in More Than 40 States

December 5th, 2005


If the graphs do not show up properly in your browser, click here
for the same commentary at School

Educators nationwide are losing spending power for themselves and their
families. In fact, while teachers’ salaries rose 2.3 percent over the past year,
inflation increased 3.1 percent. Check out the recent update to our annual
report “Rankings and Estimates…” for additional key findings.

Are teachers unions so bad that they can’t get their members pay increases that at
least match the rate of inflation, OR do they think you’re so gullible that
you’ll accept the headline at face value and commiserate with the teachers? NY
is listed as one of the states with below-the-rate-of-inflation salary growth
and it’s a complete fiction–the result of an over-simplistic and flawed

Here’s what the NEA isn’t telling you. First, the average experience of teachers
is declining. That means average salaries are smaller than they would be had the
average experience level stayed the same. The decline in experience is being
caused primarily by two factors–a disproportionately high number of retirements
and the expansion of the number of teachers. When these two factors, alone,
are considered, average teacher salaries are above the rate of inflation.
Historically and on average, teachers have been beating inflation by about
5-tenths of a percentage point, which means their salaries are making real gains
of 5% per decade. In some places, the real gains are twice that rate. In other
places, teachers have made no gains at all relative to inflation, but at least
they haven’t suffered salary cuts of 10% to 35% like many American workers.

The second thing the NEA isn’t telling you is that many union locals have opted
for smaller increases in salaries rather than giving up free or low-cost health
insurance. When looking at the percentage increase in total compensation,
teachers are beating inflation handsomely–generally, between 1.5 and 3 times
the rate of inflation.

As for the NEA’s salary rankings, they’re worthless. They aren’t adjusted for
the state’s living costs and the wages earned by other workers. Beyond that, the
NEA’s average salary estimates are flawed, as I have demonstrated in my
extensive analysis of the NEA’s 2005 Rankings & Estimates

The following two charts show where teachers are over- and under-paid, relative
to the state’s cost of living and the state’s median family income, and the
extent to which they are over- or under-paid. The red lines show the expected
average teacher salary in each state and the green squares show the average
teacher salary in each state, adjusted for discernible errors in the NEA’s data.

The following graphic provides a geographic perspective on
average teacher salaries. Most notably, teachers in the Rust Belt are paid much
higher salaries than justified by their economies, relative to the average pay
of teachers in other states.

For a ranking of teacher salaries in 50 urban areas, see Teachers’
Cost of Living Matters More
. And for an interesting look at superintendent
salaries, see How
Rich is Your Superintendent?

Home-schooling in the modern world

November 30th, 2005

Worries about the long-term impact on public education
By Diane Glass, Syndicated Columnist /

related, at the Seattle

Here’s the problem with looking at short-term studies on home-schooling.

Positive scholastic outcome of a sample of home-schooled children isn’t the only

the problem with public schools. Scholastic outcomes are sacrificed to other

You have to think about the long-term effects of what this trend means for the
future of education and the segregation of our school system over ideology.

ideology? The ideology of self-sufficiency or the ideology of government
schools? There’s plenty of ideology to go around.

A paper presented at the American Educational Research Association in 1991
reported that there were generally two kinds of parents who choose
home-schooling for their children: the extremely religious and the "New
Age." Both choose home-schooling for ideological reasons.

that’s somehow worse than choosing public schools for financial reasons?

Home-schooling is not about how public schools teach so much as what they teach.
Parents who choose home-schooling want to instill in their children their own
deeply held beliefs.

for some. I presume there’s nothing unlawful about parents instilling deeply
held beliefs in their children no matter where they attend school.

Most of these parents are willing to take on traditional roles of male
breadwinner and female caretaker to accomplish this end. It makes you wonder if
the intensity of this commitment isn’t so much about a good education as it is
about political inculcation. One benefit of a secular education is its exposure
to diverse views. This is something home-schooling may not offer if a parent
considers secular exposure a detriment.

illegal about political inculcation, is there? If so, public schools are in a
heap of trouble. As for being exposed to diverse views, how often do public
schools unbiasedly expose students to the viewpoint of the
bread-winner/caretaker structure of families and society? In truth,
homeschooling can offer students a greater diversity of viewpoints than public
schools, which must avoid many points of view out of concerns for political
correctness. If homeschooling parents choose to exclude some viewpoints, they’re
doing nothing less than what public schools do.

