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EDUCATION: Pay bump for master’s an incentive

Letter by Scott Thompson, Puyallup on Nov. 26, 2010 at 1:20 pm with 87 Comments »
November 26, 2010 2:06 pm

Re: “Master’s bump: $330 million a year for nothing” (editorial, 11-26).

Hopefully the state won’t use that headline for teacher recruiting. I am happily in my 22nd year of teaching, and I am at the top of the pay scale at a master’s degree plus 90 credits and more than 16 years. I obtained my master’s degree in technology education in 1993 because the state strongly encouraged teachers to go this route for their fifth-year program.

The state salary schedule goes up based on two items: years of experience (hard to make time go faster) and education (something you can control). It maxes out at 16 years of experience and a master’s degree plus 90 credits. I have taken a variety of classes, workshops and seminars in my 22 years, and I plan to continue doing that. It doesn’t help my paycheck; it is for the pride in my profession.

Somebody in their wisdom once figured it out that if you don’t have a substantial incentive for people to obtain an advanced degree, they might not take the trouble. I plan on teaching for 30-plus years, but the salary schedule plateaus at the halfway point. I now rely on cost-of-living allowance corrections, which are at the whim of budgetary shortfalls.

I hope that The News Tribune will post the current salary schedule for everyone to see. I think you will see that it isn’t quite the boondoggle that the editorial board makes it out to be.

Leave a comment Comments → 87
  1. Here’s one from the right wing Evergreen Freedom Foundation. Let us know if it’s incorrect Scott.


  2. Get a grip on reality- we work 180 days a year- get paid for professional development and our Master Degrees take around 9-12 months and not really hard. Compare that to a Master Degree of Nursing, Engineering or Computer Science. They take 2 to three years and are really hard. If you want to be a Nationally Board Certified Teacher- OSPI pays for it. NBCT is an additional 5000.00 a year and if in low income another additional 5000.00 a year. IT isn’t that hard to get. I really wish my fellow teachers would stop complaining. Why do they think they deserve more money especially for a job that you can never be fired from no matter how bad you are

  3. bobcat1a says:

    Rosie, please explain that to the teacher who got fired last year at my school.

  4. I would prefer to see teachers taking additional, advaced courses and getting advanced degrees in the content area rather that in “education”.

  5. bobcat- I have no idea how you got fired. I work with the most incompetent teachers who will never be fired I have only seen teachers fired who were caught downloading porn at school, physically abused a child- after numerous complaints and moved from school to school. I have have never seen a teacher fired because he/she was a horrible teacher.

  6. nokoolaide says:

    I think the point was that the students are not learning any more from teachers with masters degrees, so really whats the point?

  7. spotted1 says:

    rosie12…I know several teachers who speak of individuals getting disciplined for a variety of issues. Any person can get fired from any position. If your boss is not doing his or her job, whose fault is it that the bad employee is allowed to remain at work? That is not the teachers fault, it is the person who is the boss who is failing.

  8. NWflyfisher says:

    An advanced degree in a field implies a more qualified individual. A valid assumption? Maybe, maybe not. In most private sector employment, after an individual meets the basic requirements for the job it’s their combination of knowledge, skills abilities and job performance that drives salary increases. Why should teaching be any different?

  9. Has anyone considered that the great push for a college education and an advanced degree is simply a sales job by colleges and universities to keep enrollment high and tuition prices even higher?
    They can’t keep building more facilities and hiring more instructors unless they have more buyers for their product.
    Almost half of America’s parents are in hock because they are convinced by a constant bombardment of propaganda that their kids will be total failures without the Big Paper in hand.
    I’ve had relatives who were teachers that were so bad that if my child had been assigned to their classroom I might have burned down the school. They were mean bigoted, racist, anti-semitic and cruel to their students but prevailed until retirement due to tenure.
    All the advanced education in the world cannot a kind caring person make.
    That’s what lacking.

  10. tree_guy says:

    Scott, while you provided a response to the original story, you did not in fact refute the findings.

    According to the original story the Masters Degree pay “bump” does not actually enhance the learning experience unless the degree is in one of the STEM fields. As an educated person you should understand the dilemma this creates for state official whose every expenditure is facing extreme public scrutiny.

  11. “Maybe, maybe not. In most private sector employment, after an individual meets the basic requirements for the job it’s their combination of knowledge, skills abilities and job performance that drives salary increases. Why should teaching be any different?”

    But teaching in public school is different in that students are not paid for their effort, nor are they fired due to lack of effort.

    A manager has it much, much easier. The worker is paid for their effort, and they can be fired due to lack of effort.

    I think that’s a huge, huge difference.

  12. “Almost half of America’s parents are in hock because they are convinced by a constant bombardment of propaganda that their kids will be total failures without the Big Paper in hand.”

    Can you cite sources to support this statement?

  13. NWflyfisher says:

    Fatuous, you said “But teaching in public school is different in that students are not paid for their effort, nor are they fired due to lack of effort.”

    I disagree. Students are not paid in a traditional monetary sense. They are, however rewarded (read “paid”) for their effort in the form of grades. They are “fired” for lack of effort by being held back to repeat the grade. My belief is non achievers due to lack of effort should be given one opportunity to repeat the grade. If no improvement is demonstrated, they should then be disenrolled and sent to participate in some alternate form of basic education away from the formal public school system.

  14. GiveItaRest says:

    I’ll bet you’re looking forward to retiring at 55, and then double-dipping by getting your job back a month later.

    If you don’t like the pay scale, find another job and let a new teacher out of school have it.

  15. I don’t care what degrees a person has. Can they actually do the job and do it well? Bill Gates has no degree but has a lot of people with degrees working FOR HIM.

  16. cclngthr says:

    An advanced degree does not make a person more knowledgable. All they have is this piece of paper stating they have jumped through the hoops to get more money.

    Does a Masters degree improve the students ability to receive a better education? Not always. If the teacher has a Masters, I would expect they should have the ability to teach the students better. I don’t always see that.

  17. A teacher with more training will be a better teacher.

    Are there exceptions – of course.

  18. cclngthr says:

    It all depends on how much effort the teacher puts into it, and knows how to diagnose what is going on and uses those skills to teach. That may require specialized training. Even then, being too specialized has its pitfalls as well.

