National Teacher of the Year: 'The revolution begins with us'
2012 National Teacher of the Year Rebecca Mieliwocki spoke at the NEA annual meeting on July 5.
July 5th, 2012
04:19 PM ET

National Teacher of the Year: 'The revolution begins with us'

By Donna Krache and Jamie Gumbrecht, CNN

(CNN) - The United States is obsessed with high-stakes testing that doesn't show whether teachers are masterful and students are knowledgeable, National Teacher of Year Rebecca Mieliwocki said to nearly 8,000 of her colleagues at the National Education Association annual meeting Thursday.

"When we help a child reach proficiency at any grade level, we have changed the quality of that child's life and that community forever," she said. "But aiming for proficiency means we aim to create generations of children who are average."

Instead, she said "people who haven't set foot in a classroom" should not be making decisions and policies about teaching, and teachers should be aiming to take all students - whether hungry, homeless, in the midst of their first crush or celebrating the big game - beyond the test.

"We have got to stop talking about testing and start talking more about developing, supporting and celebrating teachers," she said. "Teachers are the architects of the change we've been waiting for. We've forgotten what a teacher can do that a standardized test can't."

Standing before the delegates as “one teacher, symbolizing millions,” Mieliwocki told the assembly: “We may have forgotten how important our teachers were in restoring America's public education system but it's not too late to shift our focus to what really matters.

"If we want real change, lasting change, if we want back the power, the pride, the soaring achievement that is an exceptional public education, then the revolution begins with us."

How Mieliwocki used business experience to transform classroom

Mieliwocki, an English teacher at Luther Burbank Middle School in Burbank, California, was honored by President Barack Obama as 2012 National Teacher of the Year in a White House ceremony in April.

"You have been born with a gift for teaching and you've been given the gift of working with children. You have a front row seat to the future,” Mieliwocki said in her speech. “You build that future one child at a time.”

In an e-mailed response to Mieliwocki's speech, Robert Enlow, president and CEO of the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, said testing remains an important tool for taxpayers - and teachers.

"The teachers unions should do more than talk the talk when it comes to accountability and education; they should walk the walk," Enlow said. "There is certainly more to accountability than just testing, but that doesn't mean we should not be accountable for test results. Testing students is a critically important tool for teachers, and one of the most transparent ways that parents can discover whether their children are learning and whether taxpayers are getting their money's worth."

soundoff (842 Responses)
  1. Melissa Soliz

    I am in the trenches...........if you are not really do not have the experience or the understanding that life long teachers have. I have seen it ALL.... and I continue to do my best every day I go in. Shame on you teacher bashers! I am on team Brian.

    July 12, 2012 at 8:14 pm |
  2. steve cahoon

    tests are not THE MEASURE they are A MEASURE of a student's progress. Assesments come in many shapes and sizes from talking with a student about a topic related to a subject to student created mukti media to student centered study groups. Not allassessments need to be stamoed with a commercial labek of a hundred million dokkar organization whose existence is based in SALES OF ASSESSMENTS TO SCHOOL SYSTEMS not TEACHING RELATED TO DIVERSE CHILDREN POPULATIONS. Every studnt should be consudered unique and each should in a way have their own IEP because all students and ckassrooms are diverse in demographics, social issues, learning styles, and expression. BRAVO TO OUR TEACHER OF THE YEAR!!!She hit the nail on the head: what business or specific knowledge do politicians have making educational law and policy with their "non-expert" backgrounds? You want to fix education? Seek the teachers and administrators when making policy... THEY ARE THE EXPERTS.

    July 9, 2012 at 4:45 pm |
    • steve cahoon

      Note: I apologize for typos: tablet typing gone wrong

      July 9, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
  3. trublue

    Education starts at home, I work with a large Asian group they push education hard we as American push kids in sports at the age of three but we can't invest time in education. kids need interaction with kids true, but why can't they do that in a after school study group.

    July 9, 2012 at 12:49 pm |

    The majoriety of respondants are under 50 years of shows. They are also representative of the failed education system too. It's the fault of the unions, gov't officials, parents, bad children and what ever else you can find to blame! Blame is easy, doesn't take much thinking. Finding solutions takes a thinking mind which is in very short supply today. To think is to question. To question needs time to ponder and discuss alternatives. In todays classroom there is no time for this disruptive silliness. Teachers can not deviate from the "plan", there is no room for unplanned dialogue. Even the teacher's colleges can turn a creative, dedicated person into a boring, teach to the test BS. It is a small closed loop of uneducated drones. We punish those that speak up, dare to do things differently, those that do not follow the rules. Those souls that make us think.

    July 9, 2012 at 11:10 am |
    • durward williams

      When I was in school, graduated in 1964, we were tested every week and at the end of the school year. If you didn't pass, you didn't get to go to the next grade and, if that happened I had to face my parents which wouldn't have been pretty. As I see it, there are several problems with public education.
      1- lack of parental involvement ( main problem )
      2- Unions
      3- Quality of teachers

      July 9, 2012 at 11:50 am |
      • max3333444555

        i have no issue with teacher unions. if there was ever a job that needed union protection, the teachers have it.

        July 10, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
      • Scubus

        Of course you had test weekly. The difference is that those tests were designed by teachers to inform their teaching. Teachers still give thsoe tests – in fact, good teachers assess student constantly. It doesn't take a written test.

        You are greatly oversimplifying a very complex problem. As goes on constantly, you are not listening to those who actually know something about educating young people. Because teachers don't agree with the nonsense being foisted on stuednts and teacher by ]opportunistic politicians and businessmen doesn't mean we don't want change.

