Return to Transcripts main page


Grading Our Teachers; Purchasing or Renting: Finding Out the Best Choice in the Current Housing Market; What's Driving Climbing Gas Prices?

Aired March 3, 2012 - 09:30   ET


CHRISTINE ROMANS, HOST: Taking teacher ratings public. Are we grading our teachers or degrading them?

Good morning, everyone. I'm Christine Romans.

Plus, from the job hunts to the job interview, are some parents too involved in the lives of their grown-up children?

And what's really driving those gas prices we're paying at the pump? We're separating fact from fiction.

But first, more than 3 million public school teachers head to the classroom every day in this country. Parents usually don't know how their child's teacher ranks compared to others until recently. New York City's Department of Education released ratings for nearly 18,000 of its public school teachers and 217 charter school teachers and 50 special ed teachers.

Those ratings are based on student test scores in English and math and they covered students in grades 4 through 8 between 2007 and 2010. But not all teachers' scores were released, and there is a margin of error. That margin is 35 percentage points for math and 53 percentage points for English.

Steve Perry is a CNN contributor and principal of Capital Prep Magnet School. Sam Chaltain is a former New York City teacher and also the author of "American Schools: The Art of Creating a Democratic Learning Community.

All right, guys, thanks for joining us. People have been talking about this for a week, right. Parents, teachers alike trying to figure out if this is a good thing to know how your teacher ranks. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg says he supports the release of all of these numbers.


NEW YORK CITY MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG: Parents have a right to know every bit of information that we can possibly collect about the teacher that's in front of their kids. These -- this is about our kids' lives, this is not about anything else.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ROMANS: But New York School Chancellor Dennis Walcott wrote a letter to teachers, saying, quote, "It would be irresponsible for the press to use this information in isolation to render judgments about individual teachers."

Steve, how much faith should parents put in this data? And how important is this -- I mean, unprecedented release of basically a teacher's score?

STEVE PERRY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR AND PRINCIPAL OF CAPITAL PREP MAGNET SCHOOL: It's essential. Every single parent must have a right to know or has a right to know how effective their children's teachers are.

Too many of our parents know more about their kids' travel AAU coach's winning record than they do of the effectiveness of the classroom teachers that their children are either saddled with or blessed to have.

When you don't have school choice, you can't go from one good school to another. And you have to choose among the schools that are either the charter school that you could choose from or the public schools you could choose from, you don't get the choice to choose the teachers when you don't -- when you can't make a good decision without the good information.

ROMANS: Yes, but let me bring in Sam, because one of the interesting things about this is I'm not sure what you're choosing or what you're learning about a teacher from some of these scores. And people have been talking about that for a week now. The margin of error is very -- is very wide. We're rating the teachers based on the kids' performance. So, Sam, the evaluation system, as it is right here, how helpful is it?

SAM CHALTAIN, AUTHOR: Well, I think this is a another example of where Steve and I agree on the ends and disagree on the means. I think clearly in this new era of choice, parents need more and better information of all kinds in order to make the best possible choice about where to send their child for 12 years.

It's equally true that teachers need more and better information in order to improve the quality of their practice, not what's passed in previous years, where you basically just got a passing grade whether you were good or not.

But to take those two facts, and then think that releasing this information, which is a single data point, gets us closer to that, I actually think it's not just a bad decision, I think it's the worst possible decision we could make towards achieving either of those goals.

ROMANS: Well, so let me -- let me ask both of you this. I mean, look, in my job, I'm reviewed and evaluated. I'm sure both of you, in your jobs, are reviewed and evaluated. I mean, is the issue here that teachers need to be reviewed and evaluated and nurtured in their career more? Is that part of this issue, as well, Steve? PERRY: It's not the only thing that's happening. And Sam knows that. Sam knows that it's not just about the single data point. In fact, these teachers will not lose their job, even if they're the last teacher on the list, because the data is not being used to determine that teacher's effectiveness within the school.

This is about parents. And while the test may or may not be as effective as it needs to be, we don't throw the baby out with the bathwater. The expectation here is that parents must know how effective their children's teachers are.