  19. NWflyfisher says:

    Training focuses on skills. Education focuses on knowledge. Knowing how to do something is quite different than being able to actually do it. Trade schools train. Universities educate. How much classroom teaching skills development is included in a Master’s program for teachers?

  20. firemannotfirefighter says:

    The only surprising thing in this thread is that apparently somewhere a teacher got fired. Bet it wasn’t for incompetence!

    There is NO PROOF ANYWHERE that a masters degree increases the teachers ability to teach. I can get a Bachelors degree from Western Oregon in Fire Command and Administration, but that piece of paper doesn’t make me a good fireman. It doesn’t make me a good incident commander. It means that I passed some tests and wrote some papers. There is no application or real world experience required.

    A Masters Degree in Education is, whether you like it or not, a way for teachers to get a raise, not a method to help teachers teach better.

    I, for one, have no problem paying teachers 100K plus a year plus benefits, and retirement. But I DEMAND a return. I DEMAND that teachers TEACH! I DEMAND that if they can’t teach, they be FIRED! I DEMAND that teachers QUIT STRIKING (illegally I might add). I DEMAND that teachers be evaluated and their students be evaluated as well.

    You do that, and I will help write the Initiative to make MINIMUM salary for a teacher in Washington as 100K. But that won’t happen will it? Having an accountability system is something the WEA and NEA are against.

  21. shirleycase says:

    Response to NWflyfisher:
    A master’s program can vary significantly depending on the university. My program took 20 months and I wrote 2 to 3 papers (3 – 10 pages each) every week in AP format with references cited. I wrote a 45 page research paper for the final course and produced a three-inch thick portfolio that meets 5 general outcomes, as well as 22 specific standards for the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. I taught full time and burned the midnight oil almost every night. I took four classes in my content area of elementary mathematics and six courses in curriculum, assessment, and instructional methods. I had professors who were experts in their field and am grateful for all they taught me. I look at my master’s degree as a new starting point in my professional career. My district has been gracious enough to pay me for extra hours (with money from a grant, not from the state) to share what I have learned and to bring teachers together to collaborate. That’s what a master’s degree can and should do.

  22. cclngthr says:


    If a teacher has a masters degree, I want to see that teacher have the ability to have classes perform better than those with a BA. I sometimes see teachers with a BA do better than those with a Masters.

    Do I see a Masters in education as a useless piece of paper. Sometimes I do. It all depends on how the person is able to teach. How well can they entice and draw in kids interest in doing the work; even those kids who don’t want to do the work? How well can they communicate the concept to students?

    What is taught in most college classes for education prep either in the undergrad or graduate program is a minimal brush over of skills that the university professor and university program agrees on. It is not something that can be used everyday with all kids. There are too many variables to account for if the program has to cover all possibilities.

  23. cclngthr says:

    Are you able to increase test scores in math of your students due to your graduate studies?

  24. bobcat1a says:

    Fireman, you would lose the bet. It was definitely for incompetence. It happened in the classroom right next to mine. It took three years of documentation but it happened because an administrator was willing to try.

  25. bobcat1a says:

    ccingthr, some rookies outperform skilled older ball players. Does that mean the older players have something wrong with them?

  26. bobcat1a says:

    Fireman, I suppose all the firefighters (including firemen) are paragons of the profession. None of them are out of shape or lazy? Should we cut the pay of firefighters until all of them show exemplary performance? My brother is a fire captain and he loves his profession even though he frequently complains that some of the men are fat, lazy and undependable. He can’t do anything about them but has to work around them because they are Civil Service and almost impossible to fire. If we are going to tar whole professions because some members of those professions are incompetent then we are all racing to the bottom.

  27. shirleycase says:


    Our building’s math scores at the grade level I teach surpassed all the others in our district for the first time ever this past spring. I think it was the result of a collaborative effort with my teaching team. We planned lessons together, shared instructional strategies, and analyzed student work and test scores together. We continue to meet weekly as a professional learning community to help our students achieve. One of my teammates went through the same master’s program together with me. I think the master’s program was instrumental in setting the foundation for using research to improve our instruction.

  28. The craft of teaching can be taught.

    A good natural teacher with pedagogical training can become brilliant, a mediocre one can rise to a good level and someone with no knack for teaching – should leave the profession.

  29. And yes….it takes years of experience to become a master teacher……or fireman/woman…….but you need to have a base set of knowledge before you should be credentialed.

  30. cclngthr says:

    If older players with more skill don’t play as well as younger people, it means those older players are slacking in their ability and failing to keep pace with the rookies. Playing ball is completely different than teaching. Are older teachers keeping pace with the younger generation? Sometimes they don’t think about what is new and different may work better than old school methods. I use different methods now than the methods I used in the late 80’s. I also find some kids do better using the older methods than the new methods.

    I would hold off judgement until you have several years of consistant test scores. With math ability, one thing I look for, not only as a teacher, but in other professions is knowledge of basic math computation in addition to the more difficult math concepts. If I am teaching a shop class, and want students to figure out a specific space value for a project, I want them to know how to do that without a calculator. I also expect the same with students in a marketing class. I want kids to posess basic math skills so they will easily understand the concept of profit margin, tax rates, expenses and other business math concepts required for a marketing class.

  31. bobcat1a says:

    ccingthr, the point is that in every field of endeavor their are levels of skill that range from spectacular to poor. You can try to weed out the poor, improve the average and great but you can’t throw out the merely good because it will never reach spectacular.

  32. shirleycase says:

    You are absolutely right about holding off on judgement about test scores, but you asked the question. I hesitated to even respond to your request because there have been so many changes in state testing and grade level requirements that it is going to take time to develop a baseline from which we can measure improvement.

  33. One issue for those of us who pay a years salary to those who work nine months a year is the quality of the folks who enter the teaching profession.

    Based on my college experience, it was common for business majors to marry nursing majors. My theory is that they met in the library since most of their non-classroom time was spent studying.

    Education majors mostly married each other as they met while spending their non-classroom time throwing frisbees around campus.

  34. Hoodsportwriter says:

    This is the results when education bureaucrats are put in charge and teachers are never asked anything about how children should be taught.