        July 10, 2012 at 10:07 pm |
    • Alec

      When you say it is the fault of the unions, how do you reconcile that with the fact that right to work states, with union presence whatsoever, have worse results, on average, than strong union states?

      There is a huge correlation between early childhood education and achievement later, yet we see little or no emphasis on that.

      There is no correlation between collective bargaining and student achievement, yet that is where all of the reform effort is.

      What does it tell us about the reformers when known ways to improve achievement are ignored and dubious ways to improve achievement are the focus?

      July 9, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
      • Bill

        Bill, what the heck are you saying in your first sentence? I hope you're not a public school teacher.

        July 14, 2012 at 1:30 pm |
      • Bill


        July 14, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
    • oldguy

      Tell me the last time that you were involved with the youth of today in an educational enviorment. I am involved with high school kids every year. I am not a teacher. Most kids today get thier opinions from google or some other internet source. I haave many entertaining discussions with them.

      July 9, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
    • cboden

      Check out the newly released Texas Republican Party Platform, which "opposes the teaching of “critical thinking skills” because they “focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.” This is what the GOP and NCLB has in mind for our kids!

      July 11, 2012 at 9:28 am |
  5. wascc

    I'm a parent who cares. My child had a math teacher this year who would not let any test go home. The students got to see their grades in class and then everything was collected, even phones so no one could take a picture of a test. I as the parent was not allowed to see the graded tests. My child struggled. I had my child stay after the one day a week this teacher was available to review the areas that needed improvement. No progress was made. I asked the teacher for names of any tutors and was given a few, but told "I'm not sure they are any good." I found my own tutor. I paid $50/hr for tutoring the entire year and still the grades didn't improve. My child's confidence plummeted. The kids are told they can't have tests back to curb cheating. Some believe the teacher could come up with new tests, but will not. If I can't review graded tests how do I help my child? How do I know the grades are accurate? My child was not the only student having trouble. Ironically at the awards ceremony, this teacher who is also head of the department, gave the most scholastic awards to a boy in school who is teaching himself math! Maybe that is the revolution. We parents use online resources to pre-teach (with all the free time we have, lol) and the kids go into school for socialization.

    July 9, 2012 at 11:04 am |
    • Bob

      For the most part, many teachers still believe that their job is to impart information; it is the students' job to learn it. Teachers must facilitate learning with more effective pedagogies–which many do not use unfortunately. In some cases, teachers refuse to even try to implement research-based strategies because they feel their methods are superior–even though the data indicates those methods are not working.
      After 35 years as a principal and teacher in Los Angeles, I am convinced that teachers working with students nurtured in non-academic homes must be the catalyst for their students' transition into the academic world–a very daunting task

      July 9, 2012 at 11:26 am |
    • AnotherTeacher

      Did you contact that teacher and ask for a meeting? I know few teachers who are unwilling to allow a parent and child review a test in the classroom while s/he is present. Then those problem areas can be discussed and hopefully addressed. Do things always change? No. Sometimes you give people advice and guidance on how to fix the problem but they continue to struggle with the same problem for years before it reaches an end. Few people blame a doctor if a person doesn't lose weight, but if they don't learn? Teacher must suck. I also think it's important to note that the tutor also failed to help your student. It's possible (though not necessarily the case) that the problem was the learner and not the teachers.

      July 9, 2012 at 11:27 am |
      • wascc

        My student was B+/A- in math before this class.

        July 9, 2012 at 12:15 pm |
    • cboden

      I agree that this is poor teaching practice, but it is what we see in a "test" focused system. The system needs to be "child" and "discovery" based. But until we get big testing business out of the classroom, this will be a continued problem.

      July 11, 2012 at 9:40 am |
  6. Thanh

    Family value is the first problem now a day. Discipline from family is the second. Teachers who have no desire to teach and help is the third. Lastly money is spent by families and government of all kind of levels unwisely.
    I do not have to spell out the problems one by one.
    All I have to say is our country is going down fast as all the empires before us from "Greed, me, my, mine and I"
    Look back in the history of all the empires and question ourselves why did they fail and we will find the answer.
    On my part I will do the best I can for any child/student that I am in contact with. My day is bearable because from
    their smiles and trust are worth million complains.
    By the way I am a 62 year old female Vietnamese hall monitor for a middle school in Racine.
    I got lots of hugs from students of all races.
    Keep saying and showing you love them from your heart they will see it and they will try to comply.
    Children need love from everybody. I will continue to do this until I retire. I hope the same goes to all of you.
    Do not talk but do the right way.

    July 9, 2012 at 10:18 am |
  7. oldguy

    The biggest problem with education in the U.S.A is the parents, and their lack of commitment to back up their school system. Whether it"s the dress code, cell phones, tardiness or any of the other school rules that encourage learning and discipline. These parents believe that their child can do no wrong and that the teachers and the schoolboard are "out to get them". I have seen this from parents from across all social and economic classes, public and private schools.

    July 9, 2012 at 10:14 am |
    • Jrt22

      I couldn't agree more. I've been a teacher or 8 years and most of my concerns and frustraitions come from the parents in my classroom.

      July 9, 2012 at 10:57 am |
      • max3333444555

        yeah yeah. lets beat up the parents. others beat up the unions. others beat up the government.

        all right and all wrong because each individual situation is unique with unique people. as a teacher you should know better than to generalize about children or parents.

        July 10, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
      • Bill

        Yea, get rid of the parents and let the government, you, adopt all the children and indoctrinate them according to the government gods. They always know best.........don't they?

        July 14, 2012 at 1:34 pm |
  8. ME

    More testers need to be hired because that is absolutley all they do in the southeast..Test..Test..Test..Test..Test..Test..Test..

