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If new laws or policies specifically require that teachers be fired if their students’ test scores do not rise by a certain amount, then more teachers might well be terminated than is now the case. But there is not strong evidence to indicate either that the departing teachers would actually be the weakest teachers, or that the departing teachers would be replaced by more effective ones. There is also little or no evidence for the claim that teachers will be more motivated to improve student learning if teachers are evaluated or monetarily rewarded for student test score gains.

That is a quote from the Executive Summary of one of the most important policy briefs about education in recent years.  At a time when the Dept. of Education is pushing to tie teacher evaluation and compensation to student test scores, this Economic Policy Institute Briefing Paper (whose title is the same as this diary, and which is a pdf), pulls together the extensive relevant research that demonstrates the dangers of pursuing such a path.  Please continue reading as I explore this important document, released at 12:01 AM today, August 29.

First, let me clarify several things.

This is a very long diary.  That is because I am trying to reasonably thoroughly cover the contents of an extremely important document.  My purpose in doing so is to convince people of the document's importance.  Thus I will be perfectly happy should you decide you do not need to further read what I have written below.  You can follow the link for the brief (which I have provided you again), download the pdf, and begin reading.  The executive summary is only four pages.  The brief itself, without the critical apparatus of footnotes and sources, another 17.  So if you want, one more time follow this link.

This document has been in the works for several months, and was NOT hurriedly put together as a response to the recent series by the Los Angeles Times which used value-added assessment to label teachers in the Los Angeles Unified School District.  Second, the ten scholars whose names are on the document are some of the most eminent in educational circles, including among their midst former Presidents of the American Educational Research Association and the National Council on Measurement in Education, two of the three professional organizations most involved with psychological measurement, of which school-related testing is a subset.  One of the scholars, Robert Linn, has not only presided over both of those organizations, he has also serve as chair of the National Research Council's Board on Testing and Assessment.  The group also includes the immediate past president of the National Academy of Education, Lorrie Shepard, Dean of the School of Education at Colorado.  A brief and applicable curricula vitae of each of the ten authors can be found at the end of the document, and briefer descriptions at the beginning, where each author is listed, along with the following statement:  

Authors, each of whom is responsible for this brief as a whole, are listed alphabetically.

 An email address is provided for further contact.

The ten authors, alphabetically, are as follows:
Eva L. Baker
Paul E. Barton
Linda Darling-Hammond
Edward Haertel
Helen F. Ladd
Robert E. Linn
Diane Ravitch
Richard Rothstein
Richard J. Shavelson
Lorrie A. Shepard

Let me be blunt.  I do not know how anyone who knows the work of these scholars and who reads this brief can accept the idea of placing any stakes as to firing or awarding of merit pay based on the current status of Value-Added Assessment methodologies.  The document is thorough.  It reviews all the relevant studies, including one not yet in print.  Those includes studies by Mathematica for the US Department of Education: by Rand: by the Educational Testing Service;  done for the National Center for Education Statistics of the Institute of Education Sciences of the U. S. Dept. of Education; issued by the Board of Testing and Assessment of the Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education of the National Academy of Sciences, and so on.  There are citations from books, from peer reviewed journals.  

I am not a scholar.  I am a high school social studies teacher.  During now abandoned doctoral studies in educational policy I got interested in value-added assessment and devoured what studies there were in the educational literature.  I also talked extensively with the technical person for one organization that offered a value-added methodology who cautioned me that the approach was not stable enough for it to be used as the basis for decisions with any kind of meaningful stakes.  That was about a decade ago.  What I had read since, and what I have absorbed from this study convinces me that the situation is not significantly better now.  

But you do not have to take my word for it.   Let me offer a few key examples from the study.  Those who follow me on Daily Kos already have seen in the study by Mathematica the high rate of error in determining superior and inferior teachers beyond the broad middle.  In this diary, written on August 27, I noted that the error rate with 2 years of data was 36%, with 3 years 26%, and even with 10 years of data still 12%.  

But that is just the tip of the iceberg of the technical problems with using such an approach.  

Without recapitulating the entire brief, let me offer a couple of other key points.

  1.  Results for individual teachers are not stable:  

One study found that across five large urban districts, among teachers who were ranked in the top 20% of effectiveness in the first year, fewer than a third were in that top group the next year, and another third moved all the way down to the bottom 40%. Another found that teachers’ effectiveness ratings in one year could only predict from 4% to 16% of the variation in such ratings in the following year.

  1.  One key question is whether one is really accounting for teacher effects and excluding other influences in the results one gets from value-added assessment.  Jesse Rothstein reported something interesting, about which I quote from the Executive Summary:  

A study designed to test this question used VAM methods to assign effects to teachers after controlling for other factors, but applied the model backwards to see if credible results were obtained. Surprisingly, it found that students’ fifth grade teachers were good predictors of their fourth grade test scores. Inasmuch as a student’s later fifth grade teacher cannot possibly have influenced that student’s fourth grade performance, this curious result can only mean that VAM results are based on factors other than teachers’ actual effectiveness.

  1.  The brief notes that arguments that the private sector evaluates professional employees using quantitative measures that are parallel.  The authors of the brief point out that rarely are such quantitative measures the sole or even the primary factor, noting that management experts warning against using such measures for making salary or bonus decisions.  They remind us that some of the distortion on Wall Street was the result of emphasizing short term gains that could be easily measured.  They also touch on medicine:  

In both the United States and Great Britain, governments have attempted to rank cardiac surgeons by their patients’ survival rates, only to find that they had created incentives for surgeons to turn away the sickest patients.

  1.  Students are not randomly assigned to teachers.  While some control for school effects is possible, scholars are reluctant to place any weight on comparisons for teachers in different schools even within the same system. And even within a school, teachers may have varying numbers of students who are learning English or have learning disabilities or are homeless or who move multiple times, each of which is a factor that can affect learning.
  1.  Sample sizes are often too small.  Even if the class makeup stays stable during the year, and all the students show up regularly, the N=30 of a large elementary class is too small a sample to provide a result that can allow strong inferences to be drawn.  Often the makeup of the class changes during the year.  If you exclude students who were not there all year, or whose absences exceed some designated level, the N decreases, providing a result of even less reliability.  
  1.  Some argue that statewide data banks can address the question of student mobility.  But if you derive results on a year or two years of data where the student has moved, how much of the improvement can properly be assigned to any one teacher?  Even in elementary school, do we account for pull-out instruction, or possible tutoring (that could in some cases be counterproductive) as a possible influence on the test results upon which we base our analysis?
  1. Even with value-added analysis, to date scholars have not been able to isolate the impact of outside learning experiences, home and school supports, and differences in student characteristics and starting points when trying to measure their growth.
  1. A proper system of value-added assessment would have vertically scaled tests.  Most states do not currently have such tests, for example, neither New York nor California does.  That is, the tests in one grade are not necessarily congruent with those of the next along a continuum from year to year -  we are not testing the same thing each year.  As testing expert Dan Koretz of Harvard is quoted as noting,

"because of the need for vertically scaled tests, value-added systems may be even more incomplete than some status or cohort-to-cohort systems"

  Here it is worth noting that cohort to cohort is comparing this year's fourth graders to last years, which is how Adequate Yearly Progress under No Child Left Behind has been calculated.  

  1.  If measuring end of year to end of year, even if there are vertically scaled tests, there is still the well-documented issue of summer learning loss, which falls disproportionally upon those of lesser economic means, which also means it falls disproportionally upon those of color, who are more heavily represented at the lower end of the economic scale.  IF we do not control for summer learning loss, our results are skewed.  Allow me to quote a relevant portion of the study:

researchers have found that three-fourths of schools identified as being in the bottom 20% of all schools, based on the scores of students during the school year, would not be so identified if differences in learning outside of school were taken into account. Similar conclusions apply to the bottom 5% of all schools.

 The authors also cite a study that shows "two-thirds of the difference between the ninth grade test scores of high and low socioeconomic status students can be traced to summer learning differences over the elementary years."

There is more, but this should give a real sense of how much there is in this paper, how thoroughly the authors examine relevant material to demonstrate that value-added assessment, the supposed magic bullet to allow us to tie student learning back to the effectiveness of teachers, cannot properly fulfill the task some wish to give to it.

The authors acknowledge that value-added approaches are superior to some of the alternatives methods of using test scores to evaluate teachers.  These are

status test-score comparisons -  compare average scores of students of one teacher to those of another

over change measures - compare the average test results of a single teacher from one year to the next -  remember, these are different students

over growth measures - a comparison of the scores of the students of the teacher this year to the scores of those same students the previous year when they had different teachers.

Each of these approaches has serious problems with it. One can read the detailed explanation on p. 9.  Value-added assessments may be an improvement, but

the claim that they can "level the playing field" and provide reliable, valid, and fair comparisons of individual teachers is overstated. Even when student demographic characteristics are taken into account, the value-added measures are too unstable (i.e., vary widely) across time, across the classes that teachers teach, and across tests that are used to evaluate instruction, to be used for the high-stakes purposes of evaluating teachers.

Let me offer a few of the quotes about value-added assessment that the authors of the brief offer from scholars who have examined the approach over the years, and then I will offer a few observations of my own.

in 2003, a research team at Rand concluded

The research base is currently insufficient to support the use of VAM for high-stakes decisions about individual teachers or schools.

In 2004, Donald Rubin opined

We do not think that their analyses are estimating causal quantities, except under extreme and unrealistic assumptions.

Henry Braun, then at ETS, offered this in 2005:  

VAM results should not serve as the sole or principal basis for making consequential decisions about teachers. There are many pitfalls to making causal attributions of teacher effectiveness on the basis of the kinds of data available from typical school districts. We still lack sufficient understanding of how seriously the different technical problems threaten the validity of such interpretations.

Last year the Board on Testing and Assessment of the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences wrote to the Department of Education saying

...VAM estimates of teacher effectiveness should not be used to make operational decisions because such estimates are far too unstable to be considered fair or reliable.

Finally, this year, a report of a workshop run jointly by The National Research Council and the National Academy of Education offered this:  

Value-added methods involve complex statistical models applied to test data of varying quality. Accordingly, there are many technical challenges to ascertaining the degree to which the output of these models provides the desired estimates. Despite a substantial amount of research over the last decade and a half, overcoming these challenges has proven to be very difficult, and many questions remain unanswered...

Let me repeat that last sentence, written this year:  Despite a substantial amount of research over the last decade and a half, overcoming these challenges has proven to be very difficult, and many questions remain unanswered...

And yet this administration wants to move ahead with using student test scores, perhaps analyzed through value-added assessment methodologies, as a significant component of teacher evaluation.  It is including this as part of the criteria to win Race to the Top Funds.  In fairness, the Department does not specify using value-added (although anything else is far worse) nor does it specify what percentage of the evaluation is to depend upon the test scores - both of these decisions are still left to the states, some of which have left themselves wiggle room in their applications, using terms like "significant" to indicate the proportion of the evaluation that will depend upon student test scores.

The original Bush proposal for No Child Left Behind, as it went up on the White House website shortly after the inauguration of the 43rd president, proposed giving a 1% bonus of Title I money to schools that would give parents the value-added scores of the teachers of their students.   That, fortunately, did not make it into the final legislation.  Now we have the Los Angeles Times action, about which the Secretary of Education has offered a somewhat mixed and confusing response, even as he seems to support the idea of using such evaluations in assessing of teachers.  Since the Times story broke we have seen some who write or advocate about education who have praised what the paper did, while others have condemned it.  While mine might not be a major voice on education, I find myself very much in the latter camp.

One problem is that too many who write about education are close to ignorant about the limits of the information one can get from various kinds of assessment. We tend to what hard numbers as a society, we are obsessed with comparisons and rankings.  In the process we often give far more credence to quantitative measures than they warrant.

I do not dispute that tests, including tests external to the school, have some utility.  I also recognize that value-added assessment is beginning to offer some useful additional information.  By itself that information is not sufficiently reliable that people's livelihoods should be either solely or heavily determined by the information they provide.  They MAY indicate a teacher outside the norm - either well above or well below - but as the various studies you will encounter in this brief demonstrate, that is not necessarily the case, the results are not yet stable for individual teachers from year to year, we do not yet know how to properly control for non-instructional factors that can influence the scores upon which the analysis is based, nor can we properly distribute responsibility for student learning among the different adults who interact with a child at school.

I am a high school teacher. Let me offer a hypothetical -  if I do more work in a social studies class on a particular kind of writing and that is what is assessed on the English exam, does the English teacher properly deserve the credit or blame for how students do on that part of the test?  Those of us who teach in high school are aware that students often learn about our content either in other classes or from interactions outside of our classroom.  Sometimes what they learn is correct and increases their performance in our class, sometimes it is incorrect and undercuts what we are instructing.  To date, even value-added assessment is insufficient to control for such influences and allow proper inferences to be drawn about the actual impact of the teacher upon the learning of the students.

I have only explored a small portion of the material in the brief.  You can download it without paying. If you are worried about whether you will be able to understand the contents, don't.  You can start with the executive summary, in which you will find most of the key takeaways, written in language and presented in a style that is easily accessible.  It is a bit less than four pages.   The brief itself runs from pages 5-21,   followed by three columns (over a page and a half) of footnotes,  and 5 columns (over three and half pages) of sources.  You can read through the brief without having to check the footnotes, or you can if you want glance at the back to see who is being cited if that is not clear in the text.

Let me clear.  The authors are not opposed to value-added assessment.  They are not even opposed to it being included in the process of teacher evaluation, although they offer some serious cautions that policy makers would be well advised to consider.

The title is accurate -  there are still serious problems with using test scores to evaluate teachers.  These problems are not solved by resorting to a value-added methodology.

We need to be careful not to denigrate nor discourage our teaching corps.  We will not improve education if the end result of our efforts is to drive away the very teachers who most connect with students, who are able to inspire those students to persist when they are struggling, who are willing to take on the harder to teach.  We have other methods of ascertaining whether teachers are in fact effective.  We should not be abandoning them in favor of quantitative measures that cannot, as yet, fully carry the load.

The authors of this study have enough prestige that one can hope our media will give some attention to it.  Those responsible for educational policy at local, state and national levels are not doing their jobs if they are unwilling to read and be sure they understand the implications of this brief.  

That said, and adding that I will try to bring to the attention of as many policy makers as I can, I do not have high hopes that our wrongheaded headlong pursuit of quantitative measures of teacher effectiveness can even be slowed. I will add what voice I have to the efforts of these scholars.  Perhaps after you read the brief, you will add yours?

Thanks.

Originally posted to teacherken on Sat Aug 28, 2010 at 09:01 PM PDT.

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  •  This is a long diary (175+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Pat K California, JekyllnHyde, Joe Bob, Donna Z, opendna, Odysseus, Ivan, Liberal Thinking, Geenius at Wrok, tin woodswoman, emal, Reino, janinsanfran, bread, TechBob, Emerson, rasbobbo, bronte17, bluesteel, retrograde, otto, markmatson, Ignacio Magaloni, Clues, corncam, Major Tom, fumie, revsue, kelaguys, TexDem, leevank, BMarshall, mistersite, dwahzon, Tillie630, SDorn, barbwires, Matt Esler, parkslopper50, JayDean, BigDuck, vacantlook, Daddy Bartholomew, Josiah Bartlett, greeseyparrot, TexH, historys mysteries, 3goldens, fljelad, Sparkalepsy, lilypew, newfie, grimjc, dewtx, fixxit, cfk, ladybug53, Burned, paxpdx, rb608, joseph rainmound, wiscmass, CentralMass, JanL, webranding, martini, rserven, Shef, BachFan, Starseer, fiddler crabby, anastasia p, luckydog, jwhitmill, blueoasis, triv33, philipmerrill, bubbanomics, tcquad, se portland, paul2port, ER Doc, Unitary Moonbat, Cassiodorus, airmarc, Johnathan Ivan, Temmoku, Leap Year, bmcphail, bluicebank, dotsright, wa ma, Tony Barr PA09, jhecht, FWIW, Steve In DC, joyful, WiddieDawg, chicago jeff, jnhobbs, Moderation, uciguy30, GeorgeXVIII, brklyngrl, joycemocha, codeman38, elwior, theunreasonableHUman, monkeybrainpolitics, alliedoc, Lujane, banger, sam storm, luckylizard, Virginia mom, DixieDishrag, lenzy1000, Quilldriver, Justanothernyer, David Futurama, bluegrass50, weaponsofmassdeception, not a cent, be the change you seek, proud2Bliberal, WiseFerret, h bridges, XerTeacher, JesseCW, virginwoolf, asym, ZilV, allep10, OTpat, joe from Lowell, Dichro Gal, BrooklynWeaver, not this time, miss SPED, princss6, SmartAleq, mjbleo, k8dd8d, gulfgal98, Lady Libertine, ItsSimpleSimon, washunate, Oh Mary Oh, catlady, SkylarkingTomFoolery, xgy2, StateofEuphoria, BlueJessamine, ardyess, ontheleftcoast, itisuptous, Teiresias70, princesspat, Ebby, mydailydrunk, dle2GA, thariinye, Fresno, Grandma Susie, worldlotus, zapus, Ezekial 23 20, RockyLabor, Azazello, jacey, Tentwenty, Shakespeares Sister, OHknighty, We Won, Free Jazz at High Noon

    but there was much to cover.  I did say just below the fold that if I had convinced you to read the brief, I would not at all mind if you stopped reading my words.

    The brief is significant.  The researchers are all willing to stand behind the entire thing.  This is information that should have been a part of the decision making on designing, for example, Race to the Top.  It absolutely has to be considered as yet again the Congress attempts to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (of which what we know as No Child Left Behind is the current incarnation, and which should have been reauthorized several years ago).

    I will monitor this diary, and I am willing to engage in dialog.  My primary purpose in writing the diary was to encourage people to read the Brief.  Certainly you can take the time to read at least the Executive Summary.  That by itself will for many people make them more aware of the issues around value-added assessment and of using student test scores in any fashion as a means of teacher evaluation.  

    Thanks for reading.

    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 Sat Aug 28, 2010 at 03:55:37 PM PDT

    •  this has now left the Recommended list (26+ / 0-)

      and it is approaching 3 AM.  Contrary to what some here - and among my students - may believe, I actually do sleep.  I need to get some rest.

      I will check on this again in the morning.

      I will I suppose as it scrolls out of sight put up links in open threads.  There are some who will encounter it in a few hours when they awaken.

      Thanks to all who have read.  If you think the diary is worthwhile, I thank you again.  If you choose to pass on the link for the diary, I am honored.  If not that, please consider passing on the link for the Policy Brief.  That is what is really important.

      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 Sat Aug 28, 2010 at 11:46:34 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Yes, too long for me now. I bookmarked it. (11+ / 0-)

      On my way to the NSF for a week.

      Although you are a high school teacher and I am a college teacher, I hope there are still parallels.  You are trained.  I am not.  Other differences ...

      My last kid just graduated high school and headed to college.  

      Ken, how much of learning is readiness that is started at home?  When I think about my kids, they are like their parents.  Always taking the classes that are going to hurt their GPAs the most, never pandering for extra points, stuff like that.  Just plain making things difficult.  If my son had not taken honors English, he would have not had those two semesters of C and who knows?

      As a teacher, I really emphasize learning.  I take what I have given them and tweak it for the exams.  I am not a popular teacher.

      So, what I am thinking is, don't the "easy way out" types just teach to the test?  When I wonder why the quality of the student seems to be decreasing, my colleague says to me ... No child left behind.  They teach to the test.

      Is that true?

      The true danger in politics is when people in power elevate ideological purity over their basic humanity, empathy, and common sense. -- thereisnospoon

      by alliedoc on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 05:18:13 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Long diary it may be... (23+ / 0-)

      but absolutely necessary, as is the policy paper.  

      I spent a good deal of yesterday reading through student writing samples and determining how to best meet their needs.

      Then I remembered I had a strict curriculum to follow because we have the CSAP (Colorado Student Assessment Program).  I'll have to work now to make sure that I'm hitting each grade-level-expectation-target (those most tested by the CSAP) at least once per quarter, and yet - unfortunately as a secondary concern - also working to develop my students where they need it most.

      Oh, and I work in an economically disadvantaged area; my school became a Title I school this year.

      Thank you, teacherken.  Thank you, and the writers of the brief.  I only hope that someone will listen.

      "There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them." - Joseph Brodsky

      by Shakespeares Sister on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 06:57:31 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  One Colorado Congressman (12+ / 0-)

        who sits on the House Committee on Education and Labor has had the link for my diary and an explanation sent to him.  I do not know if Jared Polis will read it all, but I know he cares deeply enough about education and respects sufficiently what I do that at a minimum he will glance at the brief and may ask his LA for education to read and summarize it for him.

        You can pass it on to others.  Perhaps you think my diary is a good introduction, perhaps you think it sufficient just to pass on the link for the policy brief.  The latter is the most important, getting as many people as possible to read the brief.

        I know of several other educational bloggers who already have or soon will post on the brief.  I know that my tweeting about this diary has had some retweeting.  The diary is posted on several educational blogs as well, and i have used a number of lists in which I participate to make more people aware of the brief, and some of them have passed it on to other networks.

        We can hoep that it will make a difference.

        "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 Aug 29, 2010 at 07:06:49 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  NewYork TImes editors should read this report (10+ / 0-)

          Today's NYTimes lead editorial endorses Race to the Top 'reforms' that mandate a percentage of teacher evaluations be based on standardized test scores.

          I am so disappointed that their editorial board blindly endorses policies destructive to public education.  

          Maybe they will read your diary.

        •  And again, (6+ / 0-)

          thank you - this time for sending it to Polis.  I have already passed it on to others, and had I known about it before I woke up this morning, I probably would have posted about it too.

          I've posted in the past on this site about how testing is taking the teaching out of education, now I'm just glad that someone trying to prove it.

          "There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them." - Joseph Brodsky

          by Shakespeares Sister on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 07:27:04 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Jared is my congressman (10+ / 0-)

          and while we disagree on charter schools and distance "learning" especially, he's generally pretty receptive to at least hearing new ideas.  (even if his scheduler at the Boulder office doesn't return e-mails...)

          A glaring disappointment, however, was his support earlier this year of a state-level bill that will tie teacher evaluation to performance on test scores.  Rep. Polis didn't have anything to do with shapherding it through the process, but his opposition would have been greatly appreciated - even as we recognize that we need to keep our own base from splintering before we start working on the federal congresscritters.

          The Colorado NEA affiliate (+/- 40,000 members) opposed and fought it, but found ourselves undermined by both the hair-on-fire framing of the bill's backers and the capitulation of Colorado's AFT affiliate at a critical moment in the debate.  Their 2500 members don't represent much of our state (they're almost all in one Denver-area district), but their national imprimatur was used by our enemies to show "union support."  Classic divide and conquer - and since we had kind of figured that the AFT folks would stand strong with their fellow workers against an odious law, we played right into their the hands of the edu-haters.

          Sickest part of the punch line?  The divisive, bilious law was rammed through as part of Colorado's application for Race to the Trough money - and we weren't on the list of final recipients announced earlier this week.  A bunch of us are still asking, "Our souls were sold for this?"

          The historian's one task is to tell the thing as it happened. -- Lucian of Samosata

          by Unitary Moonbat on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 09:53:27 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  My school district (7+ / 0-)

        is piloting "standards based" curriculum at 5 schools this year. On the surface, it sounds good: kids work at their own level, no one is allowed to "fail," successful kids get to a higher ranking, teaching is individualized.

        But, reading more about it, it started to sound unreasonably punitive both to teachers and students.

        As a society we seem to hold two opposing views of education: That public education is a shambles and no children are learning, and at the same time that schools are responsible for providing every need in a child's life. Not only do we expect teachers to help them learn grammar, composition and algebra, we also expect teachers to teach "character," to be watchful for signs of abuse or trouble at home, to provide food and clothing for impoversihed kids, to teach abstinence to drugs, alcohol and sex, and to see to it that every student attains a degree of self-mastery by 18.

        Policy reflects both views in tandem. Teachers need to be whipped into shape, because they are so terrible at their jobs. Teachers need to provide positive, individual education to every child, as well as seeing that students are healthy, have self-esteem, and are equipped with a strong standards, values, character, and civic responsibility.

        Well, which is it? Are teachers so valuable and important that they represent the single, total, most important influence in the success or failure of a person? Or are they all a bunch of summer-vacation-taking freeloaders who don't want to work?

        No one can thrive in an environment where they are told simultaneously that they are not valued and are rotten at their job, and that their job is so important that the future of life as we know it depends on how they do it.

        "YOPP!" --Horton Hears a Who

        by Reepicheep on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 12:09:38 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  apologies, but am going to have to leave (6+ / 0-)

      this for a while.  Since it was posted shortly after midnight, I have spent something like 6 hours monitoring it and responding to comments.  

      I have had little sleep - only a bit more than 3 hours.

      I must before I crash get a set of papers corrected, graded, and the scores into the computer.

      I have to lay out the plans for my non-AP classes for the week (which I cannot do until I grade those papers) and post the plans for both AP and non AP on my web page.

      While I am doing that I need to be doing a wash - sheets, towels, underwear.  

      While I don't think my constant presence is necessary.  I will return from time to time to see if there is anything needing my immediate attention, and will read all additional comments eventually.

      Thanks to all for the high level of discussion.

      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 Aug 29, 2010 at 07:53:27 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  The flaw with doing any of this at the fed level (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      elfling

      is that it is so complex we need to try many different ways to see what works. What works in one area may not work in another what works today may not work well tomorrow. The federal govt cant really mandate much that is relevant.

      The best way to measure results is by measuring the demand by parents for their children to attend a school. Public school vouchers which would let kids attend their choice of public schools (not private) would help. The vouchers dont even have to give choice to more than a few schools. Two schools competing for student dollars might even be sufficient to cause improvement in both schools.

      Lower income or more difficult kids could actually get more $ to represent the higher level of difficulty in teaching them.

    •  This was a long diary, but I read every word. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      not this time

      Standardized testing can be useful for evaluating schools and districts, if it's used properly, by people who understand and care about it's capacities and limitations.

      But it can be be quite pernicious if it's used improperly, and it's often seized upon by demagogues.

      Art is the handmaid of human good.

      by joe from Lowell on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 09:06:29 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Okay, back for a while (3+ / 0-)

      and see after I took time to correct and grade papers in, get my laundry growing and start irrigating trees and shrubs, this has picked up an additional 100+ comments.  Let me catch up with those before I move on to other things, like beginning the next round of calls to parents.

      I may not be able to answer in the detail I was doing before, but I will read all comments now here.

      "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 Aug 29, 2010 at 09:44:51 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Thanks (4+ / 0-)

      I am a teacher educator at a small state university with a nationally recognized educational leadership and research program. I forwarded the report to my colleagues

    •  I am now leaving this diary (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Daddy Bartholomew, Fresno

      I am aware that some people are still posting comments.  I only had about 3.5 hours sleep last night, and to be fair to my students I need to go to bed and get at least 9.  I get up at 5, so I am going to pack it in.

      I will glance at any comments I have not yet read.  I do not expect to be responding further.  By now things are getting repetitive.

      Thanks to all who took the time to read and to discuss with one another.

      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 Aug 29, 2010 at 05:26:34 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Let me try one more time to convince you (40+ / 0-)

    by posting the brief bios, and one or two long bios.

    The brief info on the authors:

    EVA L. BAKER is professor of education at UCLA, co-director of the National Center for Evaluation Standards and Student Testing (CRESST), and co-chaired the committee to revise testing standards of the American Psychological Association, the American Educational Research Association, and the National Council on Measurement in Education.

    PAUL E. BARTON
    is the former director of the Policy Information Center of the Educational Testing Service and associate director of the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

    LINDA DARLING-HAMMOND is a professor of education at Stanford University, former president of the American Educational Research Association, and a member of the National Academy of Education.

    EDWARD HAERTEL is a professor of education at Stanford University, former president of the National Council on Measurement in Education, Chair of the National Research Council’s Board on Testing and Assessment, and a former chair of the committee on methodology of the National Assessment Governing Board.

    HELEN F. LADD is professor of Public Policy and Economics at Duke University and president-elect of the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management.

    ROBERT L. LINN
    is a distinguished professor emeritus at the University of Colorado, and has served as president of the National Council on Measurement in Education and of the American Educational Research Association, and as chair of the National Research Council’s Board on Testing and Assessment.

    DIANE RAVITCH is a research professor at New York University and historian of American education.

    RICHARD ROTHSTEIN is a research associate of the Economic Policy Institute.

    RICHARD J. SHAVELSON is a professor of education (emeritus) at Stanford University and former president of the American Educational Research Association.

    LORRIE A. SHEPARD is dean and professor, School of Education, University of Colorado at Boulder, a former president of the American Educational Research Association, and the immediate past president of the National Academy of Education.

    Here's one full bio:  

    ROBERT L. LINN is a distinguished professor emeritus of education at the University of Colorado and is a member of the National Academy of Education and a Lifetime National Associate of the National Academies. He has served as president both of the American Educational Research Association and the National Council on Measurement in Education, and has chaired the National Research Council’s Board on Testing and Assessment. Dr. Linn has published more than 250 journal articles and chapters in books dealing with a wide range of theoretical and applied issues in educational measurement. His research explores the uses and interpretations of educational assessments, with an emphasis on educational accountability systems. He has received the Educational Testing Service Award for Distinguished Service to Measurement, the E.L Thorndike Award, the E.F. Lindquist Award, the National Council on Measurement in Education Career Award, and the American Educational Research Association Award for Distinguished Contributions to Educational Research. Dr. Linn has been editor of the Journal of Educational Measurement and of the third edition of the handbook, Educational Measurement. He has also chaired the National Academy of Education’s Committee on Social Science Research Evidence on Racial Diversity in Schools, and the Committee on Student Achievement and Student Learning of the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards.

    and here's another:  

    EVA L. BAKER is a Distinguished Professor of Education at UCLA, where she co-directs the National Center for Evaluation Standards and Student Testing (CRESST) and the Center for Advanced Technology in Schools. She co-chaired the Committee for the Revision of Standards for Educational Testing and Assessment, the core guiding document for the use of tests in the United States, sponsored by the American Psychological Association, the American Educational Research Association, and the National Council on Measure- ment in Education. Dr. Baker has also served as chair of the Board of Testing and Assessment of the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences, and the National Assessment of Educational Progress Committee on Writing Assessment. She has been president of the American Educational Research Association, the Educational Psychology Division of the American Psychological Association, and is the current president of the World Education Research Association. She has numerous awards from organizations including the Educational Testing Service, The American Council on Testing, and the Iowa Testing Program. Her extensive publications have included topics such as teacher evaluation, assessment design and validity, accountability, and the use of technology in educational and training systems. She is currently an advisor on accountability and assessment to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, and has advised nations such as the United Kingdom, Australia, Germany, and South Korea on their accountability and assessment systems. She has also served as an advisor to the U.S. Departments of Education, Defense, Labor, and Energy, to U.S. Congressional staff and committees, and to numerous state agencies and legislatures.

    Now, if you STILL have not done so, PLEASE, go and read the brief.  Here's the link.

    "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 Sat Aug 28, 2010 at 04:24:21 PM PDT

  •  Glancing thru your key points is an eye opener (39+ / 0-)

    This first one (and I suspect that was intentional) is amazing

    Results for individual teachers are not stable:  
    One study found that across five large urban districts, among teachers who were ranked in the top 20% of effectiveness in the first year, fewer than a third were in that top group the next year, and another third moved all the way down to the bottom 40%.

    What this says to me is using test scores to rate teachers is like having them by lottery tickets. It's random, a roll of the dice, a spin of the wheel. And all dressed up under the disguise of accountability.

    Going back to read more, I'll probably have some additional comments on this. Thank you for posting this.

    Those who forget the lessons of history are probably watching Glenn Beck.

    by ontheleftcoast on Sat Aug 28, 2010 at 09:08:30 PM PDT

    •  it is one of several eye-openers (25+ / 0-)

      I got the link for the embargoed brief several days ago.  I immediately read the executive summary and knew how important it was.  It was later that day that I was able to go through the entire report.  I am hoping that this diary gets traction so that more people will know about it.

      I have already sent the link to a half dozen members of Congress, and to staffers for several dozen more.

