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Thursday, October 24, 2013

Thomas Friedman, um what did he say about public education again?

Some people like him but I find his writing reminds me of a reasonably bright 14 year old meandering on about a subject far above his head.

Apparently he is in china with Wendy Kopp the founder of Teach for America as she seeks to spread her brand of Mcteaching around the globe.

He wrote: Shanghai’s Qiangwei Primary School, with 754 students — grades one through five — and 59 teachers, I think I found The Secret:

After I read that I thought I had found the secret too, a class size with a ratio of 13-1. Smaller classes are often chided by education reformers but the truth is they are one of the reforms with evidence that says it works. 

He also wrote why he felt teachers there were so successful: These are: a deep commitment to teacher training, peer-to-peer learning and constant professional development, a deep involvement of parents in their children’s learning, an insistence by the school’s leadership on the highest standards and a culture that prizes education and respects teachers.

I wonder if Wendy Kopp picked up on anything or if he noticed the irony being there with her. You see her organization does the exact opposite of what is described above.  Instead it takes non-education types and puts them through a five week access course before dumping them in our neediest classrooms. Her organization by the way is insulting to professional teachers as she tries to turn teaching from a profession into a service job that she believes anybody can do.

It turns out however that it’s not the smaller classes that have led to their success it’s the small amount of teaching that their teachers actualy do. Read the following sitting down please:

Teng Jiao, 26, an English teacher here, said school begins at 8:35 a.m. and runs to 4:30 p.m., during which he typically teaches three 35-minute lessons. I sat in on one third-grade English class. The English lesson was meticulously planned, with no time wasted. The rest of his day, he said, is spent on lesson planning, training online or with his team, having other teachers watch his class and tell him how to improve and observing the classrooms of master teachers.

So first classes are just 35 minutes long?!? I have long said our classes (90 minutes in my district) are way too long and lead to down time and discipline problems. If teachers only had to teach in 35 minute spurts they would undoubtedly be going full speed the whole time. More amazingly however is this guy just teaches for 105 minutes or about a third of the time most teachers I know do. He is there for 8 hours a day but spends just an hour-forty-five teaching. He has more planning period a day than most teachers do in a week.   

Friedman has never been a friend of public education and teachers and before he writes his next rant slamming them I hope he remembers the things he saw, that adequate resources and appreciated well trained teachers lead to results and a lack of resources and overworked and marginalized teachers don't.  Then I hope he tells Kopp to get a clue too.

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