Monday, October 10, 2011

If Education Reformers Ran the NFL

Fran Tarkenton shown above sitting on his helmet in the final moments of a 32-14 Viking loss in the 1977 Super Bowl wrote an excellent article recently for the Wall Street Journal.  Tarkenton who is most known for a very long career without a Super Bowl ring to show for it joined former professional basketball player Arne Duncan in taking teachers to task. It did make me think about how great the NFL would be if run by education reformers.

  • Due to the failures of college stars like Ryan Leaf and Brian Bosworth to become great players, the college draft would be eliminated
  • To make up for the loss of new talent coming to weak teams through the draft, the worst teams would be given gifted athletes who have never played the sport before a 5 week crash course in the Summer.  Most of these players will quit after 2 years to become coaches.
  • The BCS ranking system for colleges would now exist, but instead be based on the success of the players coached by their graduates in the NFL.
  • As Tarkenton himself points out,  "Why bother playing harder or better and risk getting hurt?" if you aren't rewarded for individual accomplishments rather than team goals.  Every player will now be on an incentive contract.  Cornerbacks will be free to try for the interception at all costs rather than knocking down a pass, defensive ends can go all out for the sack and ignore draws and trap plays, wide receivers can proudly proclaim when leading 28-24 in the last minute, "Throw me the damn ball."
  • The disabled list will be eliminated.  If you can't do the job, you will be cut.
  • Teams that fail to make the playoffs will become turnaround teams.  They will cut their team, fire their organization from the general manager down to the people who work the concession stands and a new team will replace them.
  • An expansion team has the right to take over half your home field, with each team playing from 50 yard line to goal line.
  • As the NFL has the shortest season of any professional sports league, the season will be expanded to 80 games.  This will be done by eliminating off days between games and players will receive no extra compensation because it's for the good of the fans. 
  • Players will not be paid for practicing or attending training camp. Any time other than game time is optional.
  • Coaches will not be allowed to create their playbook and instead will use much of the team's budget up buying pre-scripted playbooks.
  • Players will be very poorly paid.  Instead the best paid people in the game will be announcers and pundits who continually criticize the players.
  • Players will be given gear left over from the 1970s and be expected to pay for upgrading their own equipment.
  •  Players will have no say over how they are used.  If a player signed with a team to play quarterback and they need him at defensive tackle, that's where he'll play.  If a player holds out, he will not only be released, he will be banned from playing in the league again.
This is the kind of league I could really get behind.  A game every night of the week would be awesome and with players freed up from the concentration on winning, I could root for my favorite players instead of teams.  The time for reform has come.

Friday, October 7, 2011

1 in 4 Students Are in the Bottom Quartile in Reading

School is in session. But what kind of schools are we sending our kids to?

Every morning as we send our eager fourth graders off to school, ready to learn with their backpacks and lunch boxes, we are entrusting them to an education system that accepts the fact that nearly 25% of them are reading in the bottom quartile on standardized tests.

Let me repeat again in bold for added emphasis: One in four U.S. fourth graders are reading in the bottom quartile. This is not okay.

At Last Stand for Children First, it's our goal to make sure every child in America has a great teacher in every classroom. From improving teacher evaluations, to ending seniority-based teacher layoffs, to public shamings, there are many ways we can elevate the teaching profession so that are best and brightest will embark on a teaching career for 2 or even 3 years before moving on to something else.

Class size also has an enormous impact on the economic outlook of their students. Research shows that each year, a highly effective teacher can increase the expected lifetime earnings of his or her students by $20,000. In a classroom of twenty students, the total economic impact of a highly effective teacher amounts to $400,000.  However, with the reform success that together we achieved in Michigan, we frequently see class sizes of 50.  A highly effective teacher in a class room of fifty students has an economic impact of $1,000,000. 

Our children cannot wait. Our economy cannot wait. We cannot wait. We must improve our schools now — and to do it, we must have an effective teacher under 25 years of age in every classroom. 