  35. cclngthr says:

    In the field of education, we cannot afford not to have teachers who perform poorly. The result is you will have kids falling behind and once they are there, bringing them back up again is not always that easy. Once behind they tend to stay there.

    We already should have a baseline to go by even with different tests. If the tests show marked differences, then there is a problem, but the baseline should be the same even with the new tests.

    Having said that, there are issues in education that continually evolve. What is required today is much different in each grade level than when I started teaching back in the early 80’s. I still believe there is a minimum grade level baseline that all students have to meet that is consistant over time. Can all students be able to do certain things at the end of each grade level?

    My point in asking my question was if you thought your Masters program enabled you to be able to produce better test scores (particularly math scores) compared to just having that BA degree.

  36. bobcat1a says:

    ccingthr, I don’t think you read what I wrote.

  37. bobcat — cclngthr rarely responds to what someone has actually written, but instead just seems to enjoy writing lengthy posts about anything at all to do with education.

  38. cclngthr says:

    I did read what you wrote. You said there will be teachers who are poorly performing as well as those ranging upward to spectacular. I don’t think we can afford to accept that. We need teachers who can achieve that superior level. If we don’t, we will have kids who were not taught properly and will be behind the others, and bringing those kids who were not taught properly the first time up to the level they should be at. Is that the fault of the kid? In my opinion, no it is not. It is squarely the teachers job to make sure that students they teach are taught right the first time, not 2 or more times.

    This example is where I think we need performance based pay tied to student test scores. Those teachers who perform poorly should not be paid the same as a highly performing teacher.

  39. cclngthr says:

    I bet you would not accept a teacher who performs poorly to teach your kid. I know I would not.

  40. No, I wouldn’t. Not sure what I’d do about it though. I guess it would depend on where I thought the teacher was deficient.

  41. cclngthr says:

    Thought so. I know I would want a teacher who knows the subject they teach and can integrate out of school applications of that subject, can manage/control the class and work with students in a way that accepts their differences and can work with various issues kids may be facing (divorce, moving, child abuse, etc.) and gets along with kids, likes the job.

    Would I pull my kid from class if I thought the teacher was poorly performing? You bet I would.

  42. Depends on how the alternatives stack up at any given time. Pull him to home school, or put him in a different class or school? Totally depends on the situation. If the kid absolutely loves going to school but the teacher is a complete moron maybe we let him go play with his buddies at school and teach him what his teacher isn’t teaching at home. I guess it depends on if the kid is getting anything positive out of the class or if it’s negative or a complete waste of time.

  43. firemannotfirefighter says:


    You said it took 3 years to fire a teacher for incompetence. How are the students who attended his/her class doing now? Did he/she lose their teaching credentials or are they infecting another school system? Being fired as a teacher doesn’t mean jack. They just go work for another school district, in part because of the atmosphere the WEA has created.

    And I have advocated that firefighters who are unable to the job be fired! Advocated with the Union, with Human resources, With the leadership of my department. Not because they are bad apples, but rather if they screw up, my wife could be a widow.

    Teachers need to start taking responsibility for themselves. Michell Rhee was an excellent advocate for the STUDENT! That’s what ALL teachers should strivee for. I agree that most teachers do an okay to good job. But that isn’t good enough. We expect Doctors to be right 100% of the time. We expect Judges to be right 100% of the time, and if they are wrong, we expect swift consequences. There aren’t ANY for problem teachers.

    I bet evry single teacher responding on here can name at least 1/4 of the teaching staff at their school who either shouldn’t be teaching or are substandard and turning out substandard students. Give us a solution. Masters degrees show no marked or verifiable increase in anything other than salaries. You tell us how to get rid of the problem teachers and get your UNION to back it. Simply put, they won’t!

  44. bobcat1a says:

    ccingthr i quote myself “You can try to weed out the poor.” i.e., identify and get rid of.

  45. bobcat1a says:

    Fireman, do you actually BELIEVE judges and doctors are right 100% of the time? I suppose you think malpractice is just a scam. Do you have any idea why we have appeals courts? More kids are damaged by gutless administrators who mindlessly mouth phrases like”we want what’s best for kids” while enabling substandard education than are damaged by all the incompetent teachers. Yes, I grieve over the kids who are not just allowed to slip through the cracks but are poorly served by a SMALL number of incompetents but I can’t fix that. I do work 10 hours a day on average trying to insure that the kids who enter my classroom get a quality education.

  46. The paradox of the argument put forward by some here is pretty obvious: teaching is important therefore teaching teachers isn’t important.

    It goes back to an essential misunderstanding and undervaluing of what teaching is.

    What I have supported for some time is this:
    1) Raise the base salaries for teachers in order to make it a more attractive profession to enter.
    2) With the enhanced wage comes enhanced prestige thus more highly trained and talented individuals will compete for the available positions rather that what is the case now – a teaching degree is seen as a fallback for frisbee players.
    3) Get rid of tenure. The rationalization for tenure in higher education is that it protects “dangerous or unpopular ideas” but, in reality, it ensures that faculty who are tenured have had the spirit squeezed out of them. I really see no reason for a 2nd grade teacher to have tenure – it’s not like s/he will be presenting a paper at an international conference that offends the parents.
    4) Reduce the role of the Administration – cut the number of Administrators and the levels of their salaries. The only staff l a elementary school really needs in addition to the teachers is a good secretary, janitor and lunch servers.

  47. cclngthr says:

    One thing I would look at is test scores and how a particular teacher makes it possible for students to perform well. I also am known to unexpectedly observe what is going on in day to day things. How is the teacher managing the class? Are students rowdy or doing busy work. Noise is acceptable if things are getting done. I am also known to ask questions, particular those which principals and teachers don’t want to answer, which I do anyway. Is the curriculum the right one for students? Does that teacher have the skills to communicate the concept clearly to students? Are students fully engaged? Are there disruptions in the class and can the teacher properly deal with those disruptions?

    You have not answered Fireman’s questions? Why did it take 3 years to dismiss that teacher and was OSPI professional practices notified?

