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11 June 2014



"[If] schools of education [colleges and universities] and public school employers insisted that prospective teachers score above 496 on the verbal subtest of the SAT (the mean of college students who do not choose to go into education), nearly 70% of those in the National Longitudinal Study sample who indicated they were committed to teaching would be denied access to that occupation."

"The Distribution of Academic Ability in the Teaching Force:Policy Implications", Vance & Schlecty, Phi Beta Kappan, Sept 1982

I can't help but think choosing a minimum SAT for hiring (and, for existing teachers, counselors and administrators, the same minimum SAT for receiving pay increases or promotions) would go a long way towards increasing the quality of education.


The Teacher's union is no friend to children. The union is always there to protect teachers that have done harm to kids. That same union ruins another teacher who had spoke up about another "perv" teacher.
The reports of these incidents are easy to find on the net,, if one just cares to look.
I'm sure "more money" is all it will take to fix all those ills....


"The union is always there to protect teachers that have done harm to kids."

Nevada Joint Union High School District teachers have, since circa 2007, had to sign an affidavit every semester attesting the grades being given are based on the work performed by the student.

If any one wants to know who the local high school teacher giving fraudulent grades was, buy me a drink or two. Hint: he had a habit of giving lousy math grades to boys (multiple) who were smarter than he was. The three victims I know of either have or are well on the way towards PhD's in math or the physical sciences.

Apparently, the district was too spineless to come down on him without a signed document that the grades weren't fraudulent. So now, local high school teachers have to sign that they actually give grades based on the work performed.

George Boardman

You paint with too broad a brush when you suggest a large fraction of K-12 teachers are incompetent. My daughter teaches high school math at the most advanced level and her colleagues are bright, committed people who view their work as a mission.

They are a refreshing contrast to the hacks, clock punchers, and incompetents I encountered during almost 30 years of working for Fortune 500 companies. As the recent debacle at GM illustrates, nothing has changed since I retired.

George Rebane

GeorgeB 358pm - Sadly the evidence suggests that my brush is perhaps too narrow, and that your daughter is blessed to work with an outlier cohort of colleagues. Starting with the stats referenced in the piece I cite, the story goes down from there. There is no getting around that the large mass of K-12 teachers are drawn from the scholastic dregs. My own experience in vetting teachers from multiple school districts, along with their 'work product' corroborates what the numbers and the well documented reporting has told us over the years. Denial of their large numbers by well-meaning people has been a strong contributor to the unions' arguments to keep public education in the toilet.

(In my profession of engineering I ran across only two incompetent colleagues out of the hundreds with whom I worked and hired over the decades. And my experience is not unique.)

Russ Steele

George @ 03:58PM

One data point does not make a trend! How do you account for the continued decline in US student math and science scores on global tests? If a large cohort of math and science teachers are competent, why are student scores declining?

Bill Tozer

God bless Brown vs the Board of Education. That Supreme decision said students have a right to better than sub par education. The LA judge cited it in his/her decision.

Hey teachers, somebody is actually thinking about the kids and its the kids! They brought this suit upon the teachers, teachers unions/school board cause they know full well they were being taught Squat Didley and falling behind and putting THEM (the students) and their futures at a huge disadvantage. They sued because they are receiving sub par education. No longer about poor schools, its now about the rotten apples who costs tens of thousands of dollars AND years to be shown the door.

One thing I liked what then Candidate Obama said is "If bad teachers are doing a piss poor job in regards to the teaching profession, they SHOULD seek another line of work" (my paraphrase).

Its about high time that someone is public education is looking out for the students' welfare. Oh course the Teachers Union is filing an appeal. That is a no brainer (pun intended). Results just might matter.....knock on wood. Accountability might matter, double knock on wood. Think I will hold my breath before doing the Moon Walk.


So what gives with Ca.? The Lefty idea of throwing money at the issue has worked out SO well here.. I do believe Ca. spends more the 50 cents out of every tax dollar on education. Yet the end product is second rate.

George Rebane

So when does competing with Mississippi for the bottom elevate us to second rate?


"You paint with too broad a brush when you suggest a large fraction of K-12 teachers are incompetent."

GB, far too many really are, and if they manage to survive their first two years, under the tenure system, they probably have a job for life as long as they can manage not to have sex with the kiddies.

My dad was a middle school administrator, and I remember they literally had a teacher they could not get rid of who chose not to teach... my little sister had him for a year, he'd give out assignments at the beginning of class and then read the newspaper, refusing to answer questions. They couldn't fire him until he was arrested for picking up boys in the park. At least he didn't *literally* screw his own students.

I spent a year teaching algebra to GATE kids at a middle school, between my 3rd and 4th years in physics. Taught me I liked teaching smart kids but the school itself was an intellectual backwater as far as staff was concerned.

