Bunker Mulligan "Let us endeavor so to live that when we come to die even the undertaker will be sorry." ~Mark Twain

February 28, 2005

Elementary Education Reform

Filed under: Education — Bunker @ 9:35 am

I’m one of the few (if not the only) non-educators involved with a project here in town to reduce the dropout rate. With all the things that affect kids deciding to drop out of school, guess which is the first topic we’re looking at.

Teacher pay.

Actually, we are looking at teacher recruitment and retention. But pay is the only thing that my working group wants to discuss. The Corpus Christi Independent School District starts teachers at $35K–not bad for nine months work and a simple (one of the simplest) college degree. Yet no other issue gets any discussion.

I have posted some of my own thoughts about our education system–several times–on my local site. I would appreciate any comments from those of you around the country and the world on my latest post there. My friends down under are welcome to throw in their experience with the public school system as some added options for improving things. Perhaps the time has come for an honest and open discussion about what is best for our kids.


  1. Was reading Sunday Times letters “Making our high schools better”. Teachers are very skilled and demanding. the problem is families that have low regard for education, parents who allow students to spend hours online, gaming or watching TV. Since teachers have so little to do with poor academic performance remedial money and effort should be spent on parent education

    Comment by Doug_S — February 28, 2005 @ 10:59 am

  2. Good to see your site back up, Doug. I couldn’t get to it for a couple of days.

    I don’t know how demanding teachers are these days. At our first meeting we were asked to describe the traits of the best teachers we had when growing up. Most of the educators around the table said things like “caring” and “team player.” When it was my turn I said, “Demanding.” They all recoiled in shock.

    Parents are certainly the prime determiners of student performance, IMO. Kids who come to school to learn will learn. Those who don’t will be problems. Period.

    Comment by Bunker — February 28, 2005 @ 11:31 am

  3. My wife is a college professor, her sister has a PhD in bilingual education, and I have an MS, Ed, although I’ve only subbed and student taught. I always have wanted to be a schoolteacher, and would probably be one if the price were right for me. I have been in training and training development for twenty-odd years, though, and have been a platform instructor for many, many years, as well as a primary curriculum developer. Yadda yadda yadda: I helped write the book on training development for the Army.

    There are a couple of things worth saying about “education reform” in the US:

    1. Despite the clamor, smaller class sizes haven’t led to dramatic (or even modest) improvements in student performance;
    2. For the most part, teachers are not held accountable for student performance. In fact, they take attempts to quantify their performance in terms of “service delivery” to be an infringement upon their “academic freedom” as if academic freedom was isolated from student performans. This exists at all levels, including major, prestigious universities;
    3. Despite the tons and tons of money thrown at education, there has been no dramatic (or even modest) improvements in student performance. Most of this money is used to create administrative jobs and programs and not in direct support of the students;
    4. Reading a paragraph to my wife one day without disclosing the author or the topic, she remarked, “Gee, that sounds like a factory in the Soviet Union.” When I stated that it was Milton Friedman writing about the current (1990s) state of education in the US, she was surprised. THE NEGATIVE IMPACT ON THE EDUCATION OF STUDENTS BY THE EDUCATION UNIONS CAN NOT BE UNDERSTATED;
    5. The education community flies after buzzwords – multiple intelligence, constructivism, collaborative learning, and so on and so forth – and makes major changes to the methodologies used in the classrooms with shocking speed;
    6. At the same time, the education community is extremely resistant to change;
    7. The feeble attempts by the Bush administration to tie federal funds to student performance are taken at almost all levels to be a direct assault on educators. Educators think that “standardized tests” are an affront to their “academic freedom,” despite much evidence to the contrary. Anyone who has had to teach “Task, Condition, and Standard” understands intuitively that the specific methodologies used to impart instruction imposes no limits upon the instructor other than making sure that the student learning can be measured.

    That’s my two cents. I’ve been arguing this case since I was a college student (and ROTC cadet) in the early 1980s.

    Comment by Paulie at The Commons — February 28, 2005 @ 12:04 pm

  4. A Bit On Education At Bunker Mulligan
    Bunker Mulligan You fellows know that I have an axe to grind for educational reform. Bunker started a thread and I made a somewhat lengthy comment. Go check it out….

    Trackback by The Commons at Paulie World — February 28, 2005 @ 12:06 pm

  5. Start by cutting funding from the top administrators salaries. Six figures for these folks is just ridiculous! And merit pay would be the only way I’d justify a teacher’s raise. That would come right after getting rid of tenure!

    Comment by DagneyT — February 28, 2005 @ 12:42 pm

  6. If you follow my posts on the other site, you’ll see a distinction (I hope) between “teachers” and “education establishment”. If teachers were simply allowed to teach, and not hamstrung by the latest and greatest theories and social requirements, I think they could deal with parents who want to take them to task over Johnny’s failures.

    We must return to some form of basic requirements, and put the decision-making back at the local level where people know the community and their students best.

    Comment by Bunker — February 28, 2005 @ 1:02 pm

  7. Thank you – phone company disconnectd me by mistake Fri and told me by law thay could not reconnect until Mon – its in the tarriffs.

    I wa trying to be sarcastic mostly – hard to do in writing. If I hear one more excuse from the teachers for their poor performance I’ll explode. Many are nice people, but given the wrong institutions and the wrong incentives nice well intentioned people do harm rather than good. I was making fun of the failure is never our fault mindset, but the solution is always give us more employees, more money and less acountability.

    Mostly I agree with Thomas Sowell 100% on schools. He speaks the truth.

    Comment by Doug_S — February 28, 2005 @ 8:30 pm

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