And if this is the current best method of determining that, then it is what we will use. We should continue to improve the methods, but that doesn't mean, until we've gotten what we believe to be a perfect method, that we wait.

ROMANS: Sam, let me ask you this. Like in a lot of American corporations, you are evaluated. A lot of professions. You are evaluated how well you do on your job and you know, you're either helped in your career or you've moved into another job that might be better within that company, et cetera, et cetera.

Here, you have the biggest profession in America, 3.2 school million schoolteachers. Do they have that kind of evaluation system in teaching and should we?

CHALTAIN: They don't and we definitely should. And that's, again, a point that Steve and I will agree on.

Teacher evaluation up to this point has been a complete joke. Almost everybody passes. There's no useful information that's passed on.

But in this particular situation, I'm the parent of a soon-to-be 3- year-old who is going to enter a public school in D.C. for the first time next fall. I'm also writing a book about school choice. And what we're writing about right now and what's happening in New York City, I don't know if Steve collected baseball cards when he grew up.

This is like the equivalent of me getting a baseball card for each school, and there's just one number on the back. But what I'm also being told is don't only pay attention only to that number. There's other information.

The reality is, I'm going to look at that number and I'm going to make a choice. And if we think about what parents really seek for their kids, certainly what I seek for my son and what every parent I'm speaking to in the process of writing this book is seeking, it's not just academic growth, it's not just learning to read or write, it's intellectual growth, it's social, emotional growth, it's spiritual growth.

It's developing the whole aspects of a person. So the only way that we're really going to improve education is to align information for parents and evaluation for teachers that actually measures those things. ROMANS: All right. Steve Perry, Sam Chaltain, thanks. But we'll come back and we'll talk about it again because a lot of teachers are saying, wow, there's not many other careers where you end up in the newspaper, what your score is, a score that maybe you don't have much control over. Thanks so much, you guys, really appreciate it.

So how do all the moms and dads out there feel about this? We're going to ask three of them, next.


ROMANS: So how do parents feel about teacher rankings and making them public? Let's ask three of them. Joining me, Pete Dominick, host of Sirius XM's "Stand UP"; Lisa Belkin, "The Huffington Post" senior columnist for their "Life, Work and Family" section; and Will Cain, CNN contributor.

So, as a parent, Pete, do you want to know how well your teacher is doing and you want to see it in the newspaper?

PETE DOMINICK, HOST, SIRIUS XM'S "STAND UP": Oh, I want to know a lot -- as much as I can about my teacher, but I'm not really that interested in seeing how some system or newspaper graded it.

Here is how we do it. I live in a kind of small town. I ask other parents. You know, my daughter started kindergarten. We talked to first grade parents. We said how -- who are the teachers, what are their strengths, what are their weaknesses?

We network. We talk with people in our community. And then, yes, I like to meet the teachers. But you know, we don't have choice in public school. We can kind of say, I think this one is best. But --

ROMANS: Do you know what that number is, whatever that number is, that your teacher has been assigned? What are you supposed to do with it, Will? I mean, if you're at a public school, I mean, maybe you can switch kindergartens, maybe not.

WILL CAIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Right. But it's still -- it's a valuable number, Christine. I think you've heard this from several segments now on your show today, more information is always better. It doesn't mean it has to be a definitive number, but as parents, I want to know every bit of information about the teacher that I can get my hands on.

And in the age of data, in an age of information that infiltrates sports and "Moneyball," we're investing, why does education have to be something we feel our way through? Even if we talk to other parents, we kind of feel our way through those good and bad. I wouldn't mind putting a number on it.

ROMANS: But here is the thing. I mean, I don't know what parents can do about it. I think if you're a teacher, too, you're a little worried that maybe you're being judged on some criteria you can't control. I mean, maybe you're less likely to go to a --

(CROSSTALK) DOMINICK: Like the kids?

ROMANS: Right. Like the kids. Like he circumstances of the kids in the class. Maybe the administration of the school.

CAIN: All the parents -- all the teachers I know have master's degrees. My concern is the parents that don't have master's degrees. This focus on the teachers, I think, is wrong. It should be the parents.

ROMANS: What do you think, Lisa?