      "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 Sat Aug 28, 2010 at 09:15:12 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  but this is obvious (11+ / 0-)

      Well, unfortunately, your point is not obvious. But I think oyu're right, and it really is to anyone with some background in statistics - you have 20,000 students and you assign them in blocks of 40 to 50 different classrooms. One does not expect all the classrooms to have exactly the same distribution of students. Think only of `really good' students. One expects (this could be made a formal, precise mathematical statement, but that's not useful here) one or two of those 50 classrooms to have maybe 3 or 4 or even 5 `really good' students, and one or two of those 50 classrooms to have only 1 or none at all. So equally good teachers (whatever that means) might have classrooms with rather different profiles. When one throws into the mix the effect of important factors like demographics (one teacher might have 20 out of 40 students from a high poverty background, the other might have 1 out of 40), what one expects is that student test scores reflect as much all these random factors as much as they do the quality of the teaching.

      Another comment - the premise that increasing test scores means teaching is good seems to me at the best misguided.

      •  You raise good points... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Sparhawk, Justanothernyer

        but here is my concern...

        When one throws into the mix the effect of important factors like demographics (one teacher might have 20 out of 40 students from a high poverty background, the other might have 1 out of 40

        Should we allow teachers to be held less accountable by test scores because their students are primarily, all, a little, from a high poverty background?  What's the formula we should employ to discount a teacher's expected effectiveness because of teaching impoverished kids?  Are we really willing to go down that slippery slope?  I know it has been subtext for years among some, but i don't believe that this is necessarily true.  I was an impoverished kid but did pretty well for myself despite having to fight tooth and nail against low expectations among those who were paid to teach me, not only because of my poverty but because of my race and gender.  To say, my teachers would be less accountable to ensure, I did well on my tests, would be an epic failure of public education.  

        •  Improve student placement (0+ / 0-)

          Keep the test evaluation. We blame our officials for bad response to a disaster as if they could be prepared for all possibilities but let our other public employees off the hook. Usually they do a good job but keeping the pressure on has it's benefits in fostering a culture of high expectations.

        •  Your assumption is that accountability... (12+ / 0-)

          can only be achieved through relying mostly on test score measures. I agree with you that we hold teachers accountable, but that's far more likely to be effective and sane with sufficient observation by trained peers than with test scores.

          •  No... (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Reepicheep, Justanothernyer

            not at all...I see evaluation as the most objective measure in an imperfect world.  Peer review is too subjective and would open up another can of worms, lawsuits.  We have to go to the root of the problem which is children's academic achievement.  I think we remove children from the center of the solution when we focus on what other teachers think of each other.  

            •  But not all achievment can be measured (4+ / 0-)

              linearly or objectively.

              Most of us can look back and think of one or two teachers that really motivated us. Their classrooms were interesting, and it was clear that they enjoyed teaching and had a gift for teaching. They engaged us. They made us go the extra mile, because we valued their praise.

              Those are the people that schools need to attract and keep. How can you measure that on a scantron test?

              To offer a metaphor: would the Academy Awards be more "fair" and "objective" if every actor was evaluated by a standardized movie test?

              "YOPP!" --Horton Hears a Who

              by Reepicheep on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 12:18:52 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Agreed... (0+ / 0-)

                it can't all be measured.  However, that doesn't stop these measures from being used to decide the future of children.  As a result, I'm dealing the hand that was dealt.  When applying to schools, I can't necessarily footnote the results.  

        •  you are thinking personally not statistically (4+ / 0-)

          You use yourself as an example and you are correct when you state that a teacher's expectations will have some impact on student performance. But it is statistically relevant  to look at economic indicators when it has been shown that school readiness and the subsequent availability of home support impacts academic success.

          Infidels in all ages have battled for the rights of man, and have at all times been the advocates of truth and justice... Robert Ingersol

          by BMarshall on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 09:59:26 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  In many cases... (0+ / 0-)

            But it is statistically relevant  to look at economic indicators when it has been shown that school readiness and the subsequent availability of home support impacts academic success.

            Schools that are successful in the inner cities are not bringing up these variables.  They are producing or the lack of both factors you mentioned.  

            •  be careful (5+ / 0-)

              we still lack longitudinal studies on many of the supposed successes in inner city schools, some of which are so classified on the basis of one or two grades and not the whole school.  And remember, that is success just on tests -  we do not yet have a clear picture if that converts to real learning outside of the structured and tested environment.  It may.  We just don't really know as of yet.

              "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 Aug 29, 2010 at 01:10:45 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

        •  Special education kids in normal classrooms (0+ / 0-)

          In poverty areas there are slow learners in normal classrooms when they should be in special education.  I have seen kids with epilepsy in normal classrooms.

          •  that is not necessarily wrong (4+ / 0-)

            I had two students with epilepsy in the same honors level 9th grade government class about a decade ago.  He was having petit mal seizures triggered by the flourescent lights.  I was able to undo one fixture and sit him under it and it solved his problems.  She was having grand mal seizures, and often could not see what she was writing, and needed tests read to her.  Both got through the class with final grades of A.  

            "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 Aug 29, 2010 at 01:12:30 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  Discouraging teaching careers in poverty areas (4+ / 0-)

          People will be discouraged from pursuing a career teaching in disadvantaged areas if they are constantly facing the possibility of being let go if they have a class with too many slow learners.  And a teacher may need to build up a few years of experience before reaching the maximum effectiveness in those locations.

          •  there is a further issue (4+ / 0-)

            I will not teach if I cannot do so with integrity.  If you start to dictate to me how I should teach, and that stuff, I am gone.  In far too many schools of poverty we have reduced what is happening to little more than test prep, further depriving the children of a meaningful education.

            My wife and I have toyed about moving to an area where my presence could make a real difference.  We have talked about one place that also has a small state university campus nearby, so it is not totally deprived of culture.  The problem is that most of the schools around there give very little flexibility to their teachers, which would prevent me from making the kind of difference I know I could.

            I would, frankly, love to be in a circumstance where I taught all of the social studies topics, and thus had the students over several years, and maybe conducted a chorus and coached soccer.  That could be easier to do in a smaller school.  Given my advanced age (I will be 65 near the end of this school year) I am unlikely to teach other than where I have been for most of the past 12 years.  I have some students of poverty, a few who are homeless, but not really that many, and the school is not overwhelmed by that.  But I am allowed to use my best judgment in how I teach, which is a large part of what makes me as successful as I am.  

            "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 Aug 29, 2010 at 01:17:25 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  the situation you're describing (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Odysseus, elfling, miss SPED

            is my reality.  My fiance is currently so irritated with this whole process, and the idea that I could, theoretically, be let go because of numerous factors outside of my own control, that he already wants me out of teaching.  His position is there despite the fact that I am finally ONLY teaching rather than working two jobs, and that I, despite taking forever to get into the profession, always wanted to be a teacher.

            I have a Shakespeare bobble-head for goodness' sake.

            "There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them." - Joseph Brodsky

            by Shakespeares Sister on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 01:39:28 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  Punitive teacher assignments (6+ / 0-)

          Principal doesn't like teacher.
          Assigns teacher to problem class.
          Teacher fired.
          That's why we need to listen to the unions.

        •  My daughter's school is small (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          princss6

          one class per grade.

          As such, every class - 20 kids or so each - gets the same teachers.

          I see the scores bounce around quite a bit within a class. Each class seems to have a year where they'll do significantly worse or better in the math and the language arts. But, it's never the same year. For one class, they did great in 2nd and lousy in 5th. Another was brilliant in 5th and lousy in 3rd.

          As a parent, it's easy to look at the scores and see that 10% of kids moved from "basic" to "below basic", or from "basic" to "proficient." Sounds horrible - or great. But, this is only two kids in a class of 20. If it's a class of 15, two kids is 14%. Two kids with a cold on the wrong day changes everything. Two kids who move in or out of the district change everything.

          I think it's totally appropriate for test scores to be part of the portfolio for evaluating a teacher. But, it's a starting point, not an end point. WHY were the scores high or low? Does the teacher of the next grade feel anything is missing? If the superintendent talks to the kids, is he impressed or horrified at their general knowledge and ability?

          And, there are some subjects that cannot be evaluated with a bubble test. Art. Music. PE. Kindergarten. There are some that will not be - calculus, for example, does not have a state test - that math teacher naturally gets only students who are far above the test levels. States don't generally test foreign language, and they only touch on social studies, history, and science.

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

          by elfling on Mon Aug 30, 2010 at 01:20:25 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  What it means to me... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      teacherken, edtastic

      is that each year teacher's get a new batch of kids under different circumstances and different dynamics among students themselves and how teacher can relate or should relate to those students.  I don't think any of us produce consistently at the same level from year to year.  But unless we test, we won't know.

    •  Eye opening but not game changing (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      princss6

      How is this an argument against providing incentives to produce higher test scores? I listened to a show on NPR about a program in Tennessee. They found the best teacher in a school that consistently produced high test scores and had that teacher teach the rest. Test scores tell us something. Teachers are like sales people who can only sell when they have good customers, but they have to sell there is no point in paying them.

      Teachers are not just there to give children a chance to learn they are there to get the job done. We have to  stop waiting for parents to evolve and keep the focus on improving school and teacher performance. Let the reform take place if some good teachers happen to lose their job so be it. We have to work our way though this phase to get to the next one. Evaluation is not a silver bullet but we can't let schools off the hook for bad performance.

      •  you are locked into a flawed approach on tests (18+ / 0-)

        read the brief.  Please.  Realize that it is far more than an anecdotal report about one teacher on an NPR show.  It synthesizes the available research.  That research includes reports done at the request of the Department of Education (which then apparently ignores what it has been told).  It includes statements from governmental organizations with assigned responsibility for evaluating studies, and testing, and the like.  It includes statements from a number of the nation's top experts on assessment and testing.  

        ignore that if you want and insist upon a different understanding.  You will in fact be mistaken about what we really can learn from such tests, and how reliable they really are.

        Reliability is the key.  We must have reliability in order to have validity.  We can have reliability which consistently gives us a wrong answer.  Thus if every time I step on my scale it says I weigh 150 pounds it is reliable, even though I way 194 stripped as of this morning.  Some of our tests are reliable in the way that scale is without giving us an accurate measure of what students know and can do beyond that test.  That is the reality, especially given the low quality of most of the tests upon which we rely.  Even the Department of Education acknowledges this in seeking out consortia to develop new and better assessments.  

        Your entire mindset is also counter-productive.  For more than two decades we have been taking an approach that is punitive, that assumes if the beatings continue the morale will improve, that somehow thinks financial incentives and "raising the bar" will somehow improve education and learning.  Why then are we still in crisis?  Could it be that the approach we have been following, which focuses on the punitive and the negative, is counter-productive the goals we CLAIM to want.  Please note that emphasis, because there are a significant number of people who say they want to improve schools when they really want to destroy public schools and especially teachers unions.  Some are not so far from the mindset of a person like a Glenn Beck claiming he is reclaiming the real heritage of civil rights.  

        Punishing by firing is after the fact, and does not help the students subjected to what ineffective teachers there are.

        We need to train better, screen better, hire better, support better.  Then we will have fewer teachers we will have to dismiss further down the line.

        "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 Aug 29, 2010 at 07:30:09 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  great response. (6+ / 0-)

          cannot imagine comparing the work you do to listening to an NPR story.

          Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government. ~Thomas Jefferson

          by k8dd8d on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 07:52:59 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Test are unreliable because kids inconsistent (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Justanothernyer, princss6

          I agree but I don't think that is a reason to not evaluate teachers based on test. We did not need a study to discover that since it's the reason this method has not been employed up till now. Why are they trying now? Because not doing it did not result in improvement or even maintaining the status quo. The fact is the absence of penalties or rewards does has not created improvement. Your theory is it's presence will create even more failure.

          My theory is over time it will create improvement because it will keep us focused on the performance of teachers and students. For a long time we paid little attention to both. With our eyes on the ball we can make changes, many of which will be counterproductive at first but over time we can get it right. It is important that we don't stop the evaluation, rewards, or penalties until we have worked through the mess if not we will be back where we started. Waiting on parents who likely failed in school or the administrators who failed to enhance teacher training for decades is not a solution. This unfair testing scenario is the only incentive out there but it at least increases the value and importance of student performance throughout the education system. For the long term that is what we need to do.

          •  We have been test-obsessed for a decade (14+ / 0-)

            (more in many states) and there is damned little evidence that's tremendously effective.

          •  The tests are unreliable because they don't (8+ / 0-)

            measure what they claim to measure and in fact can be counterproductive to teaching and learning.  As teacherken remarks downthread:

            The kinds of tests we use are cheap and quick to score, because we overly rely on multiple choice items the require convergent thinking, which by itself can be destructive of real learning -  you start looking for the answer they want rather than understanding fully the issue.  And that is even before we get into questions of poorly designed items, tests that overly sample one part of a subject and undersample others, questions that have bias to which the test creators may be oblivious.

            •  Test can be improved (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              princss6

              Multiple choice is not evil. Multiple choice test can work if they are good test and students learn to take them. It is worth the effort to learn that skill because they will be taking these test throughout their academic life. You can't detach from reality and invent a new society to make as our context where all things are refined to some grand ideal of proper learning. We have to find failure and try and fix it. The test can accomplish that task imperfect as they may be.  

              They have to know how to read and do basic math all other things are of lower priority. The focus needs to be on K-5 we can expand their mind once they are literate. The enrichment portion of things does not need to be eliminated but we should not be pouring too much of our energy into the fun stuff when the kids  can't read and write.  

              •  In my own teaching, I've avoided multiple choice (6+ / 0-)

                tests as much as I possibly can, in favor of essay exams. As Jacques Barzun wrote in "The Tyranny of Testing:"

                Multiple-choice questions test nothing but passive-recognition knowledge, not active usable knowledge... Multiple-choice tests, whether of fact or skill, break up the unity of knowledge and isolate the pieces; nothing follows on anything else, and a student's mind must keep jumping.  True testing elicits the pattern originally learned; an essay examination reinforces pattern-making.

              •  And please keep in mind that students (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                elfling, Daddy Bartholomew, ladybug53

                have to read and write about something.  Learning is pattern-making, and learning to read and write can be all about making patterns -- reading and writing, that is, about the fun stuff.

                •  Ability to recognize what you learned is good (0+ / 0-)

                  Because if you can't even do that then you were probably not paying attention. We have all taken these test it's mysterious in the least. I have taken hundreds of the the damn things in my life, and when I did not study for them I failed. When I did study I did well. For a study of 1 it works. The students I knew also claimed similar experiences.

                  Test are not there to teach, the are there to see if you learned something about what was taught. It does not test who has the most complete knowledge, nor does it compensate for misinterpreted questions or over thought answer selections. The student has to learn how to give the grader what they want along with the actual learning required to give  the right answer.

                  These skills are valuable because they will have to take a lot of test in their life that will decide their future.

            •  I feel like teachers want it both ways... (0+ / 0-)

              they recognize that the tests aren't perfect but still want to use them to extend enrollment to kids in educational settings.

              I don't get it.  

      •  I an grateful for my teachers... (4+ / 0-)

        My mother could not be a very active agent in my education because of her working schedule and her own educational background.  I here so many parents complain that more and more teachers are leaving the teaching to parents via homework.  Just not something that many parents are equipped to do no matter how motivated or involved or desirous they are of their child's success.  I mean curriculum has come a long way.  

  •  The most important thing is to read the brief (19+ / 0-)

    at least the Executive Summary.

    It would help more people realize they need to read it were this diary to stay visible.  Therefore, if you don't mind, I would like to ask for your recommendations.  Thanks.

    "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 Sat Aug 28, 2010 at 09:17:21 PM PDT

  •  Let Me See If I Can Explain Myself (8+ / 0-)

    About a year ago, via Facebook, I reconnected with an old college roommate. He is a Principal at a large school district in IL. We talk often (I am redoing the Districts web site) and have spent a few weeks camping together.

    I have some VERY specific ideas on education that might not seem as liberal as I am on many other issues. I have no desire to fight with friends, so it took me awhile to bring them up with him.

    It was only after he finished reading a book I suggested to him by Neil Postman, The End of Education: Redefining the Value of School that we started to talk about it.

    I was stunned at his reaction. Maybe it is cause he is now in "management" but he isn't a fan of the unions either. He think pay should be based on performance, not the number of years you have taught.

    He also hates these standardized tests as much as I do. He thinks we are failing our children. I tend to agree with him.

    "In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act." - George Orwell

    by webranding on Sat Aug 28, 2010 at 09:18:08 PM PDT

    •  Some schools are failing in general (34+ / 0-)

      increasingly we are failing as a direct result of the "reforms" we have been imposing, starting in 1983 with A Nation at Risk, and accelerating since NCLB was signed into law more than 8 years ago.

      The unions are not the issue.  We have had that discussion separately.

      What we are doing with tests is not even sound psychometrically, either for children and certainly not for making decisions about teachers.  Look at the statistics for errors on using VAA -  36% with 2 years data, 26% with 3 years data.  You will be dismissing teachers you should not be and you will be keeping teachers who should be under closer scrutiny.

      "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 Sat Aug 28, 2010 at 09:21:16 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  how would he advocate assessing performance? (18+ / 0-)

      A principal and a school system have entirely different perspectives about the effectiveness of a particular teacher. A principal (at least a good one) knows his or her teachers and what they are accomplishing in the classroom. The district, however, only sees the statistics. So the way that "performance" is evaluated becomes an incredibly thorny issue. That's where the problem lies...

      I believe my experience provides a pertinent example. I teach high school science in a suburban district in Florida. I've been teaching for 14 years, and I went into the field because I wanted a challenge and wanted to make a difference.

      When I first started teaching, I was assigned the  classes nobody wanted to teach, the low performing kids who don't seem to care about school or who face extra challenges. I learned some techniques and tools to help them learn, and I found that I liked working with that population of kids. However, my test scores are understandably lower than those of the "honors" classes. The normal course of progression in a school department is that when one teacher retires or leaves, another teacher can take their assignment, especially if it's the "better" classes. Consequently, the new teachers are usually assigned the lower peforming students.

      I chose to stay with the lower level students even when classes teaching the honors and advanced classes opened up. I felt like it helped the students more, and it helped our school more. (In Florida we have a ridiculous school grading system that awards money to the schools who perform better on standardized tests. And yes, I'm aware of how backwards that strategy is.)

      My principal understands how hard I work and the challenges that I face, because she also knows the kids and the challenges they face. However, from a perch at the county offices or the state legislature, it simply looks like my scores lag behind the scores of the teachers who teach a different population. They don't know the difference between teaching a bunch of middle class kids with white collar parents and teaching kids who don't have electricity (let alone a computer) and didn't get breakfast before school.

      So if my salary is to be based on my test scores, I'll be faced with a choice: leave the kids who I enjoy teaching and need the help the most, or lose a big chunk of my salary.

      Basing a teacher's salary on test scores simply won't work. There's no way to compare "apples to apples" with so many variables. That's not good for the kids and it's not good for the teachers. It will drive down graduation rates and teachers will leave the profession, which is ultimately bad for entire communities.

      •  thank you for your thoughtful comment (9+ / 0-)

        and for sharing your experience.  It may help some who do not fully understand the nature of teaching and of schools realize some of the costs of our current approach.

        "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 Aug 29, 2010 at 07:10:49 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  My neice... (0+ / 0-)

        did well routinely on the FCAT's.  At her school, the kids that did well were invited to a party just for those who excelled.  Incentives do seem to work.  And if they didn't work then why the party.  I can assure you that most "smart" kids don't work as hard as those deemed less "smart".  

        But I want public schools to be strong.  I want kids, especially my own to succeed.  I think teachers move forward against test accountability at their peril.  It has allow charters and vouchers and all other crazy matter to take serious route in the discussion.  Because at the end of the day, schools that don't do well on test scores are turned over to profiteers in my city.  They aren't unionized.  So kids need you to improve their test scores, not just for their sake or society's but increasingly for your own livelihood.

        •  Parties don't always work as rewards, (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          teacherken, not this time

          either.  Especially if the parents of those who didn't get to go to the party complain.

        •  Just one question... (7+ / 0-)

          Have you read the paper teacherken linked to?

          •  apparently a number here have not (4+ / 0-)

            even though I urge them, and provide the link several times.  It is only 21 pages, and if they don't want to do that they could simply read the first 4, which is the executive summary.

            "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 Aug 29, 2010 at 09:51:50 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I admittedly read (7+ / 0-)

              only portions of it, as I am so engrossed that I had to check back here for comments, but I absolutely LOVE the fact that the report specifically references English (as a subject) in the section about negative consequences.

              What would the understanding of literature be without the interpretation?  Who on earth would bother to read Shakespeare if they couldn't somehow apply it to their own lives?

              That's why I love teaching English and Literature - because there is no right answer, it's all about the connection and interpretation, and being able to critically argue your way to proving your point.

              But where is that skill assessed on a standardized test?  

              Oh, wait, it's not.

              "There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them." - Joseph Brodsky

              by Shakespeares Sister on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 11:08:02 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

          •  Yes... (0+ / 0-)

            I read the paper...here is the thing...it doesn't mean I support the content within said paper.  There is no need to tell me that no test is fallible.  I know this.  No brainer.  I make my bread and butter on research and statistics.  There is always a margin of error and this is why most tests will give you a range.  

            However, I think it would be wise to note, that the paper was not compelling evidence to me that teacher success should not be, in part, tied to student achievement via test scores.  The fact that many of you can't see that the paper will be unconvincing to others...well...it would require changing a lot of thinking which believes that object for which you would like to achieve success has to have a direct line to all inputs.  

            Calls to just.read.the.paper.  do nothing to those who want results.  

            •  hten you are very foolish (6+ / 0-)

              when the experts in testing tell you it should not be tied given the current status of the tests and methodologies available.  You are, effectively, taking a theological approach.  You believe it should be, and even the solid research from the experts in the field that it should not fails to convince you.  

              So I tell you what.   Remember that value-added assessment is considered in most cases superior to other forms of tying testing to evaluation.  And we will determine your status with only two sets of data points, which is effectively what they did in the LA Times work.  Guess what, there is a 36% chance you will be misclassified.  

              I might point out that we are heading for a massive legal situation.  Given what the experts say, to use such methods as the basis of dismissal or discipline given their instability and inaccuracy provides grounds for some pretty massive lawsuits, quite possibly class-action.   And when most of the independent experts come in and say the tests and analysis being used cannot not be supported by the research, what then?

              Even absent lawsuits you should consider this -  with a 36% error rate you might be keeping and rewarding teachers who should be dismissed and dismissing teachers who are actually quite productive.

              "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 Aug 29, 2010 at 01:23:08 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Name calling, teach... (0+ / 0-)

                okay.  The experts...while there are some on the list who I agree with in many instance, realize that another set of experts may say something different.  

                You are getting challenged on an issue that you are undoubtably vested in.  We are all.  And if the error rate is so high, why are children arbitrarily evaluated for opportunity based on these test?  I'm not questioning your motives but it seems rather convenient for everything else in the system to hinge on test scores but teacher pay.  I'm trying to tell you and the experts that the battle has been lost.  You don't like it, I don't like it but that is the reality.  I don't think it is an unreasonable goal which at the end of the day, is to improve test scores to open opportunity for children of all stripes.  Do you honestly think a parent is going to let an expert tell them what they see everyday?  Do you honestly think that parents fed up with the system are really going to not demand accountability?  

                When 50% of the public schools in my district are charters and vouchers are available (legislation in our state house now) because of low performing students, what then?  Seriously.  When people can point to kids who come from the same background as others and the scores are different in many cases, what will the teachers and unions say then?  The test are wrong or the test have errors?  
                   

                •  merit pay will make your district worse (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  elfling, Daddy Bartholomew

                  So let's take your district as an example. If teacher pay is tied to test scores and your district has bad scores relative to other places, it will become increasingly difficult to attract new teachers (especially quality teachers with experience). So your district's schools will be staffed by those who cannot get jobs elsewhere, if indeed they can even fill their positions. It will be teachers cast off from other schools or brand new teachers. (Incidentally, the attrition rate for new teachers is very high). Within the district, the most qualified teachers will jockey for the classes with the best chance of getting high scores -- ie the advanced classes. So the eventual result will be further stratification in our schools...the top kids will do great, and the kids who struggle will be left to fend for themselves. The good schools might get better, but God help the ones who aren't deemed to be good schools.

                  •  My district in on full assault... (0+ / 0-)

                    from privitization.  I see this as a worse outcome than tying teacher compensation to test results.  Right now, the only schools not under threat of privitization are either already private (I'm sure they like the voucher bill in our legislature) or producing kids with high test scores.  The only way to combat this (even though we know that charters aren't necessarily better) is to improve test scores.  

                •  another point (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Daddy Bartholomew, Fresno

                  I teach science, and in Florida the science test is given in the 8th and 11th grades. I teach 10th grade. So if a student has lousy 9th and 11th grade teachers, there's no way my students will score well, no matter what I do with them. I can't conceivably cram 3 years of science into one -- I'm good but I'm not THAT good :-)  I'm just saying that the system is full of "exceptions" that make it virtually impossible to evaluate teachers based on scores.

                  In Florida we are moving toward "end of course exams", where students will be tested on their knowledge of that one subject at the end of each year. If they don't pass the test, they don't get credit for the class. It puts the accountability back onto the students somewhat, but it also has perils. I'm more comfortable having my pay tied to that system than the current system, but I can tell you that it will ultimately lead to the same type of stratification. We already have teachers planning moves to other schools (the higher socio-economic beachside schools) based on the eventuality that our pay will be tied to those scores. For now I plan on staying where I am and working with the students I teach. But we'll have to see what the future holds... I have a family to support, so I have to consider that in the equation.

                  Consider this, though, Princss6. If a school system had a merit pay system based on experienced teachers volunteering to teach at the lower performing schools with the struggling students, then you'd put the best teachers where they are most needed. Everyone wins, the students, the teachers, and the district.

                •  I'm not getting challenged (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Daddy Bartholomew, miss SPED

                  you are challenging the authors of the study.  Go read it.  Please.  All of it.

                  Then if you have a problem use the email and see what happens when you raise issues the way you have here.

                  Sorry, but you simply do not know what you are talking about when it comes to assessment.

                  This is not a narrow slice of expertise.  The assessment community, even those working for the test companies, are quite consistent that a test designed to allow for valid inferences for one purpose cannot be relied upon for valid inferences for a different purpose than that for which it was validated.  Hell, some of the test publishers actually put that in the test materials they send out.

                  As far as Value-added, people have been touting it as the miracle solution for well over a decade now.  I spent a lot of time absorbing the peer reviewed material about a decade ago.  What I found then is supported by what is in the brief, and what the one quote I offered said -  even in the past 15 years of working on it the technical problems that make it unreliable have not yet been solved.  

                  Hell, I wanted it to be effective.  I would love to have something reliable that could be used for meaningful feedback.  Unfortunately, it does not yet exist, and to begin to place any stakes on it is a big mistake.

                  You ignore that, try to slide by positing a different set of experts.  Provide them.  Provide anything in the peer reviewed literature that counter what is in this brief.

                  You can say you disagree -  fine, on what basis other than you don't like what they say because you want to use tests in a way they have just clearly demonstrated is inappropriate?

                  Some evangelical christians disagree with the big bang theory and evolution.  Sen. Inhofe and VA Attorney General Cuccinelli disagree that there is global climate change, and therefore totally reject the idea that there is an anthropogenic causal factor.  My response to them - which in this situation may well apply to your saying you disagree - is what Daniel Patrick Moynihan once said to a person who persisted in trying to argue that he had a different opinion -  you are certainly entitled to your own opinion, but you are not entitled to your own facts.   Disagree all you want, but on this the facts are against you.  Your refusal to acknowledge that makes it difficult if not impossible to have a civil and meaningful conversation on this topic.

                  "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 Aug 29, 2010 at 04:40:42 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  I'm not in denial. (0+ / 0-)

                    Your refusal to acknowledge that makes it difficult if not impossible to have a civil and meaningful conversation on this topic.

                    I would say that you are.  Read this very closely....MY SCHOOL DISTRICT IS UP FOR AUCTION TO CORPORATE INTERESTS.  If you think they give a damn about what your experts say, Diane Ravitch could be discredited in so many ways, then you are sadly, sadly mistaken.  I know tests are bullshit and have argued as much in your other diaries.  NONETHELESS.  It does not matter.  For those of use under attack, this paper is a slap in the face.  It reads as if, don't expect us to do our job because the kids are poor, slow learners, impressionable, etc.  Whew...teachers off the hook. Meanwhile, the poor kids in my state that just oh happen to not be black and brown are doing just fine on the assessments.  Just dandy!  When you see white kids and black and brown kids in the same system perform vastly different and want to pass that off as a broken testing system, no I'm not having it.  

                    So you can piss into the wind, but the time to argue against testing has passed.  Parents and governments aren't trying to hear it.  Parents are voting with their feet (opting out of the system) and governments are welcoming in the profiteers.  Why are you fighting a battle that is lost?  Outside of discrediting the test, what is your plan?  Do you really think Arne Duncan or the President will be swayed?  Nope and the school districts are following suit because there is an economic incentive to do so.  My state just missed the RttT money.  I care about results of students.  I know there are kids in charters who are doing better than they would have done in the local public school.  There is no question, private school kids do better.  So...the rhetoric is falling on deaf ears.  Produce or perish.  We have a real crisis and I'm telling you the people who have the power, parents and governments are just going to say, OK, you don't want merit pay based on test scores or teacher evaluations, (IN PART - your own study says it should play a role), to be based on test scores, okay.  We will just shut it down and privitize the schools and your union will be abolished.  But hell, what do I know.  I've only been seeing it happen in front of my face in my school district for the past ten years.  Oh no, don't believe your lying eyes because this study says so.  Really?

      •  Sparkysmom--thank you. (11+ / 0-)

        As a special education teacher I have to wonder just who gets the credit for what I do--me or the other teachers?

        Realistically, we work as a team.  But under most merit plans I've seen, the specialists wouldn't get credit.

        •  agreed (4+ / 0-)

          In my district the ExEd departments are being pushed far beyond their limits due to budget cuts and increased paperwork demands. The students are suffering from it already, and it looks like it will get far worse before it gets better. I agree with you about compensation for ExEd teachers -- there's simply no fair and adequate way to evaluate your job performance based on tests. I work closely with the ExEd teachers at my school, and I can tell everyone on this forum that there are no harder working teachers in a school than those who work with the exceptional population of students.

          Here's a funny reality at Florida schools...our standardized tests are called the FCAT. If a student is special diploma status, they still take the test. It doesn't count for the students to graduate, of course. But their scores still count in the overall "grade" for the school. In my region of the county we have two high schools -- ours has a large ExEd program, and it accomodates the ExEd populations from both schools. So every year our school is a grade lower than the other high school because we have a program the other school doesn't offer! How ridiculous is that?! We're punished for providing a service for those students that isn't provided elsewhere.

        •  Our science teachers got paid extra (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          elfling, Daddy Bartholomew

          thousands of dollars - because the students hit standardized testing targets.
          As the sped helping teacher in those same classes, I made nothing extra.  I was not eligible.  In that merit plan, I did not get credit.

      •  I understand completely (8+ / 0-)

        I also choose to teach disadvantaged students who come to school less ready to handle "grade appropriate" expectations. I often help a student gain more than a years worth of progress in one year. That doesn't mean that they will test at grade level. They may have come into my classroom more than two years behind their same age peers.

        Infidels in all ages have battled for the rights of man, and have at all times been the advocates of truth and justice... Robert Ingersol

        by BMarshall on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 10:15:10 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  In know in my school district... (0+ / 0-)

          kids aren't tested for leaning disability until they are two years behind grade level.  So a kid experiencing problems in 1st grade, can not expect to receive a pscho-ed eval until third grade.  This certainly makes it more difficult to get kids to grade level.  However this is in part that the range of expectation is so broad from K-3, really.  

          So, I would say that really the large numbers of children who are not proficient is alarming since the permissible range is so broad.

          •  There needs to be more funding... (0+ / 0-)

            ....for early childhood programs. If people with limited financial resources had public programs available for their young children we would not encounter so many 8 year olds who are already two years behind their peers in reading and math.

            Infidels in all ages have battled for the rights of man, and have at all times been the advocates of truth and justice... Robert Ingersol

            by BMarshall on Mon Aug 30, 2010 at 07:23:44 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Help me out here... (0+ / 0-)

              I have been told for two days (am I missing something) that teachers play a passive role in children's academic achievement.  At least passive enough that how their students perform on assessments should not factor into their salary.  I can't reconcile how funding for early childhood education will make a difference if teachers are just passive.  How do we know it will have an impact?  More funds without accountability?  I can't reconcile how you will hear the same things that you hear now to explain the lack achievement in students even with Early Childhood Programs?  I guess teachers will then begin to point to the womb for their lack of progress at 2 and 3 year olds?  

