By Richard John Stapleton
Debbye and I attended a meeting Saturday afternoon September 16 hosted for Dr. Sid Chapman by Bill Herring, president of the local Democratic Party, at the Forrest Heights Country Club in Statesboro, Georgia. My wife Debbye is the star mathematics tutor in our Stapleton Learning Company small business in downtown Statesboro, located in the Parker Real Estate Building right across the street from the Emma Kelly Theater.
Dr. Chapman is campaigning for the Georgia State School Superintendent position. He spent about two hours telling about twenty of us in the meeting about his background, policy positions, and recent experiences, and answering questions we had in an open discussion. For more detail about Sid’s background click here.
He told us he had recently returned from a trip to Finland where he observed first hand the best public school system around Earth, easily verified by a Google search.
According to Dr. Chapman, Finland has the best school system around Earth because of the value Finns place on education as a society. In Finland teaching is a more prestigious profession than medicine. He said it’s harder to get certified as a teacher in Finland than it is to get certified as a medical doctor. Teachers are highly respected in their communities and they interact with local citizens and their children to decide locally what and how to teach. Schools are locally controlled and there is little or no teaching to the test or anything like the No Child Left Behind scheme, hatched by the disingenuous anti-intellectual Bush II administration in the US, which was inflicted on public schools throughout the US.
Sid is a high school dropout who got a GED and later a doctor’s degree who is now president of the Georgia Association of Educators, with some thirty thousand members, according to one of the attendees. He said he has taught in public schools almost all social studies subjects, including economics, which was my undergraduate major. He obviously has outstanding interpersonal and administrative skills as evidenced by his success as president of the GAE. He is also a part-time Methodist minister. I told him and the group my granddaddy was a Methodist preacher. I am now a friend of the Statesboro Unitarian Universal Fellowship. Several members of that fellowship were in attendance at the meeting.
Dr. Chapman advocates decreasing the use of high stakes testing, fully funding public education, equity for all students, not using public taxes to fund private schools, STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics), Vocational and Technical Education, fostering creative and critical thinking and communication skills, improving incentives to recruit and retain quality teachers and educators, and protecting the current teacher retirement system.
Having no experience teaching in grade, junior, or high school, there is no way I could know for sure what it’s like to work day in and day out as a public school teacher or administrator. Regardless, based on what I learned last Saturday, I agree with Dr. Chapman’s policies and ideas on how to do public education, and I wish him success with his campaign. Having no knowledge about his competitors in the race, it seems to me he will be tough man to beat in the state school superintendent’s race and Georgia would be fortunate to have him as its school superintendent.
I learned how little I knew about Georgia public school education associations in the meeting. I had no knowledge of PAGE, the Professional Association of Georgia Educators, which has about ninety thousand members in Georgia, about three times as many members as the GAE, the Georgia Association of Educators, the Georgia affiliate of the NEA, the National Educational Association, according to one of the attendees, who told me this after the meeting was over. I have little understanding of the differences in these two education organizations. I presume both of them exist to support grade, junior, and high school students and teachers, while having differences in philosophies and policies. As I scanned the PAGE homepage on the Internet, a link devoted to Teacher Evaluations jumped out at me, rubber-banding me back to some of my experiences as a teacher dealing with faculty evaluations.
I understand very well the intricacies and problems of daily life as a college teacher and administrator, having done it for forty years, as my RJS Academic Vita page on our Effective Learning Company website shows. I know very well what it’s like to be subjected to problems of faculty evaluations for merit raises, tenure, and promotion. I got so fed up with the faculty evaluation system used for decades in the business school at Georgia Southern that I cajoled the administrator of our department in the late 1990s to supply me with departmental student evaluation data for one semester for a statistical analysis, agreed to by all departmental faculty, for research purposes only. A colleague Gene Murkison and I used the data to produce, write, and publish an article, “Optimizing the Fairness of Student Evaluations: A Study of Correlations Between Instructor Excellence, Study Production, Learning Production, and Expected Grades,” in the Journal of Management Education, in 2001, that has now been cited as a reference in sixty-five refereed professional journals in several disciplines. To verify these citations click here to see the results of this Google search.
