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Original article URL: http://bridgemi.com/2013/09/special-report-michigan-fails-students-with-poor-teacher-prep/

Special report/Talent & education

Michigan fails students with poor teacher prep

Julie Western looks through a stack of resumes for teacher openings at Croswell-Lexington school district.  (Photo by Ron French)

Julie Western looks through a stack of resumes for teacher openings at Croswell-Lexington school district. (Photo by Ron French)

Julie Western slaps a stack of resumes on the desk of Superintendent Kevin Miller. Croswell-Lexington, a rural school district in the thumb, posted a single teacher opening on their website. A week later, they’re swamped with 147 applications.

All of the applicants were graduates of college education programs. All had been student teachers. All had passed at least one – and many more than one – exam that certified they were qualified to be a teacher.

But which applicants were really qualified? How could Western and Miller tell?

These same questions get asked every summer across Michigan, by administrators looking to slow the revolving door of teacher resignations and re-hirings, by legislators looking for ways to boost test scores, and by parents just wanting to know why their child can’t read.

“You can give me a bunch of 4.0’s (straight-A college students) and it won’t tell me if they can teach,” Miller said. “Some … ( should) work in a factory and not have an impact on others.”

Michigan is failing its children by failing its beginning teachers, from colleges allowing academically iffy students into education programs, to state certification tests that don’t weed out poorly prepared teacher candidates, to schools where nearly half of educators quit in frustration within five years.

“If this were happening with doctors or airplane pilots, there’d be a revolt,” said Deborah Ball, dean of the School of Education at the University of Michigan. “I don’t think the public is alarmed enough.”

This fall, Bridge Magazine will explore the challenges faced by Michigan as it tries to improve an education system that, compared to other states and other countries, is floundering. A Bridge investigation found that problems start early, including:

Teacher prep programs that routinely accept students with high school grade point averages below 3.0 and ACT scores lower than that of students in other majors.

“Wild variability” in the quality of university teacher programs, with parts of several programs shut down by the state because of poor performance.

Certification exams so easy that the pass rates are similar to cosmetology. And the few teacher candidates who do fail? They can take the exam over and over until they pass.

A state-mandated student teaching requirement of just 12 weeks, while the same state government demands plumbers apprentice for three years.

One in eight Michigan teachers has one year or less experience in the classroom, and one in five has less than three years of experience, about the time studies show they are becoming fully competent at their jobs.

“We don’t have a teacher problem, we have a systemic problem,” said Nancy Flanagan, a retired teacher in Hartland and a former Michigan teacher of the year. “We’re going about this all wrong.”

Citizens want teacher prep reform

Michigan residents instinctively understand that the best way to improve student achievement is to improve the skills of the people standing in front of classrooms. In the largest effort ever to collect and analyze public opinion on K-12 education in Michigan, the Center for Michigan found that two of the most popular reforms involved teachers. Among more than 5,000 participants in community conversations across the state, 88 percent considered “strong support for teachers” to be crucial or important; 79 percent supported “improving teacher preparation.”

At the heart of those reform notions are 101,000 public school teachers – one in 100 Michigan residents and one in 36 women between the ages of 22 and 65 – who often shoulder the bulk of public blame for students’ lackluster academic achievement.

Tough times in the classroom

U.S. children score lower on standardized tests than students in many developed countries. The U.S. ranks 17th in reading, 23rd in science and 31st in math, behind countries such as Slovenia and Poland.

One of the main differences between high-achieving countries and the U.S.: a higher level of difficulty in becoming a teacher.

Within the United States, Michigan students are, at best, average. Take your pick of data:

Those numbers didn’t matter as much in past generations when Michigan was known for its low-education, high-wage jobs in the auto industry. But today, those same statistics raise uncomfortable questions: How well are Michigan students prepared for a world where a good education is virtually a prerequisite to enter the middle class?