              Maybe it isn't accepted among teachers that there is a range of skill levels from K-3.  

              •  Here's a misconception I see in your comment. (0+ / 0-)

                I don't see anyone else here saying teachers are passive.  

                What I see, instead, are claims that standardized, multiple-choice tests do not provide valid or reliable measures of academic achievement or teacher performance.  And I would argue, further, that such tests actually do educational harm, as they disrupt student learning and -- as the stakes grow higher -- misdirect teacher energy.

                Essay exams and other performance assessments -- in other words, opportunities for students to actively demonstrate what they have learned -- would represent vastly more valid measures of student achievement and teacher performance.  Such alternative assessments would be more rigorous, more difficult to administer, more complex, more challenging, and, no doubt, more expensive than the inadequate measures we currently settle for.

    •  Defining the value of schools (20+ / 0-)

      If we valued public schools we wouldn't be punishing and scapegoating teacehers for political decisions that have destroyed average workers ability to make a living. Think of who we reward and who we punish- who gets huge tax breaks and bailouts in spite of nearly destroying our economic system? Here are some facts about education and school performance:

      First, The single most predictive factor of poor school performance is poverty. That fact trumps all other factors, including poor teaching, inadequate curriculum materials, and class size. All research supports this fact. Look at the schools that are successful. They do not subscribe to merit pay and mass firings that pundits and Duncan endorse for inner city schools.

      Second. Children from inner city schools need to have some hope that education will lead to a prosperous future. In reality, when they leave the school building, their communities have nothing to offer in the way of employment. Their economic mobility is severely limited by business practices that refuse to pay wages that would lift people above the poverty level.

      Third. Business needs to take some responsibility for the poverty in communities. They lobby against tax increase, leverage their influence to eliminate workers protections, refuse to pay pensions or health insurance to part time and low wage earners. Their practices created the very impoverished conditions in communities that contribute to student school failure. When business donates money to schools for projects, computers, etc. that donation is tax deductible. Thus draining the needed money from the communities that need it just to pay the electric bill or buy paper.

      Fourth. Teachers are not motivated by salaries or bonuses to improve their practices. They aren’t real estate salesmen or stock traders who work to hide their secrets from colleagues to gain a bonus or defeat a competitor. Effective teachers and schools staffs collaborate and share information. Merit pay will not improve performance in schools or classrooms but will drive teachers to resent their colleagues and destroy collaboration.

      Fifth. Standardized tests are not designed to evaluate quality teaching practices. As teacehrken clearly illustrates, norm referenced test scores are invalid as a measure of instructional quality. It is analogous to evaluating an oncologist on the number of patients who die from cancer. The physician’s patient death rate does not measure treatment quality. There are too many other mitigating factors, just as there are other factors children experience in their lives. Not all students are the same just as not all cancer patients are the same.

      Sorry for the long comment but I feel very strongly about this as a long time dedicated professional teacher.

  •  OK, finished reading thru that (32+ / 0-)

    Wow, that's a lot of information.

    What I didn't see here seems as important to me as what I did see. This whole legacy of the NCLB debacle seems to be based on the premise that it is solely the fault the teachers, maybe the materials and the schools, for children not learning. And if only we had some way to "weed out" the bad teachers everything would get magically better. Thus this study was commissioned. It didn't find anyway to do what was requested, and I guess I would've been surprised if it did. Because what I haven't seen are the studies looking into the effect of having both parents working to barely make ends meet? Poverty, as I recall, is the single best predictor for education outcome. Why isn't the effect of that being seriously addressed by this administration? It seems to be a given that we can't change/fix anything else so we have to focus in on the teachers. Can anyone answer why that is?

    Those who forget the lessons of history are probably watching Glenn Beck.

    by ontheleftcoast on Sat Aug 28, 2010 at 09:21:19 PM PDT

  •  BTW: I Assume You've Seen This Movie That Is (12+ / 0-)

    coming out, Waiting for Superman. It brings tears to my eyes to watch this.

    This NYT article is heartbreaking:

    Directed by Davis Guggenheim, who also directed Al Gore’s "An Inconvenient Truth," "Waiting for Superman" takes its name from an opening interview with the remarkable Geoffrey Canada, founder of the Harlem Children’s Zone. HCZ has used a comprehensive strategy, including a prenatal Baby College, social service programs and longer days at its charter schools to forge a new highway to the future for one of New York’s bleakest neighborhoods.

    [....]

    "One of the saddest days of my life was when my mother told me Superman did not exist," Canada says in the film. "I read comic books and I just loved ’em ...’cause even in the depths of the ghetto you just thought, ‘He’s coming, I just don’t know when, because he always shows up and he saves all the good people.’ "

    Then when he was in fourth or fifth grade, he asked, "Ma, do you think Superman is actually [real]?" She told him the truth: " ‘Superman is not real.’ I was like: ‘He’s not? What do you mean he’s not?’ ‘No, he’s not real.’ And she thought I was crying because it’s like Santa Claus is not real. I was crying because there was no one ... coming with enough power to save us."  

    "In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act." - George Orwell

    by webranding on Sat Aug 28, 2010 at 09:21:57 PM PDT

    •  it is an attack on teachers and unions (28+ / 0-)

      I have not seen it.  I have seen the trailer.  I know the premise and the contents.  It will make it even more difficult to properly address the needs of schools and students.

      "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 Sat Aug 28, 2010 at 09:24:10 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  On The Union Thing We Have To Agree (7+ / 0-)

        to disagree, but I tend to want to think you are right and I am wrong, cause you deal with it day-to-day and I am looking at it from the outside.

        I just know my father, after he got his PhD and started teaching at LSU and then Texas Tech in the early 70s quit. The job just didn't pay so he went to work for the DoD.

        In grad school at LSU I was the student rep on the facility committee related to teacher performance. In the first meeting we were debating if teacher reviews by students should be made pubic. I mentioned this to my father, who when he was at LSU was on the same committee (funny how things work isn't it) and he said they were talking about the same thing 20 years ago.

        Nothing had changed .....

        With that said I've thought about teaching. I'd like to teach more then anything. I couldn't think of something I'd rather do. But alas the jobs just don't pay. I mean why would I, at 41, want to take all my knowledge, experience, and degrees and teach for a fraction of what I can make in the private sector?

        This is my core issue. Pay. And I think, and maybe I am wrong, it is cause of unions we have these problems. Just cause I have not taught for 20 years if I started tomorrow I'd make less even if I have more experience in the field I am actually teaching.

        This just makes no sense to me .... but alas I am on a rant at this point ....

        "In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act." - George Orwell

        by webranding on Sat Aug 28, 2010 at 09:32:47 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Pay is one of your core issues, (31+ / 0-)

          and you're anti-union? The thing unions are MOST responsible for is that teachers have passable salaries and benefits, although there seems to be this campaign to deny them that while demanding ever higher levels of training and accountability. I haven't seen statistics that will convince me unions somehow ensure that larger numbers of "bad" teachers will somehow be protected from firing. In fact, what I've seen convinces me that whether a school system or state is unionized has no impact on that.

          De-orangify Congress: Justin Coussoule for Oh-08 http://www.coussouleforcongress.com/

          by anastasia p on Sat Aug 28, 2010 at 09:39:50 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Let Me Be Clear, I Am Not Anti-Union (9+ / 0-)

            I am about as pro union of a person you can find. I also have to admit I am not an expert on teacher unions. But from my conversations with my friend and his wife, who is also a teacher, the situation is fu*cked up.

            Lets say he has a 24 year old math teacher. The best he has. Not only a teacher that gets results but is loved by her students. Makes class fun. He can't pay her what the guy with 30+ years of experience has that doesn't produce "results."

            I got a HUGE issue with that.

            I am hard pressed to think of any profession in the world, be it a lawyer or somebody that mows your lawn that isn't paid based on performance.

            "In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act." - George Orwell

            by webranding on Sat Aug 28, 2010 at 09:45:40 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  The problem is (19+ / 0-)

              that while your friend may be very good at determining good teachers, many schools' administrations are not.

              The administrators often protected and loved the coaches in my school.

              Join us at Bookflurries: Bookchat on Wednesday nights 8:00 PM EST

              by cfk on Sat Aug 28, 2010 at 09:53:14 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  let's parse this out (28+ / 0-)
              1.  Most government jobs, teaching or otherwise, have salary ladders based on classification (in the case of teachers, education), with steps based on experience.  Most people tend only to make an issue of it with teachers.
              1.  While differentiated pay is possible, and teachers unions have, in places like Denver, cooperated with merit pay plans, most people want to base such plans on test scores, which for all sorts of reasons, many of which are discussed in the brief, are problematic even for those course areas that have them.  
              1.  There are other proposals for differentiated pay.  I am associated with a group of people who worked on one such.  Might I direct your attention to Teacher Solutions, put together by some of my fellow members of the Teacher Leaders Network?

              "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 Sat Aug 28, 2010 at 09:54:23 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Well Lets Focus On Your First Point (5+ / 0-)

                which is very accurate. Government jobs tend to pay folks on a scale that relates most often directly to "time on the job." I have an issue with that as well.  

                "In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act." - George Orwell

                by webranding on Sat Aug 28, 2010 at 09:59:38 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  Yes (3+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  tmo, Skeptical Bastard, princss6

                  In the private sector, it's "produce or get out". No one cares how long you've worked for the company, what step you're on, etc.

                  (-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 Sat Aug 28, 2010 at 11:35:27 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  How's that working out? (14+ / 0-)

                    Not so well it seems to me. Is it really the producers who retained and the dead weight that is elliminated? Are sustainable careers to be made up of constant fear of losing one's livelihood? Is the use of metrics is private sector, really something to be copied? Short-sightedness based upon near term goals rewarding people for destroying enterprises - Give me a break!

                    If we don't change, we don't grow. If we don't grow, we aren't really living. - Gail Sheehy

                    by itisuptous on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 07:38:01 AM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  Thank you (10+ / 0-)

                      Thanks, IIUTU, for bringing out this point!  There is always at least one voice crying that education should be run more like business, and it seems to me that traditional business models are a wet mess and failing all around us.  Why should education look to obvious, proven failures for reform?

                      This may be simplistic, but I feel that much of the difficulty our country faces is due to the fact that we can only think in the short term. This year's test results upset someone, so the whole system is shaken upside down, and the next year the dance begins again.

                      I've been in the classroom for 28 years (until being laid off this year because I teach music, an "special" discipline which has no standardized testing to give it worth in these times), and I am heartsick of this entire discussion.  Children are not widgets, and using tests to determine their value is much the same as using test scores to determine a teacher's value.  Teaching is an art, and so is learning.  Why does that frighten people?

                      I am always thankful when teacherken turns his attention to an issue, and I'm heading to the link now to improve myself.

                      •  If teaching is an art... (2+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        Sparhawk, edtastic

                        how come some kids are master artisans, while others are not?  I agree that schools should not be entirely like a business.  I do however expect some accountability.  I would never place my kid in a school that did not want to be accountable for their student's academic achievement.  There are waiting lists for schools who are willing to be accountable.  

                        •  Yes, (4+ / 0-)

                          and they have high scores BECAUSE they filter through those lists.  Give them every student and compare the scores.  

                          My best advice is to go volunteer in an at-risk school over a period of time and see the reality.  Looking at it from the outside doesn't give the entire picture.

                          Arne Duncan has never taught, and that alone tells me that the present system is not respecting what teachers do.  

                          •  Some do... (0+ / 0-)

                            agreed.  Most good schools, public or private do filter for high scores, thus my emphasis on the scores.  However, I know of many schools that don't have the luxury of being so selective that then turn around kids academically.  

                  •  Two problems: (7+ / 0-)
                    1. That's not universally true. In many corporate law firms, the pay for the first few years is formulaic.
                    1. Be careful what the incentive is. Remember the economic collapse when shadow banks had incentives to screw up in the long term so they could "win" in the short term?
                  •  Oh, stop your crap! (7+ / 0-)

                    In the private sector, it's "produce or get out". No one cares how long you've worked for the company, what step you're on, etc.

                    No one cares if you're the boss's son, or his golfing buddy. Or if you have your nose up his ass all day long. Oh, no, that NEVER happens in the private sector.

                    Take your lame-ass shit on out of here, OK, and quit insulting our intelligence.

                    "Lash those traitors and conservatives with the pen of gall and wormwood. Let them feel -- no temporising!" - Andrew Jackson to Francis Preston Blair, 1835

                    by Ivan on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 09:18:00 AM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                •  Such pay scales bring an objective standard. (8+ / 0-)

                  It is one that is understood. If complex roles such as teaching could be precisely determined and separated from subjective judgments, perhaps alternative systems could be created. The difficulty in doing so, is a major point in the brief. I have struggled for nearly forty years with these issues. I recall as a young teacher questioning the fairness of the salary schedule. I also came to understand and value it as a teacher leader and one who constantly explored alternatives. Eventually, I became the envied person at the top surrounded by colleagues also at the top who were unhappy that they were now "frozen."

                  This is not an easy issue. Even if we could event a system that was both accurate and fair, keep in mind that we have people at all stages of their careers and the transition to the new system would be extremely challenging. As with most things, it would easier to build something else from scratch than to change what we have. Unfortunately, the shortcomings of the single salary schedule are being used by critics who would replace it with something much worse. Many of us on the union side, are not opposed to the exploration of alternative pay systems, but we have an obligation to our members and the profession to see that they are better than what we have. Linking them to high stakes tests is not a bandwagon we are likely to join.

                  If we don't change, we don't grow. If we don't grow, we aren't really living. - Gail Sheehy

                  by itisuptous on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 07:32:46 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

              •  Also, if you are going to DEMAND (20+ / 0-)

                higher educational certification from teachers, it's insane and insulting not to have increased pay for that. I can't think of another profession that wouldn't. As ken says, most people make an issue of it only with teachers, and a lot of that seems to be the result of a concerted effort to demonize teachers that's coming from the right. I hate to see people here buy into it.  The myth that "bad teachers" are rampant in public schools and THIS is the reason some kids aren't achieving is, by my observation, bullshit. There are WAY more "bad" whatevers in virtually any other area, and kids aren't achieving for a complicated host of reasons, with teachers often the least significant.

                De-orangify Congress: Justin Coussoule for Oh-08 http://www.coussouleforcongress.com/

                by anastasia p on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 06:07:05 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  My graduate degree pays me (9+ / 0-)

                  $900 more a year.  Our school district does not support or pay extra for national certification.

                  Not a lot of extra salary for a lot of extra work and expense, imho.

                •  RttTop promotes alternative licensure (5+ / 0-)

                  programs such as Teach for America. TfA puts any college grad through a 6 week cram course and throws them into inner city classrooms. The private, for-profit certification mills are circling in for that stream of tax money.

                  What could guarantee gleeful Wall Street investors more than low wages and no employment protections for teachers?
                  Education for-profits are:

                  investing in real estate:
                  http://www.stickwithanose.com/...

                  getting tax breaks that double their investment:
                  http://www.democracynow.org/...

                  creating a corporate utopia by destroying teacher protections, emasculating unions, ending tenure & pensions, pushing "merit pay" ,
                  http://www.schoolsmatter.info/...

                  They're already here in TN- we "won" the first grant.

                  •  Completely agree... (2+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    grimjc, Azazello

                    I do not support for profit public school.  I oppose charters and vouchers.  But this is where we are heading in my city.  So it really is a choice, produce or privatize.  I don't understand why some can't see the writing on the wall.  Maybe privitazation hasn't come to their neck of the woods but the more it takes over in our city among minority students, the more palatable it will be for all children.  

                    •  It's not really "produce or privatize". (8+ / 0-)

                      Big Biz will try to privatize whether the schools produce or not. For them it's about money, not education. Look how the private sector runs our health care. Here's an easy prediction: when the corporations get their way, when we get a voucher system, accountability will magically disappear. For-profit schools will be marketed using other themes, probably "where learning is fun". The accountability madness is only to tear down the public system. It will go away when it has served its purpose.

                      •  Yes and no... (1+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        Justanothernyer

                        I agree that accountabilty will disappear under privitization to a certain extent.  I'm just not willing to overlook years of generational education failure because of a cynical ploy by business to kill public school.  That is why I'm holding the teachers and unions feet to the fire.  I know business will ultimately lead to children being underserved.  I.know.it.  But my main point is that if teachers want job security, the kids have to do better, achieve.  In this current environment, over reliance on unions for job security is not going to bode well because more people, even allies are demanding results.  There is no way they can demand such with the current crops of results.  

                        •  The school's aren't failing at all, (6+ / 0-)

                          we have not had years of generational education failure. The teachers are being scapegoated for the larger economic and cultural failures of our corporate-run society. See my diary from January.

                          •  I will check out your diary... (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            Azazello

                            sorry, in my neck of the woods, public schools are a failure.  I don't remember the percentages of the top of my head, but African American males aren't graduating at the same level of their peers.  That is abject failure.  My Aunt's school with over a dozen more was just taken over by the school district to privitize.  We will have to agree to disagree.  The racial achievement gap is stagnant.  Maybe we have different measures of success.  But I will check out your diary.

                  •  5 week, not six (6+ / 0-)

                    and then they are only committed to two years in the classroom.

                    Some make wonderful teachers.  Relatively few stay beyond the two years, even if they do other things in education, which may be more damaging because now they think they are experts.

                    You should read the book by Barbara Torre Veltri, Learning on Other People's Kids: Becoming a Teach For America Teacher.   Barbara had a professional relationship as someone supporting the TFA corp members in one section of the country. Her book, which is not complimentary to the program, relies heavily upon  what TFA corps members shared with her.

                    "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 Aug 29, 2010 at 09:56:10 AM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                •  And the belief... (0+ / 0-)

                  that some kids are unteachable is equally bullshit.  But I hear this from teachers and it drives me nuts!  

                  •  be careful (9+ / 0-)

                    a child can always refuse to be taught.  S/he can not show up, or refuse to do any work.  No child can be taught without some commitment on the child's part.  Absent that, the child is effectively unteachable.

                    That said, there can be more than one way to break through and reach a child.  Sometimes a different teacher may be able to connect, sometimes it will be peers, sometimes it will be adults in the school who are not teachers - security guards, custodians, lunchroom personnel.

                    Ultimately a child can still refuse to learn.  

                    "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 Aug 29, 2010 at 09:58:22 AM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  I completely disagree... (0+ / 0-)

                      Children are always learning, i.e. one of the main points of Season 4 of The Wire.  They can't help but learn.  They either learn good things or bad things.  

                      I had a child whom others thought didn't want to learn.  It wasn't true.  He couldn't learn in the setting in which he was placed.  The kids that were in another class with him were equally labelled in kindergarten.  Come on.  Kindergarten.  Heck, I may have been labelled the same way but at home, I read Encyclopedias, college-level psych textbooks on my own free time because I wanted to learn.  Did it reflect in the classroom where I was bored, no.  I don't buy it, TK, with all due respect.  

                      And I know I'm relying heavily on me, me, me. But it is only because I know how the system in which teachers are culpable as well as others are quick to label kids who don't fit into the box.  I've seen a lifetime of kids labelled and undernutured.  And then when they don't learn, it is well they didn't want to learn.  I reject that.

                      •  Yes, kids do always learn... (6+ / 0-)

                        but when their parents, at home, teach them to be disrespectful of a system, or how to drink, or how to do drugs in order to escape their crappy life, then it's nearly impossible for me as a teacher to pick up the pieces and get that kid to learn about commas.

                        I am in no way saying that it's true of every kid in every situation, but there are situations that are completely beyond the control of the teachers.

                        "There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them." - Joseph Brodsky

                        by Shakespeares Sister on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 11:13:31 AM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  Why should the parents respect a system... (0+ / 0-)

                          that failed them as children?  It is a two way street.  Please understand that in some areas, schools are nothing but warehouses.  They are not enriching environments.  They may have been the scene of racist, classist, humiliating treatment by teachers and administrators upon those parents.  And despite getting through those parents come out with fewer job prospects than their relatively placed counterparts.  Everyone doesn't have the same experience nor reap the same reward for the time spent.

                          And children with drug abusing parents need education more than most other kids and a non-judgemental sanctuary.  And I personally don't kow what other parent's do in their private life.  Is this something common that children reveal?  Or is it just assumed?  This is what is not recognized in our system.  Money flows with affluence not need or extenuating circumstance.  

                          •  it's not necessarily (3+ / 0-)

                            that the system failed the parents - but that the parents failed the system, or were never a part of the system to begin with.

                            you have to consider the fact that my students are largely the children of illegal immigrants, and in some cases are illegal immigrants themselves, and so the "system," per se, was not an option for the parents, as they are not even from here.

                            I'm not intending to open a can of worms about a second issue, just trying to explain my point.  

                            Across the street from our school, in a suburb of Denver, rests an apartment building.  Inside that apartment building are the leaders of one of the biggest Mexican gangs.  The leaders of one of the other big Mexican gangs are just a few blocks down the road.  

                            Some of those people are my kids' parents.

                            "There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them." - Joseph Brodsky

                            by Shakespeares Sister on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 12:15:55 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  I hear ya.. (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            Shakespeares Sister

                            I'm not trying to discount your reality.  In my reality, the parents are not illegal immigrants.  They were educated in the school system where they send their children.  They may have a myriad of problems, but their children are blameless.  I lived in Texas and our neighborhood school was majority Mexican where we lived for a short time.  Some illegal, most not. But here is the thing, most of those kids couldn't get to school without some form of assistance from a parent no matter the parent's failling.  To get there under some really crazy situations to me should be all the intent a kid needs to prove that they and their parents want them to learn.  

                          •  very true. (3+ / 0-)

                            many of my kiddos get to school because the parents want better for them than they had.

                            The rest of them are there because they are mandated - by court - to attend until they are 17.  They even have ankle monitors that record them being at least on school grounds during school hours.  However, not all of them actually make it into my classroom.

                            "There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them." - Joseph Brodsky

                            by Shakespeares Sister on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 12:54:58 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  That is a new one... (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            Shakespeares Sister

                            in my city, they have an automated system that calls home if the child is absent.  Ankle monitors.  Wow!

                          •  we have (0+ / 0-)

                            the call-home system too.  but the ankle monitors are for those kiddos that don't come to class no matter how many times the robo-system calls.

                            "There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them." - Joseph Brodsky

                            by Shakespeares Sister on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 01:32:33 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  I have had 3 students in a class of 18 (3+ / 0-)

                            with ankle monitors.  One of whom figured out how to defeat the system (we are a science and tech magnet) and disappeared for several weeks.

                            And most automatic call systems such as you describe only work off the home room attendance in high school.  So some kids report to first period then disappear -  they may go to multiple lunches, or leave the school grounds.  

                            "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 Aug 29, 2010 at 01:38:06 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  thankfully, (0+ / 0-)

                            our system calls if a kiddo misses only one class.  great load of good it does, though, if the phone has been disconnected, or if it's a fake phone number.

                            "There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them." - Joseph Brodsky

                            by Shakespeares Sister on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 01:42:50 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  I am trying to call all my parents (2+ / 0-)

                            so far I am up to about 100 of the 195 families (I have two of a set of triplets) for whom I have kids.  I have so far encountered 13 disconnected numbers, and I have 6 families with no home or cell phone.  In one case it is worse -  we have a work number for the one parent in school records, but I was informed that parent has not worked there for more than a year.  

                            I have to report all these situations.  In some cases it is because the families do not live in our attendance area and are trying to keep that from being discovered so their kids can attend our school.

                            "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 Aug 29, 2010 at 04:43:41 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  If (2+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            Daddy Bartholomew, XerTeacher

                            you feel that way, why not try to make the system better by supporting the good teachers, and there are a lot of them.  They spend their own money for supplies and make less than they would in other jobs.

                            Volunteer at a local school and see what is going on.  Punishing a system for what it was twenty years ago is not the way to go.  

                          •  I had a kid in the local school... (0+ / 0-)

                            never again.  I saw what went on.  

                          •  oh bullshit! (5+ / 0-)

                            We have been pounding parents for years telling them to disrespect teachers and schools.  We have politicians running on a platform of doing away with public schools, bashing teachers, etc.

                            Let me blunt.  I encounter some parents who cannot say that schools failed them, whose hostility to teachers and schools has no rational basis.  In some cases they refuse to let their children be disciplined, which of course they never do themselves, and then want to blame the school when the kid gets suspended because he does something totally socially unacceptable, towards an adult or towards a fellow student.

                            Most parents are not like that.  But to have two or three kids in a class of 30+ with that attitude can create a real set of problems.  I am forceful enough, and experienced enough, and have enough of a track record, that I get backed my administration the few times I have encountered it, including one parent of a kid who arrived in our school having already failed 89th grade twice, who got written up within 15 minutes of the first period (by me) and by 5 of his other six teachers his first day.  When I called to talk with the father, he basically announced he was going to come in and dominate our school, that he was a tough guy in law enforcement.  So I told him to meet me in the main office, called the principal, who informed me I was NOT to be in the office, because NO ONE was going to threaten one of his teachers.

                            I might note that the parent in question was not that physically imposing and our principal then could come across as even larger than his 200+ pounds.  The father came in like a cock of the walk, and went out like a dog with his tale between his legs.

                            He still did not now how to parent his son, who unfortunately was basically unreachable because of his father.  He did not make it out of high school.  And this at one of the best high schools in the US, with a very supportive staff and faculty.

                            That is just one example I could cite out of many I have encountered personally.  I know through fellow educators of many more.

                            Look, I have been cordial in the exchanges on this thread, but you are starting to continue to make statements that are flat out wrong.  You may think your perceptions are universally true.  I will tell you that they may not even be completely accurate for what you describe.

                            "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 Aug 29, 2010 at 01:36:20 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  I'm not alone in believing... (0+ / 0-)

                            You may think your perceptions are universally true.  I will tell you that they may not even be completely accurate for what you describe.

                            I guess the HR's are next.  If your point is so valid, could one person really lead you to this level of agitation?  Seriously?  If thinking I'm wrong makes you feel better, fine.  Haha.  10 years from now when minority kids have no other options than for profit public schools and non-unionized teachers, I'm wondering if you will then say, hey maybe we should have focused on test scores more.  Hindsight is always 20-20.  Or will you continue to be blind that nobody seems to be complaining about the test scores other than those who are deemed lacking by said test scores.  

                            So you can be cordial as you like, my points remain:

                            1. Produce or privatize
                            1. Accountability for all
                            1. Demonization of children is worse than demonization of teachers because kids don't have a damn choice where they go to school or of their parents or of what books or other sundry material items are in their homes

                            No bullying or caterwhauling will change this indelible facts.  

                          •  your points are framed improperly (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            Daddy Bartholomew

                            because you want to measure teachers by an invalid measure, and you thereby give support to those who don't care, and simply want to privatize.

                            To accuse me of demonizing children when I point out that we have children that we are not going to reach no matter how hard we try is, I am sorry to say, out of bounds.  In a different context that by itself would get you Hide-rated.  It qualifies as an out of bounds personal attack.

                            You refuse to listen -  not just to me, but to the others here who have been pointing out where your framing is incorrect, where your insistence upon using invalid measures will do even more harm than what you are currently seeing.

                            So be it.

                            "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 Aug 29, 2010 at 04:46:48 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  Where did I accuse you of demonizing kids? (0+ / 0-)

                            I want a quote...where I said, TK you have demonized kids?  If you can't produce it, then you can also be HR'd.

                        •  It does happen in some cases. Really. (5+ / 0-)

                          I had a student last year who refused to do any work, in any class.  He would walk out of class and suffer the consequences and then come back and defiantly say, "You can make me come but you CAN'T make me work."  He failed all of his classes, needless to say.  He is back this year and I saw him going into the discipline management room already this year in the first week of school.

                          I had another student who refused to work (and I wouldn't believe this story if I hadn't seen it, so judge for yourself) because his girlfriend was a junior in high school and he was a senior.  He WANTED to be kept back so he could graduate with her and teachers and counselors talked to his parents and their answer was that they would punish him if he didn't get his act together THE NEXT YEAR.  Yes.  My mouth was open and my mind spinning.  He failed, came back the following year and graduated with her.

                          Especially by high school some students have, for many different reasons beyond a teacher's control, decided that they want nothing to do with school.  The law only requires that they attend, and then they disrupt the process for others.  

                          I also knew another student whose mother cried because whenever she required her daughter to come to school or asked about grades, "she seems so OFFENDED."  Sob. Sob.  The mother was crying because the daughter was offended.  Big whoop.  Care to guess whether that child was successful in ANY class that year?

                      •  what they are learning is not what you (3+ / 0-)

                        are responsible for teaching them.  Disagree all you want, but on this the evidence is overwhelming.

                        It is one reason some teachers are far more effective than others, because they can find a way to connect with students.  At least some students.

                        I don't know a longtime teacher who cannot tell you about students s/he could not reach, and therefore could not teach.  Students can refuse to learn from someone.  They are independent creatures, they have self-will.

                        And as an educator sometimes the best thing I can do for a sophomore is let him crash and burn and learn from the experience when it is not as expensive as it will be outside, in the real world.  That may be the most important lesson I can impart to some kids.  And by the way, when it reaches that point, I am often doing that in conjunction with the parents, with whom I have been in contact.  

                        "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 Aug 29, 2010 at 01:27:47 PM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

            •  I don' (6+ / 0-)

              Just because a young teacher makes learning FUN and gets results this year, no, they DON'T deserve the same pay as a competent 30-year veteran. And i personally can't think of any profession in the world, except maybe pro sports, where THAT occurs. In my experience- decades of it — I've seldom seen pay based much on merit.

              De-orangify Congress: Justin Coussoule for Oh-08 http://www.coussouleforcongress.com/

              by anastasia p on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 06:02:51 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  I work in engineering (0+ / 0-)

                It is entirely possible for young people who perform well to quickly rise to command pay commensurate with older engineers.

                (-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 Aug 29, 2010 at 08:09:53 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  I do too and you are wrong (8+ / 0-)

                  Most high tech companies have pay grades which are established by comparing pay scales with similar companies.  Movement upward is done in a deliberate way.  Nobody goes from newby grad to a senior engineer overnight.  And in these times many companies have simply frozen wages.  Promotions now come with no extra money.  Welcome to reality.

                  •  Re (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    princss6

                    I'm talking more in terms of promotion avenues. Teachers don't really have promotion avenues or ways to make moves that drastically increase their salary. My engineering salary increased 70% between the beginning and the end of 2006. There is no comparable path for a teacher. It would be nice if there were one for high-performing teachers.

                    (-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 Aug 29, 2010 at 09:07:54 AM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  again you are wrong about teachers (7+ / 0-)

                      they can get additional degrees.  They can obtain national board certification.  They can take on leadership roles.

                      In 1996-1996 I was paid at the rate of about 34K/year.  If I get all of my national board stipend, this year I will be paid in excess of 90K.  In the meantime I finished a 2nd masters and most of a doctorate, got my national board certification, and have on occasion taken on things like student teachers or mentoring others for National Board certification.  I give up a Saturday a month to help AP students from other schools, and I gave up a week this summer to prepare students in another high school to take their first AP exams.  The principal there has already asked me to do it again this summer.

                      One may not move very quickly - mine was progress over time.  Still, I make almost 3 times as much after 15 years.  I'd say that is pretty quick.  

                      "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 Aug 29, 2010 at 10:01:37 AM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                •  Stick to engineering, then (6+ / 0-)

                  Where -- unlike education -- your variables are predictable and quantifiable. Quit trying to extrapolate the decision-making you face in engineering to education, where it does not begin to apply. It's no wonder your opinions on education bespeak such ignorance.

                  "Lash those traitors and conservatives with the pen of gall and wormwood. Let them feel -- no temporising!" - Andrew Jackson to Francis Preston Blair, 1835

                  by Ivan on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 09:14:09 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  I think there are some business (0+ / 0-)

                    principles that should be applicable to education.

                    •  Let's see you name some (5+ / 0-)

                      Let's see you document them. Let's see you subject them to the same analytical rigor that EPI did to this paper, over the same period of time.

