Thursday, May 15, 2008

GOT IT BAD, HATE FOR TEACHER. At The Atlantic (thank God I have James Russell Lowell's spinning corpse tied to my generator, or I would not be able to post these messages to the internet), Megan McArdle does one of her hit-jobs on teachers' unions, declaring:
This sort of thing is hard to disprove conclusively, of course. But here's a data point: New Orleans smashes it's teachers union; test scores rise dramatically, even though it's still ministering to poor kids testing substantially below grade level.
Commenters tell her so strenuously how full of shit she is that she has to restate:
I agree that there's a sample problem, but it also seems that more kids in New Orleans now are qualifying for free lunch than did before, so I'm skeptical that this explains the change. Also, the test scores improved from 2007 to 2008. And the pattern of improvement--strongest in the younger grades--is what you'd expect if the school were the major factor rather than the demographics.

I'm familiar with the research on parental skills and early childhood intervention. I just don't know what to do with it.
Yeah thanks. Later:
You can disprove any position if you force your imaginary opponents to take the maximal side. So if you say of teacher's unions "smashing them will not magically raise test scores", all I can say is, "Well, d'uh".
Why not leave it all at d'uh, and spare James Russell Lowell and me this misery? Further down:
But while taking away much of the teacher's union's power is definitely not sufficient, it does seem to be necessary. They resist changes to their work practices that the best evidence (see Ayers, Supercrunchers) seems to show works with disadvantaged kids: rote memorization, and phonics. These replace the tools that upper middle class give their kids earlier--even if you went to a whole language school, if you're reading this blog it's a safe bet you had phonics, too, when your parents taught you to "sound it out".
You'd think the littlebrains of the evil teachers' union had denounced phonics. But here's the AFT's "Where We Stand: K-12 Literacy":
Young students must develop phonemic awareness—the recognition that all words are made up of separate sounds, or phonemes. They must learn phonics—the ability to link these sounds to the specific letters or combinations of letters that are used to represent them in written language.
This cuts no ice with McArdle. "Instead," she complains, "they agitate for things like smaller class sizes." Jesus Christ! Will these overpaid child-minders never be satisfied! Don't they know the Randian superchildren will ascend regardless, and that the rest should be given what Gammas, Deltas, and Epsilons require, and their tenders paid the same as gardeners -- well, unless the gardeners organize, in which case we'll be stuck in the same rut, and have to wait for the Gs, Ds, and Es to mature sufficiently to tend their own without socialist interference.

If I were her I'd be mad at teachers too.

UPDATE. Thanks, Brendan, for the proofreading.

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