I presented in this article a new metric for teacher productivity I invented, which I think public schools could use, what I called a Composite Indicator of Teaching Productivity (the CITP), that requires not only taking into consideration the opinions of students regarding how good they thought the teacher was as a teacher but how much the teacher motivated them to study, how much they thought they learned in the course, and what they thought about the grade they expected to receive in the course given how much they had studied for and learned in the course. I have no idea how much the CITP has been used in higher education around Earth since 2001 but I know it has been used and is still being read by serious educators and educational researchers writing refereed journal articles for raises, tenure, and promotions.
Good teachers are just like good producers in any line of work. They want to be recognized and rewarded commensurately to what they produce. In order to fairly reward teachers you have to have some means of estimating how much they have produced relative to their peers. What is it teachers are paid to produce? Learning. How do you measure learning? Is learning memorizing right answers for multiple choice and true false questions? How about learning how to think about what is relevant and right in a situation? How about learning how to be a better human being? How about asking students how much they have learned in the course relative to how much they normally learn in courses?
The CITP averages ranks for learning production, study production, instructor excellence scores, and expected grades. Expected grades are important because teachers in some cases can dumb down their test questions to raise their expected grades to raise their instructor excellence scores and their learning production scores, as we proved in our Optimizing Fairness paper. To make things fair you have to inversely weight expected grades in the rank averaging process to get the final CITP. It gets complicated but it can be done. Read the article to get the whole picture by clicking here.
I used this research to convince Georgia Southern in 2000 to add study production, learning production, and expected grades questions to the student evaluation form used campus-wide. Things got a little better for me after that when faculty evaluation time rolled around every year. I normally ranked in the lower twenty-five percent of the faculty for teaching in our department when only instructor excellence was ranked. Using the CITP I ranked in the upper twenty-five percent. I was a productive teacher; not a popular teacher, and my grades weren’t inflated, and our research proved it. My assigned grades averaged about 2.4 per class on a 4-point scale, about the lowest in our department, according to Pick-A-Prof.com, a website maintained by some enterprising students at the University of Texas. I read an article the other day on the Internet stating that in most colleges today forty or so percent of students in most classes make A’s. It seems to me it’s possible that now and then teachers might have that many truly excellent students in a class, but not most of the time.
I have a case titled Games Educators Play posted on our Effective Learning Company website showing some of the problems and issues involved in producing and administering educational offerings in a university business school.
Since retiring at Georgia Southern in 2005 I have published two books, Business Voyages: Mental Maps, Scripts, Schemata, and Tools for Discovering and Co-Constructing Your Own Business Worlds, and Born to Learn: A Transactional Analysis of Human Learning through my independent publishing house Effective Learning Publications. Both of these books draw upon my training and experience using transactional analysis, a new psychiatric discipline invented by Eric Berne, MD and his protégés in the 1960s. Both books show my experience using what I called a Classroom De-Gamer™ to randomly select students in class to discuss assigned reading for the day, and present data showing the process caused students to study and learn more than they otherwise would have because of the Classroom De-Gamer reducing psychological Game-playing in the classroom. When students are selected by the De-Gamer to respond to classroom challenges all ego states in students feel and know they are not being picked on or rewarded as a Victim by a Persecutor or Rescuer teacher. Born to Learn shows how alternative teaching methods, classroom layouts, and testing methods affect the productivity and overall “OKness” of teachers and students.
I first published Born to Learn in 1979, titled at the time De-Gaming Teaching and Learning, which I reedited and retitled adding a new summary chapter in 2016. I received a good Kirkus Review for Born to Learn in 2016. The book will be included in a special edition of the Kirkus Magazine for book industry professionals in November 2017 in a section called “Twenty 2016 Indie Books Worth Reading.”
In the interests of full disclosure, I am not a Democrat. I am an Independent, as Bill Herring told the group Saturday. Regardless, I have voted for almost nothing but Democratic presidents throughout my life, mostly voting for Republicans for state and local offices in recent decades. I voted for Bob Dole, the only Republican presidential candidate I ever voted for, instead of Clinton in Clinton’s second election. I was too young to vote for Eisenhower. In my opinion John F. Kennedy was by far the most intellectually honest president of my lifetime, and look at what happened to him. The intellectual honesty of presidents has generally declined since Kennedy’s assassination, Jimmy Carter being an exception, a breath of fresh air after Nixon. I voted for Jill Stein of the Green Party in the 2016 presidential election, not because I thought she had a chance of winning, but because I agreed with her policies, and I thought she was intellectually honest, playing relatively few psychological Games.