                      "Lash those traitors and conservatives with the pen of gall and wormwood. Let them feel -- no temporising!" - Andrew Jackson to Francis Preston Blair, 1835

                      by Ivan on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 10:01:28 AM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  Accountability... (0+ / 0-)

                        produce or privitize.  I'm a consumer of education.  I know it would be nice for you to demand that I produce the same level of research presented today, but is that really realistic?

                        I am a stickler on this point because I believe that all kids are able to learn and be taught.  I refuse to sacrifice all for the few, or teachers, unions or administrators.  Now we don't have to agree and clearly this is a sensitive subject but too much is at stake when you have a taxpayer-funded entity that is unwilling to be accountably for their product.

                        Is it more complex?  Of course.  Teachers are paid horribly, schools are underfunded.  Yes.  Is the system broken, arguably, but when I see it works for many, many kids except for the ones that happen to be brown or black, then I'm sorry, I'm fighting for those kids first and foremost, not job security for teachers.  And if public school teachers won't be accountable, there is a whole cottage industry ready and willing to take over the mantle.  This is actually my doomsday scenario.  But if the results are the same now as if all school is privitized...well, honestly I'm on your side believe or not.  I'm saying unless there is accountability public school will be dismantled.  Then what?

                        •  Education is not a commodity (10+ / 0-)

                          It is not a "product." And I will not let you get away with your LIE that teachers are unwilling to be "accountably."

                          Teachers are accountable, and will continue to be, but unfortunately for you and your business model, that model doesn't apply to education, and is not likely to apply as practiced presently.

                          Teachers are accountable through peer review, through administrators doing their jobs, and through increased parent involvement. Public schools succeed when they are funded adequately, and they don't succeed when they don't. Or maybe you just choose to ignore what Ken has said repeatedly in this diary, and that other teachers have reinforced -- that the bad ones are weeded out or counseled out in the first 3-4 years.

                          There are many possible definitions of "accountability," and unlike you, I see no reason to accept any such definition from the corporate world. I'm not so accepting, or so trusting. That's because I had a terrific public education, which instilled in me an active and muscular bullshit detector.

                           

                          "Lash those traitors and conservatives with the pen of gall and wormwood. Let them feel -- no temporising!" - Andrew Jackson to Francis Preston Blair, 1835

                          by Ivan on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 11:10:20 AM PDT

                          [ Parent ]

                          •  Settle down... (0+ / 0-)

                            no need to get in a tiff.  

                            Yes, education is not a commodity.  I agree with you.  But unless the public model gets it together, it will become so.  PERIOD.  

                            Every test has it's flaws.  We evolve and become more proficient at measuring what is observable.  

                            If you read my comments, I've never said that all teachers don't want to be accountable, so who is the liar?  I said those who are willing to be accountable will find their institutions in high esteem.  I know plenty of teachers who want to be accountable.  I cherish them as they don't take socioeconomic factors, family history or background, race or gender as an indicator of academic achievement.  They just won't allow their children to fail.  They reliably produce kids who exceed expectations.  What I'm calling foul on is other teachers who think they shouldn't be held accountable.  Because I know there are teachers who are willing to be held accountable is why I won't let other teachers off the hook.

                            Finally, what I will not ignore is bad teachers in public schools.  They're all weeded out, right?  Okay.    

                        •  I know more about running a business (3+ / 0-)

                          than most businessmen know about schools and education.  They think they can simply walk in and teach.  Most of them would not last one day in many of our schools.  

                          I have been a 2nd level manager in the private sector, and a supervisor in government.  I have consulted to major corporations.  I have during that time often been asked if I would like to come to work for the companies to which I was consulting.  

                          There are aspects of purchasing and inventory control that overlap with the business world.  But even transportation is a very different issue.  Many who think they could do it are surprised at how many responsibilities a principal has.  

                          And then there are superintendents.  A large system superintendent may make as much as half a million a year.  Which is peanuts if you consider that he can be responsible for a budget of over $1 billion, with 20,000 emnployees and well in excess of 1`00,000 students.

                          "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 Aug 29, 2010 at 01:43:36 PM PDT

                          [ Parent ]

                    •  We will do that (2+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      Odysseus, Daddy Bartholomew

                      when a business agrees to take ANY employees we send them with little or no control over them.  There would be no firing--you must think of a way to motivate that employee that wants to sleep at his desk all day to actually produce something.  Remember you can't fire him for low performance.  

            •  ...but lawyers are not at ALL paid on performance (7+ / 0-)

              at least not in the short run.  You choose a lawyer, you takes what you gets.  You can fire one and hire another, if he/she is bad enough, but you pay them their asking rate all the same.

              When someone mows your yard you pay them their asking price unless they ran over the cat or something equally outrageous.  The most you can do is not rehire them.  

              Just saying that it's not so cut and dried.

              In any case the entire issue here is reliably defining and measuring performance, which in the case of teaching is MUCH harder than it looks on first glimpse.

              Baz

              We are the principled ones, remember? We don't get to use the black hats' tricks even when it would benefit us. Political Compass: -6.88, -6.41

              by bmcphail on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 07:37:51 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

          •  worked in both (5+ / 0-)

            I have worked in both types--with a union and without.  In the non union schools the pay was lower and the administrative abuse and mistreatment of teachers was greater (verbal abuse, intimidation).  There were 8 hour days plus required after school meetings and after school work.  With that and regular class preparation and grading, I worked an average of 50 to 55 hours a week for much lower pay.  In the unionized school the pay is better and between school hours, after school, classwork prep and grading I work an average of 40 to 42 hours a week.  The administrative abuse is far less and if it happens, you have someone to help correct the situation.  Unions don't protect bad teachers, they make sure administrators follow due process according to the contract.  That way you don't get fired for not socializing with the boss after work or for raising questions about the curriculum. I believe that unions help students by protecting teachers from abuse of power.

        •  two responses in one (31+ / 0-)
          1.  on the union, I am again serving as building rep as I did 10 years ago because I want to make sure the union is oriented towards the right thing.  we'll see what kind of influence I can have at the representative meetings.  You should know the current VP of NEA, and likely next president, Lily Eskelsen, is a former Utah teacher of the year
          1. I took an immense pay cut when I became a teacher, from 65K to 34K.  I did it because it was what I felt I had to do.  It was hard, and we have never fully recovered financially from the hit, but I never regretted doing it.

          "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 Sat Aug 28, 2010 at 09:41:19 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Ken, my guess is that you are (8+ / 0-)

            one hell of Association Representative. I am a UniServ Director in Illinois. The reps are the backbone of the organization - thanks for adding it to what is obviously a very full plate.

            If we don't change, we don't grow. If we don't grow, we aren't really living. - Gail Sheehy

            by itisuptous on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 07:43:08 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  We'll see - just took it back on (7+ / 0-)

              last served ten years ago.  The man most associated with making our school great was a principal who was hostile to the union, and regularly tried (without success) to transfer out anyone who dared to be union rep, or so I was told.  As a result we had not had a building rep for about ten years.  His replacement asked the department chairs who would make a good rep, since he felt the interests of the teachers in our building were different than those of others in the system and needed a forceful advocate.  I am told all the department chairs volunteered me.

              When I won my teaching award last year, I decided to try to use the higher visibility it gave me to advocate on behalf of both teachers and students.  During the summer I came to realize that had to include becoming re-involved with the union.

              Our building is entitled to four reps.  My predecessor will continue as one additional, and I have recruited two younger teachers as the others -  both of them are involved with the National Board Process, and I am NBCT, so no one is going to accuse us of being primarily focused on protecting bad teachers.

              I am in some conflict with the board of our local, the one board to sign on to the state'[s application for RttT, this without consulting even with all of the building reps, much less with the membership at large.  We'll see how all this works out.

              "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 Aug 29, 2010 at 07:49:17 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Thanks for the additional background info. (6+ / 0-)

                The union can provide a number of value added roles to the system, not the least of which is giving voice to the teacher perspective as changes are comptemplated. I found the union involvement as a vehicle for the extension of my professionalism over the years. It presented opportunities for me to get at many of those things in the system that negatively impacted my ability to be successful in the classroon.

                Good luck as you continue to work within your local to make it and the larger system better.

                If we don't change, we don't grow. If we don't grow, we aren't really living. - Gail Sheehy

                by itisuptous on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 08:39:14 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

        •  unions (20+ / 0-)

          Anyone who opposes teachers unions has to explain the observation that, by and large, the worst US school systems are in the states with the weakest teachers unions (the southeast and west), and the best US school systems are in the sates with the strongest teachers unions (e.g. mid atlantic, northeast, midwest). Of course I'm speaking very generally, but there's some truth to the observed correlation - whether there's a causal relation or not is a another thing - but empirically, what's the evidence for an overall negative effect from unions?

          •  I'll explain (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Justanothernyer, princss6

            Right wing states are anti government anti taxes as a result their public sector suffers, and public education is one of many institutions they chronically underfund. The other issue is lower pay and less benefits attracting less talent.

            Unions don't improve teaching per say, they improve the compensation that attracts better people. I don't see Unions driving out bad teachers so that can't be the reason.

            •  that's because you are not privy (8+ / 0-)

              to a lot of what goes on.

              At least you recognize that states with union workforces have higher standards of living.  They are also more likely to have higher scores on tests because those are heavily correlated with income and poverty.  

              You are way off on unions.  I have written separately about the role unions play and why.  It is not the responsibility of the union to get rid of ineffective teachers, it is the responsibility of administrators.  And do not blame unions for insisting that due process be followed any more than you should blame the Bill of Rights for the fact that cops and prosecutors have to abide by procedures that protect the rights of even the vilest criminals.  In both cases the protections are necessary to protect against abusive application of power.

              "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 Aug 29, 2010 at 10:05:38 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  what unions do that is good (0+ / 0-)

              The fundamental thing that unions do is secure better working conditions for those that they represent. In a situation, like that in the US, where there is an undersupply of qualified teachers, particularly in math and sciences, this will tend to mean that, all other things being equal (which they aren't), states with stronger teachers unions will have stronger pools of teachers from which to hire, simply because those wanting to teach will tend to prefer to work in those states (this is a statement at the level of huge populations, not individual teachers). Moreover, this effect should dwarf any putative negative effect created by difficulties in removing unionized teachers (I say putative because I do not think it has been convincingly demonstrated anywhere that teachers represented by unions are harder to fire than those that are not, nor that any difficulties in this regard are substantial enough to dictate policy decisions).

        •  Webranding, my mother was a teacher. (5+ / 0-)

          She was a teacher before the unions had the power they do now, and she threatened to haunt me if I went into teaching, unless I went into special education.  She saw this day coming because she saw the change in attitudes toward education in the 70s.

          In any case, her pay scale compared to mine was much, much lower.  Granted, I'm required to have more credentials than she did (she had a Normal School teaching education, I have a Masters degree), but it wasn't because of the union that her pay was lower.  The pay scales now are what they are because of union negotiation, not in spite of.  Teaching compensation would be lower than it is now if it weren't for the unions.

          My son went to K-8 parochial school for a while, not one of the stellar ones in our city but a lower-level one.  The good teachers were the ones who believed in Catholic education (a nun, a former nun, a certified public school teacher who'd moved in from another state and left when she got her license in our state, and a fantastic teacher who left once she got her Masters and her state teaching license, for a job in public school).  The bad ones complained about class loads of 17 kids being too big to give students individual attention, had horrific grammar and spelling, and had horrible classroom management skills.  Their pay was significantly lower than their public school counterparts.  

          While we encountered some poor teachers in the public schools, with one exception it was a question of poor teacher fit for the student rather than teacher quality.  The public school teachers were definitely of a higher caliber overall.  And they got paid more.

      •  But what do you do when you have a bad teacher? (6+ / 0-)

        I come from a long line of pro-union blue collar working class folk. I'm a first-generation college grad. and have a PhD in biology. My daughter's public high school biology teacher last year was terrible. It turns out that everyone in the high school community knows it: she's lazy, spends a lot of time in WoW, grades based on personal perceived bias, hasn't updated the curricula in years etc.

        This is a top public school in a community with many highly qualified recent college graduates that would love to rectify the situation and take over her job. No one, it seems can touch her. She is doing damage to my community, in my view, by continuing to hold her job. Students that could have been inspired by good biology instruction have been instead turned off to the field.

        Forever.

        What to do??

        •  Teachers like this (22+ / 0-)

          can be removed. It requires that the principal do his/her job, with careful, accurate evaluations, and that the superintendant backs the principal up. The rules have to be followed carefully. The union contract allows removal of bad teachers, but it requires extensive, careful, and accurate documentation. It's a lot of work for the principal, and the principal sometimes just doesn't want to do it right.  

          -5.12, -5.23

          We are men of action; lies do not become us.

          by ER Doc on Sat Aug 28, 2010 at 11:10:00 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  As I read many stories of bad teachers (5+ / 0-)

            remaining in their jobs and none of good ones being fired, it strikes me that the requirements and process for firing teachers are excessive.

            •  a lot of what you read is spin (21+ / 0-)

              Most "bad" teachers never get tenure - they are dismissed or 'counseled out" in the first few year.  Remember, there is a very high rate of teacher in their first 3-5 years of teaching leaving the profession.  Some are those we would like to keep, but many are the ones who should not be teaching.

              Second, it is really not that hard to dismiss even a tenured teacher if the proper procedures are followed.  But newspapers like to tell horror stories.  These are about as representative of reality as are the ravings of Glenn Beck.

              There are bad or incompetent teachers who should be dismissed but are not.  No Child Left Behind, believe it or not, contributes to this.  It requires that every child have "highly qualified" teachers.  If you have someone who is fully certified, in most states that makes them "highly qualified" -  if you dismiss them and have to replace them with someone not certified or onlyt "provisionally certified" the school takes a hit on its rating.

              Now, if you want to question how that person got certified, that's an entirely different can of worms, one that also needs to be addressed.

              "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 Sat Aug 28, 2010 at 11:21:06 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  But, they get tenure so quickly. In colleges, (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Rich in PA

                it takes six years.  I thought high school teachers applied for tenure much sooner than that.  The "bad" teachers would fail but the mediocre teachers could pass through and become bad.

                In our district, the mediocre teachers that get tenured end up in weird classes like the middle school tech class where the teacher watches the kids learn how to type.  The bad gym teacher is sorting volley balls.

                The true danger in politics is when people in power elevate ideological purity over their basic humanity, empathy, and common sense. -- thereisnospoon

                by alliedoc on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 05:27:58 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  first, not all states have tenure (8+ / 0-)

                  in Virginia, it is called continuing contract status, and it is not as protective as tenure.  Some states already required 3 full years of successful teaching, and those applying for Race to the Top funds have in general been increasing the time for tenure.

                  It should not take as long in K-12 as it does in college.  At the post-secondary level tenure is usually dependent upon publication, which one has to do while teaching.  In K-12 it is based on whether or not one is a satisfactory teacher.  Two years may be too short, but anything over 4 is in my opinion excessive.  In fact, extending the period before tenure is granted may have the perverse effect of keeping teachers who have credentials longer.  

                  "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 Aug 29, 2010 at 05:31:46 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Four is good. I live in Pennsylvania. I thought (0+ / 0-)

                    it was 2 years but I might be thinking of another state I lived in.  In college, we apply at five years and get it (or not) the next.  The point is not to make a mistake and yes, I think that college should be different from high school and elementary school.

                    The true danger in politics is when people in power elevate ideological purity over their basic humanity, empathy, and common sense. -- thereisnospoon

                    by alliedoc on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 06:56:29 AM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                  •  I would surrender (4+ / 0-)

                    tenure in a heartbeat in exchange for "just cause", and good evaluation systems with competent evaluators, good induction and mentoring programs, and system of support for all teachers in need. Put these in place and for everyone and we would not need tenure.

                    If we don't change, we don't grow. If we don't grow, we aren't really living. - Gail Sheehy

                    by itisuptous on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 08:01:06 AM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  Tenure IS a just-cause standard (6+ / 0-)

                      I'm disheartened when I hear people think tenure is more than due-process standards in every state. The primary benefit of tenure is that your school district can't fire you without cause.

                    •  please, read one of my previous diaries (5+ / 0-)

                      "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 Aug 29, 2010 at 10:07:28 AM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                    •  Bingo (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      Odysseus

                      Finally, a suggestion that makes sense. Not only would this eliminate the need for tenure at the primary at least, it would do a lot to address the "bad teacher" problem, which like it or not is a real problem.

                      Having been a professor (mathematics) and also having worked for both small and large companies, the difference in approach is stark.

                      When I first started as a professor, I was handed a class schedule, student rosters, copies of the textbooks for my classes, and ... well, that was pretty much it. It was sink or swim, both for me and for my students.

                      My "manager" was for all intents and purposes the department chair, who had a 40-50 person department to deal with in addition to his own teaching and research responsibilities and could hardly justify spending much time assisting any individual professor.

                      I now work as a software engineer for a large company. When I started the induction process took almost an entire week. I receive regular overall evaluations. I'm expected to write tests that check all of my work, and even so everything I do is checked multiple times in multiple different ways. The mistakes that manage to slip through undergo extensive analysis looking for root causes and possible amelioration. (That would include remedial training or even firing my ass if I can't cut it.)

                      As a senior engineer, I'm expected to mentor junior engineers, both informally and formally, which of course means that junior engineers have access to mentors. I have a wide array of continuing education options available. Counseling and many other support services are provided and use of them is encouraged.

                      As it happens I'm in an anomalous position in regards to who I report to - my manager quit and hasn't been replaced yet (but will be), so I report one level too high to someone who because of the situation has 30 direct reports. This number is considered completely unacceptable - the number is supposed to be no more than 15.

                      Mind you, I'm not saying that everything is roses at work. We have far too many responsibilities and not enough people. There are any number of policies that simply do not make any sense and which seem to be impossible to change. But even with its flaws, it's an environment that's far more conducive to producing a high quality result than any school I've seen.

                •  In Illinois tenure is 4 years (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  XerTeacher

                  I kinda think that is enough time to determine if someone can cut it.

                  If we don't change, we don't grow. If we don't grow, we aren't really living. - Gail Sheehy

                  by itisuptous on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 07:57:03 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

              •  And if (6+ / 0-)

                an administrator is unwilling to follow the process the task can become onerous later on.  It isn't rocket science.  In the corporate world we have similar processes (although we aren't necessarily required to follow them in my State).  There are a series of fairly simple steps that a manager takes that results in firing a poor performing employee.  But those steps are often not followed because it takes time and effort (no matter how little) and then further down the road you have an abysmal employee who is harder to remove.  And these steps are not solely punitive. The process is geared toward providing people with the information needed to perform at a level of expectation and at the same time have a record that the attempts to assist that individual to perform have been taken.

                "You have attributed conditions to villainy that simply result from stupidity"

                by newfie on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 05:30:07 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

              •  What no one talks about is the washout rates (0+ / 0-)

                in teacher cohorts.  Some cohorts can be brutal, and some colleges are brutal in pushing students toward washing out.  Generally those who get washed out of teacher cohorts in ed school are older students with the sort of life skills and experience you'd think would be prized in the classroom.

              •  I won't quibble on NCLB on this point... (0+ / 0-)

                too many minority children are taught by teachers who are not certified.  It is to their detriment.  I won't be dismissive of that point.

            •  I wish you could walk in my shoes for a (14+ / 0-)

              short time. I represent teachers who are "in trouble" and subject to remediation... I have counseled many people out of the profession. I have also fought tooth and nail to support teachers who are being railroaded for any number of things not related to their competence. In all to many of those cases, I have watched the injustice of a career cut short by an administrator who is vindictive and clueless about what good teaching is. Often these administrators are people who were not very good at teaching, did not like it, found that bossing others and talking about teaching and learning was a much better paying gig.

              If we don't change, we don't grow. If we don't grow, we aren't really living. - Gail Sheehy

              by itisuptous on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 07:54:46 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  It isn't about the (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              bmcphail

              unions--some principals don't want the spotlight on their records.  They have to document the problems, talk to the teacher and construct a plan of improvement.  Then they have to document that the plan was not followed.  Some don't want to do that.  This happens in schools without unions also.  

          •  Bad Leadership (12+ / 0-)

             I have known many great teachers but only one great principal.  I have know many horrible principals but hear very little about their responsibility for problems in the schools.  It is always the union's fault or the teacher's fault.
             A great leader can bring the best out of all teachers, but a bad leader can make our best teachers want to leave the profession.  It is the job of the principal to evaluate the teachers.  If there are bad teachers left in the system, that is because a principal didn't do his or her job.  Even if a principal inherited a teacher left by some other principal, still it is their job to make sure that everyone is working in the school.  That is why they get paid so much more than the teachers.  We need to shift the focus away from blaming unions and teachers and have higher expectations of our principals and superintendents.

        •  But what do you do when you have a bad machinist? (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          princss6

          I don't see why the question is any different.

          •  It depends whether (10+ / 0-)

            that machinist is the son of someone important or a drinking buddy of the boss. I've seen THAT happen over and over. And I've seen excellent workers that someone just takes a dislike to fired for trumped-up reasons.

            De-orangify Congress: Justin Coussoule for Oh-08 http://www.coussouleforcongress.com/

            by anastasia p on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 06:12:10 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Excellent point. (12+ / 0-)

              The "belief" that private business is so much better at addressing performance issues needs to debunked. I would love to have some social scientists and management consultants do a study on who gets terminated at my Fortune 500 company. It is rarely the bottom performers who get the axe. The people at the top of the list, are people who voice their concerns to management, who ironically are also the people who care the most about their jobs.  

              •  This cost the company money (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Sparhawk, princss6

                There are incentives to not fire good people even if office politics overrides those interest. Good management makes money, poor management loses money. They have a reason to reform their work place. In schools poor management and good management are rewarded with equal funds. Reform suppose to at least recognize the high performers and hopefully reward them with something more than a pat on the back.

                •  Your reply is simplistic nonsense. (11+ / 0-)

                  The idea that companies can't continue to squeeze their workers and make money from economies of scale long after they have started to make poor decisions is ridiculous. Maybe you're impressed with the performance of the corporations you deal with. I'm much more impressed with the public school system my daughter goes to than I am with my cell phone provider or my local home improvement store. Wait, maybe we should structure our schools like the investment bankers run their businesses....

                  •  It is simplistic but it's not nonsense (3+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Sparhawk, princss6, BoxNDox

                    Badly run companies do survive and make money. The point is they would make more if they were run better. Perhaps your cellular provider isn't listening to the best employees but they would profit from doing so. The same is true for the public schools except for the monetary reward. Incentives to improve management are constructive as opposed to assuming those in the workplace will are always doing the best they can so we ought not burden them with our high expectations.

                    Companies do more with less to improve profits. Public schools do more with less because of budget cuts. Public school employees do work hard to improve education but are not made accountable for failure. For this reason the bar keeps dropping year after year and has to be forced back up to compensate for what these people assume can't be done and frustrated management agreeing to lower the bar. Instead simply setting higher standards for graduation we can reward the management and the employees for increasing student performance. This would create a disincentive to lowering expectations if upper management holds it's ground on the standards.

                    •  Oh, the old "profit=qualty" argument! (6+ / 0-)

                      So you're saying that McDonald's makes the best burgers in the country because they make the most profit? FAIL in business, and FAIL in education. You don't measure educational progress by "doing more with less." You measure it by doing more, period.

                      "Lash those traitors and conservatives with the pen of gall and wormwood. Let them feel -- no temporising!" - Andrew Jackson to Francis Preston Blair, 1835

                      by Ivan on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 09:29:16 AM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  Profit for students is education (0+ / 0-)

                        The profit model is one for the society. If they know how to learn they can learn how to do things, if they are very good at learning then they can learn how to do even harder things. The hard things tend to be profitable because fewer people can do them thus people are willing to pay more to get them done.

                        If McDonolds were education then they would turn out large numbers of students with basic skills for very little money. That would be better than our school system. The extra special things we would like enhance young minds with are wonderful, but when you can't figure out how to get the basics into their head those lofty ideals are extremely unrealistic.

                        •  So churning out more and better McDonald's (2+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:
                          3goldens, XerTeacher

                          workers would represent school improvement??

                          I don't know.  I think I would recommend Malcom X's "Learning to Read" to you.

                        •  This right here (4+ / 0-)

                          If McDonalds were education then they would turn out large numbers of students with basic skills for very little money. That would be better than our school system.

                          Renders anything additional you have to say on the subject of public education as not worth commenting on, or responding to.

                          "Lash those traitors and conservatives with the pen of gall and wormwood. Let them feel -- no temporising!" - Andrew Jackson to Francis Preston Blair, 1835

                          by Ivan on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 01:54:36 PM PDT

                          [ Parent ]

                  •  They key to the corporate world (0+ / 0-)

                    is that a few bad decisions doesnt necessarily cause a company major problems. However over a long period of time as bad people accumulate and good people leave the company will eventually go out of business or get bought out. Those people then get integrated into a more effective management structure.

                    All human organizations have exactly the same issues, whether it is a government or a corporate entity. The key difference between a corporation and government is the timescale to failure is much faster for a corporation because of the nature of the competition.

                    Good school districts have very high property values, bad school districts have ever decreasing property values, but the school district never ceases to exist. It is much more difficult for people to move to change schools than it is for people to change the companies they buy from.

                    One answer to this issue would be public school vouchers. This would enable people to very quickly communicate their dissatisfaction with a school or set of schools.

                •  It may come as a shock (7+ / 0-)

                  but not everyone, even managers, have profits and the well being of the company as their highest priority. They may be looking out for themselves or any number of other motivations to do not do smart thing in terms of profits and long term health of the enterprise. I remember my first jobs in which I had ideas about how we could do things better. What do you suppose I was told? "Shut up kid, we do not pay to think!" This little story has been relived and observed over and over again in my experience. Systems are usually not set up to honor their nominal mission. Ones that do are exceptional we books are written about them. Most of the world works in the imperfect mode.

                  If we don't change, we don't grow. If we don't grow, we aren't really living. - Gail Sheehy

                  by itisuptous on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 08:17:43 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Imperfect like test, teachers, students, parents (0+ / 0-)

                    Incentives are not the solution they are a tool encourage it's discovery. Too much is written proclaiming how great teachers are without acknowledging their flaws as a major problem. If it were not the case we would not have to worry about teachers getting poorly taught kids from the teacher that had the students before them.

              •  What better examples (6+ / 0-)

                could we have than the Wall Street folks who destroyed companies and nearly our economy and received bonuses for it!

                If we don't change, we don't grow. If we don't grow, we aren't really living. - Gail Sheehy

                by itisuptous on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 08:11:12 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

              •  I would agree... (0+ / 0-)

                those who are well liked are most secure in their jobs in the private sector.  I would argue for objective measures for performance whic more companies are moving towards.

            •  Which is why I think... (0+ / 0-)

              the move to something objective would alleviate the interpersonal conflicts inherent in all systems.

              •  I strongly disagree - (5+ / 0-)

                the idea of objective measures is a myth.  Height and weight might be objective measures.   Assessing academic performance is always subject to measuring error.

                And let me be blunt -  I do NOT treat my students objectively.  I consider each subject in herself, and her education should reflect that.  Part of what is wrong with what we have been doing in education even before we escalated the emphasis on high stakes test has been that we have been objectifying our students, we have been ignoring very real differences.  They arrive with different experiences and backgrounds, they have different learning styles and interests.  It why I have to vary how I teach so that I do not advantage some for whom one style serves them well while disadvantaging others for whom it does not.

                Look, I did and do very well taking standardized tests.  I look very good if you examine my students' test scores.  But that is not the measure of my effectiveness as a teacher.  Than is not why I won my award.  None of those offering letters of support - colleagues, administrators, fellow teachers, former students, parents, etc - not one mentioned anything about test scores.  It was the concern for the individual student.  It was that I challenged even the most talented to do more than they could when they arrived in my classroom.  It was the extra help I would offer to anyone willing to try.  Itg was my refusal to give up on a student -  even if sometimes, often with parental agreement, I would step aside and let a student experience the failure that would come from the lack of effort being put forth.  

                Teaching should be personal.  And appropriate evaluation of teaching should recognize that.  The most effective administrators in schools are the ones who can maintain appropriate human relationships.  I may go out drinking with assistant principals on an occasional Friday afternoon, but that in no way prevents them from offering correction to me if it is warranted.  For gosh sakes, one of things that has been wrong in our schools is that we have been squeezing out the humanity, the caring, the human touch.  

                So sorry, I disagree.

                When I was supervising people in the private sector, we would sit down and jointly set goals for a period of time.  If the subordinate was encountering difficulty, I expected her to come to me and we would discuss it, to see if it was something in his control, in which case I might by questioning try to get her to see it for himself [the alternating of gender is deliberate].  If not within control of the subordinate I might have to intervene to assist, or perhaps we needed to adjust the goal.

                We should be doing that with students - individual learning goals.  We should be doing that with teachers, and to a degree those of us who undergo National Board Certification do it to ourselves.

                There may be quantitative goals, but they serve as checkpoints for a deeper understanding, not as goals in isolation.  

                "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 Aug 29, 2010 at 01:56:01 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  I know... (0+ / 0-)

                  And let me be blunt -  I do NOT treat my students objectively.

                  You are not alone.  Thank you for your honesty.  As a parent, I know this all to well.  This is why testing because essential because how can grades, as subjective as they all, be the end all be all.  I don't begrudge you for it because we both know it is true.  The test is one objective measure that can even begin to get through all the noise of all other factors.

                  Agree with you on individaul learning goals.  That isn't necessarily popular with teachers who think it is too overwhelming.

                  •  you entirely miss the point again (0+ / 0-)

                    my parents are grateful for the fact that I do not treat my students "objectively" and that I take the time to get to know them, to understand them so I can find ways of helping them succeed, if they want to, and sometimes even if they don't.

                    You are so fixed on your preconceived notion that now you are misinterpreting what others are saying to you.

                    Basta.

                    "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 Aug 29, 2010 at 04:49:33 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  Nope... (0+ / 0-)

                      we both have preconceived notions.  Can you at least admit that?  The study is written by a bunch of people with pre-conceived notions.  No?  None of us are blank slates.  Do you honestly think that if all kids were performing to their potential, public school would be under attack.  The sole vulnerability of teachers and unions is that they provide excuses instead of results.  Do I expect a group of teachers to say that in any study?  Nope!  

                      So this is apparently radical thinking, do better or be prepared to be privatized.  I read that you are teaching at a magnet.  That is great.  How do you gain admittance to the magnet?  In my city magnets rely on test scores.  If a teacher does not prepare their kids to do well on those admissions test, then this should fall solely on the kid?  If that is the system you want to use for our kids, I say abolish it.    

          •  It is very obvious (7+ / 0-)

            When teachers early in their career are clearly "bad" they don't last. They quit, are counseled out, evaluated out, non-renewed... Since the work products are so different the "clearly bad" are not going to be so obvious, but essentially the systems do not work all the differently in present. Teachers are being demonized.

            If we don't change, we don't grow. If we don't grow, we aren't really living. - Gail Sheehy

            by itisuptous on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 08:09:51 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  "hasn't updated the curricula in years" Wow. (4+ / 0-)

          Doesn't the district set the curriculum?

          I am very lucky with a district in Pittsburgh that has had awards and is a mecca for intelligent people to settle.  Over 1/4 of the Pittsburgh Symphony members live here (to indicate the intellectual climate in our little town).

          They are now recruiting parents to help with classes, bring their expertise to the schoolroom.  I am debating it (although my last kid just graduated).  Would it be rewarding?  I'd like to try.

          The true danger in politics is when people in power elevate ideological purity over their basic humanity, empathy, and common sense. -- thereisnospoon

          by alliedoc on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 05:25:26 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Put pressure of the administration (4+ / 0-)

          to deal with situations in which someone is not doing their job. It is no one's best interest to have incompetence in classrooms. Unions protect the due process rights of their members, but administrators have control of hiring and firing decisions. Contrary to what most people think, teachers can and are dismissed. If there are specific issues that you can document - hold the system and the teacher accountable!

          If we don't change, we don't grow. If we don't grow, we aren't really living. - Gail Sheehy

          by itisuptous on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 07:48:10 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  There is a process, and at least in (3+ / 0-)

          my union's contract, there's an outline for it.

          You go to the principal.  If you don't get a response from the principal, then you go to the superintendent (or in a larger district, the mid-level area superintendent responsive for your attendance area).

          You can also contact your state's licensing bureau and ask them about a censuring process.  They do exist.