“People like to blame teachers but bad teachers are probably 5 percent or fewer,” said State Schools Superintendent Mike Flanagan. “It’s rarely the teacher, it’s the system around them.

If a new teacher is not as prepared as she should be, it’s not her fault if the teacher prep institution didn’t do a good job. That’s a system fix. If you’re in a school district, and the district automatically puts the first-year teacher with the toughest kids, that’s a system thing. You’ve just increased the chances the teacher will fail and the kids won’t move.”

Good teachers make a difference

Studies show that factors outside of school actually play a larger role in student test scores than teachers.

But those same studies show that from the time a child steps off a school bus to the time the final bell rings, nothing has a bigger influence inside a school than the quality of the teacher.

The difference in learning in a classroom led by a good teacher and a bad teacher is sobering. A 2003 study found that a student at the 50th percentile of his peers entering a classroom with a highly effective teacher could end the school year scoring at the 96th percentile; in an ineffective teacher’s classroom, the child could leave scoring at the 37th percentile.

Despite the state’s imperative to improve student learning, there’s been little concerted effort to change the way we build our teachers’ skills. In fact, the colleges that train them, the state that certifies them, and the schools that hire them don’t even have a good sense of what a highly effective teacher looks like, said Amber Arellano, executive director of Education Trust Midwest and a former teacher.

“A teacher, especially early in their career, needs models of what great (teaching) looks like,” Arellano said. “It’s not like the medical profession, where you go from the Detroit Medical Center to Henry Ford (Medical Center) and the standards and expectations would be the same, with protocols that had been developed over decades to serve patients well.”

State could do more

“Other states are showing great gains … by investing in teachers,” Arellano said. “It’s not about pouring money into it — it’s about building more supports and systems, and building capacities of local schools to do that.”

No one wants to be operated on by an under-trained surgeon. Why would we put the future of our kids in the hands of an under-trained teacher, if we have the ability to improve that training?

“When you think about how important that role (of a teacher) is in lives, it’s kind of scary,” Arellano said. “Teaching is a lever for societal transformation. It’s an incredibly important role. But we don’t treat it that way.”

Senior Writer Ron French joined Bridge in 2011 after having won more than 40 national and state journalism awards since he joined the Detroit News in 1995. French has a long track record of uncovering emerging issues and changing the public policy debate through his work. In 2006, he foretold the coming crisis in the auto industry in a special report detailing how worker health-care costs threatened to bankrupt General Motors.

33 comments from Bridge readers.Add mine!

  1. Brad Baltensperger

    Ron French has identified some very important general considerations. However, he needs to be careful in his descriptions of research findings, particularly about value added by effective teachers. He cites the 2003 Marzano book, which is not a research study, but which does summarize some value added studies, mainly by Bill Sanders. French says one year with a highly effective teacher would move a student from the 50th percentile to the 96th, but one year with an ineffective teacher would leave the student at the 37th percentile. Actually, what Marzano states is that over TWO years, a student with a highly effective teacher IN A MOST EFFECTIVE SCHOOL will score at the 96th percentile. Students with a least effective teacher IN A MOST EFFECTIVE SCHOOL will be at the 37th percentile after TWO years. It is important for journalists to model effective critical thinking skills and careful reading of secondary sources.

    1. Nancy Flanagan

      Thanks for pointing out the gross oversimplification of what turned out to be more unjustified claims based on Hanushek’s and Sander’s work. Two excellent pieces debunking the “three good teachers in a row” myth: http://shankerblog.org/?p=2156 and http://garyrubinstein.teachforus.org/2011/08/11/value-added-scrutinizing-the-most-widely-cited-study/

      Teacher effectiveness is a factor, certainly. But Sanders (who is a statistician, not an educator) was projecting and speculating, creating a thought experiment. Somehow, that turned into a certainty: two good teachers in a row will fix a child! Not true.

    2. Charles Richards

      Excellent criticism of sloppy work.

