The Lake Wobegon Academy of Excellence and Innovation

Welcome to Lake Wobegon Academy, where every student is in the top quintile…

Reader: we have a fiercely urgent problem on our hands. An epidemic of non-excellence in our public schools is holding the children of this once exceptional nation back and causing them to fall off of the ladders that lead directly to prosperity. Of course it is well known by now that low-income students are most likely to lose their ladder perches due to this plague of non excellence but now comes new evidence that this scourge is even more widespread than originally believed.

Reader: it was not until I watched the video below that I began to understand the full extent of our excellence malaise. (EduShyster premium readers: I am recommending a box of rosé in keeping with the blushing that you will be doing as you realize the extent of your own non-excellence…)

The new bad news
Allow me to summarize for viewers who are still “1 year behind,” to use the language of excellence. You see
, having ineffective teachers causes all students to walk backwards on the treadmill of life (Note that we are now switching from earlier ladder metaphor to new treadmill metaphor despite latter’s unintentional rendering of education as joyless, unending and treadmill-like). But that’s the old bad news. The new bad news is that even with “good, solid” teachers, students are merely treading along on their treadmills. Only  excellent teachers can effectively move the setting to ‘e,’ causing the treadmill to speed up, sending all students rocketing towards 21st century skills and prosperity. Note: the outstanding video is also available as an outstanding slide show.

And the easy peasy solution
Fortunately, this extensive problem has an equally easy solution. If we just make sure that every student in America has an excellent teacher, they will all be on the super-fast treadmills. But how can we implement this easy solution, especially since our educational arteries are clogged with so many non-excellent teachers, not to mention the “good, solid” teachers whom we only realized were part of the problem when we watched this video???
Easy peasy, reader: you use a combination of old favorites like larger class sizes with new-fangled approaches like “time technology swaps” best practice “pods” and “accountable remote teachers”  so that the excellent teacher can stretch the outer-most boundaries of excellence.

Now with more excellence
But surely all of this excellence must come with a pretty steep price tag, right? That’s where the good news gets even better, reader. You see the old days of paying “good, solid” teachers “good, solid” wages have now ended and we are in a cool new “opportunity culture.” Which means that it’s now possible to give our most excellent teachers a most excellent pay increase while continuing to spend the exact same amount of money we used to spend, only with non excellent results. Now as someone who was unfortunate enough to have had only “good, solid” teachers at union-stifled public schools, my brain is officially starting to throb, —but I’m pretty sure that in order to pay a few people substantially more everyone else is going to have to earn less. Of course, you don’t make an excellence omelette without breaking a whole lot of eggs.

The Lake Wobegon effect
Alas, that is the price we must all be prepared to pay in order to overcome the excellence deficit that has for so long caused our children to fall from their ladders of opportunity, landing upon their slow moving treadmills. And to all of you haters who insist on dwelling upon an inconvenient statistical concept called the median, which separates the higher half of a data sample from the lower half, pack up your excuse packs and head on home. There is no median at the Lake Wobegon Academy of Excellence and Innovation. All of the students here are excellent.

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  1. I could only watch that video for about 2 minutes before I was nauseated by a wave of excellence!

    I am sure you have already noticed a lack of source material, and the irony of wanting these “excellent” teachers to teach critical thinking to a gazillion students. I have no idea how one can do both, but I guess I’m not excellent enough.

    1. I love this video and I will not read so much as a word typed against it! Btw: source material is for wusses… I almost forgot: the video also comes with a part two. You’ll want to watch both when your nausea subsides!

    2. I must have a little more excellence that Louisana Purchase as I was able to “stomach” about 2:32 before hitting the stop button and puking.

      1. Guess I’m not up to speed on the excellence treadmill. I really tried to withstand it but I just couldn’t stomach any more after 1 minute 43 seconds.

  2. And I love how the non-excellent teachers are all gray-colored. Charming…

    1. And while the formerly excellence depleted students turn from grey to rainbow hued as their excellence is enhanced, the non-excellent teachers just stay that way! I was hoping that the best practices pods might enhance their excellence too but looks like it’s not in the cards…

      1. Also, the non-excellent teachers don’t smile. They KNOW they’re not excellent enough.

  3. ” in order to pay a few people substantially more everyone else is going to have to earn less”. Your inability to think outside the box is showing. For instance, we could make the numbers by shooting a few of the non-excellent teachers every year, pour encourager les autres as it were.