LISA BELKIN, SENIOR COLUMNIST, "THE HUFFINGTON POST": I think that parents already judge teachers, based on all sorts of criteria that the teachers can't control. I think here we have data that actually looks like it was thoughtfully come up with.

But part of me feels like it's a symptom of the same thing that parents are screaming about, which is, why are we grading our children, judging them on tests?

So the tests we can't control, why are they just a number? And there's something a little unsettling about -- and now we will take teachers and judge them, based on the same tests that the parents think we should be judging their kids on.

ROMANS: But do we go back to an agreement here among everyone, I think, that teachers, a public profession, largest profession in America, 3.2 million of them, and they are public employees, do -- should they be evaluated and lose their job or get bonuses for doing a good job?

DOMINICK: That is a long, long conversation, I think.


CAIN: (Inaudible). Yes.

ROMANS: How about helicopter parenting to the next level, right? I want to talk about the unemployment rate. It's 8.3 percent nationwide. When you look at kids age 20 to 24, it's higher than that, it's 13.3 percent.

Here is what's happening. You've got folks, parents who are designing the LinkedIn profile for their kid and managing the connections on Plaxo or whatever, you know. You've got parents who are writing the cover letter, handling the resume, doing the networking on LinkedIn and even helping their kids all the way to the front door of the job interview.

We've taken this sort of like hyperparenting from getting the kid through high school and college, probably, writing their -- except, you know, their entrance essays, and now in a tough job market, they're doing it again. Is this the sign of a weak generation, Will?

(CROSSTALK) ROMANS: I don't know if it's the parents or the kids who are the weak generation, either.

CAIN: Look, there is a line. I don't know how bright or fine this line is, but between networking for your children, helping them out with that first job, and cheerleading for them and showing up to their first job interview. There is a line and we might be crossing it from time to time.

ROMANS: I can see it in the LinkedIn profile. Look, if you are in the workplace and you are already doing it, I can see how you would start it, you know, start it for your kids.

DOMINICK: This is so weird, "Accounts my dad doesn't have," LinkedIn, Facebook, might -- none of that. Granted, my dad's 66. He's retired. But this idea that somehow college-age students are having their parents doing their online networking, it surprises me that they don't know a lot more than their parents about simply how to create the account.

I think it's a good thing to have your parents help you in as many ways as they can. My daddy got me my first job making popcorn at the New York State Fair. It paid $4.35 an hour and it built a ton of character. But I'm glad that he helped me out. It was a horrible, horrible job. But he didn't help me get on this show.


ROMANS: He does not eat popcorn.

BELKIN: He made you get that job.

DOMINICK: It was enforcing, yes. I couldn't live there anymore.

BELKIN: It is -- it's different. Parents are pushier; parents are more involved than they used to be, but the world was different. You know, we have these kids, who we are told we have to send them to extracurricular activities, we have to get them tutoring. We have to do all these things to get them across this finish line, which is college.

And then one day on their 18th birthday, we're told, OK, now, stop because if you don't stop today, you're a helicopter parent. And so in a way, I feel sorry for the parents who don't know where that line is, because the entire world has changed, and that line keeps moving.

ROMANS: Is this an entitled generation?


DOMINICK: Yes. Absolutely. And here is why. Because it's a different type of hard work. It's not as hard to network online as it is to, quote, "pound the pavement" and go up to people, knock on doors. That's what you used to have to do. And that seemed harder. I always make fun of myself for what we're doing right now, we're getting paid to be on TV and talk on the radio. ROMANS: Are we paying Pete Dominick? I thought we said we weren't going to pay him any more.

DOMINICK: Oh, I will -- (inaudible). I'm out of here. I'm out of here. But the idea that we can do all of this easier in front of a computer as opposed to pounding the pavement?

BELKIN: Right. But how can both things be true? So we have a generation that we call entitled, and then we have this generation that are founding companies and curing cancer in order to get into college. How can both simultaneously be true? I think I actually like this generation. I liked words like (inaudible) --


BELKIN: -- and I think these are good things.

ROMANS: And every new generation, the generation before them called them hopeless and entitled, I think.