    3. Graydon DeCamp

      How nice it would be if journalists would “model effective critical thinking skills!” But that’s asking a lot of increasingly young (and demonstrably undereducated) journalistic work force that’s egregiously underpaid in comparison with teachers. We’re lucky they can spell, much less comprehend ordinary math or statistics.

  2. William Harris

    Plenty of generalizations, but little in the way of facts; one supposes because this is an introductory article. Two structural issues do come to mind in this introduction, however.

    First, there is the lag on bringing in teachers to improve schools. While teacher performance will be a significant part of achievement, reforming the education schools means that one is not likely to see the impact of reform for five years or so. Prep, then, is a long-term solution. The immediate question from the article is how do we identify who the good ones are when there’s an opening.

    Second, there are significant structural questions as to hiring. Report from the Detroit News notes that most new hires are in charter schools; and most of those new hires don’t stay. This suggests that any analysis of the teacher corps probably has to be broken down into the particular settings, academy and general programs.

  3. Ann Weller

    One in eight Michigan teachers “has”–not “have.” Likewise, for one in five.

    1. Nancy Derringer

      Thanks for the edit. Fixed.

  4. Dee Downs

    Everyone wants to evaluate teachers and have standards for teachers, however no one wants to evaluate the learning environment the teacher is working in. There also have to be learning environment standards. Is the teacher teaching in a bare room with no teaching resources? What are the technology materials standards. What is the student/computer ratio? Are there adequate books, laptops, tablets etc. In some schools the teachers buy the paper and pencils because the school is always short. There have to be teacher evaluations and evaluations of the school and district leadership, and evaluations of the teaching environment teachers are given by the district.

  5. Dee Downs

    I think Michigan teachers are well prepared. They are much better prepared now than 15 years ago, however the ranks of good teachers will get smaller and smaller in Michigan with the advent of all the charter schools that pay such a low salary. It doesn’t pay to be a good teacher. The good teachers are going into other professions. And because the charter schools are mostly in communities of color we need to revisit Brown vs. the Board of Education and see how we can make access to a good education equal across the country.

  6. Jean MacLeod

    I hope the upcoming Bridge education system investigation will also include one of Michigan’s shining examples of Teacher Prep Best Practices: the nationally recognized College of Education at Michigan State University. The 5 year MSU Teacher Education program includes a high bar application admission into the program in sophomore year; semesters of under-grad, hands-on hours in the classroom once admitted to the program; extra offerings specific to Urban or Global Ed; and a mentored, FULL school-year internship (student teaching). We need to highlight and duplicate what IS working in Michigan education, while we struggle to fix the overall system.
    See http://education.msu.edu/
    and http://edwp.educ.msu.edu/news/2013/msu-launches-school-improvement-website-for-educators/

    1. Lucia Elden

      I agree, Jean. As community college instructors, my colleagues and I have an interest in high quality education for all students. I am working with my second beginning English teacher from MSU in our dual enrollment collaboration and have found them to be exceptional teachers.

  7. Gene Golanda

    There is much merit in this article, and there is much more involved in determining teacher effectiveness then is explored here. Before one can determine effectiveness the context in which the teaching occurs must be examined. There is considerable difference in what is required to teach students in an urban environment with high student mobility, high student absenteeism, little parent involvement, language barriers, and low SES, where 98 percent receive free breakfast and lunch than in schools from small towns or suburbia, whose students may come from two parent homes, and have social benefits unavailable to their urban counterparts, and where they have been schooled all their lives. A very effective teacher in one situation might be woefully inept in another.
    It should also be said that the current methodology for determining teacher effectiveness in our state woefully addresses these differences. This evaluative system does not consider mobility of students or teachers, student or teacher absenteeism or parental involvement, nor does it consider what individual teachers may or may not have contributed to the school data.
    It would be very interesting to see the results of a teacher exchange between teachers from a “highly effective” school in suburbia with one from the same county that has basically “flunked” it’s students according to the current evaluation system.

