Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Refusing to be held accountable

Go check out my exchange with this PERS-retiree teacher over on his blog.

Thanks to Gus for notifying me that this guy was writing about me. The conversation is pretty revealing as to how union teachers think they should not be held accountable.

18 comments:

Charlie said...

When discussing employee accountability, whether it be teachers, accountants, bus drivers, or computer programmers....."union" and accountability" are pretty much mutually exclusive.

I'd LOVE to get together a panel of 5 or 6 winners of "National Teacher of the Year" awards (Oregon has several) and commission them to lay out how teachers can be evaluated and promoted based on those evals. Also, low performing teachers would be "held accountable" for their low performance, including demotions and terminations.

I'm all for letting the teachers decide the process but up until now, the answer is always either stone silence or "experience".

It's a shame because I happen to think that 70% of our school teachers are very good and 20% are exceptional. That 70% should earn a good deal more than the low performing 30%.....no matter the years of service.

Sigh....but that's not the union way is it?

Terry said...

And you, Rob, object to setting up "straw men" to knock down?

Your characterization of me as a PERS-retiree teacher undoubtedly plays well to your sycophantic base, but it hardly does justice to who I am and what I write. Let me set the record straight.

I retired early on a disability pension, part PERS, part SSI, due to malignant melanoma. I'm a Stage 4 survivor, currently in remission.

I am indeed an OEA/NEA member, but I clashed with the union in Hillsboro because I saw it as antipathetic to the school reform I was working on. I campaigned for the Portland school board on a platform urging the teacher's union to collaboratively negotiate contracts that went far beyond concerns of wages, benefits, and working conditions. In short, I urged them to get behind efforts to reform educational structures that were obviously not meeting the needs of today's students, especially at the high school level.

That said, I stand firmly behind collective bargaining for teachers, and I make no apologies for that.

rickyragg said...

Terry

Your "clash" with the union, which apparently establishes, in your view, your impartiality(?) is no more or less relevant than, pointing out your membership in OEA/NEA or your partial PERS pension.

That's not a "straw man" argument - it's the provision of a pertinent fact.

Kremer's track record speaks for itself - yours is somewhat less well-known.

That said; who attacked "...collective bargaining for teachers..."?

Some straw man?

Anonymous said...

Atleat he didn't refer to Rob's "base" as Psychotic.

rickyragg said...

No.

"Psychotic" would describe the attempt to reconcile "reform" with membership in OEA - which organization, as we all now know, is "...antipathetic..."

Couldn't have said it better myself.

Rob Kremer said...

Terry:
I'm glad your cancer is in remission and I hope it remains so.

I only wish I had a sycophantic base. That would be great. Maybe I could have an entourage also.

I am a bit amused that you would look to the unions to drive reform of "educational structures." Why on earth would they do that?

Do we look to the United Auto Workers to reform GM?

gus miller said...

Terry:

Are you aware of the teacher collective bargaining history in PPS since 1992. The district and teachers have established a pattern of half hearted negotiating sessions leading up to expiration of contracts, allowing contracts to expire, starting new school years under provisions of the expired contracts, disrupting the learning environment as the school years progress and then creating "crises" by threatening or taking strike votes. The "crises" bring in city and county politicians with "bridge" funding to pay wages and benefits demands to forestall the threatened strikes.

The union benefits from the leverage they get from threatening strikes while school is in session.

The district loses by being forced to accept wages and benefits increases that escalate in each new contract cycle with no assurance those "bridge funds" will be available.The district also suffers as they never get the opportunity to bargain in good faith with the union over teacher hiring and transfer provisions of the contract as well as other housekeeping matters.

PPS also suffers a higher than usual loss of students in "crisis" years as parents anticipate the "crises" and the toxicity of the learning environment that occurs in those years.

That is not collective bargaining; that is emotional blackmail.

Jack Roberts said...

Am I the only one that noticed a very positive and potentially productive discussion about the role of testing in education on the blog that Rob linked to started to turn nasty during the fifth comment and degenerated from there?

It turned sour, not when Rob mistakenly referred to Terry as Joe, but with Rob's comment, "I imagine you are a big union guy, so probably disagree with everything I have said."

Now, Rob, you know I happen to respect you and believe you have a lot to contribute to the education debate (as you did with his earlier posts in this thread) but somehow you need to get past the knee-jerk tendency to make every education discussion about teachers unions and the false assumption that teachers who belong to a union cannot have any interest in educating kids beyond their personal self-interest.