Joe Koyote

The conservative assessment of education seems to be tainted by the desire to discredit the teaching profession, which is a corporate ploy to privatize our public schools. Systems theory tells us that there is no single reason for anything (the principle of multiple causation). Your reasoning fails to take social issues into account. Students who don't want to learn won't. You cannot blame teachers for students who are too busy with social media to pay attention or give a damn. You can't blame teachers for a society that values 15 minutes of fame more than education. How many of you have had to babysit someone else's screwed up kid five days a week? Everyone likes teaching the "smart kids" but they aren't the problem. It all starts at home, so instead of bashing teachers who have to try and educate all the children and not just the smart ones, try bashing crappy parents who don't adequately prepare their children for life in the real world. Try bashing the parents who sit their kids in front of the TV with a box of Fruit Loops instead of raising them. Education starts at home and the pattern is pretty much cast in stone BEFORE the children even start school. Yes, as in all professions, there are good and bad apples, but to cast all teachers with such a broad brush is simply not accurate.

One final observation-- all the emphasis on math and science is baloney. There are 12 learning centers in the brain of which math and science are just two. It is like trying to pound a square peg into a round hole, not all students have an aptitude in those areas and to judge all students by those criteria creates a false impression of the whole. Have a nice day y'all.

Todd Juvinall

I would suggest that the proof is in the pudding. How people like JoeK can read the facts and then deny the teachers may have some responsibility for the dumbing down of the American students is really telling about the left. In their minds they have "good intentions" but in reality they are a failure. I have a few friends who are teachers and conservative. They are shut down in the coffee break room by the overwhelming number of lib teachers. I have said repeatedly over the years the olny way to fix American problems is to get rid of tenure and overhaul civil service. Along with disallowing government unions too. There is no way to fix the country until these things are done. The brave Judge is a great start but the power of the left in California will overwhelm his decision.


"One final observation-- all the emphasis on math and science is baloney."

JoKe, that is the looniest, most ignorant thought of yours I can recall. No, not all kids have the desire or the ability to be mathematicians or scientists, but every bright faced Kindergartener walking in the front door of their public elementary school, and their parents, have the right to an education that includes a path that could lead to a career in math, chemistry, engineering, physics or associated fields. I have heard Grass Valley School District administrators say the smart kids will do fine without help, and that is not true. Make them sit in class with their time wasted, bored stiff hour after hour, day after day, week after week, year after year and what you are doing is teaching them to hate school *and* they are falling behind their peers who aren't being bored in competent districts.

No, we don't need to ramp up "STEM" students (we have plenty of "STEM" "workers"), but all kids and their parents have a right for an education that could result in a "STEM" career. Or Music, Writing, fine arts, graphic arts or any number of things. Or just a citizen with a warehouse job with a basic understanding of life, the universe and everything.


Joe... Even ditch diggers need math to get the job done.
Ever see what happens in any store when the power goes out?
The minimum wage worker can't even count change without an electronic device.
( you know,, a cash register?) The place shuts down.
GOD help them if the power is out for more than 24 hours.

Joe Koyote

No one said to deny people math or science or we don't need math or science. My point is that test scores and outcomes in those areas don't tell the whole picture as not everyone is so inclined. The other point I am trying to make is: It is spurious to judge teachers by test scores when there are more factors involved in learning than just the competence of a teacher like the competence and desire of the students. It is a two way street.

Todd Juvinall

JoeK, if what you say is true then how did America get to the moon? How did we become the greatest economy on earth? My goodness!


So Joe,, piss poor grades are no reflection on the one doing the teaching? Really?? So now blame the children.. What next? Blame the parents? Remember now.. It the LIBs that are dug in tick deep, that say " WE know better than parents. WE need to be the "responsible" people for children's well being.
These are the same people that hate "parental rights", because they "work" in the education field, and have a title. They also have CPS on speed dial. If a parent says something that they deem "offensive", or challenges their "authority", a quick call to the "kid- nappers" and CPS will be on one's doorstep within hours. ( personal experience)

Joe Koyote

Todd 1:31-- can you read and comprehend English? Your comment has no relevance.

Walt 1:58 What next? Blame the parents?" I am not blaming the kids, I am blaming the parents. One of my oldest and dearest friends got a doctorate in education. As part of her dissertation, she and 12 others did a study of what worked or didn't work to improve student achievement. Money didn't work. Throwing money at schools was a waste. The best indicator of whether or not a student would do well in school was the attitude of their parents. If parents taught their children that school was important and they should work hard to succeed, they did. If parents taught their children that school was unimportant then they did piss poor. So yes, I put the blame on parents not on teachers.