    I do want to eliminate poorly performing teachers. Basing the pay on test scores is one way to do this. Another is getting rid of tenure, which Beerboy has pointed out. It should not take 3 years to dismiss anyone for incompetence. If a teacher performs poorly and one evaluation has noted that, and it can be an informal evaluation, they are told to improve and if they don’t within a specific time period, they should be terminated.

    However, these evaluations must meet specific criteria and cannot have any form of subjective popularity contese imbedded into it. Some of the questions I posed to Ronniew are things that should be included. Evaluations should always include test data or some form of test data.

    I agree, there are too many administrators even in elementary schools. I also must ask would you cut the counseling staff as well?

  48. spotted1 says:

    Beerboy, your comments are right on.

    Educators need to recognize that, with higher pay and a recognition of them as professionals, (which I don’t personally believe will every happen, but that is a different story), comes a higher accountability. Yes, their is resistance from the WEA and NEA. Sometimes it is founded on ideas that are appropriate, usually not.

    The only difficulty is the application of evaluation systems. IF administrators did their jobs, knew what their teachers were doing and worked to improve or remove the poor ones, then education would be in a better place. But let’s face it, in a time where parents scream at the schools because their kids ipod was taken during class or the kid lost their cell phone because of talking during class, if the teacher is managing the class well and not causing a problem, the administration probably doesn’t care.

    And contrary to some comments on this thread, keeping poor teachers in the schools serves no one. It does not serve the school, the kids, the WEA or NEA or other teachers for that matter any more than a bad fireman serves the fire department. They need to be removed. But, the administration has to do the work and follow the steps of the contract, like every other profession.

  49. Why can’t Johnny read? I pay my property tax; I even vote to approve school levies; I make sure he has not only the most popular teen fashions but also the latest “smart” phone “‘; heck, I even occasionally ask him “how is school” and “do you have any homework?
    It must be poor teachers.

  50. cclngthr – not even sure what a counseling staff does.

    When I was a junior in H.S. my mother pleaded with the Counselor to try to….counsel me…..as I wasn’t applying myself at all and didn’t seem to have any direction. His response was to tell her that I was going to be alright because I was going to be a star football player (I turned down recruitment offers because, though good at the sport, I didn’t really like it that much).

    It really wasn’t till I flunked out my first year in college that I started applying myself and found a direction.

  51. Fibonacci says:

    Your comments about business majors, nursing majors, and education majors shows your personal bias and ignorance. Such generalities are what is wrong with your antieducation dunces. Every major as people that work hard and those that skate through. I would be willing to bet you spent more time trying to “make whoopee” with the nursing students than you did studying.

  52. cclngthr says:

    I agree with you there. Counselors have made assumptions that are wrong and do not meet educational goals most of the time. Football? What happens when that footbal player decides to retire from the sport? I think footbal players do need some skill they can go into if they quit.

    However, now we have “boundary invasion” policies that prevent staff from interacting with kids on issues that is not within the curriculum. Counselors are supposed to be the ones to discuss these issues (in theory) but what happens during the counseling session is is more of a joke than anything.

  53. NWflyfisher says:

    beerBoy: You said “What I have supported for some time is this:
    1) Raise the base salaries for teachers in order to make it a more attractive profession to enter.
    2) With the enhanced wage comes enhanced prestige thus more highly trained and talented individuals will compete for the available positions rather that what is the case now – a teaching degree is seen as a fallback for frisbee players.”

    Forbes Magazine ran an article back in 2006 titled “America’s Most Admired Professions” showing the results of a Harris Poll survey that measured public perception of 23 common professions ranking them from the most to the least admired. The list follows. Note the 5th most admired profession on the list was that of Teacher.

    1. Firefighter
    2. Doctor
    3. Nurse
    4. Scientist
    5. Teacher
    6. Military Officer
    7. Police Officer
    8. Clergyman
    9. Farmer
    10. Engineer
    11. Member of Congress
    12. Architect
    13. Athlete
    14. Lawyer
    15. Entertainer
    16. Accountant
    17. Banker
    18. Journalist
    19. Union Leader
    20. Actor
    21. Business Executive
    22. Stockbroker
    23. Real Estate Agent

  54. firemannotfirefighter says:


    I didn’t say Doctors and judges were right 100% of the time, I said WE EXPECT THEM TO BE! And when they aren’t, we expect swift consequences. You bring up malpractice…

    How about Teacher Malpractice?

    In addition to being fired, if you fail to teach or turn out substandard students, the parents can sue you for Malpractice, Fraud or whatever. If my 6th grader is reading at a 3rd grade level, I can sue the 4th and 5th grade teachers.

    Your arguments are the very reasons WHY our system is so screwed. You fail to recognize that teachers, students and administrators are ALL part of the problem. Your Union has created an atmosphere where the worst of the worst can continue getting paychecks, keep their benefits and even keep teaching. You Union has resisted performance based raises at EVERY level. Your Union has voted for STRIKES (illegally) that affect students ability to apply for college. Your Union has their hand in what is actually being taught… All of these are black eyes on your union and on your fellow teachers who are trying to actually change the system for the better. At every level the WEA has stopped any forward progress. Get over yourself and recognize, that just in my profession, the Union protects people who shouldn’t be protected. That just as in my profession, a piece of paper from a college doesn’t make you a better teacher, it is a way to get a raise. Recognize that if you want to make positive change for the students, you need to get your union out of the equation and back to ONLY Wages, Hours and Working Conditions (curriculum is NOT working Conditions). Recognize that there is an education CRISIS in the United States and you are perpetuating the myth that teachers don’t share a portion of the blame, or that a teacher being fired after 3 years is just to damn long!

    How about that Teacher malpractice lawsuit?

  55. sumner402 says:

    The right wing war on education continues.
    The GOP knows that an educated populace will not vote the R and will in fact spot their lies and propaganda.
    In their eyes education is bad and must be held in check.

  56. cclngthr says:

    Agreed. Substandard teachers must go and it is time to evaluate teachers, including myself, based on how well students perform on a given standard. If the students are not performing to standard, I don’t see why taxpayers should pay them. I also think taxpayers should have the ability to withhold pay until the job meets standards. If teachers only do minimal work, they also should be paid less than those who work and perform above minimum standards.

