Bob Plain is the editor/publisher of Rhode Island's Future. Previously, he's worked as a reporter for several different news organizations both in Rhode Island and across the country.

11 responses to “New Leaders Council Hosts Progressive Meet Up”

  1. Pat Crowley

    Excuse  me? What is progressive about union busting?  Really? Ri-can? Achievement First? Young Voices? Sorry,  I don’t think so.

     

  2. EssaySea

     I know of no union busting by NLC. They’re a great organization as are RI-CAN, Achievement First and Young Voices. I assume you’re referring to the debate between “new methods” of educational delivery vs teachers unions. That’s an issue between adults. The organizations you’re disparaging are concerned with the kids. They put educational results before political causes…hence the label “progressive”.
     Progressives are about solving the problems of those in need using any resources currently available…waiting until “everyone’s happy” or until a “perfect scenario” exists would not qualify as Progressive. Neither would compromising on the end objective (the delivery of a quality education) in order to satiate an outside party (a particular union). The ultimate Progressive action would be the partnership between all parties focusing on the same objective, but that’s difficult when different priorities exist. 
     Progressives support teachers BTW. Many progressives are actually teachers (this is true of NLC as well); they just cannot justify having anything besides educational results as the highest priority. 

    1. PinkHatLib

      “…waiting until ‘everyone’s happy’ or until a ‘perfect scenario’ exists would not qualify as Progressive. Neither would compromising on the end objective (the delivery of a quality education) in order to satiate an outside party (a particular union).” First off, teachers are not an outside party. That you think their interests aren’t relevant is telling. Anyone saying that is highly suspect imho. Out of curiousity, you don’t see RI-CAN or corporations like AF as outside parites? Second, the debate is not about doing nothing or doing something that is “not perfect.” High-stakes testing, ranking of schools, teacher evaluations, top-town “rigorous” standards and controls, none of those work. Inaction is preferrable to doing something demonstraby harmful. Process improvement experts have warned against these methods for decades. Read Deming, please!!

      1. RightToWork

        I’ve read Deming. The practices you mention are clumsy, ineffective responses to an underlying quality problem. But they are just that – responses, so stopping them wouldn’t fix the schools beyond whatever incremental damage those practices are doing. What progressives don’t offer is an alternative method of resolving the underlying problem besides denying that it exists in the first place. The “beads” would still be coming out red.

        I think Deming really should have stuck with manufacturing, to be honest. Treating schools like assembly lines was a case of “every problem looking like a nail” to him after his initial success in that area, kind of like Einstein’s failed unifying theory. Perhaps a discussion for another time.

        1. PinkHatLib

          “What progressives don’t offer is an alternative method of resolving the underlying problem besides denying that it exists in the first place.”

          That’s, of course, completely false. There are already many, many schools that operate with a progressive education model. In fact most schools already use some progressive ideas, which is why progressives are so concerned about losing ground with the current fad of high-stakes testing.

          “Treating schools like assembly lines…”

          That’s not at all what Deming said to do. You can’t have read much that he wrote and believe that to be true. What he said was you need to treat process improvement as process improvement, no matter what the industry (**by what method**). It’s up to those working in education to determine what to do using those methods. Consider this exchange with Dr. Deming:

          [quote]
          WCEA:  We’ve been trying to think of some general question that you could perhaps comment on. Or, perhaps there is something specific that you would like to say to people in education that we could share. (Dr. Deming looked at the first question which was, “What should be the aim of schools?”)

          Dr. Deming:  Well, what do you think should be the aim of schools?

          WCEA: (Nervous laughter) Well, that’s part of what we are trying…

          Dr. Deming: To me they should restore and nuture the yearning for learning that the child is born with. Why drag it out?

          WCEA:  (long pause) Right. The second question is, how do you know when you are getting there?

          Dr. Deming: Don’t you have a theory on how to do it?

          WCEA:  Well we are searching. We have theories on how to give tests and take attendance…

          Dr. Deming: That’s no good. That’s no good.

          WCEA:  We need a theory on how to measure this yearning for learning.

          Dr. Deming: No you don’t. You need a theory on what you ought to be doing.

          WCEA:  OK.

          Dr. Deming: To preserve and nuture the yearning for learning, that everyone is born with.

          WCEA:  How can you measure?

          Dr. Deming: Don’t measure. For heaven’s sake, I’ve been trying to say, “DON’T MEASURE.” Whatever you can measure is inconsequential.

          WCEA:  Right. Right. So what would be a theory that one might have in.

          Dr. Deming: I don’t know. That’s your job. Not mine.

          WCEA:  Right.

          Dr. Deming: You ought to have one. That’s your job to have it.
          [end quote]

          See not at all what he said, well unless you think the purpose of assembly lines are to preserve and nuture the yearning for learning that everyone is born with. As for “sticking to manufacturing,” you do realize that Deming taught at NYU? It’s small wonder he had strong opinions on education.

          1. RightToWork

            “There are already many, many schools that operate with a progressive education model.”

            I’ve seen the results in the schools for myself. Children who can’t read by 1st grade, can’t do basic math without counting on their fingers, parroting progressive key words to get out of time out for behavioral problems, etc. If a school doesn’t have a rigorous, quick-paced curriculum with feedback and accountability for the students, the students will inevitably drift and fall behind. Teachers also need to be highly qualified, and bad teachers need to be evaluated in *some* form and removed from the classroom. Hostile, radical teachers unions in this country, unlike unions in countries like Finland, make this impossible and are thus a hindrance to the education of the children.

            The Deming exchange supports my point. He is making a limited set of suggestions on how to avoid making the problem worse through misguided remedies like high-stakes testing, but when asked about addressing the fundamental problem with the schools, he just says, “That’s your job.” Fine for him, I suppose, but progressives need to offer something more than that.