Come to think of it, intellectual honesty seems to have declined in most places through the years in the US.
Here is a new synopsis of my educational history, written by me today at age seventy-six, inspired by the meeting on education last Saturday at the country club.
A great-grandfather of mine many times removed, the Reverend Doctor James Maury, a French Huguenot, taught four American presidents, Washington (a distant relative down the branches of my family tree), Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe, in a boarding school in Virginia. A distant cousin, Matthew Fontaine Maury, was a West Point graduate, a commodore in the Civil War, fighting for the South, who published a book still in print, Physical Geography of the Seas. He was a founder of Virginia Tech, retiring as a professor of physics at Virginia Military Academy. Another distant cousin Dabney Herndon Maury, also a West Point graduate, a general in the Civil War fighting for the South, published a book titled, Recollections of a Southerner in the Mexican, Indian, and Civil Wars. My great great grandfather Thomas Sanford Gathright, a Confederate draft dodger who opposed the South’s seceding from the Union, was the first president of Texas A & M University, recommended for his post by Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States of America. My father’s uncle, Richard Gathright Maury, was a prominent lawyer in his time, the youngest district attorney in Harris County history, the county in which Houston just got flooded, who once served papers in person on a golf course in New York to John D. Rockefeller, indicting him and his Standard Oil Trust for violating Texas anti-trust laws, whose gravesite in Center, Texas, replete with a statue, is now a designated historical site recognized by the Texas Historical Society. As near as I can tell Richard Gathright Maury never went to school at all. Based on genealogical records produced for me by Frank Parker, a real estate developer and investor and a hobby genealogist, here in Statesboro, he was home schooled on a plantation in Mississippi and read law with a law firm to pass the bar exam. His father, my great grandfather, Matthew Henry Maury, attended the University of Mississippi two years and was later killed by an African on a plantation in Mississippi, probably a freed slave, or the son of one. My grandfather, Elbert Harry Coston, a Methodist minister, the son of Isom Alexander Coston, who was blind, according to my grandmother, Darlie Brown Walker Coston, whose father David Montgomery Walker was a cotton farmer and a wagon manufacturer, “never did a day’s work in his life. All he ever did was sit up on the front porch with his brothers and read.” She said most of the work on the Coston farm near Palestine, Texas was done by Africans, freed slaves apparently, managed by her mother-in-law, Mattie Elizabeth Allen Coston, born on a ranch in Texas in 1845, the year Texas stopped pretending to be a nation and joined the Union as a mere state. My mother told me in her last days in Willow Pond here in Statesboro that her grandfather Isom would swat each of his five boys on the rear one time with a razor strop when they came in for supper, telling them he didn’t know what they had done wrong that day but he knew they had been up to somethin’. She also said somebody had to read the whole newspaper to him every day. My Coston grandfather took a few courses at East Texas State College before he became an ordained minister, becoming a minister according to my hard-working father so he wouldn’t ever have to work at all. I lived with Moma and Snazzy for two years while I was working on my doctorate. My aunt Ted, Edna Mae Coston Thompson, at one point had Snazzy examined by a psychiatrist, apparently thinking he was going insane. The psychiatrist said quite to the contrary he had the highest IQ of any man his age he had ever examined. This confirmed my judgment. Snazzy always seemed to understand anything. He had a personal library he had collected through the years containing a thousand or more books. My mother Ida Belle Coston Stapleton took a few business courses at a Draughn’s Business College somewhere after she got out of high school. She told me shortly before she died here in Statesboro, at age 92, that she never made less than an A in school. My father Richard Gathright Maury Stapleton took some courses in agronomy at Texas Tech before he dropped out to become a successful entrepreneur, having never taken a single business course or read a single business book, or a book of any kind after I was born, to my knowledge, except maybe an arcane treatise or two on Free Masonry, to become a third degree Scottish Rite Mason, as I understand it. He saw to it I became a DeMolay in high school but I never had any interest in that sort of thing. All he ever read was the local newspaper, farm magazines, and the US News & World Report. He put me to work in his enterprises when I was eight years old. I