I for one would love to see a continuation of the debate, picking up where the first four comments left off.

Rob Kremer said...

Jack:
I respect you too, but I think your blame is misplaced, and you are painting with an awfully broad brush, while accusing me of doing the same.

You say I "make every education discussion about teachers unions.."

I do? Do you honestly think that is an accurate characterization of my rather extensive body of written work on education?

Now it is true that I think unionization has had a negative impact on the quality of education.

But you say I have a "false assumption that teachers who belong to unions cannot have any interest in educating kids beyond their personal self interest."

Can you point to anything I have written or said anywhere that would back up that assertion?

My statement to Terry was that if he was a "big union guy" then he probably disagreed with me. I think that is a pretty safe assumption, given that the OEA has pretty much opposed every single reform I have ever pushed, from charter schools to getting rid of CIM/CAM.

I hardly think that statement means I think every union member doesn't care about kids. It means "big union guys" (meaning teachers who are union activists) would oppose the things I suggested in my post - such as the notion that tests are good ways to hold teachers accountable.

Have you ever seen a union activist who liked test-based accountability?

Finally, I find it very amusing that you would blame my statement for making the discussion go downhill, but not even mention Terry's repeated phrases like "Kremer's sycophants", "toadies," "charter school fanatic," etc.

You read that stuff, then read my very cheerful and forthright comments full of specifics, and you swerve off the road to say that I am the one using divisive rhetoric?

Come on, Jack.

Jack Roberts said...

Rob, your points are well taken and in a way reinforce my main point: You do much better when you stick to the issues rather than people's motivations.

Your first response to his unjustfied swipe at you in his main post was very effective. In fact, I think you had him backpedaling from his original position--until you let him off the hook by throwing in the union jibe.

I understand that the teachers union has been a major source of opposition to much that you've been trying to accomplish and appreciate your frustration. I just think you undermine your effectiveness when you allow that to dominate your discussions on these topics.

I'll grant you that I took liberties in exaggerating your position. Suffice it to say I think you are far more effective when you stick to the education analysis and try to be persuasive rather than combative.

Terry said...

I reviewed the comments posted on MY blog regarding testing as a means of evaluating schools, and I couldn't find a single snide or derogatory remark in anything I wrote.

Furthermore, I could find no evidence of "backpedaling", as Jack alleges, in any of my responses to Rob. I stand firm in my belief that student test scores should never be used to judge how well schools "perform".

The quality of discourse on Rob's blog is a different matter altogether.

Rob Kremer said...

Terry:
LOL - Good one! No, the snide comments weren't written by you on YOUR blog, they were written by you on MY blog!

Jack:

Maybe I am missing how I reinforce your point. Where did I question anyone's motivations?

By saying if he was a "big union guy" he would probably disagree with me? Would it be questioning someone's motivations by saying "If you're a Democrat, you probably support a tax increase?"

I don't think it is a "swipe" at all.

Jerry said...

When did Jack Roberts get so condescending?

Rob, I've followed you for years and have always been impressed not just with your intellect and knowledge of education policy, but your willingness to engage in argument about it in a lively and fun way.

Plus, you've accomplished a great deal in a relatively short period of time, without even holding office.

For Jack Roberts to have such a condescending tone with you, I find just amazing. Who the heck is he? The guy who wants so badly not to be combative that he stands elbow to elbow with Dr. John to oppose conservative ballot measures?

That worked out pretty well for him! If he hadn't had such a yearning to liked by the union crowd, he would be governor right now.

I thought maybe he'd learned something from that, and now running for Supreme Court he'd figure out that people LIKE to have distinctions clearly drawn, and if the battle lines sometimes involve a battle - well, good!

He said he didn't think you should be combative, Rob. When you are in a fight, you better be combative or be prepared to lose. I'd like to see Jack think something is worth going to battle for.

It is amazing that Teacher Terry actually says - proudly -- that student achievement tests should never be used to evaluate teachers! OH....MY....GOD!

Rob, you hardly need to rebut him. Just hearing a teacher say such a thing is such a perfect illustration of the problem that it needs no argument.

Keep it up, Rob. And Jack - I know you were BOLI chief, and I think you did a fine job there. But when you have as solid a record as Rob in actually getting real reforms established, maybe THEN you can take such a condescending tone with him.