DOMINICK: Taking the world to hell in a handbasket. Every generation says (inaudible).


ROMANS: Lisa Belkin, Will Cain, Pete Dominick, so nice to see you guys.


ROMANS: Thanks.

All right. Should you rent or should you buy? What makes the most sense for you in this housing market? That's next on YOUR BOTTOM LINE.


ROMANS: Are we finally seeing a bottom in the housing market? Finally? The news, well, it's getting interesting, at least. A full decade of home prices has been wiped away. The S&P Case-Shiller Home Price Index fell another 3.8 percent in the last quarter.

We're back to home prices we haven't seen since the early 2000s. But those low prices are sparking more home sales. Existing home sales rose 4.3 percent in January. So are record low mortgage rates and those falling prices, are they going to spark a recovery in housing? Let's get to the bottom of it, literally.

Mike Aubrey is our realtor and host of HGTV's "Real Estate Intervention." Nice to see you again, Mike.

MIKE AUBREY, HOST, HGTV, "REAL ESTATE INTERVENTION": Always a pleasure, Christine. Especially when I'm going to say something good about the housing market.

ROMANS: Are you? OK, then say it. What is it?

AUBREY: What -- listen, I think the thing that everybody wants to know, Christine, is is it the right time to buy? Absolutely. Listen, I can tell you, hands down, we will never see mortgage money as cheap as we're seeing it right now.

I think that whether you're an investor or you're buying a principle residence to live in, if you don't take advantage of the times that we're living in, you're going to be on the outside looking in.

ROMANS: If the situation for your family is right, you know, if you've got the money to put down, if you can take advantage of these low mortgage rates, because we know that a lot of the action in the housing market, Mike, has been cash. So it's been investors, it's been a lot of foreign buyers in some of these real, you know, downtrodden markets.

But what is the question you should ask yourself if you should be a buyer or a renter here? It -- under what circumstances should you be renting still?

AUBREY: You know what? I think in my mind unless you can't afford to buy, Christine, you should be buying and not renting. One of the reasons why you're seeing investors getting into the marketplace right now is because there are some economists who are forecasting that metro rental amounts are going go up as much as 30 percent over the next five years.

Why? Because they want somebody else to make their mortgage payment for them. And why would you do that? Make your own mortgage payment. I mean, I think that there are really -- unless you can't afford it, there is no good reason not to buy right now.

ROMANS: And we do know that even a couple of years ago it was so good to rent because you had a lot of vacant properties, you had a lot of vacancies in big cities in particular. And you had -- I mean you had these great signing bonuses for a lease, right?

But now we know that renters are getting squeezed. Their household income is down about 4 percent from 2008 to 2010, according to the latest data. But their housing costs have gone up. Their rent, their insurance, their utilities. So maybe that sweet spot you're seeing of renting versus buying might be over almost.

AUBREY: I think it is, Christine. I mean, I think as long as we don't see Washington, D.C., do something silly like get rid of the mortgage interest deduction, which, shame on them for even talking about that --

ROMANS: But they are talking about it, Mike. They're talking about it.

AUBREY: They are. And I can tell you, you know, certainly from my perspective, I've been on your show enough times that, you know, I'm reasonably outspoken about things. From my perspective, if they were do that, then this engine that is real estate that is certainly going to be a driving part of what makes our economy recover would become absolutely emaciated.

ROMANS: What's your advice for people trying to sell right now in this market?

AUBREY: If you have to sell right now and it's a thing that works for your life, then I think you have to realize that worth is a measure of what the market will bear. You know, the days of 2005, when there were multiple contracts and people were overbidding each other, they're gone right now.

And so I think you have to realize that you're only going to get what you can get for your house, and if you do that, especially if you're doing it on a move-up, you're going to take a smaller house, sell it, take a hit, and buy something bigger, well, you're delivering even a bigger hit on the other side.

ROMANS: Yes. All right. Mike Aubrey, really great -- really great advice as usual. We'll have you on again very, very soon. Thanks, Mike.

