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Like any profession, every teacher in America finds work-related emails inundating their inbox at any given time. It might be curriculum companies ever eager to sell their collection of wares. It might be distance learning institutions assuring you that getting that masters degree/doctorate in education has never ever been more convenient.

One such piece of inbox filler caught my eye earlier this week. Actually, of all the educational email detritus that finds its way into my inbox on a weekly basis, this one has occasional value. It is a compendium of education-related stories culled together by the National Education Association. One article this week, in particular, caught my eye:

Which teachers hit home runs and boost student growth, and which ones strike out?

On Tuesday, the School Board plans to settle the question by hiring consultants from the University of Wisconsin.

The $3.4 million contract is part of Hillsborough County's seven-year, $202 million partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The university's task: use student tests to calculate each teacher's annual "value-added" contribution to the district.

The idea of trying to quantify the quality of educators is nothing new, of course. It is a pillar of most stabs at education "reform", dating back years, if not decades.

And, like most efforts to quantify teacher value, there are some life-changing career implications attached:

Beginning in 2011, the district hopes to use the value-added data — along with principal and peer evaluations — to help decide which teachers deserve tenure, promotions or dismissal.

By 2013, such information also will determine teacher pay.

Little in the public conversation about education draws a more dichotomous (to say nothing of heated) response than a discussion about the use of test scores to determine things like job security or teacher pay.

But the purpose of this essay is not to delve into all of these topics. Much ink and tears have been spilt in these teeth-gnashing discussions. Skeptics wonder aloud whether one test can adequately measure education, and they are concerned that high-stakes testing will create a web of externalities that will prove problematic (witness the scandal that erupted this week, when it was alleged that administrators in one Texas school were falsifying tests in order to claim their school's share of the merit pay pie).

To keep this under 40,000 words, the focus will be kept narrow: this notion of "value added education", and the desire of Hillsborough County to greatly change the way they retain and compensate teachers based on the end of a mathematical equation.

The rancor in any discussion about teacher accountability is largely borne of the mutual distrust (and, it must be admitted, a dash of pure animosity) between the two camps. The "pro-reform" group sees teachers as self-interested and reeking of entitlement, ever fearful of actual accountability for what they do in the classroom. On the other end of the spectrum are people (including many, but not all, in the teaching profession) who think the "reformers" are people with a thinly-veiled contempt for teachers, who often understand very little about the day-to-day machinations of the classroom.

I have been a classroom teacher for well over a decade, at this point, so I would not dare pretend that I don't have a dog in this fight.

That said, there is something at least a little meritorious behind the intentions of discovering objective standards to measure educational quality.

One of the reasons why teacher pay has long been based on factors like years of experience and postgraduate units acquired is that these measures resist subjectivity. Administrative review has long been resisted, on the grounds that excellent teachers who might "rock the boat" with their administration could find themselves on the outs as a result (this was also one of the primary premises behind the notion of tenure).

Using student evaluations also has its own perils, as Rob Horning recently noted:

[By using student evaluations] you are undermining the teachers’ authority in the classroom, making them servants to student’s whims—essentially entertainers rather than educators. And you are putting teachers in a position where they have (a degrading) incentive to shop for the most tractable and capable students, and only the worst (or most impossibly idealistic) teachers will consent to teach the most difficult-to-reach students.

So, given that subjective measures of "teacher quality" are left wanting, the notion of quantifiable measurements is no doubt attractive.

But is it attainable?

Give the University of Wisconsin researchers some credit. Unlike a lot of early shots at quantifying the quality of teacher performance, the UW crowd at least attempts to hold teachers accountable only for their year of work on the children in question.

That is the logic behind this notion of "value-added" education. The measurement, therefore, is not the overall attainment of knowledge in a particular curriculum area (only a fraction of which a current teacher could reasonably be held responsible), but merely the degree to which additional knowledge or skills were acquired in the given time frame.

But this effort only addresses the worst and most basic liability with the notion of quanitifiable education: the idea that an 11th grade teacher is somehow going to fix everything that went wrong for the first 16 years of a youngster's education in approximately 180 hours.

There is still a base issue that exists in these quantification efforts, and it is one that even its adherents will sometimes grudgingly acknowledge: some things in the educational life of a student simply can't be quantified, and efforts to do so put blame on the teacher for things inherently beyond their control.

Folks like the University of Wisconsin research crew actually seem disinclined to agree with this dispute of their premise, arguing that all things are quantifiable:

Some Hillsborough teachers worry they'll be penalized for teaching low-income students or those with special needs.

But even students with severe handicaps can be tested for growth, Steele said, vowing to make sure such measures are fair.

Thorn said value-added measurements are designed to filter out student differences in income, family background and other disparities to determine how much teachers contribute.

Color me somewhat incredulous to this assurance. It seems, to say the least, unduly optimistic to declare that a mathematical formula can be devised that eliminates the disparities in education caused by "family background."

The assumption there is an almost certainly errant one. Assume for a moment that you could calculate the value, say, in having parents who own postgraduate degrees versus parents with less than a high school education.

Doesn't that automatically presume that all students of parents with little education value the education of their children the same?

Pretty much any teacher would tell you otherwise.

How could a mathematical formula answer how a student's capacity or motivation for test-taking dissipates when that student's parents are in the midst of a divorce? It can't, because divorce, like any number of other impactful events in the life of a young person, does not engender a universal reaction vis-a-vis education. I have students whose entire educational experience has been torn asunder by the spectre of the marital dissolution of their parents, and I have had students whose performance in the classroom was scarcely impacted.

Should teachers now have the opportunity to pre-screen their students, to make sure that no divorces are pending in the family, or that the student doesn't have the annoying tendency to fall in and out of love on the hour? This is intended to sound preposterous, but in reality, if my livelihood, or the compensation I receive for said livelihood, is on the line, these are little snippets of information I would dearly like to know.

This is not meant to say that I don't think research efforts like those underway at the University of Wisconsin and elsewhere don't have merit. But it is important to acknowledge that there are limits to what we can reduce to numbers, and that such measurements are far from infallible.

Indeed, this is something that the VARC (Value Added Research Center) seems to acknowledge on their website:

Much basic research remains to be done to build high-quality value-added models and indicators that can legitimately support district and state accountability and high-stakes applications such as pay for performance.

There is little harm, it would seem, in universities devoting time and attention to trying to create such models. Inherent liabilities like the ones described earlier would seem to be barriers that will prove difficult to dislodge.

The greater concern here isn't that academic institutions like the VARC exist, it is that school districts seem eager to make major decisions, with enormous implications for their classroom teachers, using tools that even the designers themselves admit are a work in progress.

To raise questions about this would not seem to be an intractable resistance to reform or accountability. It would seem to be well-placed skepticism.

To base things like compensation, and even career continuation, on the promises from program creators that their measurements will be "fair" would seem to invite some level of deserved resistance.

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Sun Jun 13, 2010 at 07:01 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  As if "Teaching to the Test" wasn't wrong to (27+ / 0-)

    begin with. This adds insult to injury to the process..

    Afghanistan:Graveyard to empires-It's not just a bumpersticker

    by JML9999 on Sun Jun 13, 2010 at 07:06:18 PM PDT

    •  If the test contains the knowledge that (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      SoCalSal

      the student is supposed to learn, then teaching to the test is just teaching.

      Almost every class I took in college was "taught to the test"...

      Test scores were the primary, and often only, metric by which students were evaluated, and the tests measured most of what we were taught, but we didn't know which parts.

      "Teaching to the test" is not some magic incantation you can use to ward off evil.

      To the extent that the phrase actually means anything at all, it can even be a good idea.

      It all depends on the test you're "teaching to", doesn't it?

      --Shannon

      "It is better to die on your feet than to live on your knees." -- Emiliano Zapata Salazar
      "Dissent is patriotic. Blind obedience is treason." --me

      by Leftie Gunner on Mon Jun 14, 2010 at 07:45:22 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  And if testing skills matter (0+ / 0-)

        then teaching skills based on the format of the test may come at the expense of the foundation skills.

        For example, in some multiple choice math tests, there are techniques for seeing possible answers as decoys, and being able to reverse specific answers to test them instead of doing the original math problem.

        More open ended and expansive tests let you extract more information, and are more work to test. They are also more subjective to grade (partial credit for partial work, essay questions, etc.).

  •  Recently read Susan Ohanian's "Why is corporate (14+ / 0-)

    America bashing our public schools?" Boy, This lady should be on TV, radio etc - she is fiery. She ties data fetish to Nazi Germany where IBM helped the regime track & identify jews with its "data" system and then.... .
    And she imagines how government can apply corporate America's technique to ..... well, corporate America. Like set fuel efficiency standards, measure each year , replace part of the management for companies who fauill to meet targets, and then on the 3rd year or so, if they still don't show "progress" , nationalize them.

    •  I need a pencil? (0+ / 0-)

      "You will should I say anything important, but you won't know until after you hear it".
      This is the starting qualification point.

      One of the reasons why teacher pay has long been based on factors like years of experience and postgraduate units acquired is that these measures resist subjectivity.

      Tarasov, a great Russian hockey coach acknowledged as the "father of Russian Hockey" catapulted his country to dominance in hockey in the 60's and 70's was a "learner" before he became a teacher. He was denied travel abroad by his 'politburo' to study the Norwegians and the Canadians, although they were the epitomy of hockey success. Denied until he studied the game vs being an admirer. Every facet from skating, positioning, conditioning, strategy,psychology, as well as national hubris, or Canadian pride. His "people" then sent him to study the best, armed with self-discovery and a tempered analytical mind. Instead of a hockey mime came an inquistador(w/o a horse). He used math, but fused with the 'other' sciences as well. He changed the face of hockey and it took us decades of ignorance and hubris to figure out his methods. Today I still recall a Tarasov axiom, as a coach and mentor:

      I was the painter, the team the canvas, the players the colors. The outcome depended upon me the artist.

      Sometimes we win ugly, other times we lose in a burning concerto. We work with what we are given. You must let the artist paint without numbers.

      You didn't need a pencil for this.

    •  Ummm... (0+ / 0-)

      I see what you're saying, but Germany nationalized many of its industries in the 1930s.  You brought up the Nazis, so I'm just sayin'....

  •  As the father of three children (22+ / 0-)

    who have attended Hillsboro schools, and finally decided to pull them out of those same schools, I can only sigh at the elevation of test scores to such important status.  The use of the FCAT is already distorting public education in Florida schools, and this threatens to increase that reliance.

    There are forces in Florida that seek to make teachers into scapegoats.  This effort will strengthen the anti-teacher forces who want nothing more than the destruction of public education in Florida.

    It is worth noting that few in Florida have been more vocal or effective in fighting for education than Kendrick Meek, who led the Florida Class Size Amendment forces in 1992.

    The bitter truth of deep inequality has been disguised by an era of cheap imported goods and the anyone-can-make-it celebrity myth - Polly Toynbee

    by fladem on Sun Jun 13, 2010 at 07:08:30 PM PDT

    •  That should read (4+ / 0-)

      2002, not 1992 and Hillsborough and not Hillsboro.  

      The bitter truth of deep inequality has been disguised by an era of cheap imported goods and the anyone-can-make-it celebrity myth - Polly Toynbee

      by fladem on Sun Jun 13, 2010 at 07:14:16 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Thanks for giving credit to Meek (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      fladem, angstall

      for his consistent support of public education.

      Of course, to show how easily they can be taken in, the Florida Education Association chose to co-endorse Kendrick Meek and Charlie Crist. Heaven forbid they endorse the candidate who has been supportive of them all along.

      It'll be a cold day in hell before I knock myself out for Florida's teachers by making calls, sending emails, and attending rallies on their behalf the next time their tenure, and pay are on the line.  

      "Can I be quoted as yawning?" --Eric Jotkoff, Florida Democratic Party, on the shocking news that Democrats want to expose Republican corruption.

      by Susan S on Sun Jun 13, 2010 at 07:52:42 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  It frustrates me to no end (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Susan S, gph11, edtastic, angstall

        how much support Crist has here.

        Charlie Crist is to the right of Lieberman, and is far LESS trustworthy.  

        This is the same Crist who some months ago was talking about undoing the class size amendment.

        The bitter truth of deep inequality has been disguised by an era of cheap imported goods and the anyone-can-make-it celebrity myth - Polly Toynbee

        by fladem on Sun Jun 13, 2010 at 08:57:04 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  He backed the Teachers Union (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          bobtmn, v2aggie2, SoCalSal

          What else would a teacher want? Unions don't exist to protect students, they exist to protect teachers from whatever they happen to fear or provide them with stuff they want. This greatly distorts the education debate. We keep looking to the interest of the adults in the system instead of the students welfare. I rarely here people speak about it outside of vague nonsense like, we will inspire them, teach them to think, show them the world. Stuff like that makes adults feel good about themselves but it don't make the world go round.

          •  Not in an consistent (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Chinton, Mike08, angstall

            way has Crist backed the teacher's unions.  

            I suggest you go back and read your post, because frankly I think you have bought into the anti-teacher rhetoric.  You write that the unions don't care about the students.

            Nonsense.  The teacher's union that elects their leadership.  You are suggesting that when they elect that leadership their only concern is that they get more pay.

            Frankly, that is insulting.  If you step back your comment betrays a deep distrust of the people who actually do the real work of teaching children.  Most teachers I know could be making more money doing something else.

            God forbid we actually ask the teachers themselves what they think will improve Education.  

            The bitter truth of deep inequality has been disguised by an era of cheap imported goods and the anyone-can-make-it celebrity myth - Polly Toynbee

            by fladem on Sun Jun 13, 2010 at 09:08:07 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I don't see much talk about students interest (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              bobtmn, SoCalSal

              I hear about pay, benefits, class size, and more pay for degrees. That is the rhetoric I hear from the unions. I don't see unions rewriting the curriculum or writing text books. They seem to only go to the mat over pay, benefits, and job security.

              I am not against teachers but I no longer assume those in the system will support changing it. The change could be bad or good, I would rather states and localities have the chance to try instead of being blocked by various interest groups who are not strictly focused on the welfare of the students.

              •  I think you're overly cynical here (6+ / 0-)

                Small class size benefits students more than it benefits teachers. It creates more teachers, but more teacher slots tend to drive teacher salaries down.

                No, unions don't usually talk about textbooks. What do you think they should say that they aren't?

                In California, the Governator proposed that schools cut back to 175 days from 180, to save money. Our school's union counter-proposed that they work the 180 days and take the pay cut, because they saw long-term value in keeping those days. Individual teachers could not have done that - it took the teachers working together as a group - ie a union - to come to a cooperative agreement.

                Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

                by elfling on Sun Jun 13, 2010 at 10:25:56 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  I've worked in nonunion jobs (0+ / 0-)

                  where pay cuts were made with no reduction in work hours. That said, with grandkids in the California school system, I'm grateful that the teachers union agreed to work those five days.

                  Slavery is the legal fiction that a person is property. Corporate personhood is the legal fiction that property is a person. -Jan Edwards

                  by SoCalSal on Mon Jun 14, 2010 at 05:01:01 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

              •  This is a tired talking point (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Mike08, Atraties

                Teachers are out there advocating for their students every day. They do it in the most unassuming ways. Ask a student whose teacher paid their way into a ball game. Ask the many students whose teachers took time out of their very busy day to listen to or encourage them when nobody else would.

                Although teachers and unions try to have some input by sitting on textbook or curriculum committees, it is ultimately the school boards who have the final say. School boards establish policies and rules and set goals. Teachers are expected to follow the rules and achieve the goals. The recent decision by the Texas School Board is a great example:

                http://www.dailykos.com/...

                -- If there is hope... it lies in the proles.

                by nipit on Mon Jun 14, 2010 at 12:24:55 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  Your diverting the point (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  SoCalSal

                  The commenter is talking about unions, you're talking about individual teachers.   Yes, most teachers care about students, but the Teachers Union exists to promote the interests of Teachers.   They find it more powerful to pitch  their arguments in terms of helping the students.

                  When someone disagrees with them, we are accused of being anti-teacher, or supporting some hidden agenda.

                  This is part of the reason politicians have a hard time talking about what is good for the students.  If they don't do so in a way that supports the Union positions, they will be shredded by teachers union supporters.

                  Religion gives men the strength to do what should not be done.

                  by bobtmn on Mon Jun 14, 2010 at 06:46:19 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Not diverting. This is how it works. (0+ / 0-)

                    School boards and politicians with little or no education background make policies and rules and goals and educators are expected to tow the line. When UNIONS (made up of individual teachers) disagree THEY are the ones who are painted anti-student and self-serving. Your original posts proves this point.

                    -- If there is hope... it lies in the proles.

                    by nipit on Mon Jun 14, 2010 at 10:15:23 AM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                •  Agreed (0+ / 0-)

                  My own criticism of teachers' unions doesn't apply to individual teachers; most of the teachers I've known are exemplary (most, not all).

                  School boards and the bureaucracy needs reform in most areas, Texas being a prime example. Hawaii is another  example, where a single dysfunctional board for the entire state hasn't brought education standards above the bottom five states.

                  Slavery is the legal fiction that a person is property. Corporate personhood is the legal fiction that property is a person. -Jan Edwards

                  by SoCalSal on Mon Jun 14, 2010 at 06:05:43 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

              •  I don't see much talk about student interest (0+ / 0-)

                from politicians.  Only how costly it is, what dead-beats or greedy teachers are, how dysfunctional the school system is.

                Mostly, I see cuts in funding.  One Republican implied this was the way to drive innovation -- talking about how "ecolleges" and "eschools" will spring up.  As if reduced support drives innovation and not the other way around:  Innovation (R & D) reduces cost.

                Yes Obama and his Democrats can, but won't"

                by Helpless on Mon Jun 14, 2010 at 06:11:13 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

            •  Not looking for a fight here, but (0+ / 0-)

              how does the teachers union differ from other unions/trade organizations that exist to serve/protect their members? Students might be considered secondary partners/customers/whatever, but the interests of teachers is primary to the union's existence, is it not?

              FWIW, I have never considered the teachers union to represent the interests of students except in an ancillary way, like airline passengers benefit from safety rules of ALPA; homebuyers/sellers benefit from professional standards of the Realtor association.

              Slavery is the legal fiction that a person is property. Corporate personhood is the legal fiction that property is a person. -Jan Edwards

              by SoCalSal on Mon Jun 14, 2010 at 04:48:17 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

          •  It was a horrible bill for pretty much everyone (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Mike08

            And do you want kindergarteners doing bubble tests?

            Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

            by elfling on Sun Jun 13, 2010 at 10:21:08 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  Time for you to get involved... (0+ / 0-)

          No more excuses!  Email me.

          "Can I be quoted as yawning?" --Eric Jotkoff, Florida Democratic Party, on the shocking news that Democrats want to expose Republican corruption.

          by Susan S on Mon Jun 14, 2010 at 08:35:58 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  And why I was so glad that Crist... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      bess, Mike08

      vetoed SB6.  Because it would have done exactly what this diary suggests.  And rather than strengthen education in Florida, it would have weakened it, and it's weak enough as it is.  I don't know where all the lottery money is going, when I read things like the Broward County School District is about to lay of 1350 workers (not all teachers, but still)

      Dealing with FCAT is already enough of burden - teachers HAVE to teach to the test... to try and make them singularly carry the burden for their students' performance was and is ridiculous. As if a teacher can truly manipulate the learning potential, ability and desire of every student in his/her classroom.  It's a no brainer that that will NEVER happen. They can waste as many millions as they want on studies.  But that money would go much further and be much better spent on increasing teacher pay, and working to keep good teachers IN the system.

      As an aside - If Meek wants a shot in this race, he'd better start making his presence known. I'm in southern Palm Beach County, and were it not for the fact that I'm politically involved and aware, I'd NEVER know he were in the race to begin with.  

      If we do not change our direction, we are likely to end up where we are headed. - Chinese Proverb

      by legalchic on Sun Jun 13, 2010 at 08:13:14 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I don't fault him for not being more visible... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        fladem

        up to now.  He's saving his money for the last few months when those who aren't politically aware finally start tuning in.  He's been on the ground everywhere for the past year and a half.  He's in the Tampa Bay area at least once every couple of weeks.

        "Can I be quoted as yawning?" --Eric Jotkoff, Florida Democratic Party, on the shocking news that Democrats want to expose Republican corruption.

        by Susan S on Sun Jun 13, 2010 at 08:31:47 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  There is still a probelm with standardized... (24+ / 0-)

    ...tests, in that the answers are either right or completely wrong.  A student comes in to the year, for instance, totally incapable of even attempting a certain math problem.  The student finishes the year being able to set up the problem and do almost all of the steps...but can't finish it, and so still misses the problem.

    I would argue that value has been added, but it is not being measured.

    •  The right answer is important (5+ / 0-)

      If you have to manufacture 100,000 units of a product you don't want a math error ruining the lot of them. If your doing product design or just trying to fit a piece of furniture in a door frame partial credit won't make things fit where they don't. Bad math leads to bad decisions. Accuracy is crucial in mathematics, especially as the complexity increases.

      Partial credit is acceptable when the question is not multiple choice, but that is usually a small part of the test.

      •  The right answer is important (10+ / 0-)

        but knowing how to go about getting to the right answer is even more important.

        For several years I taught an evening course in elementary statistics at a local community college. In the first session, after the preliminary introductions, I'd introduce them to the heresies that would be governing the course--one of which was that they could get a 90 on my tests without ever getting a calculation correct.** Most of the test questions would be word problems (loud groan from the peanut gallery), and anyone who could correctly identify the key variables, set up the appropriate null & alternative hypotheses, and specify the proper test would have 90% credit right there. As for the calculation--to paraphrase Villiers de l'Isle Adam (NB I left the citation out of the lecture), Our servants (calculators, stat packages) will do that for us...

        ------------
        ** Two other heresies: All tests were open everything--you could do almost anything short of bringing in someone to take the test for you--and the course would not be curved.

        May I bow to Necessity not/ To her hirelings (W. S. Merwin)

        by Uncle Cosmo on Sun Jun 13, 2010 at 08:22:12 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  How does one know whether one knows how? (0+ / 0-)

          The only sure test of whether one knows how to get the right answer, is getting the right answer.

          Calculating tools such as computers need to be used properly to give answers - the answers to real questions are not provided by standard packages - and even then they sometimes make mistakes too (there are lots of programming errors).

          •  actually, I had a lot of teachers who required (5+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            gsbadj, Uncle Cosmo, hulagirl, Mike08, Atraties

            you show work!  that was how they told if you knew what was going on, or maybe guessed...
            standardized tests reward intelligent guesses over slowly doing the correct steps...

            republicians believe government can't work, when they're in power, they're right

            by askyron on Mon Jun 14, 2010 at 12:40:24 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Showing of work (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Mike08

              Seems to be leaving the educational system. In middle and high school I was without fail required to show work except on the SAT. I recently went back to college to get a second degree, and in a statistics class I was criticized by the teacher for showing my work on a hand done test because "it clutters the page." Very different attitude. Where was I even supposed to do the work if not on the page. Baffling.