          (I found out about this process when trying to complain about a teacher at my son's parochial school.  That's when I found out that my only recourse was to leave that school, because whatever happened in private systems didn't affect public licensure and the state had no influence).

      •  But TK... (0+ / 0-)

        these kids are learning and excelling.  I read your statement as the teachers and the unions are the most important in the system.  I know that is not what you meant but this is my perception.  I call them as I see them and because I know good teachers and bad and the best teachers in my experience have not had the protection of a union, some have.  But come on, you would actually deny kids and opportunity because they aren't deferential enough to teachers and unions?

        •  I am puzzled why you think I say that (6+ / 0-)

          anyone who pays any attention to what I write knows that my primary focus is the well-being of students.  Forcing teachers into test prep does NOT serve students.  Removing teachers by the flawed measure of student test scores, even with value-added assessment analysis, does not serve the students.

          And I have written many times how as a union rep I made sure the administration of my school dotted the i's and crossed the t's so we could remove teachers who were harmful to the wellbeing of students.

          I cannot cover every educational issue in this or any other single diary.  The focus of this diary is why using test scores to evaluate teachers is full of problems.  I would prefer to remain focused on that and things related to that.  Do not presume that because I maintain that focus that I do not care about the wellbeing of my students.

          If I did not care I would not call every parent in the first few weeks, a task to which I will return as soon as I finish this run-through of comments.

          "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 Aug 29, 2010 at 10:12:43 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I said it because... (0+ / 0-)

            your automatic response, having not seen the movie was that it is against teachers and unions.  It appears to be a successful model, but I'm always skeptical.  The fact that a success model is described as being against teachers and unions struck a raw nerve for me.  

            I know you are a wonderful teacher.  I would love for you to teach my kid and I'm particular about who actually does teach my kid.  I just think when we focus on reform from a thesis of what it does to the teachers and unions, is missing the whole point and could be why we see the results we see.

            •  I have had it described in detail (4+ / 0-)

              by people whose judgment I trust who have seen it.  That is no different than trusting a movie reviewer or a book reviewer whose previous work you have found to be reliable.

              And you entirely miss the point.   You must have some focus on teachers if you want to accomplish education.  You do not want to drive out those who are good, caring and effective.  Unions have a role to play in ensuring fair treatment.  They should not be blamed when administrators do not do their jobs, especially since unions neither hire nor fire teachers.  Those who focus on unions usually either have an anti-union agenda to begin with or have a very skewed idea about the role they play in most schools.

              Again, for better or worse, consider the following.

              Places like CT that are highly unionized have far better test scores, if you want to use that as point of comparison, than places like Alabama and Mississippi that are not.

              CA, which is heavily unionized, dismisses experienced (in their case tenured) teachers at twice the rate (percentage)tha does MS, which has no union protections.  

              So how is it that it is unions that are causing the problems, pray tell?  

              And as the last point on this comment, the highest performing nation on international comparisons is Finland, which is 100% unionized in its teaching force.

              It is not the presence of unions that is the problem.

              And as I have said multiple times on this thread, focusing on dismissal of experienced teachers who are not measuring up is missing the real issue, which should be who is recruited, how they are trained, hired, supported, and supervised.  

              "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 Aug 29, 2010 at 02:02:32 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

      •  I went to their web site (3+ / 0-)

        and was not surprised to see that the children and parents agree to long days of instruction and support.  Public schools take every student, and I assure you not all agree to the requirements of the Harlem project.  

        All I had to hear to smell something fishy is his statement that he guarantees that any student who stays with his program all the way through will graduate from college.  There is no way to do that.  

        Many of the successful charter schools quietly counsel less performing students out of the schools.  Public schools do not.  It would be like comparing professional sports teams to those of employees playing for their companies.  

    •  Thomas L. "Stinky" Friedman (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      XerTeacher

      was pimping this film in the NYT. Geoffrey Canada pays himself $500k per for running a couple of schools and a youth program, nice work if you can get it.

  •  Positive reinforcement (6+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JanL, elwior, Lujane, edtastic, princss6, mjbleo

    I learned long ago with my children that offering them rewards for increased performance works much better than threatening sanctions for poor performance.

    What would happen if instead of threatening to fire teachers for poor test scores a school system offered pay raises for increased scores?

    •  actually strong evidence counterproductive (26+ / 0-)

      both for students as far as a commitment to learning and for any kind of professional.

      If you reward executives for quarterly stock performance, they will juice that even if it jeopardizes the long term interest of the company.

      Campbell's Law still holds:  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.

      "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 Sat Aug 28, 2010 at 09:43:45 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  So lets cancel elections (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        princss6

        We can't have elections since they are clearly corrupted. I mean they really are corrupted.

        The point is we don't cancel elections because it is subject to corruption because the alternative sucks.

        •  oh come on, now you are really reaching. (7+ / 0-)

          You are continuing a pattern you have demonstrated previously of arguing without addressing what has been presented to you.

          All of the points you are attempting to make have been answered in the brief.  Read it.  Then go argue with the authors.  There is an email in the brief by which you can contact them.

          "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 Aug 29, 2010 at 07:31:47 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Class changes make performance unpredictable. (0+ / 0-)

            I accept but I would not remove incentives for performance because I believe that. There will be some teachers who perform consistently. Those should be put in positions of leadership if they so choose.

            The authors were not reforming the system, they have discovered that the result of teachers getting different kids every year makes evaluating their ability based on test unreliable. If you get kids from that crummy teacher who bombed on an entire 1st grade class you will have a hard time. If you have to manage a store in crime ridden area your sales might be lower than those in a upscale shopping mall.  The company does not give you a bonus for selling in the poor area but schools can give teachers a bonus. They can also give them larger bonuses for improving the performance of poor students and the additional resources to make it happen.

            The testing regime with all it's flaws does allow for comparison between schools in a given year, and that will have to do for now. This is a period of drastic change in which mistakes will be made. Test will be changed, and everybody will be confused by the ever changing rules and landscape. It couldn't happen any other way, not here anyway.

            If you stop reform you won't have a focus on education. If you stop testing you won't have as many people trying to get money into schools. This irrational system has the practical benefit of altering the mindset of the leadership. They actually care when schools fail, where as before it could be easily ignored.

            •  such incentives are destructive of real learning (3+ / 0-)

              that is well documented.

              And for what it is worth, one of the great management gurus, W. Edwards Deming, opposed merit pay in business and industry for precisely the same reason.

              Just because you refuse to accept the evidence does not make you correct.  It just demonstrates your stubbornness, which is why I will probably not take the time to respond to any more of your comments on this thread -  you are getting fairly repetitive and predictable, and I am short of time.

              "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 Aug 29, 2010 at 10:14:31 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

        •  Imperfect systems can be (3+ / 0-)

          the best ones within the set of alternatives - elections, salary schedules...

          If we don't change, we don't grow. If we don't grow, we aren't really living. - Gail Sheehy

          by itisuptous on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 08:22:14 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  Children don't work on the longterm (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        princss6

        They have only been alive for the short term. We should not compare their behavior to CEO's who clearly know how to plan ahead to maximize their personal gains. Short term incentives for people who have only been alive for 10 years seems reasonable. It is unlikely they will be in a setting long enough to corrupt the system.

        •  You miss my point (5+ / 0-)

          Deliberately?  I can't tell.

          I am not arguing that children must think in the long term.  I am arguing that the education system must think in the long term where the children are concerned.  A test score is not a child, and the test score a child gets one year is not the sum of that child's development in that year.  Perhaps I have a luxury as a music teacher that other teachers do not -- I get to teach the same students for several years, and see their development as musicians and as people.  Although the performances my students give are evaluated (by the students, by me and by the audience), we all understand that these performances are just stops on a journey that will hopefully last a lifetime. For teachers who have their students for only a year, with an overemphasized standardized test at the end of their time together, the world must look and feel very different, but that doesn't mean that the short view is appropriate.

          And excuse me? "CEOs know how to plan ahead to maximize their personal gains," but very often at the expense of the companies they were hired to lead.  How is that a model for anything, much less education?  I've known superintendent who defrauded their districts and got out while the getting was good.  We call them criminals, not role models.

          •  Save the idealism till they can read (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            princss6

            There are great schools that teach kids to think. The fact is those can teach them to read. The short term and long term interest of learning to read and do basic math are aligned. I would rather have the students be self interested and exploitative than illiterate and idealistic. The children are not learning to be great citizens when they can't read anyway so we ought not act like it's a real trade off.

            We don't do effective moral education so that is not being interrupted to make room for test. Teaching the children values isn't happening for the vast majority of students nor is teaching critical thinking. These ideals are lovely and make you feel warm inside but its not going to compensate for basic literacy. Those teachers who are good will teach a lot more than I can say, the rest of the system needs standards to make sure the children have a future.

    •  I don't want (6+ / 0-)

      I don't want my doctor paid more for having healthier patients and I don't want my dentist paid more for having patients with no cavities.  Because then doctors and dentists who want more money will only take healthy patients and the neediest people will have few choices of doctors.  This system you propose discourages our best teachers from wanting to work with our neediest students.  Who wants to work with the class with the high number of Eng. lang. learners, academic delays, and transient students who only come for partial years if it means that by doing so you have to accept less pay than teachers working with students without many outside factors to make learning difficult?  That kind of reward system ends up punishing our neediest students.  

    •  Read Alfie Kohn (6+ / 0-)

      on this subject.  There is a lot of research out there, but his book "Punished By Rewards" offers a good argument against the idea of incentives and material rewards.

      NONE of the many fine teachers I have known in my career became a teacher for the money, summers off, or any other perceived perk of the job.  They teach because they believe in the value of the work, and many could make more money elsewhere.  

  •  there is too much testing. period. (14+ / 0-)

    Whatever action a great man performs, common men follow. And whatever standards he sets by exemplary acts, all the world pursues. The Gita 3.21

    by rasbobbo on Sat Aug 28, 2010 at 09:36:55 PM PDT

  •  teacherken, I read your diary with keen interest. (18+ / 0-)

    Economist James Heckman found something similar in his studies.  

    This was the "money shot" of the study you linked.

    Adopting an invalid teacher evaluation system and tying it to rewards and sanctions is likely to lead to inaccurate personnel decisions and to demoralize teachers, causing talented teachers to avoid high-needs students and schools, or to leave the profession entirely, and discouraging potentially effective teachers from entering it.

    And already in Houston, Texas...
    http://www.chron.com/...

    Republicans have long wished to dismantle Head Start, but studies show that the critical time to learn is 0-4 years of age. That means that we start to teach too late and as a consequence the tests are flawed.  

  •  Thank you very much (13+ / 0-)

    I have worried about educational problems for more than sixty years as a student, teacher, and parent.

    It breaks my heart when I think of good teachers under fire.  

    Hubby taught biology for 40 years before retiring and we got to know some of the other biology teachers in the area.

    One retired early for lack of pay, another did the same to run rental property his wife inherited, a third changed to teaching elementary gym.  All of them had taught for many years and were very much loved by students and parents.  They were highly effective teachers and yet we lost them.

    In Michigan, pay ranges from high near cities as my brother-in-law made much more than hubby, and hubby made much more than a lady north of us for the same hard work so when pension time comes, there is a big difference also.  The lady north of us had the students do many interesting projects...she is a super teacher who should have equal pay.

    Join us at Bookflurries: Bookchat on Wednesday nights 8:00 PM EST

    by cfk on Sat Aug 28, 2010 at 09:50:28 PM PDT

  •  It is comparing apples to oranges (23+ / 0-)

    Student test scores should be used to evaluate the performance of students.  How well students learn depends a lot on how well they are prepared and how much effort they put in to learn, which reflects more on parenting.

    In order to evaluate the effectiveness of a teacher, you would want a trained, independent observer in the classroom.  Some criteria for evaluating a teacher would be:

    1. Does the teacher maintain order in the classroom?
    1. Does the teacher communicate the subject manner in a clear way such that most students understand it?
    1.  Does the teacher allow student questions and encourage inquisitiveness on the part of students?

    Using student test scores to evaluate teachers is just a punitive tool to use on teachers, and does not do anything to improve the educational process.

    Democracy. Let's give it a try.

    by RockyLabor on Sat Aug 28, 2010 at 09:51:36 PM PDT

    •  I Am Not Trying To Pick A Fight Here (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Rich in PA

      I mean I am really not. But I just have a ton of issues with comments like that. If you are not a teacher what do you do for a living? Is your pay based on performance?

      Clearly teachers can only "control" so much. But alas, their job is to teach. And they ought to be paid based on their performance.

      My pay is based on my performance and that performance has many, many variables that are so far out of my control I don't even know where to start.

      It is just the way it is.

      "In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act." - George Orwell

      by webranding on Sat Aug 28, 2010 at 09:55:10 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  OK, pick a fight (19+ / 0-)

        If your performance has variables out of your control, then they should not be used to evaluate your job performance.  They are outside of your control.

        Democracy. Let's give it a try.

        by RockyLabor on Sat Aug 28, 2010 at 10:00:59 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  But That Isn't The Way The World Works (4+ / 0-)

          unless you are maybe a research scientist sitting in a room by yourself working on your one thing, there are always outside influences that are beyond your control. You just deal with them the best you can.

          "In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act." - George Orwell

          by webranding on Sat Aug 28, 2010 at 10:07:07 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  the world works in many different ways... (15+ / 0-)

            ...not one way and one way only.

            Teachers generally take on a job knowing that not all students will succeed, or put a more neutral way, that students will succeed in differing degrees.

            Using that fact as a tool to fault teachers seems a false attribution of causation.

          •  The way the world works? (9+ / 0-)

            People match risk to reward. They accept the lower pay for teaching because it offers less career risk, health care and a pension.

            If you increase the risk, you have to increase the pay. If you increase the risk without increasing the pay, you'll drive out the higher quality candidates.

            Our society isn't willing to increase the pay and, curiously, it isn't willing to leave teachers enough freedom in the classroom to actually perform.

            If that's the way the world works then Ayn Rand was right.

            --- Perma-ban or bust. - opendna

            by opendna on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 01:40:01 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  No (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              bmcphail, joycemocha, XerTeacher

              People match risk to reward. They accept the lower pay for teaching because it offers less career risk, health care and a pension.

              It is because teaching is still considered a "woman's job" caring for children and watching them while parents work.  I never accepted lower pay for teaching because it had lower risk. You must be kidding.
              Many of the poorest schools with the highest risk pay the lowest.  
              People die in schools, when I was teaching in Buffalo, a woman was killed in the office by her estranged husband.

              http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/206488-1 at 1:31:20

              by TexMex on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 05:15:23 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  I know of many people who returned to teaching (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Daddy Bartholomew

                after law and business schools precisely because of the  lower risk, generally better benefits, and more personal time.

                •  sorry, have to disagree in part (10+ / 0-)

                  and that is on the matter of more personal time.  The teachers I know who changed from other professions often comment that they have less personal time because teaching is so all consuming.  I qualify for that group.   When I became a teacher I went from making 65K as a supervisory systems analyst in local government (a salary quite a bit under what I was regularly offered for jobs in the private sector, and which lacked things like stock options and profit sharing)to around 34K my first year as a teacher.  We are still feeling financial effects of that switch more than a decade and a half later.  

                  I work more hours during the school year than I ever did even when I was on call 24/7.  

                  And I might note that the attitude of some is that they'd like to take away the stability to which you refer.  It is not guaranteed.  We had teachers lose jobs this year because of the financial crisis most school systems are encountering.  All of us have already had the first of what will be a total of four furlough days, not getting paid for one day.  

                  As demanding as some corporate bosses can be, we have school board members, state legislators, county council members, and especially parents who can be very demanding.  

                  Yes, we get some people who switch thinking teaching is an easier job.  Many of them do not last, not if they take what they do seriously.  

                  That we have too many who don't take it seriously I do not dispute.  I will also point out that to some degree the continued disrespect towards teachers -  which includes insufficient compensation, sometimes brutal working conditions, and other problems - contributes to having teachers like those about which some people complain.  Others decide they don't need the abuse, not for the compensation they are receiving.  They'd rather get their lives back.  

                  "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 Aug 29, 2010 at 06:21:40 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                •  nope (7+ / 0-)

                  most teachers I know who leave the business world return to teaching because they want to do something worthwhile with their lives.

                  Teaching doesn't have better benefits (believe me), has no personal time during the year, and schools are rated some of the more dangerous places in New York, with kids bringing in guns and other weapons to the extent we have to screen for them like a bloody airport.

                  We do it because we think it's worth doing. Yeah, we ask for more money, but look what happens when you don't - look at the US Army with their abysmally low salaries... but we don't have time to keep asking, which is why our salaries are generally under 50K unless we work for five to ten years... paying college fees all the while...

              •  Nah, I'm not kidding. (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                TexMex, Shakespeares Sister

                For a long time it was assumed that once you finally got tenure, that you wouldn't have to give a thought to getting laid off (as long as you did your job).

                There are a lot of teacher families which distributed the risk in this way: one partner brought home the health care, pension, and protection from the business cycle, and the other worked the booms for the higher income to pay for the car, house, etc.

                --- Perma-ban or bust. - opendna

                by opendna on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 01:42:47 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

          •  research scientist (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Daddy Bartholomew, joycemocha

            A research scientist in the US spends roughly 1/3 of his time writing applications for research grants. The notion of the research scientist disassociated from external influences is not very accurate if he works in a large lab, with industrial collaborations.

            •  Unless you watch X-Files too much. (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Daddy Bartholomew

              They portrayed scientists freakier than any other show I have ever seen.

              I had a student once who explained why he wanted to go to med school vs research.  "I want to work with people".  Follow me around for a day, I suggested to him.

              The true danger in politics is when people in power elevate ideological purity over their basic humanity, empathy, and common sense. -- thereisnospoon

              by alliedoc on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 05:39:52 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

          •  But, if a teacher focuses on teaching students (5+ / 0-)

            to learn, it will not result in as high of a test score.  My son got a 3 on his AP history test because his teacher didn't get to an important topic but he still thinks this is the best teacher he has ever had.  He got a 5 on the AP Euro test but wasn't quite so impressed with the teacher.

            (Oh, and BTW, I hate the AP tests but wanted this particular child of mine to do it because of inter-family nuances out of the scope of this diary).

            Point is, teaching to have high scores is not the goal.  Still, for a teacher with tenure, performance does not produce a higher salary, so doing your best should produce a reasonable result, testwise.

            The true danger in politics is when people in power elevate ideological purity over their basic humanity, empathy, and common sense. -- thereisnospoon

            by alliedoc on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 05:37:54 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I have mixed feelings about teaching AP (5+ / 0-)

              I have so much material to cover it somewhat limits my ability to explore some topics as deeply as I might like, and the kind of writing I have to prepare my students to do for the AP Gov test is actually not a good kind of writing in any other context of which I am aware.

              No one else in the building wants the responsibility.  And I am considered by my peers the best qualified to take it on.

              I actually enjoyed it more when we taught government in 9th grade and I had much more flexibility.  I am one of the teachers who lobbied hard to move government out of 9th grade because kids had not yet had the 2nd half of US History and thus lacked context for a lot of what we taught -  the Progressive Era agencies, the expansion of the Government in the New Deal and Great Society programs, the development of things like the War Powers Act.  

              What I enjoy about AP is that I get a chunk of the very brightest kids in the 10th grade, and I have a chance to expand their minds.  Even if they do not do as well as they or I might like on the AP exam, there are things that happen in my class that are important in their intellectual and personal growth.  That is why every year I get kids asking me to write college recommendations.  It might make sense if they are going on in social sciences.  Most of those asking me are going on in hard sciences or engineering, but feel what they experienced in my class means I can tell a college something important about them.  I rarely refuse.

              "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 Aug 29, 2010 at 05:56:42 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Yes, that is a hugely under-appreciated part (3+ / 0-)

                of our job ... recs.  My son got recs from both of his AP teachers.  One offered on his own.  Nate felt that they knew him better than anyone.  It is such an intense experience.  And, my son was pushed by his brother to turn to science (more jobs) but he didn't want to do it.  He said to me, "Mom, what can I do with a major in international relations?"  My answer was that he will find his way in college and that he had to start with his passion.  Best advice I ever gave.

                This is such an important topic and I am so glad when one of your diaries comes up.  Thanks.

                The true danger in politics is when people in power elevate ideological purity over their basic humanity, empathy, and common sense. -- thereisnospoon

                by alliedoc on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 07:04:12 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  you are more than welcome (4+ / 0-)

                  when a diary evokes the kind of response as I am seeing with this, I am honored even as I am obligated to read carefully the responses, even those that border on the trollish.  If someone as a result of reading what I post takes the effort to offer a long and thoughtful and/or heartfelt comment, I must take the time to read and to acknowledge.  It is an obligation I take freely, because I am honored to participate in the process.

                  "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 Aug 29, 2010 at 07:12:57 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

          •  So should we then adjust doctors' pay (7+ / 0-)

            based on whether or not their patients take their prescribed cholesterol meds? Should we adjust defense lawyers' pay based on whether the clients they accept are guilty or innocent, or state's attorneys' pay based on their conviction rate (even if many of the convictions they win are of innocent defendants)?

            How can you say that any licensed professional is only as good as his clients' willingness to heed his advice?

            "The great lie of democracy, its essential paradox, is that democracy is first to be sacrificed when its security is at risk." --Ian McDonald

            by Geenius at Wrok on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 06:01:48 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  "the world works" (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Daddy Bartholomew, XerTeacher

            the way we've decided it works, doesn't it?

            And if it doesn't work, we change it.

            Unfortunately, that requires groups of people, which is why many business leaders are opposed to unions.

          •  doctors and dentists etc (4+ / 0-)

            Professions that directly deal with services involving humans are different from professions that do not.  A doctor has a patient die who had diabetes/cancer/heart attack.  A good doctor has given a series of treatments, medications, tests, or therapies to try to help the patient.  A bad doctor said it was nothing and did nothing to help.  Yet, both doctors could have ended up with the end result of a dead patient.  Evaluating a good doctor, dentist, psychologist, counselor etc. is not the same as evaluating a good machinist by looking at the end product.  The human variables or what the human comes with are a part of the equation.  My school used to be mixed with students from all parts of the district(low income and high income).  One year the superintendent switched to neighborhood schools.  Our school became all low income/poor and another school became high and middle income.  If you evaluated us only by test scores, it would look as if from one year to the next we all forgot how to teach at our school, while the school with more affluent kids suddenly had teachers all become miraculous. Same teachers, just moved the students around and the results were extremely different.  That doesn't mean that we don't have high expectations for every student, but that it is factually more difficult to get a student to learn who has moved 3 times in one year and has missed months of school, who speaks no English, and who has been exposed to drugs in the womb.  Not impossible, not a reason to give up, but still a FACTOR.  We still need tests, high expectations, evaluations, etc. but most of all we need to have a focus on figuring out what the needs of the students are. Focusing on judging teachers by the  test scores of the students does not give us thorough information and does not give the students any direct help.  I want the focus to always remain on what directly helps students.

        •  Re (0+ / 0-)

          If your performance has variables out of your control, then they should not be used to evaluate your job performance.  They are outside of your control.

          Corporate managers are evaluated this way all the time. It's not entirely fair, but it's the way the world works in most places. "My company would have been successful except for the economic downturn" doesn't make you any less bankrupt.

          (-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 Sat Aug 28, 2010 at 11:38:36 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  the problem is how you determine performance (18+ / 0-)

        and using tests of students is a piss-poor way to do it.  

        This policy brief includes some of the most significant people in education.  Hell, Bill Linn headed both AERA and NCME.  There are few people with a fraction of his knowledge and understanding of what tests can and cannot do, and what conclusions you can draw from the data.

        Let me remind you of something from the report, which I quote in the diary: Authors, each of whom is responsible for this brief as a whole, are listed alphabetically.  That means Bill Linn stands behind everything in the Brief.  So does Eva Baker, and Richard Shavelson, and Linda Darling-Hammond, and Diane Ravitch, and Richard Rothstein, and all the others.

        I have had occasion to work with several of the people.  I have reviewed books by Darling-Hammond and Ravitch.  i have corresponded with both, and in recent years have formed a real friendship with Ravitch, even though we disagree on some things.  Shavelson was the author of the book I used for statistics in my doctoral program in education.  I had occasion to interview Rothstein a number of years ago, and have more recently had occasion to chat with him face to face.  Bill Linn is a giant.  

        In other words, the thrust of the brief is that some of the most important researchers in education are telling us, and the policy makers, that the direction we are going to try to determine teacher effectiveness is WRONG.  It will lead to unfortunate results.

        I can only hope policy makers are listening.

        "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 Sat Aug 28, 2010 at 10:06:24 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Well, I would say that most jobs (24+ / 0-)

        don't figure pay based on an arbitrary test given one day.
        My students this year (we've been in school since Aug. 2) have faced: homelessness, arrival to the U.S. Aug. 4 and coming to school without being able to speak English, being out of school two weeks for the Little League games, divorce, a dying father, mom fighting with boyfriend, running away with boyfriend because of pregnancy, undiagnosed mild mental retardation (I'm still working on getting this one through official channels but I am confident of my professional assessment), hearing loss, missing glasses, fights at school, conflicts with friends, puberty, and two parents who won't buy school supplies. This is just the first month. This will go on for the entire year and the list will get longer.

        Nevertheless, they will learn to think critically, read for understanding, debate, construct well thought out paragraphs, write meaningful responses to questions, analyze primary sources of all types, present clearly and confidently, and we will read and write, and read and write until it isn't so painful. Most of that won't be on the test.

        Sometime in April they will be asked to take a test that will label them (and me). They are far more than the results of that test.

        I know that I am a great teacher because my kids each make individual progress. When you can figure out a way to show that, then go ahead and use it to rate me. Until then, don't use standardized tests in a way that they were never designed to be used--that is as the sole measure of learning.

      •  After reading your posts, let me do you a favor. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Lujane

        http://thesaurus.com/...

        You're welcome.

      •  You can't measure teaching (5+ / 0-)

        without knowing what you are mentioning and using the scientific method. What is clear is that the method of testing students is not a scientific way of measuring teacher performance. There are too many intangibles. Education cannot be easily measured and that is the point of this diary. You either favor science or you don't.

        The whole testing idea is political and never had anything whatsoever to do with education in the way most of us understand the word.

    •  How other then by means of some (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Rich in PA

      form of student testing could you obtain an answer to question 2?

      •  lots of ways (28+ / 0-)

        assessment is not merely a question of tests.  Portfolios can show growth of student learning over time.  Trained observers can ascertain if a teacher is connecting with students. Believe it or not one can get meaningful feedback from both students and parents. Yes, some will be spiteful and some will be accommodating but they tend to cancel each other out.

        There are lots of ways of ascertaining if a teacher is effective.  Most of them are better than tests, if only we are willing to trust them.

        We can use tests as one indicator, but always with caution.

        In 2008 my AP students passed (3 or better) the AP exam at a rate of 78%.  Last year my pass rate was 66%.  Was I suddenly only 85% as effective as I had been the year before?  What if you learned there were no snow days in 2008, and only 2 2-hour late arrivals, and in 2009 there were 9 snow days, 3 2-hour late arrivals and 2 three-hour early dismissal (in which I did not even see one of my AP classes, which just coincidentally had the lowest pass rate).  What if I told you that every single AP teacher in our school (and we have over 20) saw a drop in our pass rates.  Did we suddenly all become less effective, or are those test scores in part an artifact of less instructional time, more interruptions, a Christmas break that was more than 2 weeks long?

        These are things people do not understand or refuse to consider when all they look at are test scores, even test scores as massage through statistical manipulations of value-added assessment methodologies.

        "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 Sat Aug 28, 2010 at 10:13:14 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Thank you for your answer (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          joycemocha, Rich in PA, Lujane

          Obviously, even proponents of evaluating teachers based on student tests need to recognize the limits of the method.

          With regard to the broader suite of methods you have set out, which seem reasonable, are you confident enough in the ability of these methods applied as a group to evaluate teachers to agree that a teacher who has failed to cause at least X% of his/her students to understand the material to be covered for two of three years should be terminated without further recourse?  

          (I left is as X% because I was having a hard time reconciling the ideal with the feasible.)

          •  sorry, don't accept your framing (10+ / 0-)

            for a very simple reason. What are the nature of the students?  Do they come to school?  Do their parents have any control over them, for example, to ensure they do their work?

            Do they have a stable place in which to study outside of school?

            Is the student load heavy with students with learning disabilities without support, or English language learners.

            You see to want to reduce the evaluation to student performance.  I am telling you that student performance is often far from under the control of the classroom teacher.

            "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 Sat Aug 28, 2010 at 10:57:11 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  It appears then (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Sparhawk

              that you don't think there is any system that will permit evaluation of teachers based on their work with a sufficient degree of confidence to permit firing such teachers for failure to meet applicable standards.

              This leaves us with two unpalatable alternatives:

              (1)  The status quo which allows too many incompetent teachers to remain; or

              (2)   A much more subjective system in which school administrators may fire at will, which will tend to have its own problems.

              •  wrong - I neither said nor implied that (13+ / 0-)

                I merely refused to accept one particular framing.

                There are systems that are out there, being used, that work.

                Even conventional systems can accomplish removal of bad teachers if administrators would do their jobs properly.

                Test scores are in fact NOT necessary as evidence for dismissal of incompetent teachers.  For one thing, there are often warning flags before they are hired.  For another, the vast majority of problem teachers can and should be identified in the first two years when no teacher has tenure and dismissal is not all that complicated.

                Even tenure teachers can be dismissed if the proper procedures are followed and documented.

                "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 Sat Aug 28, 2010 at 11:15:40 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  Such as what? (3+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Rich in PA, Justanothernyer, SoCalSal

                  I think justanothernyer's point is: what do you, teacherken, think is a valid way to measure teacher performance in such a way that one could fire them for lack of performance (or give them bonuses for superior performance).

                  Every post you make describes the flaws of every method of teacher evaluation, and I (perhaps we, though I don't want to speak for another poster) am interested in knowing what you think a valid method of evaluating performance is.

                  Even conventional systems can accomplish removal of bad teachers if administrators would do their jobs properly.

                  We're talking about teachers who can't teach here. How do you propose an administrator "do their job properly" and identify bad teachers? What standards can the administrator use to do so that you would agree would constitute a valid reason to fire a teacher for poor performance?

                  Even tenure teachers can be dismissed if the proper procedures are followed and documented.

                  Again, you haven't provided a standard we can agree is a "proper procedure". How can an administrator identify a bad teacher, tenured or non-tenured? What non-ambiguous goalpost can we use that you would agree constitutes a cause to fire for nonperformance? It makes no sense to say "there are systems" when you don't specify what you think they are.

                  (-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 Sat Aug 28, 2010 at 11:31:02 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Re (0+ / 0-)

                    Also, those of us in the private sector don't get tenure: every year it's produce, or get out.

                    (-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 Sat Aug 28, 2010 at 11:33:05 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  also not true (12+ / 0-)

                      I have been a manager in the private sector.  Not everyone is an at will employee.  There are in fact a lot of unionized employees in the private sector, and I have worked in companies that to avoid unionization of even more employees treated those who could unionize a lot less brutally than your words imply.

                      While I was in the private sector, I had occasion to consult to several hundred organizations.  About 1/3 were government or non-profit (educational or hospitals).  The rest were private sector.  Some were among the most notable companies in the US.  I would say that less than 20% operated on the basis you just describe.

                      Now granted, I left that position more than two decades ago, but I am still in touch with some of the people I knew at those companies and by and large the kind of firing you describe is not common.  That is, an individual does not often get fired on that basis, not without multiple steps of trying to turn the employee around.  An entire business unit might get shut down for economic reasons.  But that was not how your remarks seemed directed.

                      "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 Sat Aug 28, 2010 at 11:42:03 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  Re (0+ / 0-)

                        An entire business unit might get shut down for economic reasons.

                        When there are layoffs as it occurs in most large organizations from time to time, who gets laid off first? The poor performers almost invariably. I agree that there generally aren't witch hunts for poor performers.

                        However, in a small business a poor performer is death. When your whole business is 500 people and 5 aren't doing their jobs, that's one thing. When it's 5 people and 1 isn't, that's something else entirely.

                        (-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 Sat Aug 28, 2010 at 11:51:03 PM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

                      •  About 5-8% of the private workforce is unionized, (1+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        Dirtandiron

                        and employment contracts don't exist outside of the realms of high level executives. While some companies will hand-hold employees who are not working out, there are many more who notify you of your dismissal via you key card not working and your personal office items being UPSed you your house.