Then there’s the question of a parent’s aptitude. Parents may have the right to
control their child’s education, but do they have the right to practice an
occupation without any skill?

an indictment of public education. If parents have no skill to teach, then what
did they do for 13 years in government schools? If it weren’t possible for one
generation to pass on knowledge and skills to the next generation without
college-degreed professionals, mankind would still be living in caves and trees
(with apologies to Intelligent Designers).

If parents, or the recent trend of the home-school neighborhood group, lack the
range to leap from studying geometry to English literature, a child will miss
out on a topic that could have proved valuable to her future.

for every movie, class disruption and test-preparation day in a public school,
students similarly miss out on potentially valuable topics. Some topics in
public schools may well be worth missing. But whether a student
"misses" a topic or not, how much can it matter as long as the student
has sufficient knowledge and skills to earn a living? No student learns every
topic. 90% of what students do learn is forgotten in short order. What’s most
important is to learn the process of learning and to have the skills needed for
independent learning.

I know from experience that a teacher’s passion for a topic is just as important
as the topic itself. That passion is more often found in teachers who pursue
this as a career.

I wonder where she gained all the experience needed to conclude that career
teachers have more subject-matter passion than non-career teachers? In my
experience, career teachers are just as likely to be burnt-out and unengaging as
they are to be passionate. Roll the dice and pray your child gets the right

We also have to consider what this means for the future of public education.
University of Illinois professor Chris Lubienski contends that home-schooling is
not only a response to deteriorating public schools, but a cause of its decline.
Schools should be given the chance to respond to public needs, he argues. Home-schooling
doesn’t help the public good, just the individual.
And our future is about
all children, not just our own.

not only an insult, but it’s profoundly ignorant to decree that homeschooling
doesn’t help the public good. These parents financially support public schools
while sparing the system the costs of educating their children. They freely hand
over their money, but not their children’s lives. And that’s what really irks
the collectivists. They are so afraid that individualism and independent
thinking will disrupt the collective. No child is deprived an education through
the existence of homeschooling. Customized, personal education is the hallmark
of excellence, but public schools need a federal special education law to force
them to do it for a mere 12% of students.

Every system has advantages and disadvantages–strengths and weaknesses.
Homeschooling is no panacea and neither is public education. Anyone who believes
diversity and tolerance are strengths must believe that the overall education of
all children is strengthened by the co-existence of homeschooling and public
schools. Anyone who believes in strength in numbers or might makes right
probably believes otherwise.

Flattening Instruction

November 20th, 2005

David A DeSchryver /
Issue 5.46 – Nov. 18, 2005 / Originally published in Issue 5.23 – 6/8/2005

If should we expect schools and districts to outsource instruction?
How you react to this questions [sic] likely parallels your current state of
cynicism, but it’s one that will demand some serious thought in the coming
years. . . .

The question causes audible dismay from most educators. Education is not flat
because schools do not operate as corporations that produce and repair
“widgets” (as in the generic economic term and not related to Apple
“Tiger” OS X). An educator’s work is unique. For example, a teacher cannot
be outsourced, and certainly not off-shored, because it’s a trade based on
personal charisma and individual contact. Successful teachers connect with their
students and vice-versa.

is precisely because an educator’s work should be unique that computer-delivered
and/or outsourced instruction is imperative. Why should every child in the
classroom be getting the same instruction at the same pace with the same
homework from a teacher who may not have the information, skills or interest in
what matters most to each student?

As for praising personal charisma, how many teachers lack that and why should
your child have one of these teachers when every lesson can be captivating and
flawlessly presented via a technology unaffected by aches, illnesses, family
concerns, school politics and everything else that detracts from inspiring

And in today’s classrooms, how much individual contact contact is there, really?
Moreover, it may be a means to learning but it is far from the only means or
even the most effective means. Celebrating "personal charisma and
individual contact" is like glorifying stagecoaches as standard of
transportational excellence. Well, the stagecoach is no reason to reject
automobiles, trains and airplanes and "personal charisma and individual
contact" are no reasons for rejecting the use of technology and

How they connect also inhibits the flattening of instruction. Early grade
students cannot be managed through a technology medium.

better let and in on the news.