            •  You missed my point (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              gsbadj

              You can show all the work you want, but if you get the wrong answer, you've not shown you know how to get it.

              •  The Right Answer (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Uncle Cosmo, hulagirl

                Being able to identify the null and alternative hypothesis, the variables, and the relationships being tested is at least as important as getting the right answer.

                How many times will a person be called upon to set up the numbers for a run of a million widgets as compared to the number of times they will be called upon to understand a public opinion poll or a report on climate change?

                Being able to follow the numbers and understand how to go from a problem to a model is as important as being able to evaluate the model. Of course if one struggles with cranking the numbers, one is in no position to evaluate the validity of the model, a meta level that requires deeper understanding.

              •  Sure you can (0+ / 0-)

                In special ed math, kids can have deficits in either calculation or in reasoning or in both.  Especially in math, what look like short problems can involve more steps than you'd imagine.  

                Let's say you give a kid a two-step story problem.  The kid does one part right, sets up the other correctly and then punches those numbers into a calculator wrong, then to me, the kid has shown growth... and he gets no credit for it on a standardized test... and neither does the teacher.

                And if the kid has a reading disability, that will pervade every subject being tested, including math.  If the kid can't read the problem, it's not going to get set up right to start with.

                Yes, final results matter.  But there are special ed kids who show up at high school with 3rd grade equivalencies and it's not because their teachers haven't been trying their damnedest to teach them during the intervening period of time.

                Not to be defeatist, but some kids never get it, try as they might.  That's why they have learning disabilities or impairments.  

                I briefly taught severely handicappped kids who forgot most the simple classroom routine every last 3-day weekend and almost all of it during a Christmas break.  Why would you hold a teacher "accountable" for not improving this type of kids performance?

                "Unseen, in the background, Fate was quietly slipping the lead into the boxing glove." P.G. Wodehouse

                by gsbadj on Mon Jun 14, 2010 at 07:38:44 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  For this... (0+ / 0-)

                  Why would you hold a teacher "accountable" for not improving this type of kids performance?

                  How many special ed classes exist as percentage of all classes?

                  Obviously, special ed students shouldn't have to take the same tests as unchallenged students and those special ed teachers can be evaluated on other criteria. That doesn't negate the value of using standardized tests for other students.

                  When you write, "But there are special ed kids who show up at high school with 3rd grade equivalencies," that confirms to me that the system is broken for serving these kids, who need more long-term attention and to not be evaluated in the same way.

                  As a special ed teacher, what qualities and skills would you use to evaluate special ed teachers?

                  Slavery is the legal fiction that a person is property. Corporate personhood is the legal fiction that property is a person. -Jan Edwards

                  by SoCalSal on Mon Jun 14, 2010 at 06:22:27 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

          •  This-- (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            hulagirl

            Calculating tools such as computers need to be used properly to give answers--the answers to real questions are not provided by standard packages

            --was & is precisely my point.

            It's relatively simple & to teach someone how to mindlessly use a statistical software package--how to put the data in, how to perform a test, etc. It's much harder to teach them how to frame a problem properly so as to decide what the underlying question is, what analytical procedures are appropriate to use to answer them, and how the data should be formatted and edited in order to run those procedures. Giving someone a package like SPSS to use without the framing skills is the analytical equivalent of handing a four-year-old boy a hammer & a blasting cap & sending him out to play in traffic.

            My answer to students who questioned the idea of "open everything" tests might be pertinent here:

            Look, your boss is not going to come over to you & say "You had a statistics course--find the standard deviation of these numbers without looking up the formula." But s/he might say, "You studied statistics--I have this data & I need to know what it means, can you help me find out?"

            (Re software screwups, you are preaching to the choir: In grad school I spent a thankless 36 hours unable to get a sensible answer to a question on an open-book, open-computer take-home final. Finally in sheer desperation I opened up the listings for the subroutine package I was using to perform the calculations--& within 90 seconds discovered that the matrix-inversion routine was FUBAR. I switched to another package & got a reasonable answer in minutes... But software packages with major bugs don't last long in the marketplace these days.)

            May I bow to Necessity not/ To her hirelings (W. S. Merwin)

            by Uncle Cosmo on Mon Jun 14, 2010 at 06:22:43 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  We have calculators and computers... (5+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        jmcgrew, Chinton, debedb, Helpless, hulagirl

        ...to do the calculations in real life.

        •  this is snark, right? (0+ / 0-)

          A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives ~ Jackie Robinson's epitaph

          by k8dd8d on Sun Jun 13, 2010 at 10:02:54 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I sure hope so (4+ / 0-)

            Else it's an unwitting display of near total ignorance about how mathematics works, possibly to the extent of mistaking arithmetic for actual math.

            People who never get past basic math -- and in this context, "basic" means everything up to and including calculus -- seldom learn that math is essentially a set of tools. Knowing how to use the tools is of secondary importance to knowing which tool to use for the job, just as knowing how to use an assortment of woodworking tools doesn't mean you're qualified to build fine cabinetry.

            For example, let's say that you work for a music instrument manufacturer that, among other things, produces synthesizers. It happens that a substantial fraction of high school graduates know the math necessary to do this. It also happens that there is software to do the math. None of this matters by itself, because most of those high school graduates have no idea which math to use or how to apply it, never mind the software, which only knows to do what its users tell it to do. Those same people will probably wonder why they're paid so much less than people with the necessary broader understanding, too -- math skills being one of the more reliable predictors for rate of pay.

            The high school math in question, incidentally, is largely trigonometry. For more advanced applications, you'd also need enough calculus (which is not much) to be able to understand how to use something called the Fast Fourier Transform. But simply knowing the math alone or having a calculator or computer algebra system capable of doing the math for you will not get you there. A calculator will help you balance your checkbook as you rue your comparatively low income, but that's about it.

            •  The value is in the person knowing how to set up (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              gsbadj, hulagirl

              the problem.  If a person can set up the problem, but needs a calculator or computer to finish solving it, I have no problem with that.

            •  As a 30+ year programmer (0+ / 0-)

              I have never used anything but Algebra.  No Fourier Transforms, no Trig, no Geometry.  Now I grant you, if I worked for Nasa this might not be the case, but for the vast majority of us, no.

              The fundamental requirements, I've found are persistence and problem solving.  How do you measure these in your standardized test?  And problem solving here does not mean knowing how to solve a 3 variable problem given three equations.  It means given an unfamiliar situation with loads of information, most of which is extraneous, and an objective, to come up with a simple solution.

              Now, if a "college degree required" position like this uses only basic math, what about all the trades, like auto mechanics, carpenters, plumbers, etc?

              Finally, I have Word for my lousy penmanship and Excel for my all too mistake-prone math.

              Yes Obama and his Democrats can, but won't"

              by Helpless on Mon Jun 14, 2010 at 06:28:51 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

          •  Hell know. (0+ / 0-)

            I've been teaching college level mathematics for 34 years.  

      •  But, it's not true that every child is capable of (9+ / 0-)

        improving in numeric ability, at least not in a year. I worked one-on-one in a children's hospital setting with a 17-year-old girl every day for a year. She has sickle cell disease and had suffered several strokes before the age of eight as a result of medical neglect by her parents. Although her verbal skills were virtually nill, I knew her cognitive abilities were much higher because she was always the first to laugh at the appropriate spot when anyone told a joke. We were both highly motivated. Me because she was about to age out of the very protective hospital where she'd lived for almost ten years, so I worried about her. She because I gave her as many pennies as she could count every day. When we started, she could count to 7. A year later, she could count to 7. Although I'm a reading specialist, not a math teacher, and I really wanted to give her the pleasure of reading, we never made much progress there either. Fortunately, my undergraduate minor was fine arts. The one thing I was able to teach her was a little painting technique -- abstract because she had very little hand control. Still, she was thrilled to "discover" that she was an artist and extremely proud of herself for it. My pay was not tied to her improvement, but what if it had been? Somehow, I doubt our artistic victory would have counted on any objective test.

        Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction -- Pascal

        by RJDixon74135 on Sun Jun 13, 2010 at 08:48:47 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Nor would it get her a common job (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          SoCalSal

          We are preparing them for the real world not the dreamers fantasy's.

          Lovely story by the way and great job. You should feel proud, those things really matter to the soul. The real world is not as soul full as I would like so such a contribution won't be rewarded with the consistency of basic skills

          •  The real world is big, and she is a part of it (5+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            elfling, hulagirl, Egalitare, Mike08, angstall

            even though she would never be doing a common job. She was aging out of the children's hospital but would be moved to a skilled nursing facility to get the extensive medical attention she needs to stay alive. Still, she needed someone to be other than just a sick person, a way to think of herself, and a way to present herself to her new community. I was happy to help her find that. I'm glad you enjoyed her story and thanks for the compliment.

            But, she was not the only one there in her situation or a similar one. All the kids had traumatic brain injuries of some sort. I was employed and paid by the public school district where I live. I just happened to be assigned to teach in a nontraditional environment. Every child needed a personalized approach that might or might not change rather rapidly depending on his or her recovery. On a standardized test, some of them would have registered astounding improvement in a year, not beceause I was an astounding teacher but because the brain has an astounding capacity to rebuild itself.

            My point is there are round cases that don't fit into square holes. I'm retired now, but I hope there are teachers who are being accorded the flexibility I was to do whatever is needed although the results may not be quantifiable. Sometimes what can't be measured is immeasurable.  

            Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction -- Pascal

            by RJDixon74135 on Sun Jun 13, 2010 at 10:00:55 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  yeah, the real world where (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            hulagirl, Egalitare, Mike08

            they can sit in cubicles, punching numbers and never questioning why Goldman Sachs is making off with their 401Ks.

            We have to teach them to THINK.

            And that's dangerous to those in power.

            A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives ~ Jackie Robinson's epitaph

            by k8dd8d on Sun Jun 13, 2010 at 10:04:58 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  The real world must include artists, (4+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            hulagirl, Mike08, Zenara, Atraties

            including musicians and painters and writers and actors, the real world must make room for the contributions of those with disabilities, the real world must include dreamers, or why even have a world.

            Yes, the world needs those who toil at conventional jobs, but we also need Helen Keller to make us look beyond the obvious of the cover of the book, we need Lawrence Olivier and Kenneth Brannagh and Lillo Brancato to bring to life the words of the Bard of Avon, each in their unique way, so we will think about that "band of brothers", we need Dr. Martin Cooper, the dreamer who took the magic of the Star Trek communicator and put it in our hands.

            Without the artists and the dreamers, including those with disabilities, life becomes lifeless and drab.

                            Just my two cents,
                                Heather

            Torture is ALWAYS wrong, no matter who is doing it to whom.

            by Chacounne on Mon Jun 14, 2010 at 01:43:06 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  Sure, when you are finished with your education (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        hulagirl

        but learning math is not about having a collection of cookbooks you pull out, one for each problem. It is developing layers of skills.

        Someone who is taking 5th grade math is not expected to walk out the door and do the math of widgets. They are laying the foundations of being able to do so later. Being able to assess the partial progress still matters.

        At the same time, showing why math matters in real life, and is not just some obsession is good too.
        Seeing that it does matter in things like carpentry or cooking or clever pictures of furniture stuck in door frames is not on tests, but may reach a few people, and have an impact years later.

  •  Many States are about to lay off teachers because (15+ / 0-)

    they do not have enough money. Many of those States have recently changed laws to make it legal to lay off the best paid teachers. Those with the most education, national certification, and years of experience.

    The race to the top program has encouraged laws that will start to a race to the bottom.

    •  perhaps relevant to note two things (12+ / 0-)

      for which I provided links in the open thread.

      A piece by Diane Ravitch in New York Review of Books Obama's Right-wing School Reform

      and a link to a very relevant editorial cartoon in today's Boston Globe

      "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

      by teacherken on Sun Jun 13, 2010 at 07:25:51 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  The best teachers may not be the oldest (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jmcgrew, ladybug53, Steve In DC, SoCalSal

      Often seniority decides who gets fired instead of teaching effectiveness. That is not in the interest of the students. The best paid may not be the best performing. The one with the most degrees may not be the best teacher.

      It's not magic. We measure student performance so we can measure teacher performance. It does not have to be perfect anymore perfect than current student evaluation  methods.

      •  I taught in 6 public school districts in Montana (11+ / 0-)

        before moving up to the tribal college arena. In each district, every year, the focus was on how to reduce the total amount of money paid in teacher salaries.

        Every year, the first effort was to eliminate the most expensive teachers, and to hire the least expensive.

        In other words, no attention whatsoever was paid to who was the best teacher; only who was earning the most money, i.e. the ones with the highest degrees and the most years spent teaching.

        The cheapest teachers to hire? The ones straight out of college, i.e. the ones with no experience whatsoever.

        I find your arguments not reflective of reality.

        I sure wish my government gave me as much privacy as they demand I give them.

        by Daddy Bartholomew on Sun Jun 13, 2010 at 08:12:57 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  That is a shame (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          ladybug53, SoCalSal

          There should be a performance based system in place to at least identify the best teachers. If they were just eliminating those who had to be paid more due to greater education or experience because rules said they had to pay them more this could be seen as a side affect of not having a merit based pay structure. Few would advocate eliminating their best performing employees in a institution, but the highest paid is another matter.

          •  isn't that the point of the diary? (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            elfling, Egalitare

            To discuss the ways that teachers are evaluated?

            There isn't a "performance based system" because each child is a sum total of their life experiences, their family, and the teachers who have come before the current one.

            Teachers shouldn't be judged on that, since they have very little input to it.

            And yet, I hear you, that there has to be a way to figure out if the system works.

            Except, the problem with the system is that it is designed for each child to meet some minimum level of proficiency, and NOT for each child to reach their maximum potential.

            A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives ~ Jackie Robinson's epitaph

            by k8dd8d on Sun Jun 13, 2010 at 10:09:10 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  and why in gods green earth would anybody (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Mike08

            take up a career where you can be fired for making too much money?  We're sure doing everything to dissuade anybody to take up teaching, especially teaching those schools with lower educated/lower earning districts where you'd have to work twice as hard to involve parents to assist.

            republicians believe government can't work, when they're in power, they're right

            by askyron on Mon Jun 14, 2010 at 12:46:29 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  that doesn't happen only in teaching! (0+ / 0-)

              and why in gods green earth would anybody (1+ / 0-)

              Recommended by:
                 Mike08

              take up a career where you can be fired for making too much money?

              That happens in many areas.

              Slavery is the legal fiction that a person is property. Corporate personhood is the legal fiction that property is a person. -Jan Edwards

              by SoCalSal on Mon Jun 14, 2010 at 06:31:25 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

      •  Look at what States have the best scores now. (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        bess, Karl Rover, Egalitare, tardis10

        Why are they trying to force them to weaken worker protections to the level of the worst performing States?

        •  You mean teacher protections (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          ladybug53, Steve In DC, SoCalSal

          Those things designed to keep teachers on the job in spite of poor performance. We don't need to protect teachers we need to focus on protecting students. The students are the purpose of the system not job stability for teachers.

          The system focuses on adults because the students have no voice. Where is the student's Union? Who is the students advocate?

          See what I mean. Sorry the adults have failed I don't see the need to protect them. If the unions or the teachers used their leverage to make changes to the institutions rather than improving their job security and benefits I might be more supportive. As it stands I think we need to break with the past and take our chances with radical change.

          •  Make the case. What teachers have failed? Did you (11+ / 0-)

            not read the argument? The states with the most supportive laws of teachers have the best scores and have the most educational success. States where teachers can be dismissed at a whim produce the worst students.

            Do you get the idea? Protecting teachers allows them to teach better. The more autonomy is given to teachers, the more success they have.

            •  It was not detailed in the comment (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              SoCalSal

              Implied yes but not detailed. Their are plenty of indirect correlations that could be drawn from this. Weak teacher protections could reflect low wage environment and a weak tax base amongst other things.

              Either way a merit based payment system is what I am advocating, not stay as long as you keep showing up.

          •  Not all schools are doing poorly. Change for the (4+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            badger, elfling, boji, ladybug53

            sake of change can also make things worse.

          •  Easy words (7+ / 0-)

            I teach at the college level, and I know who the great teachers in my department are, and who the bad ones are. But the ones in the middle, how do you break them down? How to factor out the vagaries of the classroom? Anyone who has taught for any time at all knows that each class has its own personality. One or two students can lift the whole enterprise up or bring it down. It's amazing to see, but it's real. Sure, an experienced teacher can overcome some of that, but not all. And that's just one of many factors teachers have little or no control over? How do you factor that stuff?

            The only plausible solution is peer review, but given how much autonomy has been stripped from school teachers, I can't see that ever happening.

            Conservatives believe evil comes from violating rules. Liberals believe evil comes from violating each other.

            by tcorse on Sun Jun 13, 2010 at 08:41:04 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  No, we used to measure student (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        boji, Chinton, Mike08

        performance so we could tell which students needed more instruction in what.  But with test mania, it's become a tool for measuring student performance.

        The brightest kids, who learn the most quickly, will not only have the highest test scores; they will also show more growth from year to year.  So with this method, the teachers who have the smartest kids will still end up getting more pay simply because they're teaching the smartest kids.

        •  Not so (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          SoCalSal

          I oppose most of the testing to evaluate teachers but your argument is not accurate.  The growth of a student with more needs and disabilities is to be measured with a different yardstick so the teacher who teaches challenging classes gets far more credit in those classes.  The crux of the problem is the issue of whether tests can actually differentiate between teacher product and environment.  The answer is mostly "no" however well-devised tests might serve some purpose in evaluating teachers, just not a large component.

      •  I never thought of it that way (0+ / 0-)

        but you made me realize something. Every reason teachers can cite for excusing their class's grades is also a reason students can cite to excuse their own grades.

        The essay argues that we shouldn't base a teacher's compensation and career continuation on whether students are measured fairly, since we have no reliably fair way to measure them.

        Those student measurements already affect the compensation and career advancement of the students, though. Every year you delay a student's graduation is another year that many jobs are off-limits to him: and usually not because he lacks the skills or knowledge for those jobs, but because he lacks a piece of paper saying he attended some list of classes and filled out some list of assignments and tests in each. How do we know those measurements are "fair"?

        I think I agree with the essay that it's unfair to do this to teachers, but I'm not sure why we ought to continue doing it to students.

      •  That's not the way we do it in business (0+ / 0-)

        Programmers are not paid by the number of lines of code they write.
        Accountants are not paid by the number of books they do.
        Lawyers by the number of cases handled.

        It's the quality of their work that matters.

        For teachers this means measures such as,

        1. Did they stay in school?
        1. Were they motivated to go on to college?
        1. Did they participate in their government (vote)?
        1. Were they well adjusted socially?  Did they learn empathy and respect for their fellow man?

        Let's see you measure these things.  People want standardized tests because they are easy, not because they measure what's important.

        Yes Obama and his Democrats can, but won't"

        by Helpless on Mon Jun 14, 2010 at 06:41:15 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  as a resident of fla, tampa bay area (5+ / 0-)

    (tampa/st pete), and about to change careers(maybe) to guess what???? yes, interview days this week... I've been waiting to read this diary all day, glad I'm still up! may comment later...

    Change is not an event, it is a process.....

    by lady blair on Sun Jun 13, 2010 at 07:13:58 PM PDT

  •  I am reminded (11+ / 0-)

    of an episode of NPR's This American life about a school in Chicago that did away with everything inessential -- lesson plans, excess administration, etc. -- and saw test scores jump. What happened, of course, is that the city's school system insisted the school start doing all those things again and scores went back down.

    Maybe public education needs to be rescued from the professors of education.

    http://www.osborneink.com

    by Matt Osborne on Sun Jun 13, 2010 at 07:14:15 PM PDT

  •  So the formula won't be 100% perfect. So what? (6+ / 0-)

    You do a basic regression to account for the broad difference like socio-economic background and typically the personal differences, like one particular student's personal situation, will average out over all the students you teach in a year (most teachers probably have some students facing the same problems). It's the exact same principl that's used in any scientific study.

    No, it's not perfect, but it's something. The point of doing this type of mathematical modeling isn't to say that you can perfectly predict everything, but simply to end up with one measurement that should be highly correlated with reality. If done correctly, most of the time, the teachers shown to be the most "value-adding" through the model will actually be the most value-adding.

    •  Why? If you are not basing it the value added (13+ / 0-)

      on anything of importance, then the formula is worthless. Look at my post.

      Standardized tests do not measure a great deal of what I teach.  If I get paid according to student scores, i will change how i teach.

      Students will score better, but they will not learn to write as well, they will not learn to discuss as well, and they will not learn to question authority because that won't be on the test.

      •  Too bad (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Sparhawk

        Food and music reviews don't account for the varying taste of the readers. The world can't be made perfect for teachers or students. At some level we just have to deal with it and get along the best we can.

      •  asdf (7+ / 0-)

        they will not learn to write as well, they will not learn to discuss as well, and they will not learn to question authority because that won't be on the test.

        What I hear you saying is "they won't be taught how to think"... with which I agree completely.

        This is the aim of the reactionary "reform" movement.  They parrot concern for the students, but what they really want is what business wants -- an obedient, fearful working class.

        Democrats are from Venus; Republicans are from Uranus.

        by ceebee7 on Sun Jun 13, 2010 at 08:26:07 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Though that is part of it. The bigger part is (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          ladybug53, k8dd8d, Egalitare

          that it is easier to teach editing skills that are tested by the standardized tests then it is to teach writing.

          In many schools, the time needed to teach writing has been taken away, and worksheets on grammar are given.

          As far as thinking clearly, I agree with the old sage who wrote, "Writing is thinking written down."

        •  Questioning Authority? (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          jmcgrew

          Other adults can barely debate education issues with teachers, do they really want students to questioning them?

          Anyone who remembers school well knows it was a world full of injustice. Children have no rights, and no authority. They are peasants in a unjust kingdom. If we want to teach free thinking, let them have some power to debate the schools policies and make real decisions. Prepare them for life in a democracy. The adults in the system resist relinquishing power, just as authorities do in most institutions.

          That will teach them to think and to question. The teachers and administrators will have a interest in providing with the tools to make these choices well.

          •  I teach debate, so I feel your attack on (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            elfling, k8dd8d

            my profession is off base. Most teachers work to get students to think. Questioning authority is never highly prized, but most schools have a few teachers that are known to encourage this behavior.

            Without tenure, we would probably not be able to do it. :)

            Schools have changed a lot, and most schools were not like the school you went to. Comparing all schools to your educational experiences is like comparing all cars to the car that your parents took you to piano lessons in.