  8. Michael Comer

    The most alarming statistic in the article is in the side bar referencing influences on student achievement. The statistic states that teachers account for only 20% of student achievement. All other in school influences account for another 10%. Therefore, ALL in school influence only accounts for 30% of student achievement, while out of school influences account for 70% of student achievement. If these statistics are accurate why are we placing so much emphasis on teachers, who at best, only influence achievement by 20%? We need a change in culture, which includes family attitudes and participation of parents, that emphasizes academic achievement and accounts for 70 % of it. Maybe teachers are being targeted because they are easy targets and we don’t know how to change our culture. “For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.” H.L. Mencken

    1. Charles Richards

      Michael Comer says, “we don’t know how to change our culture.” But given that, why don’t we do what we know how to do?

  9. Charles Richards

    Kevin Miller says, “You can give me a bunch of 4.0’s (straight-A college students) and it won’t tell me if they can teach,”. What counts, what is relevant is what percentage of straight A students can teach. No doubt there are straight A students who can’t teach. Not everyone has the particular talents, character and personality required to be a good teacher. But I suspect that a larger percentage of straight A students would make good teachers than B students, who in turn would have a higher percentage of good teachers than C students. Mr. Miller is guilty of imprecise, sloppy thinking.

    None of Mr. French’s complaints: ” from colleges allowing academically iffy students into education programs, to state certification tests that don’t weed out poorly prepared teacher candidates, to schools where nearly half of educators quit in frustration within five years.” constitutes evidence that “Michigan is failing its children by failing its beginning teachers”. It is simply evidence that Michigan, like most states, does things badly.

    However, Mr. French puts his finger on the fundamental cause of our problems when he says one of the major problems is, “Teacher prep programs that routinely accept students with high school grade point averages below 3.0 and ACT scores lower than that of students in other majors.” Diane Rehm, on her PBS program, recently interviewed Amanda Ripley, whose new book “The Smartest Children in the World and how they got that way” examines the variation in education quality between nations. Her crucial finding was that limiting admission to schools of education to the top five or ten percent of students explained much of success or failure. She noted that one of the Scandinavian countries that wasn’t selective about admission to education schools had poor results even though they had a very low poverty rate.

    Nancy Flanagan says, “We don’t have a teacher problem, we have a systemic problem,” Isn’t it odd that all of our failings are always due to the “system.” No one is ever untalented, lazy, or uncaring. All would be equally excellent at everything save for external factors.

    When State Schools Superintendent Mike Flanagan says, “If you’re in a school district, and the district automatically puts the first-year teacher with the toughest kids, that’s a system thing.”, he fails to note that that occurs because of senioirity provisions in union contracts.

    Amber Arellano, after noting that little has been done to improve teachers, says, “In fact, the colleges that train them, the state that certifies them, and the schools that hire them don’t even have a good sense of what a highly effective teacher looks like.” Does she mean to say that we cannot detect the difference between a “highly effective teacher” and a mediocre one? That what a good teacher is, is unknowable? In referring to a 2003 study about the differences between teachers, Ron French says, “The difference in learning in a classroom led by a good teacher and a bad teacher is sobering.” Was that study fraudulent? It seemed to have determined who was “highly effective” and who was not. The effectiveness of the school was held constant; the only remaining variable was the teacher.

    Ms. Arellano says of the education profession, “It’s not like the medical profession, where you go from the Detroit Medical Center to Henry Ford (Medical Center) and the standards and expectations would be the same, with protocols that had been developed over decades to serve patients well.” Indeed, the education profession is not like the medical profession. The medical profession is extremely selective, the education profession is not. The medical profession takes very bright people with a lot of candlepower and then trains them intensively. The education profession takes far less talented people and then trains them poorly. The crucial question is: what is the optimum balance between raw ability and training? Should we continue to accept nearly anybody into the teaching profession and then invest a lot of resources in making them effective? Or should we raise the entry standards and invest considerably less in training and support?