made mostly C’s in grade, junior, and high school, but did better in college. I was according to the Lubbock Avalanche Journal probably the youngest and smallest Class A high school starting quarterback in the US in 1953, at age thirteen, weighing 110 pounds, standing five feet three inches tall. I played basketball on an athletic scholarship at Hardin-Simmons University two years before transferring to Texas Tech College (now university). I had a 3.0 in economics in undergraduate school but did better in the doctoral program, graduating with a 3.67 grade point average in a program that included all business disciplines in which A’s were not easy to come by. One of my classmates who became the dean of a business school graduated with a 3.0. Despite scoring 840 on the Graduate Record Exam (GRE), at a time when 1000 was about average, Texas Tech accepted me provisionally into their doctoral program and gave me a part-time instructorship in economics that paid $3000 per academic year, enough for me to pay my way through the doctoral program and write my dissertation in three years. The Office of Manpower Evaluation and Research of the US Department of Labor awarded me a $6500 grant to write my dissertation, An Analysis of Rural Manpower Migration Patterns in the South Plains Region of Texas. Frank Parker traced all four of my grandparents back to Virginia before the American Revolutionary War, in which several ancestors fought. Their descendants, most of whom were cotton farmers, spread out from Virginia migrating into South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, and Mississippi before winding up in the cotton country of Northwest Texas where I grew up. I was working at a full time job in a Litton Industries electronics plant as a production control expediter and dispatcher and publishing my weekly newspaper the Wolfforth-Frenship Gazette when I took the GRE, having stayed up most of the night before the exam putting out the paper. I fell asleep several times taking the exam, not thinking it was important, just something I had to do to get into graduate school, filling in the remaining blanks for the various timed sections without reading the questions. I saw the exam proctor, the head of the psychology department at Texas Tech at the time, staring at me in amazement one time when I woke up from one of these naps. Considering the GRE computerized grading system took off more points for questions answered wrong than for those left blank, I was lucky to have scored as high as 840. I was hired at the associate professor rank, skipping the assistant rank, at the University of Southwestern Louisiana after finishing my doctorate in business administration, management science major, economics minor, at Texas Tech, becoming a full professor at age thirty-six at Georgia Southern College (now university), where I was the senior professor of the business school for about fifteen years, carrying the mace as the senior professor of the university for the spring graduation ceremony the year I retired in 2005. I was the highest paid professor in the business school and maybe the second-highest-paid faculty member at Georgia Southern, behind Jim Oliver, maybe third after Fielding Russell, when I started at age thirty, hired by President Pope Duncan in 1970. My son, Jonathan Walker Stapleton, was the Star Student for our Congressional District in Georgia in 1990, scoring 1520 on the SAT back in the days when 1600 was the maximum score. He maxed the math part of the GRE when he finished his undergraduate degree at Rice University in Houston, Texas in 1994, almost maxing the verbal part. He now invents and makes things in his home workshop and teaches physics and Earth sciences in a high school near Burlington, Vermont. Hunting and fishing and organic gardening in his spare time, in a beautiful environment, he is a smart son indeed. He is the inventor and designer of Reptangles™, a plastic educational toy comprising twenty-four parts that snap together and pull apart to assemble into more than one hundred mathematically identifiable geometric shapes and symmetrical configurations, manufactured in China, licensed to, marketed, and distributed around Earth by the Fat Brain Toy Company, which was demonstrated on ABC’s Good Morning America. Jonathan is married to Renee Doney Stapleton, MD, PhD, who teaches, researches, and practices pulmonary medicine at the University of Vermont. They have three children, Walker, Emmerson, and Orion, each of whom is learning well in and out of school. One of the major conclusions of Born to Learn is that everything that happens happens by accident, as the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein pointed out in his book of propositions, Prototractatus, and therefore no one is to blame or praise for what happens.
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Richard John Stapleton, Editor and Publisher, Effective Learning Report, 32 East Main Street, Statesboro, Georgia, USA