    July 9, 2012 at 10:12 am |
  9. aaron

    While I agree that teachers play a grand role in the educational aspect of children's lives, I would have to disagree Mrs. Mieliwocki's on the fact that it begins with teachers. Fact is, such a "revolution" begins in the home. With 72% of African Americans being born into single parent homes, you're fighting a losing battle, unfortunately. NO amount of money, hard work, system changes, etc. will make up for the real need - whole families that care. Call me old fashioned, but that's my take on it.

    July 9, 2012 at 10:08 am |
    • Greg

      I think you're exactly right! People nowadays spend so much time criticizing government officials on local and national levels.
      You hear about the corruption and the need to vote people out and replace them etc.... What is the difference in who we will install in those positions vs. the ones that are present? We still have no way to ever know enough about htem since there are limits to what any of us can ever know about any specific individual.
      We NEVER however hear anything about how we are rasing our children nowadays and the role that plays in a childs life and academic performancre in school.
      Our morals and values are gone compared to what was existent 40 years ago. Can we expect this will not have any affect on children and learning today?
      Suddenly there seems to be this notion that many of the responsibilities in regards to education in the study practices and extracurricular outside of school activity be allocated to teachers and school officials. If our kids fail (and many times it is directly related to habits learned or uncontrolled at home) we attack the school system and it's officials. When it comes to our childrens character, habits, morals and values it is our sole responisibility to do the right things at home first. If we can't do that how can we possibly expect anyone else to be successful in assisting our children to reach the highest attainable academic ability?????????? We're screwed up at HOME!!!!!!! THAT IS our problem!!!

      July 9, 2012 at 10:45 am |
  10. Dan

    To every teacher that says those who haven't been in the classroom should have no say in educational policy: by your logic, only those who have been in the banking industry should be allowed to criticize bankers. After all, if you haven't been there, you must not know anything about the situation, right?

    Teachers, this is why you lose the support of those of us in the middle: you recycle the same old tired defenses every time you are attacked: you aren't paid enough, it's the parents' fault, no one supports you, etc. Meanwhile, we taxpayers watch our bills rise and our students' performance fall year after year. At what point does this idiocy stop? Your unions have fought tooth and nail against every attempt at educational reform: charter schools, vouchers, pay for performance, year-long schooling, etc. Meanwhile, you work 1300 hours a year while the rest of us work 2000 and then you complain you are underpaid. You rail against teacher performance grading even while you give out grades to your students. You label anyone that supports reform as a right-wing, anti-education tool of the rich. In the meantime, our students' performance continues to drop. Here in Wisconsin, the teachers in Milwaukee were so concerned about the students that they voted against a small pay drop in order to keep other fellow teachers employed. They tell us that they need more money, that they can't teach as is. Yet Milwaukee is fourth in the nation in per pupil spending, and has one of the three worst public education systems in the nation. I don't have to be a teacher to tell you that money isn't the problem.

    Basically, teachers, we in the middle class are tired of your arguments. We are tired of you telling us you need more money while we are off at work and you lay on the beach for three months. Come tell me that your union-mandated 1300 hour contract is so difficult and you have to put up with so much crap at work. Why don't you come work my job for a day? Why don't you get your head out of the sand and realize that when you say your unions oppose reform in the name of students, we just aren't buying it anymore? Take a good, long look in the mirror and ask yourself why you really oppose educational reform. Is it for the children, or for yourself?

    July 9, 2012 at 9:23 am |
    • edge

      They haven't lost my support on bit Dan, but your viewpoints have,

      July 9, 2012 at 9:43 am |
    • Josh

      It is a sad state of affairs, when a random guy on the internet can easily rebut every argument of the "Teacher of the Year".

      July 9, 2012 at 9:45 am |
    • ME

      Put your money where your mouth is Don..
      I will bet you my least 300...that you could not take a teacher's job for one week without taking Blood Pressure Medicine..
      Let's do this Don..
      Let me know when you can change positions with a teacher..!!

      July 9, 2012 at 10:10 am |
    • Aaron

      Thank you Dan!!!

      They also need to get rid of Tenure. It's not right that after 2 years teachers can virtually not be fired. Most teachers are doing well and trying, but there are some teachers out there that are just skating along, and not the best out there. It takes weeding out these bad ones to let the good ones rise, and to focus on improving education.

      July 9, 2012 at 10:14 am |
    • kiwi2704

      While I agree with most of your arguments, your harping on the 1300 hour work year almost invalidates all of your other worthy content. I do not know of one teacher who only works 1300 hours. That's during school hours. It doesn't count grading home work at night, staying after school to help a student to takes the initiative to ask for help and tutoring, or all the teachers who participate in summer school so a student can catch up with their class.

      I do not say this as a teacher. I am not one. I say this as a former student who stayed after school 3 nights a week to get help with my assignments. I say this as an aunt of a child who is attending summer school.

      I agree there are too many excuses in education. That our education system is out-dated for the era we are in. And that many bad teachers are allowed to remain in the system. But I do think many teachers are putting in way more than the 1300 hours you list here.

      July 9, 2012 at 10:17 am |
    • Anthony

      Nicely put, Dan.

      July 9, 2012 at 10:18 am |
    • ted

      Do you really think teachers like Rebecca Mieliwocki put in in 8 hour days and "lay on the beach for 3 months during the summer?" How dare you make blanket statements like that! I'm sure Ms. Mieliwocki works tirelessly long after her students leave to plan amazing lessons for them. I'm sure she goes to workshops and seminars to develop herself professionally. And I'm sure she spends a good part of the summer organizing materials, refining her lessons, or teaching summer school. Sure, there are bad teachers out there, but there are bad doctors, lawyers, and salesmen. As second year teacher myself, I want to know why are teachers as a group demonized so much? After all, you are entrusting us with your kids! And you think we recycle the same arguments over and you really think we haven't heard the "but you get the summers off" line before??