            I realize tyhat I might have chosen  my words poorly. I do not think Deming literally wants schools run like assembly lines, but I think the issue of quality education in schools requires a much more nuanced and often different approach than correcting the issue of quality in manufacturing. His fundamental assumption that all children yearn to learn and better themselves is no longer true in this country, if it ever was. Many students have no interest in school beyond socializing or have severe behavioral problems, and they poison the experience for everyone else. Private schools address this problem well from a libertarian/conservative perspective. If progressives don’t like that approach for various reasons, we’d like to hear an alternative from them.

            1. PinkHatLib

              “I’ve seen the results in the schools for myself.”

              And so have I at the elite private schools in the state, which are quite progressive (those that a visited.. quite a few btw) and who oddly don’t rely heavily on standardizing testing to tell them how they’re doing. You put forward a strawman and knocked it down. I don’t see any reason to have to defend it.

              “I think the issue of quality education in schools requires a much more nuanced and often different approach than correcting the issue of quality in manufacturing”

              And yet, we’ve adopted a method for improvement that is absurdly simplified from what is done to improve operations on a factory floor. No one said this would be easy. Those they promise that, have another agenda. I apply those techiques in software development. Arguably harder than manufacturing and yet we use the same method.

              1. RightToWork

                “And so have I at the elite private schools in the state”

                Really – please tell me which ones. I’ve at some point attended or had a sibling attend most of the “elite” schools in the Providence area. Moses Brown, Wheeler, Providence Country Day, and all the rest of them use grades and testing heavily (maybe not “standardized” – whatever that would mean in a private school). There are rigorous, set curriculums that aren’t driven by the students. Teachers are regularly evaluated. Parents get report cards. There are strict behavioral rules in effect. In what sense is that progressive education? None of the central tenets are there. They achieve success because they are selective in hiring and admission, and the incentives for management, teachers, students, and parents are all properly aligned in the private model. In public schools, the product is free and the teachers can never be fired, so a certain segment of the population stops caring and drags everyone else down.

                1. PinkHatLib

                  I’ve visited Wheeler, Moses Brown, and Gordon (fwiw, I’ve yet to see any type of ranking of my daughter such as a letter grade). You’re focused on the idea of grades (for those that don’t know, Deming proposed eliminating grades) and evaluations, but I value these elements of progressive education:

                  Attending to the whole child
                  Community
                  Collaboration
                  Social justice
                  Intrinsic motivation
                  Deep understanding
                  Active learning
                  Taking kids seriously

                  In so much as testing can support those, I support it’s use. High-stakes testing, carrot and stick approaches to evaluation (of schools, teachers, students) actually work against those goals.

  3. EssaySea

    @PinkHat:

    Just some clarifications:
    1. I never said Teachers were the outside party, I referred to the union…there’s a big difference. However, when discussing the education being delivered to the students, everyone but the student is technically an “outside party”…the students (and their education) must come first. (So now I just called them an outside party…but not before)
    2. The teachers interests aren’t in fact relevant to the particular issue I was talking about. I was talking about the prioritization of the education delivered…hence all other interests would fall aside. (this is inherent to “prioritizing” something)
    3. RI-CAN and AF could certainly be classified as “outside parties” based on my explanation in point #1, but they aren’t “compromising on the end objective (the delivery of a quality education)” in my statement and therefore do not require being specified as such.
    4. I have not read Deming, but unless you’re claiming that the rise of new education delivery methods (the stuff RI-CAN and AF advocate for) result in lower performance, I can’t imagine how Deming’s work could counter my statements. The rise of these new methods is certainly not due to their ineffectiveness in boosting educational performance…it’s also not the only way to achieve excellence in education and I’m not making that claim, but they have been shown to be effective and when a school system is in need of turnaround, an effective option should not be ignored. 

     I admire your passion for the plight of teachers as well as effective process improvements and please don’t assume that since I haven’t put labor before students that I’m somehow the enemy. I support labor and collective bargaining, but based on function, some industries (generally falling under some form of public service) require labor interests to take a back seat to end objectives…not to be discarded, just not able to sit atop the priority hierarchy; a close second most likely. After all, we want to make teaching attractive as a profession…part of which is showing future teachers how highly we prioritize the students’ education. 
     

    1. PinkHatLib

      “I never said Teachers were the outside party, I referred to the union…there’s a big difference…”

      So teachers are a stakeholder, but they should not be able to work together. So if school administrators are stakeholders, then schools district or state administrators should similarly be considered outside parties? btw, you’re not doing much to convince me how progressive this group is with comments like that. That is what you were trying to do, yes?

      “I was talking about the prioritization of the education delivered”

      So teachers also shouldn’t be involved in determining what’s actually taught in their classroom. Wow, this gets stranger and stranger.

      “…they aren’t ‘compromising on the end objective (the delivery of a quality education)’”

      Ah, the foregone conclusion. Had a feeling something like that was coming.

      “…unless you’re claiming that the rise of new education delivery methods (the stuff RI-CAN and AF advocate for) result in lower performance”

      Yes, of course, that’s exactly what I’m saying. Test scores may go up, but the quality of the education will go down (and is going down). If only you folks would read the actual process improvement literature!!

      “please don’t assume that since I haven’t put labor before students that I’m somehow the enemy”

      No one suggested that you do that. Interesting that you view the existence of teachers’ unions as requiring that kind of choice. Notably, there are many, many manufacturers that have effective process improvement programs and unionized employees. Let me get this straight, you think you are pro-union?

      Hear, hear, Pat. Think I’m with you on this one.

Add Comment Register

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.