    Mr. French says, ” Among more than 5,000 participants in community conversations across the state, 88 percent considered “strong support for teachers” to be crucial or important; 79 percent supported “improving teacher preparation.” I’m curious whether those participants were given the option of sharply raising education schools’ admission standards. Doubtful.

    As a postscript, I would like to note that I checked the database to see what factors were considered important. They were: Average teacher salary, Pupil to teacher ratio, Head count-teachers, Percent with advanced degree/certification, Percent women teachers, Percent of teachers whose age is, Percent of teachers who have been on the job. Have any of these factors been found to be statistically significant determinants of educational quality?

  10. Anne

    Could this be one of the reasons why Michigan is no longer participating in the Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellowship?

  11. Pete

    We can always improve our teacher training programs. However, this whole argument begs some important questions:

    1.What is the impact of poverty on our standing in the world? 2. Are our leaders creating effective systems for teachers to work within? This is neglected to the point where one would think leadership is completely unimportant. 3. How are you going to get high quality candidates when pay and benefits are often so low, a new teacher cannot pay off student loans and qualifies for food stamps? This is a reality.

    When you control for U.S. poverty, the likes of which does not exist in the countries we are being compared to, the U.S. is No. 1 in literacy. Our poverty rate in the U.S. is a national disgrace. Too bad we hear nothing about the economic policies that create this albatross around our collective neck. This does not mean we do not have to improve educationally, it just means this is no basis for bashing teachers, teacher preparation or education in general. The assumption is false. Next, the best, average or worst teacher cannot be truly effective with poor leadership. This is a much greater problem than teacher preparation, the most glaring weakness being our federal and state politicians imposing poorly informed ideology as policy. (The head coach is the first to go on a poorly performing team, but not in education.) Poor decision making all around. The path to improving an education system that is actually #1 in the world, is to demand effective leadership practices that promote effective team building and effort (not evaluation that pits staff against staff and leadership against staff). After all that, if we still want better teachers, let’s start by recruiting the best and brightest. Now how are we going to do that with the poor pay and teacher bashing our legislature is leading with?

    I know Bridge is trying to illuminate the issue of education reform, they just missed the mark by not re-framing the debate. The premise of this whole issue is based on faulty assumptions and because of that, the solutions being forced on us are not working.

    Hey Bridge, why not report on the utter failure of the reform efforts up to this point, most notably our obsession with annual accountability measures?

    1. Barb

      Framing the argument properly. A powerful point! This medium is never poised for the actual complexity of issues such as this, but Pete you at the least do bring attention to some fundamental questions. Thanks,
      The teachers I have helped prepare over 15 years at 2 universities seem well prepared, but the relation to GPAs and ACTs is varied, as dispositions such as sense of humor, creative problem solving on behalf of unique learning style learners, flexibility and ” turning on a dime” seem to sometimes trump scores, esp. in certain more challenging settings ( e,g. Settings where poverty is high, or students with special needs are higher). Very complex. Wish there were more varied, yet somewhat simple, ways to communicate varied types of growth beyond mere test scores. That is a neglected and important issue in a diverse country such as the US which educates more varied students, ESP since IDEA of 1975, than all OECD countries to whom we are compared.

  12. Bill

    The primary systemic root of extensive underachievement is that many education professors have long rejected the most effective teaching approaches because they are ideologically opposed to structured, explicit and direct instruction. Instead they too often encourage teachers to use appealing but less effective, “constructivist” approaches. In any other profession, the rejection of validated methods in favor of unproven fads–which harm children–would be called malpractice, at least. It is especially harmful to children in reading instruction:

    “Children are routinely subjected to teaching practices that have not been tested and proven effective.”
    —Teaching Reading Is Rocket Science: What Expert Teachers of Reading Should Know and Be Able To Do; American Federation of Teachers (AFT)

    “95% of [failing students] are instructional casualties.” —Dr. G. Reid Lyon, former Chief of Child Development and Behavior, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Institute of Health

