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The Joys of Grades, Parent Teacher Conferences, and Instruction

The Joys of Grades, Parent Teacher Conferences, and Instruction
Jesse Bluma at Pointe Viven. All rights reserved.

If you are a teacher or have been in a classroom recently these videos will spark a smile.  We might as well get it out of the way.  Yes, there are some bad teachers.  No, many students and parents do not act the same as in these videos.  There is a heart of truth in each of these though for them to resinate with teachers, parents, and children.  Ask a teacher and you will hear that the instances depicted in these videos is all too common.  Why?  Part of that is the human condition.  There is more personality variation in a classroom than stars in the sky.

Students and their families come to each teacher from various educational, social, economic, religious, psychological, and philosophical backgrounds.  Some families are supportive of each other and teachers, ensure assignments are completed with good effort, are good models, and volunteer at school.  The next time you hear a politician, TV host, or radio personality blame the state of education on too many bad teachers, ask them for his or her statistics, their proof, the numbers.  Yes, there are a few teachers that do not belong in teaching.  The story does not end there.  What are the real factors?

The Xtranormal video stories below demonstrate there is more to learning than teaching.  Great teachers make their career challenges look easy, that is probably one reason many people leave the profession early on in their career.  They soon realize today's classroom is not the same as in some halcyon, golden age of yesteryear.   It is all too human to see the world through a microscope.

Looking through the lens of a microscope we don't see the large class sizes in some states such as California.  Double that of other states.  We fail to see the impact of TV, music, movies, and fashion.  We fail to see the ever increasing demands upon teachers placed upon them by school boards and principals.  We fail to see what we are doing that contributes to the challenges.

We could spend our time here regurgitating all the factors that have been discussed ad nauseam in other places.  Yes, teachers need to have mastery over their subjects, classroom management, and be terrific at making an impact.  Beyond those cliches what do we need to know?  What is it we need to act upon?  Here is the story that often does not get told or that is hidden by politicians in exchange for votes.  

1.  When compared to their private sector, white-collar counterparts who also have advanced degrees and additional training, such as attorneys, physicians, architects and those in management and finance, the mean salary for teachers is substantially lower. (

2.  Teachers are not overpaid once you consider cost of living, the average salaries for all career fields in a locale, and the age of the teachers in a district.  According to a poll conducted on EdVoices, 46% of teachers work more than 20 hours per week outside of the classroom. Nearly 31% work from 11-20 hours.  That's nine months of pay for 12 months of work.  (

3.  Myth: Teachers need to take more cuts.  The truth.  #1. Many administrators and superintendents are paid too much.  #2. Districts buy textbooks and materials that are not needed, not wanted, and that are overindulgent.  #3. Teacher salaries don’t take up most of the budget.  In almost every year, Administrator/Supervisor salaries per student grew faster than Teacher Salaries per student. Thus, had Administrator/Supervisor salaries been restricted to the growth in Teacher Salaries, substantial savings would have been realized . (

4.  The film Two Million Minutes contrasts Brittany's and Neil's easy suburban lives with those of two Indian teenagers and two Chinese teenagers, making the case that the foreign students are just plain hungrier for success.  "You just want to shake America and say, 'Wake up. We are falling behind daily,' " Compton says.  And Two Million Minutes finds plenty to be worried about: not enough study or homework time, not enough parental pressure, not enough focus on math or engineering. American teens, it argues, are preoccupied with sports, after-school jobs and leisure.  The film repeatedly contrasts foreign students' drive with what seems like American cluelessness: In one scene, Chinese 17-year-old Hu Xiaoyuan diligently practices the violin — then we cut to bone-crunching rock 'n' roll and the Friday night lights of Carmel's top-ranked football team.  (

5.  The State of California has some of the most rigorous requirements in the nation to earn a California Teaching Credential.  (

6. Many states, such as California, have a high percentage of English learners and near the top in the proportion of children living in low-income families.  (

7.  About 25% of California's students are English learners (ELs), compared with almost 9% nationally.  Most of California's English learners (85%) speak Spanish.  The next most common language is Vietnamese, spoken by about 2% of ELs.  English learners in California speak more than 50 different languages.  Texas has the second-highest percentage of English learners among the four most populous states, but New Mexico has the second-highest percentage of English learners among all states (18.6%).  Nearly half of California students (49%) are eligible for free or reduced-priced meals, compared with about 40% nationally.  Students receiving Special Education services consistently make up almost 11% of the school population in California, less than the national average of 12% and the second-lowest among the four most populous states.  (

8.  Divorce affects student achievement.  The divorce rate in America for first marriage is 41%.  The divorce rate in America for second marriage is 60%.  The divorce rate in America for third marriage is 73%.  (

9.  Screen time affects achievement.  Children ages 8–18 spend the following amount of time in front of the screen, daily:  Approximately 7.5 hours using entertainment media.  Approximately 4.5 hours watching TV, Approximately 1.5 hours on the computer, Over an hour playing video games.  These data lie in stark contrast to the 25 minutes per day that children spend reading books.  Today's youth also have the following media in their bedrooms:  More than one–third have a computer, and Internet access. Half have video game players, More than two–thirds have TVs. Those with bedroom TVs spend an hour more in front of the screen than those without TVs . (

10.  Drugs affect children.  (

11.  Some state tests, like in California, are not designed to test a non-English speaking population, that is highly transient, and from families with parents that have little education themselves.  The current California State Test would be suitable to measure the student population of California in 1985.  Finland’s education system has consistently ranked among the best in the world for more than a decade, making it the envy of every education reformer. In Finland there are no standardized tests.  In fact, there is really very little testing at all.  Finnish teachers are not monitored or rated based on test scores, and teachers (as well as their students) have a great deal of autonomy.  It is a system built on trust, and the film really drives home the notion that trust – rather than faux accountability – leads to real results, leads to teachers and students and members of government all wanting to live up to the trust given to them rather than simply scraping by.  (

12.  Parental aspirations for their children has a larger impact on student learning than feedback from teachers, study skills, homework, testing, and teacher education.

Self-reported grades: students predict their performance  1.44
Reinforcement 1.13
Instructional quality 1.00
Summarizing .82
Remediation/feedback .65
Study Skills .59
.59 (spelling)
Student created specific goals .56
Phonics and Phonemic Awareness 0.53 (reading comprehension)
Challenge of Goals .52
Homework .43
Computers 0.37
Testing .30
Teacher Education 0.11
Reading:  whole language .06


Students prior cognitive ability 1.04
Students disposition to learn .61

Home influences

Parental aspirations for children’s educational achievement .80
Home factors .67
Home environment (socio-psychological) .57
Parent involvement .46
Transiency/mobility -0.34 (that is a negative)

Social influences

Peer .38
Television -.12 (negative .12)
(Professor John Hattie)

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