            Like "back to the basic" movements, what does around comes around. But even today's awful station wagons don't put fake wood on the sides.

            •  Not that simple (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              jmcgrew, SoCalSal

              Graduation was not my last experience with schools, I will be at one next week. A little community service, I might even do tutoring this summer. I don't attack the profession, I am attacking the whole institution. I am attacking academia, our government, and the adults who do and run things for their failures to get the job done.

              Children have not been first priority for a long time. Their voices are not heard, nobody consults them so only us young people who came out the system recently can best speak to their point of view. From the inside I can tell you good intentions are not good enough.

              The culture of our schools can be toxic. The injustices students must suffer can be too much to bear. These are things we can fix. Merit pay and performance evaluation is about finding out who is doing good and rewarding them. Good teachers can raise performance.

              I don't care if the evaluations are fair because students have to get a random teacher, teachers can take the random student. If the teacher sucks, the student gets screwed but nobody cares if it is fair to them. They only complain when an adult ends up with a smaller pay check.

               I am attacking excuses from adults as see a country in decline. I guess it's the Gen X thing to do. That seems to be who the reformers are right?

          •  Well, that is what we did in (0+ / 0-)

            the 60s, either you don't remember or were not there.

            Kick apart the structures - Seth

            by ceebee7 on Mon Jun 14, 2010 at 01:10:30 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  Students are not widgets. (12+ / 0-)

      Learning doesn't always happen in a linear fashion, and doesn't always manifest itself until well after the class is over.

      •  Re (0+ / 0-)

        Another factor that can be accounted for by properly designing the evaluation factors.

        (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
        Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

        by Sparhawk on Sun Jun 13, 2010 at 08:13:39 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  How? (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          badger, k8dd8d, Mike08

          How do you account for the very real probability that a student will progress one semester because of something she was exposed to 1-2 years prior, did miserably on at that point, and then something clicked later on?

          Contrary to your assertion in another comment, this does not mean that I think that teachers should not be evaluated.  Teachers unions think teachers should be evaluated.  But teaching is not the corporate world and there is much about the learning process that cannot be quantified.

          •  If teachers and their unions think (0+ / 0-)

            that teachers should be evaluated, then they should be proactive in devising the evaluation method.

            So far, it's not been my impression that teachers and unions are proactive on this, but I'm open to correction.

            Slavery is the legal fiction that a person is property. Corporate personhood is the legal fiction that property is a person. -Jan Edwards

            by SoCalSal on Mon Jun 14, 2010 at 06:42:19 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  Read Ravitch's latest book (6+ / 0-)

      to discover the fallacies of this approach,some of which I outlined in another comment.

      You are making a huge assumption about the value of standardized multiple choice to measure student achievement.

      Ken Goodman has labled these so-called reforms as the "pedegogy of the absurd". I predeict that in a decade we will be apologizing to a whole generation of students who will have been denied a true education and instead prepared only for answering simplistic tests.

      I am so happy that my son attended school at a time when children were encouraged to follow their talent.

      Excess ain't rebellion. You're drinking what they're selling. - Cake

      by slatsg on Sun Jun 13, 2010 at 07:54:42 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I heard this before (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        jmcgrew, SoCalSal

        We are apologizing already for a failed system. Schools need to experiment a lot for a decade just so we can find better ways of doing things. Reform needs to happen and some of the reform will be ineffective. We have to take our chances.

        •  I don't accept that we have a "failed" system (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          badger, elfling, Egalitare, Mike08

          In the words of a book by Biddle and Berliner, it is a "Manufactured Crisis".

          I'm certain that most have heard of the poorly written, poorly researched A Nation at Risk, which heralded the Reagan administration's attack on education.

          How many have heard of the Sandia Report? A well researched document commissioned by the Bush I administration, it was buried when the results of the study by the Sandia laboratories concluded that public schools were doing relatively well, which was contrary to what the politicians wanted to hear.

          You take chances with your kid. I'll rely on the quality teachers in my school to deliver an education to our students. Our rural community has a high poverty rate and we can't afford to follow every latest "can't fail" gimmic that comes along.

          Excess ain't rebellion. You're drinking what they're selling. - Cake

          by slatsg on Sun Jun 13, 2010 at 08:24:39 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I actually went to school (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            jmcgrew

            Yeah it was failing then. When half my class did not graduate, and when only 20% of the graduates were boys in high school. It was not a bad school it was safe and harmonious. The adults in the system did not inspire or motivate, they just herded young people through the system.

            It is worse now because I have gone back to visit schools. I read the test scores, and I have seen the test. I have talked with the students. A lot of problems have to do with school culture and teacher attitudes believe it or not. Adults don't hold themselves accountable nor are they being judged enough by outsiders. A system for the convenience of adults has emerged and that needs to change.

            •  Your entitled to your opinion (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              elfling, hulagirl

              My experience was in a parochial school back in the sixties and I will say without question that the teachers I work with are better prepared and better educators than the people who taught me. So much for the good old days.

              The parichial school I attended bragged about it's superior education, but it started with better students and booted anyone who didn't make the grade or who created discipline problems.

              Excess ain't rebellion. You're drinking what they're selling. - Cake

              by slatsg on Sun Jun 13, 2010 at 08:46:30 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

      •  Bill Gates, unlike his father, is one of the most (0+ / 0-)

        (unintentially) evil humans in history.  Like the RCC after Gutenberg, he tried to patent human knowlege.

        He & Melinda do far more damage than if they just spent it on themselves.

        If world peace broke out, civilization as we know it would end. --Joseph Heller

        by sturunner on Sun Jun 13, 2010 at 08:27:22 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  If the sample is large enough, (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      SoCalSal

      the kids with parents divorcing and other problems will be balanced by those who have extraordinary support from their parents.  If you suspect there is still bias in the procedure due to home or other factors, you can adjust as long as you have a good idea of the direction and severity of the bias.  

      As dennisl pointed out, the model will not be perfect, but it won't be as bad as most posters are assuming.  

  •  Seems to be so wrong on so many levels. (8+ / 0-)

    Have we finally devolved into education as training; quantitative regurgitation of received knowledge by students?

    Damn, that is so ugly.  Perhaps the quantitative measure of a district's ability to education would be the inverse of religious participation in the community, or even the inverse of factual science like evolution/natural selection, or anthropocentric global warming among a community's citizens.

    Distrust of authority should be the first civic duty. - Norman Douglas

    by Fossil on Sun Jun 13, 2010 at 07:21:34 PM PDT

    •  The Public Conception Was Shifted 20-30 Years (9+ / 0-)

      ago from education to training.

      Nobody but looney lefties talks about a value of "education."

      We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

      by Gooserock on Sun Jun 13, 2010 at 07:36:47 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Education is about skills (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jmcgrew

      We are not testing history, we are testing reading and math. They don't just regurgitate those things, they understand them and can apply that knowledge in a wide range of situations through out their life.

      Yes we test their skills, and we should figure out who is good at it.

      The rest of that high minded garbage is not helping the bottom half make it. We need to focus on getting our success rate up to 80-90% then we can have a humanities binge.

      •  It is NOT. (5+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        badger, hulagirl, Fossil, Egalitare, Atraties

        It is about teaching minds how to work.  Work, not memorize.

        A chimpanzee can memorize facts.

        Democrats are from Venus; Republicans are from Uranus.

        by ceebee7 on Sun Jun 13, 2010 at 08:31:06 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Yes it is memorization with key skills on top (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          jmcgrew

          You are in education fantasy land. You recall what student life without the glitter or sit in class and experience the routine. You memorize spelling list, vocabulary words, multiplication tables. Hell lets skip right to University which is basically a vocabulary teaching center. That was the first thing I realized about higher education. If you know what the words means you can pass the test.

          Define various psychological conditions for psychology.
          Define various biological terms for biology. It just goes on and on like that. Yes you learn about some processes and have to remember formulas instead of words with some subjects. Or the properties of a thing. This is memorization.

          The skill learning is in reading, math, researching, programming and doing stuff computers can't do for you. That is a small part, of the curriculum most is memorization.  

          •  Mine wasn't. It was learning to process. In some (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            k8dd8d

            disciplines it is about memorization, but in most it is about learning a process and how to apply that process.

            What you are writing about is left brain education. Daniel Pink has written at length that we have machines to do that now, and that real job growth will take place in the thinking disciplines.

          •  The short issue with what you are saying (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            hulagirl

            If you teach someone facts and lists, train them to a specific task or set of topics they learn that. If you teach them how to learn they will be self educating and over time more productive. By teaching to test you eliminate the focus on learning how to think which is a greater help than having good test scores. They will learn that vocabulary list on their own because they need to know. Not only will they do that now, in school, they will do that when they end up in a position where they need to adapt to a changing field, a new career, and elsewhere in their lives.

            •  E.D. Hirsch disagrees (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              hulagirl

              One of the educational giants, E.D. Hirsch doesn't think you are right.  It's not an either or proposition.  He points out that a curriculum which is rich in facts and considers the knowledge quotient of its students is more effective.  He posits that one of the reasons we seem unable to teach our neediest students is our lack of appreciation of the relative desert of information in which they grow up.

              Yes processes are important to learn, Edtastic calls them "formulae".  Without a thorough grounding in the actual state of the world (facts) one can't understand and appreciate the processes being taught.

          •  Then your parents got ripped off. (0+ / 0-)

            A computer could have "taught" you what you apparently know.  You sound like you believe education is for the training of robots.

            My education was discussion, argument, analysis, reading and evaluation and much more...  development of relationships, psychological impacts of same (yes, in grade school).

            If you're describing your current experience of education, rather than defining it, I have no data to refute you... even worse, we're pretty much screwed if education has become as you say... memorization, etc.

            And Democrats have been asleep at the wheel much longer than is generally acknowledged.

            Fortunately, many more in this thread disagree with you as well.  I am just sorry your educational experience is/was so stultifying.

            Kick apart the structures - Seth

            by ceebee7 on Mon Jun 14, 2010 at 01:07:05 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  "Define various biological terms for biology" BS (0+ / 0-)

            As a person trained in cell biology and molecular genetics that statement is wholly bullshit.  One learns the jargon during education.

            I am certain I can find students who can recite the meaning of all the jargon for their level of Biology, but have no sense when it comes to the theory that unifies the understanding of Biology - which is Evolution and the Theory of Natural Selection.  They can spout all the jargon they like, but that will not excuse their fundamental ignorance unless they understand and can apply the central tenet of biology.

            Now, were you to discuss not terms in biology, but an understanding of taxonomy and systemics, perhaps you would have a good argument (Yes, I have learned taxonomy - my favorite is Mycology).  And, I think it is sad that much taxonomy has gone away thanks to the bias towards "applied" molecular biology.

            Distrust of authority should be the first civic duty. - Norman Douglas

            by Fossil on Mon Jun 14, 2010 at 04:53:11 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  Can you quanfity that, and have you tracked (0+ / 0-)

          students after graduation to evaluate life success?

          Slavery is the legal fiction that a person is property. Corporate personhood is the legal fiction that property is a person. -Jan Edwards

          by SoCalSal on Mon Jun 14, 2010 at 06:47:16 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  What if you don't teach reading and math? n/t (0+ / 0-)
  •  My kid confounds matters . . . (23+ / 0-)

    I've got two kids, in second and fifth grades in the public schools. There is no question that some teachers care more than others, that some connect with students more than others. Most are adequate, some are great, some are  . . . dreadful.

    But with many kids, test scores aren't going to be very good measures of teacher quality. My little one has a vision impairment that makes lines of type come streaming out toward her, so she can see the beginning and end of a long word but not the middle. Parallel lines turn into a mess of interference patterns, so every assignment must be retyped into comic sans and blown up to at least 18 points. Math workbook pages are a nightmare, so every problem must be redrawn, by hand, and very big.

    She's not legally blind, so she doesn't get the special education help. She has what's called a 504, so the teachers are obligated to help her try to do her best wtihout extra state funding.  But even though the school doesn't get the extra special education money from the state, she still takes as much time as three or four normally sighted students.

    One former teacher never really was able to cope with this odd problem. Her current teacher -- bless her fabulous heart -- is willing and actually eager to take that time. She blows up every reading project and lets me rewrite all the math, and my kid has gone up two grades in both reading and math this year because the teacher cares enough to help her see the material.

    But the standardized tests will never show how much time that teacher has spent with my kid, or how much that teacher has worked, because my kid can't see the questions on the tests, and they don't seem to have large-type versions of the questions.

    I know we are unusual, but these tests cannot be made to be the only measure of teacher quality. If only the tests matter, only the best and most dedicated teachers will bother to work with a child who can't come through at testing time. I know we are not alone. There has got to be a better way to reward the best teachers.

    •  How good to read what you wrote.....n/t (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      bess, Zenara, SoCalSal

      ...if only animals could write...

      by Jinnia on Sun Jun 13, 2010 at 07:34:21 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  The administration is failing you and yours... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Mike08, Zenara, SoCalSal

      if they won't accommodate your daughter's drawback. Even with the lack of disability funds the district and the test makers should be able to get your daughter a large print version of the test. I'm sorry that the school doesn't care enough to help itself and you.

    •  You should be able to get accommodations (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Mike08, Zenara, SoCalSal

      for this child, who has a disability. It doesn't take a standard of legal blindness to be a disability. I assume you've done some serious lobbying on your child's behalf. Perhaps it's time to take it up a notch, and move beyond this school to the elementary superintendent. If they're not responsive, then superintendent.

    •  Americans with Disabilities Act (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Mike08, Zenara, SoCalSal

      mandates accommodations, federally.

      •  Her disability is not on the official list (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        unwillingsuburbanite

        I've been told, over and over, that you have to have one of the recognized disabilities on the list in order to qualify for the extra accomodations that classification would provide.

        We do have the next notch of accomodation down, and the teachers are required by state law to do everything they reasonably can do to make it possible for her to learn. And by-and-large, they've been doing a pretty good job. My point was that the amount of time and creativity her teachers expend trying to find innovative ways of dealing with her disability is not measurable by any objective means.

        I'm a little afraid that if we decide to rely only on testing as a measure of teacher quality, teachers will fight to keep kids like my very bright, aware, funny and functionally blind daughter out of their classes.

        •  official list (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Zenara

          I assume your child gets accommodations for "Low vision" which

          generally refers to a severe visual impairment, not necessarily limited to distance vision. Low vision applies to all individuals with sight who are unable to read the newspaper at a normal viewing distance, even with the aid of eyeglasses or contact lenses. They use a combination of vision and other senses to learn, although they may require adaptations in lighting or the size of print, and, sometimes, braille

          Source

  •  Is there an exit plan? (10+ / 0-)

    Too often, everyone assumes at the outset that the plan will work so they don't think about how to stop the train once it becomes clear that the plan ain't working and there isn't a Plan B. I'm not involved with education but I've seen way too much time/energy/ resources wasted at my company (engineering and construction) because we've been too short-sighted to stop throwing good money after bad. Maybe Bill and Melinda Gates have thought this through but it wouldn't surprise me if a lot of good teachers suffer unintended consequences of this approach...

  •  Okay, let me weigh in a bit on this (22+ / 0-)

    and just in case someone does not know, I am completing my 15th year as a classroom teacher.  I also reached ABD in educational administration and policy studies with the emphasis on the latter before deciding I did not need an additional degree.  During my graduate studies I (a) took a very good course in assessment from a real expert, Bob Lissitz of U of Maryland College Park, and (b) did a fair amount of exploration of the research that existed at that point on Value-Added assessment, both because what Bill Sanders was doing in TN was getting a buzz and because the state superintendent in MD Nancy Grasmick seemed very interested in the idea.  

    I read most of the research then available.  I talked with an expert from NWEA, who offered their own value-added tools but raised real questions about how they should properly be used.

    I will also note that the original proposal for NCLB as it appeared on the White House website had a provision for giving something like a 1% bonus on Title I funds to schools/districts which provided parents with the Value-Added scores of the teachers of their children.

    All that is preface.

    1. Simple gain scores using pre-instructional and post instructional testing can be gamed.  Also, by themselves they do not control for external factors that can influence the scores.
    1. If you test Spring to Spring the results are confounded by summer learning loss of lower SES students, while students of middle middle class and up often having learning gains.  In theory you can get around that by testing Fall to Spring, but that simply adds more testing.
    1.  In his early literature, Sanders, developer of the first state-wide value-added system, said that it was improper to compare value-added scores of teachers except within the same school, thereby at least tacitly acknowledging factors that influenced value-added scores beyond teacher factors.
    1. Sanders tried to claim he could show the value-added effects of teachers for three years after a student entered that teacher's class.  The state auditor's office in TN commissioned two separate independent examination of TVAAS - one from Toronto and one from Florida (I have them about 10 feet away in my study, but it is getting late and I don't have time to give full citations and still get enough sleep) - both said that claim by Sanders was not supportable.

    We still are attempting to use testing information in improper fashion.  Please, go talk to the real testing experts who make that clear.  Value-added assessment provides SOME additional information, but the state of the instruments is still considered too crude for the kinds of high stakes decisions some want to place on them.

    And whether regular snapshots or value-added, the import of Campbell's Law still remains:  

    The more any quantitative social indicator is used for social decision-making, the more subject it will be to corruption pressures and the more apt it will be to distort and corrupt the social processes it is intended to monitor.

    Tests provide ONE source of information which can be useful.  They are most useful when they are timely, embedded in the course of instruction, and provide feedback to both teacher and student - feedback that might enable people to realize if lessons need to be retaught or it is appropriate to move one.

    Peace.

    "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

    by teacherken on Sun Jun 13, 2010 at 07:23:09 PM PDT

    •  I read about Sander's studies (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      NorthCountryNY, badger, elfling, ladybug53

      in Diane Ravitch's Death and Life of the Great American School System.

      The followers of Sanders believe that teachers can be evaluated without even going into the classroom.

      There are a number of logical fallacies in the their approach. One is assuming that the gains made by one child in one year can be replicated year after year. In other words if the student gains 10 points in one year then he/she will gain 20 in two years, 30 in three years and so on.

      Moreover the studies assume that the students will always have either the very best or the very worst teacher. That is seldom the case.

      Finally, a teacher deemed to be in the top quintile (20%) of teachers in one year (based on test scores of course)can easily fall to the next quintile of even drop three quintiles based on the following year's test scores.

      Excess ain't rebellion. You're drinking what they're selling. - Cake

      by slatsg on Sun Jun 13, 2010 at 07:39:08 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  It is hard to argue that a quantitative objective (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      chaboard, SoCalSal

      system based on student evaluations does not have some serious problems.  On the other hand the problems of a subjective system are also significant.  Thus we seem to be left with a system where teachers aren't really evaluated after the first few years except for gross diasters.  

      None of these three options seems particularly good but the objective test based evaluations seem least bad.

      •  Even though they're completely meaningless (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Mike08

        Why not just measure a teacher's weight at the start and end of the school year and base it on that change? It would have as much validity.

        The assumption underlying your conclusion is that merit pay is desirable, necessary, and can be done equitably and fairly. You need to prove each of those points before jumping to some conclusion about what the methodology should be.

        And you've already admitted that equitable and fair isn't possible.

        We are here as on a darkling plain Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,

        by badger on Sun Jun 13, 2010 at 10:54:58 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  First of all (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          SoCalSal

          the objective tests are not completely meaningless, as you put it.  Nor are they as perfect as some of their advocates would have.

          Second and perhaps more importantly, the assumption is merely that the performance of teachers (as is the case of other professionals) needs to be evaluated on a regular basis and that unacceptably poor performance needs to result in the prompt removal of the teacher from the classroom.

          Whether merit pay is a good thing or not is a separate question.

    •  As a statistician and former highschool teacher (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      chaboard, Egalitare, SoCalSal

      I'd like to put in my two cents and say that I think the fundamental concept here is perfectly tenable.  The particulars of how people are trying to implement it are another matter; I'm not familiar with Sanders and my own experience has taught me to be very wary of whether or not people really understand how to approach data properly.

      That said, though, I would argue that gain scores are the ONLY workable way to test academic progress.  They don't encapsulate everything that goes on in the classroom, but a fall-and-spring testing system is really the best way to judge progress.  Teacherken is absolutely right that the summer should be excluded from consideration; it adds unnecessary variability.

      As for comparison groups, I think you're probably fine comparing teachers from different schools as long as you invest heavily in cataloging demographic features of each classroom.  For most school systems, the data set you wind up with should be large enough to use an analysis of variance or mixed modeling approach to identifying important factors and interactions influencing progress.  The school in which a teacher works should certainly be one of the variables considered in the ANOVA, but I think it's unnecessarily restrictive to think that cross-campus comparisons CAN'T be drawn.  School should weigh into the equations like all the other factors, but breaking each school out into its own dataset is a recipe for disaster.  The intra-campus datasets would be too small to yield any useful results.

      Also, and perhaps this is obvious, a program like this NECESSARILY should be drawing comparisons between teachers - giving percentile rankings or the like, based on a ratio of progress observed to progress expected.  I would say it's very dodgy using gain scores with any sort of fixed criteria; since gains will be fluid based on variability in a given year-class of students, criteria should be similarly fluid to allow for the possibility that some years may see more across-the-board gains and others fewer gains.  This sort of system also lets you tamper with education without worrying about how it will affect the scoring.  If a school system institutes a new math program for all its middle schools and scores are percentile-keyed, the differences caused by the new curriculum are mostly a wash; if the scores are keyed to fixed numbers, everybody takes a pay cut (the trend tends to be that student performance suffers whenever new curricula are introduced, probably because of the uptake time necessary before teachers are prepared to deliver the curricula well).  It may seem a bit dog-eat-dog, but unless you judge teachers against each other, you'll have a very hard time getting any usefulness out of this sort of evaluative procedure.

      As for gaming the scores, that's outside the scope of my discussion and obviously someone will have to find a good way to minimize the problem before these types of initiatives can be useful.

      Can't think of much else to mention.  But one last point of agreement with teacherken: yes, no one in their right mind would base hiring/firing/etc. solely on these tests.  Job performance for teachers comprises more than just creating academic improvement among teachers, so the value teachers add to the school outside of this particular area also needs to be accounted for.  But any I/O psychologist worth their salt ought to be able to consult on that and provide some useful suggestions.

      Also, student evaluations are worthless.   Or perhaps worse than worthless.

      •  Why are student evaluations worthless? (0+ / 0-)

        Well liked teachers would do well even if they were not effective. Effective and well liked teachers would do better. Effective but less likable teachers should do ok. Poor teachers would clearly be flagged since the children would likely be traumatized by staying in a out of control or chaotic classroom for a year.

        I would not judge pay on it, but it should be in the record. The students are the receiver of services at the end of the day teachers are working for them.