    1. I wonder why the visionaries didn’t mention that as a strategy??? After all, thinning the ranks of the non-excellent each year means that the percentage of excellent teachers will only rise! In fact, this is such a guaranteed means of achieving enhanced excellence that I’m surprised we haven’t seen it elsewhere. As for my inability to think outside of the box, I am actually thinking inside the box, what I believe you would call a caja de vino…

  4. Sounds excellent to me. Now all of our students will be able to go to college, until they realize they don’t have the opportunity to earn enough money to afford tuition, or are not able to afford loans with high interest. With every “excellent” student going to college, tuition will rise, making the problem even worse. Have these excellence mongers ever set foot in an elementary classroom where the students “Love” their teachers? Are second graders really going to work and learn for a computer? or for a “Learning Coach” who works like a Walmart employee? A lot of the coaching “lead” teachers would be doing used to be done by administrators, who used to be “lead teachers” rather than obedience masters. With the further destruction of our middle class, just what kind of “excellent” careers are our college students going to prepare for? Overseer? Otherwise, excellent video.

    1. Wow…the same suspects…TFA,TNTP, E4E, has anyone ever taught or stayed in the classroom for more than two years? They are all experts at something they don’t want to do anymore.

      1. It’s useless to resist. If you think “opportunity culture” is ridiculous marketing language for yet another fad, it doesn’t matter.
        They’re bringing this gift to ALL schools, whether parents, teachers and children like it or not.
        It’s the oddest philanthropy I have ever seen. It’s mandatory!

      2. Of course, Ct teacher, they were all so committed, passionate, inspired and all around excellent at teaching that They. Stopped. Doing. It.

      3. CT, I think TFA has stuck with the two year commitment and doesn’t want their “teachers” to stay in the classroom for 3 or more years because the “three excellent teachers in a row” myth could then be dispelled by statistics on their own people.

      4. Rumor on the street is that that *literally* not a single one of these quote-unquote teachers has ever stayed beyond their second year (if they even made it that far…). This is, of course, in stark contrast to the typical (zero, I’d assume) attrition rate for new, formally trained teachers in urban schools. It’s obviously these pipeline programs and has nothing to do with the way we support new teachers.

        1. Actually I just read this weekend that the Boston Teacher Residency program has a 75% retention rate after 5 years. Not sure what it is after 2 years…But I understand your point. You have been driven insane by the insinuation that #altcert causes Lyme disease and other, similar charges that appear on this page regularly. May I recommend a box of Riesling to sweeten your disposition?

          1. Shystie, you just get me. I think I’m just irritable because it’s summer time and the Lyme’s always seems to get particularly aggravated in the heat.

            Thanks for throwing me a bone with BTR (aka the #altcert shining beacon of hope). If an entire year of mentorship and coursework under vetted vets and ongoing training and coaching for three years is wrong, I don’t want to be right.

  5. Those stars on the clothes of the excellent teachers remind me of the Dr. Seuss book about the Sneeches.

  6. I am the parent of twins with Down syndrome. I sent one to public school and the other to Sucess for All Charter School. My child who attended the Success for All Charter School had an excellent teacher because the CEO of the school was given the freedom to hire whoever they saw did the job best. My charter kid was able to make the needed gains year after year to recoup the IQ deficit and complete high school college ready, and recenlty graduated and is awaiting acceptance to the very competitive TFA program. Fingers crossesd! A charter school staffed with excellent teachers cured my child (well at least the one) of retardation. Think of the possibilities for excellence in our country. Thanks for posting this great videos funded by the Joyce Foundation, they are truly inspirational!

    1. Ruth, are you a real person or a computer generated response troll?

      Nothing in this story is believable.

      1. I didn’t know you could be cured of Down’s syndrome and then become a teach for a while scab. Funny, I think .

    2. Well, don’t leave us hanging! We’re all dying to know: what happened to the other kid??? I mean, s/he went public, so obviously community college. But THEN what happened???