AUBREY: Looking forward to it. Thanks, Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Until 2004, oil prices had never risen above $50 a barrel. Now they're twice that and you're paying for it. Whose fault is it? Speculators? The president? Iran? China? We're going to separate fact from fiction next on YOUR BOTTOM LINE.


ROMANS: When it comes to high gas prices, the headlines tell the story. Wall Street, greed, Iran, speculators, presidential policies. Opinions on who or what is causing you pain at the pump vary greatly. So what's the real story and what can be done about it? Let's separate fact from fiction.

Kevin Book is the managing director at ClearView Energy Partners, a consulting firm. And, Kevin, whenever gas prices go up, it's like Groundhog Day. It's all the conspiracies come out and the blame -- a lot of people start trying to blame speculators, the president, this or that. So let's start separating fact from fiction.

Question number one, the president can help lower gas prices, fact or fiction?

KEVIN BOOK, MANAGING DIRECTOR, CLEARVIEW ENERGY PARTNERS: Well, Christine, the president can, but the way he would be doing it wouldn't necessarily be a good idea in a broader context.

For example, there are different fuel speculations for different grades of gasoline. Some in the areas that get a lot of pollution on the coasts, like California and the East Coast, are made in smaller quantity, and so those grades of gasoline cost more. So the president could technically waive those clean air rules but then we'd have less clean air, something nobody really wants.

Another choice is to draw the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, which is our safety blanket, our safety net, really.


ROMANS: He did. He tapped that last year, President Obama did when Libya was having disruptions in the oil markets.

BOOK: He did, and he did it, by many assessments, he did it either late, from the perspective of the European customers who were buying oil to refine in Europe, or he did it perhaps when it wasn't entirely necessary. But it certainly can be done.

And the point is that doing it has a short-term effect, particularly now, because U.S. drivers are driving less. So our refiners would buy that oil, they would make more gasoline for a short time and they would export it if we didn't drive more, which right now, Christine, we probably wouldn't do.

ROMANS: All right. Let me give you another fact or fiction, the high gas prices caused the recession.

BOOK: No, they probably didn't. That's mostly fiction. We've lost about 5 percent from disposable personal income from energy writ large, a lot of it gasoline, over the last decade, but what really caused the recession, in all likelihood, was the pinch you were getting at both sides.

First, you were losing jobs and on the other side, home values. What you had was a problem, but you could see what happened. Gasoline demand fell off in the places where there was unemployment rising fastest, and it came after the unemployment rose. So it was probably extremely painful for people, but it wasn't -- it was probably part of the story, not the main story.

ROMANS: All right. And, finally, the price of oil is directly connected to the price of gas.

BOOK: So the magic number, Christine, is 42, 42 gallons are in a barrel. So if you take your gasoline price, and you multiply it by 42, you get right now about $160 per barrel. Subtract the oil price, about $107 right now, you get $53 you have to explain by something else.

Taxes, refinery margins, transportation, the point is that oil is the main part of the price right now, about 2/3 of it the way things currently stand.

ROMANS: And here's where the conspiracy theorists come in, because you had the price of oil below $50 a barrel throughout history, and now we just accept that it's more like $100. In the past 10 years what has happened to double the price of a barrel of gas, and is it justified -- or oil, and is it justified?

BOOK: Well, three big things have happened. The first and most important was the rise of the emerging nation's demand. It grew geometrically, so you didn't see it at first. But then it became very big in the last few years.

The second is that the dollar itself is worth less. And there's all sorts of different ways you could talk about that. One argument is that it's really saying the same thing in a different number system. A dollar just means less, so the number's higher.

And the third is that the cost of oil is going up as we produce ever- harder-to-find, ever-deeper resources. So we're not running out of oil, but we're running out of cheaper oil, and that, too, has escalated the price.

ROMANS: Kevin Book, thanks, Kevin. Let's keep the conversation going. I want to hear your thoughts on gas prices, teacher evaluations, whether you just sold your house, whether you're trying to buy one, anything that affects your family.

You can find us on Facebook and Twitter. Our handle is @CNNBottomLine. My handle is @Christine Romans. You can also find me on Facebook, ChristineRomansCNN. Back now to CNN SATURDAY for the latest news headlines. Have a great weekend, everybody.