Sunday, February 21, 2010

Am I Reading This Wrong?

The Iowa Department of Education posted "good" news on their website.

Iowa DOE

It says, "Iowa Governor Chet Culver announced teacher salaries, which were at 37th in the nation just one year ago, are now at 26th - ahead of a majority of states and the District of Columbia. The average salary in Iowa is now $48,638."

The issue I have is not with the amount of the salary, it's with some logic of the press release. Culver says we are 26th in the nation in teacher salaries. Fine, I'll go with that. But if MY math is correct, beings 26th means that there are 25 states with higher salaries, 24 states with lower salaries, and the District of Columbia who is also lower than us. Contrary to Culver's statement, I believe that this means that we are not "ahead of a majority of states" but in fact "below a majority of states". We are ahead of 24 states, but since there are 50 states all together, we can't say that's a "majority"

My point is (besides how scary it is that our Department of Education considers "majority" to mean "fewer that 50%") that this is EXACTLY why politicians cannot be involved in education. In any way. Our governor makes a statement that seems to bring good news, but when you read into it you realize he has no idea what he's talking about. No politician does when it comes to education. They are interested in producing a sound bite, a press release, or a piece of legislation that might seem like a good thing, but when you actually analyze what's being said you realize how unintelligible, impossible, or ridiculous it actually is.

Further illustration is provided by Joe Bower's blog who provided a summary of an Alfie Kohn speech in Canada. Bower summarized one of Kohn's points this way...

Cliches like 'raise the bar' and 'higher standards' at first glance seem to make sense; however, if we were to stop and speculate - what would the government say if every child actually scored proficiently on this year's Provincial Achievement Test? Might they respond, "Wow, those teachers sure are doing a fine job." This is laughable. It is far more likely that the response would be something like, "Those teachers are too darn easy on those kids." What this tells us should disturb you - the higher standards movement, by defiinition, is designed to ensure that not all children can achieve them, because if everyone could achieve them, that would be proof that the standard was simply not challenging enough.

No politician is going to be able to help, reform, or change schools effectively. None. That is my bold statement of this blog. They will always be looking to do something that looks good but they won't know if it actually is good. They can't know this, they're not teachers. They have no idea what happens in a classroom, just as I have no idea what happens on a factory line, a fishing ship, a police officer's car, a fireman's station, a lawyer's office, or a mechanic's garage. Real change will come from those on the front lines because we are the ones who know what is actually happening and what we can actually do.

We talked about "order" in the beginning of the year in 5th grade but only reviewed it because that was covered down in 4th and 3rd. One of our Mental Math activities this week was "If you are 9th in line, how many people are ahead of you?" I kid you not. If only someone at the Department of Education had paid more attention in elementary school...


  1. "Real change will come from those on the front lines because we are the ones who know what is actually happening and what we can actually do."


  2. Hmmm. Odd they said that?!

    After the extensive travel I've done within schools all over the the country, from both the $30,000 per year privates to a struggling, security gate-locked public 2 miles from each other...I believe we DO NEED government help in SOME ways. The inequalities are too widespread & out of control.

    I am quite fond of the studies & writing of Jonathan Kozol. ...educators & local communities unfortunately cannot do it alone.


  3. I think we do need a little assistance from the government, however, taking advice from the ones on the front lines. They simply have to walk a mile in the teachers shoes to really "get it".

  4. Hi Mr. Carver! I believe that you are right about real change coming from those on the front line. I would love see politicians and the government more informed and educated about the education system and what teachers are really doing in schools.
    I will be following your blog this semester in my EDM 310 class at the University of South Alabama. Dr. John Strange is my professor. We are a class focused on learning about using technology in our classroom. I personally am studying to be an Elementary Education teacher.
    I look forward to reading more of your posts and learning from you. Have a wonderful day.
    Amanda Sullivan
    Mobile, AL
    Here is a link to my personal class blog:
    Here is a link to our class blog:

  5. People in the government really do need to be more informed about the ways of education if they are going to make good decisions about the schools. They should ask people on the front lines what is going on and what would help them in the classroom before making major decisions instead of making decisions only to make themselves look good. I enjoy your blogs and I thank you for your thoughts.
    I'm putting my comments on my class blog for EDM 310 at the University of South Alabama and I would love for you to visit my blog.
    I hope you have a wonderful week.
    Amber Fleming