        •  Students don't care (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          hulagirl, Egalitare, SoCalSal

          Generally speaking, many students won't take the process seriously.  It's perfectly POSSIBLE to get good data from surveying students, but it just doesn't happen.  Give them a Likert scale, and many of them will bubble all '1's or all '5's just to get through the thing.

          More importantly, students are frankly not the best judges of the services they receive.  They have no idea of what topics are and aren't practical in the real world.  And the way our educational system works, especially at the higher secondary levels, we're really just putting them in daycare and hoping they learn something.  Why we'd expect them to have a clue about what constitutes good education is beyond me.  Just because I receive mail from the USPS doesn't mean I'm qualified to judge the procedures they use to sort and deliver the mail.

          •  You don't respect them (0+ / 0-)

            Students care but they also take signals from adults who they know can care less about their opinions. Nobody takes them seriously and they end up not taking themselves seriously. The culture of the institution needs work including the attitudes and habits of the those teaching in them.

            The students do know a thing or two about being taught, this is what they do all day long. They are not stupid and will not spontaneously become fully formed adults once they graduate from university. By respecting their views you can create a mature atmosphere. The adults have enough control to accomplish this but for the most part they don't feel like it, or are out done by a clown or two present.

            Evaluations can be written, question and answer, or any number of combinations. If they think it's a joke then I blame the school for letting apathy set in.

            Real world value of the education? Are you kidding most of that stuff is useless and you don't know it until you are an adult.

            They don't know what they will be doing and when they find out, it will become obvious much of their learning wasn't needed. They will also wonder why so many useful things were not taught, in place of our random facts about past events or advanced math they quickly forgot.  I think we should teach them stuff they can start using immediately. At least every year their education, easier done when your learning to read and write.

            •  What we should be teaching... (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              SoCalSal

              Is a whole different kettle of fish, and one I won't get in to.  But to answer your concern about my own level of respect for students, anyway; I teach college now, and I treat my students like adults.  Usually, they hate it.  They want to be told what to think and what to do, but I'm not willing to hold their hand.  They need to learn to think for themselves.

              There's a difference between not respecting students' ability to think for themselves and recognizing that most of them don't WANT to.  I want them to think for themselves.  I teach with that particular point very much in mind.  I do everything I can to encourage them to think and form their own attitudes.  And I'm well aware of the fact that most of them don't want to.

              Why do you think nearly 30% of this country still thinks the Republicans are a better political alternative?

              •  Bravo (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                SoCalSal

                I was there in the '60's when naive adults thought it was fine for students to create the courses they were interested in.   A Summerhill sort of education.  Many students today don't understand why they need to learn history.  They don't realize that an uninformed electorate will elect predators not good civil servants to public office.  Those who think large parts of the curriculum are worthless would do us a big favor by delineating specific areas for deletion.  I'm afraid they will discover that their broad generalizations are simply unhelpful in improving education.

                •  Specific areas to remove from the curriculum (0+ / 0-)

                  Here are a few:

                  1. Local history. Learning the names of the Indian tribes who lived in your city a few centuries ago, and the settlers who displaced them, is not the sort of history that makes for a more informed electorate. Many students will move away after they graduate, making that information even less useful.
                  1. Specifics of cellular biology. While a general knowledge of biology is very good to have -- what causes disease, why magnetic bracelets aren't really going to suck out "toxins", etc. -- there are many details that are meaningless to anyone who isn't going into medicine. Few people benefit from knowing the stages of the Krebs cycle or what the endoplasmic reticulum does.
                  1. Specifics of sport. Appreciating exercise and being able to do it without hurting oneself is one thing. But my grades in gym class -- and thus my ability to graduate and obtain a decent job -- depended on knowing specific rules of football and bowling.
                  1. Specific novels and the extraction of trivia therefrom. I don't see how anyone benefits from being tested on the meanings of rabbit words from Watership Down, or plot points from A Separate Peace. If the point is to encourage students to enjoy reading, then requiring them to read bland works they don't enjoy is counterproductive. If the point is to expose students to some Culture, then how about moving the selection forward about 50 years and including a few films from the IMDB top 100?
                  1. Cursive writing. This is already on its way out, thankfully.

                  You can expand this list on your own easily enough: just think back to your school days. Think about all the things you remembered just long enough to be tested on them, then forgot within a few months or weeks because you never ended up using them again.

                  •  touche. (0+ / 0-)

                    I appreciate your efforts to convince in this regard.  I know I spent a lot of time memorizing kingdoms, phylums and groups that I haven't used since.  Certainly, a defense of these particulars from actual school curricula implementers is in order.  On the other hand, so many areas of the curriculum that I thought I would not use, I have in fact used.  For example, my understanding of biology gave me enough appreciation of the arguments for evolution and creationism and regarding nutrition and drugs to be a huge help in making personal health and political decisions.  A basic understanding of the mechanisms of living things, which is all high school gives you is definitely important in making decisions throughout your adult life.  Thanks for taking this seriously enough to avoid the easy rhetoric on both sides.

        •  In theory, you're right (0+ / 0-)

          but in practice, in my experience teaching college writing courses, most students put very little time or attention into evaluations.

          I don't have a citation, but a colleague in psychology told me of a study in which lecturers that were instructed simply to gesture and move were rated considerably higher than lecturers who were instructed to stand still and refrain from gesturing.

          There may be a benefit to including student evaluations in the mix, to note especially high-rated teachers and especially low-rated teachers, which could, I suppose, offset some of the problems with using standardized tests as a measure of effectiveness, but I'm skeptical.

          What everyone seems to forget when talking about teacher evaluation is that education is mandatory. One can't evaluate teachers by the same models as or by using similar criteria to higher ed. or industry training positions, where the "consumers" of education are pre-screened.

          If anything, because of private, parochial, and magnet and charter schools, students in ordinary public schools are somewhat pre-screened toward lower success rates.

          I agree that we need to get students to buy into their educations, and I'd like to see students have more choices and influences over what happens in theirs schools and classrooms in order to achieve that... I just don't think standardized teacher-evals are up to the task.

  •  Extrinsic vs intrinsic rewards. Daniel Pink's (13+ / 0-)

    Drive studies what motivates people, and he reports that studies show extrinsic rewards fail to motivate anyone. What really matters is autonomy. I teach in a very small school in northwest Iowa. I have 5 preps a day, but I get nearly universal autonomy in my high school/dual credit classes.

    Though we do not get paid for test scores, we pay attention to them. We have pep rallies, and our principal gives students a "win won for the gipper" type of pep talk. It's corny as hell, but it seems to work. Our "average" student was at the 72nd percentile this year. 91% of our students were "profeicient" according to NCLB.  (That is a meaningless stat! but that is what the Wisconsin people would look at!)

    Anyway, we have tried to do some things to improve our teaching, but mostly we have improved the attitude of the kids who take the test.  

    Three things lost in the discussion that must be analzed:

    1.  Performanced based pay doesn't work anywhere - read Drive
    1.  Most of the tests that are used to evaluate teachers have no meaning/bearing to the students. Those that do are often too simplistic to really measure anything.
    1.  When performanced based pay is used, those subject to it cheat.

    Finally, I teach several writing classes that are really not tested by any of the standardized tests. If I want my scores to improve, I stop teaching and correcting student writing and simply teach "grammar" skills. Studies have proven since the 30's that teaching grammar does not improve writing. Students scores will go up, but our students' high level achievement in college will go away.

    With standardized tests we will have pacing guides because someone will deem it necessary. Texas already has them.

    Reformers fail to understand that the classroom is not like board room or the warehouse.

    As a 28 year teacher, I love reform, but I would like to see reform based on some type of research.

    •  Goal is to know the high performers (0+ / 0-)

      Reform is about getting kids from bad homes in bad places with bad parents to learn instead of being tossed to the side as they have been. The nicer school districts don't need radical changes so it is not relevant to relate the two. We need people who can do what others say is impossible because these kids don't have the support they need.

      We want to identify the high performers then transport those methods to the lower performers, the incentives encourages teachers to change strategy. The ego can limit the desire to emulate others but the incentive suppose to reduce the impulse to go your own way. We should know who the super stars are so we can celebrate, reward, and copy them.

      This process would take a long time to evolve. I don't see it as a overnight success. The system should revolve around sharing techniques and teacher freedom. Teaching should be competitive, instead of just doing the best you can with what they got. Their should be incentives to lift the bottom, instead of just getting peak performance from the top.

      The goal is to get them on grade level by 5th grade so they can make the rest of the way on their own. If they have basic skills then at least learning is possible. You can load them down with magical soul enriching teaching later. Except in math class where it is clearly not appropriate.

      •  In California, we have WASC (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        hulagirl, Mike08, Zenara

        which is a system of accreditation where outside educators visit schools, sit in on the classes, evaluate a written plan, talk to students, and talk to parents.

        This system provides some cross-pollination between educators and it puts real people inside to evaluate - are students attentive? Are they bored? Was the lesson worthwhile? is the school healthy and pleasant or dirty and scary?

        I am fortunate to have my daughter in a school where the staff is bright, interested, respected, and generally fabulous. And I don't just mean teachers, but also administrators and support staff.

        The thing about the test scores is that they won't necessarily capture the teachers who develop creative writers, or the ones who sponsor and develop a science fair program, or the teacher who keeps the marginal kids in class, in school.

        How will you use bubble tests to evaluate a kindergarten teacher? How will you use bubble tests to evaluate an art teacher, or an ag teacher, or a PE teacher? Even an algebra 2 or calculus teacher - the state tests don't evaluate those skills.  The state tests don't evaluate foreign language, and only touch on "science" as a general idea - not the specifics of biology or chemistry or physics. They can't evaluate outstanding lab technique.

        One of the stories told about one of our retiring teachers was that the 8th grade teacher noticed his students silently singing a song she taught all the 5th grade kids to memorize state and state capitals. That's retained learning, for sure. And states and state capitals aren't on the 5th grade exam.

        Someone who walks in the classroom can see these things. A bubble test cannot.

        Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

        by elfling on Sun Jun 13, 2010 at 10:51:47 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Obama's Education Deform Horror show : (9+ / 0-)

    http://www.dailykos.com/...

    Gingrich & Obma on the same side? And the deform endorsed byy Jeb Bush? Want to puke.

    Meanwhile, how about Obama using data to measure Timmy "Change
    " Geithner & Larry "Hope" Summers" ? The data is readily available - unemployment numbers etc etc? No need to develop new data systems. That's some fiscal responsibilty we can believe in.

    •  a LOT of my liberal teacher friends in Florida (7+ / 0-)

      are happier with Charlie Crist, who supported them, than with Obama.  Add the off shore drilling issue and this WH may well have lost a state it was beginning to count on.

      And so it goes...

      "History is a tragedy, not a melodrama." - I.F.Stone

      by bigchin on Sun Jun 13, 2010 at 07:36:45 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Not surprising. Obama goes in front of that (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Mike08

        ultimate icon of Accountability -you know, the Chamber of Commerce and cheers  firing of teachers in Central Falls high, R.I and crows about accountability. Meanwhile the chamber has alloted 50million $ to defeat regulations for the crappy Heritage/Romneycare health insurance "reform" signed into law by Obama. Oh wait, this isn't the first time Obama is embracing right wing policies , right?

  •  The whole value-added idea (11+ / 0-)

    has been proven to be worthless.

    Read Diane Ravitch's Death and Life of the Great American School System to get an analysis of the negative impact of high stakes testing on education in general and about the poor track record of the Gates initiatives in particular..

    It is absolutely absurd and sadly the Obama administration has backed this silliness.

    Excess ain't rebellion. You're drinking what they're selling. - Cake

    by slatsg on Sun Jun 13, 2010 at 07:24:58 PM PDT

    •  Diane Ravitch's book is excellent. As an Obama (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      slatsg, tardis10

      supporter, I am very disappointed with the direction he seems to be going in education.

      ...if only animals could write...

      by Jinnia on Sun Jun 13, 2010 at 07:42:05 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  High stakes test occur all over the world (0+ / 0-)

      It seems to be working for them. At least it gets their students to bust their ass because they know it will have a serious impact on their life if they fail to learn. It reduces the apathy of students at the least and encourages competition.

      I have not read the book but any lengthy defense or attack on this or that always sounds convincing because you are bombarded by one side of a debate for a few hundred pages of text.

      •  The book is significant because Ms. Ravitch (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        badger, Mike08, tardis10

        was a promoter of the very "reforms" she now condemns. It is the equivalent of Donald Rumsfeld admitting thatn the invasion of Iraq was a mistake. She examined the results and found them wanting.

        As for other countries, I am aware of no other country that is placing the same emphasis on a multiple choice test or using the results from that test as the primary method of teacher evaluation.

        Excess ain't rebellion. You're drinking what they're selling. - Cake

        by slatsg on Sun Jun 13, 2010 at 09:04:22 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I think she is blowing with the wind. Too many (0+ / 0-)

          reformers now, so she is an antireformer.

          •  Perhaps (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Mike08

            But the book does a good job of refuting the so-called reformers.

            She may be ahead of the curve, and I think many will follow. The "data driven" nonsense won't last.

            Excess ain't rebellion. You're drinking what they're selling. - Cake

            by slatsg on Sun Jun 13, 2010 at 09:12:29 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  The problem isn't data driven methodologies (5+ / 0-)

              It's the fact that nobody discussing these methodologies has the slightest clue what "data driven" means, or how to go about actually collecting and analyzing good data.

              If we WERE collecting good data and analyzing it appropriately, our educational system WOULD be in much better shape.  But the pool of people who know how to do that sort of thing is small, and I suspect most boards of education wouldn't even know how to go about finding the necessary people to hire.  The proliferation of absolutely idiotic data collection methodologies in education is a fair enough indicator of the misuse of the "data driven" label.

              •  The question is what constitutes (0+ / 0-)

                "good data". William Sanders at University of Tennessee undoubtedly believes his data is valid, but it has been challenged his methodology and results questioned.

                Not everything that can be quantified needs to be or should be. Not every problem has only one correct answer.

                Excess ain't rebellion. You're drinking what they're selling. - Cake

                by slatsg on Sun Jun 13, 2010 at 09:28:29 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

              •  It's way too expensive to collect it (0+ / 0-)

                For example, there used to be a 4th grade writing test as part of the California STAR testing. It's limited, of course, and always artificial - but still, here's something that evaluates actual output.

                Too expensive, so it has been dropped. But bubble tests are cheap!

                Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

                by elfling on Sun Jun 13, 2010 at 10:59:04 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

      •  No they don't. Most are going away from them. (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        badger, slatsg, Mike08

        They see the need for teaching thinking.

        Student apathy is huge, and it will not end until we stop testing and start impacting learning.

        •  Test break student apathy (0+ / 0-)

          Nobody wants to get left back, high stakes test focus the mind more so than hoping the teacher likes you enough to get promoted.

          •  Leaving a student back (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            hulagirl

            because he freezes in a test situation benefits no one.

            Kids in countries that have tests like that commit suicide over them.

            Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

            by elfling on Sun Jun 13, 2010 at 11:00:10 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

              •  Google is your friend but (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                hulagirl

                http://search.japantimes.co.jp/...

                http://www.cbc.ca/...

                Last year, Kang's older sister lost her friend to suicide caused by not being accepted into Seoul National University's English literature department. Kang said the shame of not being accepted into the number 1 university in Korea, coupled with the shame of being rejected in a discipline in which her family invested a lot of time and money, was too much for her to bear.

                This problem is common in Korea but even more so in its neighbours on the other side of the Sea of Japan (the East Sea to Koreans). Japan has one of the highest numbers of suicides every year and far exceeds South Korea, according to the World Health Organization's statistics on teenage suicide.

                According to the latest statistics by the WHO, in 2000 South Korea had a total of 673 suicide cases between the ages of 15-24. Japan, in comparison, had almost triple that number. Both countries stress education above all as the most important factor in a teenager's life.

                Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

                by elfling on Mon Jun 14, 2010 at 08:36:27 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

        •  how do we address the cultural component (0+ / 0-)

          of it being acceptable if not desirable to be stupid?

          A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives ~ Jackie Robinson's epitaph

          by k8dd8d on Sun Jun 13, 2010 at 10:21:18 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  According to those tests, in the US we have 25% (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        hulagirl, Mike08, SoCalSal

        of the world's top performers.

        We have a problem because we have so many kids in poverty and with inadequate health care. Universal health care and universal free preschool might solve the problem better than trying to beat up teachers with test scores.

        I certainly am in favor of firing inadequate teachers. I just don't agree that test scores are how you decide who is fabulous and who is terrible.

        In western European countries, they are paying women to stay home for a year with their children and they get four weeks' paid vacation. I suspect enacting those measures would also improve test scores.

        Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

        by elfling on Sun Jun 13, 2010 at 10:57:03 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Evaluating teachers (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Sparhawk, dennisl, hulagirl, edtastic, SoCalSal

    Okay I will bite.

    Paying based on years of service and degrees attained is nuts. The data show that they are not positively correlated with results (and may even be negatively correlated)

    Have people watch the teachers teach, on a regular basis, so that it becomes "normal". These could be other teachers, or trained evaluators, or.. The point is that most reasonable people can figure out if a teacher is worth having, or should be dropped, quite quickly.

    I can live with doubt and uncertainty and not knowing. I think it is much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers that might be wrong- Feynman

    by taonow on Sun Jun 13, 2010 at 07:25:54 PM PDT

    •  I don't think it's that simple at all (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      sawgrass727, xylon, edtastic, Jinnia

      Perhaps a "trained evaluator" could determine something about how a teacher is doing, but I think that expecting "most reasonable people" to do so is very wrong. Maybe over a long term of watching the class one could get some idea, but a snapshot visit is very difficult to use to evaluate a teacher. I'm not sure what the solution is, because I agree that using results of some kind of standardized test to determine teacher effectiveness is a pretty poor idea.

      •  Supposedly principals (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Sparhawk

        like undergrad program director, dept. chairs, deans, and the students themselves are "trained evaluators."  This discussion seems to be going on between people who want a statistical model that probably overfits because it's too complicated and people who believe that "a miracle happens" is the only true explanation, so evaluation is evil.

        Because of the money at stake, this won't change.  In the meantime, parents and students already know which schools they do and don't want to be in.

      •  Not that hard (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Sparhawk, hulagirl, SoCalSal

        I have spent time teaching, watching other teachers, training teachers, and evaluating teachers. After you watch more than a few you can tell very quickly those that are up to the job, those that have potential and are trying but need help, and those that should not be there. All you really need are those three categories to start with and you solve at least 1/2 your problems.

        I can live with doubt and uncertainty and not knowing. I think it is much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers that might be wrong- Feynman

        by taonow on Sun Jun 13, 2010 at 07:39:20 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Unfortunately those evaluating teachers are not (0+ / 0-)

        necessarily the "most reasonable people" or even qualified to evaluate certain skills.  

    •  Unfortunately, expertise is in the saddle (0+ / 0-)

      and does not want to be reviewed by anyone who isn't already a member of the anointed class.

      Their real God is money-- Jesus just drives the armored car, and his hat is made in China. © 2009 All Rights Reserved

      by oblomov on Sun Jun 13, 2010 at 07:39:50 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  "Most Normal People" Are Only Capable of Telling (8+ / 0-)

      success or failure of things that most normal people do.

      Do you have any teaching experience? I've never been a school teacher nor educated in it, but I have taught several thousand people some activities that I do, and I have enough perception to recognize that there is a whole lot to teaching itself.

      I finished this part of my life with about a thousand more questions than I had going into it.

      We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

      by Gooserock on Sun Jun 13, 2010 at 07:43:24 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yup (6+ / 0-)

        Taught, trained teachers, and evaluated teachers.

        I'm not asking for perfection, but I think that after watching a number of teachers you quite quickly see who can and who can not. The beauty of this is that you are not trying to force teachers into one mold, one way of teaching. You are looking to see if they are getting the job done, in their own way.

        I can live with doubt and uncertainty and not knowing. I think it is much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers that might be wrong- Feynman

        by taonow on Sun Jun 13, 2010 at 07:53:02 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Yes (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          theran, SoCalSal

          It's silly to argue that it's impossible to gauge quality using some kind of metric or other. It happens in the private sector all the time with some degree of success.

          I argue there should be multiple avenues of evaluation, for example: subject matter competency, student test score improvements, student/peer/administrator evaluations, teacher observations, etc. While not perfect, a combination of these methods should give you a reasonable idea of a teacher's competency.

          Methods like these are used all the time in the private sector, work fairly well, and generally allow employers to appropriately compensate their star performers.

          (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
          Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

          by Sparhawk on Sun Jun 13, 2010 at 08:00:00 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Not Libertarian (0+ / 0-)

            Politics may differ but I agree with you- this is the avenue that NYS is embracing in its recent application for Race to the Top money.  A multi-faceted approach to evaluation is right and testing can be some part of the mix.  The next step is crucial- that is teacher development for those not doing excellent work.

        •  WRONG! Without quanifiable evidence, no one (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          badger

          will buy the system. That is why they fail.

          Let teachers teach, and students will learn.

          What nearly everyone fails to realize is how hard a job education is. Lsst time I researched it, many teachers left in their first three years. Something like 75% of alternative licensed teachers, those without a teaching degree but with experience in the area they are teaching, don't make it to the 2nd year!

          If you are bad at something, you usually leave it. We aren't talking about wall street salaries!

        •  how do you weed out the bias of (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          elfling, Mike08

          their own educational experience and opinion on their evaluation?  For example, the first time I went into a classroom that had kids laying all over the floor, couch and desks doing their reading, I was apalled, because my own experiences with education didn't allow me to realize that what was important was that they WERE READING, not where they were sitting/laying to do it.

          There are still people who wouldn't accept that classroom, while that teacher could be doing a terrific job, an evaluator's own history with the system could skew their eval.

          A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives ~ Jackie Robinson's epitaph

          by k8dd8d on Sun Jun 13, 2010 at 10:25:48 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  I agree with you except for the line (0+ / 0-)

          "most reasonable people." Most reasonable educators, sure. And then those people need to mentor the teacher and check for improvement.

          Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

          by elfling on Sun Jun 13, 2010 at 11:02:35 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  That's not true (0+ / 0-)

        We judge things we don't do all the time. How do you like your Iphone? Well most normal people don't make Smart Phones but they can judge them. Students can evaluate teachers fairly well but we don't give them the opportunity to be heard. We should respect their intelligence more. They spend the most time with teachers and have past experience in classrooms with other teachers by time they can speak coherently on the subject.

      •  Just watch Dads who "know baseball" (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        hulagirl, Mike08

        try to coach little league. What they don't know about teaching could fill warehouses, and the damage many of them inflict without even realizing it, astonishing. And yet I'm sure many of those men have outspoken opinions about how to run classrooms.