                  •  WRONG (16+ / 0-)

                    every post I make does not even deal with teacher evaluation.  I have written about Teacher Solutions, I have referred to the Framework for Teaching.

                    But here's the point.  I don't start with the assumption that we need to focus on dismissing teachers.  We need to focus on improving the quality of our teaching corps.

                    That has many components

                    1.  who we recruit into teacher training
                    1.  who we certify
                    1.  who we hire
                    1.  how we induct them and support them
                    1.  how we work to improve those who can be improved

                    I have been a hiring manager in the business world and in local government.  I have fired people in both environments.  The first thing that should be recognized is that when an employee has to be fired that is first and foremost a failure of management and supervision.  

                    So I refuse to accept the framing about how hard it is to fire teachers, when (a) it is in fact not hard, since many disappear before they have to be fired, and if proper procedures are followed incompetent teachers can be fired, and (b) such a focus is missing what is really important -  which is that even teachers who don't need to be fired should be being supported to become even better teachers.

                    "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 Sat Aug 28, 2010 at 11:37:22 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  Translation (0+ / 0-)

                      Post-hire, TK does not believe that firing teachers for poor performance should be done under almost any circumstances, since bad teacher performance is invariably a failure of nearly everyone except the teacher involved.

                      (a) it is in fact not hard, since many disappear before they have to be fired, and if proper procedures are followed incompetent teachers can be fired,

                      Again, begs the question. How do we determine that a teacher is incompetent with a method that you would agree is valid?

                      (b) such a focus is missing what is really important -  which is that even teachers who don't need to be fired should be being supported to become even better teachers.

                      In the private sector, it's "produce or you're out". If I own a small business and my employees or I myself don't produce, we go bankrupt. There is no support system, there are no second chances, there is just our customers who have the free choice to give us money or not and if they choose no for whatever reason, even if it's irrational, we go out of business.

                      Once again, TK, I truly respect you and enjoy your diaries, but I just don't get where you are coming from here.

                      (-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 Sat Aug 28, 2010 at 11:44:56 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  bullshit- stop distorting what I said (13+ / 0-)

                        I have never said post tenure teachers should almost never be fired.  Ridiculous of you to make that distortion when I talk about how if administrators do their jobs even tenured teachers can be dismissed.

                        If you truly respect me, read more carefully and do not distort what I say.

                        "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 Sat Aug 28, 2010 at 11:48:29 PM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  Re (1+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:
                          Justanothernyer

                          I have never said post tenure teachers should almost never be fired.  Ridiculous of you to make that distortion when I talk about how if administrators do their jobs even tenured teachers can be dismissed.

                          And so we still go on and on.

                          What method should these administrators use to "do their jobs" to evaluate and perhaps fire teachers who are incompetent? Since you appear to agree that incompetent teachers should be fired, it's just a question of measuring competence.

                          You must have a method of measuring competence, or else you would agree that post-tenure teachers should almost never be fired. (I write "almost" because presumably you think teachers should be fired for being drunk on school grounds, abusive toward kids, yes we agree on those things, what we're talking about here is for mere incompetence and no other factors).

                          How does an administrator decide whether a teacher is a good candidate for firing or not? I and others have repeatedly asked this question, and you continue to respond with "administrators should do their jobs". That's not an answer.

                          (-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 Sat Aug 28, 2010 at 11:56:36 PM PDT

                          [ Parent ]

                          •  Also, by the way (2+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            Rich in PA, Justanothernyer

                            I am not calling for summary firings of all teachers who don't "make the grade", there can be remedial work, extra studies, what have you. The real question is: how do you identify such people?

                            (-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 Aug 29, 2010 at 12:05:51 AM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  I agree with you n/t (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            Sparhawk

                            The most impressive thing about man [...] is the fact that he has invented the concept of that which does not exist--Glenn Gould

                            by Rich in PA on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 05:31:16 AM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  read more carefully (7+ / 0-)

                            there is not one magic bullet like a test score

                            there are multiple methods of ascertaining whether a teacher is doing the appropriate job

                            and by the way, if the students do not do well because they are constantly out of school, pray tell how is that the teachers' fault.

                            I have addressed the issue in about 6 different ways.  You insist on pushing into one framing.  I am telling you that such is inappropriate.

                            "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 Aug 29, 2010 at 03:42:07 AM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                      •  Complete and utter bullshit (9+ / 0-)

                        and you spew this in every one of Teacherken's diaries.

                      •  Perhaps you don't see because you're willfully (6+ / 0-)

                        blind. You're asking for a simple input-output comparison, and TK is clearly stating repeatedly that your reducto-ad-absurdum framing just doesn't work, especially in the case of test scores. A simple thought experiment - how many factors go into a student's performance on any given day? - will show you that.

                        Suppose you try to define what makes a good teacher by what they do in the classroom? I've observed schools which try that: they have an easy-to-follow checklist. Student work on the wall! Make sure you have an "Aim!" on the blackboard, and work for the students! Make sure you greet them in the classroom at the door! Surely checking randomly to see if this teacher performs this checklist would be sufficient?

                        Ah, no, you say, possibly thinking nervously about what teachers you yourself had in school. How does putting your work up on the walls necessarily help you write better essays?

                        So (and here's when I drop the fun and go technical) what does make a good teacher? I ask. And what exactly is being produced by the teacher?

                        I would argue that what teachers produce is a dynamic, ongoing, exploratory narrative related to a particular subject, theme or skill within their particular field. This narrative should be accessible and engaging to students, indeed anyone. (One might note whether or not students succeed, but given the range of people we call "students" success or failure doesn't determine productivity in this case. It would be like saying because in some areas people put out garbage than others, the garbagemen in the areas with more garbage do a better job than their peers. Their job is to be there providing services regardless of the need, right? So we'd be measuring the wrong thing. This is a rather ridiculous metaphor, but I think it holds.)

                        I would argue that measuring this dynamic, ongoing narrative with the goal of identifying whether or not the teacher has created a good complex product requires a longitudinal five year observation focusing not only on the creation of lesson plans and curriculum maps but also on implementation, asking teachers to identify and discuss case studies for modification and, yes, differentiation (which is the very complicated, murky way teachers ensure lessons suit students on varying levels.) There can't be a magic bullet solution to an essentially complex, multiple input - something that works on nearly artistic levels - and such an even more complex, multiple output as a child, much less one becoming an adult. (Heck, their brains don't even develop at the same rates!)

                        Assessment of student success is another matter. That needs to be measured, but linking the two is foolhardy and an easy trap. Student success is a measure of a variety of factors, from administrative, staff, parental, social, and yes, teacher input. (And don't try to tell me that, depending on the situation, any one of these inputs can overwhelm the others.)

                        This kind of assessment happens in many cases with social services agencies, where counselors produce plans for service, keep a diary or log of services provided and accompanying documentation, and have all this documentation read at the end of a period of years.

                        I think about this a lot, particularly because of Teacherken's diaries, and I think it's valid to bring my suggestion out here because it gives insight into just how complicated the business of teaching is - and why that "what exactly do we measure to determine student success?" question is particularly irritating to teachers.  

                        •  One more thing (5+ / 0-)

                          I do not know how other teachers deal with curriculum maps. Mine are long, complicated, and for one class can sometimes reach 15 pages - an outline for ten months of teaching and how my goals interact with the state goals and how I adjust for students who may have learning disabilities (I will not know who they are until next week... but the space is there.) Multiply that by five and you have a novella-length piece.

                          Some teachers are lucky enough to get maps from their administrators and can  follow general curriculae, but still need to fill in the blanks with their own subjects, ideas, and foci.

                        •  I would note that one implication of (1+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:
                          Sparhawk

                          your view is that it should take at least five years for a teacher to receive tenure.

                          •  Three is only the minimum number of years (2+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            Daddy Bartholomew, XerTeacher

                            which any teacher may be on probation.

                            In actuality, some teachers work for many more years before receiving tenure.

                            I was lucky, thanks to constant observation, to receive tenure after three years. (I think I also work extremely hard, and had the benefit of knowing teachers before becoming one, and knew what to expect-and also had the benefit of a technology-based education, making using technology to create my plans and make it happen was a snap.)

                            Right now, tenure is under fire because many believe it is undeserved.

                            If we had a working system which nobody would question that would guarantee both respect and deserved tenure, I'm fine with five years.

                    •  There are certainly many components (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      joycemocha

                      involved in improving the teacher corps.  The ones you list are important, but unfortunately having a rapid and effective termination process is also important.  

                      I want to stress that this is not the most important part; it is highly unlikely that one can fire one's way to a significantly better work force given the scale of our educational system. Ultimately the most important part is the ability to improve teaching methods across the system; to do this however, having generally agreed standards for what is effective (and eho is effective) are essential.

                      Also, the private sector does not, as a whole, do such a great job of this.  It is not surprising therefore, that the teaching profession does not either.

                      Those things being said, how fast and based on what criteria would you propose to fire a poorly performing teacher?

                      •  you are focusing on the wrong thing (3+ / 0-)

                        there is no problem now firing poor teachers if the processes are followed.  Many teachers who slip can be recovered if provided support, and that is far more beneficial than simply firing and replacing with an inexperienced teacher.

                        The focus needs to be on the other end -  recruiting, training, hiring, inducting, and supporting.  

                        "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 Aug 29, 2010 at 10:18:05 AM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

        •  The concerned parents know (0+ / 0-)

          You dont need much in the way of formal evaluations because the parents know and it will be different for every grade in every school in every community.

          The best way is one where the parents have choice and use that as a mechanism to drive reviews. Teachers will automatically be driven to the right combination of behaviors and teachers with different styles can get to the same place different ways.

          Some teachers might have heavy parental involvement, calling parents weekly. Some teachers might use games etc.

          Teachers are running their own small businesses and should be rewarded as a function of serving their customers as determined by their customers.

          And yes some teachers might be tempted to give everyone A's, but then the majority of parents who really care that their kids learn something would not want their kids in that class.

          •  I have to disagree (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            teacherken, miss SPED

            While you may be the exception, in my 30+ years of teaching, many parents request the "fun" teacher, or the teacher who is young and pretty, or the teacher that does some big annual project that may or may not relate to the standards we are supposed to teach.

            I encourage parents to meet with teachers and find the best fit for their children, but as ken has said over and over and over and over in this diary, if more teachers were carefully screened in the beginning, and carefully mentored and trained after being hired, parents would not have to think about choosing--all the choices would be excellent.

            We all have photographic memories. Some people just don't have any film.

            by fireflynw on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 03:43:47 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  This is a laudable dream (0+ / 0-)

              but there is simply no profession where this is the case. I can't see why it would be for teachers either.

              Realtors, dr's, lawyers, etc are all mostly bad, or at the very least not really a fit. Managers that can accurately select good hires are worth their weight in gold.

        •  Or a re-norming of the test, as the (0+ / 0-)

          College Board is wont to do.

          Did we suddenly all become less effective, or are those test scores in part an artifact of less instructional time, more interruptions, a Christmas break that was more than 2 weeks long?

          Baz

          We are the principled ones, remember? We don't get to use the black hats' tricks even when it would benefit us. Political Compass: -6.88, -6.41

          by bmcphail on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 02:25:37 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  problem is, not all that accurate for students (19+ / 0-)

      for lots of reasons.   That of course is a separate problem.  

      Almost everyone has sat for tests.  Almost everyone therefore thinks they know about tests.  Sadly, even many educators are poorly trained in how to create and use tests.

      The kinds of tests we use are cheap and quick to score, because we overly rely on multiple choice items the require convergent thinking, which by itself can be destructive of real learning -  you start looking for the answer they want rather than understanding fully the issue.  And that is even before we get into questions of poorly designed items, tests that overly sample one part of a subject and undersample others, questions that have bias to which the test creators may be oblivious.

      You are absolutely correct that a test designed to measure what a student knows or has learned (not the same) will not necessarily allow you to determine how effective the teacher was.  In fact, even a student who clearly demonstrates having learned a great deal may do so despite the teacher.  

      "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 Sat Aug 28, 2010 at 09:59:04 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Well, (4+ / 0-)

       

      1.  Does the teacher maintain order in the classroom?
      1. Does the teacher communicate the subject manner in a clear way such that most students understand it?
      1.  Does the teacher allow student questions and encourage inquisitiveness on the part of students?

      I wholeheartedly agree.

      However, in struggling school districts, such as mine, we've employed a program (in our area called Teach4Success) that focuses mainly on direct instruction: the teacher MODELS - the students PRACTICE, and then they do it independently.

      Unfortunately, that doesn't leave a lot of room for #3 - and that is (now in my dream world) my favorite part of being a teacher.  When teaching English, the point is to discuss and learn other view points, as literature is always highly interpretive.

      "There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them." - Joseph Brodsky

      by Shakespeares Sister on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 07:10:46 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  that approach actually limits learning (5+ / 0-)

        because it is too teacher centered, and ignores differences with which the students arrive in the classroom, including differences of background, prior knowledge, and learning style.

        I do some direct instruction.  There are some students who benefit from it.

        I do a lot more socratic teaching, because I am trying to inculcate into my students the idea of not settling for easier or surface answers.

        I help my students learn how to lead socratic discussions themselves.

        Then sometimes I step back and just let them go at it.

        This is not only with my AP students.  I have lower level students who will sometimes come up with a question which when asked may be the most important thing happening in that class that day.  It connects with their live, therefore the students will be involved, and real - and realworld - learning will occur.

        "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 Aug 29, 2010 at 07:35:15 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I agree - (3+ / 0-)

          that method of instruction is in no way student-centered.  I don't know how any of my kiddos are learning to do anything other than score points on a standardized test.  

          To me, it's disgusting that I have to "teach" the way I do - and that every Tuesday, they come make sure I'm doing just that.

          "There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them." - Joseph Brodsky

          by Shakespeares Sister on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 07:52:12 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  That raises the question (5+ / 0-)

        Would you want to rate a Math teacher the same way you would rate an English teacher?  Or a music or art teacher?  They are teaching different subjects, and they use different styles to teach.

        Democracy. Let's give it a try.

        by RockyLabor on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 11:06:04 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  The method is unscientific. (22+ / 0-)

    Meaning the premise that test scores of students within a teacher's classes are a reliable measure of the teacher's effectiveness.

    I believe the diarist's points are valid. But all I really need to know is that the testing premise is flawed because of external factors. The diarist points this out.

    One would be that a teacher does not instruct a child from Day One (kindergarten) to the last (high school graduation). Each teacher receives students from another teacher from the grade before. Each teacher does not face an equal quality of class than every other teacher.

    For instance, a bad teacher will pass up the line students who have not learned enough to be easily advanced by a superior teacher in the next grade. It may take a poorly taught child two or three grades to recover.

    I am not a teacher. But I do know a false premise when I see it (I hope).

  •  I Wonder If Schools Understand The Concept (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    blueoasis, bmcphail, elwior, Lujane, SoCalSal

    of a benchmark study. I am a advertising/marketing/branding guy. My clients expect me to produce results. If they spend $10 million on a branding campaign does it actually produce results?

    As you might guess they want data in their hand they can show their bosses that they produced results.

    Well they are always mad when I explain that before we do anything we have to run a "benchmark" study. We have to first gauge the perceptions of their target audience BEFORE we run any ads.

    Cause if we don't know what the public thinks before we start marketing, well it is kind of impossible to determine if what we did worked.

    I see no way to only test children at the end of a school year or use the results from the previous year.

    IMHO you have to test the students at the beginning of a school year and then at the end if you want to have any accurate gauge on the performance of the teacher.

    But that then kind of becomes a catch 22 doesn't it. Even more testing ....

    "In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act." - George Orwell

    by webranding on Sat Aug 28, 2010 at 10:04:28 PM PDT

    •  Benchmark testing is becoming more common (9+ / 0-)

      in schools, and not only at the beginning and end of the school year, but multiple times throughout the course of the year.  It is part of becoming, as the buzz-phrase puts it, a "data-driven" school.  And the problem is exactly as you say:  we are starting to test our school system to death.

    •  a lot of what you know is NOT transferable (16+ / 0-)

      to the educational setting.  This is a common mistake.  People think that what they know in a context they understand is easily transferable to schools, when in fact schools are a very different context.

      We have formative assessments.  We can test from fall to spring, but there are still problems with the kinds of data you get, and thus the valid inferences that can be drawn.

      Look, I do not claim to be an expert on assessment.  It is a huge field.  I know far more than almost all of the members of the Congressional committees, and I know that I know far more than either the SecEd or the President.  That is not their job.  What worries me is that they act and speak as if they did know.

      On value-added assessment, I read ALL of the peer-reviewed literature I could find with a thorough ERIC search and contacting knowledgeable people about 9-10 years ago.  I have not read everything since, but I have stayed reasonably current.  My original interest was because I thought it had promise. Here I feel I must again quote something from 2010 that I quoted in the diary.  This comes from a conference jointly sponsored by the National Research Council and the National Academy of Education:  Value-added methods involve complex statistical models applied to test data of varying quality. Accordingly, there are many technical challenges to ascertaining the degree to which the output of these models provides the desired estimates. Despite a substantial amount of research over the last decade and a half, overcoming these challenges has proven to be very difficult, and many questions remain unanswered...

      "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 Sat Aug 28, 2010 at 10:20:02 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I Hope I Have Been Clear Here (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Sparhawk, Rich in PA

        I am not an expert on this topic. I only know what I know, which is nothing compared to you.

        But I do take issue with something you just wrote.

        A lot of what you know is NOT transferable to the educational setting.

        See I call BS on that. Maybe schools need to consider some of the stuff folks that work in different industries do to be successful. What we know. Much of my job is about client education. I might have some ideas.

        To just say your field is such that folks that are not in it just don't understand, well I think that is a lot of the problem.

        "In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act." - George Orwell

        by webranding on Sat Aug 28, 2010 at 10:33:47 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  there's a mighty big leap... (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          vacantlook, ER Doc, Lujane

          ...from...

          A lot of what you know is NOT transferable to the educational setting.

          ...to...

          To just say your field is such that folks that are not in it just don't understand, well I think that is a lot of the problem.

        •  You may indeed have valuable ideas to contribute. (12+ / 0-)

          On the other hand -- while I can't speak for the diarist -- I know plenty of teachers who are awfully tired of hearing from people who have no classroom teaching experience asking, "why don't we run schools more like businesses?"

          The factory model of education hasn't turned out real well, and the core of the problem is that schools and businesses are different sorts of beasts.  

          Instead of comparing schools to businesses, we might try comparing them to extended families, tribes, ecosystems, symphony orchestras, or poems.  Using some of these metaphors, we might even find that current questions about "teacher effectiveness" or, say, "school management techniques" are misguided.

        •  you are right - you don't know what I know (15+ / 0-)

          which is that most of the attempts to transfer business methods to schools fail miserably because schools are not businesses.  Allow me to offer the insight of a very successful businessman on this, Jamie Vollmer, who headed the Great Midwestern Ice Cream Company at the time of the story he tells on himself to which I will link anon, and who was our principal speaker on education at the first Yearlykos convention in Las Vegas in 2006.

          Here is Jamie;s famous Blueberry story

          "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 Sat Aug 28, 2010 at 11:00:58 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Backs Up What I Say (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            bmcphail, joycemocha, Rich in PA

            His story backs up what I say. (Although, for the record, I don't think that business methods are inapplicable to schools--you just have to know what you're doing to apply them. My comment on that is elsewhere in the flow.) We need community evaluation to be a major part of how we look to improve schools, and that really does mean changing America.

            •  Yes, let's evaluate the community. (7+ / 0-)

              More Americans believe in astrology than evolution, but the voting public is somehow expected to have informed opinions about how to improve science education.

              Let's evaluate the community: any adult who cannot pass the state mandated standardized tests used in the schools in their community is prohibited from expressing an opinion on how to improve student test scores.

              --- Perma-ban or bust. - opendna

              by opendna on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 01:48:44 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Yeah (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                opendna, bmcphail

                That wont' past First Amendment muster, but I hear what you're saying. Problem is that a lot of our legislators are apparently just as information impoverished.

                It's kind of up to us that understand things like the scientific method to make sure those legislators are both informed and work to make the schools better. IMO, that means proper funding, community evaluation (to see what the community should do to create a better environment for education), and a focus on the new 3Rs (Research, Reasoning and Results).

                All this data evaluation would be useful if it were made available in a proper way to the teachers, so that they could use it to understand what works and what doesn't. We would get far more by empowering teachers than we can possibly get by trying to manipulate them with classical conditioning.

        •  Here's an idea for school to business comparisons (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          emal, dwahzon, bmcphail, Justanothernyer

          There have been a lot of comments made along the lines that people in the business world have to produce or they get fired, and why shouldn't teachers be held to the same standard.

          Also, someone mentioned above that you can't evaluate teachers by testing students, you can only evaluate students by testing students.  I think that's true to some extent.  However, I think that you can improve teaching by testing students.  Here's what I mean by this:

          In business, and in schools, if you want to be successful, you have to produce results, but you have to be very careful to measure the correct things.  You can't be lazy about this, because being lazy will lose good employees and keep bad ones.  If it's too hard and too complex to do the right things, then you have no business running a business or a school.

          We had an issue come up in a company I worked for a few years ago that illustrates this perfectly.  There was a group of people who wrote training manuals for employees using a fairly complicated computer application.  A writer's performance was graded by how well new employees could use the application after reading the manual.  This was a small, very high-performing group of writers who had a history of success, but one year, the results were horrible.  Nobody was using the application properly and the company financials were all screwed up because of it.  Half the writers were fired, and the rest were on the chopping block, when someone discovered that, to save money, the company had stopped recruiting highly degreed people to do this job, and were recruiting people with B.A. degrees.  The manuals were now being used by people who lacked the background to understand the material.

          In the end, the company lost some great employees by using the wrong measurement to determine their performance.  The real problem was not that the manuals were bad, but that the manuals no longer matched the training needs, and that the training approach was unrealistic, now that the company had decided to hire much less qualified people.

          The solution is to have training and teaching evaluated by a group of professionals to determine what the best methods are, based on the actual teaching environment, and then write that up as the standard.  Hold educators responsible to that standard and measure them on how well they use the methods and cover the materials in the standard, not how well the students do on tests.

          You still do student testing, but the purpose of the testing is not to grade the teachers, it's to grade the standard.  If the standard isn't working, then the reasons for that need to be determined, and the standard needs to be adjusted.

          Smart businesses do this, and smart schools can do this too.

          •  let me respond but only briefly (7+ / 0-)

            plf515, a regular contributor here (who is away right now), is a trained psychometrician, and was part of our working group on rethinking education for the 2007 Yearly Kos convention in Chicago, especially for the session on assessment.  He argues that we misuse standardized tests.  He thinks they should be much shorter (and narrowly focused), more frequent, and turned aroudn very quickly.

            One purpose of testing is to give feedback to both students and teachers about what the students know and what they do not understand.  The way we do testing we do not get the results until too late to influence instruction for students being tested.  Yes, some districts will do "formative" assessments or "benchmarks" during the year, using released items from previous tests in an attempt to ascertain whether students have learned the most current portion of the curriculum.  But often those are given on a rigid schedule, and if a teacher is not strictly on the pacing guide students are tested on things either they have not learned or studied some time ago.

            I do not follow the pacing guide provided by the district for my subject.  No one in our building does.  We have the highest test scores.  It is not just those kids in our competitive admission program (which is only about 1/3 of our kids).  My regular level kids sometimes score almost as well as honors classes in other schools.  The people who prepared the pacing guides never asked us what we do to be so successful.  Instead they have tried to impose a one size fits all approach.

            When I give an assessment -  which might be a test, but could be a written exercise, oral examination, etc. -  one of the reasons is to determine if students have learned the material sufficiently or if I may need to reteach some.  Assessment should not be only for the purpose of awarding grades.  Hell, were it up to me, I would not give grades.  I could easily by the end of first quarter be able to give you a solid paragraph of the strengths and weaknesses of all my students, and it would be far more meaningful than a letter or numeric grade.  I would really rather not be reducing my students to a single number.  I have no choice in our system, so they get grades.

            "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 Aug 29, 2010 at 05:45:31 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I'm not sure how your reply (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              bmcphail, Justanothernyer

              references what I wrote.  I'm sure that it DOES, I'm just not sure what conclusions and opinions you're drawing.  Because of that, I can only comment generally on what you wrote.

              The first part of your comment seems to do mostly with turn-around time...how rapidly changes can be made in teaching methods to accommodate what's actually being seen in the classroom.  That could be a real problem with adopting and measuring standardized methods rather than measuring teachers.  People who are good at developing processes understand that it's key to anticipate what might go wrong in the process, and include ways to overcome those stumbling blocks before they occur.  If the ability for rapid change, or flexibility in pacing is needed, it can be built in to such a system.

              And in general -

              The people who prepared the pacing guides never asked us what we do to be so successful.  Instead they have tried to impose a one size fits all approach.

              Not only have they done that, but then they go on to evaluate you based (theoretically) on how well their approach works on the students.  Do you ever get into trouble for using your own approach?

              This is what happens when no one ever evaluates and grades the methods, relying only on grading the students.  If you get good scores back, you'd be tempted to consider the method a success, when the success may in fact be due to a deviation from the method.

              When I give an assessment -  which might be a test, but could be a written exercise, oral examination, etc. -  one of the reasons is to determine if students have learned the material sufficiently or if I may need to reteach some.

              That's exactly what I meant by "grading your methods by testing/assessing students".  The assessment grades the method -  not the teachers or the students.  I'm curious to know if you feel as though you are swimming upstream doing this.  Is this generally different from what most of the other teachers do?  Is it met with resistance?  

              The students of the teacher who deviates from the method may benefit from this, but the students of all the rest who strictly follow the standard methods don't.  There needs to be a way to drive successful deviations back into the method.  Of course there is also a big danger that someone will insist on federal or state standards, adopting a method that is successful in one place and attempting to force it on everyone.  I suppose in some sense I'm painting a blue sky picture, where people do reasonable and sensible things, and this doesn't happen, but in an ideal world, I see "the method" driven by people like you, given enough flexibility for the best teachers to produce good deviations, and reviewed frequently enough to include the best new ideas.

              •  our department made a decision (4+ / 0-)

                to continue using what we were using with success before the county pacing guide came out. So long as our test scores hold up it gets very hard for the central office to make an issue.

                There are some people in the central office who are finally starting to get it.  When the County set up a once a month Saturday program to offer extra help for AP students, the largest cohort of teachers asked to offer it were from our school.

                I experienced it another way.  When Iand others succeeded in persuading the school system to move government from 90th to 10th grade in order that students have the 2nd half of US history before taking government, I then asked to be able to teach some students AP US Govt and Politics (which is a semester course) in lieu of the state required course.  The state agreed, and the superintendent thought it such a great idea that he mandated every high school offer at least one section.  Of course, out of the 21 high schools we had then, only 4 teachers (2 from our school) went and got appropriately trained.  

                it gets worse.  The social studies office had a department chair provide a course guide.  He knew nothing about AP, his terminology was all wrong, and it would have been a total disaster.  I was able to persuade the head of social studies for the county to let me do a 30 minute presentation to the government teachers on how to prepare students to take the free response questions on the AP test.  This was the week before classes began, and most of those who were going to be teaching AP had no idea what a free response question was, and had they followed the county's guide their kids would have crashed and burned.  

                Still they did not learn.  The College Board decided that to allow you to label a course as Advanced Placement you had to submit your syllabus and have it approved.  They made clear that each person had to submit their own syllabus.  The social studies office prepared a syllabus and told teachers to submit it.  Those that did rightly had it rejected -  it was not sufficiently rigorous in what it required and it did not cover all the required elements.  By contrast, I submitted the syllabus I had been using and it was immediately approved.  Was I then asked to give any guidance to others struggling to get theirs approved?  Are you kidding?

                While I agree that it is a good idea to try to get teachers who are easily recognizable as successful to try to help with these processes, one also needs to recognize that the ability to design something that works for oneself is not necessarily congruent with the ability to help other adults do the same.  Teaching and assisting adults requires a somewhat different skill set than teaching students in the K-12 spectrum.

                It is something we should do more of, I agree.  We should train people to do it more effectively.  But against that we might have to balance whether we want to take away time or even a class from those who are teaching so successfully.

                "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 Aug 29, 2010 at 06:39:31 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  Oh I agree (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  bmcphail

                  But against that we might have to balance whether we want to take away time or even a class from those who are teaching so successfully.

                  What if we paid such teachers more and perhaps used extra time and/or took away administrative work, paperwork, or anything else that took up time and was not directly related to teaching a class?

                  While I agree that it is a good idea to try to get teachers who are easily recognizable as successful to try to help with these processes, one also needs to recognize that the ability to design something that works for oneself is not necessarily congruent with the ability to help other adults do the same.

                  Do you mean that the teachers who have the best methods aren't necessarily any good at producing the best guidelines?

                   

            •  Hi Ken (4+ / 0-)

              I'm  back from vacation.

              Two comments on this comment - "test" has multiple meanings.  In one use of the word, any assessment is a "test", including written exercises and oral exams.  

              Second, on 'grades'.... they have their uses.  Certainly I agree that a paragraph about each student would have added information that isn't in a grade. But, when I wrote papers in school, they usually got both comments AND a grade.  Grades do get used for evaluation of the students trying to get into college, of course; they are one of the key pieces of information, and a key alternate to SAT scores.  It would be nice if each student applying to each university got 30 minutes or an hour undivided attention from a qualified admissions person, but it's not likely to happen.

              We all differ in ways that matter. But we're all the same in the ways that matter most.

              by plf515 on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 07:05:45 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Do you know the Eight Year Study (6+ / 0-)

                from the 1930s?  That demonstrated that it was possible to admit students without grades/tests and still make appropriate judgments based on what the schools told the colleges.

                Bracey spends a good deal of time in his final book, <i<Education Hell</em>, revisiting that study.

                I know that our friend SDorn is not as high on the study as was Bracey, or as am I.  

                What if instead of letter grades we had only two possible options, not pass/fail as became common at one point in the 60s at some institutions.  Rather, the work meets or exceeds the requirements of the assignment, or else it still needs to be revisited and reworked.  In one sense this approach is very much more in tune with what we expect of people in the real world.  In another, it prods people to realize that much of what we do probably is in need of revision, reworking.  And it removes the stigma of failure while simultaneously informing people that we are all capable of doing more.

                In a sense, I am thinking about what Ted Sizer proposed for the Coalition of Essential Schools -  that before we allow a student to graduate they should in some fashion demonstrate in a summative project that they had absorbed and could apply the knowledge and skills they had been using.

                I do not have the luxury of that approach, as I teach students for one course.  what I have always done is make one of their two final assessments an open-ended project which CANNOT be a paper or an essay, but which can demonstrate that they have learned something.  Some of what I thereby get is fantastic.  My favorite weekend of the year starts on the Friday those projects are turned in.    

                "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 Aug 29, 2010 at 07:19:39 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  I haven't heard of that study (6+ / 0-)

                  but a two-grade system is interesting.  Meets/exceeds vs. needs revision is interesting, too.  Indeed, the notion that work needs to be revised is one that is not inculcated at all in our schools at present, except perhaps in computer programming, where debugging is normal.

                  We all differ in ways that matter. But we're all the same in the ways that matter most.

                  by plf515 on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 07:29:30 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  here it might be worthwhile to remind you (4+ / 0-)

                    that before I became a school teacher I spent 20+ years in data processing, during which time I always had some involvement with programming :-)  I was a certified systems professional and techincally am still a certified data processor since I achieved that in the days before recertification was required, and thus am grandfathered (an appropriate term given my status as a senior citizen?) and do not have to recertify.

                    "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 Aug 29, 2010 at 07:42:05 AM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  I've been thinking for a while (3+ / 0-)

                      about the differences between computer programmers and statisticians - two groups of people that my work puts me in contact with, and between computer programmers and other professionals more generally.

                      In computer programming the notion that debugging (correcting) is a natural part of the process seems much more ingrained than in other fields.  The saying "do it right the first time" is counter to this, and is, I think, pernicious.

                      We all differ in ways that matter. But we're all the same in the ways that matter most.

                      by plf515 on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 07:51:58 AM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  there is however one - how shall we say it - (4+ / 0-)

                        unfortunate habit programmers can develop that should not be part of a teacher's approach.  I can debug a piece of software.  I cannot debut another student, not as a teacher, perhaps not even as a therapist or counselor (and I have some training as the latter and occasionally find myself in an informal counseling relationship with students and even with parents, even though I remind them I am not a licensed counselor and have no children of my own).