    Educational malpractice lawsuits however are not common or successful. A school technically is bound with an implied contract with the student and the family so lawsuits can argue that there is a breach of the contract. However, this may change.

  57. spotted1 says:

    NWflyfisher…admired is different than attractive to go into. If education is such a fantastic and admired profession, why is it not replete with the best and brightest people out there? Because when you look at the lists of “best professions to work in” education is no where near the top, or even on, that list.

    fireman…their are lawsuits in education. Any parent can file for a lawsuit against any teacher. And there are several, especially in the area of special education. Your comments do carry a fair bit of truth. That being that the WEA has stymied education and educational improvement in this state, as has it been fought at the national level.

    The greatest issue, as I see it right now, in relation to standards and kids reading at a certain grade level is this, what is the expected standard? I look at the state standards and they are massive. Seriously, who could truly master everything that our government tells these kids to learn. With that in mind, who could have operative level knowledge at a level that is required to not only know this information, but teach at a depth that should be required? Are we simply teaching to much to these students?

    For example, this paper is probably only written at around a 6th grade reading level. Most checking accounts do not require Calculus to figure out. Writing is now predominantly texting or snippets of conversation with no interest in spelling or grammar.

    At what level should these students be taught higher level skills if they are never going to use them? If they are to go to college, then yes, they need these skills, but if they are not…well, what should the standard be?

  58. Here’s a little historical side trip relating to degrees. The US Military that won WWII was lead mainly by officers who had only bachelor adegree at most (except for a few special fields like medicine and law). After McNamara (of Edsel Fame) restructured the military along corporate lines and manners (1960’s), officere were encourged to seek advanced degreesm and higher ranking offices were expected to have them.s. You can judge how well that has worked out.

  59. cclngthr says:

    When I took News Reporting (both print and TV), the typical print edition is a 6th grade level version due to the issues associated with the number of people in society not having high school diplomas and the issues surrounding the marketing and editions sold. If the paper used a higher grade level in its reporting language, fewer papers would be sold.

    The issue of lawsuits are not of malpractice, but of civil rights violations regarding education litigation, particularly sped. The lawsuits are not of teachers not bringing students up to expected grade level in particular grades.

    There are standards set by the state for each grade as far as expected outcome. Each grade level does have specific grade level expectations that students should be able to do and have mastered for each content area.

    I do think there are purposes for teaching calculus and its application within many jobs and how it is applied in everyday life. Slope in a tangent line is used quite often. In auto repair, sloping tangent lines are used to graph torque and hp and these graphs let the person working on the car know what to look for if the graph is not sloping higher in a consistant form. Integral calculus is used to calculate how long it takes to travel a certain distance, something everyone has to figure out daily. Geometry functions are used everywhere from building to basic shape design.

    I don’t think we are teaching too much to students. In fact, how society and jobs have evolved, we are falling behind in what we are teaching. Higher knowlege is required now than it was 50 years ago. As society advances, so does the need for advancement in education.

  60. firemannotfirefighter says:

    Okay, please read my post regarding the Teacher Malpractice, and then read my previous post and then Bobcat1’s reply.

    The idea of malpractice was brought up by bobcat when I made the statement that doctors, lawyers and judges are EXPECTED to be right 100% of the time, and when they aren’t there are swift consequences. Bobcat1 tried to turn my statements around, by implying that I was saying those professions are right 100% of the time and then HE began talking about malpractice.

    So let me try to clear this up. I don’t think that Teacher Malpractice is a good idea. It was only in response to bobcat’s uninformed post.

    spotted1, I am glad you agree about the WEA and NEA. They have done more to stymie the advancement of education reforms than ANY OTHER person, organization or group.

    The research has shown that in United States more money for teachers or for schools isn’t the problem. The problem is getting teachers that can teach and who are motivated to teach.

    As I have said time and time again, I am in favor of paying teachers more, but there comes EXPECTATIONS with that money. If a teacher wants to make $100K per year, then they need to be at work ALL YEAR. They need to be subjected to rigorous standards and evaluations. Their students AND themselves need to be evaluated every year. They need to put in a minimum of 40 hours per week at the school (and no, breaks and lunch aren’t counted in that 40 hours). Teachers need to be willing to accept any curriculum that the school board sets out, NOT the WEA. And teachers need to accept that if they fail to meet standards, they will be fired and lose their retirement.

    Likewise, parents have an obligation to their kids. If the parents aren’t able or willing to contribute to their kids education success, then the teacher should not be punished, but maybe the parents should be help accountable.

    The simple fact is that at every corner, whether it’s Charter Schools, Performance based raises, standardized tests or linking teacher pay to student performance, the argument always comes out that it’s a Right Wing hate mongers against the Left lovers (see sumner’s post). The truth of the matter is that the only war on education that is going on, is being waged by the obstructionist WEA and NEA!

  61. cclngthr says:

    With parent obligations to promote education success, there can be a problem where the parent does not have the opportunity to helicopter their child through the education system or feels the responsibility to teach academics is the job of the teacher not them. One parent told me she expects the teacher to teach her kid and expects the kid to come home and find homework easy to do without parental assistance. She instead feels frustrated because she must teach the skills the teacher is supposed to teach in school. Another parent I regularly talk to has a minimum wage job and her hours are inconsistant and she cannot take the required time to do exactly what the school wants.

    People have to realize that parents are at will to their employer, and these employers are unwilling to allow parents to have the freedom of taking time off work to do kid stuff. With minimum wage and jobs that are close to minimum wage, job hours are not 9 to 5. They can be at other hours and employers are also not willing to offer benefits either. If the person in the family gets sick, it is up to the individual to pay for such care. Some parents not only have one job, but 2 jobs just to make ends meet, and there may be one person working in the family.

    Can kids living in these situations not be taught up to standard without extensive parental involvement that usually is suggested? Are these kids automatically labelled by the system as having ineffective parents who are thought to not be directly involved 100% of the time?

  62. cclngthr says:

    However, fireman, I differ on your issue about curriculum issues. What if I feel the curriculum used by the schools to not meet the needs of my class? I feel that I should have a say in what curriculum I should be using that meets the needs of my students. Some curriculums don’t necessarily do the things in the way 100% of students learn. If I feel I can do it better with a different curriculum, or devise a curriculum that meets my class fully, I feel I have that right to do that.