    •  Just so you know - teachers are watched all the (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      elfling, ladybug53, irishwitch, Mike08

      time already. I don't know a teacher anywhere who doesn't have administrators walking through his/her classroom frequently and unannounced. This is part of our accountability.

      Are there any teachers in this thread who are not being watched? Truly - as far as professions go - we are undoubtedly the most highly observed.....and that's fine as long as they do it often so they get a true picture of my teaching.

      ...if only animals could write...

      by Jinnia on Sun Jun 13, 2010 at 07:49:40 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Watched by whom? (0+ / 0-)

        Experts, who, if they knew what made a good teacher, would be giving us more good teachers.

        Their real God is money-- Jesus just drives the armored car, and his hat is made in China. © 2009 All Rights Reserved

        by oblomov on Sun Jun 13, 2010 at 07:57:33 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Not what I've seen (0+ / 0-)

        As a school board member I am constantly amazed at the lack of oversight and teacher development going on.  My son just started teaching and is experiencing the same lack of oversight and mentoring.

  •  I have no problem with student evaluations (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Sparhawk, annieli

    We use them at my level, and it works fine.  Moreover, your link here contradicts itself.  On the one hand it says:

    if anything, the “product” of education is a relationship between the student and teacher

    On the other, Horner rants about using students' opinion of the relationship...

    (I disagree with the first part too.  The idea is to expand the student's mind and make them grow as thinker and people, not to cuddle them like a pet.  But the bottom line is that if your students don't know you taught them something they found valuable, then you were lecturing to the wall behind them.)

    •  Sometimes students don't realize what you taught (11+ / 0-)

      them for several years. Sometimes, I just have to play the devil's advocate to get students to think. I challenge them, and some don't like it.

      I have had several students tell me that they hated me in high school but appreciate me now as adults. How do you test that?

      •  I simply don't believe in running with no (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Sparhawk, jmcgrew

        feedback or gauzy remembrances of the good old days as useful relative to students actually saying whether they think they are learning.  The whole liking/hating thing isn't really the issue.

        •  Like/Hate can certainly be the issue (6+ / 0-)

          I think its important for teachers to challenge/push their students. Often this is uncomfortable for the students as they get pushed out of their comfort zone. This is good teaching in my opinion, but I suspect many students won't see it that way. I don't think we should just do away with student evaluations, as they can be valuable, but I think it's dangerous to rely on them as almost the sole measure of teaching ability.

          •  no one learns anything UNLESS they (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            elfling, indyada

            are pushed out of their comfort zone!

            And I agree with you that could be dangerous if they were allowed to evaluate.

            It's a stretch for an example, but I am a Girl Scout leader. I have this one girl in my troop who is quite overweight, quite inactive, and quite vocal about hating the outdoors.  Her mom is quite enabling of her.

            I focus on encouraging her to try things she wouldn't normally try, 'pushing' her in a positive way, etc.  She gets very angry with me.  But she does them.  And she tells me she will never do them again.  Then she does them again by choice.  

            She avoids me sometimes, but I know she will look back on her experience in a very positive light, becasue she has accomplished sooooo many things she never thought she could do.

            But if she were asked her opinion, and my pay & benefits were dependent on her opinion, I would be handling her in a much different way.

            Sometimes kids don't like what is good for them, and we have to be the adults.  Not always, and not dictatorially, but they do not have the experience or maturity to judge what is important and what is not.

            A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives ~ Jackie Robinson's epitaph

            by k8dd8d on Sun Jun 13, 2010 at 10:33:50 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  Usually though (0+ / 0-)

        You can see that effect in the evaluations. You rarely see a good teacher universally hated. Usually a teacher like that gets a very strong mix of glowing and negative reviews.

        Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

        by elfling on Sun Jun 13, 2010 at 11:04:42 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Who will replace the teachers they think are not (8+ / 0-)

    doing their jobs?  Are they willing to experiment year after year with students' lives trying to find the perfect teachers?  

    Teaching to tests is so limiting. Imagine what students miss when a teacher is compelled to teach only one certain thing every day and to get that across to each student - and cannot veer from that. Imagine not being able to discuss something happening in the world that is affecting every student in your classroom. Imagine living in Louisiana right now and not being able to spend some time dealing with heartbreak rather than making sure you covered every single thing you had to cover that day.

    That's not education.

    ...if only animals could write...

    by Jinnia on Sun Jun 13, 2010 at 07:27:42 PM PDT

    •  200,000 teachers were laid off this year. We have (9+ / 0-)

      teachers. We just don't have real reform.

      Real reform is when parents and society start to think education is more important than football.

    •  Re (0+ / 0-)

      Who will replace the teachers they think are not doing their jobs?

      Other new teachers out of the throngs of people who wish they had teaching jobs but don't?

      Are they willing to experiment year after year with students' lives trying to find the perfect teachers?

      Are we willing to just consign students to bad teachers because we're unwilling to "experiment", i.e. give new potential teachers a chance?

      (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
      Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

      by Sparhawk on Sun Jun 13, 2010 at 08:36:25 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Find me the bad teachers by a good (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Mike08

        measurement.

        •  Like I said (0+ / 0-)

          There are a number of measurements we can use. You don't use one measurement: you use several and correlate them. We do this stuff in the private sector all the time and we do ok.

          Again, it doesn't have to be foolproof. Some level of injustice is going to exist in any system. In my system there is a risk of bad evaluation of a good teacher. At present the injustice is that bad performers are kept in place when they could be replaced with good performers.

          Are you stating that it is impossible to evaluate teachers via some sane system?

          (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
          Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

          by Sparhawk on Sun Jun 13, 2010 at 08:42:39 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  The private sector sucks in compensation. Most (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            badger, ladybug53, Mike08

            studies prove that.

            In the private sector, people usually evaluate 5-7 people. Most administrators in schools have 20 or more. That isn't possible.

            Evaluations can be done without basing pay on it. Merit pay systems have failed universally for hundreds of years.  Read Daniel Pink's Drive for support.

            Teachers do things differently than businesses do. How do you compare the work of a teacher in art, upper level English, and special education.

            How do you compare two English teachers, one with most of the discipline problems, because he can deal with them, and one without discipline problems because he can't? Teaching is so mcch more. Of course when you go to evaluations for pay, those teaching the highly important subjects, football, calculus, and physics will get paid more. Those who teach special ed or bd students will get less.

  •  they should send "evaluators" to Wall Street (6+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Gooserock, ladybug53, JanL, bess, Mike08, Jinnia

    'cause as far as I can see holding those scumbags accountable for ruining the GLOBAL economy should result in something less than million dollar bonuses and increased risk for further collapse.

    Where the FUCK are the priorities?

    Bill Gates...

    meh...

    "History is a tragedy, not a melodrama." - I.F.Stone

    by bigchin on Sun Jun 13, 2010 at 07:33:30 PM PDT

    •  Yeah Think What Economists Would Say if Gates (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      elfling, annieli

      was going to reform Wall Street just because it had caused another global near-depression.

      I think he'd be found in the wreckage of a small plane.

      We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

      by Gooserock on Sun Jun 13, 2010 at 07:45:23 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Their "priorities" are making money (0+ / 0-)

      If they have no penalty for taking excessive risks, they are just maximizing their own welfare by taking those huge risks - big payoff for success, not much happens when they fail.  Even if they do get fired, they'll be hired somewhere else pretty quickly (when the market is good).  

  •  Cut All Schools For Poor Children, Problem Solved (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ladybug53, JanL, annieli, tardis10

    Just frame the problem so it leads to a politically expedient end.

  •  Teachers should try to upgrade their own (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Rich in PA

    Part of the answer to this might be for teachers to take more of an active role in weeding out the incompetent and outrageous among them.

    Whenever I hear about the difficulty administrators have in getting rid of educationally abusive teachers, it makes  me angry that the teachers unions will defend the worst among them, and yet still claim to care about the success of the kids as the first priority.

    Nevertheless, these kinds of objective measurements are doomed to fail.  As a person with experience trying to objectively measure productivity among programmers, I  know that anything that is measured can and will be maximized, and it may not have any relation to quality improvement.

    Programming is a lot like teaching, in that a programmer never faces the same problem twice, and two programmers almost never are faced with programming the same problems.

    In controlled tests at IBM of programmers trying to solve specific problems, it was discovered that some programmers were 20 times more productive than average, and that one third of programmers were negative producers.

    When programmers were allowed to pick their own team members, productivity skyrocketed.   It was better to leave the non-producers doing nothing at all than to include them on the teams, and the other programmers knew who they wanted to work with.   I wish I had links for this information.  It sits in my brain from work I did in the late eighties, and we didn't even have links in those days.  

    I'll bet teachers know just as well as programmers do who are the bad ones.   Lets just let teachers pick their team members and this problem might be solved.

    Religion gives men the strength to do what should not be done.

    by bobtmn on Sun Jun 13, 2010 at 07:35:19 PM PDT

    •  sorry, but you are offbase (15+ / 0-)

      unions defend due process of ALL teachers so that the good teachers don't get treated unfairly

      the same reason the Bill of Rights guarantees due process to all including the obviously guilty so that the innocent don't get shafted.

      If administrators did their jobs in the first place, it is NOT that hard (a) not to hire bad teachers;  (b) not to grant tenure to bad teachers; (c) to get rid even of tenured teachers who are bad -  it is called documenting.

      "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

      by teacherken on Sun Jun 13, 2010 at 07:39:00 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I understand the rationale (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Sparhawk, Rich in PA

        I understand that the unions want to protect all the teachers from unfair treatment.   I support that 100%.   But I know that kids do suffer when teachers  cannot be fired.   The reason you gave, protection of the teachers, just reaffirms to me that the purpose is not to look out for the kids.  

        Teachers could do a better job of protecting themselves and their profession, and the kids if they supported a process that would weed out the bad teachers.

        Religion gives men the strength to do what should not be done.

        by bobtmn on Sun Jun 13, 2010 at 07:45:47 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  What in the world makes you think teachers can't (8+ / 0-)

          get fired??

          ...if only animals could write...

          by Jinnia on Sun Jun 13, 2010 at 07:55:52 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Maybe he reads newspapers like the NYT n/t (0+ / 0-)

            Their real God is money-- Jesus just drives the armored car, and his hat is made in China. © 2009 All Rights Reserved

            by oblomov on Sun Jun 13, 2010 at 07:59:44 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  Should have been more precise (0+ / 0-)

            I know teachers can be fired, it is just extremely difficult, and is done at a high cost to the administration official who takes it on.

            Both my parents were teachers.   For the last ten years of his career, my dad was in administration.

            There was a teacher who had been coming to class for fifteen years, sitting in the back of the room and reading directly out of the textbook to the students.  No class preparation, no discussion, no creative work, no interaction.  The tests were taken directly from the questions at the end of the chapter.   It was an easy A, and only the good students complained, because they were not learning.

            My Dad decided at the end of his career to try to get rid of this teacher.  After two years of hearings and argument, my dad retired.  I don't know what happened to the teacher in the end.  I doubt that the person following my dad had the stomach to take this on.

            So, I know a little about the business of teaching.

            Religion gives men the strength to do what should not be done.

            by bobtmn on Mon Jun 14, 2010 at 06:32:29 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  That's fine, but then you have to accept... (4+ / 0-)

        ...that people other than teachers will make those judgments.  You can't have it both ways: teachers as the ones whose professional judgment must be respected with regard to teaching competence, and unions as defenders of all members in the interest of due process.

        Dorothy Rabinowitz is a heroin-guzzling pedophile.

        by Rich in PA on Sun Jun 13, 2010 at 07:46:51 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  teachers DON"T get a say now (4+ / 0-)

          in the vast majority of cases teachers have little say in hiring, although in some cases department chairs may

          and they have no say in granting tenure, except in some cases department chairs

          and certainly not in dismissal

          you want us to take responsibility, give us the authority we do not have

          change the entire structure of the relationship between teachers and the school

          you'd be surprised what a difference it would make.

          "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

          by teacherken on Sun Jun 13, 2010 at 08:03:02 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Teachers have a large influence (0+ / 0-)

            I'm sorry to hear that teachers have so little to do with hiring and retention of other teachers in your district.  In our district teachers are on the hiring committee and have a huge influence.  They also tend to take it personally when a teacher they like isn't granted tenure and lean on board members heavily to reverse the decision.  They also are able to dominate many school board elections and so have sympathetic board members making tenure decisions.  

        •  would like to see professional organizations (0+ / 0-)

          replace unions, for teachers.

          No idea how to get there from here, though.

          •  Why? The unions are professional organizations. (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            badger, Clues, Mike08

            I wish your professional organization would become a union!

          •  Interesting (0+ / 0-)

            Doctors and Lawyers and other careers with professional degrees have professional organizations.  Teachers have professional degrees, but they have unions.

            Interesting point.

            •  most doctors and lawyers not employees (0+ / 0-)

              of large government organizations in the same way teachers are.  In much of the country there is a uniform contract negotiated by one of the two unions (officially no collective bargaining in most of the South and some places in West as well).

              Originally NEA insisted it was a professional organization, not a union.  In fact, one can argue that it was Al Shanker who finally moved both NEA and AFT to recognize the need to accept that they needed to function as unions for the benefit of their members.

              "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

              by teacherken on Mon Jun 14, 2010 at 03:51:25 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

      •  I will say this though... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        irishwitch

        I had to leave a school that wanted me to stay because a teacher who had just finished her certification of ESL wanted a job, who previously had 10 years of experience in the county as middle school science teacher, was hired this year.  So while I had three years of job experience, community experience and co-worker experience in the school I was working with, I had to be the first person destaffed because time in county, experience in curriculum, and desires of administration count less than overall time in the county, seems a bit strange to me.

        Dr. Dean...Paging Dr. Dean...he's not on-call you say...then get me DR. MATT!! STAT!!!

        by doctormatt06 on Sun Jun 13, 2010 at 07:54:55 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  This is a red herring to argue against teachers. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Mike08, loblolly

      I think it is easy to remember the worst teacher we all had, and think that there are a lot of teachers like that. When states get rid of tenure, when they have fired all the teachers, nothing good happens.

      We hear all the time about the "rubber rooms" where teachers are placed when they are facing discipline. What is not often said is that most teachers, more than 50% of all teachers and much higher for elementary teachers are exonerated from all wrong doing. In other words, false charges by parents, administrators, or students force good teachers out of the room for an untrained sub.

      Education cannot be solved by trying to change how teachers teach. We can get get better, but the real need is for society to let students know that education is important.

      Taking sports out of the schools would also improve education.

      •  Blame the student? (0+ / 0-)

        We can let students know that education is important by not making them spend years in the classrooms of bad teachers.

        Unions could assist that process, but their role is generally to defend all teachers, as TeacherKen said.  

        That doesn't help get better teachers.

        Religion gives men the strength to do what should not be done.

        by bobtmn on Sun Jun 13, 2010 at 07:51:01 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  here is the heart of the matter (0+ / 0-)

        but the real need is for society to let students know that education is important

        A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives ~ Jackie Robinson's epitaph

        by k8dd8d on Sun Jun 13, 2010 at 10:36:39 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  With respect to team members (0+ / 0-)

      I think there is a lot of wisdom in that - not just that awful teachers won't get picked, when they exist, but that some people, even though they may both be excellent individuals, may not get along.

      For example, it's well understood that mixing programming team members with different bracket conventions is a recipe for unnecessary and inexplicable friction. :-)

      Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

      by elfling on Sun Jun 13, 2010 at 10:10:17 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Won't somebody please think of the parents?! (8+ / 0-)

    Whenever I hear about teachers getting ranked/rewarded based on children's scores/etc. I wonder where are the parents in all this? Too many parents turn their kids over to the schools and expect miracles. The school system, the teachers, the kidss, and the parents all have to be involved to get the most out of education. But the parents will gladly penalize the schools by lowering tax revenue, the teachers with ill thought out reward systems, and even their kids. But how many will actually look to themselves as part of the problem and potential solution.

    Republican ideas are like sacks of manure but without the sacks.

    by ontheleftcoast on Sun Jun 13, 2010 at 07:36:14 PM PDT

  •  "Hiring consultants" (12+ / 0-)

    Back in the day, when I was in the corporate world, you always knew when management was screwed up, because they would "hire consultants" to tell them what they could have discovered by themselves if they just got off their asses and went out and asked the employees. Of course, that would be predicated on having an actual close working relationship with their employees to start with. Which is why they hired consultants instead.

    So the Hillsborough school board is going to spend millions on consultants (I imagine the night they voted on this, the next item on the agenda dealt with staff cuts due to budget constraints).

    Hey, why don't you just sit down with the teaching professionals that work at you schools and get some ideas from THEM?  

    I give this wisdom to you, gratis.

    •  In My Experience the Consultants Were There to (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Clues, ceebee7

      convince workers that everything was their fault, or else that nothing could be done about what unfortunately was about to happen to them.

      Fall backward into your co-worker's arms, so that you learn to be a team.

      Yeah, Madoff, Reagan, Exxon, Enron --the secretary and I really were the problem after all.

      We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

      by Gooserock on Sun Jun 13, 2010 at 07:51:25 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Well (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      annieli

      To give them some credit, if they do the statistical analyses correctly, it would require a) some fairly difficult data collection, and b) some very difficult statistical analysis (most likely multi-level modeling) in order to tease apart teacher effects from other effects (such as the impact of the school or SES or many other possible influences).

      Not that they couldn't get good suggestions from teachers, but to measure performance in this situation, where each school is different and each child is different and each teacher is different, you need some very powerful statistical modeling.

      I'm pretty happy with 121st place. Not bad for 13 points.

      by Prof Dave on Sun Jun 13, 2010 at 07:52:25 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I think it's a waste of money (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Mike08

        Really, they need to step away from their statistics and just talk to real people.  

        Kind of like how the mortgage industry is learning to write mortgages again.

        •  Each has its place (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          annieli

          and an over-reliance on either is not a good idea.

          Qualitative research is good; quantitative research is good.

          Both together inform each other and help draw a more complete picture.  Qualitative research is often used to build the models that are then quantitatively tested.

          I'm pretty happy with 121st place. Not bad for 13 points.

          by Prof Dave on Sun Jun 13, 2010 at 08:18:37 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Ask the parents... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Zenara

    In the high-reputation (but actually pretty inconsistent) public school system that my two kids attended, all the parents knew exactly who the great teachers were, who the good teachers were, who the burnt-out teachers were, who the lazy teachers were, and so on. (Talking mainly grades prior to high school here).

  •  So what's the alternative? (4+ / 0-)

    The current model, in which teacher compensation is determined solely by length of service and number of postgraduate credits, is completely absurd on its face since there is not even an attempted argument that those things correlate with teacher quality.

    Dorothy Rabinowitz is a heroin-guzzling pedophile.

    by Rich in PA on Sun Jun 13, 2010 at 07:45:31 PM PDT

    •  It isn't harmful though. The new system is. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      badger, elfling, ladybug53

      Most compensation systems, according to Daniel Pink and others, should reward fairly and then be forgotten.

      •  Sure it's harmful. (4+ / 0-)

        It creates incentives for people to stay in the professions simply because they're in it, without regard to how competent they are.

        It's hard to have a discussion with people who don't believe that there are differential levels of competence among teachers.  I wonder what Markos, who fired his pollster because they were a little less accurate than other pollsters, would think of that.

        Dorothy Rabinowitz is a heroin-guzzling pedophile.

        by Rich in PA on Sun Jun 13, 2010 at 07:49:29 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  The problem is to say who is less accurate/ (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          elfling, ladybug53, Mike08

          competent.  Pollsters have a final barameter to comapare their predictions to. Educators do not.  Pollsters create their own groups, teachers do not.

          Can you imagine paying doctors according to how patients do but not not looking at their prognosis.  My mom has stage 4 liver cancer. She is a miracle according to all the survivor charts because she has made it just over 2 years. Is that because of her doctor? Her genes? Her new cat? I am going with the cat.

          Plus, firing bad teachers doesn't solve the problem. We are failing to education our urban center students especially in the inner cities. It is not individual teachers. It is a red herring.

          •  Re (0+ / 0-)

            Can you imagine paying doctors according to how patients do but not not looking at their prognosis.  My mom has stage 4 liver cancer. She is a miracle according to all the survivor charts because she has made it just over 2 years. Is that because of her doctor? Her genes? Her new cat? I am going with the cat.

            So check your doctor against a population of other doctors to see how they all do in treating stage 4 liver cancer. If 50% of your doctor's patients survive, but only 10% of another doctor's... which one are you going to send another loved one to?

            (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
            Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

            by Sparhawk on Sun Jun 13, 2010 at 08:45:21 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  I hope the cat got a pay raise n/t (0+ / 0-)

            Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

            by elfling on Sun Jun 13, 2010 at 11:08:14 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  I would suggest that the incentives (0+ / 0-)

          are more subtle, things like the teacher's retirement system being separate, and the fact that there aren't that many different jobs within a school.

          Still, it's quite typical in private industry to get an annual raise just because you were there another year, and it's typical for people to get a raise for more education. It's not actually all that typical for people with the exact same job description and the same years of experience to be paid differently unless they're in sales or another very measurable field.

          Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

          by elfling on Sun Jun 13, 2010 at 11:11:03 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  Schools are already being evaluated (0+ / 0-)

      by parents  who know where they do and don't want their kids and students who know who they do and don't learn from.  Just give parents and students more control and leave it at that.

      There is no crisis like this in independent schools or at the university level, since nobody is forced to go through any one system.  If you think that the Pope's conception of education is bad, you just avoid Catholic schools, for example.

    •  So you're okay with poor teachers in classrooms (0+ / 0-)

      as long as they're paid less?

      Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

      by elfling on Sun Jun 13, 2010 at 11:07:24 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Educational studies (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    elfling, irishwitch, sam storm, Jinnia

    are important and need to be done to understand the root causes of educational performance.

    Variance associated with socio-economic status can be controlled statistically.  

    Evaluations by students in the University setting are largely driven by likability and positive affect and can be influenced with something as simple as cookies. (Yes, there are studies along these lines.)

    If this study is like most workplace performance studies, there is a problem:  Just what, exactly, is educational performance?  

    Lots of ink has been spilled about what job performance is, and there is no truly definitive conclusion about it.  I'm reasonably sure the same thing applies to teacher performance and student performance.

    Simplifying what performance is by substituting a multiple choice test for real educational performance only caricatures true educational performance.  If the study doesn't discuss that issue at all, then they are not likely to be credible, or their measurement of the criteria will be deficient.

    And, ultimately, the likelihood of criteria deficiency is why tying rewards and other administrative decisions to these scores are not helpful.  As noted in other comments, effective teacher performance isn't limited to teaching test material - it might help students gain the most in a particular grade by helping students in a variety of non-quantifiable ways...  such as increasing the font size of a student's homework.

    The studies are good to learn what is driving learning, but not a good idea to feed back into performance management of teachers until teacher and student performance is more clearly and completely understood.