                        "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 Aug 29, 2010 at 10:20:24 AM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

            •  Administrators and politicians repeat 100 times (0+ / 0-)

              We teachers, too, for that matter:

              Assessment should not be only for the purpose of assigning grades.
              Assessment should not be only for the purpose of assigning grades.
              Assessment should not be only for the purpose of assigning grades.
              Assessment should not be only for the purpose of assigning grades.
              Assessment should not be only for the purpose of assigning grades.
              Assessment should not be only for the purpose of assigning grades.
              Assessment should not be only for the purpose of assigning grades.

              Baz

              We are the principled ones, remember? We don't get to use the black hats' tricks even when it would benefit us. Political Compass: -6.88, -6.41

              by bmcphail on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 02:44:08 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

    •  You are dealing with children in a highly complex (7+ / 0-)

      environment that reflects a complex set of skills interacting with culture, expectations, social and family stresses, and brain development (often overlooked). With an issue this complex you cannot effectively measure teachers in a scientific manner. Marketing does reflect high stakes but it is not marked by the scientific method but a good-enough method that allows for some accuracy.

      At any rate motivation is also a factor here and the key thing to understand is that testing students to test teachers is a political matter influenced by power-politics not education.

      •  Re (0+ / 0-)

        With an issue this complex you cannot effectively measure teachers in a scientific manner.

        Great; let's save some money then and just hire high school dropouts as teachers. If you can't measure teachers, their results should be the same.

        (-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 Aug 29, 2010 at 08:23:54 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  There's a typical fallacy -- (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          teacherken, joycemocha, XerTeacher

          You changed "cannot effectively measure teachers in a scientific manner" to "you can't measure teachers".

          Fail.

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

          by Daddy Bartholomew on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 08:50:20 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Re (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            soros

            Anything you measure you have to do so "effectively in a scientific manner". If you aren't doing that, you aren't measuring things.

            (-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 Aug 29, 2010 at 02:41:03 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Oh, please. (0+ / 0-)

              Measuring effectively in a scientific manner simply means measuring to a degree that is, literally, close enough for the task at hand.

              The whole point is that the best studies available show that this type of measurement (high-stakes standardized tests) are simply inadequate for the task at hand.

              I can't understand why you refuse to grasp this essential point.

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

              by Daddy Bartholomew on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 05:52:18 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

          •  the issue is not the lack of scientific (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Daddy Bartholomew

            evaluation, it is that quantitative measurements are not ultimately sufficiently accurate.

            That is why qualitative observation, by trained observers, is needed.  

            "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 Aug 29, 2010 at 04:52:12 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  Reducio ad absurdam (3+ / 0-)

          No, teaching is like music or any other art. You can measure, just not scientifically. You take it way too far. Teaching is more like music can you measure music? It's possible to measure the sound and analyze it along with tempo and so on. But its very limited.

          It is also possible that high school dropouts could be good teachers. The best way to answer whether a teacher is good or not, in my view, is to ask the students.

  •  I tipped you for a detailed discussion (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Sparhawk, blueoasis, mjbleo, SoCalSal

    And I acknowledge that there are problems with evaluating teachers based on student scores.  However, it appears that there are problems with the current system of teacher evaluations.  There did not seem to be any data on the degree to which the current evaluative systems fail and whether those error rates are higher or lower than the error rates for value added assesment errors.  I would be very interested to see such data.  Absent such data as to the effectiveness of the current system, it would seem incorporating an additional method of evaluation which is usually correct even with a higher than desired error rate would enhance the likelihood of a correct outcome.

    •  there are problems with SOME of the current (14+ / 0-)

      methods of teacher evaluation.

      ASCD has been working on this for a number of years.  As a result a number of districts are exploring implementation of the Framework for Teaching with which Charlotte Danielson's name is associated.  I have been part of a pilot program for it in my district.  Allow me to brag, if I may.  Both the outside observer from the district level and the administrator responsible for observing me gave me almost half of my category ratings as distinguished, the highest of the four possible ratings and something that in the model is supposed to occur less than 5-10% of the time.

      I know I am a very good teacher.  It does not matter if you look at test scores, at student improvement, at what most of the students say about me (some hate my guts, which is par for the job), what parents say.  I work hard at my profession, I reflect on it constantly, and my focus is always what matters for my students.  I am a National Board Certified Teacher.  I have won awards for my teaching.  I say all of this not so much to brag, but to offer some bona fides for when I opine on matters of policy.  No one can accuse me of trying to hide my poor performance.  So I have to have the big mouth to speak on behalf of teachers.

      Which is why I write so often about education here.

      It's interesting.  The first few months I was at Daily Kos, I rarely wrote about education.  In  2005-2006 I became for a while almost the only voice on education, which is why I was asked to organize panels on education for the first two Yearly Kos Conventions.  Some people think I only write about education, although over the 6+ years I have been here less than 1/3 of what I have written has been about education.

      But it is my vocation.  I have knowledge both of policy and of the reality of being inside schools.  I teach a wide range of abilities.  And by now I am at least a competent writer.  So I take on the responsibility of writing about education to try to help others understand.

      Sorry, I'm tired, and I'm rambling.

      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 Sat Aug 28, 2010 at 10:28:28 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Would it surprise anyone here to know that (19+ / 0-)

    Bill Cosby is one of the most famous GED recipients in the United States? That up until recently, the military did not accept applicants who had a GED? Because as it turns out, it is the "soft skills" like showing up to work/school on time, or at all, matter more than how students test. We have to stop scapegoating teachers/teacher's unions, and figure out why not just our children, but our country is getting left behind. Here is another interesting note: The United States National Academy of Sciences found in a survey that the majority of Americans believe that the sun revolves around the earth. [Ptolemaic theory is the earth is at the center of the universe with the sun, moon, planets, and stars revolving about it in circular orbits.] This is a theory that was disproved in the 14th century! [sigh] And yet we are villainizing our teachers. Why can't Johnny read? Because Johnny, Sr. can't read.

    •  Do you have a link to the study? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Daddy Bartholomew, mjbleo

      I can't find it quickly. There was another survey that showed one if five believed the Sun circles the earth.

      •  oh, it can get far dicier (8+ / 0-)

        we have students who come to our school by qualifying for our science and tech program. But they are evangelical christians who do not accept evolution, or the big bang theory.  Some of them occasionally have conflicts in science classes, particularly in biology.

        What surprises some is that we can discuss those beliefs and how they interact in school in a government class, because we talk about the relationship between religion and state.  We even can look at Supreme Court decisions on the subject, although I actually think the best single demolishing of those who want to try to impose their religious beliefs on science classes was the opinion by Judge John Jones in the Dover ISD case in District Court in Penna a few years back.  One of my parents who teaches biology at U of Maryland College Park invited Judge Jones (appointed by G. W. Bush, as a favor to Tom Ridge) and his wife to come and meet with her students.  She was kind enough to invite me to her home for a reception with the Judge, and I was able to have an extensive conversation with him, I think because he was pleasantly surprised that I had actually read his entire opinion.

        There is often a problem of conflicts between what students experience in school and what parents believe.  It is one of the things that can on occasion make the life of a teacher - or an administrator - "interesting" in the sense of the old Chinese curse - "may you live in interesting times."

        "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 Aug 29, 2010 at 06:02:49 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Thank you... (5+ / 0-)

      We have to stop scapegoating teachers/teacher's unions, and figure out why not just our children, but our country is getting left behind.

      :)

      "There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them." - Joseph Brodsky

      by Shakespeares Sister on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 07:20:27 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  And my two cents: Curriculum (15+ / 0-)

    This is just my opinion as a guy in his 50s. So this will sound old school.

    WHAT is being taught is important. WHO teaches it (and how) is important. The home environment is important. There are so many other factors.

    I gather that children of today are learning a lot of things much quicker than when I was a kid. But they are also learning very little about critical and independent thinking. Language (reading and writing) is and has been central to advanced thinking for thousands of years. Math and logic are two sides of the same coin. The arts are a solely neglected aspect, I believe.

    I grew up in the 1960s, and you were encouraged and expected to embrace the sciences (Cold War and all that). Kids got chemistry sets for Christmas. Or a microscope. Or parents looked to see if you were more suited for the fine arts.

    I think teachers have a really hard job in this culture. Back in the day, our role models weren't celebrities. They were astronauts, or musicians, or teachers.

    •  Well That Is Very, Very True (7+ / 0-)

      I was born in the summer of '69. I got things like Legos and chemistry sets for Christmas. I am pretty sure I got some stuff in that chemistry set that would be illegal today. To be honest, lucky I never burnt out house down as a kid.

      Heck I didn't even have cable TV until I got to college. You know there were other things to do.

      Now I have kind of disagreed with some things said here. But given I'd say it is a lot harder to be a teacher today then it was when I was a kid.

      "In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act." - George Orwell

      by webranding on Sat Aug 28, 2010 at 10:44:04 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  We would have been branded terrorists (5+ / 0-)

        About a year back I hooked up with a boyhood friend.

        We remarked that "back in the day" we, as kids, obtained liquid mercury, nitric acid and the means to distill pure grain alcohol to make mercury fulminate (because kids can't buy alcohol, so we had to go the long route).

        We could get the mercury at the local drug store. I ordered the nitric acid from a chemical supply house. I'm 13 years old.

        We bought sulfur, potassium nitrate, pure charcoal and powdered magnesium to make a potent rocket fuel (which usually ended up as an accidental bomb).

        Do you know what they would do to 13-year-old boys caught making this stuff today?

        •  I'm not even (6+ / 0-)

          going to talk about what we did for fear that it will show up on an NSA keyword search.

          That said and legalities aside, chemistry sets and Heathkits recall a time when parents were more interested and more active in their kid's education.  Welcome to the age of the MBA where everything, even child rearing, is delegated.

          And dammit we expect results !

          Die energie der Welt ist constant; die Entropie der welt strebt einem Maximum zu. - Rudolf Clausius, 1865

          by xgy2 on Sat Aug 28, 2010 at 11:40:10 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  I don't know that this is relevant... (15+ / 0-)

    ... but I taught music 15 years at a variety of levels. In a sense, my work was evaluated through my students' performances at concerts and contests.

    But now, 30-35 years on down the line, former students are finding me on FaceBook, and they never recall a concert or a contest. What they remember is the excitement about music in those classrooms and band halls. None of them are music majors, but most of them have kept some sort of music in their lives. Rightly or wrongly, they give me some of the credit.

    We scored at the top of many of those contests - the musical equivalent of tests - but neither the students nor I remember much (if anything) about them. But we remember a time when we made music together, and we all took something good away from that. And for my part, that's what education is about.

  •  I'm a high school teacher in LA Unified (22+ / 0-)

    Let me give you two more reasons why, as it stands now, this is a poor method for evaluating teachers and determining their salaries:

    1).  The tests themselves have no bearing on the grade a student will receive in a class or whether or not the student graduates from high school.  Thus, there is zero incentive for a student to do well on the test.  As a result, many students may give up on the test out of sheer frustration or boredom.  It simply may not be worth the effort to them.  In fact, we've had students at our school who have done random bubbling or simply bubbled-in clever "patterns" on their answer sheets, and there's not a thing we can do about it.  

    2).  Also, how is one to determine the salary for, say, an art teacher or a music teacher or a shop teacher or a cooking teacher etc. when the students generally take only one semester or year of that course and, thus, can't be evaluated for "improvement" from one year to the next?

  •  How about these? (12+ / 0-)

    Will there be standardized tests for the following subjects?  And, if not, how will these teachers' salaries be determined?

    Home Economics
    French
    Latin
    Spanish
    Auto Shop
    Wood Shop
    Drawing
    Drama
    Ceramics

  •  I've watched these so called (13+ / 0-)

    performance measures work in the corporate world for many years and the results have often been disastrous. In every corporation in this country employees are driven to "meet or exceed" their goals year after year.  Whether or not that makes sense is usually only recognized postmortem.

    A familiar example:

    In the 1970's the major automakers gave their managers performance goals stipulating annual reductions in the cost of goods sold - usually 10% each year.  Management complied, costs were reduced, but the quality of the cars suffered dramatically.  By the time anyone bothered to notice, sales had been severely impacted and the Japanese had captured a significant portion of the market.  

    I've no doubt that holding a gun to teacher's heads will improve test scores.  I've no doubt that they will do whatever is necessary to make their numbers.  We need to be very sure that is what we want them to do.

    Die energie der Welt ist constant; die Entropie der welt strebt einem Maximum zu. - Rudolf Clausius, 1865

    by xgy2 on Sat Aug 28, 2010 at 11:19:55 PM PDT

  •  I live in Texas. I have been the victim and the (9+ / 0-)

    recipient of tests that most of you have never seen. As an aside; I took a psychology class in undergraduate school in another state. The professor passed around a series of tests and said, "Most of you had had one or two of these tests." Well I have a photographic memory [ask my friends if you don't believe me] so I recognized all of them.
    What the current system is forcing teachers/schools to do [for mere survival] is to "teach the test". [persish the thought]
    Currently we have the best educational system in the world. It's free for one thing. And secondly, we guarantee an education to even the poorest child. We have a funnel at the top--we are exporting our best and brightest students. It's too expensive to make a living in America and other nations care more about the people who teach our future. We are also creating a nation of test anxious children.

  •  I'll be rereading this in the a.m. (8+ / 0-)

    when I have my wits about me.  Of course, you don't have to go far to convince me that this whole system is set up to make teachers, kids, and schools (and ultimately, the country) fail.  It's a cryin' shame...

    -7.62, -7.28 "Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly." -Langston Hughes

    by luckylizard on Sat Aug 28, 2010 at 11:40:41 PM PDT

  •  oy vey (11+ / 0-)

    Having studied a lot of survey methodology and statistics for my MBA, and although I am not in education, whenever I hear about these programs of standardized testing, and teacher incentives from merit, my first thoughts are almost always something like - they've got to be out of their minds if they think that they can even begin to measure something such as this with any remote accuracy. And not to beat my own drum, but it looks as if that's pretty much the case.

    I'm just not in the mood to read the report right now, but it seems at least there are attempts at standardizing, and for all of these efforts over all of these years - there is now maybe the ability to spot those outside the norm, either good or bad. Okay, at least some progress.

    I'm not really sure of the correct political position, because right here and now is as much as I've read about education polity lately, and of course this is without benefit of reading the report, but all I can think is that until we get robots for students, these standardized approaches in this area will remain ever elusive.

    Good luck with all of your goals, and teachers are the best. You all deserve a raise.  

  •  Why This Is Looking in the Wrong Place (5+ / 0-)

    First of all, I think that VAM is hopeless because it is probably looking in the wrong place to find performance improvement. If you look at it from a quality standpoint, you can apply Six Sigma principles to it.

    If you look at it that way, you can think of it in terms of the process of education and do a root cause analysis. There are six major factors that effect the performance of a process:

    1. Machines [the technical stuff] used in the process.
    1. Materials used in the process. [Students, for example.]
    1. Methods in the process.
    1. Mother Nature or the environment. [The community in which the school is located, for example, as well as the parents and everyone else involved in the students' lives.]
    1. Measurement itself.
    1. The People.

    (I'm quoting from Six Sigma for Everyone, by George Eckes, pages 46-48.)

    These are called the "5Ms and 1P". As a general rule it's a mistake to focus on the people in this unless there is a solid reason to suspect they are the root cause of the problem. (Which, IMHO, is not very damned likely, since the number of teachers in the country is so large and represents a large segment of the educated population of the country.)

    The book goes on to look at what the special causes of performance problems are in processes. Generally,

    ...less than 5 to 15 percent of the time special cause is due to people. In manufacturing proceses the machine is the predominant undue influence when special cause variation is present and the method is the predominant undue influence in the services industry.

    Teaching is a service. The most likely cause of failure in education is the method used.

    VAM is a witch hunt. There's good grounds just on well-known and highly respected quality improvement principles to believe that our teaching methods should be improved long before our teachers.

    My suggestion is that teachers ask why people that want VAM think that teachers are the cause of the problem. Why is it that they aren't focused on teaching methods, which are far more likely to be the cause? For that matter, have they ruled out the environment or the students as the main items that should be improved? When did the DOE perform the root cause analysis that pointed to teachers and what did it say?

    This is one reason why I've been proposing that we focus on community evaluations as the key to improving education and why we need to focus on The New Three Rs: Research, Reason and Results. That focuses on the components of the education process that need to be improved the most: the environment and the methods.

  •  I think the only valid concerns here are (6+ / 0-)

    the variability from year to year and the inability to control the effects of other teachers and the lack of randomness in assigning students and the low sample number.

    Whether or not something important is being measured is less of an issue, and whether or not the kids are low SES... are all immaterial.

    IF the students are truly randomly assigned, then all teachers deal with the same problems every year and presumably the effects negate one another.

    IF there is actual isolation of effect, then we really are measuring individual kids as individual teachers affect them.

    If the variation is within a predictable range, then that, too, can be discounted.  It wouldn't matter if your students were passing at the 67% range or the 79% range if the two numbers were considered statistically the same.

    Given the problems with sample size and the problems with the lack of randomness, though, it does seem that you can't control for all of this as none of the data coming out are going to be usable.  The variations will be so wide as to make the data meaningless.

    The fact that the English teacher (from a tested subject) can be fired for having n students with the "bad" history teacher (when history isn't a tested subject) for a couple of years and the some other English teacher has no students with the "bad" history teacher seems to be a huge problem.

    That said, the question is whether or not teachers have been given a chance to find out if they are actually getting across information when compared to other teachers.  It seems to me that simply having standardized department exams based on the text books that are used is going to provide enough information to the teachers.

    If I found out that my students all did badly on a test that everyone else's students did well on, I would have to rethink my teaching.

    Note the word "all" here.  If I were to find out that 4 of my students did badly, but only 2 did badly in the other class, I would have no useful information at all.

    At the very extremes, these tests might help.  But in that fuzzy middle, where they are most likely to be used, my guess is that the tests are basically useless, and that seems to be the main issue here.

    This idea of extremes versus scores near the cutoffs is really really crucial here.  Because any score predicts a range, being a point off a cutoff score is a meaningless datum.  But we all know that high stakes testing sets cutoff scores, and we know the cutoffs will be set in ways that do a deep disservice to the students and teachers involved.

    Because all teachers face the same basic situation, many of the differences fade as factors.  But not enough of the differences are compensated for such that we should use these tests in any kind of high stakes fashion.

    But that's true for every test we've ever used for anything at all.

    I was sick when I took the GREs years ago.  I'm sure I messed up the scores for everyone in the room.  How do you deal with variations like that?  How much can be controlled for such that you really are catching the value a teacher adds?

    There is helpful pedagogical information to be gleaned.  There is not helpful personnel information here.

    It's time for some new models of what education is supposed to be.  The corporate thing should up and die.

  •  My two observations are the same as always. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Justanothernyer
    1. I'm not in K-12 education but the way I'm evaluated and compensated (at the margins) is just as arbitrary. Nothing here shocks me, nor would it shock most people in the world of work.
    1. If you work from the baseline view that the current system of compensating all teachers at a certain level of experience and nominal education at the same level, you're not working from the same baseline as some other people. Therefore your assessment of possible alternatives will be different.

    The most impressive thing about man [...] is the fact that he has invented the concept of that which does not exist--Glenn Gould

    by Rich in PA on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 05:23:36 AM PDT

    •  you are not correct in some of your assertions (9+ / 0-)

      because not all teachers are compensated solely on the basis of education and experience.

      There are a variety of differentials that can be added to pay.  And there are a number of systems that have worked on merit pay systems on a basis other than merely student test scores, even value-added test scores.

      Some districts offer a differential for teaching in schools of high poverty, or with large numbers of English language learners.

      Some offer a differential for teaching more classes - sya 6 instead of 5.

      Some offer a differential for National Board Certification (which requires one to demonstrate not only knowledge of one's subject area but how one ties what one does to the learning of the students).

      Those are just a few examples.

      Again, the current model for teacher pay is parallel to that for most civil service jobs and the military.  There are also more private sector organizations that have similar pay scales for many of their employees than you may realize.

      Whether the current model is the best method of compensation is a fair subject for discussion.  But in examining alternatives one has to consider the very different nature of the task of teaching from most other kinds of employment.

      "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 Aug 29, 2010 at 05:50:39 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Yes, yes, and yes....but the testing meme is deep (8+ / 0-)

    It is deeply ideological and political. It has nothing whatever to do with education in the sense you mean it. It has to do with control and creating a dystopia in order for the ruling elites to have live robots at their disposal. No, it is not a conspiracy in the formal sense but a matter of class interest.

    The power-elite want everything measured. If it isn't measured it can't exist. Intangibles which make up most of life can be discarded and human beings fashioned into virtual machines. Machines are programmed--their emotional and spiritual needs can be fulfilled by the cult of evangelical "Christianity" and Beckian fascism and "honor" which means, actually, obedience to authority (the athority of the oligarchs). Again not a conspiracy but a confluence of interests which you might call a virtual conspiracy.

    Arguing reasonabley, Ken, is really useless because this never had anything to do with reason. The left attempts to be reasonable and loses ground every decade. Why? This mystery needs to be plumbed.

  •  Thanks teacherken for this diary. (6+ / 0-)

    I've come to depend on you for sound information and thoughtful analysis about education (and anything else you choose to write about) and this is another example of how well-placed my trust is.  

    Thanks for bringing this to the discussion.  I hope that it will be received in the White House and the Department of Education with the attention it deserves.

  •  ZOMG! A performance measure is IMPERFECT!!!! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Sparhawk

    Obviously we cannot allow the use of ANY performance measures that are imperfect.

    lmao

    Just another way education majors try to spin the lie that their work is magical and cannot possibly be judged. They set the bar so asininely high for what counts as a workable performance measure, that naturally nothing can be allowed.

    I'm gonna go eat a steak. And fuck my wife. And pray to GOD - hatemailapalooza, 052210

    by punditician on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 05:39:21 AM PDT

    •  So, then just evaluate them not using science (3+ / 0-)

      Essentially just make 'em toe the line, eh. Measure something highly complex through simple means, never mind the scientific method.

      Education is, in a sense, magical. Can it be measured. I think much of it can be measured but not in the way it is being used now. Children's learning is very different from adult learning because children are highly influenced by their surroundings. For example, the kids they sit next to--the tv shows they watch, the music they listen to, their family situation (which can change from one year to the next), and their brain development (notoriously hard to predict).

    •  Think about it this way.... (7+ / 0-)

      When you set up any kind of system of rewards and punishments, you introduce incentives.

      If you introduce really good incentives, you'll get increased performance.

      If you introduce really bad incentives, you'll get a lot of dysfunctional behavior.

      High stakes tests introduce bad incentives.  The test scores come to mean more than anything else, so anything outside of the testing area is going to be ignored.

      High stakes testing also introduces a huge incentive to cheat, to game the system by, say, moving the start of the school year earlier to "front load" the curriculum.

      High stakes testing discourages art and music and play time -- the things that make our lives worth living and that make school bearable for a lot of kids.

      High stakes testing that is statistically faulty is profoundly unfair, doesn't actually get rid of the "bad" teachers, even though that's purportedly the purpose.

      Far better to try to figure out what exactly we want the schools to do and to support what gets us there.

      Our schools are supposed to be great equalizers of family inequities.  They are supposed to impart a lot of basic facts, guide behavior, inform citizens, get our kids ready for college and life.  They aren't really in the business of churning out students whose test-taking skills are pretty good, but whose deep understanding of an array of facts and how those facts can fit into a variety of narratives.

      High stakes testing will change the incentive from getting kids to do higher order thinking based on a wide set of facts to an incentive for getting kids to fill in bubbles based on a narrow set of facts that are never going to be contextualized.

      We should be careful when we change incentives via testing programs.  We might not like the results.

    •  I call bullshit on this (11+ / 0-)

      first, most teachers are not education majors.  I am not.  It would be a distinct minority among secondary teachers, and increasingly even elementary teachers do not major in education

      second, no one is saying that what we do cannot be evaluated.  But it is not just us who are saying the way we are using tests of students - themselves imperfect measures of what students know and can do - are inappropriate ways of measuring the effectiveness of teachers.  Value-added methodologies, which are the supposed latest silver bullet, are neither stable enough or reliable enough measures.  And the people saying that are the professionals in testing and measurement.  That's the point of the brief on which this diary is based.  People like Bob Linn and Eva Baker have as much understanding as anyone in the nation.  They stand fully behind this brief.

      The peer-reviewed literature is consistent over time.  That's why I give some of the quotes I do.

      It may not fit your preconceived notions of what you think should be.  That's too bad.  

      But the science of psychological measurement, as understood by those who do it, is consistent in sahying there are SEVERE problems with using student test scores as a means of evaluating teachers.

      Read the brief.  21 pages of executive summary and brief should neither strain you nor consume too much of your time.  You might actually learn something useful.

      "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 Aug 29, 2010 at 06:08:21 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I obtained a Liberal Arts degree... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        tobendaro, joycemocha

        ...with multiple full majors. I got my certification by taking requisite education courses as free electives, however a great many of the teachers I taught with were from a college of education.

        My problem with Education courses/curricula was they taught one nearly everything about educational theory but what one need know in order to teach it class to students.

        The young man who has not wept is a savage, and the old man who will not laugh is a fool. George Santayana

        by Bobjack23 on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 09:10:21 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Very true (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Bobjack23

          in my experience.  I attended one of the country's best in my major.  They did not teach me how to teach.  We had very little exposure to actual students until student teaching at the end of our 4 years.   I was already a very experienced teacher when I began college due to my coach making us teach classes with her and then on our own while I was in highschool.  She firmly guided our behavior and we had to pay attention to results.  Best training I could have had.  

    •  You have another 2 months to go (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      teacherken, Ivan, Daddy Bartholomew

      before strawman season begins.

      Stop jumping the gun.

  •  Thanks teacherken (8+ / 0-)

    for posting this.  I think there is a lot of misinformation and confusion out there regarding education.  Further, as a society, we continue to mistake human beings for automobiles or other types of machines.  Students are wonderful, but they are all come to school with different issues.  Educators, BTW current Sec. of Ed. Arne Duncan is NOT one, know that there is tremendous variability in each year's crop of students.  

    The thing that I found telling in reading the executive summary was the jump that was made right in the beginning.  In the second sentence of the ES, the researchers talk about the need to develop teachers.  From that point on, they talked about evaluating, paying, and firing based on VAM.  I do not blame the researchers for this erroneous jump.  Rather, I blame the politicians.  NCLB and now RTTT are driving this error.  We must develop our teachers.  Any teacher will tell you that in their first years, they were way over their heads.  My guess is that if any other profession was polled similar sentiments would be expressed.   Going further, I know veteran teachers who care are not immune to stagnation.  Fatigue, whether from the rigors of daily planning and instruction or from fighting with administration takes its toll.  Many are able to self-rejuvenate, some are not.  Too many people blame the teachers, but what about principals, superintendents, and boards of education?  

    The problems in our educational system are not relegated solely to the educational system. How many people do you know who refuse to buy an American car?  How about our financial industry which is supposed to generate the capital needed to build the greater economy?  How many of you are dismayed at what the present administration is or is not doing?  This country is suffering a leadership crisis right now.  I ran for Congress twice in an attempt to help fix this problem.  Right now, I am working on my principal's certification as my latest attempt to address the leadership vacuum in this country. In this country, we are currently tearing down, but we are not rebuilding.  This is the problem.  VAM to evaluate solely for pay and firing is not going to solve the problem nor is it going to alleviate any of the symptoms.

    We are all faced with a series of great opportunities - brilliantly disguised as insoluble problems. John W. Gardner

    by Tony Barr PA09 on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 06:00:35 AM PDT

    •  I don't think anyone is suggesting (0+ / 0-)

      that VAM be the sole index for pay or firing. About one-third of the total evaluation is the estimate I have heard.

      •  some states it is supposedly 50% (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Daddy Bartholomew

        but even 1/3 is too much if that indicator has a better tha 1 in 3 chance of being erroneous.  Read what I quoted from the study.

        And if the VAM is not stable, as is clearly shown in a number of studies, then it is not reliable, and a measure that is not reliable does not allow one to draw valid inferences.   That is very basic.

        "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 Aug 29, 2010 at 04:54:34 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I think we would do better (0+ / 0-)

          to try and remove the error than to throw the whole thing out, or to come up with something much better. A quantitative measure of effectiveness is not de facto bad, invalid, or unreliable.

          Students deserve effective teachers. It's up to us to ensure that.

  •  I would add one more... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Daddy Bartholomew, XerTeacher

    I would wager a significant predictor of a child's performance in grade 5, for instance, is the quality of the education he got in grade 4.

    The sample size is too small, however, to reliably deconvolute the effect of each teacher on a wide scale.

  •  Republicans and conservatives in general (7+ / 0-)

    hate public education.  In 1992, getting rid of the Department of Education was on the Texas republican platform.  They couldn't get rid of it, but they did take it over, and I think most are aware of what they are doing in Texas to re-write texbooks all over the country.

    If you require testing that is flawed, you will get flawed results.  If the testing is incomplete, the results will be incomplete.  Tests cannot account for all the sources of information a child has access to, only those taught in the classroom.  But you cannot filter for those other sources of information, or lack thereof, that color the child's responses on the test.  So the test is going to be flawed and incomplete.

    The emphasis on the test result is just a ploy to prove that public education is bad or cannot achieve what is expected.  And the expectation has been raised to such a level that it is difficult to quantify.

    So I think the whole emphasis on testing is that the test results are going to be used to strenghten the perception that public education is a bad investment, and that will be bootstrapped to show that we need to get rid of, not teachers, but public education altogether.

  •  Teacherken: Have you seen "The Lottery"? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JanL

    It's about parents trying to get their children into charter schools in New York City. It will break your heart.

    I'm not worried about your state of mind, 'cause, you're not the revolutionary kind - Gomez

    by jhecht on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 06:09:18 AM PDT

    •  Have not (6+ / 0-)

      there are a number of films on education that are little more than propaganda for a particular point of view.

      It also doesn't help that feature films on education tend to distort the reality of what teachers do, and to come up with supposed exemplars that are not realistic.  That even applies to Stand and Deliver with Edward James Olmos playing Jaime Escalante.  It is not an accurate representation of what really happened at Garfield High School.  

      "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 Aug 29, 2010 at 06:26:21 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Have you every seen a NYC (3+ / 0-)

      public school parent of a 5th or 8th grader?

      I am so fed up with NYC's misuse of standardized tests.  The fourth grade test scores are used as a type of SAT for middle school admissions, likewise the 7th (and sometimes also the 6th grade depending on the high school) grade test scores.  The pressure put on fourth grade teachers was and still is tremendous and it is often difficult to retain fourth grade teachers.  Now the pressure is at all grade levels along with stressed out principals, teachers, parents, and sadly children.  The children know that these are "high stakes" tests and I have known children to throw up during the testing and my own had a mini breakdown the morning of the second day of testing.  Meanwhile, the teacher who was teaching fourth grade for the first time panicked and sent his students home with more test prep work during the the three day testing period.  It gets crazy.  

      Educational decisions such as whether to hold a child back, seek testing for learning disabilities, etc. are based on the test scores rather than what happens in the classroom.  My 7th grader can do just fine on the tests but struggles.  My 10th grader has done very well in the NYC system but had a very different education without the test prep and more test prep.  They went to the same school and had teachers in common but differences in their educations is astounding and sad.

      Blood pressure now rising...

  •  The tests (7+ / 0-)

    are inadequate to evaluate students. Why would teachers fare any better?

  •  Thanks for letting us all know about this Ken (8+ / 0-)

    Thanks for posting this and for the work you do.

    I personally want to thank you for your mentioning the data on cardiac patient risk factors and rating cardiac surgeons. I have personally seen the results of this in the Philadelphia area where at least one cardiac surgeon refused any patient who was complicated or very sick or indigent or had other risk factors. Not surprisingly he had the best numbers in the city because he cherry picked. At the same time, another cardiac surgeon took the sicker patients, at higher risk, with appropriate information given to patient and family. I watched some amazing survivals with this second very dedicated heart surgeon.  And yet his puiblished numbers didn't look as good.