    “Our teachers generally don’t know how to teach reading. We really need to wage a battle, as educators, so that all schools of education, and schools themselves, allow for a change in the way that teachers are prepared.” —Nancy Hennessy, former president of the International Dyslexia Association

    “Thousands of new teachers are missing out on reading fundamentals.” —National Council on Teacher Quality

    “The demands of competent reading instruction, and the training experiences necessary to learn it, have been seriously underestimated by universities. The consequences for teachers and students alike have been disastrous.” — Teaching Reading Is Rocket Science, American Federation of Teachers

    “Science has incontrovertibly resolved the dispute [over how to teach reading], but those who reject the lessons of science still dominate in our colleges and universities.” —letter from Dr. Steven Dykstra, founder of the Wisconsin Reading Coalition, and 40 other education scholars: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/09/17/another-blast-in-the-reading-wars/

    “The past half century of empirical research has provided overwhelming and unambiguous evidence that for virtually all students, direct and explicit instruction is more effective and more efficient than…constructivist instructional techniques, which can increase the achievement gap.” —Richard E. Clark, Paul A. Kirschner, and John Sweller; Putting Students on the Path to Learning: The case for fully guided instruction; American Educator (American Federation of Teachers); Spring, 2012

    “Constructivism is too often seen in terms of student-centered inquiry learning, problem-based learning, and task-based learning, and common jargon words include ‘authentic’, ‘discovery’, and ‘intrinsically motivated learning’. The role of the constructivist teacher is claimed to be more of facilitation to provide opportunities for individual students to acquire knowledge and construct meaning through their own activities, and through discussion, reflection and sharing of ideas with other learners with minimal corrective intervention. THESE KINDS OF STATEMENTS ARE ALMOST DIRECTLY OPPOSITE TO THE SUCCESSFUL RECIPE FOR TEACHING AND LEARNING.” (emphasis added) —Hattie, John A. C. (2009). Visible Learning: A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses related to achievement. New York, NY: Routledge Publishers

    1. Pete

      Bill,

      I couldn’t agree more with your premise. Direct, research validated approaches are crucial. I believe strongly that this is not poor teaching. This is flat out poor LEADERSHIP. In my experience, teachers will respond to a well developed plan if presented with one and the choice of methodology should never be left to individual teachers. The building LEADER should ideally develop instructional approaches and curriculum in committee and through a process of shared leadership.

  13. David

    I read the above article and comments with much interest since I am an education student at Eastern Michigan University. A cumulative GPA of 2.5 is required for entry into the College of Education at EMU. This includes required subjects in your major and minor. A grade of “C” or higher is required in all professional education courses (http://www.emich.edu/coe/students/undergraduate/admission/initial.html). The latter surprises me the most. I think it reasonable to expect some measure of higher performance in teacher preparation courses. Why is the bar set at a “C”? I believe one facet of the problem is that teaching is not a terribly attractive career choice at present. If the bar were raised enrollment for the College of Education at EMU would drop, perhaps significantly and I envision this could be the case with other teacher preparation programs throughout the state. So the question is how do we attract better candidates to teacher preparation programs? I would argue that making teaching a more attractive career choice must be part of the bigger picture in how we choose to reform education in Michigan. Intrinsic motivation to educate young minds will only go so far.

  14. Duane

    This article raises many questions, for if it is as Mr. Miller suggests that academic achievement (learning all that is taught in the teaching college/univeristy) isn’t a valid indicator of a teahcer’s ability to teach effectively one wonders if the colleges/universities should be questioned about their programs and ask to jusity the financial support they are recieving for providing to their students.

    It also raises the question about how effective this new training program will be. The colleges/univeristies have been educating students for decades and they still haven;t figured out how to assure that a academically successful student will be successful as a teacher. I wonder who is developing the new training, for if it is the same people who are teaching in our colleges/universities I wonder why they will be so effective at the new training when they seem to be ineffective at the programs in their own schools.