Todd Juvinall

JoeK, your response is ridiculous. Of course my comment went over your head since you really have no clue about the importance of math and the skill of the teachers. Sorry I gave you something you could not understand. I'll do my best to lower the educational level to say, third grade? Too funny.

George Rebane

re JoeK's 848am - I am not familiar with causational constraints in systems theory that Joe cites - especially the "principle of multiple causation". And that there is a math learning center, and a science learning center, and then there are ten more such in the brain - pray, out of what branch of phrenology are you digging this?

And placing the mastery of math and science on some par level with the other supposed 'centers of learning' sure explains away why progressive education policy has created the tragedy that are America's public schools. I do credit you with being an able local spokesman for the trail of tears that started with the Great Society. (And now we await the coup de grace of Common Core.)

While all understand that many factors affect learning, we are here talking about an education policy that promotes, hires, coddles, nay, succors incompetent teachers, the record of whose performance and achievements are a recognized and recorded matter of national disgrace. We cannot change a child's parents, but we can change his teachers.

Russ Steele


I agree that it is the parents responsibility to send a child to school ready to learn, both physically and mentally. But, it is the teachers responsibility to implement that learning in the willing child. I agree that the parents attitude toward education is vital. But, in many cases the student is ready and willing to learn, the parents have done their job, but the teacher fails to perform. We experienced that at Nevada Union with our daughters. For years the Math department certification was marginal, the instructors were incapable of teaching advanced math to the willing students, let alone the reluctant students. As hard as we tried, we could only get one part time instructor removed from the staff. Upon graduation with 4.0 average, our budding scientist was required to take remedial math in college. Her high schools math instructors had failed to perform. When the #4 daughter arrived at NU we hired a math tutor to fill in the gaps. Not every family has that option.


JoKe, I'm going to guess your Ed PhD friend didn't try correlating teacher subject matter competence to student outcomes; that's one that they do their best to ignore.

Education department research has a reputation for poor quality, probably related to having bottom of the barrel SAT and GRE scores among their students; there are quality education researchers but not nearly as many as one would hope.

Yes, good parents keep their kids from failing, and sometimes that includes hiring tutors or enrolling their kids in the local Kumon because the schools their property taxes are being spent on are being run by incompetents and the best teachers ran for the exits before their kid walked in the door.

It wasn't lousy parenting that drove kids in my son's class at Hennessey School to half being in the bottom quartile in language and math, or the Alta Sierra School parents with essentially the same demographics being so great that all their kids were in the top 50%... it was incompetents at the GVSD, and good administrations with competent teachers at Pleasant Ridge.

Joe Koyote

Gregory 10:49 -- I am going to guess that you have very little to no experience in a classroom and know very little or next to nothing about education other than your own personal experience with your children. I love it when "experts" such as yourself make rash judgements about professions about which they are ignorant and are merely repeating conservative talking points they heard on Fox news or talk radio. Of course "Education department research has a reputation for poor quality, " because that it what you want to believe whether or not it actually reflects reality or not.

Russ- 8:12 -- I am not defending poor teachers at all.. My point is simply that education is a two way street and to make an accurate assessment of the quality of an educational system one needs to include both he family side and the teacher side and not just hammer all the teachers. There are good and bad just like every other profession.

George 7:16 -- If you are not familiar with systems theory I suggest you try picking up virtually any lower division group communication textbook and give a look.. it's there as systems theory is commonly used as an analytical tool in that field.

Happy Fathers day.

George Rebane

JoeK 859am - Sorry for being so obtuse in my 716pm, with tongue in cheek I was merely suggesting that you seemed to be ignorant of systems theory, especially as witnessed by your telling remarks about causation and cognition. Will try to be more clear next time.

But as a lifelong professional in systems (both theory and development) I recommend that when you do start learning any of the tools which systems theory encompasses, please do NOT enter the field through any "group communication textbook" in sociology and/or psychology. 'Group communications' is just one of a large number of non-STEM areas that have sought to legitimize themselves academically by borrowings from the language and tools of the systems sciences. Fields ranging from finance to mushroom horticulture have benefitted from adopting some of the analytical approaches taught in what in engineering are known as systems courses.

Your "Systems theory tells us that there is no single reason for anything (the principle of multiple causation)." Given the parenthetical, I take your imprecise "single reason" to mean "single cause". Anyone who has studied either science or systems (causation) knows that we understand caused events lie at the terminus of either causal basins or causal beams (q.v.) - the latter allowing identification of a single precursor cause which, if removed, completely determines whether the caused event does or not occur. Arguing that such single cause was preceded by progenitor causes (back to the Big Bang?) is a fool's errand that quickly terminates analysis.