We'll be in touch,

Myron Miner
CEO and Founder
Last Stand for Children First

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

For Teachers - A Better Duct Tape

We're happy to announce that Tyrell Corporation has agreed to be the new supplier for Safety Tape, which is the only duct tape we endorse for use disciplining students.  The tape has a moisturizing lotion on the adhesive side, which prevents the tape from drying out. while still being extremely secure.    Safety Tape  is available in a wide variety of fun colors from Silent Sable to Noiseless Navy.  We are also working on a new brand of Velcro restraints that we hope to have out for next year’s TFA convention.  Look for Safety Tape from Tyrell wherever better school supplies are sold.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Tailoring an Education Plan to Fit the Student Population

When Chicago's Education Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced plans to add 90 minutes onto the Chicago Public Schools day next year, he was greeted with a lot of skepticism from the Chicago Teachers Union.   Long the impediment of serious reform, the teachers union fired back with a ridiculous proposal to have all Chicago Public Schools have a school day that resembled the school day that the mayor had chosen for his own children at the exclusive private University of Chicago Lab School.

Now, growing up I was fortunate to go to an exclusive private school myself and I can tell you that things like a class size of 15 and a well-stocked school library were very important to us and I believe those sorts of things are very important to children from upper class families.  During their school day they need to develop the critical thinking skills that they need to be future leaders.  Their school day shouldn't extend too far into the afternoon because a long school day would interfere with their myriad after school activities.

However, not all students are from well to do, mostly white families, like the ones at the school I attended.  Many students in Chicago are poor minority students suffering through low teacher expectations in old overcrowded classrooms without libraries.  These students are behind and if we are ever to close the achievement gap, they need to work hard to drill and drill so that through rote memorization they can catch up.

The same type of education does not work for all students and it is a mistake by the Chicago Teachers Union to act like it does.   Fortunately, the people of Chicago can see right through this sort of dodge.

As I read through the letter columns of the article I linked earlier I was glad to see people like Illinoisrez who said:

Reasons NOT to use the CTU model.
1) More art classes.
2) More music classes
4) More lunch and recess.
4) More physical education.
5) Second Language.

The classes suggested by the CTU are worthless to the average CPS student who is falling further and further behind the achievements of private school children.

And best of all he wasn't alone.   Toughlove said, "Please don't confuse cause and effect when talking about "good schools". The Lab School is NOT a good model for CPS "reform." The Lab School's rigorous academic curriculum, while great for high-IQ students, is not appropriate appropriate for the typical low-IQ CPS student and would only aggravate the already high drop-out rate."

Many other Chicagoans came forth to say, "The arts?  You can't handle the arts."   Now in uncharacteristic Chicago newspaper fashion The Sun-Times has followed up on the students who have been lucky enough to have their school day extended this year.  Antonio Smith, a student at Fiske who lengthened their day by the requisite 90 minutes said, "“I think it sucks.  It was more time, but was the same stuff.”

The same stuff?  I know it may be boring, but that my friend is exactly what your brain needs to develop into the type of adult brain that can perform simple tasks and not question superiors--exactly the type of brain that will make you successful.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The High Frustration of Higher Education

You know that high performance sports car that you have sitting in the garage?  No, not the Mustang; I'm talking about the Jaguar.  Sure, Jaguar is a mark of excellence and fine British engineering, but let's face it--Jaguar's are forever needing service and finding parts is a real pain.  So what do you do?  You can't exactly put Ford Focus parts into a Jaguar.

I imagine working in the admissions department at the University of Phoenix must be a lot like owning a Jaguar.   You have this elite university, but where can you get students who are capable of taking advantage of the world class education you can provide?  The public schools have failed.  That's been clear already by the less than stellar record that University of Phoenix graduates have in the job market.  The problem rests with our nation's public schools.

One thing that education reformers and advocates for the status quo both fail to see is the harm that poor public schools do cause for institutions of higher learning like University of Phoenix.  Even statistics showing what percentage of students are college ready fail to show what percentage of students are ready for elite schools like UP.

I believe that UP realized this as well and that's why they've spent a lot of money advocating for reform.  Programs like Education Nation have been sponsored very heavily by UP because they know quality education doesn't only prepare quality students, it prepares Phoenixes.