    I'm pretty happy with 121st place. Not bad for 13 points.

    by Prof Dave on Sun Jun 13, 2010 at 07:45:55 PM PDT

    •  What is the performance we want? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      k8dd8d
      •  What is overall student performance? (5+ / 0-)

        Is it the ability to read, write, and do arithmetic?  Or does it have something to do with personal growth and social maturity?  Does leadership in student organizations count?  Does it mean that you meet your spouse and get married?

        I am being somewhat facetious, but the point is that there are many successful paths out of school.  Some kids will turn into adults that never do math.  Others will never write anything at all.  Some will learn to be effective politicians by running their own elections.  Some will drop out and become wildly successful actors (not many, but...)

        What does it mean to perform when the life outcomes of education are so varied?  What education is needed?  

        Standardized testing implies that the exact same testing is needed for every student.  I seriously doubt that is the case, as many students take wildly different paths.

        Short version: there is no one answer, which is why standardized testing is pretty silly on its face.

        I'm pretty happy with 121st place. Not bad for 13 points.

        by Prof Dave on Sun Jun 13, 2010 at 07:59:13 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Are there as many ways to know who is a good (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Prof Dave

          teacher as you say there are successful paths out of school?

          Their real God is money-- Jesus just drives the armored car, and his hat is made in China. © 2009 All Rights Reserved

          by oblomov on Sun Jun 13, 2010 at 08:03:28 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  It seems to me (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            k8dd8d

            that a good teacher maximizes the amount their students are capable of learning.

            What is a good way to measure that?  Well, it depends highly on what the students need most.  It is almost certainly not a monolithic set of skills, but involves other things.

            I don't know the answer, but I do know that if you were able to mass produce a teacher that could best teach to the standardized test, you would get wildly divergent levels of effectiveness simply because of socio-economic status, school culture, support for the teacher, parent involvement, personality, etc...

            As you imply, it is almost certain that there is no one type that is best.  There are so many variables involved that it is probably very difficult to even pick out a handful of types.  And success in one year doesn't mean the magic formula would repeat itself.

            I'm pretty happy with 121st place. Not bad for 13 points.

            by Prof Dave on Sun Jun 13, 2010 at 08:31:41 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  Good point. However, we do need to ask the (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Prof Dave, Zenara

          question. What do we as teachers need to teach students? What are our expectations?

          As we look at the research Daniel Pink has compiled in Drive, trying to be more like Asia seems just counterproductive.

          •  Our culture is individualistic, not collectivist (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            elfling, boji

            and attempting an Asian model will not be as effective as it would be there.  We will ultimately lose to them trying to play by their rules.

            As far as what to teach?  My answer is to teach them to think.  Not a very quantifiable proposition, is it?

            I truly cannot help to decide what to teach.  I do know that teaching kids how to do multiple choice tests, both content- and technique-wise is foolhardy.  

            Think of Thomas Jefferson trained in a multiple-choice education, or limited to learning the exact same thing that everyone else in his school learned (not that they had public ed, but still).  

            Not a pretty picture for his development as a thinker, writer, and altogether eclectic person.

            I'm pretty happy with 121st place. Not bad for 13 points.

            by Prof Dave on Sun Jun 13, 2010 at 08:24:19 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  Where is the data that our school suck? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    decembersue, Mike08
  •  I work in Fairfax County, VA (7+ / 0-)

    I've taught for 3 years as an ESL teacher.  It's been rough.  Every year, the state makes it harder to designate people as language-minority, and bumps up their scores so as to kick those students out of the program so that they will not receive services, and we can pass the NCLB language provisions for ESOL students.  In Fairfax, our schools on paper are great...and yet people still want reform here, too.  What reform means to me is, "we want education to have business (i.e. quantifiable) results".  WE ARE NOT A business, we are a service, trying to give every student a good life.  It's hard for me to to want to stay a teacher long-term if this is the long-term trend.

    Dr. Dean...Paging Dr. Dean...he's not on-call you say...then get me DR. MATT!! STAT!!!

    by doctormatt06 on Sun Jun 13, 2010 at 07:51:02 PM PDT

  •  Difficult question (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    theran, bobtmn, ladybug53

    I come from a family of educators though I am not one myself.

    In the private sector, it is relatively easy to measure performance. There are of course still issues with that as in any such measure, but you can generally tell who contributes and who does not.

    It is harder to measure teacher performance. In the abstract, it sounds like a great idea. I would far rather have the opportunity to give higher pay and bigger raises to teachers who perform better. It irritates me that high performers receive the same pay/benefits as low performers. It also irritates me that math/science people make the same money as history/english people (leading to it being impossible to find technical teachers but impossible to find a job as a liberal arts teacher).

    But is there a method of measuring performance?

    I would argue that there is no one sure-fire way to analyze this, but you could use a combination of methods rather than one method. Test scores, student reviews, administrative reviews; it is silly to argue that these things provide zero value. If all aspects negatively (or positively) reinforce each other, you can probably tell quite a bit about the teacher's effectiveness.

    (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
    Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

    by Sparhawk on Sun Jun 13, 2010 at 07:51:56 PM PDT

    •  Wow. (7+ / 0-)

      It also irritates me that math/science people make the same money as history/english people  

      Just...wow.

      I was a librarian and later taught college-level English. Most of my students were getting degrees in business or  computer science.  Yet everyone of them told me that my class raised their grades in every other class. You see, I taught them how to think clearly,read critically,  research topics, analyze data, and write a clear, coherent paper. It improved their grades in every single class, including technical and science ones. I also taught them soem stuff about literature but that was, in my opinion, secondary--actually, I got some damend fine poems from students who had to choose ebtween writing a short analysis on two poems, or writing a poem themselves. The oens who chsoe to write their own poetry said it was the ahrdest thign they'd ever done, and that it made them look at both literature and lfie differently.

      BTW, in many places math and science teacher ARE paid more than liberal arts teachers.  Yet one of the major complaints from employers is that graduates can't write coherent memos or  papers. When I was a librarian I HAD to have a graduate degree to get hired. The math and science teachers got paid more to start than I did with a master's.

      The last time we mixed religion and politics people got burned at the stake.

      by irishwitch on Sun Jun 13, 2010 at 08:00:07 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Re (4+ / 0-)

        English is extremely important. Don't get me wrong, it is critically important that people are able to properly communicate using the English language and far too many people don't have those skills.

        However, you have to compensate people based on what their other opportunities would be in the private sector with similar qualifications.

        You can't get science teachers because just about everyone with the qualifications to teach science can make almost double the salary in industry (you're talking to one of us here!). After 5+ years in industry, good science people in chemistry, physics, or engineering can pull down over $100k/year. You can't make even close to that after 20 years of teaching in most districts.

        In contrast, $50k/year jobs are difficult to acquire for people with English or history degrees. Teaching is literally the best option for those people due to its greater earning power against their (potential) other options.

        My statement about compensation makes zero judgement about the relative merits of liberal arts versus science, just about how difficult it is to find people to fill those positions.

        (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
        Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

        by Sparhawk on Sun Jun 13, 2010 at 08:09:07 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Nope, sorry. (3+ / 0-)

          I can vouch that you can earn that kind of money with those degrees. those degrees are ideal preparation for analytical positions, which are often the types of positions that lead to leadership positions in companies. In fact I think the last several bosses I've had were liberal arts majors. The last few CEOs I had were liberal arts majors, and I know this because they would mention it for some reason.

          People who make this argument about english majors not having job prospects a) have no idea what an English major actually teaches (hint, analytitical reasoning, research and communications skills) and b) apparently are totally unaware of the types of positions that currently exist in most Fortune 50 companies in this country.   The highly technical positions are the minority, even in a high tech company.

          And what is sad is that many liberal arts majors actually believe that bullshit and don't market themselves properly, and don't pursue those types of positions, which are quite common in both business and government.  Businesses are sick and tired of vapid business majors and technical folks who can't write a coherent sentence or talk to a customer without offending them. And the liberal arts degree fills that niche.

          •  Re (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            edtastic, IProfess

            I can vouch that you can earn that kind of money with those degrees.

            Yeah, you can, but is it likely that you will? Bill Gates didn't graduate from college and he's a billionaire: I guess that means that college is a waste of time, right?

            The mean and median salaries for liberal arts majors are significantly lower than the mean and median salaries for technical people. Yeah, outliers exist everywhere.

            People who make this argument about english majors not having job prospects a) have no idea what an English major actually teaches (hint, analytitical reasoning, research and communications skills) and b) apparently are totally unaware of the types of positions that currently exist in most Fortune 50 companies in this country.   The highly technical positions are the minority, even in a high tech company.

            Yeah, but they get paid a lot more, which is what we're discussing here. All that analytical reasoning, yeah, that's useful, but we get that as engineers, too, and we have the math to back it up. The fact is that engineering people have a good chunk of the language and other skills that liberal arts majors have (not all, but a lot). Liberal arts majors generally have whole areas of math and science that are completely closed off to them. Find a computer programmer who can write an email or write a paper (many of them). Now find a liberal arts major that can write a computer program (few).

            And what is sad is that many liberal arts majors actually believe that bullshit and don't market themselves properly, and don't pursue those types of positions, which are quite common in both business and government.

            I fully support liberal arts majors and other people marketing themselves in whatever way is most likely to get them a job. There certainly are many jobs available for liberal arts majors. Some are high-paying. Many are not. As with technical people, intelligent and motivated liberal arts people should find it easier to get ahead than their less-talented counterparts.

            (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
            Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

            by Sparhawk on Sun Jun 13, 2010 at 08:56:38 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  I have a "useless" degree in writing (4+ / 0-)

        and have had a great career in technical fields. It's amazing how few people realize that analysis, logical skills, writing and communication skills, etc, are the REALLY valuable skills. And they are transferable to any industry.  I've seen it over and over again at several companies I've worked at, the people with technical degrees lack communication, writing, leadership, project skills, and if left to their own devices would probably do absolutely nothing the customer actually wants.

        There's a lot of liberal arts majors out there  that sell themselves short and don't market themselves properly because of this bullshit conventional wisdom that L.A. degrees are somehow not useful. There's actually no evidence of that when you look 20 years past graduation.

      •  I teach and research in Finance (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Sparhawk

        but I also have to teach writing, critical thinking, programming, etc. (even ethics!). And yes, I believe my expertise is more marketable and therefore "worth more" than other disciplines.  If an English professor wants to make more, they can get a Ph.D. in Accounting or Finance.  And don't say you won't because you love English, you just made my point.  The market, not "fairness," determines salaries.  Is it wrong?  maybe.    

    •  It's actually more complicated than you think (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      elfling, annieli

      Performance in private section settings is more difficult that you believe - lots of ink has been spilled on the issue, and there isn't a definitive answer on it, theoretically speaking.  

      Definitive, simple answers are often either because the job is simple (widgets made) or the criteria have been simplified (sales $).  For example, sales people often have to do very intricate things to obtain sales, but they are often only measured on $ brought in.  That doesn't encourage sophisticated views of their performance.

      However, I do agree that teacher performance is even harder to measure!  And it is, unfortunately, much more complicated than you suggest...  I could go on, but teacherken in an earlier comment does a better job than I of addressing some of the complexity in this particular measurement scheme.

      I'm pretty happy with 121st place. Not bad for 13 points.

      by Prof Dave on Sun Jun 13, 2010 at 08:16:38 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Re (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Prof Dave

        Performance in private section settings is more difficult that you believe - lots of ink has been spilled on the issue, and there isn't a definitive answer on it, theoretically speaking.  

        I agree, but we in the private sector get by just fine with imperfect methods of evaluation, yet companies remain profitable, bad performers are (often) weeded out, and good performers are (often) rewarded. It's not perfect, but life isn't perfect.

        Definitive, simple answers are often either because the job is simple (widgets made) or the criteria have been simplified (sales $).  For example, sales people often have to do very intricate things to obtain sales, but they are often only measured on $ brought in.  That doesn't encourage sophisticated views of their performance.

        For those jobs, there doesn't need to be sophisticated analysis. If your job is designing something, making something, discovering something, etc it's harder to do.

        However, I do agree that teacher performance is even harder to measure!  And it is, unfortunately, much more complicated than you suggest...  I could go on, but teacherken in an earlier comment does a better job than I of addressing some of the complexity in this particular measurement scheme.

        Sure, but does the difficulty mean that we should just throw up our hands and allow bad or marginal producers to be compensated/retained the same as good producers? Since we can't be perfect, we shouldn't bother?

        (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
        Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

        by Sparhawk on Sun Jun 13, 2010 at 08:21:16 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  You are correct (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Sparhawk, elfling

          but I think you underestimate just how much error and garbage get included in models of performance, in both corporate organizations and educational ones.

          I am somewhat surprised by your positive views of corporate performance management because the view that organizations are (often) effective and (often) fair in their assessment and rewards of performance is a pretty rare one.  There are plenty of instances of companies that I have experience with not doing a good job evaluating performance.  Life may not be perfect, and neither is performance management... but I am not as sanguine as you about the human cost of the downside of ineffective performance management, nor how rare you seem to think ineffective performance management is.

          Evaluating teacher performance isn't a perfect or forget it point, this about not even knowing what teachers can contribute that is positively influencing students (on standardized tests or otherwise).  My point about sales people is directly on point here:  Do you measure the effectiveness of a teacher by one number, the average student test score, to get a complete measure of their performance?  That seems ludicrous to me, and I don't teach children.

          Teaching is complex and difficult, and a variety of behaviors leads to the outcomes of interest.  There is no one number that can accurately help teachers improve, help administrators evaluate, or determine merit pay for teachers.

          I'm pretty happy with 121st place. Not bad for 13 points.

          by Prof Dave on Sun Jun 13, 2010 at 08:49:24 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  Yep. I'm a private-sector software developer. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Prof Dave

        The managers who would "grade" me every fiscal year don't really have any concrete data points to judge me on. They seek the opinions of my co-workers and our clients to determine how well I'm doing my job.

        Then they assign me a completely arbitrary number, based on how generous the company feels like being with performance pay and raises. Most years I see a '3' (on a scale of 1 to 5) with my manager's assurance that I was right on the cusp of a '4' and would've gotten it, if he was authorized to hand out that much money.

        A rating system that was based on how many projects I completed, or how many bugs were found in my software would be ridiculous, and not at all reflective of my performance. There are plenty of reasons for low project turnover and software defects that are beyond my control.

        Regards,
        Corporate Dog

        -----
        We didn't elect Obama to be an expedient president. We elected him to be a great one. -- Eugene Robinson

        by Corporate Dog on Mon Jun 14, 2010 at 04:54:12 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  There is an old engineering dictum: You can't fix (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jmcgrew, boji, Justanothernyer, IProfess

    what you don't measure.

    There seems to be widespread agreement -- not consensus, but lots of agreement -- that the American education system is broken, certainly with regard to the poorest and least-advantaged students.

    I don't believe that any objective measure will find a great teacher, but I do believe that objective measures can help to set the floor below which teachers should not be allowed to fall.

    The insight of the "value-added" approach is that it provides one way to level the playing field for teachers who work under very diverse conditions with different levels of resources and different student bodies.  It allows us to grade them on a curve, so to speak.

    It reminds me of a Texas policy that guarantees admission to any state university to students who graduate in the top 10% of their (Texas) high school class. Rich school, poor school, white school, black school. Doesn't matter.  While the actual educational level of the students may differ, students are not held responsible for the schools they attend, only for their relative performance.

    Free speech? Yeah, I've heard of that. Have you?

    by dinotrac on Sun Jun 13, 2010 at 07:55:10 PM PDT

    •  I think there is agreement that we can and should (0+ / 0-)

      do better, but I also think - perhaps more controversially - that there is no country that does better with poor and least-advantaged students than we do.

      Do I think this is adequate? No. But, I think it means that within the education system, we don't have a good or clear international model to follow. We need to innovate and stretch on our own.

      I also think that the best way to do better with those kids is to stop having poor and least-advantaged kids, which is largely how Europe addresses it: generous paid maternity leaves, long paid vacations, a stronger safety net, etc.

      So, there's a strong argument that universal health care would do more for test scores than a nationwide universal one-size-fits all evaluation system for teachers.

      Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

      by elfling on Sun Jun 13, 2010 at 11:26:49 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Totally thought you were going to say... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      dinotrac

      .."you can't fix stupid" LOL

      "That's quite a jump. But you keep it up, I'm sure one day you'll clear that shark."

      by Steve In DC on Mon Jun 14, 2010 at 08:12:40 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  The obvious solution is now possible (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jmcgrew

    The sad fact is that many teachers conduct their classes in extremely counterproductive ways that would be obvious if they could be documented.

    Thanks to rapid advances in technology, teachers styles can be video recorded constantly and then reviewed for professionalism and effectiveness.  Students who complain about teaching methods of specific teachers will have incontrovertible evidence to back them up.

    Video technology has revolutionized police work and teachers could equally benefit from the unvarnished truth about their work.

    •  Are you freaking kidding me? (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      boji, JanL, unwillingsuburbanite, Mike08

      Do we get to put a camera in your workplace and judge everything you do too?

      Dr. Dean...Paging Dr. Dean...he's not on-call you say...then get me DR. MATT!! STAT!!!

      by doctormatt06 on Sun Jun 13, 2010 at 08:05:56 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Students themselves are recorded (0+ / 0-)

        Schools have security cameras recording students' activities on campus and on buses. If that's OK, why not record teachers too?

        •  Most teachers won't even allow voice recorders (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          edtastic

          in classrooms because they don't want any solid evidence of how they teach their classes.  Just like cops who abuse prisoners, many teachers think there is no limit to their power.

          •  "Most teachers" (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Mike08

            Link, please?

            •  You are kidding, right? (0+ / 0-)

              You seriously think that most teachers want voice recordings in their classrooms? My three kids tell a much different story about merely trying to voice record so that they can review the lecture for their notes.

              The overwhelming majority of teachers at my son's elite public school flatly refused any recording for any reason.

              •  Anecdotal evidence doesn't do it for me (0+ / 0-)

                Plus, you changed your statement.

                I'm sure there are some who may not want a tape recorder, but you said that "most teachers" will not allow tape recorders.

                I was simply asking for some proof, because I can use anecdotal evidence too.  The overwhelming majority of teachers at the elite public school that I teach at allow, and even encourage tape recording for any reason.

                Interesting, eh?

                •  Then there is no issue, right? (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  edtastic

                  The overwhelming majority of teachers at the elite public school that I teach at allow, and even encourage tape recording for any reason.

                  If all teachers agree to voice and video recording of their classrooms, then public accountability is accomplished and the debate is over.  Why do I think that won't happen? Hmmm?

                  Oh right, there is no obvious upside to teachers so they will fight like hell to avoid being recorded.  Don't want any threats to their little empires.

                  •  Seems like there shouldn't be a problem (2+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    sandblaster, edtastic

                    indeed.

                    However, students tape recording for notes, etc. is a bit different, than what the REAL topic of this should be.

                    Really, this discussion of students tape recording lessons is irrelevant, because they have no say in the matter.  (whether they should or not is another discussion)

                    The real point you were trying to get at is (I may be wrong, here) is that teachers are resistant to being observed at all, whether in person or on videotape.

                    To that I say this:  I have never seen a teacher refuse a directive by an administrator to be observed, either in person, or via video.  In fact, if administrators wanted to observe at all, I'm pretty sure a teacher cannot say "No...I want to keep my little empire intact."

                    Rather, when my principal says, "I'm observing you today" or when they come into my classroom unannounced, I really can't say no.

                    •  What if the video recorder was on all the time (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      edtastic

                      in your classroom?

                      Definitely would impact your teaching style, right?

                      The good teachers should have no problem at all with constant video recording.  The marginal and bad teachers will have major issues for obvious reasons.

                      So that is why video recording is never going to happen: the marginal and bad teachers out number the good by significant margins even in the best public school systems and the marginal/bad drive out the good, which is why the system repeatedly fails.

                      •  Interesting idea (1+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        sandblaster

                        We should also just wiretap everyone's phone all the time to prevent terrorism...after all, if you a good citizen, you should have no problem at all with constant governmental monitoring.  After all, national security is way more important than education.

                        Come on.

                        First, cost.  Second, who's watching.  Third, who's paying the people who are watching.  Fourth, any good administrator will be able to tell you that face to face observations are the best.  One video camera in the back that faces one direction and can't tell what's going on in the rest of the room would be ineffective.

                        But maybe, we can place 3-4 wide angle cameras in every classroom in America, hire 5-10 people for each school building to constantly monitor these videos.  After all, constant monitoring is the only way to go.  Just checking in on classrooms in random times is ineffective.

                        Yes...this is snark.  But the idea of constant monitoring is unfair.  Would I be comfortable with someone knowing what I'm doing in my classroom at all times?  Sure...but that doesn't mean that the school board should micromanage to the level of absurdity.  If you don't trust me, fine.  I'll just become an educational consultant, and make twice as much, but not be monitored like in 1984.

                        However, I won't like consulting because I like teaching.

                        •  Public School Classrooms (1+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:
                          edtastic

                          should be observable by the public which is paying for the education being provided.

                          Who will be watching? Everyone in the community via the  internet in real time.

                          I would love to watch my son in class and see how he interacts with his teachers.  Then, I could coach him on improving his performance based on actual observations.  If he has a complaint about a teacher, I can look at the video and decide for myself if it is justified.

                          We should also just wiretap everyone's phone all the time to prevent terrorism...after all, if you a good citizen, you should have no problem at all with constant governmental monitoring.  

                          Interesting that you analogize teaching to terrorism.  I hadn't thought of that, but you may be right.

                          •  I think we've all made valid points here (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            sandblaster

                            As for teaching vs terrorism, the analogy I made was simple.  If stopping terror is the most important thing in the country, then using your logic if we're already constantly monitoring education, then, constitutionally, there's no reason not to be able to constantly monitor everyone to prevent terrorism...which most would say is worse than bad teaching.

                            Anyway...let's sum up where we've come:

                            Me:  It will cost too much, and it's probably a little too intrusive.

                            You:  Constant monitoring for the greater good is an appropriate trade-off.

                            In all seriousness here's what I think.

                            Monitoring all public servants to ensure that your tax dollars are being spent appropriately (as you indicated) seems like a fine idea in theory, but placing cameras on firemen, county recorders, the DMV, teachers, legislative caucuses, governor's mansions, and the White House Oval Office for everyone to see seems a bit 1) excessive  2) unfeasible.

                            I like the idea of accountability for public servants (myself included) but surely there must be another way.  I'm heading out.  We'll have to agree to disagree.

                          •  Judges and cops accept video monitoring (0+ / 0-)

                            while they do their jobs in the courtroom and on the streets, but for public school teachers in public classrooms, it would be intrusive and unconstitutional?