  63. firemannotfirefighter says:


    Again, parents have an obligation, that doesn’t mean they have to be there 15 hours a day. All I am saying is that parents have an obligation to their kids when it comes to education. Simply dropping your kid off at school and picking them up isn’t meeting that obligation. Emailing the teacher (no employer constraints there), volunteering 5 days per school year (again most employees get 5 days off during an 8 month period). Communicating with the teacher about concerns of their child or about how to better prepare the child are ALL ways that parents can become more involved with their kids education and take little to no time.

    As far as you having a say over the curriculum, I actually might be up for that, but the problem is teachers not teaching or choosing curriculum that doesn’t meet standards. Having 3 options for an English class, that all meet the same standard is would be a solution, allowing the teacher to select one of the approved 3. The problem lies when the teacher is teaching from all three, to 3 different classes. There needs to be a standard level of curriculum that the School Board (elected by the community) and approved through the OSPI (again elected). This takes the Union out of the mix. And sorry, if you have to teach a book that you may not approve of, but your school didn’t hire you to teach what you wanted to teach, they hired you to teach what you are expected to teach.

    You seem like a good teacher that understands many of the problems facing the educational system. I wish you could get your Union to see things a little more that way as well.

  64. cclngthr says:

    What if the parent has no computer access, or email availability? Phone calls are not always available when each person has the time to do that.

    Teachers are also limited to what times they can call parents and how they do that due to boundary invasion policies that are in place to protect the teacher and student of misconduct. I cannot always assure parents are available to discuss things by phone during working hours. I also am prohibited from calling parents on my own time and with my own phone system. I have to use the district phone line at certain times of the day. I also would be limited to talk to parents when they are at work, and when I’m teaching a class, I prefer not to be disturbed by others because my focus at that time should be with my class.

    Regarding curriculum, as it is now, districts expect us to use a single curriculum, which has its limitations regarding teaching methodology. In order to use the curriculum correctly, I am limited to using the prescribed methodology that the curriculum is designed around. Districts also expect teachers to use that curriculum to the letter and not stray from that prescribed curriculum. If teachers do stray from it, they can be disciplined. This is their perception of the requirements of NCLB.

    Even then, some curriculums, even multiple curriculums may not always fit 100% of the class, and no curriculum will meet 100% of any class. That is due to the design of the curriculum.

    What really needs to be done with the curriculums is integration of ALL possible teaching methods, rather than a select few. Like communication theory, which uses conflicting theories at the same time, teaching methods also should be used even if they conflict with each other. This is a problem with researchers and universities that promote one method over other methods.

  65. cclngthr says:

    Rather than focusing on the “right” curriculum, what teachers need to work on is use the grade level benchmarks and what SKILLS students must meet at the end of each year. What are those specific benchmarks at the end of each year and have students master those skills by the end of each year. If the benchmark for first grade math is addition and subtraction of whole numbers, can we guarantee that each student has mastered that skill by the end of the year? Same with reading. What are the reading vocabulary and written expression benchmarks for the end of the year? Has the student met those standards?

    I think rather than focusing on a curriculum, we need to get away from the curriculum, and focus on specific skills students must master by the end of each year. Can teachers do that with any curriculum? I think that is possible.

  66. spotted1 says:

    Fireman and CC….regardless of what you believe about parent involvement, research suggests that those kids who live in families at or below the poverty line are significantly behind when they enter school. In general, their vocabulary is lower, reading level is behind, and they have less positive interactions with adults than kids from middle and upper class families. Yes, this can be changed based on the involvement of the parents, but in general, poverty is putting these kids at a disadvantage walking in the door.

    CC…state standards are absurd. The amount of information a child is required, not expected, but required to learn, based on the state standards from the OSPI website is incredible. The sheer volume of information that must be shoved into these children, each year, is staggering. You can’t possibly in good conscious tell me that this state driven standards system is beneficial for students. Not when they are required to learn massive amounts of information, that they may not be ready for.

    The state standards look as though the organizing groups could not decide on what not to eliminate so they kept everything.

    The state has broken the standards to grade levels, or a grade level range. Still, that is excessive. For example in science. Students are required to have a solid understanding of physical, life, and earth science by 8th grade. Plus several other skills so that they can pass a test that is given at 5th then 8th grade, How can you possibly justify that as good educational policy?

  67. letsworkitout says:

    I think what you are going for there spotted is the depth vs breadth. We don’t have enough depth and too much breadth in our standards. That is one are we differ vastly when compared to so many other countries. They spend time getting deep into the content and skills, instead of trying to “cover” a large amount of topics. That being said, the new math standards do address the too much breadth problem. Reading and writing aren’t an issue in terms of too much for the standards. The one area that feels like over kill is science. The kids are taking a test in 5th grade that covers k-5. That is insane to me. Reading and math are every year so it is assessing what that student was supposed to learn that year. Science however, is a mess. They rewrote the science standards, but it is still a ton. They more rearranged the standards than rewrote them.

  68. eagle_beak says:

    interesting letter and even more interesting comments.
    fireman and CC: your comments make the most sense. agree that teacher unions have put a heavy negative blanket of control over education in this country for far to long and have made it possible for teachers of low quality to just continue on.
    to other commentors: if the purpose of education in this country continues to be to indoctrinate our children to the Progessive way of approaching life or to socialism/communism as it has been…… then, yes, it will need to be held in check.
    God bless America and help us keep our country free!

  69. letsworkitout says:

    Oh dear, another “indoctrination comment.” There isn’t any concerted effort to indoctrinate. There is barely time to teach all the things I have to in the elementary classroom without installing some ridiculous agenda. I can’t stand the left or right anymore, I am sure as hell not going to put any of their junk into the students minds. lol. Both sides are corrupt.

