Inside Opinion

What's on the minds of Tacoma News Tribune editorial writers

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Tag: teachers


One teacher’s take on arming educators

Arming teachers? Andrew Milton, who teaches eighth-grade English teacher at Pioneer Middle School in DuPont, doesn’t like the idea:

Rep. Liz Pike from Camas has expressed her intent to offer a bill that would allow teachers carry concealed weapons in the classroom. In general, such a law is a bad idea because it’s such a knee-jerk reaction to the recent school shooting, and, as is often the case, the knee-jerk overrides wisdom.

No gun violence has ever occurred without a gun present. Introducing more guns (even if legally so) raises the prospect of gun activity. And it’s way too easy to imagine scenarios where a legally introduced gun ends up creating difficulties where an absence of guns would have created no such difficulty.

For instance, one likes to imagine that an adult with a gun could have made a very different at Sandy Hook. But that situation is a real outlier. According to, in the last 20 years there have been 386 shooting events at schools (and universities) in the US. This includes interpersonal disputes that happened to play out at a school, accidental shootings, suicides at school, shootings near schools and events without fatalities. Suicides are more frequent than Sandy Hooks and Columbines. (The web site even lists as an episode a prematurely born baby dying at a hospital near a school–no gun even mentioned. In other words, the number 386 is counting episodes very different from Sandy Hook.)

The tragedy of Sandy Hook notwithstanding, the day to day reality of school is much more complicated. And day to day, the presence of guns creates risks that wouldn’t be there without guns.
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Fix the schools, fix the teaching profession

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

Credit Gov. Chris Gregoire with out-of-the-box thinking for her plan to restructure the bureaucracy of education in this state. We just wish she’d thought a lot further out of the box.

Gregoire’s idea is intriguing, as far as it goes. She wants to lend some coherence to the collection of fiefdoms that reputedly oversees education at the state level.

Under her proposal, the state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, Board of Education, Higher Education Coordinating Board, State Board for Technical & Community Colleges and other entities would all get folded into a new state Department of Education.

Gregoire is very right about one thing: Public education in Washington ought to be a seamless whole, from preschool through technical or academic higher education. The system is inexcusably fragmented, more to protect turf than to serve students.

The lack of coordination is appallingly evident in the abundance of discouraged college students mired in remedial education, studying what they should have learned in high school, and the abundance of high school students doing college-level work without earning college credits for it.
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Professionalize the teaching profession

The governor’s new combine-the-state-school-agencies plan got us thinking about ed reform again.

Here is a powerful argument for treating teachers as professionals, not union workers. Higher pay, more accountability, like lawyers, engineers, etc. It’s signed by a slew of big-city school chiefs. A couple excerpts:

A 7-year-old girl won’t make it to college someday because her teacher has two decades of experience or a master’s degree – she will make it to college if her teacher is effective and engaging and compels her to reach for success.

By contrast, a poorly performing teacher can hold back hundreds, maybe

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Master’s bump: $330 million a year for nothing

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

The Legislature is facing the greatest revenue crisis in generations. Somebody in Olympia ought to be talking about $330 million that gets spent every year for no apparent purpose and with no apparent results.

That, according to a Seattle-based think tank, is how much the state spends on the “master’s bump” – the roughly $11,000 a year extra it pays more than half of Washington’s teachers because they’ve earned master’s degrees.

Last week, Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Bill Gates both singled out the master’s bump as an example of waste in public education. We hope they caught somebody’s attention in Olympia.

In theory, the additional degree would translate into better performance in the classroom. But there’s no evidence that it actually does. Multiple national studies have found that the additional pay, on average, buys little improvement in the quality of education.
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Agreed: Merit pay no quick fix for public education

This editorial will appear in Monday’s print edition.

Critics of school and teacher accountability are finding a little too much validation in a recent study of merit pay.

The study, conducted by Vanderbilt University’s National Center on Performance Incentives and billed as the first scientifically rigorous test of merit pay, was the result of a three-year experiment in Nashville schools.

About 300 middle school math teachers volunteered for the trial. About half were paid a set stipend for participating. The other half had a crack at bonuses of up to $15,000 if their student’s test scores improved.

The result: On the whole, students in the control group’s classrooms didn’t learn more than the students taught by teachers eligible for the extra money.

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On other NW editorial pages today

Here’s what some other opinion pages around the region found worthy of comment today:

• Tracy Warner, editorial page editor of the Wenatchee World, says the First Amendment presumably would “preclude the majority party in Congress from advancing legislation to stifle or gag potential critics, at a time when Congress and its rulers stand in general public disfavor, on the eve of an election when absent restrictions on political speech they could sustain losses, possibly severe.” Not so, he writes. Exhibit A: The DISCLOSE Act.

Susan Nielsen in The Oregonian blasts the Oregon teachers’ union for stonewalling

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Let us stipulate that, say, 85 percent of teachers in this country know how to spell. The teachers I know do. And that 95 percent of them act like adults. That’s been my experience, too.

But oh, how it hurts their image to have clowns like these representing the profession. In the corner, dunces!


A classroom view of school reforms

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

Many people presume to speak for teachers: lawmakers, parents’ groups, the Washington Education Association, various K-12 lobbies. But there’s no substitute for letting teachers speak for themselves.

What teachers think is a particularly timely question right now. Last year, Washington forfeited any claim it might have had to $4 billion in “Race to the Top” funding the Obama administration has offered to states pioneering cutting-edge reform strategies. In Olympia, the political resistance to some of those strategies – merit pay, for example – has often been framed in terms of what’s best for educators.

After the Race to the Top failure, a partnership of pro-education organization decided to find out what a scientific sample of actual rank-and-file teachers thought of the proposed reforms. The Excellent Schools Now Coalition surveyed educators in November. As it turns out, they appear much more receptive to the Race to the Top policies than some seem to think.

Excellence in Schools Now is a high-credibility group that includes the College Success Foundation, Black Collective, League of Education Voters, Stand For Children and the Washington Roundtable. Some of the results from its survey:
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