Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Don't Work Too Hard

If people ever wonder why I don't send my children to public schools here is one of the reasons why I don't. The following piece appeared on John Stossel's Blog. As long are unions are in schools, public education will be about the teachers and not about educating students. There is not telling how much potential was never reached because of fine teachers like Jamie Escalante are pushed out of public schools. Public schools will not improve until unions are removed from schools and funds follow the child and not the institution.

Spelling and grammar errors as well as typos are left as an exercise for my readers.

Quote of the Day - "One of the greatest things you have in life is that no one has the authority to tell you what you want to be. You’re the one who’ll decide what you want to be. Respect yourself and respect the integrity of others as well. The greatest thing you have is your self image, a positive opinion of yourself. You must never let anyone take it from you."
Jaime Escalante Educator

April 1, 2010 11:01 AM EDT by John Stossel
Teachers Unions: Don't Work Too Hard!

Jaime Escalante -- the math teacher who became famous for teaching even the poorest kids calculus in a failing Los Angeles school -- died this week at age 78. His story shows not just what can be accomplished by great teachers, but also what damage unions can do.

Escalante got national attention when 14 out of 15 of his students at a low-ranking Los Angeles school passed the Advanced Placement Calculus exam. By 1987, 73 students from the school passed the AP calculus exam -- more than all but six other schools in the country. After a movie about his success, called "Stand and Deliver", was released in 1988, Escalante became an icon for showing that even the most disadvantaged kids could learn complex subjects if given the right instruction.

I would think that any reasonable education system would reward Mr. Escalante. But this is a unionized public school we're talking about. As Reason Magazine reported several years ago:

One assistant principal threatened to have him dismissed, on the grounds that he was coming in too early (a janitor had complained), keeping students too late, and raising funds without permission.

Can you imagine if a private school operated like that? Sadly, the story gets worse.

After Stand and Deliver was released, Escalante became an overnight celebrity... This attention aroused feelings of jealousy. In his last few years at Garfield, Escalante even received threats and hate mail. In 1990 he lost the math department chairmanship, the position that had enabled him to [teach students from 9th grade on, so that they would have adequate preparation once they got to his calculus class.]

But Escalante kept teaching, sometimes with classes of 50 students or more.

Calculus grew so popular at Garfield that classes grew beyond the 35-student limit set by the union contract. Some had more than 50 students. Escalante would have preferred to keep the classes below the limit had he been able to do so without either denying calculus to willing students or using teachers who were not up to his high standards. Neither was possible, and the teachers union complained about Garfield's class sizes. Rather than compromise, Escalante moved on.

School officials were unapologetic. One official said:

"We were doing fine before Mr. Escalante left, and we're doing fine after."

The result? Over the next five years, the number of students at the school passing AP calculus tests plummeted from 85 a year to just 11.

It is impossible to record all the innovations that unions have destroyed. But unions are clearly one reason that even though America spends more money on education than other countries, American students score near the bottom on international tests.

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