                            So with no real accountability for their performance and no way to objectively measure it, teachers want higher pay regardless.  Uh no, not gonna happen.

                            Like cops' blue wall of silence, teachers will not allow the bad apples to be thrown out, so the good teachers and all the students must suffer to protect the incompetent, lazy, etc.  That just makes so much sense, I can see why you all stand together.

      •  I live in Fairfax too (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        edtastic

        One of my sons goes to TJ and the other is now at Harvard after graduating from FCPS.

        Both have horror stories about teachers in their schools that I and my wife, who is a college professor,  agree reflect atrocious teaching methods that are highly counterproductive and widespread in FCPS.

        These bad teachers are just like bad cops - they have no business in the classroom ruining lives of young people.  Put cameras on them just like we put them on cops.

        But your attitude reflects the reality: teachers are afraid of the truth and don't want parents, who pay their salaries, to know what happens behind closed classroom doors.

        •  Not even true... (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          sandblaster, gph11

          You want to schedule a trip to come look at my classrooms (I teach 5 different grade levels) go right ahead.  Teaching is trial and error, not everything works. So you gauge and test, and see what will fit your students each year.  All it takes is some horrible helicopter parent that thinks they know how to teach better than you to come in and say, well look at this, this person made all these mistakes, he/she is a horrible teacher.  It takes awhile to reach every learner, and time goes by very quickly.  Again, you didn't answer my question.  Do we get to videotape your WHOLE job performance at YOUR work?  Oh and my salary hasn't gone up for 3 years, so yeah, if you think I'm teaching for the money...get real.  This job is worthwhile, I give non-English speaking students a chance to succeed, and I do a damn good job.

          Dr. Dean...Paging Dr. Dean...he's not on-call you say...then get me DR. MATT!! STAT!!!

          by doctormatt06 on Mon Jun 14, 2010 at 07:08:23 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Public employees working in a public forum (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            edtastic

            should be subject to public scrutiny, period.  Courtrooms have video recording, as do public hearings of government agencies.  Cops are recorded doing their jobs, as are public transportation workers, but public school teachers have no accountability to the public for their teaching in public classrooms. (I don't care what teachers do in their offices or outside the classroom.)

            Many teachers in FCPS are abusive to their students, especially at elite schools like TJ where students are expected to learn on their own.

            "Horrible helicopter parents" would not be able to deny the evidence on the video and therefore the teachers would be protected by the truth.  So good teachers, like good cops, should welcome the truth.  

            If you really are doing a "damn good job" why would you not want video evidence of it?  Why would you want to be tainted by teachers who are doing poor work?

            Teachers should be paid more and the way to achieve that is to demonstrate the "value added" by good teachers.  Until the evidence is clear, the public is not going to fund bad teachers who generate all the complaints.

            •  Well tell your company you want to be taped! (0+ / 0-)

              If it's good enough for the public, it's good enough for private companies too!  That way they can know if you're a good worker, and when they randomly decide to watch what you're doing, I'm sure you'll always be 100% on task.  And I'm sure all the parents will be able to understand, as I'm sure all the people who hate non-english speaking students and ESOL teachers will love to be able to single us out by watching us on this public camera system.  Because I don't hear enough from them that I'm an illegal-loving America-hater that supports them and their 'tax stealing parents. Also, I'll love when my administrator will see me helping low-performing kids who aren't part of my work-load, but need extra support, and tell me that it's not part of my caseload.  Will they watch me when I teach my free English class (that I don't get paid for) for parents of students to learn about this country's educational stystem?  Will they watch me mentoring, and tutoring students off the clock?  Will they watch our instructional meetings where we discuss the children'd performance in groups to come up with solutions for struggling learners?  Will that mean no more birthday parties at the end of the day for students, since that's instructional time?  Again, as gph11 said, if the Administration wants to tape us, they can, we can't do anything about it.  Virginia is right-to-work, so the union can't really do that much, except tenure.  You probably won't have any response but the same, so this will be my last try to explain to you a lot of our feelings about this.  If you think teachers are just public service drones, then C'est la vie. Voy a ser plato de segunda mesa.

              Dr. Dean...Paging Dr. Dean...he's not on-call you say...then get me DR. MATT!! STAT!!!

              by doctormatt06 on Mon Jun 14, 2010 at 11:00:01 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  So when you are in the classroom (0+ / 0-)

                are you not 100% on task?  Are you suggesting that teachers who are not doing their jobs should be shielded from observation?

                Yes, I do think teachers in public schools are public servants who are doing very important work like judges or cops and if they are not 100% on task doing their jobs effectively, then the public should know that, just like the public should know if cops are sleeping on the job or judges are drinking on the job - both of which are not unknown.

                You want the public to value your service and pay you more, but you don't want effective observation of your work.

        •  Your son goes to Harvard? (0+ / 0-)

          And you want to complain about how horrible some of his teachers were?  What happened?  Did some teacher not give him an A in a class his parents insinuated him into?  Oh, the child abuse!

          We've all had bad teachers over the years and if we learned nothing else from them, we learned that even inadequate people in authority over us are still people we need to get along with.

          I sincerely hope your sons never have to work for an incompetent, inadequate boss.  I've had a few of those, too.

          I want my government to be big enough to drown Grover Norquist in a bathtub.

          by sercanet on Mon Jun 14, 2010 at 05:57:06 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  He got there (0+ / 0-)

            in spite of various teachers who were completely incompetent. He is very good at figuring out what teachers want and giving it to them even if it is nonsense.  He got straight A's so that was not the issue.

            even inadequate people in authority over us are still people we need to get along with

            Right, that's a great message for our young people: just suck it up kids because the system ain't gonna change.

            Well, yes it could if we started thinking outside the box and holding people in authority accountable.

            •  What a happy person you must be! (0+ / 0-)

              And what a joy it must have been to teach your kids!

              I want my government to be big enough to drown Grover Norquist in a bathtub.

              by sercanet on Mon Jun 14, 2010 at 07:15:30 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  They were all smart and creative (0+ / 0-)

                From your sarcasm, I assume you are a teacher.

                •  Gave up the classroom years ago. (0+ / 0-)

                  Mostly due to parents whose children couldn't possibly be less than perfect, who accepted every accusation of teachers at the dinner table as gospel, who insisted that teachers must be "accountable" for every shortcoming they perceived in their children, who insisted that their children be placed in classes for which they were not recommended by previous teachers and then spent the whole year "working the teacher" to make certain he got an A, and whose notion of competence was to give the child the grade they wanted for him.  I always got high marks overall, but the growing minority of parents who made managing their children's lives a full-time pursuit (not to mention NCLB test mania) was just not worth the insane hours it took to do the job.  I loved my job, but it got in the way of having a life.

                  There's nothing wrong with most kids that another set of parents wouldn't cure.

                  And from your sarcasm (I've read some of your other posts) you are clearly a superior human being who knows how to solve the world's problems through accountability.  And "accountability" is a synonym for "blame."

                  It's always someone else's fault.

                  I want my government to be big enough to drown Grover Norquist in a bathtub.

                  by sercanet on Mon Jun 14, 2010 at 07:47:17 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Interesting (0+ / 0-)

                    Mostly due to parents whose children couldn't possibly be less than perfect, who accepted every accusation of teachers at the dinner table as gospel, who insisted that teachers must be "accountable" for every shortcoming they perceived in their children

                    Seems to me that a camera in the classroom would document for the parents exactly why their kids were less than perfect and why their accusations against their teacher were baseless. Yet teachers don't see any advantage in this "threat" to their little empires.

                    •  I apologize. (0+ / 0-)

                      I now understand your obsession with classroom cameras, even though I never even mentioned that issue. You must have been badly beaten by a teacher when you were in school.  Too bad there were no cameras to document the abuse. Then we would have known who was to blame, er, accountable.

                      I want my government to be big enough to drown Grover Norquist in a bathtub.

                      by sercanet on Mon Jun 14, 2010 at 08:13:00 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  No, I didn't go to Catholic school (0+ / 0-)

                        but I understand that many students were abused.  Your empathy for abused students is truly touching. You must have really loved teaching.

                        •  Actually, I did. (0+ / 0-)

                          It broke my heart to leave the classroom.  But teaching is no longer a career for professionals; it is a starter job for technicians who can manage a prescribed curriculum, get the students to pass the SOL tests, and keep the parents happy. It is a job for intelligent young people to get their missionary impulse out. I loved the job, but my soul was being crushed by the 75% 0f the job outside the classroom.

                          My colleagues in Fairfax (particularly the ones at TJ, most of whom have retired early or gone elsewhere) used to tell me how supportive their students' parents were, but that there was a growing contingent of urban professional parents who had never been teachers, but were certain that they knew more about the job than the teachers did, never hesitated to demand special treatment for their children, and were always on a witch hunt for some teacher who had offended them.  And always had to get in the last word.

                          It's good to see that things have changed.

                          I want my government to be big enough to drown Grover Norquist in a bathtub.

                          by sercanet on Tue Jun 15, 2010 at 08:42:34 AM PDT

                          [ Parent ]

                          •  Special treatment? (0+ / 0-)

                            My son recently asked his TJ teacher if she would go over again a topic that was unclear. The teacher's response: "I have already covered that and you need to study it more yourself.  You kids are all smart and can figure it out on your own."

                            The result of the "special treatment" my son gets at TJ is that we have to hire tutors, who actually care about helping kids learn, at $60/hr.  In fact, TJ's "special treatment" of its students is such common knowledge that an entire industry of TJ tutors has been grown up.  Without them, the students would simply fail.

                          •  My point exactly. (0+ / 0-)

                            After I spearheaded the curriculum for a practical (hands-on) geometry course, I was asked to reinvigorate the honors Algebra II course.  At the time, there were two sections and enrollment in the course was pretty strictly limited to those with the highest recommendations from their geometry teachers.

                            We became victims of our own success.  More and more students aspired to the course, usually abetted (if not pushed) by their parents.  Guidance counselors began ignoring the teachers' recommendations and put kids in the course to make the parents happy.  By the time I left, there were six sections.  Apparently the gifted population of our school had exploded.

                            Then came the undoing.  The most frequent complaint among students in the course was that the it moved too quickly; the second most frequent complaint was that it moved too slowly.  There were more and more students who needed things repeated for them and who were unwilling to see the teacher outside of class for help or to open a book or consult the internet and research the issue themselves.  Every year we had to pare the course down to fewer and fewer topics so that the expanded population of the course could keep up and we had time to repeat things several times for many students.  Eventually we barely covered more than the SOL's tested.  And, yes, a small industry of tutors sprang up.  That's when it became unfulfilling and soul-crushing for me.

                            So, I can identify with your son's teacher at TJ.  Since a student has to apply to TJ, and presumably knows what he is getting into, I believe the teacher's response was most likely appropriate.  Fairfax County has any number of other good schools which would be less demanding.

                            I want my government to be big enough to drown Grover Norquist in a bathtub.

                            by sercanet on Tue Jun 15, 2010 at 01:19:11 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  Thanks to the tutors (0+ / 0-)

                            my son has a 4.0 and as I am sure you know, outside of TJ, students have no option to transfer to other schools in the county (yeah, I could sell my house and move to a new district).

                            Most parents and students hate TJ because it is far different from the way it is presented - a ticket into the Ivy League or some other highly selective university. Every year the admin at TJ publishes a list of the universities to which its grads have been admitted along with the number of admissions. It is a very impressive list and the implication is that TJ was the reason they got in because it offers a superior educational experience.

                            Nothing could be further from the truth.  My older son was admitted to Harvard after graduating from one of the lower ranking high schools of FCPS.  His SATs were only at the average for TJ, but he was also admitted to Princeton, Dartmouth, UPenn and Duke.

                            So the conclusion should be obvious: smart kids, unless they are hard core science and math, would do better somewhere other than TJ. One third of TJ's applicants to UVA are rejected.  I know of one very bright TJ girl who was just rejected by Penn State!

    •  teaching is a bit more complex (4+ / 0-)

      than answering customer service calls for Wells Fargo...in any case, the friendliness or what you define as "professionalism" of a teacher may have little to do with actual student achievement in a class.

      •  Right, it's all the students' fault (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        edtastic

        when they don't achieve standards of learning; teachers' lack of professionalism has nothing to do with it.

        Recording teachers in their classrooms would allow everyone to evaluate the effectiveness of a teacher in helping students to learn.  Good teachers would benefit even if their students were underachievers.  But most teachers don't want any real evidence of the truth about their teaching disclosed to the public who pays their salaries.

    •  Who would watch? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Mike08, IProfess
  •  my two cents (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    hulagirl, ceebee7

    this seems all back asswards. It seems to me that this "problem" can be addressed from two directions:

    1a- Pay teachers more, like double, and provide support and classroom material, so they can focus on the students. Teachers are the future of America- pay them accordingly. Change admin to the function of supporting teachers, not regulating them. And let admin handle the errant students, not the teachers. It is not the teacher's job to deal with those who upset the classroom- it is not fair to the rest of the students. And make it a mortal sin to fail in school.

    1b- License and certify teachers, just like lawyers, doctors, etc. are. Set up a process that will weed out those who are not fit for the job.

    2- As in some European countries, make it very clear what happens to students who do not apply themselves or disrupt classes- they are pulled out of school and put into a trade or labor school. But do not use one yardstick to measure creative arts students, kids who love math, history, or students who love sports. Learn to recognize, for instance, that some students would much prefer to be playing music, and those that do should be given a proper music education, just as a school would for a future physicist.

    Many posters here have it right- American schools have already failed, and this mess of trying to put it on the teachers is simply scapegoating. When taxpayers decided they did not want to pay for schools, that is when things started to swirl the drain. Now America is looking for an easy target, so why not blame the teachers? Nothing will be fixed until money and higher standards return to the school system. Americans should be proud to pay more taxes for schools, so that kids can be the best educated in the world.

    Nothing in the world is more dangerous than a sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.--- Martin Luther King, Jr

    by azureblue on Sun Jun 13, 2010 at 08:04:22 PM PDT

  •  Thank you for this update (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sandblaster

    on the assault on public education.  It seems as if the liberal establishment is and has been under attack by reactionary forces (big business/capitalism) on every front -- religion, education, entertainment, media, social issues, the electoral process... indeed, truth itself, as we've seen from efforts by various factions to re-write history.  It is everywhere.

    Obviously, education is the most precious institution currently under attack, for it has provided the only real source of human enlightenment since the beginning of history.  And it is education that provides the only way out of the hole we've dug for ourselves.  These are not stupid people that are attempting to undermine the very principles upon which this country was founded.

    I wish the diarist luck in his ongoing fight to preserve what autonomy teachers still have... my family is full of educators, and it's what we talk about at family gatherings.

    There was a link here a couple of days ago to a business memo written in 1971, only made public in 2006 or so, written by somebody Powell, who was nominated by Nixon to SCOTUS.  The memo pointed out how forces of business must take back public opinion, then seen as having become anti-business/capitalism.  It was frightening to read the memo and then look around at what has happened -- obviously, many in the business community read that memo and took heed.  The extent to which social progress is up against powerful and deep pocketed institutions, including, notably, the US Chamber of Commerce, is beyond, I believe, most people's ability to comprehend.

    A "populist" president was elected 20 months ago by a clear mandate -- and big business hardly flinched.  True, they rolled out even more of their shouters and organized distractive factions (see TeaBaggers; Sarah Palin) to make the public think there was a a popular opposition to Obama's social prerogatives... but behaviorally, business has stayed and is staying the course -- witness big finance bonuses and BP's public relations quotes, among others.  Business has, in 30 years, so entrenched itself and its influence everywhere that "'business' as usual" can be and is the order of the day, no matter what the masses may think or want.

    One thing is abundantly clear -- Internet neutrality MUST be preserved at any cost.  

    Democrats are from Venus; Republicans are from Uranus.

    by ceebee7 on Sun Jun 13, 2010 at 08:11:48 PM PDT

  •  adsf (0+ / 0-)

    While I have some expertise and an opinion(s), it's simply too noisy here and there's not enough space/time to respond to these conversations. However, I would like to caution you regarding Daniel Pink who seems at best a charlatan, at worst a real danger to education. Also, this is the tip of a very slowly melting iceberg:

    That is the logic behind this notion of "value-added" education. The measurement, therefore, is not the overall attainment of knowledge in a particular curriculum area (only a fraction of which a current teacher could reasonably be held responsible), but merely the degree to which additional knowledge or skills were acquired in the given time frame.

    But this effort only addresses the worst and most basic liability with the notion of quanitifiable education: the idea that an 11th grade teacher is somehow going to fix everything that went wrong for the first 16 years of a youngster's education in approximately 180 hours.

    "...calling for a 5" deck gun is not parody. Not by a long shot." (gnaborretni)

    by annieli on Sun Jun 13, 2010 at 08:12:56 PM PDT

  •  Pay programs like this will continue to drive (5+ / 0-)

    college students who are high achievers, and who therefore have other options, away from the teaching profession. who in their right mind would take that job under those circumstances? Especially with the current demonization of the teaching profession?  Everyone blames everything on teachers these days.

    In any case, what would happen to a teacher who gets on the wrong side of a student, an the student, knowing the teacher's compensation is tied to these tests, deliberately throws the test? As most kids don't go to college, many won't have anything incentivizing them to do well.

    Ultimately the secret to student achievement lies outside the classroom, in large scale solutions to poverty, crime, etc. Proper funding of schools is part of that, but only one part, and will fail if other aspects of poverty and inequality aren't addressed. Ultimately implementing some universal health care system would probably do more for student achievement than anything that can be done in the classroom.

  •  i’m a nyc HS teacher (11+ / 0-)

    So far this year:

    1.  I got in trouble because I reported a student who cut my class (more than one time).  Mommy and Daddy didn’t like it and complained to everyone above me.
    1.  I was told I wasn’t passing enough students (it wasn’t a final grade-just a middle of the term grade).  It would hurt their feelings.
    1.  I was at a meeting where I was told that moving a child’s seat, because they were talking, hurts their feelings and the teacher could be sent to the rubber room.
    1.  I was told that Admins can change a teacher’s grade and there is nothing I can do about it.  Well, I could go to the press, but no one cares.
    1.  They cut all the tutoring money, but they want the same results.  They didn’t cut the overtime the Admins get.
    1.  Next year will be a bigger hoot with more budget cuts.
    1.  Did I mention that some students are losing their homes, their parents, work full time to support the family so school has become secondary?  Let us not forget the ones with parents that are physically and/or mentally ill, never around or abuse them mentally or physically or sexually (Yes, I report them, but the damage is done.)

    I could go on, but now I need a drink.

    •  I teach in heaven with great scores, but the (0+ / 0-)

      reformers want to change how we teach too.

      I could never teach in a city.

    •  I think we're focussing too much (0+ / 0-)

      on making kids feel good.  

      I TAd a computer programming language class at a university, there was no subjectivity in grading, the kids got it, or they didn't.  I set clear guidelines in grading, and the kids got mad, they had tried to do a good job, and felt they deserved a good grade for effort.

      That's not how life works.  It's ok for there to be consequences for behavior.  We're building kids with a false sense of esteem who are very fragile.

      I'm starting to fight back and asking for more accountability from the kids.

      •  Remember, I teach in heaven, but I fail (0+ / 0-)

        students on every test. When a students gets a 100%, I feel the test was too easy. With the top students, it is a game we play.

        This past year, many students failed classes in our school. We get support from parents, administrators, and the other staff members. Students get a lot of "academic opportunities" to make up lost work, to retake tests, to go through remedial time. Our secretaries even donate time to help some of the students complete work or study for tests.

        Accountability is good.

        •  Good to hear! (0+ / 0-)

          In my daughter's school, the teacher wouldn't announce the name of the boy who ran the most laps in our jogathon, because it would upset another boy.

          I was pretty angry, and he wasn't even my son.  The net effect is that we are rewarding tantrums and discouraging effort and success.

          We can't give out rewards to kids who do really well and reach a goal, unless all the kids get the same thing, so that some kids don't get their feelings hurt.

          Wish my kids were at your school.

  •  Let's just deal with the second blockquote. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    boji

    A boot up the ass solves all learning problems.

    After all, firing squads prevent all gun violence.

    "They pour syrup on shit and tell us it's hotcakes." Meteor Blades

    by JugOPunch on Sun Jun 13, 2010 at 08:31:34 PM PDT

  •  Making my salary tied to kids scores (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Steve In DC, hulagirl

    is idiocy! If I ever decided to return to the classroom [retired after 37 years of service] I would make a number of changes to how I would deal with students. Teachers were forced to make major changes to how we teach when special ed students were mainstreamed in our classes. If my salary were tied to kids test scores an a meaningless state test that kids know will have no effect on their grades and thus, they just "blow it off." Here are the changes that I would do to insure I would get the additional "merit" pay: 1) I would find a good reading test and would test every incoming student to make sure they are at or above grade level in reading [I taught history which is dependent on their ability to read]; 2) any kid not able to read at grade level would be excluded from my classroom and should be given remedial instruction in reading, or I would demand a written understanding that their scores would not effect my pay; 3) any students who are disruptive or have discipline problems would be sent to the office and would not be re-admitted to my class room without a written letter of understanding that since their behavior influences
    the performance of all students in the class none of their scores would have any influence over my pay.

    These problem students are rightfully the problem of the administrators who have passed them on to the next level class when they fail to acquire the necessary skills needed to be successful in the next year's classes. Don't hold teachers salaries hostage to student performance unless schools end "social promotions", mainstreaming, and they are given true student discipline support from the administrators instead of giving the kids just a "slap on the wrist" and sending them back into the same class that they were sent out of first.

    Ken near Gun Lake, A voice crying in the wilderness of Rethug Allegan County.

    by Ken the Troll on Sun Jun 13, 2010 at 08:31:40 PM PDT

  •  Does a school system (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ladybug53, k8dd8d

    need to test students to see if the teachers are failing?  I think any school can tell you which teachers are doing a good job.

    There are so many factors in this, a great teacher can have a really bad year, the kids may unruly so nothing gets done.

    Tests also miss the extras that teachers do that have been cut out because they can't be tested.  Public schools in California do not receive funding for art, music, gym, or much science.  These are vital to kids, although not valued.  Studies have shown that the skills cross over to other areas.  For example, the autistic son of a friend of mine was developing slowly in speech, and was also developing slowly with walking.  To help the speech, they bought a trampoline to help him build strength and coordination that helped with speech as well.  It has been shown that art classes often help with other areas.

    We do need better educational systems and accountability, but if the curriculum is too rigid, it doesn't leave room for the teachers to share their own interests, that can make the learning experience much richer.

    Then, there are things that the schools simply do not teach.  In my daughter's classes, it's all about memorization and reproducing what the teacher does.  Even the art classes copy what the teachers say to do, not allowing for any personal expression.