    There is also the indication that certification is not effective in assuring the success of teacher, that raise the question of why even have the certification and the capabilities of those who developed or support the certification requirement.

    In future articles it would be interesting to see a real questioning about the means of verification for the claims of those who promote programs, requirements, or other means for assuring learning success in our schools.

    Why should we trust what the dean of the School of Education at the University of Michigan has to say about educational programs when we are hearing for a Superintendent that even a 4.0 graduate can be assured of even being a adequate teacher this is even after a ‘student teaching’ assignment and evaluation.

    Tgis us such and important topic and the Bridge and provide important information to the readers I hope Mr. French and others follow Mr. Power’s approach (in the most current issue of Bridge) and providing more indepth information and less about promoting a point of view.

    Rather then simply reporting flaws or failure as Mr. French does it would be interesting to hear from those who are deamed success and ask them what the credit that success to. I must admit that may means there won’t be justification of spending more money only spending it more wisely.

  15. Chuck Jordan

    Michigan fails its students in many ways. Let’s start with funding inequality and segregation. I don’t mean spending more money, but spending it where it will make the most difference. Lots of good posts. Hard to read with the words split up at the end.

    1. Duane

      Chuck,

      I am more disappointed with all the wasted effort that has been spent on systems and programs over the past decades. However, I would not say the people of Michigan have fail the children. I would say it is those people who have wasted their efforts and others people’s money have been the ones underserving the students. They have been so self centered and egotistical that they have been unwilling to look beyond what they wanted to see.
      As an example we have heard so much of class size being a reason for the fails of children because it affects the attention that the individual students would recieve. And yet if they had only looked deep rather than not want to see they might have found the work of Professors Stephen Garcia and Avishalow Tor did work with SAT and ACT scores. Class size may have to do more wit the self preception of the individual students of their likelihood of success and even their ability to compete academically with their peers. A small size group allows to the individual to feel they have a chance while a larger grour maybe intimidating.

      Aside my influence on my own children these people ‘running’ our schools have excluded many like me, aside from taking and waste our money, from helping students to succeed.

      Those people have played so long on the ‘elitist’ model to maintian their position and spending they are unwilling to try to understand the learning process and the individualism of the students to maintain their status. It is that exclusion mimd set that has ‘failed’ our students not the people of Michigan.

      1. Dennis M. Brown

        Please….As a former educator and one who spent most of his adult career working with young people there is ONE GLARING element that “:those in the know” won’t discuss! Too many young people that don’t want to learn, so they don’t! My Dad used to tell me WITH EMPHASIS ,,,they can’t crack your head open and pour the information in, YOU HAVE TO MAKE THE EFFORT! The 2nd element to a good, quality education is parents who push it and in a lot of cases are ROLE MODELS for education by having one themselves… it’s the same ole equation: Teachers instruct and students learn by participating in THEIR own education. There is an easy fix but our leadership fails to approach it because being re-elected is really more important to them. C’mon Man! Get your heads out of the sand. Dennis M. Brown (Retired because I can AND parents of too many kids make it easy for us to WANT out!) I hope parents of some of the students I tried to work with read this because they know who they are.

        1. Duane

          Dennis,

          I believe that the student decides on whether they learn or not. I agree you can ‘crack their heads open’, I do believe that there is a key, albeit unique to each student, that opens their mind to learning. But to find a ring of ‘keys’ we must start by asking the successful students, especially those who defy the expectations of the ‘experts’ and those who don’t want to learn. We need to findout the whys and hows of success and the why of avoidance.

          I agree that the legislator have a preoccupation with re-election, I am grateful for term limits. They are also lazy so the defer to the ‘experts’ who are pre-occupied with their answers and none are interested in accountability (finding out what works or doesn’t and why).