And your belief that the brain contains regions which may be called "learning centers" does indeed hearken back to the early days of phrenology. What recent and current science has shown is that the brain is a very distributed parallel processor with the capacity to perform various functions (e.g. learn math) that results from widely located neural structures (not all yet known) exhibiting the amazing capacity to continue functioning when some of these structures are damaged or even removed. The rise of cognitive science in the 1970s attempted the 'boxes and arrows' approach to modeling the brain as a system, but that quickly failed as better imaging and axon/dendrite measurement techniques were developed. Yet some people still attempt to understand a complex distributed (and dynamic) system in terms of localized boxes and arrows. These troglodytes will soon abandon that approach or wind up in another scientific box canyon, there waiting for a visionary to return them to seminal ideas from which progress can be made.

But I am heartened that you are taking an interest in the systems approach. And if you really want to dig into systems theory, starting with an understanding of what it is, please wade into Modern Control Theory (3rd ed) by William Brogan. This is the perennial classic in the field with early chapters covering the broad aspects of systems thinking. Here you will quickly learn that unless you understand at least the broad outlines of systems definition, identification, transfer function, observability, controllability, and estimation, then people who wax about systems are just blowing smoke out of their sunless portals. (Full disclosure – Brogan is my academic sibling, both of us having shared the same doctoral committee chairman and dissertation adviser.)

For understanding probability and probabilistic reasoning, you can do no better than Judea Pearl’s Probabilistic Reasoning in Intelligent Systems: Networks of Plausible Inference (2nd ed). And to go deeper into modern causality, the seminal classic in the field is Pearl’s Causality: Models, Reasoning, Inference. Pearl taught the world how to solve Bayesian networks and is the inventor of causal calculus. Both Brogan and Pearl require a certain level of comfort in mathematics. (Full disclosure – Judea Pearl is my mentor in all things requiring probabilistic reasoning and also my co-researcher/author in machine learning. Search ‘Judea Pearl’ on RR.)

An alternative yet excellent entry point to a useful understanding about and application of systems thinking for people with a more modest math background is provided by MIT's John Sterman in his award-winning Business Dynamics: Systems Thinking and Modeling for a Complex World.

Enjoy, and we’ll then talk later.


" I am going to guess that you have very little to no experience in a classroom and know very little or next to nothing about education other than your own personal experience with your children. I love it when "experts" such as yourself make rash judgements about professions about which they are ignorant and are merely repeating conservative talking points they heard on Fox news or talk radio. Of course "Education department research has a reputation for poor quality, " because that it what you want to believe whether or not it actually reflects reality or not."-JoKe

Here you go, JoKe, GRE scores by intended major. Education is the bottom of the academic barrel:

My father (rest his soul) got his master's in education from USC. All his friends were school counselors and administrators. I took a year off between my 3rd and 4th years of my physics studies to teach algebra to GATE kids in my old neighborhood, and the feedback from parents was that for the first time, ever, their kids questions were getting answered. It was a good year, but hanging around with teachers the rest of my life would have resulted in heavy alcohol consumption, not to mention living on the Democratic plantation.

So, it does appear all of your guesses are incorrect, not that many would be surprised.

As P.J.O'Rourke has written, "[Reagan Ed. Sec'y William] Bennett always seemed about to say, "Anybody who doesn't know what's wrong with America's schools never screwed an el-ed major."

So, Joe, do you want your kids/grandkids taught by teachers from the top third of the college crop, or the bottom third? They're mostly getting the bottom third now.


"So, Joe, do you want your kids/grandkids taught by teachers from the top third of the college crop, or the bottom third? They're mostly getting the bottom third now."

Mr. Koyote, cat got your tongue? Did my citation of actual GRE scores take the wind out of your sails? The open secret of the SAT/GRE is that the M+V, at least for students fluent in English, is a rough estimate of IQ when the decimal point is moved left one notch. So, for those intending a Graduate degree in Special Education, the average IQ is about 93. Not Rocket Scientist material, are they?

BTW there is a decent Other Voices on Common Core today.



Joe Koyote,

I supplied you with information from the College Board, GRE scores by intended graduate study. So, did you grok the issue? Was I pulling your leg when I described Education grad students in the USA being the bottom of the academic barrel?

"I love it when "experts" such as yourself make rash judgements about professions about which they are ignorant and are merely repeating conservative talking points they heard on Fox news or talk radio." -JK

So, Joe, did writing that make you feel good? I won't believe your tantrum is over until you revise your remarks.

For one thing, I'm not a conservative and never have been. Nothing was "rash"; I had ~19 years of schooling myself, my father and all his friends were public school staff, I taught Algebra in a public middle school for a year (did lunch supervision, too), my first wife, my college sweetheart, was an adjunct professor of Mathematics at Sierra College when she passed away in 2001. I certainly did pay special attention to my kid's education, and that worked out particularly well.

Besides talking to your friend with the Ed.D., what have you done?


JoKe, still waiting.

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