  70. commoncents says:

    As a parent, I am more concerned about who is in my child’s class than I am who the teacher is. My child’s progress is hindered more by the loud, obnoxious kid who repeatedly fails to do his homework than anything else. After all the squeaky wheel gets the grease. Do I blame the teacher for that kid? Do I blame the teacher for the fact that the kid’s parents abandoned them to live with Grandma? Or worse yet are hooked on meth but are still around? What about the 7 or 8 others that are just like this “disruption” and are all bundled into one class? I think parents would be shocked by what is going on in the lives of the kids in school. I think too they would be shocked to see how disruptive these kids really are.

    My question of the “anti-teacher” crowd is this…what percentage of teachers do you think are bad and should be removed? And, do you honestly think that replacing them will overcome the rest of the problems with our society.

  71. commoncents — You know what’s worse than the disruptive kid with the horrible home life? The disruptive middle-class kid with two parents at home. I can understand the plight and make accomodations for the kid who gets nothing at all from his loser parents. We know those kids are they way they are for a good reason. I get much more frustrated with the obnoxious kids who run over their parents, then try to run over their teachers and the other kids. The teacher stops the kid in their tracks and the mother comes to school to complain.

  72. firemannotfirefighter says:


    Nobody is anti-teacher here. More than anything, I as well well as every comment on here is PRO teacher. As far as how many teachers are bad…. well that depends on what district and state you live in. It depends on the standard of student that is graduating. If Gig Harbor High School is consistently graduating kids with a reading level of 9th grade, then we have a high number of high school teachers that are either not doing their job or don’t understand what their job is.

    The general thread here seems to be those of us who believe that the WEA has gone to far in protecting it’s turf and by default has overstepped their bounds and subsequently is hurting the education system. On the other hand, we have commenters that are staunch Union advocates and don’t seem to be willing to admit that the WEA or even teachers share ANY responsibility for the level of the students education.

    cc, you are making excuses for not have any parent involvement. You keep describing the VERY VERY small percentage. Hey I get it, you can never reach 100% of the parents. Give it up though, parents have an obligation to create an environment where kids can learn.

    Spotted, considering you seem to be against ANY reforms that involve the Union getting out of the actual eduction of kids I don’t see why I should even respond to you. Yes, kids in poverty are at a significant disadvantage. One solution, CHARTER SCHOOLS. There are charter schools throughout the US that are also semi-boarding schools. Takes care of that whole poverty issue doesn’t it.

  73. cclngthr says:

    Research suggest, but that research can be refuted as well. Does it mean that ALL kids without high income and helicoptering parents are not as intelligent as those in upper income and parents who don’t do that. If I test a kid who lives in poverty, and has parents that are not directly involved (as with rich kids) their IQ’s would be similar. If teachers ASSUME kids living in poverty and without direct adult interaction as lower functioning, they will be. If you treat them with respect and think they can succeed, they will.

    As far as depth, what the curriculum assumes is kids will automatically go deeper into it, but in reality, they don’t unless the teacher goes along with it and teaches that skill. How is the skill/concept used? The only way to do that is have the kids IN CLASS, use the concept to things related to outside the class.

    What do you want? A class sitting silently in rows that when the teacher talks, the kids suck up information automatically? One question I have are these “disruptive” kids bored? They may be and cannot learn well sitting quietly in rows or groups. I do think there should be more alternatives in education that focuses on using other forms to use the concepts we must teach. Some kids do better with using the arts to learn academic concepts. Not everyone is into a traditional school setting.

  74. spotted1 says:

    fireman…perhaps you misinterpreted my statements. I don’t believe I stated anywhere that I was in support of the unions in teaching or that they have any place in this discussion. I was attempting to point out the very real fact that kids, who are disadvantaged situations at home, are significantly behind in school the moment they step in the door. And the home life doesn’t get better throughout their education. That is a much bigger factor than the building that they are in or the teacher that teaches them. Regardless of any level of education of the teacher or union involvement.

    And charter schools are great. They should be out there as an option. But people need to realize that the charter school is under no obligation to take low-performing kids. In many respects they act as private schools. Which is all well and good. But, how is a kid, whose family is barely making it at home get to this fantastic charter school? When the parent can’t get them there? Because the school doesn’t have to provide transportation. Just like the choice schools tell families in districts. You can come if you can get here.

    Charter schools don’t solve the problem for those who can’t get to them. However, the middle class, who have more flexibility, it can greatly benefit. But then we get back into the issue of who are we trying to serve? Everybody or only those who can afford to get to the school?

    cc…your comment about “research can be refuted as well” makes any comment moot and refutable.

  75. cclngthr says:

    What I am saying is parents have different ideas on what they should be doing, where many people including you assume parents have to do one or two things that make it possible for kids to do well in school. That is an assumption. It means what we have to do is use different techniques with those without much parental support than those with support. I think that is doable.

  76. cclngthr says:

    So what you are saying is ALL kids living in situations that parents are not as involved or living in poverty automatically means the kid is born with a low IQ and not able to do well in school?

    This is what was used with me as a kid, and I was constantly told by teachers I would not go to college to become a teacher or live independently because I have a disability. They tried to gear my program so I would only be living in a group home and work in a place like Tahoma Associates. I feel that is the wrong way to do things. Assuming someone is a retard because research says the person living in such environment are incapable of doing something different is not what needs to be done.

  77. Intelligence is a concept that does not have one universal definition – witness Gardner’s Multiple Intelligence – the so-called “intelligence quotient” is a statistical analysis of test results that were designed to predict how well students would do with traditional schooling in France and then administered to 14 year old daughters of Stanford professors in order to develop standard deviations.

    The test developed by Binet is very good at predicting future success in traditional school settings. The numeric evaluation of the test created by Terman is mislabeled Intelligence Quotient as the field of psychology still doesn’t have a working definition of what intelligence actually is.

    This goes to the observation by sozo and others that book smart doesn’t always translate towards common sense – someone can have intelligence but not be good at school subjects.

  78. PumainTacoma says:

    Does the pay scale you want published include the EXTRA pay for EXTRA work figures or the TRI (time, responsibility & incentive) pay perks? After the audit that found a person was earning $50 an hour to be a “copy room coordinator” and “NFL coordination” ie. card game I think we can say there is a lot of cushy pay for teachers that when discovered after it has been abused should be condemned by the unions, and all administrators too. You will also find that the unions wanted and pushed for the most senior to get higher pay in their salary scale compared to other districts, and you will find that when anyone brought up “god forbid” pay for performance people were poo-pooing it in the past, now that Obama (pro-union president) mentions merit pay, it is now an ok topic for discussion. Hypocritical at best.