  7. Were these “excellent teachers” hatched from pods? Where did they come from? How did they get to be excellent teachers? The bottom line is that teacher quality is, in great part, dependent on the preparation programs from which the teachers graduated.

    1. I would say that teacher quality is, almost wholly, dependent upon the compensation package offered to teachers, in the widest sense of the concept: salary, benefits, hours, job security, work conditions, prospects for retirement and social prestige.

  8. “Excellent teachers can use fre time to teach even more children. ”
    Huh? Then how is it free time?

    The Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus, The Excellent Teacher and The Good, Solid Teacher were in a terrible car accident. Who survived? Only the Good, Solid Teacher. The others are make-believe figures.

  9. Some of you wimped out too early to hear about using “learning coaches” (formerly known as lunchroom supervisors, aids, and hall monitors) to “free up” time for those walk-on-water excellent teachers. (You could tell they were “coaches” because they had whistles around their necks.) These learning coaches also grade papers. And all the excellent teachers are going to use their “freed time” to teach gazillions more kids using fairy dust and moonbeams apparently because they won’t have direct knowledge of the kids’ work.

    This video had to be a big, group project of people never in the classroom. They broke up into four groups to figure out a way to teach more kids with less “excellent” teachers, got back together, and presented their ideas. I can see the big Post-it sheets on the walls filled with magic marker brainstorms, arrows, underlining, oh my. End of day, they turned it all over to the facilitators who boiled it down into this fantasy. And undoubtedly got paid more for this one ridiculous video than an average excellent teacher makes in several years. I’d retch but don’t want to waste my excellent box wine.

  10. I tire of ed deformers’ “year(s) of growth” bromide. Since it all boils down to standardized tests for them, they’re talking about a kid getting a couple more questions right on an end-of-the-year multiple-choice test. Whoopdeedoo.

    Is there any other field where know-it-all neophytes insist every worker be excellent? When did “good” and “solid” become deficient?

    Sadly, though, I suspect the absurdity of every teacher being “excellent” is more plausible than there being one “excellent” edu-philanthropist/reformer.

  11. A few thoughts about this revolting video.

    1. Dufrense is spot on: excellence in this model is measured by a few more correct answers on a standardized test. According to these folks the urban charter school kid who rocks a 270 the MCAS (but scores in the 30th percentile on the SAT) is just as ‘excellent’ as the kid from Lexington who scores a 270 on the MCAS and also scores in the 99th percentile on the SAT.

    2. Excellence by video?? Sure. Right after Jerry Springer is over.

  12. Yikes! I made it all the way through! I think there’s some hypnosis or something going on there. Something about that excellent background music.

    I have to confess that I have already experienced some of these excellent reforms. I went to an experimental primary school in the sixties where I was actually educated in a pod! It was a huge gym-sized room separated by collapsible partitions. You can imagine the racket of three full-sized 2nd grade classes all together in one pod, almost always sitting on the floor. Even in the sixties. All I can say is, these newfangled learning coaches better be equipped with cattle prods or stun guns or something if they’re the ones tasked with maintaining order in the pods while they wait for the next excellent teaching session to be beamed in.

    Will the mediocre coaches have to wear gray uniforms, and the excellent teachers get to wear bright orange ones? Will principals need to affix chairs to tracks so they can slide more students ever faster before the excellent teachers who will repeat their excellent lessons over and over and over? So many questions. Well, here in Chicago we are certainly doing our part to whittle away the teaching force, getting all ready for pods, prods, and just a few digitally-beamed excellent teachers. I can’t wait to see what happens next.

  13. I got as far as 2:02 but by that point, I found I wanted to extend my reach into the screen with a closed fist. Since I don’t want to hurt my knuckles and have to replace this expensive piece of technology, it seems advisable to take a wine box break and come back later to watch the excellence unfold when my vision is suitably blurred, like the facts in this video…

  14. Well, this post drove a lot of traffic to the YOUTUBE video, and
    prompted countless scathing critical comments from the likes of
    Leonie Haimson and others (posted underneath).

    Well, guess what? Opportunity Culture just scrubbed
    all those COMMENT’s, and disabled any future commenting.

    Here’s the video—which unlike before, now has no comments,
    and now bars any future comments:

    So much for a free and open discussion of Opportunity
    Culture’s approach to education.

Comments are closed.