Late grade students cannot be controlled through a monitor no matter how clear
and attractive the connection.

can’t pry students from their monitors and gadgets. Where has this guy been?

The art of personal connection extends to the parents as well. Who in their
right mind would send their child to an institution that outsources its

I don’t know, maybe someone who wants their child to have access to talents and
skills not possessed by the local teachers?

Only the child of efficiency driven economists, is my best guess, because the
act appears to prioritize budgetary efficiency over safety and an embracing
learning environment.

nonsense. Greater efficiency means more programs and services for a given cost.
That’s bad for students, right? Safety? Have you been reading about the
epidemics of bullying,
and assaulting
, fornicating
and teacher-student
, let alone the average, everyday disruptions going on in public
schools? Not only is this far from safe, it’s also far from a sound learning

As it is a poor selling point for parents it is bad protection of the public
good. Schools are government actors and have a duty to provide public education
in a responsible fashion that, at least, assures the safety and welfare of their
children. The outsourcing of instruction would impose large oversight and
management costs on the school. These costs obstruct their ability to check
certification, qualification, and personal backgrounds of those providing the
instruction. The costs and risk of error, then, seem to outweigh the more
familiar and safer hiring and monitoring practices.

high costs are in managing and training local staff. Let’s say elementary math
is outsourced to a software program that produces better results on average than
produced in classrooms. How much oversight and management costs are needed for

Finally, teacher unions would never allow it.

that’s what this story is really about–crafting a justification for the bigotry
of teacher unions. They may delay advancements for decades in improving academic
outcomes and in delivering education services, but they can’t stop the
advancements from coming.

The above reasons just begin to cover the reasons why outsourcing instruction is
a bad idea – but times and practices change. There are good reasons to believe
that the “flat” world (one of growing economies with millions of qualified,
readily accessible and eager potential employees) will enter the K-12 classroom.

First, the quantity and quality of teachers in the US is not good.

good is personal charisma and individual contact if the quantity and quality of
teachers isn’t "good"?

According to the National Education Association the nation is in a “teacher
recruitment crisis.”

nation is in a lesson quality crisis that can never be cured through teacher

While student enrollments are rising rapidly, more than a million veteran
teachers are nearing retirement. “Experts predict that overall we will need
more than 2 million new teachers in the next decade.” [1]

"experts" predicted the need for thousands of horses to pull all those

Making it worse, the quality of the diminishing pool is troubling. Education
Week put it this way:

Despite universal agreement that teachers should have basic literacy skills
and know the subjects they teach, Quality Counts found states playing an
elaborate shell game. While they set standards for who can enter the
profession on the front end, most keep the door cracked open on the back

other words, there’s no effective means for assuring continued competency once a
teacher earns tenure. I personally know teachers who did lots of enriching
activities prior to earning tenure and then promptly terminated them when
granted tenure. Of course, some teachers put everything into their work every
day, but many don’t and there’s no way to prevent teachers from reclining on the
job if they want to. When other professionals slack they get canned. But not for
the workers doing the most important work in the world!

(Do you think the Indian Institute of Technology in Bombay plays shell games
with its graduates?)

Second, outsourcing is not a zero-sum matter (the camel-nose-in-the-tent analogy
is more appropriate). No one really thinks that it would replace teachers
outright (yet), but it may make sense to use a proven/reputable program for
tutoring, grading of classroom material, inputting student data into databases
and as a video-conference based virtual-classroom-teacher-assistant. In fact,
there are current examples of success such as the University of Phoenix and
Growing Stars ().

Finally, the technology is available and getting better. In 1995 the Internet
was a peripheral tool. In 2005 it’s central to social and professional lives.
In 2020 it will be beyond our imagination. . . . .

Combine the above considerations and it is reasonable to conclude that a future
principle may find the increased teacher-student ratio of a virtual assistant
teacher cost-effective and even attractive to parents who want the best
education the world can offer.

So back to our question: If the world is “flat” should we expect schools and
districts to outsource instruction? Despite the present barriers listed above
– plan for it.

were no barriers listed above. They were all lame fabrications.

Thousands if not millions abroad are probably doing so right now.


[1] National Education Association, “Attracting and Keeping Quality
Teachers,’ ,
visited June 3, 2005.

[2] Quality Counts 2000: Who Should Teach? (Education Week: 2000), ,
visited June 8, 2005.