  79. spotted1 says:

    Well cc…I guess that is what I am saying. Since I was speaking to the issue of low language development in those coming from homes of poverty. Since the MSP scores, when broken out, show that students of low Income families tend to perform the lowest, as a group, on the test. Since those students from stable two-parent middle class homes tend to fair better in school as a group than those who aren’t in that same situation.

    However, your choice of words and willingness to state that others are speaking about “retards” when that was never stated is interesting. That was never mentioned nor stated in this thread and only brought up by you.

  80. commoncents says:

    CC – You went to the extreme but that is exactly what I am saying. Get those kids who don’t perform well in the traditional classrooms OUT of those classrooms. Why have 3 teachers trying to differentiate? Why have 5 kids disrupt the class because they are “bored” or “lazy”? Why penalize the 6 kids around the “bored” kid? And no, to me it’s not about academic performance. It’s about effort! If a kid wants to learn then he/she is going to learn…and a teacher is going to put in the effort (their own time and effort) to help them learn. It’s the ones that are only going through the motion that we need to prevent from bringing down the rest.

  81. commoncents says:

    Time’s article re: paying kids for performance was an interesting read. Paying kids at a young age (grades 1-6) to encourage the development of a solid base of education, appropriate behavior, and to develop good study habits seems like a good idea. Money is split between the kids and an educational account to be paid upon graduation….pay them for things that they can accomplish such as reading of a book and completing of a test on it (Accelerated Reader), improvement from base on math quizzes, attendance, good behavior, homework completion. Not sure I like the idea of pay for performance but this is interesting twist as it pays for the creation of a solid foundation rather than just task accomplishment. Once the foundation is built then success and effort is intrinsic in nature which is the only way to really motivate someone in the long term.

  82. spotted — cc does that. He/she manages to work how he/she was discriminated against because of his/her disability into every thread at some point, no matter how irrelevant it is. How do you make the leap between kids not performing at grade levels and retards? Don’t worry, cc will do it.

  83. cclngthr says:

    That is what you implied. Kids living in poverty or having parents are a waste of time to you because you don’t want to take the time to educate them. You imply these kids are low functioning enough that they create problems for you as a teacher because you don’t want to take the effort they require to succeed. No wonder why these kids do poorly because you disrespect them and their family. I don’t do that and they do well with me when I work with them.

    So you consider these kids basically criminals? No wonder they end up in prison because you don’t think they are worth the effort If we educate these kids properly, maybe they would do better.

    As far as those who are bored, they should be moved ahead because they are being held back. It is these kids who don’t learn well when they are held back.

  84. SwordofPerseus says:

    As difficult as it may be, we must realize that the current system of education is approaching a failure on every level.

    The level of ability of graduates of our public education system and the percentage of dropouts is the evidence of this failure.
    If we choose to ignore this monumental hurdle and do nothing to overhaul and address the now completely failed system; it will be a failure for the future of America.

    There is only a narrow window to make critical corrections, if we fail, we risk the Republic itself.

    Our mission is to resolve to teach children the way that children actually learn. This has been proven in many tests and if the last 50 years isn’t proof of a required fundamental change then I don’t know what would convince you.

    If we fail to act, well to do so would be a discredit to ourselves and our children, and certainly seal our fate. It will be the final act to end this twohundredthirtyfour year experiment in Democracy . It will inevitably lead the US to be a third world poverty stricken nation of beggars and oligarchs.

  85. bobcat1a says:

    Fireman, where do you get the notion that I have any control over any union. I have no more control over other teachers than you have over other firefighters. Your default position seems to be to attack personally anyone who you perceive doesn’t follow your views. I am absolutely appalled at the state of public education, and yes there are plenty of substandard teachers but the only ones you will run off with punitive actions are the good ones. There are far more hard-working, committed and capable teachers than there are bad ones. I just spent 4 hours of my evening assessing student papers and I will be at school before 6:30 tomorrow, like every morning, to get ready for classes. I will leave at 4:00 or later and spend another hour or two working at home. If you tell me you have spent a few months walking the walk in a public school, particularly a middle school like mine, I will have more respect for your views about public education.

  86. Interesting that someone who is in a field (firefighting) that is known for extensive periods of being on call rather than actually doing what they are ostensibly paid to do, has the temerity to question the pay given to teachers because they are “only” working directly with students for 180 days of the year.

  87. firemannotfirefighter says:


    Once again, read the entire post. If a teacher wants to make $100K a year, then yes, I expect them to work the entire year. As a professional fireman, I am not on call actually. I have a set schedule that I work and when I am off duty, I am not on call. That is the way for most Professional firemen. Volunteers are on call. As I stated earlier, I am a Union fireman, not a volunteer.

    Bobcat, I am not attacking anyone personally. And yes, you DO have say over your union, just as I do. Run for office and make changes. Become a shop steward. Attend meetings. Write “Against” statements for proposed referendums. In other words, become involved. I was involved in my Union for a number years (prior to having children) and I was able to persuade my Union to take a different track on MANY issues. I was popular and unpopular but I was effective.

    How will punitive action against substandard teachers run off the good ones? That makes NO sense.

    spotted the issue I have with you is that for every good idea, you put up a wall. There are options for transportation. Public transportation, Carpooling, other parents. And in many communities, after charter schools are in place for a number years, public schools get better (they have to compete for dollars). Are charter schools or teacher performance pay or Teacher union reform end all be all solutions to the education crisis? Nope! But they are a step forward and are a helluva lot more than what we have today!

    Let’s start applying a different model to follow, because the one we have now is failing not only our students, but our communities and our country as well.

    Again, President Obama has laid out almost all of these reforms in his Race to the Top. Like it or not, No Child Left Behind was 1/2 the brainchild of Sen. Ted Kennedy. Education reform isn’t easy and no solution is the silver bullet. But we can do better than simply saying yeah that’s a good idea, BUT… No our kids and our community deserve better! For every solution yes, there will be problems, well think outside the box and come up with a solution!

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