      So before you call all teachers lazy or ungrateful, find a really great teacher and thank them because you have no idea the kind of work they do. you think they just stand front of kids and talk?? think again...

      July 9, 2012 at 10:20 am |
    • TeacherTeacher just made her point. You have absolutely NO idea of what you are talking about.

      July 9, 2012 at 10:23 am |
    • kim

      I wish I could lay on the beach for three months! I work in GA, a right to work state. We don't have teacher unions negotiating our contracts. The schools are still horrible. The unions can't be blamed for everything.

      July 9, 2012 at 10:25 am |
    • withoeve

      Do you want an insurance adjuster deciding what medical procedure you can have? Or maybe the sheriff gets to choose your lawyer? To go with your own example, someone with no finance training deciding how to invest your money?

      When uninformed people try to make policy, they make stupid policies. Let me inform you a little:

      At school 7:00 am – Student needed extra help with project
      IEP Meeting, faculty meeting, parent meeting, etc. 7:45
      Contract begins 8:15
      Class begins 8:30
      Teach to Lunch Time 12:45
      Work with students through Lunch until 1:15
      Prep Hour 1:15-2:15 To meet with and coordinate with other teachers in subject and not
      Last class ends 3:30
      Help Students after school until 4:30-5:00
      Go home and grade papers, work on lesson plans, call parents, PTO meetings, school activities, etc. for 1-3 hours each day

      Daily total 9-13 hours

      Let's go conservative: 9X188 = 1692 hours

      Add in Parent Teacher conferences and other required meetings: 20 hours.

      Takes us to 1712 hours


      Required further college training between 1-5 credits per year.
      (This summer I have 5.) 36-110 hours
      "Optional" training for changes the next year (As in, "this isn't required by contract, but we will be making job decisions based upon it.") 20-40 hours.

      Reading to keep up on current materials and subjects: Another 20-60 hours.

      Being conservative again: 76 hours

      Conservative Total is up to 1788 hours or 32 hours per week. At a starting teacher's salary that's roughly $15 per hour, a teacher who has been in the field for 10 years and has a MA/MS degree: roughly $24 per hour.

      Non-conservative numbers work it out to 2674 hours or 48 hours per week; starting pay at $10 per hour and MA/MS+10 at $16.50 per hour.

      Of course these numbers are rough and average, but I think the basic concept is clear. Teachers work between 32 and 48 hours per week on average over the whole year, though a huge chunk of that is in 45-68 hour work weeks. The contract year and even day gets shortened, but the work to be done does not reduce at all, rather it increases. Teachers spend their own money in their classes so students have basic supplies that parents can't or won't buy. Teachers spend their own money on added college classes. Last year alone I had $520 in receipts at tax time and could only take the $250 deduction allowed (I've never been that low.)

      The state says I have an average class load of 22 students per hour. What that actually means is that IF my principal, vice, counsellors, janitors, office staff, and all adults in the building and district office were teaching in the class rooms of the school, their average would be 22 students. That's how the math gets done. Reality: I have 28-51 students in my class.

      Under current law I cannot ask for a pay raise. I can be fired two months into the teaching year because the school population changed by 1%, and since the year's hiring is over at that point I will not be able to work in my field until the next year. If contract negotiations fail, the district can and has simply stated that the union is wrong and makes their last offer official: there is no requirement to negotiate in good faith and no recourse. If teacher's strike, it goes into their permanent file. No reason needs to be given for my dismissal, and since I cost the state more than a first year teacher, that can be as good of a reason as any for getting rid of me as a teacher. If I anger a parent by giving a failing grade, and that parent is friends with a member of the school board, that is grounds for dismissal.

      Furthermore, decisions about education are not being made by parents or the middle class as you suggest. They are being made by elected officials. More and more these choices are being made because of lobbied contracts with huge corporations. The testing companies for one are absorbing huge chunks of your tax dollars, and what we get are tests that do not actually have any evidence to support that they measure anything. I have had several students graduate from college at this point who were considered failures on the standardized tests the state required. Books are being bought and required by the state when every teacher knows they are not worth the price of their paper. Follow the money... and it isn't going to the teachers.

      I welcome parents to help make choices in education. An involved parent makes a bigger difference than twelve years of excellent teachers. An involved politician... well, now that you are a little more informed, you decide.

      July 9, 2012 at 10:50 am |
      • cboden

        Well said!

        July 11, 2012 at 9:55 am |
    • onestepfather

      Dan, my wife is a teacher, and we all agree that education reform is neccesary, but let me offer up some information you seem to have missing. First, while teacher contracts call for 1300 working hours, even mediocre teachers work far more hours than that. When you add in after-school and before-school parent meetings, staff meetings, paper grading, project preparation, and lesson planning, she works almost all day long. Summer months also include lesson plans, conferences, etc. She also pays out-of-pocket for lots of classroom supplies. Also, performance-based pay sounds great and all, but how do you make it fair? It doesn't take a great teacher to get good results out of an honors class because the kids generally want to learn, are well-behaved, and have supportive and involved families. Then you have teachers with classes made up of "regular" students who are also mixed in with kids that have special education requirements. The teachers that get the most out of these kids are always saddled with more of the same the next year because they can handle it. The problem is that they may get a special needs kid to write an essay or participate in class, but despite solid progress like that, grades don't always follow suit. The real problem, and part of what this woman was referring to, is the absolute mountain of garbage that is No Child Left Behind. It just doesn't work in practice. It leads to admistrators requiring students to teach to the test, and kids that need to be removed from the school being slapped on the wrist to keep attendance numbers up. I have no doubt teachers' unions are to blame as much as anything, but they are a necessary evil these days for many teachers. If my wife gives a failing grade to a student because they refuse to do the work, parents come to the school complaining about her instead of being good parents and coming down on their kids. Unions help provide legal council for moments when well-to-do parents would rather take the school or teacher to court instead of demanding excellence from their kids. It happens every day. Again, there's plenty of blame, but let's keep it where it should be: governamental policy, unions, and admistration, not the teachers.

