Explaining the TSP Education Equation

21 Aug

Decades ago in one staff meeting at the high school where I was teaching, we were told that for education to work, all the stakeholders—teachers, students and parents—had to be involved.

Here’s the TSP equation: T + S + P = E [which means: Teachers + Students + Parents = Education]

To define this formula further and add responsibility as a factor, let’s look at the results of the 1966 Coleman Report. In the 1960s, James Samuel Coleman, PhD, and several other scholars were commissioned by the US Department of Education to write a report on educational equality in the US. It was one of the largest studies in history, with more than 650,000 students in the sample. The result was a massive report of over 700 pages. A precise reading of the Coleman Report reveals that student background and socioeconomic status are much more important in determining educational outcomes than are measured differences in school resources.

Coleman explained, “differences in school facilities and curricula, which are made to improve schools, are so little related to differences in achievement levels of students that, with few exceptions, their efforts [or the effects of different classes or curricula] fail to appear in a survey of this magnitude.”

The Coleman report identified 14 correlates of elementary and secondary school achievement, six of which are related to school: curriculum, teacher preparation, teacher experience, class size, technology, and school safety. The remaining eight correlates are categorized as “Before and Beyond School:” parent participation, student mobility, birth-weight, lead poisoning, hunger and nutrition, reading in the home, television watching, and parent availability.

The study concluded that the negative impacts on school achievement of single-parent homes, poverty in the minority communities, food insecurity, parent unemployment, child care disparities, substantial differences in children’s measured abilities as they start kindergarten, frequency of student absences, and lack of educational resources and support in the home “account for about two-thirds [66 percent] of the large difference … in NAEP eight-grade reading scores.” Coleman Report at

Then there are student test scores. From the Economic Policy Institute—Problems with the use of student test scores to evaluate teachers—we learn: “Student test score gains are also strongly influenced by school attendance and a variety of out-of-school learning experiences at home, with peers, at museums and libraries, in summer programs, on-line, and in the community. Well-educated and supportive parents can help their children with homework and secure a wide variety of other advantages for them. Other children have parents who, for a variety of reasons, are unable to support their learning academically. Student test score gains are also influenced by family resources, student health, family mobility, and the influence of neighborhood peers and of classmates who may be relatively more advantaged or disadvantaged.

“Only about 4% to 16% of the variation in a teacher’s value-added ranking [from the results of standardized tests] in one year can be predicted from his or her rating in the previous year.”

What does the education equation look like once we add the responsibly factor?

T [33; 4 to 16] + S + P [66; 84 to 96] = Education

Explained: The Teachers one child has K through 12 are responsible for about 33 percent of what a child learns in school in addition to being responsible for about 4 to 16 percent of the results on standardized tests. This means, if a student has 43 teachers K to 12, each teacher would be responsible for about 0.76 percent of a child’s education and even less for the results of standardized tests.

Students + Parents [and other out of school factors] are responsible for about 66 percent of the results of a child’s education in addition to being responsible for 84 to 96 percent of the results on standardized tests.

How can Bill Gates, Arne Duncan and President Obama—and all the other fake education reformers—justify firing teachers based on the results of standardized tests and stripping teachers of their Constitutional due process rights as a public employee when each teacher is only responsible for less than 1 percent of a child’s education K to 12?


Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

His third book is Crazy is Normal, a classroom exposé, a memoir. “Lofthouse presents us with grungy classrooms, kids who don’t want to be in school, and the consequences of growing up in a hardscrabble world. While some parents support his efforts, many sabotage them—and isolated administrators make the work of Lofthouse and his peers even more difficult.” – Bruce Reeves


Lofthouse’s first novel was the award winning historical fiction My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. His second novel was the award winning thriller Running with the Enemy. His short story A Night at the “Well of Purity” was named a finalist of the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards. His wife is Anchee Min, the international, best-selling, award winning author of Red Azalea, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year (1992).

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2 responses to “Explaining the TSP Education Equation

  1. liberalteacher

    August 21, 2014 at 20:52

    Lloyd, you are so right. This is something every teacher knows. When I worked in high need schools, the students that had parents who supported them had a chance to succeed. This was the parent who worked two jobs to make sure their child had food, clothes and basic supplies. Many would come home late, but still, they spent a few minutes looking over their child’s work. If you called them, they would support you as best they could. The reformers know this is true, but the basis of their solutions is ideology and not research. They know what is needed to really fix the problem. However, they do not want to give up a penny of their wealth to really make an attempt to end poverty in this country. Therefore, they created a scapegoat–us teachers. We are not the solution–they are. Just think how different this country would be if the billions they hoard for themselves were used to create jobs, good housing, counseling center, etc., etc. Instead, they came to realize that education is an industry paid for by billions of public dollars. They want to control that money. They want to keep most of it for themselves and throw a few dimes to the deserving few.

    • Lloyd Lofthouse

      August 22, 2014 at 08:53

      Agreed. The enemy of democracy and the democratic public schools are billionaire oligarchs who don’t need a Bill of Rights to protect them. They have their wealth, power and private armies, and they can live anywhere they want in the world.

      Like Lord Acton (in 1887) said, “Power Corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely”.

      But he wasn’t the first. The Earl of Chatham (in 1770) also said, “Unlimited power is apt to corrupt the minds of those who possess it.”

      Billionaires should be forced to hand over 90 percent of their holdings and wealth. Imagine that. Bill Gates would go from $76 billion to $7.6 billion. I’m sure that would leave him destitute, homeless and starving in the worst poverty. It would also be a lot more challenging to spend hundreds of millions and billions of dollars to destroy the public schools through his “rank and yank” Machiavellian management methods.


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