Saturday, January 02, 2016

Anson Burlingame: Why I won't subscribe to the Turner Report

( I received the following message earlier this week from frequent Joplin Globe guest columnist Anson Burlingame.)

Now is as good a time as any to make another comment on the Turner Report. In doing so I offer a reason not to follow the suggestions contained herein (buy a subscription to the Turner Report) and thus will again draw extreme views from anonymous commentators.

Let me also state, again, that I have the utmost respect for good teachers. Their worth to society is almost unmeasurable, at least in terms of money. Good teachers transmit knowledge that is critical for every student to learn to become a productive member of society. In doing so they develop within each student the ability to develop, over a lifetime, his or her own character. If anyone does not understand what that means, to me at least, I suggest you read David Brooks’s new book, The Path To Character.

Let me be very clear on what I mean by the essential level of knowledge for each and every high school student. Every (that is not a special needs child) graduating student from JHS should be able to read, write and do math, proficiently, at the 12th grade level before graduation. As well every student that advances to a higher grade level each year in K12 public education should be at the proficient, grade level of knowledge (and behavior) from the previous year. That should be the goal and it will take at least 10 years for R-8 to even begin to approach that goal from where it is right now.

I also agree that any K12 system of public education must “Let teachers teach”. It is teach and then test and grade to what level of performance by each student that becomes the disagreement between Turner (or at least the vast majority of his commentators, all anonymous) and me. But if a 1st grade teacher (or any other teacher) “passes” a child that has not yet reached proficient, grade level mastery of a given basic skill, then such teachers (and students and parents) are failing the system of public education and something must be done at the individual level to reverse that substandard level of performance. I am open to any reasonable approach to correct such a problem other than just passing such students on to others in hope that “they” will correct such errors in student performance (and behavior if applicable). The buck must stop somewhere other than “someone else” that might be at fault (but will never accept the responsibility of doing so).

Here is one obvious example, an approach that was suggested to me by ……., who should know better. Do away with all homework for any student, period, was the suggested approach. Why, I asked. The reply was in essence that “poor students” do not have the home environment that stimulates the need (demand?) that homework be completed, all the time. Thus such students fall farther and farther behind and that is not fair.

If that is not dumbing down the level of education to the lowest common denominator, I don’t know what it might be. Homework, meaning outside of class hours reading, writing and doing math each and every day to increase performance through repetition, is a critical part of public education. The challenge of every school must be to RAISE student efforts to such a level, not lower students to that level of no academic efforts, anytime, out of school.

I am sending this to Randy as an email due to its length. I leave it up to him how to publish, or not, such views on his blog. If he does publish it, you may “Fire when ready, Gridley”, an old Navy saying I learned long ago.


Anonymous said...

Oh that poor, poor, misunderstood man.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't feel bad if you saved space and didn't post the ramblings of a petty excuse of a human being. Who as he get older becomes more hateful. And while there is a 1st Amendment and has the right to speak, I feel that after reading his slanted crap that my eyeballs have been violated. In his free time I bet he sits on the porch and yells at kids for stepping on his lawn. Thank you Randy for all the work you do.

Anonymous said...

Fun fact: Anson learned the old Navy saying when he heard Commodore Dewey give the command.

Anonymous said...

Yes, let's dumb down all of society so those that cannot achieve, for whatever reason, still won't, but at least they will have company, the rest of us.

Anonymous said...

"It is teach and then test and grade to what level of performance by each student that becomes the disagreement between Turner (or at least the vast majority of his commentators, all anonymous) and me."

I think Anson has identified a conflict that doesn't exist. Of course assessment must follow instruction. Who's arguing with that? It's a basic part of the process.

His comment that follows also indicates that he doesn't understand some basic facts. In many districts, it is district policy to automatically pass students on to the next grade; teachers have no say in the matter. Also, in many districts teachers are no longer allowed fail students, even if they clearly have failed a class. Recording an F simply isn't allowed, and nobody objects more to this policy than teachers. Anson should do some research, and then decide who should and should not be held accountable in these matters.

Anonymous said...

Burlingame capatined a nuclear submarine and graduated from Annapolis. Turner got canned from a crappy Southwest Missouri school district and wrote for some small daily newspapers.

Anonymous said...

Liberals, that is who

Anonymous said...


Get a teaching degree if you can.

Anonymous said...

Burlingame ... graduated from Annapolis.

Which would make him the type of person my father, having graduated from the University of Missouri in the early '50s and then became an officer through OCS, referred to as "trade school graduates", something they really disliked.

Graduating from Annapolis certainly means something, then again Jimmy Carter was an Annapolis graduate who also became a US Navy nuclear submarine officer (and the latter probably means more than what undergraduate school you went to), and he's one of the biggest idiots in existence.

Anyway, an appeal to authority is one of the most ridiculous logical fallacies out there, although of course much beloved by the credentialed and over-educated or those who worship them.

Anonymous said...

Well, thanks Randy for publishing my views, again. Doing so while, or soon after, undergoing hospitalization is at least an example of your willingness to allow opposing views, in this case without your own comments. And of course your usual, anonymous crowd retorted exactly as expected, attacking me and my background rather than refute my ideas. Just how many of "you" agree that homework is old school stuff no longer needed for K12 (or adult) education?

As we all enter the year 2016 and began to argue (instead of discuss) various goals for local K12 public education, the topic I clash with most of you in strong disagreement, I will certainly continue to read (but not pay to read) the Turner Report. The reason is simple;to better understand my opponents in such matters. If outrageous things occur once again in City government I will perhaps join that fray again, herein, as well. Our problems locally are examples of the ills facing America as well. Everyone wants or needs things but they must be paid for or done by others!

