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Thompson's Yogi-ism: Nobody Says That Anymore; Since We All know It Is True

Obvious It is no surprise that the concept that gained the largest support in the Public Agenda poll of teachers was alternative schools for disruptive students. Overall, 68% of teachers predicted the proposal would be "very effective" while 27% thought it would be somewhat effective. A previous poll by the same organization showed that the idea is even more popular with teachers in high schools and high needs schools. Only 6% of this poll's teachers said that a safe, orderly and respectful atmosphere was a serious problem in their own school, while 39% said they faced a "manageable" problem. But 88% of high school teachers say that "the most pressing problems come from social problems and kids who misbehave."

The only other results that were so overwhelming were the opinions of 91% of teachers that too much testing was a major or minor problem.

The poll was full of distinctions that are obvious to teachers, but seem to be too subtle for outside experts.

Overall, 43% of teachers rated their principals as excellent and 30% considered them to be good. Only 9% rated the principals as poor. But the percentage who rated the instructional feedback of their principals as poor was three times higher. And there were nearly identical results for the question of whether the lack administrative support was a major problem, 29%, in addition to the 42% who said it was a minor problem. In other words, teachers are not blind to the obvious and we can recognize that often our principals have no control over the problems we all face.

I would not surprised if nine of ten principals told pollsters, or each other over coffee, that too much testing is a problem. Surely a comparable ratio of principals, speaking privately at a bar, complain about the lack of alternative school slots. What percentage would say those things on record, however, in a district run by an accountability hawk?

What if a quarter to a third of principals do not have what it takes to speak truth to the powers up top, and a flawed Value Added model produces the predictable number of false positives and indicts a substantial minority of effective teachers as being ineffective? What if the central office unveils a 200+ page evaluation guideline which is a grab bag of instructional theories and a wish list of best practices as was recently done in Washington D.C.? Who would be surprised that a quarter or so of principals might not have the extraordinary moral courage to resist those career-ending mandates? Given those odds, how many talented professionals would make a data-driven decision to teach in troubled schools? - John Thompson 


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Good questions, John. When none of the states have the courage to stand up and question the four pillars of the Race to the Top which the National Academy of Sciences counsels have no foundation there are indeed some disconnects.

For the NAS Letter Report to the Secretary of Education



These numbers are interesting but they don't jive well with what teachers tell me when I'm in their buildings. Maybe we can talk about this offline at some point.

Hope you're doing well,


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