      July 9, 2012 at 10:54 am |
    • Shiny Happy Person

      Gee Dan–I just got off from my summer job since I am only paid for the 10 months that I teach. I am also taking a graduate class this summer in order to keep up my teaching certification which I pay for by myself. I can't do a part time job during the year since I being home school work every night and on weekends. I don't have the money to spend on a vacay at the beach because I spend THAT money buying supplies for my classroom and all my students who can't afford the basics. Get the facts before you start standing on your soapbox and bash teachers as being lazy whiners.(And NO-I am not a member of a union-have never been- since in the SE, they are NOT unions, but associations with no bargaining power.)

      July 9, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
    • Doug

      Let's also see you come to a teacher's class for a day and teach! Two way street on that comment sir.

      July 12, 2012 at 12:43 am |
  11. Brian

    I wonder if she'd be so prosaic if she won her Teacher of the Year and still got fired because of her junior status...oh, wait that is what happened to a Teacher of the Year in California. We need find and keep our best teachers. Pay them what they're worth. Value merit over seniority.

    July 9, 2012 at 9:07 am |
    • Balanced99

      Sounds a bit too logical for the Unions to approve.

      July 9, 2012 at 9:25 am |
    • real american

      in most states,like here in MI., public school teachers are the most highly paid and benifited PART -TIME employees in the state

      July 9, 2012 at 9:28 am |
      • common sense

        Only in America do we bash teachers. Its amazing the ultra conservative ideas are easily promoted to the mentally weak and the mentally weak make comments like you "real american".

        July 9, 2012 at 10:04 am |
      • TeacherTeacher

        Try becoming a teacher and then tell us how "part time" it is.

        July 9, 2012 at 10:25 am |
  12. Di

    Look at the world education ratings. The US is 14th while Canada is 3rd. If we are supposed to be the greatest country in the world we should be able to educate our citizens in a world class way. Maybe we should send government officials to Canada to see how they are running their school systems and testing programs. They face many of the same problems we do in the US and they seem to be doing a much better job.

    July 9, 2012 at 8:51 am |
    • common sense

      great post! One important aspect is that teachers are the ones making the education reform decesions. Similar to Finland. Teachers are well respected and heaviliy unionized.

      However, diviorce rate is lower and the income gap is less. Parents are not forced to work longer hours and can parent their kids instead of school parenting their kids.

      July 9, 2012 at 10:09 am |
    • mk045

      Most other industrialized countries do not have the same expectations for every student. In the US, every student is essentially on a college track, whether they are destined for college or not. Students in those countries are tracked into trades and non-professional careers at a much earlier grade level, where they do not contribute to those scores. The tests that are being compared use all of our students, but only their best. So it is the same situation as in the US internally, where every student is compared against "The Standards", but what those standards comprise varies widely by state. Standardized testing is a complete sham in the US, unless you are talking about top-level, third-party exams like SAT/ACT, GMAT, etc.

      But those have their own...issues.

      July 9, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
    • cboden

      Just recently met a Canadian teacher. I asked her several questions about their system and you are right. They do deal with many of our same issues. The one thing I noted though was that they only test their students in grades 3, 8 and one of the high school levels. Their focus is not on testing. This makes me wonder since Pearson, the great test making conglomerate which is based in England, do the English not support testing their kids to death? Or, are we as Americans the only ones who have bought into this continual "incompetent teachers and system" argument that allows this dollar sucking corporation, with the support of paid-off politicians, to undermine the education of our students and the ability of teachers to truly teach?

      July 11, 2012 at 10:09 am |
  13. Willie12345

    Get rid of the NEA, aggressively support good teachers, remove the poor ones, remove the trouble makers in the class room, raise the bar on students, .......... do it now.

    July 9, 2012 at 8:42 am |
  14. teach

    Simple solution, get the behavior problems isolated and out of the classroom. Hold the students and their parents accountable for their disruptions to the learning environment. Yes everyone has the right for an education but they don't have the right to disrupt the other 25 students.

    July 9, 2012 at 8:39 am |
    • TownC

      ...35 students or more!

      July 9, 2012 at 8:49 am |
  15. Tom

    I think 90% of teachers are sincere. I also think 100% of the teacher's union leaders have interests far different than children's education at heart. Same old drumbeat: Smaller classes, more teachers, shorter hours, better facilities, different 'programs of the year', better benefits to attract better short, just spend more money and trust us to improve your kid's education. And we, the taxpayers, have swallowed this for decades and ponied up the bucks. And what have we gotten for it? A substandard educational system that produces substandard results. I lay this squarly at the feet of the union hacks and the 10% of teachers who are nothing but sacks of meat taking up space. Get rid of the teacher unions, pay exceptional teachers well, get rid of the dead wood, provide vouchers, and let excellence happen.

    July 9, 2012 at 8:37 am |
    • J. Miley

      It's obvious you are not a teacher and probably never stepped in a classroom to teach. Teachers spend 80 percent of their time dealing with rude students and classroom disruptions while administrators are only concerned about the number of students in school (FTE) rather than the quality of students. It's a shame when students are allowed to curse teachers and threatened them, and what happens, the teacher get admonished for not being able to control their classroom while no discipline measures are at their disposal. The very people directing and guiding education have no educational background.