This for sure is a "teachers blog" (with some students playing bully as well perhaps. I have no idea the percentage of teacher views expressed herein however. But this sentiments of this anonymous crowd is clear, for sure. Someone recently tallied up the negative views of Randy against public education, locally. They were a substantial portion of this Report, again almost all negative. Many of those negative reports were later shown to be false accusations as well, like cheating on taxes, the correctness of various legal actions later proven wrong, or thrown out of courts. Of course it all began with the dismissal of Randy from R-8 several years ago resulting from a unanimous vote from the BOE. Remember as well all the local rage over declined financial reserves in R-8. Six months later they were almost back to normal with no action of consequence by new members of the BOE other than to vote in favor of Paul Barr's recommendations. Remember him, the "you should be ashamed of yourself, Paul Barr" said at a public meeting?

First up for 2016 in public education matters locally will be the Dr. Ridder proposal for a Strategic Plan. Not much said herein up to now, but I can only imagine the attacks that will be forthcoming herein, no matter what is proposed by Dr. Ridder. Later of course will be the April BOE election, a barnburner for sure. "You" will all work hard again to gain your 4 vote majority on the BOE. I suspect it will be another repeat of the 2014 and 2015 elections. Simply said, there is lots ahead in matters related to local public education.

I wish Randy a rapid recovery in his physical health. I will continue to read herein but not comment very often. But my interests in improving public education in Joplin remain firm, like such views are not. Somewhere there must be compromise, not a winner take all plan of attack.

PS: I am checking the anonymous block to post this comment simply because I don't have other identification means now, listed below. But I of course sign my own name to the comment just so you know for sure where I continue to stand.


Anonymous said...

And the clueless Mr. B. strikes again.
Homework is not the key to learning and there is quite a bit of research to back that up. If students need extra help, they should be receiving tutoring of some sort. All students should read daily for an age appropriate amount of time. The pieces they read must be at a level they can read independently if that is how they are reading.

Most schools do not retain students because there is also research showing that retention does not usually make a difference. Did you know that they base the number of prison cells to build on the number of students who are retained? In fact, if a student actually has a learning disability, it then becomes almost impossible to qualify them for services because (in Missouri) the state requires that the grade level and not age be used to decide achievement discrepency.

Additionally, many students who start "behind" end up performing on level by 3rd or 4th grade. Some don't even "catch on" until 5th or 6th.

I do agree that it seems we spend most of our time and resources on those who are struggling. That does make sense because they need the most help. It should not mean that our "average" or "above average" students are neglected. Somtimes, I think they are.

Students from "generational poverty" don't usually value education. In addition, they don't have the background, vocabulary or behaviors that make them "school ready" and able to succeed. I believe that Mr. B. would like to actually fix society more than schools. Good luck with that.

Anonymous said...

Yes, as a society we are clearly doomed, was a good ride for most tho

Anonymous said...

Home work is just a way a teacher can be lazy and teach a text. Since they don't usually have any real life experience they fall on a so called expert who write text books. Tutoring is the answer. It is funny that private schools nearly always out education, government ran institutions which are a disgusting waste of money. Public school,Teachers unlike other business people think that they only have to work until the bell rings. Do your job and educate your entire class or get a new job.

Anonymous said...

Certain conditions make for better learning. Performance in human beings is improved where stress can be minimized. "Minimized" does not mean the elimination of expectations, rather it's about trying to find an effective balance between structure and release - a positive learning environment that can promote an ideal learning situation. Things like recess for elementary school students provide a break - an opportunity to reduce stress and an outlet for energy, which can help with focus in the classroom.

If you spend time in classes, you can feel when the focus is waning and the tension is increasing; pushed too far in a negative direction will often result in decreased engagement from all students, not just those students that are already struggling or at-risk for various reasons (outside stressors, existing issues with behavior management/focus, etc.). Some students handle homework well and consistently, but those students already tend to perform well inside the classroom - the homework itself is not the thing improving their "character". Similarly, the students who struggle with homework also tend to be struggling in the classroom. For those who are struggling, they do require extra support and attention, but this is something more effectively arrived at through individualized work with teachers and staff. For them, homework and the resulting negative feedback when incomplete or done incorrectly only increases the stress and the negative associations with school, which in the long-run tend to promote further disengagement with education as a whole.

Where educators struggle in meeting the needs of these students is in time and resources. Teachers work not just in classroom time, but also in planning, in meeting or communicating with other staff and parents, in grading work, in assisting with lunch/recess/event duties, etc. With increased standardization, where it becomes even more important to stick to the plan, finding the extra time for individual support becomes even more challenging, particularly if there are multiple students requiring this educational support and encouragement. Special education teachers can help in providing individualized support for students that may be struggling, but even their time is stretched thin as there are often many students within a school that would benefit from these supports. None-the-less, having extra supports at this level would be of a great benefit, whether to assist in the classroom or after school in tutoring environments. It's not practical for every student to have an individual working with them, but an increase of staff and resources at the hands-on level would none-the-less help a lot.

Again, this comes back to positive and encouraging supports geared towards individuals, because individuals have individual challenges that may promote or inhibit learning. It is recognizable that not every student is going to have equal capabilities, but there is still an ideal that we would like each person to perform and progress to the best of their ability. Increasing negative association through routine risks marginalizing disengaged students even further, which has far more negative consequences as that child progresses through school and life; a pattern of disengagement, if encouraged, will create exactly the kind of adult that Anson seeks to avoid. In turn, many with similar attitudes will then blame that person for being disengaged - when the real question is, why should they engage with a system that so summarily rejected them in the first place?