          The ‘experts’ provide the excuse of why not to try even before the students have made their first attempt. Even in this article it tells us that students fail to learn becuase of poor teacher training/preperation so they are telling the kids they won;t learn because of the teachers. I wonder if all the successful students have achieved their success inspite of poorly prepared teachers or were they the only ones to have ‘good’ techers throughtout their schooling.

  16. Jeff

    here we go again blame the teacher who has the least impact on the total education of a student (24%) according to the article. Then you limit school funding. Will not financially support what we know works. (early childhood programs and increasing the reading skills of parents. Did you know that we spend almost double the amount of money to bring one film to Michigan as we do on improving the literacy of adults in the State. A significant part of them have even graduated from school. I have to fill out 8 pages of information on every student on a weekly bases, update my web link. post my lessons on the internet. leave a message on the phone, and send notes home that you sign. Yet you show your child that it is not important because you could not show up to a parent conference. It is like blaming the dentist because your child got a cavity. The biggest influence on a student is their home environment. Start there where the most influence is.

  17. Gene Golanda

    It has been brought to my attention that the school improvement plan for the Godwin Heights district entails firing fifty percent of the current teaching staff at the end of this school year. At this time I am unaware of the methodology that will be used to accomplish this feat, and I have little confidence that the current system of teacher evaluation used in the system will allow culling the most incompetent, assuming any could actually be so labeled. It’s interesting to me that this reduction is going to occur in a school that this journal pegged as most effective in our state, all things considered. It would also appear that there will be no opportunity for those affected teachers to seek relief through the courts.

    The actions proposed by the board of education and the administration of this district, if they succeed, will certainly not result in future teacher hires feeling confident of their prospective tenure. Why would highly trained and capable teachers want to devote their care and skills in a system that holds teachers in such disregard?

    1. JC

      Are parents in your district aware of this?!?

  18. Marcia Fournier

    First of all, the list of salaries included in this article is totally irrelevant. Did you include the Cosmologist’s, Plumber’s, Doctor’s or Airplane pilot’s salaries? Of course not. People who teach are in a class of their own. Believe me, it’s not about the money. It’s a calling. Look around. Mediocre is rampant. Quit with the “who’s teaching the teachers?” headline. The article in Sunday’s Flint Journal is without facts, truth and most of all common sense. Have you ever watched what a teacher does in a one day? You should, it would boggle your mind. Let teachers’ do their job. They do a lot better job than you do.

  19. Wanda

    I invite you to any public teacher’s classroom for one day Ron French. Your article was published in the Saginaw New’s and has many teachers lost without words. Many of the facts are just not true. I am a teacher of 5 years and make $40,000. I am furthering my education that is required by the state of all teachers. That education is paid for by myself. Your reference that a plummer has 3 years training compared to a teachers 12 weeks of student teaching. Did you know that teachers are not paid for student teaching, they work for free. A plumber is paid for his training. The student teacher course mandates you cannot have another job, you must be available for whatever your mentor teacher needs. Ron can you go without pay for 12 weeks? When you get to your teaching classes, they all also require that you do hours in a school, without pay.
    I could go on and on. Next time Ron when you write an article about teachers maybe you need to interview some of them, and actually visit some classrooms for the day!

  20. John

    I’m a teacher and have long been of the opinion that it should be at least as difficult to get a teaching certificate as it is to pass the bar exam. The work teachers do is every bit as important and — considering the multi-generational effect — probably more important than the work done by lawyers.

  21. Jim D'Lamater

    Lets see, no pay step increases, no annual pay increases, no bonuses, no stock options, no company vehicle, no pension, health care no better than other professions, and having to meet ever higher continuing educational requirements beyond college graduation at my own cost, and you wonder why current teachers are bailing and many aren’t making a career out of it. New teachers are using this as a stepping stone to build experience and then move on to better paying fields, in which they can get reimbursed appropriately for their talents and raise a family.

    Remember, you get what you pay for, “pay for nothing, get nothing”. It’s not rocket science.

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