      July 9, 2012 at 9:20 am |
    • Don

      ...don't forget that you have a responsibility at the local level to involve yourself in the school district where you's not just the teacher's unions that bear some of the falls on us individually as well...

      July 9, 2012 at 9:27 am |
    • Shiny Happy Person

      Based on your reasoning, then please explain why Mississippi's public schools have one of the worst reputations and that state doesn't allow a teacher union. In the SE, most are right to work states and the teachers have an Association with no bargaining power-they can "suggest" all they want but no one has to follow any of their opinions and they have no say in how teachers get hired/fired/number of hours worked.

      July 9, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
  16. More pay, more union power, more re-educated democrats

    We need a revolution in education all right, a revolution that takes our schools away from the unions. We don't need to program more democrats, we need more independent thinkers and doers. You don't need an education to be a ward of the state. Are we willing to sacrifice yet another generation to the failed social engineering policies of these socialists?

    July 9, 2012 at 8:33 am |
  17. TownC

    The main problem with our educational system is the breakdown of the family. Every educator knows that a child coming from a stable two parent home is more likely to be successful in school. We need to address the real cause of the failures of our educational system and not dance around the issue.

    July 9, 2012 at 8:32 am |
  18. John

    Also, I am all for her suggestion that people who have not stepped foot in a classroom should not be making economic long as she abdicates that no one who has never, say, been in the military should be allowed to make military decisions. Somehow I bet she wouldn't not be in favor of that approach.

    July 9, 2012 at 8:29 am |
    • Pamela Haley Design

      If they can't think critically; they can't revolt. If they don't understand what's going on; they assume everything is all under control. They let the people in control keep control until it is all too late...

      July 9, 2012 at 8:34 am |
  19. John

    I don't think Ill be letting my kids be the guinea pigs for the great social experiment that is public education. Private education is a proven commodity, if I can afford it, why shouldn't I send my kids there?

    July 9, 2012 at 8:27 am |
  20. gary

    NCLB was a terrible idea from the start. It was based on lies from TX, and Bush believed it all. I taught before and after NCLB and I saw the decline in education due to it. Teaching from a script to attain a minimal arbitrary standard for all produces mediocrity at best, and it wastes the best minds. We need to reinstate Gifted Ed.

    July 9, 2012 at 8:22 am |
    • Aunt B

      So, Gary.....What was the excuse BEFORE the testing began? Things were not any better back when "social promotions" were the norm. Anytime an effort is made to hold teahers "accountable" the teachers rebel. Tenue track positions for teachers must be eliminated. The teacher who taugh my sisxth grade social studies class in 1975-76 by giving us copies of pages out of cutsy coloring books to color remains in her teaching position to this day.

      July 9, 2012 at 9:27 am |
  21. Andy

    "people who never stepped into a classroom" shouldn't make decisions on education but they do. Just like people with no medical degree decide on the country's healthcare in my profession. The larger the centralized government role has become the more problems we create. I am all for a more micro economic and less macro economic approach. There is no one grand solution for everyone so why not reduce the size and thus, the expense to a state level. That I would support.

    July 9, 2012 at 8:18 am |
  22. Mary

    As a parent one thing that i've observed is that it always seems that the parents of the troubled students are the least likely to so up at academic functions like open house or parent teacher nites etc. There may be many reasons for this, manybe they are working,or maybe it is something else but parents must value education and demonstate this to their children.

    July 9, 2012 at 7:49 am |
  23. Ran Herti

    Is there an agenda? A Henry Kissenger inspired program of promoting sodomy as a population control method?
    I never imagined a gay support group for 13 year olds. And parents are not allowed in as it would "spoil the meeting" according to the vice principle who hosts the meeting and is openly gay.
    I wish I was kidding...
    Go Detroit...

    July 9, 2012 at 7:31 am |
  24. WWRRD

    Our scientific "experts" and pyschologists, and politicians are severely guilty for overthinking this problem. The more we study public education and its problems the worse it gets.

    It used to be simple. Our kids went to school, they learned english, math, science, US history, threw in some electives like shop class, band, art, and after school they played sports or participated in a club or two. Then the "experts" go involved.

    Parents have been left out. Admittedly largely because they are the most ineffective stakeholder involved. They have largely abdicated responsibility to the schools and teachers. It used to be that the schools provided the basic facts and education and parents taught the values and ethics. Now they expect schools to do it all.

    Lastly, we goofed up when someone decided that every kid has a "right" to a free public education. I agree every kid should have a equal opportunity to a free public education. That right however should be sacrificed if the kids becomes a deterrent to the success of other students. Our schools are riddled with discipline problems. The problem kids are told the are "special" and deserve "special programs", and "individualized attention". The teachers spend so much futile time on discipline that the kids that go to learn are the ones making the sacrifice. Then,. when standards fall, the teachers get blamed. If a kid acts up repeatedly throw him out before he negatively impacts the rest.

    That would go 90% of the way toward solving the problem. No expert needed.

    July 9, 2012 at 7:25 am |
    • Marion

      WWRRD, agree with your comments!

      July 9, 2012 at 8:32 am |
    • yangma69


      July 9, 2012 at 9:14 am |
    • paul321

      We did not 'goof up' when it was decided that ALL children regardless of race, creed or financial worth, has the same access to free education. It is simply that the USA has failed where other countries have succeeded in making this work.

      July 9, 2012 at 9:30 am |
      • WWRRD

        They should have access, but the access should be limited based on their behavior and performance. Once they interfere with other kids performance , they should be tossed.

