Archive for November, 2011

The Heritage Foundation Reports that Teachers are…Overpaid? (Are they serious?)

The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, recently released a report claiming that teachers are overpaid – and not by just a little!  The report’s author Jason Richwine claims that teachers make 50% more than they should by his estimation of their “fair market value”.

It sounds like a joke and “defies common sense” according to one’s of the report’s critics.  Teachers salaries are notoriously low considering the societal value of what they do and the long hours they put in.  Their hours spent grading papers, tutoring students who need extra help, attending school functions, and communicating with parents add nothing to the meager salaries that can barely support teacher’s families.

Most teachers must get a second job if they expect to support a household, and an article titled “Hey, Teachers: The Heritage Foundation thinks you’re overpaid” cites Jonathon Dearman, a teacher who left the teaching profession for real estate because he failed to support his family on a teacher’s salary.  “It just became a real vicious cycle … of burnout,” Dearman said of his attempts to keep up with his bills.

To justify its position the Heritage Foundation compared the salaries of teachers with the salaries of non teachers who scored similarly on the AFQT, an IQ test offered by the military.  Although teachers earn about the same salaries as their non-teacher counterparts, their impressive benefits package and job security led Richwine to conclude that their salaries could -and should – be much reduced to save taxpayer dollars.

People of a similar IQ are earning far less in the private sector, the report concludes.

As one might imagine, there has been no end to the criticism that is directed at the report’s findings and teachers need not worry – far smarter people are in the driver’s seat than the Heritage Foundation report’s author.

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Student nearly expelled from Virginia school due to a careless Facebook post

It’s in the news more and more often as the social media platform explodes in popularity: someone unwittingly posts a remark on the not-so-private forum, and suddenly that person is facing a lot of trouble.

We’ve been cautioned to watch what we say on facebook because current or prospective employers could potentially scout us out there.  We’ve seen the backlash that results when students and their teachers become facebook “friends”, leading to relationships that appear inappropriate.  As a tutor at a local tutoring company, I was expressly forbidden from accepting my students’ facebook friend requests at the outset due to past problems the company had had with their tutors becoming too chummy with students.

So it really comes as no surprise to me that a recent article titled “Student’s careless Facebook post nearly leads to expulsion” headlined on the site eSchool News.
What is surprising is that the student in jeopardy of irreparably tainting her academic record is a high achiever with a 3.5 GPA, and is an active member of her church.

After receiving a lower than expected grade on an English essay accompanied by the remark that parts of the essay were “incoherent”, Michelle Edwards vented on her friend’s Facebook wall “I say we shoot our English teacher in the face.  But then again we might not be able to carry that out since we’re so incoherent.”

Was her remark careless?  Sure.  But did she really intend to harm her teacher?  Of course not.  Her remark was something we can all imagine ourselves guilty of saying with no real bad intent but to vent.

Michelle will not be expelled, but the Chesapeake school division did elect to suspend her for 90 days, after which she will be allowed to graduate with her class.

Says her father John Edwards “My daughter was trying to make light of the situation. It was a poor choice of words. She made a sarcastic statement, and the next thing you know, it’s turned into a full-blown mess.”

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US Students Achieve Their Highest Scores Yet in Math

One result of the No Child Left Behind law, whose goal is proficiency in math and reading for every student by 2014, is that US students are showing improvement in math scores.  The National Assessment of Educational Progress reports that 40% of fourth graders tested are now proficient in math.   This represents a 4% increase since 1990.

But are these improvements enough to make US students more competitive once they finish school and enter the labor force?

According to Arne Duncan, the answer is no: “It’s clear that achievement is not accelerating fast enough for our nation’s children to compete in the knowledge economy of the 21st century.”

Because the scores fall so short of the 100% proficiency mark, many schools are now applying for waivers to the No Child Left Behind Law, and Obama is stepping in to grant them.

What is the answer to a school system that is consistently failing to produce students proficient  in math and reading?

Obama is launching a $450 billion dollar plan to reinvigorate and modernize schools, protect teachers’ jobs, and even hire new teachers.  With better technology and a better student to teacher ratio, schools might stand a chance of increasing student performance.

In the meantime, its understandable that parents are seeking private tutoring services more and more to close the gap between the education schools offer and that needed to be successful in college and beyond.  The tutoring industry is growing by leaps and bounds as people realize that in a tough economy, they’ve got to give their kids a leg up on the competition.

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