[3] Anupreeta Das and Amanda Paulson, “Need a Tutor? Call India,” Christian
Science Monitor, May 23, 2005, ,
visited June 8, 2005.

‘Child-centric’ schools

November 14th, 2005

/ Syndicated columnist
Originally posted March
30, 2004

"Child-centric" is the name that developer William Gietema applies to
the new elementary school being built in Hometown, a New Urbanist community
northeast of Fort Worth.

The energy-conserving building will have many windows and be flooded with
natural light, which research shows stimulates melatonin and in turn endorphins
that make children happy — and thus ready to learn more rapidly. Air exchange
will also be boosted to cycle carbon monoxide out and more oxygen in — another
favor to the children.



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Set in a compact new town with 6-foot-wide sidewalks, trees along the streets
and traffic-calming features, this school will be just across the road from the
city recreation center, next to a performing-arts center and new city library.

And 8 acres of the 10-acre site, notes Gietema, will go for child use —
classrooms, playground and a forested environmental-learning area, with just 2
acres given over to parking and bus areas — uses which normally gobble up half
of most new school sites.

"Instead of a school designed around the drive-through," notes Gietema,
"we designed the school first, then came up with a method to allow parents
to deliver and pick up their children without damaging the school’s

The green light for Hometown’s innovative school design came from Stephen
Waddell, superintendent of the Birdville School District. "We intend this
school to be flexible for people working there today as well as 30 years from
now," Waddell explains. "The design incorporates flexibility, allows
different teaming opportunities for kids and teachers."

Plus, Waddell boasts, "this school is being built so that the community can
use it after hours." Community and library rooms upfront, for example, are
open to learning opportunities for adults after hours, even while other parts of
the building are secured.

Futurist thinker-consultant Ian Jukes, director of the , stoked the intellectual fires of the school officials, planners and
architects (HKS of Dallas) when designing the Hometown school. Jukes argues
the old formula of "Stand and Deliver" — a teacher before a class
giving kids facts they’ll be required to regurgitate — is hopelessly outdated.
Teachers are no longer "masters," he suggests, when kids, from their
desktops, have instant access to every library or museum on the planet.

Yet most schools, Jukes notes, look like they did in the 1860s, before
telephones, telecommunications or the gas-powered motor. He dismisses the rigid
standards approach of No Child Left Behind as "a rearview mirror of what
education has to be all about." Instead, he’d aim to develop skills of
independent, highly resourceful thinking to prepare children for lives in which
they may experience a dozen or more careers "in jobs not yet invented,
technologies not invented, problems not thought of yet."

is what it means to educate The
21st Century Student

So many new schools look alike, asserts Prakash Nair, international
school-building consultant and architect, because we continue to
"warehouse" children with too little thought to how the design will
impact student learning. Every business/professional group, from construction to
maintenance, transportation to curriculum to security, lays out requirements.
But who’s responsible for learning?

Nair suggests how smaller, learning-centered schools might be configured. For
example: multipurpose "learning studios," where children can be
engaged in flexible learning zones that replace traditional classrooms; atriums
and other open areas, encouraging student interaction, in place of traditional
corridors; wireless laptops and other Internet-connected digital communications
devices available to students where and when they need them.

A big point of the reformers is that students, especially older ones, can
gain immensely by spending big chunks of time learning outside the school, in
libraries, parks, museums, community service and school-to-work programs.

Elliott Washor of the , co-inventor of the precedent-shattering in Providence, R.I., describes the ideal new school as "a
welcoming space," accommodating multiple types of learning.

Most of the same old architects grinding out the same old, banal school
structures are oblivious to these new cutting-edge ideas. Cleveland is using its
$1.5-billion fund for new schools so unimaginatively that it’s "on the
verge of a major public architectural catastrophe," a member of the
Cleveland Landmarks Commission (Theodore Sande) told Cleveland Plain Dealer
architectural critic Steven Litt.

Litt asks: Couldn’t the school district collaborate with Cleveland State
University and Kent State to organize a national symposium on state-of-the-art
architecture and community-related planning?

To me, that’s a crackerjack idea. The school-design issues need to be hauled out
of bureaucrats’ offices, into the sunlight of spirited communitywide
discussions. America’s universities could serve their communities well by
igniting the debate.