        July 9, 2012 at 9:39 am |
      • TeacherTeacher

        Paul321.....he is talking about the students who consistently go to school and disrupt. That is all they do. The rest of the students suffer because of them, yet the teacher and school cannot get rid of them....without being sued.

        July 9, 2012 at 10:35 am |
    • DW

      Well said!! When we were in school these kids (special needs, etc.) had there own classrooms, now, unfortunately schools are not allowed to do that because it singles these students out. So, as has been said, the teacher has to spend so much class time dealing with them that the other students are not getting a fair shake. Why is that any more fair? I went along on several of my sons field trips in the last few years and have seen this first hand, I have actually seen the kids that WANT to learn just shrug and "give up" because they couldn't get a complete answer from their because he or she was distracted by another student "misbehaving" Lets not forget, in another 20 or 30 years this is the generation that will be "leading" this country.

      July 9, 2012 at 9:56 am |
  25. Jack Reeves

    Considering how much money the USA has spent on education and the lack luster results, one wonders why we have public education at all. If you research where successful people are educated you will find that they are from private schools. Private schools do very well in education and morel upbringing. The teachers union and the election of unqualified board of education members is the cause. People who want to educate their children send them to the private sector and avoid the public school like the plague.

    July 9, 2012 at 5:49 am |
    • Jerry

      Spoken like the typical elitist person who has no clue or ulterior motives. Educating the masses cannot be done in a private little world. We need public education. We just need to make it better. The problem is that ignorant people and ignorant politicians would rather throw the baby out with the bath water than do what it takes to fix the real problem. Of course this can be said of most government supported systems.

      July 9, 2012 at 6:51 am |
      • Mark

        Written like the typical uneducated CNN "soundoff" poster.

        July 9, 2012 at 6:56 am |
    • szyq

      It would probably not bother you at all if a possible Einstien was washing your hair. Everyone deserves a chance at an education and a better life.

      July 9, 2012 at 6:58 am |
    • Marion

      Public education, educates the masses.

      July 9, 2012 at 8:34 am |
    • P.E. Teacher

      I send my kids to private school not because I do not want a bad teacher, in fact the school my kids are zoned for have outstanding teachers. I don't want them with the other kids. I love private school because all the parents are motivated and and the kids are well behaved because their parents care. The teachers tell us parents what they need from us in order to teach effectively and the parents do it, therefore the teachers can concentrate on teaching. I work in the public school system, I can see the frustration from all sides, the parents, the community, the unions, the teachers, the administration, politicians etc. I can see societies ills right in front of me in a daily basis. Divorce, drug abuse, neglect, single parents, unwanted pregnancies, all the stuff you see on springer. This is what we have turned America in to.
      I can see the culture of America turn into what the rest of you see. A greater percentage of kids without work ethic, morals, and motivation. I work in a school that has students from all over the world, and we have Americans too. What I see is that the culture the students come from has the most impact on student success. For example; I rarely have a problem either behaviorally or academically with Vietnamese, Chinese, or Korean students. They come to class, they are respectful, they learn, they do not complain about hard work. Why? Because their parents preach it at home. Shocker! They are easy to teach. We have a culture problem and everyone is pointing fingers. Its our American way of life getting the best of us (or should I say worst of us). US. We are all affected. Therefore ALL OF US NEED TO STEP IT UP!

      July 9, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
  26. Gamalyb

    National Teacher of Year Rebecca Mieliwocki has a very insightful point because it implies the following „next steps“: If some students are not proficient then where is the fault? Is it with the student(s)? the teachers? the curriculum?, the parents? the TV culture of ‚bad behavior‘“?, the „best practices“, the teacher training? Or all of these, to some mixed extent? Answering these questions with specific and conrete analyses and diagnoses – – on a case by case basis – – will lead to much more creative, much more efffective teaching. Then, many more kids will be happier to be more educated according to their own preferences, and interests. We need to improve national education in THIS DIRECTION – – -at all levels and phases of teaching.

    Alas, the short-sighted entrepreneurial mind set of current day voters somehow does not prioritize ( and so does not b not "allow" our elected reps to value educational of nation's kids enough to fund such projects. We need more social theory. Whether we call it propuganda, editorials, or "election adds".

    If we are to prioritize in the long term then, it seems, we need to have mind sets simillar Rebecca Mieliwocki’s (God bless her ). At the very least least we need to be educated in those ideas and VALUES that her remarks imply to my mind set. That means LESS "capitalistic theory ( orm if you prefer, less capitalistic propaganda or , "public education", and or "mass media barages" about the greatness of the „preoficiency standard“ of entrepreneurs giving jobs..We need national development, support and celebration of life – -„beyond the job numbers that currently the corporations with money are witholding unethicly.. God bless the likes of Rebecca Mieliwocki, and „us, every one“.

    July 9, 2012 at 5:35 am |
  27. NYC Teacher

    I am disheartened every time I read one of these forums... People apparently feel protected and emboldened by the anonymity of online posting– free to spew hateful, ill-informed crap with no embarrassment... and no worry about being questioned or asked to provide supporting evidence to back up their wild assertions.

    There are certainly systemic problems in public education. In a system so huge, there are bound to failures along with the triumphs. But public education is an amazing thing, something we should all be grateful for. Ask children in many countries, who would absolutely die for the chance to attend school, how much we should appreciate public education.

    There are no easy answers to improve schooling and learning. Blaming teachers and unions is certainly a ridiculously simplistic and poorly-informed "solution." This kind of thinking undermines education. Teaching is one of the most important and undervalued professions.