    Then, there is effort to address personal interaction and teamwork or collaboration.

    And, many of the teachers create a community, sharing ideas so that everyone gets to use the best of the ideas.  If there are personal rewards by comparing one teacher to the next, that sharing will stop.

    I agree there needs to be goals for improving, and to that end, we need to measure, but I fear that the things that can be quantified by measures leave out the soul of what education can be and what we as people need, in addition to the three Rs.

  •  Quality Teachers (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    elfling, ladybug53, k8dd8d, Mike08

    Good evening. First, as a former adminstrator and evaluator of teachers, new teachers should be evaluated early and often during their probationary period and let go if they are not good/great. Average will not cut it. Next, is it only me or are teachers one of the few professions who are under fire again? I teach in California and the thought that the California legislature has the audacity to talk to anyone about accountability, considering their pathetic track record, is outrageous. The banking debacle,Wall Street, the administration prior to Obama's administration (and the list goes on) all failed terribly, yet I see no accountability moment is in the works.

    Lastly, I find it difficult to believe there is a statistical method to measure the value added by a student's teacher during the course of the year based on standardized tests scores. It has been said already but bears repeating, students come to class with tremendous variation in ability, attitudes, family circumstances, and willingness to learn. I understand this and as a teacher must do my best to teach who walks through the door regardless. However, using the same measuring stick (test scores) to gauge all student progress and teacher effectiveness is absurd. I am more than willing to have anyone who wants come to my classes and observe what is happening over the course of the year including other teachers, administrators, and parents.  Most teachers I work with are dedicated, extremely hard working professionals whose first priority is student learning and would welcome any visitation. That being said, there are certain things are beyond our control. Some examples:

    I had many students (probably 20+ out of 175) who missed more than 20 days of school with excused absences, and one who missed 63 days of school out of 181 days of instruction.

    Students whose parents are divorced, as mentioned in an earlier comment. Each case is different and most students are negatively affected

    Double digit numbers of students whose parents lost their homes and their jobs in the last year.

    Students who just don't care about how they do in class. It is not important to them and standardized test scores even less so.

    Most every teacher could relate similar issues, yet we do our best to make it happen in class every day. As stated by a prior commenter, the things we do for students are sometimes not appreciated for years. This is my 25th year in public education and I have had many students tell me I was a "good" teacher years after I taught them, and I don't think it had a lot to do with the curriculum that was taught (physics and chemistry). Good teaching is an amazingly nebulous concept that I do not believe can be quantified in the same way that businesses measure it.

  •  I work in a school with 93% poverty rate (8+ / 0-)

    per the free lunch program.  Many of our kids come to school hungry; I have parents constantly calling to ask where they might find financial help as their utilities are being cut off.  Kids are living in trailers with no electricity, using tap-on lights and candles, and borrowing water from neighbors. , taking showers at grandma's.  In my office I stock pile used clothing and shoes because kids come with their shoes falling apart and clothing in tatters.  Also our students move a lot, many are evicted many times during the school year.  And now our instructional money has been cut way back -- teachers were given $75 to spend for classroom supplies for all next year.  $75 is the ENTIRE budget for each teacher.
      Another school in our county draws its students from one of the richest neighborhoods in the state.  The children at that elementary school routinely go on to very competitive private middle/high schools where the tuition is $18-19,000.  Those children travel over the world, ski vacations in Aspen, etc. They never want for a thing.
      Which school has the better teachers?  I think the teachers at my school work far harder under incredible conditions.  Which school has the lower scores?  Is it the fault of the teachers?  What can't Obama understand that all this "Race to the Top" is ridiculous?  
      Fix the societal problems.  Eliminate povery.  Then, if it seems that schools are not working, then look at the teachers.
       

  •  One Thing You Can Be Sure Of (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tln41, Mike08

    They'll never apply something like this to evaluate/pay/retain/promote administrators.

    This aggression will not stand, man.

    by kaleidescope on Sun Jun 13, 2010 at 10:58:14 PM PDT

  •  It is about money, not quality (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sandblaster, hulagirl, Mike08, sercanet

    Specifically, paying teachers less than they make now. Once everyone can admit that, we can go from there. I see that, and I am not a teacher.

    If the goal was to actually remove bad teachers, you do not need to base that on test scores as it is rather obvious who the bad teachers are.

    How does a teacher make a student care enough about school to actually do homework and study? Is that now their job? So all teachers have to be trained for and add individual behavioral treatment plans into the lesson plans?

    The end result will be quality teachers leaving poor performing school districts, causing a further decline.

    If this is the way public employee salaries should be based, let's start at the top, with state legislatures. Didn't pass the budget on time? That's a pay cut for you! Wait, it was not your fault? You did everything you could to get the budget passed but someone else decided they had other priorities? Nice try. The end result is you did not 'add value'. The 'why' does not matter. If you were a good legislator, you would have found a way to make it happen.

    Did crime go up? Salary cuts for the police department. Obviously, you were not doing enough patrols.

    Roads in your county a mess? Salary cut for the county executives too. What, you didn't have enough money to fix the roads? Well, if you were really a good county executive, you would have found a way.

    25 years ago when I was in high school, there were a few bad teachers. But that did not stop me from learning. If I wanted a good grade, I had to work through it. And I did - in a public school.

    And here I thought just being a teacher added value. Silly me.

  •  It's just a fallacy. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sandblaster, Mike08, sercanet

    What administrators and politicians want is a way to increase the efficiency of their labor force without increasing their payroll. If they can get better teachers without adding more teachers then they can educate better with less money involved.

    The analogy to business is to say that the productivity of people on say an assembly line is measurable and those that don't meet certain standards are fired and replaced. It's a very reasonable and business like way of managing and it seems to make a bunch of common sense. We find the bad teachers and get rid of them.

    The problem is even if you could somehow identify bad teachers there isn't a magical pool of great teachers to draw from. Even if the system of evaluating teachers was completely fool proof you would only know which teachers were better or worse at an administrative level.

    Your pool of teachers will be a bell curve of a few bad teachers, a few good teachers and a lot of average teachers. Instead of spending money trying to figure out who goes exactly where on the bell curve you could more easily just accept that the bell curve exists, that the quality of your labor is going to vary and then create a system that is designed to accommodate the deficiencies of your labor pool. Of course that would ultimately be more expensive and require school boards and politicians to actually do something positive instead of scapegoating teachers.

    The Great Depression: Now In Color!

    by TheChop on Sun Jun 13, 2010 at 11:35:27 PM PDT

  •  Follow the Money (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sandblaster, Mike08, tardis10

    Testing is big money. Therefore, the decision has been made and we will have testing and testing and testing. An educational system based on this idea of "testing is the key to measure educational quality" is nonsense and must in the end fail.

    So when it does, you have to have a scapegoat. Let me tell you who it won't be: the politicians, the administrators, the parents, the vendors, the consultants, the students. Now let me tell you who it will be: the teachers. So the money will flow. And some people will get rich. But education will rot.

  •  Variance (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    chaboard

    I wonder how the UW methodology deals with the inevitable fact that they only have 20-30 (40?) data points (i.e. students) for any teacher in any given year.  If they are trying to control for all these outside factors, they need quite a bit of data to do it.  And they will have quite a bit of variance around their estimates of "value-addedness."  In non-technical terms that means that they will be able to give a number for how much value a teacher adds, but they won't know it very precisely.  It's like saying, "for these 30 kid class our best estimate is 11 value added points, but if the teacher had gotten that class or that other class it could just as easily have been 4 or it might have been 18."  

    I hope they have a good way of dealing with this honestly and forthrightly and clearly because I would suspect that whoever is basing hiring and tenure decisions on these numbers won't or won't want to understand the nuances of them.

    .-. . ..-. . .-. / - --- / - .... . / --- .-. .. --. .. -. .- .-.. / -.. --- - ... / .- -. -.. / -.. .- ... .... . ...

    by delphis on Mon Jun 14, 2010 at 12:03:25 AM PDT

  •  Tacit Knowledge (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sandblaster, Mike08

    Before embarking on sweeping changes based on "performance measurements", Hillsborough County might do well to read a little article in New Scientist called Like riding a bike? by Harry Collins.

    Tacit knowledge is knowledge that is not and sometimes cannot be made explicit.

    Take away tacit knowledge and the human world disappears. Without it, what we think of as knowledge, the "stuff" contained in our books and intellectual artefacts, would make no sense and be no more than noise.

    Much of the basis on which teaching occurs is tacit knowledge, which is perhaps fundamentally unmeasurable. So, measuring value added is a bit of a fool's errand.

    More fundamentally, I question the reasoning behind using student testing to determine teacher pay, tenure or dismissal. This is only being done as an intentional policy to undermine public education. The constant questioning of the effectiveness of our teachers is done (IMO) simply to attack the public schools. Why do that? Because if you can move students out of the public schools to private ones, then you can better control what you teach them. You can dumb them down on essential issues that would allow them to make basic judgments necessary for voting properly in a democracy. You can take away their actual history and substitute a sanitized one conducive to an industrial corporatocracy.

    We should expose this underlying dynamic whenever we talk about testing. Do we really think that we can improve education by making teachers better? This goes against the basic Six Sigma doctrine on quality improvement, which says that in a service industry the people are the least likely cause of the problem, and that the process is the most likely cause. If you wanted to improve education, the first thing you would do is study the process and improve it. What tools are we providing to teachers? What education are we providing them? Are we providing them with the right raw materials? Could we improve the quality of the students they are trying to teach? (Maybe we need to provide better nutrition for these students. Maybe we need to provide them with better out-of-school environments in which to study.)

    This is why I want to see community-based evaluation of education. If we want to improve the results of a school then we should look at what we need to do to improve the quality of life in the community from which the students come.

    This is also why I think we should focus on the New Three Rs: Research, Reason and Results. We should insist that education be built around teaching students how to conduct research, how to reason about the information they find, and how to use these skills to reach effective results.

    This is also why we need to push back on charter schools and private schools. We should be demanding that they show that they are providing the New Three Rs to their students.

    We also need to put standardized testing in its place as a tool, by introducing community evaluation to see what kind of educational services are most appropriate for the communities those services target.

    And, of course, we should balance out the inequities of funding so that everyone gets a fair shot at educational opportunities.

    This is a political fight. We should bring the best we have to this fight. The best we have is to question the premise of these changes and demand real improvements to the educational system based on liberal values.

  •  mathematical formulas = red herring (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    AZphilosopher

    What gets the goat of teachers is being evaluated by supposed experts on teaching who do (or have done) little of it themselves.

    What bothers me about these things is the low quality of the mathematical/statistical metrics used to assess teachers. If one divides 10,000 students into groups of 30, one expects considerable variation among the quality of the groups. In some groups there will be 3 or 4 excellent students, and only 1 or 2 troublemakers. In other groups both numbers will be very different. A perfectly good teacher stuck with difficult students won't get the same out of them or the other students as the same teacher would get out of the same other students in a different context. Too much importance placed on testing and supposedly objective metrics tends to obscure the variability and the human element.

    Said all that, it's plain as day that some teachers are better (at least for some students) than others. Here one should offer the qualifier - what's good for a highly motivated independent student is probably bad for a student who needs a lot of guidance, and the other way around. What are usually the easiest to identify are the small percentage of teachers who are genuinely bad. These come in various flavors - those who simply aren't prepared to be teaching what they are teaching, those who have lost motivation completely, those who can't maintain discipline, etc... Working to improve these teachers, and to minimize their concentration in particular schools, seems the most productive avenue for reform.

    Student evaluations are clearly a bad way to assess teachers. Fundamentally part of education is teaching and motivating students to do difficult things, things they don't want to do, and students tend to, in the moment, dislike that. Demanding teachers tend to get lower evaluations from students. Easy teachers get better ones. So do charismatic teachers. It's not clear to me that the student is in a position to judge whether he has been well taught. Said all that, student evaluations are certainly useful - if a whole class of students finds a teacher bad, abusive, boring, etc. - there usually is a problem. Used carefully, evaluations are helpful for making adjustments in the classroom - but they are not well used if their role is to give the numbers used by the five-year planning bureaucrats.

    The notion that there can be improvement every year, by such and such a percentage in such and such metric, is simply absurd. Students for the most part are the same year after year. Teachers are too. Demands for sudden improvement only result in manipulation of data or lowering of educational standards. It's like what was done in the old Soviet Union with the five-year plans. Production has to increase by %25 each year or your head gets chopped off. Nothing good results from such an approach.

  •  I don't think it is quite so simple to (0+ / 0-)

    get a stat called VOB (value over book) or VORI (value over replacement instructor) in the same way sabermetrics geeks come up with the baseball stats VORP (value over replacement player) or WAR (wins above replacement).

    The reason why is that often an instructor's greatest strength is his or her greatest weakness.  Evaluations from the students select the same 3 or 4 traits and give them either insanely positive or insanely negative reactions.  This has strongly led me to believe that there is a heavy psychological component to teaching.  I think that any sort of measure of value to the students is thus going to be heavily resistant to statistical measure.  I think that not only will the question of student preference be resistant to statistical analysis but so will utility of the course.  To use what I teach as an example, if someone comes into my course with zero innate logical reasoning ability and I get him/her to understand one of the tools that are used in formal logic, haven't I to some extent done my job?

    Reductive measures of educational aptitude do nothing but line the pockets of companies like ETS, Priceton Review, Kaplan et al.  They also reduce education to a transactional game.  Students take classes for scores or grades and that really chiffon cuts my mint leaves (sorry that is a bad joke).

    The best evaluations of instructors come from very unsexy methods, classroom observation and syllabus auditing.

    "Tease the Panther" is the new "Release the Kraken."

    by AZphilosopher on Mon Jun 14, 2010 at 12:35:05 AM PDT

  •  It sounds like this system (0+ / 0-)

    is what would happen if John Dewey and John Stewart Mill had a kid and that kid started bonking superintendents in the head with big rubber mallets.

    "Tease the Panther" is the new "Release the Kraken."

    by AZphilosopher on Mon Jun 14, 2010 at 12:42:20 AM PDT

  •  Look at the big picture - (0+ / 0-)

    A lot of money is being spent on education and a whole lot of people are not happy with the results. This frustration will bring a lot more gimmicks and non-solutions. Remember, the school administrators have to Do Something and do it Now. This is the only possible response to these conditions.

    I voted with my feet. Good Bye and Good Luck America!!

    by shann on Mon Jun 14, 2010 at 12:46:03 AM PDT

  •  Thoughts (3+ / 0-)

    One kid (mine), three test dates, Dec, Jan, May, three scores -- one in the 70s, one in the low 90s, one in the high 90s (percentile scores).  Same kid, average, bright enough, or gifted?  The test scores aren't designed to decide pay or placement.  They help show which kids might need some extra lessons.  The teachers tend to know the results before they are printed up.

    Several teachers.  One confused square and prime numbers.  One was probably the best algebra teacher in the district.  One had major spelling and vocabulary issues.  I would prefer the best algebra teacher in the district over the one who confused square and prime numbers.  (I'm not making this up!)

    Endless curriculum changes.  Every time there's a new text book, the teachers need a few years to pull together lessons and valuable anecdotes, find the typos and the problematic passages.  The district here seems to change text books every couple of years.  They have no idea how to teach middle school math.  The science curriculum changes constantly.  The reading/language arts curriculum changes constantly.  Social studies seems fairly consistent.

    We need to figure out what's effective in the classroom and we should encourage teachers to adopt those strategies that work.  BUT, every classroom has a different mix of personalities, social cohesion, trauma, ability and interest.  So even those really great techniques that actually seem to have been identified probably don't transfer from room to room very well.

    In the end, teaching is a human enterprise and it will have human successes and failures on the part of the students, teachers and administrators.

    I will always prefer to have the teachers who really do know how to "add value" to my kids' brains, but I can't quite say what that value is.  The teacher who had the square and prime numbers confused was my kid's favorite teacher of all time.  And my kid actually "grew" that year in some pretty important ways despite what I think of as a grossly stupid mistake on the part of a teacher.

    We probably need some form of measurement, but it would be awfully nice if those using that measurement had a basic understanding of statistics so they actually knew what it was they were measuring.

  •  objective measures (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    hulagirl, AZphilosopher, Mike08

    You merely touch on the myriad of reasons why measures of achievement are fundamentally unfair to teachers.  I teach English to students whose native language is some other language.  I am given one hour a week to work with my students.  What can I achieve in one hour?  Other teachers contribute to the achievement of my students, not just me, certainly with my one hour.  To whom does the achievement of my students belong?  Me?  the other teachers?

    If one teacher is found to contribute a little less than another, does that mean you really want to fire the teacher who contributes less??  Are you sure you will find someone to take their place who is going to contribute signficantly more?

    The issues go on and on because basically, the idea that you can quantify what a teacher achieves and that doing so produces usable info is bogus from beginning to end.

  •  A Modest Proposal for Teachers. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sandblaster, Steve In DC, tardis10

    You should demand that your classroom be populated only with those students whose parents make over $X-thousand dollars a year, have college degrees, and a single job between them, so there's always a stay-at-home parent.

    Parents who have to work two (or three, or some other uniquely American number) jobs might not be able to focus on their kids' schoolwork as much as they (and you) might like. Food, and clothing, and a roof over their heads might take precedence, and of course, such concerns don't really aid in YOUR career prospects.

    If a kid can't get breakfast in his belly or books on his shelf because his parents can't afford them? You really don't want THAT kid in your classroom.

    And if a kid's a latchkey kid? I think that speaks for itself.

    On the flip side, those parents who have college degrees are MORE likely to focus on the importance of their kids' education. Get enough of those kids in your class, and you'll be sailing into next summer on the new YACHT that your promotion paid for!

    Bottom line: if a school board or state government demands that your job security be tied to test scores, I don't see how they could prevent you from doing everything in your power to maintain job security. Am I right?

    Regards,
    Corporate Dog

    -----
    We didn't elect Obama to be an expedient president. We elected him to be a great one. -- Eugene Robinson

    by Corporate Dog on Mon Jun 14, 2010 at 04:36:08 AM PDT

  •  Value added defined? (0+ / 0-)
    Hi:
    Seems to me that giving a (sophisticated and validated by research) test in the first week or so of the school year, and then one in the last weeks of the school year should provide objective data on a given teacher's "value added" performance.  No?

    Probably this test couldn't be a fill-in-the-box type, at least totally.  There would have to be some show your work math and write a one page essay/story at least.

    Then, of course, if humans grade these stories/essays, subjectivity shows up, unless multiple grades are given by diff scorers.  Now you're getting expensive.

    Maybe an AI scorer?

    One question about the article, mentions 11th grade teacher correcting the errors of the students past 16 years of education... how does an 11th grader have 16 years of education?  I was only 15 in 11th grade...  and didn't start reading when I was 1...  ;-)

    I have no kids, but I have greatly enjoyed seeing my friends' kids grow up to (mostly) be great successes.  So something has worked in the past.

    JR

  •  Great, more administrators, more time on testing (0+ / 0-)

    the testers, more waste.

    Taxpayers want to know why all these administrators?

    Well, taxpayer, it's because of you!!

    There is no doubt that administration has exploded because of our obsession with oversight.

    There are two kinds of people in this world. The kind who divide the world into two kinds of people, and the kind who don't.

    by upstate NY on Mon Jun 14, 2010 at 07:05:42 AM PDT

  •  I think it's great to test- let's test CEO's too, (0+ / 0-)

    and base their compensation or retention on their value-added to the employees and customers.

  •  The ruin of teachers is intentional. (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    fumie, hulagirl, Mike08, tardis10, sercanet

    As long as the Teacher's Unions support Democrats every conservative think tank will continue to sell the story that teachers are getting more than their share and your kids are getting the short end of the stick.

    Privitization is a short term win for some conservatives but the long term goal is to destroy any and all funding mechanisms for Democrats.

    Remember one Party has as its goal to create a One-Party-State.

    Sure schools could be better and Teachers could be better. We all could be better.

    "You know, just because the thing I saw wasn't there doesn't mean there wasn't something there that I didn't see." Ann Althouse, Conservative Thoughtmeister

    by Bill Section 147 on Mon Jun 14, 2010 at 08:35:34 AM PDT

  •  Correlation = Causation (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Mike08, tardis10

    I have come to this thread rather late, but this reminds me of one of the cardinal sins of educational statistics:  correlation = causation.  Just because two things seem to be related, doesn't mean that one caused the other.  You know:  the rooster crows and the sun rises; therefore the rooster causes the sun to rise.  Four out of five gang members chew gum; therefore a ban on chewing gum will eliminate gang violence.  School A does X and is judged successful; School B does Y and is judged unsuccessful.  So, forcing School B to do X will make school B successful.

    Except, of course, School B often gets worse.

    I once worked with an administrator who went to some whiz-bang conference and learned that students who took advanced math courses did better in college.  He concluded that we should require all students to take advanced math courses.  Never once did it occur to him that kids who took advanced math were probably better students to start with.

    So I will posit a correlation of my own:  the perceived decline of education in this country roughly coincides with the decline of real wages and the gradual extinction of the middle class.  Education is a middle-class value.  And it is well documented that children from better-off homes do better in school. After native IQ, the second highest correlation to SAT scores is family income.

    Maybe the best way to improve education in this country is not to fire or starve out the less-adequate teachers and to punish educators in general for schools' perceived failure.  Besides, where is the pool of highly-effective teachers to replace them with?  Could it be that the best way to improve education by raising the standard of living and restoring the middle class?

    I want my government to be big enough to drown Grover Norquist in a bathtub.

    by sercanet on Mon Jun 14, 2010 at 11:35:20 AM PDT

  •  Makes no sense to me to (0+ / 0-)

    evaluate teachers on students' tested progress from grade-to-grade, but evaluation based on progress from tests at beginning and end of one school year does make sense. Tests should not be the sole basis for teacher evaluation, but I don't understand the resistance to making tests part of the evaluation, I would think teachers would welcome that measurement. Teachers should be included in devising the evaluation process. Even with all the variables in students and classrooms, a fair evaluation process should be achievable.

    We entrust our children to teachers and reasonably expect teachers to have accountability through a fair and reasonable process. We are all accountable in our own jobs, so it's difficult to understand why teachers should be exempt.

    I don't read, hear or believe that all teachers are to blame for the less than satisfactory national education standings of our students. I've known too many great teachers (including my mother and sister). I do blame teachers' unions when I read that in some school districts, union rules keep unsuitable teachers in classrooms for years, and take many months and sometimes years of process to fire a teacher. Teachers would elevate their profession by pushing unions to establish higher professional standards and reasonable periods for due process for grievances.

    Slavery is the legal fiction that a person is property. Corporate personhood is the legal fiction that property is a person. -Jan Edwards

    by SoCalSal on Mon Jun 14, 2010 at 05:58:06 PM PDT

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