Until then, you might be better served by chiming in with a substantive point now and then on the issue at hand rather than lecturing Rob on how he should engage in the battle.

rickyragg said...

How does calling anyone a "big union guy" constitute a "negative" anything? Kremer's statement's just the truth.

If Terry believes wholeheartedly in the NEA/OEA's positions, priorities and practices, why would he take offense.

If, as is apparently the case with Terry, he shares some or many of the union's views, he can point out his specific disagreements. Of course he couldn't have left the union and still taught at regular public schools; so there's that open dialogue squelched.

The fact that "big union guy" is somehow construed as a pejorative by Jack Roberts indicates to me that he, too, knows that teachers unions share much of the blame for the various recurring school "funding" crises but just doesn't want to say it out loud.

"Moderation!" preaches Roberts.
"Moderation!" echo the school boards.
"Moderation!" say Potter and Linn.

Politics! say I.

Until politicians take real positions on the real issues (like the twin 400 lb. gorillas of PERS and benefits, and risk their butts doing it, the state of public education will continue its long, expensive decline.

But at least we'll do it politely.

Jack Roberts said...

Rob, maybe I was reading too much into your comment, but it seemed to me that saying "I imagine you are a big union guy, so probably disagree with everything I have said" shifted the discussion away from what had the makings of a good substantive analysis of what testing can and cannot do--on which it sounded like you and Terry might have been more in agreement than either of you initially acknowledged.

And Terry, where I saw you backpedalling was not on your substantive position but on your initial dismissal of Rob's position, which he characterized as a "straw man" and which the two of you seemed on the verge of discussing when the thread seemed to degenerate.

I'm not calling for some kind of "split the difference" moderation. I'm all for an intense debate on substance. I'm just getting very tired of the "us versus" them nature of most talk radio/cable talk show/weblog pseudo-debates where everyone talks past one another.

And if that sounds condescending, so be it.

Jack Roberts said...

Rob, maybe I was reading too much into your comment, but it seemed to me that saying "I imagine you are a big union guy, so probably disagree with everything I have said" shifted the discussion away from what had the makings of a good substantive analysis of what testing can and cannot do--on which it sounded like you and Terry might have been more in agreement than either of you initially acknowledged.

And Terry, where I saw you backpedalling was not on your substantive position but on your initial dismissal of Rob's position, which he characterized as a "straw man" and which the two of you seemed on the verge of discussing when the thread seemed to degenerate.

I'm not calling for some kind of "split the difference" moderation. I'm all for an intense debate on substance. I'm just getting very tired of the "us versus" them nature of most talk radio/cable talk show/weblog pseudo-debates where everyone talks past one another.

And if that sounds condescending, so be it.

Jerry said...

Yes, Jack, it was condescending.

If you wanted the debate to be on susbstance, why not join in with a substantive point rather than try to posture youself as some kind of "above the fray" onlooker?

The fact is, there are usually two primary sides to any policy debate. You are either on one team or the other. Try to pretend you are not, and nobody wants to pick you.

That is why you are not governor right now.

The same arrogance that made you think you could stand beside John Kitzhaber and oppose conservative ballot measures and then run for the Republican nomination for governor - that condescending arrogance is exactly what you displayed by presuming to lecture Rob about how to conduct himself.

That arrogance is your fatal flaw. At least it was fatal to your gubernatorial aspirations.

I do hope you get elected to the Supreme Court, and I intend to vote for you.

But I do worry about how your arrogance might manifest itself if you were on the court.

The fact of the matter is, Jack, Rob Kramer has far more credibility than you do in terms of gravitas in public policy/political debate right now.

Your lecturing certainly appeared to be some kind of subtle message you wanted to send that you consider yourself to be above him on the political food chain.

You're not. You once were, for sure. But the same attitude that made you feel compelled to presume to lecture Rob is the reason why you are no longer very relevant in the Oregon political arena.

Jack Roberts said...

Jerry, I wasn't trying to lecture Rob and I certainly don't consider myself "above him in the political food chain." It's precisely becaused he knows more about this subject than anyone I know that I was trying to encourage him to stick to the substance and convey it in a more effective way.

Which is precisely what he has done with his latest post over on the site he originally linked to, http://joesschool.blogs.com/olsononline/2006/02/post_2.html.

I would encourage everyone to go read Rob's last post there. It is a masterful exposition of how tests, properly utilized, can be an effective tool for holding schools accountable. That's the Rob Kremer I want to hear more from!