    For all of you who claim teaching is so "easy" and "overpaid," why not jump right in and become a teacher?

    July 9, 2012 at 12:23 am |
    • Sternberg

      You can complain that your customers don't understand all you want. The fact is that teachers and their unions have developed a monopoly that causes the parents and students to have to take whatever you dish out.
      You might be a good teacher. You might be the worst in the world, and you could still post the statement that you did.
      The public on the other hand is unhappy with you and your peers service and there is a reason for that.

      July 9, 2012 at 12:49 am |
    • Tim in America

      I am a computer engineer, I volunteer in the public schools during my lunch. And I have mixed feelings about your comment.
      As a computer engineer, I never ever work less than 8 hours a day (9 hours if you include lunch). At least 2 days a week I work 13-14 hours (the extra hours are unpaid). I have not had a pay raise in 4 years (and of course NO COLA), and my benefits have gone up (so my take home pay is less than it was 4 years ago). I get 20 days off a year (including sick days). My vacations are cancelled 1/2 the time I schedule them. I am on (unpaid) on-call 1 week in 3, where I often spend the middle of the night talking to people in India. And, I will be lucky to have enough to retire after 45 years of work. – – – – – and with talking to many of my friends this is all typical for computer people.
      When I volunteer in schools, I never see teachers with 35+ years on the job. Who in the world gets to retire after such a brief career? I see 'some' teachers reading novels in study halls or when students are working (yet they claim they have tons of work they take home). Not that that taking a break is wrong, it is just something most people could NEVER do on their jobs. Overall, I admire teachers a lot. Much of my family, including my mother, teach in public schools. I'd love to do that too. But when I hear their concept of the outside world, it is frustrating how MISINFORMED teachers are. 9-5 is a concept that does not exist anymore (so teachers need to stop acting like that's what their counterparts get). Most people have lost more income than me, but teachers pay is not dropping like everyone else's...

      July 9, 2012 at 2:14 am |
      • Ran Herti

        Police, Fire, Military all have 20 year retirements.

        July 9, 2012 at 3:08 am |
    • government cheese


      July 9, 2012 at 3:54 am |
    • Mastiffs4evr

      Thank you – very well stated.

      July 9, 2012 at 8:24 am |
  28. Claire

    I've been an educator for more years than I care to remember. We keep hiring teachers who are proficient at teaching middle class and affluent white children from 2 parent families, who are self motivated to learn, and do not cause any discipline problems. Essentially the children whom our teachers favor could learn from anyone. Unfortunately too many of our students don't fit most teachers' ideal. Therefore our teachers struggle to succeed. They pat themselves on the back when students are successful and blame students and their families when they are not. I know a lot of teachers... too many are only collecting a paycheck, fully knowledgeable that they are not successful with all of the students sitting in their classroom. Rather than leaving the profession, they blame the students. Anyone who thought for a minute that America's public schools could achieve the requirements of NCLB and did not see this failure coming, should take a long hard look at our teacher work force.

    July 8, 2012 at 11:48 pm |
    • Gniz

      This is my 30th year. I don't always blame the workforce, though there are teachers who got into the profession for the summers off. Still, if you didn't look at NCLB and see ultimate failure, you are an idiot. Assuming that simply improving the classroom teachers would somehow overcome the social-cultural disadvantages that some students walk in with is ignorant. Some do NOT want to learn. some are there for girls, to sell drugs, or because home is a much worse place. There were kids who did not care in 1979, when I graduated from high school. There are still those kids in the schools. It is human nature, not an idealistic utopia. Emergency rooms do not save every patient. Teachers cannot reach every student. She nailed it on the head.

      July 9, 2012 at 12:07 am |
    • Burt Way

      As a non teacher who knows many teachers, I found the last 2 posts very informative. I think what you are saying is that teachers should do the the best they can to provide an environment that allows kids the learn. You cant force anyone to learn who does not want to or is unable to. When NCLB (name changed?) spends $30 Billion / year to demand meeting some bureacratic standard then it is ignoring human nature, the school environment and is unscientific. The world needs only so many r white collar workers anyway, despite what politicians tell us. Also, note that $30 Billion NCLB is about 3 times the Federal Budget for Arts & Sciences. Nat Science Foundation (~$8 Billion), Nat Endowment Arts (<$2Billion.)

      July 9, 2012 at 12:19 am |
      • Bob

        Burt, you are absolutely right. Each student learns at a difference pace and some never learn unfortunately. However, as with any enterprise with integrity, educators should strive to provide a quality education to all of its clients. In schools with challenging students who are nurtured in poverty, a teacher must see himself/herself as a catalyst for a child's transition from a non-academic to academic world. This is easier said than done, but this the biggest challenge facing our country. We either do a more effective job of educating those who have traditionally been under-served or we will continue to struggle economically. This challenge is not Republican v. Democrat, man v. woman, rich v. poor or white v. black. This is a challenge to all Americans. If we do not find a way to come together, we will lose prominence–no one benefits from that.

        July 9, 2012 at 12:39 am |
  29. Liz

    Also you need to know that the education of the Mother is a huge determining factor of the success and future education of a child. Not only do we need to support teachers more, but we need to support women and families more. There is plenty of blame to go around. We are all culpable. How many kind words did you say to a stranger today? Did you hold the door for someone, said "please" or "thank you." The adults are the role models and we should support one another and our teachers. If you do not like your child's teacher, request a different one. If your child is struggling, help them. This is not rocket science. In foreign countries, teachers are not questioned they are respected. If you want your child to have a better education, take them less to McDonald's. Go to a museum or a park. Take them on a walk. If the public school is bad, figure a way to get them to private school.

    July 8, 2012 at 11:48 pm |
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