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View Diary: Scapegoating Teachers? (78 comments)

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  •  So balanced that you take no position.... (7+ / 0-)

    So can't argue with you, since I can't understand where you stand.

    Evaluating anyone is difficult...doctors, engineers, chefs, psychiatrists.   There is no double blind paradigm with clean variables for any real life occupation.

    So we look at excesses, and sometimes over generalize.  It turns out as the N.Y. Times recently reported there are 700 teachers who have been removed from teaching because the administration considers them that bad.   Is it justified.  Sure, for some, for most, for all....I don't know.

    But they all get paid in full, and the situation is similar in California and other states.   So could anyone deny that unions protect some complete incompetents.  I couldn't.

    How to make it better.  Well there are ways.  There are evaluations.  The suspected bad apples could be given different classes with independent evaluators.

    It's a real issues.   There are bad teachers, and there are bad cops.  And just because they are union members doesn't change this.

    •  maybe examining the Freshwater case (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Dirtandiron

      could provide some illumination

      http://pandasthumb.org/...

      since in this case, the impetus does not come from the union which has been careful to not get involved but from groups within the community.  Too often union critics assume teachers operate in a vacuum except for union influences when actually every teacher operates in a vortex of various groups in the community, each attempting to make sure its particular ox is not gored.  

    •  My position is that the push (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JanL, Dirtandiron

      for high quality teachers BEGINS with the colleges of education.  If the colleges of education were graduating high caliber teaching candidates so that the degree meant something, we wouldn't need teacher competency tests and maybe evaluations could become constructive instruments.

      As it is, and as the The Widget Effect reported, evaluations fail to separate the sheep from the goats.  Furthermore, evaluations can be gamed, and especially at the college level, professors have been known to trade grades for good student evals.  Even worse, evaluations are sometimes used in retaliatory ways.

      •  Proper role for education about education (0+ / 0-)

        First and foremost, I think education about education is very important when teaching at the elementary or high school level. It's a time where the students cannot (and definitely should not) be responsible for their own learning. They often need help, and teachers need the training to provide it.

        But when it comes to college and above, I'm not so sure...

        When I was first hired as a math professor, I was extremely worried about my own training - I had recently graduated from college with a BSE and was only a few hours short of a MA in mathematics (which I never got), but had never taken a single education class of any sort.

        I brought up my concern with the department chair. He laughed and said, "I've spoken with you enough already to know you have nothing to worry about. And after you've been here a while see what correlation you observe between professors who got here through the school of education and those who got here by being good at mathematics."

        This remark made me curious, so I checked it out as best I could. Long story short, the three professors I was able to identify as being educators first, mathematicians second, were the worst in the department by far. And by "worst" I don't mean in the sense of bad student evaluations, although their rankings there were miserable. No, I mean "worst" in the sense of not managing to complete the required curriculum by the end of the semester in any of their classes (especially bad when it's Calc I with Calc II coming up), handing off absolutely everything they could to a TA whenever possible, even if the TA was some poor grad student from lower Tumbolia with a total English vocabulary of less than 30 words, having office "hours" best measured nanoseconds, assuming they even bothered to show up, calling students "stupid" or worse when they did manage to ask a question, etc. etc. etc.

        I mentioned this to the department head at some point. He said, "Took you long enough to figure that out. Educrats are the bane of this and many other departments."

        As a result of this experience I remain to be convinced there's a role for education about education at the college level.

        •  Please do not cite student evaluations (0+ / 0-)

          as evidence of anything.  Students write anonymous evaluations, therefore they do not have to take responsibility for what they say.  Maybe if they had to sign their names, they might write more thoughtfully and carefully.  

          Although professors rarely get to see other professors' evaluations, I once did a small study comparing the videographed performance of students with their grades and their instructor evaluations in the Math for Elementary Teachers classes in two different universities.  Although the evaluations were "anonymous," it was easy to identify the authors.

          What amazed me was how much a negative evaluation of the instructor could be correlated with a negative attitude on the part of the student.  For example, a student we'll call Adam expressed on videotape the opinion that it did not matter why an answer was correct as long as it was the correct answer.  His evaluation stated that his professor didn't teach him anything. I would have to agree that he did not learn much.  

          Likewise, positive evaluations can be correlated with positive attitudes toward learning regardless of whether the grade was good or bad.

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