    This push to measure the unmeasurable and to base pay on the ratings is being pushed in medicine as well as teaching.  Primary care physicians are being rated by insurance companies on their "quality" which includes what their diabetic patient's hemoglobin A1c levels are.  The ability of a physician to influence these levels is really minimal - the physician has limited effect on what the patient may eat or drink, whether they exercise, take illegal drugs or abuse alcohol. The next result of these markers will be dumping of more difficult, time consuming or noncompliant patients who might lower your quality scores. And yet another disencentive in addition to the hours, stress and poor reimbursement to go into primary care and even less to practice in a less than affluent community.

    In my opinion, the only people who will benefit from rating teachers like this are the academic educators whose career is tied up in this. It won't encourage students to go into teaching and it certainly won't pursuade them to teach in difficult schools with students whose background issues are overwhelming to say the least.

    But it's a fad in education and in medicine and will be hard to change or stop - there are just too many vested interests in this - so my guess is that this measurement era will go on for the next ten to twenty years and then chances are we will reassess the strategy when someone publishes an academic paper showing no improvement in education in America with this. And by then, our students will measure even lower than students in most of the other countries of the world where teachers are respected, not rated and education is valued.

    •  It's more than a fad, suse..... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Daddy Bartholomew

      As Widdiedawg noted above, it's a deliberate ploy-- to devise an unworkable standard which will be used to break teacher unions and to fallaciously demonstrate the "failure" of public education--by people with an ideological hatred of public anything.

      Baz

      We are the principled ones, remember? We don't get to use the black hats' tricks even when it would benefit us. Political Compass: -6.88, -6.41

      by bmcphail on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 03:40:57 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I hate to use a sports analogy, but... (8+ / 0-)
    how many times has a coach gone from being Coach of the Year to getting fired two years later? What happened? Did he forget how to coach? Or was it that his team suddenly lacked enough good players?

    I suppose it's just a hell of a coincidence that the wealthy school districts in my area always do better on standardized tests. I guess we should just extrapolate from this that the teachers in the rich schools are just better.

    Yeah, right.

    I live in a poor school district, and I know how hard the teachers work to make sure the kids get the education they need. And at the elementary level, the kids in our district do fine on standardized tests.

    But by the time they reach the high-school level, their scores plummet. Eventually, their environment gets to them.

    And it breaks my heart.

    •  in teaching we have completely new teams (5+ / 0-)

      each school year, that is, for the vast majority of us we have completely new sets of students.  I have friends who are the only Latin and French teachers in the school.  They have continuity with their students, a unique setting which enables them to develop relationships and have a huge impact.  when I coached soccer, I would be teaching the young men as freshman and sometimes sophomores on JV, but still working with them when they moved up to varsity since I was also an assistant with that team.  Our music teachers have continuity with their musicians in orchestra, band and chorus, which are actual classes (multiple for each).  

      I have 196 students on my roles right now.  Five have not yet shown up.  I have never taught any of the 1`96 before.  I have taught older siblings and cousins and close friends of a quite a few, especially in my AP classes, where in some cases I am on the third member of the same family. Having another child from the same family means the parents are familiar with me and the student has some idea what I am like, but that student is still completely new to me -  I cannot treat them like the sibling because each student is entitled to her uniqueness, to being recognized as the individual he is.

      The phenomenon about kids from lower SES is quite sad.  It is a combination of narrowing of the curriculum and the increasing demands for other than recall as one processes up the academic ladder.  Many students in such circumstances lack the academic support at home through no fault of theirs or their parents, and when we narrow their school experience, we disadvantage them even more.

      "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 Aug 29, 2010 at 06:46:57 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Quantifying quality (8+ / 0-)

    The state of Florida relies heavily upon testing (FCAT) as a reward for good schools and a punishment for bad schools.  The stakes now are so high that teachers spend most of the year teaching the test.  

    There was a recent attempt by the Florida legislature to tie teacher retention and pay to student test scores. Make no mistake, this was an attempt to break the teacher unions, not to improve public education.  After public outcry against this bill, not only by teachers, but also by parents and students, the Governor vetoed the bill.

    IMHO, using testing in this way is an attempt to quantify the unquantifiable, which is quality. So we ask, is the teaching children rote memorization of information to be tested really a better indication of our children's education than teaching children critical thinking skills and inspiring them to learn on their own beyond just the basics?

    We have taken something that was once used as a baseline measure so as to improve school curriculum and are turning it into something that is being used to reward or penalize schools and teachers. IMO, our children in public schools suffer regardless of their test scores when everything else is being sacrificed in order to improve those test scores.  Based upon what we have seen in Florida, I believe that to be the case.

    There's no such thing as undead. Either it's dead or it's not. Either it's plugged or it's not. It's not.--Fishgrease

    by gulfgal98 on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 06:31:22 AM PDT

    •  couldn't agree more (3+ / 0-)

      We have taken something that was once used as a baseline measure so as to improve school curriculum and are turning it into something that is being used to reward or penalize schools and teachers. IMO, our children in public schools suffer regardless of their test scores when everything else is being sacrificed in order to improve those test scores.

      Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government. ~Thomas Jefferson

      by k8dd8d on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 08:46:25 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  The US Army at one time managed its... (0+ / 0-)

    ...personnel employed in teaching the skills and data necessary for its people to complete their missions in war or peacetime with the first premise, "If the student did not learn the teacher did not teach."

    I have forgotten almost nothing I learned from military teachers. Later when I taught in public schools I considered every failing student a personal failure of mine, and I did not "social promote."

    The young man who has not wept is a savage, and the old man who will not laugh is a fool. George Santayana

    by Bobjack23 on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 06:36:10 AM PDT

    •  the Army has more control over its recruits (10+ / 0-)

      than we do over our students.  By law they must have an educational setting.  We cannot lock them up or fine them if they refuse to do what we ask them to.  You don't show up to an assigned class in the military you are likely to spend some time in confinement.  If a kid cuts our classes, is suspending him going to make him show up?  Heck, some look forward to being suspended so they don't have to come to school.  

      As a teacher, I am saddened with every kid I cannot reach.  I cannot teach a child who does not show up.  That is on the kid and the parents.  

      I will go the extra mile for any kid willing to try.  I will cajole, prod, whatever I can to try to motivate.

      I am prepared to let a kid fail because sometimes it is better to have that lesson learned as an adolescent and not have it happen for the first time in the "real world."  

      I have too many students. At some point a student not willing to try is going to be on her own.  I have to give the attention to those who are willing to try.  

      My workweek during the school year is in excess of 60 hours.  I cannot realistically do more, and there are other things I want to do with my life, including the kind of writing I do here.  I would love to followup on some of the inquiries I have had about doing a book, for example.  And i really would like to clear some time to just sit and play piano, or do some reading that is not because I am reviewing a book or it is directly related to my teaching.  

      "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 Aug 29, 2010 at 06:53:32 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  In my teaching years we had no teacher's aids. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Liberal Thinking, joycemocha

        I taught five periods a day and my "free period" was babysitting a study hall, and I usually tutored any of my students who happened to be in it.

        I taught World and American History every day, American two periods a day, Sociology and Psychology plus Civics. I was qualified to teach all those subjects having full undergraduate majors in History, Political Science, Psychology, and Sociology (Graduated undergraduate in five and a half years with about 200 semester hrs...I hung around waiting for a wife to graduate and turned two minors into majors)

        As a secondary teacher I gave relevant homework requiring the development of essay skills (and as you know that takes much longer to grade)nearly every day.  I graded it the next afternoon and evening and was rarely free to do what I wanted to do until about ten o’clock. I worked for $4,200 a year when I started.

        Of course if the child is not in attendance one cannot teach them. I taught in a small community (about 160 students in the 9th through 12th grades)  that had gone from slope and shaft mining to strip mining in the 1930’s putting about 90 out of every 100 men out of work, ergo many of my students were second generation relief ( the land wasn't suitable for farming and few factories existed locally.) I got to know most of the parents and made it my business to see the children were in school.

        I was not the best teacher around, but I made it my business to see that every student mentally qualified knew the text books the board of education provided back to front, plus any additional data I thought necessary.

        After my second year my sophomores, then next year juniors, and seniors were working up to my expectations. I had no system really, I just did what every it took (within the law) to see that each student got the education our system promices. My 12th graders by the end of my fourth year were scoring on the SATs as an average well above the national average.

        Children who were mentally deficient I graded according to their efforts. In the first four years I failed one child and promoted none who had not demonstrated the competence to be advanced.

        When I left teaching I went to the Peace Corps as a teacher, and after that to a national security agency until retirement.  Teaching was the only job I ever held that I thought I could make a difference in the quality of people’s lives and therefore felt useful.  

        I still believe if student did not learn the teacher did not teach.

        The young man who has not wept is a savage, and the old man who will not laugh is a fool. George Santayana

        by Bobjack23 on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 08:44:52 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I have no aides, neither adult nor student (5+ / 0-)

          I have had student aides in the past, but we are not allowed to use them for copying or for grading papers or even for putting grades into the computer.  They can take attendance.  They can collect and distribute paperwork.  They can sometimes offer individual help to students in a whole class setting.\

          So my 190+ are solely my responsibility.

          I could legally refuse to have up to 38 in an AP class, but I am reluctant to deny a student willing to do the work the opportunity to challenge herself - and believe me, being in my AP class is a challenge in many ways.

          "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 Aug 29, 2010 at 10:23:10 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  Exactly right! (3+ / 0-)

        My husband says he has two wives, his summer wife, the one who pays attention to him, and his school time wife, the one who has no time for him!

        Wise men talk because they have something to say, fools, because they have to say something. - Plato

        by eashep on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 09:16:05 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Pretty much all of these problems (16+ / 0-)

    are due to how tests are now used, rather than how they ought to be used.  

    Testing, as I've noted before, should be frequent, short, low-key and varied.  We are 0 for 4.

    Not only would such a program reduce the pernicious parts of "teaching to the test" (and not ALL of teaching to the test is bad) it would also allow statistical analysis to address the problems raised.

    The sample size is NOT inadequate in this case; mobility is much easier to account for; other problems are solved too.

    I interviewed for a job with the NYC DOE, and discussed these issues with the experts there.  They all agree with me.  The current scheme of testing is idiotic.  But that's a scheme imposed by politicians, not psychometricians.  If we listened to the latter group (who are, after all experts) we would get better results.

    Not perfect of course; we are dealing with humans here.

    One point raised in your diary deserves additional discussion, since it goes way beyond testing: That is the use of "% of variance explained".  Among human traits, this % is almost always low.  Humans just vary a lot.  

    We all differ in ways that matter. But we're all the same in the ways that matter most.

    by plf515 on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 06:50:05 AM PDT

    •  thanks for dropping by! (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Daddy Bartholomew, plf515, bmcphail

      I have elsewhere on the thread mentioned your ideas about such tests.  Always glad to have you chime in with your expertise.

      "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 Aug 29, 2010 at 06:54:45 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  You're welcome! (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        teacherken, Daddy Bartholomew

        I didn't read the comments before adding my own, but will do so now.

        We all differ in ways that matter. But we're all the same in the ways that matter most.

        by plf515 on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 06:55:54 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  have fun (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Daddy Bartholomew, plf515, bmcphail

          we have the usual naysayers, but we also have a number of very thoughtful participants, and I think the quality of the discussion has been excellent.  I only regret that I will soon have to leave this to grade papers, do yard work, finish planning for next week, and catch up on sleep.  Posting as I did just after midnight and sticking around while it was active, then getting back up around 6 (surprised the cats let me sleep that late) means I've only had 3 hours of sleep.  

          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 Aug 29, 2010 at 07:02:24 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  NYC public school parent here (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Daddy Bartholomew, martini, plf515

      I posted a little upthread and yes, the problem here is how the tests are used and it I find it damaging and unhealthy.  Joel Klein needs to be fired  yesterday.

    •  small N? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      plf515, Justanothernyer

      Good comment, but I'm skeptical of your claim that more tests would reduce the small-N limitations. Frequent tests leave the student N unchanged, although increasing the question N. Students vary not only in starting point (approximately corrected for by the value-added method)but also in ease of progression. This is a "known unknown" providing explicit error bars on the evaluations, so it is not the worst problem. Nevertheless, those error bars remain.

      Still, I'm a little alarmed at how many other commenters want to do away with any approach to quantitative evaluations, rather than work hard to improve and broaden them. Purely subjective evaluations are the ultimate game-able system.

      •  Multilevel models (4+ / 0-)

        aka mixed models and a number of other things.  Here you would have a random slope and intercept model, so students serve as their own controls, thus greatly increasing statistical power.  And each teacher has multiple classes, which increases the n per teacher.

        So, while the number of students per class doesn't change, the minimum sample size to do useful analysis does change.

        We would have students nested both in time and class, with different classes nested differently within teacher.  

        A much simpler version which illustrates some of the power of this approach would be studying diet.  Suppose you have a bunch of people who want to lose weight, and each gets assigned to a trainer and a regimen.  In the current system, we weigh people once a year, and switch both the trainer and regimen of some people.  But if you weighed once a week, then a lot of the noise from all that balances out.

        Testing once a year is just stupid.  

        We all differ in ways that matter. But we're all the same in the ways that matter most.

        by plf515 on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 09:01:02 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  I'm a skeptic... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Sparhawk

    It is complex.  But as a parent actively pursuing educational options that will produce high test scores, I'm looking for settings will teachers will and have embraced their accountability via test scores.  I've seen good teachers in not so optimal settings produce children everyone had given up on that did exceeded all expectations on tests consistently.  I'm not convinced that teachers that don't produce the same results year after year, necessarily points to not holding teachers accountable for their student's test scores.  This may be due to administrative inflexibility and thus the whole load shouldn't be on just teachers, but all adults in the system.  It is a balance.  I reject that the failure should be laid at the feet of children when they are in school to learn and to learn to learn.  They don't have bachelor degrees on pedogogy, instruction and presumbably where applicable content matter.

    So, I'm skeptical and my real life experience weighs strongly in the favor of placing accountability on teachers for test scores realizing that other means of reform need to be in place as well.

    •  it may be what you want (9+ / 0-)

      but it is not a psychometrically valid thing to do.  Please, read the brief.  

      Can how students do on tests over time perhaps inform some of our understanding about teacher effectiveness?  Maybe, but no wheres near what people are currently trying to do.

      There is a more basic issue.  If you insist on the measure of a child's learning be performance on external tests, we can get it, but usually at the expense of real learning.  For one thing, the kinds of tests upon which we currently rely are problematic.  

      Of greater importance is what we know from testing, from the data on evbaluating heart surgeons to which I refer in the diary, from police work, etc.  It was stated more than 3 decades ago by Donald Campbell: 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.

      "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 Aug 29, 2010 at 06:59:01 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I disagree... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Sparhawk

        If you insist on the measure of a child's learning be performance on external tests, we can get it, but usually at the expense of real learning.

        This hasn't been my experience.  In fact, the schools who produce students with the best scores, in my experince, focus on real learning and don't teach to the test.  Those are schools that are most sought after by parents, myself included.  I loathe teaching to the test, but I love high test scores and institutions that produce them because they only way for my kid to continue to have wonderful opportunities offered to him, is to produce high test scores.  The only way he can get there (with a learning disability BTW) is to have teachers that are willing to put their repuation and institutions on the line and be accountable for producing children who make their test scores competitive in an ever competitive world.  My kid went to an independent private school (40 kids) in the midst of Charter expansion.  If this school would not deliver higher test scores than public, charters, parochial and other private schools they would be out of business and fast.  Why shouldn't it be the same through-out the system?

        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.

        Yes, of course, but I think this is comparing apples to oranges.  "Juking the stats" by a police force is different than kids actually learning content area important to their success.  If you are implying that teachers will cheat because their livlihood is based on the results, well I'm sure that is always a possibility and always has been.  Maybe it is a matter of removing the teachers from the test setting altogether to resist that temptation.  Afterall, we do it with SAT testing.  Further, what would stop teachers now from "juking the stats" by grade inflation and other subjective grading in of their students?  

        •  it may not be YOUR experience (3+ / 0-)

          but it is widely documented.  It is in fact why we have seen some states claim "improvement" on state tests which when checked against NAEP is shown to be a chimera.

          It is also why we are getting increasing complaints from post-secondary institutions that the students arriving on their campuses are increasingly in need of remediation -  that increase correlated heavily with how many years of schools they had under the strictures of NCLB.

          Yes, correlation is not causation, but the observations at the post secondary institutions is supported by other data, including but not limited to what I cited on NAEP.

          "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 Aug 29, 2010 at 07:39:08 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  No doubt... (0+ / 0-)

            no need for the CAPS.  

            Anyway, I am also skeptical when I hear my state's politicians tout how much test score have improved.  Skeptical, indeed.  

            It is also why we are getting increasing complaints from post-secondary institutions that the students arriving on their campuses are increasingly in need of remediation

            Yep, this isn't new, as you point out.  The complaints have always been there.  Twenty years ago, when I started college we had remedial courses at a large state university.  We weren't taught to the test.  In fact, the best thing that ever happened to me was Outward Bound, where I actually learned to take the test.  Actually learned what the questions meant as many wealthy kids do.  I wasn't taught to the test in the school setting.  It was an extracurricular setting where I actually learned to master the test and I was better off for it.

        •  high test scores do equal a good education (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Ivan, joycemocha

          they show that on a given day, a given student performed well on a test.  

          so is the goal for your child a good education or to have high test scores?

          high test scores are a straw man.

          Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government. ~Thomas Jefferson

          by k8dd8d on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 08:06:15 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  My goal is to have my kid have increasing... (0+ / 0-)

            opportunity...tests in school are administered over multiple days.  He is able to sustain high performance over a week's period, not one day.

            Doors of opportunity are not opened to him unless he can produce high test scores.  So his test scores reflect his achievement in content mastery relative to his peers across the country.  His school has consistenly produced high scoring kids that private schools (the most elite) are begging to have attend their.  Getting full scholarships are regular happenings for the kids at his school once they graduate.  Literally, the kids are recruited and a hot commodity because they are minority kids who didn't have teachers making excuses for their academic achievement. They produce kids who are most times well ahead of their private school peers in the best schools in the city.  Seeing is believing.  I was absolutely stunned, shocked at my kid's academic achievement in just one year.  An amazing model that is consistently produced every year.  

            •  so you don't really care if he's getting an (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              joycemocha

              education as long as he's acing the tests.

              I am the complete opposite.  Don't give a damn what my kid scores on the test provided he is learning, thinking and tackling challenging material.

              Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government. ~Thomas Jefferson

              by k8dd8d on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 08:36:26 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  What? (0+ / 0-)

                Let me make this clear.  I absolutely value education at great sacrifice to myself on the behalf of my kid.  I can converse with him and most people can and know that he is well educated.  However, when it is time to really understand what he knows and doesn't know, I can turn to his test scores as proof positive that he has achieved the well-rounded education I want for him.  

                Where did I right that I don't care about what he learns?  What I am saying is that kids who are learning, thinking and tackling challenging material are able to prove up via their test scores consistently, reliably, accurately and validly.  I've repeatedly said that I know he is learning via his performance on tests.  I didn't say that all he has to to is perform well on tests and not learn.  

                •  here's what you said that made it sound (3+ / 0-)

                  as if all you cared about were test results

                  But as a parent actively pursuing educational options that will produce high test scores, I'm looking for settings will teachers will and have embraced their accountability via test scores.

                  I will continue to argue that

                  test scores as proof positive that he has achieved the well-rounded education

                  is not true.  High test scores DO NOT indicate a good education.  They indicate a child memorized enough stuff to pass a multiple choice test on a given day on a given subject.

                  They do not show well roundedness.

                  Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government. ~Thomas Jefferson

                  by k8dd8d on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 09:02:44 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  So what now... (0+ / 0-)

                    kids aren't supposed to remember what they have learned?  The problem with drill and kill is that kids can't use their knowledge outside of very confined context.  Well-rounded kids and remember and apply, extrapolate, etc... what they haqve learned thus high test scores.

                    I also said this to you in direct response to your posts to me

                    So his test scores reflect his achievement in content mastery relative to his peers across the country.

                    Did you not read what I wrote or are you being obtuse because you don't agree with me?

                    My kid is well-rounded.  You can certainly argue otherwise.  He has some defecits in some language based areas and yet and still he has mastered most content level for his grade level consistently over the last four years. He is consistently two or three grades ahead in most subject areas based on national standardized tests and the areas where he is weak, he is on grade level.  This is considered a learning disability because all of his other scores are so high.  I cherish, respect and love his teachers.  I know they are few and far between as they are not unionized yet make no excuses about student achievement.  And their kids are faced with some of the same issues that are found in other public schools but they don't use that as a crutch or excuse not to do their job.  

                    •  And people quite frankly... (0+ / 0-)

                      are tired of hearing the excuses.  Hey, I fight on the side with public schools and public school teachers but what I see, is an abandonment of these schools and teachers, not because people want to but because people want their kids to learn.  The best ally for public school teachers is happy parents and educated students.  If neither exists, hello Education, Inc.  Parents in my city are not trying to hear that teachers shouldn't be accountable for test scores when they see so many other kids even in this city getting high enough test scores all around them.  And this is across the board, all shapes and stripes.  They are tired of failure and are moving to charters and this does no one well in the long run.  But since they have a choice, they aren't going to accept low test scores.  They just aren't!

                      •  you are right that people are tired of hearing (5+ / 0-)

                        excuses, and that people want their kids to learn.  But for kids to do that, they also need more involved parents, parents who look beyond just test scores to evaluate how their kids are doing.  Standardized tests go for math and reading.  There is more to life than that.  SChools are cutting art, and recess and pe and all kinds of extras that kids need, in favor of higher test scores in just certain areas.

                        and in full disclosure, we are unhappy enough with the public system, that we have taken our kids out of it.

                        But I don't think the problems that we saw would be solved by focusing on test scores.

                        Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government. ~Thomas Jefferson

                        by k8dd8d on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 09:58:08 AM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  We will agree to disagree... (0+ / 0-)

                          my ally.  I know deep down that most parents want nothing more than to send their kids to public schools.  I know it because I hear it all the time.  And I know that taking your kids out of public school came with great pain and travail and probably a lot of meetings at the school.  I hope you have found a wonderful alternative as I have.  

                    •  I'm not arguing that your child is not (4+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      elfling, 3goldens, bmcphail, joycemocha

                      well rounded, nor was I asking for a report card on him.

                      I'm questioning your statements that equate high test scores with well educated/well rounded.

                      In my book, well roundedness includes art, literature, appreciate of asthetics, a love of history and understanding of how/why it is important for the future, music, appreciation for the natural world, etc.

                      None of those are reflected in public school standardized test scores.

                      You said:

                      So his test scores reflect his achievement in content mastery relative to his peers across the country.

                      And you are right, I think, except it's probably just against his state since the tests vary widely state to state.  But I disagree that 'content mastery' on a standardized test is reflective of a good education.

                      You also made a comment above equating test scores with opportunities, and with that, I do agree.  My kids are aware that they have to do well on testing because we  "have to play the game", not because it really reflects what they know or what they are learning.

                      I've always presented testing to my kids as being about the adults, and the adults figuring out if they are teaching the right things, about where to put more/less money, etc.  and that it isn't indicative of a single child's achievement.  It's about the system as a whole and whether it is meeting the goals that we as citizens set for it.(or well, it should be). Until we get to college entrance tests, my kids individual test scores are only informational, along with every thing else they do, for how to improve their learning, and in what areas they may need greater focus.

                      What you describe about parents choosing schools and demanding charters, etc. based on test scores just isn't right to me.  Test scores are not indicative of what happens inside of a school, and in a child's life.  I think we just have a fundamental disagreement about this issue, but please do not take it personally.

                      Maybe I've been reading too much Alfie Kohn ;-)

                      Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government. ~Thomas Jefferson

                      by k8dd8d on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 09:54:23 AM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  Clarification... (0+ / 0-)

                        None of those are reflected in public school standardized test scores.

                        Or any other standardized tests.  If he wanted to be an artists or a musician this may be applicable.  However, his school provides him with outlets for music and frequently provides him with a scholarship for classes at an art school.  There is value what you listed, I would agree.  Nice fodder for his admissions essay to MIT.  Bu what matters most to me and to MIT is what can be quantitatvely measured.  

                        He doesn't go to public school and his school tests using the California Achievement test which is a standardized National test.

                        This is where my opinions are formed.  I worked on a campaign where the main plank of one of the candidates was school choice.  What I heard over and over on my candidates (and my) support of public schools is that parents' are at their wits end.  They don't have time to wait.  They are choosing schools by test scores because yes, as unfortunate as it is, they are a proxy for achievement because test scores in such a large system are used to weed out children to select schools.  It actually hurt my candidate to support public school in large areas.  Of course, the teacher unions supported the candidate who was a snake at best on education.  He won and then months later came out in support of vouchers.  My candidate stumped on not supporting vouchers and the teacher's union went the candidate with no strong education platform but who had the most corporate funding and then still went and undermined the unions.  

                        But I digress...This impacts their life chances.  As imperfect as it is, it all we have to objectively measure success or failure for our kids and quite frankly competitive schools up and down the system aren't trying to hear anything other than how did they score on this metric.  They don't care if the test is implimented on one day, if the teacher was bad, if the school was horrible.  They want to know what is your score.  That teachers are missing this call to action is problematic.  

                        •  FYI, if you truly are aiming for MIT (2+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:
                          Lissa Drake, princss6

                          independent effort on projects and other activities, especially science-related, will be fairly important. MIT, Caltech, and the like have found that students who have been solely focused on academics are not as successful as kids who have followed a passion outside of what was required at school and learned to fail here and there. They won't turn their nose up at a perfect SAT, but the kids who have the independent project experience generally do better than kids with just high scores.

                          Good luck to you and your child.

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

                          by elfling on Mon Aug 30, 2010 at 12:31:43 AM PDT

                          [ Parent ]

                          •  Thanks... (0+ / 0-)

                            We are still at an age where finding independent science work is difficult.  We are planning for NASA camp this summer though.  And as he gets older more opportunities will be available.  I'm really looking forward for him to be old enough to apprentice at the Zoo in the summer.  I think we still have a few more years.

                          •  Doesn't have to be formal/academic (0+ / 0-)

                            Lego mindstorms, training a dog for agility, whatever works out.

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

                            by elfling on Mon Aug 30, 2010 at 07:19:04 AM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                      •  I've heard Alfie Kohn speak (1+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        k8dd8d

                        but it wasn't on education----it was at a conference on quality improvement in healthcare and it was waaaay back in the 1990s.  That you mentioned his name inspires me to go and check at Barnes and Noble's website what books he's written.    I recall his presentation as being thought-provoking and well-received by the audience.  

                        You can have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, or democracy, but you cannot have both. ~ Louis Brandeis

                        by 3goldens on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 02:24:06 PM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

                    •  let me clue you in to the reality of schoolkids (8+ / 0-)

                      put all the emphasis on doing well on tests.  Have rallies, have pizza parties, all that stuff.

                      Here's what happens.

                      You will increasingly here during the year "will this be on the test?"  If not, why should the kid learn it.

                      Oh, and as soon as the test is done, which in some states can be early May, the kids shut down.  They don't want to do any more work.  You've told them the test is what matters, its over, now why should they do anything else?

                      The emphasis on tests, even with incentives, is destroying education, because it is destroying the natural motivation to want to learn, it drains excitement, it often prevents students and teachers from exploring the interesting subjects that come up in life that are tangentially related to the content but provide the real teachable moments, because that won't be on the test, and might lower the performance of the class on the test score.

                      "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 Aug 29, 2010 at 10:29:41 AM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  Florida is a very good example (3+ / 0-)

                        of your statement above, teacherken.  

                        As to the other comments, what is happening in Florida and will happen elsewhere when teacher pay and retention is tied to test scores is that it will eventually kill public schools.  The families who can afford it, will remove their children to private schools and the best teachers will be recruited to those private schools.

                        The movement in Florida to tie teacher retention and pay to test scores along with the attempt to provide vouchers for students to attend private schools would have resulted in basically dismantling quality public education. Thankfully the public came out in force against the legislature's attempt to do so and the Governor vetoed that bill.

                        There's no such thing as undead. Either it's dead or it's not. Either it's plugged or it's not. It's not.--Fishgrease

                        by gulfgal98 on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 11:10:14 AM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  Nothin' like a primary from the right to make (1+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:
                          Daddy Bartholomew

                          Crist do the right thing once in a while!

                          •  Actually, it was the public outcry (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            Lissa Drake

                            Charlie Crist is a populist and the public outcry was most likely his reason for vetoing that bill.

                            The bottom line is that most parents and most teachers have realized that FCAT is not only the magic bullet for quality public education, but is an impediment to it.  

                            For those who criticize public schools after taking their children out of them and placing them in private schools, my question to you is what are YOU doing to improve public schools?

                            There's no such thing as undead. Either it's dead or it's not. Either it's plugged or it's not. It's not.--Fishgrease

                            by gulfgal98 on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 05:51:35 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                      •  TK... (0+ / 0-)

                        so kids in college never ask their professors what is and isn't going to be on the final exam and only study those chapters?  Heck, kids don't only study the chapters that test will cover for an exam?   Come on, TK.  I don't find this as a valid argument against test as we all do it.  It actually is a good skill that is useful in the workplace.  It is routinely a part of performance reviews where employees are told upfront how they will be measured.  

                        •  again you miss the point (2+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:
                          Daddy Bartholomew, 3goldens

                          you are attempting to make parallels that are not relevant.

                          If all we want to do is measure how students do on a test, then it is appropriate only to teach them what will be tested, and their question has relevance.

                          Many of the tests are poor measurements even of the subjects about which they offer questions.  

                          education should be about helping the student learn more than information to be regurgitated, or rather, recognized on a multiple choice test.  It should be about understanding the domain, of knowing how to organize, of seeing connections and learning how to make more connections, about being able to apply the learning outside of the classroom or testing situation.

                          That is why the comparison you offer to justify rating teachers by how students do on test scores, or even students by the kinds of tests on which we are putting so much weight, is wrongheaded.

                          "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 Aug 29, 2010 at 02:08:37 PM PDT

                          [ Parent ]

                          •  Oh I see... (0+ / 0-)

                            you offer and anecdote.  I counter that anecdote with an anecdote and somehow because you are a teacher your anecdote is more valid.  I just didn't spend 20 years in an educational setting.  Only the teachers can observe what goes on and offer it to support their argument?

                            mmkay, Got it.  

                          •  i offered an anecdote as an illustration (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            Daddy Bartholomew

                            of what you do not seem to allow for.  I said that I could present many more such examples from my experience and that of other educators.  It is a reality.  It is not a major part of my student load, but it exists.  You seem to want to deny that reality.

                            I am not speaking in universals, you are.  If you posit a universal, one contrary example destroys your argument.  Now you want to turn around and change your argument?  Does that mean you acknowledge that there are students who will refuse to learn?  If so, how then can that been pinned on the teachers who do not have absolute control over them, who cannot even make the show up for class?

                            If you refuse to acknowledge that such students exist, then you are willfully blind.

                            "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 Aug 29, 2010 at 04:58:16 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  And I can provide more examples as well... (0+ / 0-)

                            we both can.  So a five-year-old doesn't want to learn?  And we know this how?  I've seen too many written off to take a teacher's word for it.  That is the reality.  And for all the talk about the administration and bad principals, they darn sure close ranks against parents when their teachers are questioned.  But hey, that is just my and many other parents exerience.  We are apart of your reality obviously.

                        •  At Caltech (1+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:
                          Lissa Drake

                          many of the tests were open book, infinite time. Being able to retain facts, no matter how good you were at that, would not get you through. You had to be able to apply concepts and show your work through some complicated problem solving.

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

                          by elfling on Mon Aug 30, 2010 at 12:34:12 AM PDT

                          [ Parent ]

                          •  Yep... (0+ / 0-)

                            my kid is horrible at retaining some facts but understands and can apply some very complicated concepts.  He is also a problem solver and a tinkerer.  One area where I have to constantly push him is to show his work, haha.  I think that is a product of his age though.

                •  I teach biology and I guarantee (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  elfling

                  that the AP Biology Exam and the AP Environmental Science Exam both test a broad range of biological concepts and facts.  They even include as course standards the practice and theory of science,  but only as a small percentage of the test weight.  Beyond the 1-5% of the multiple-choice questions on that "theme" and some interweaving in the free response questions, IMHO the AP tests do not intensively test a student's ability to

                  find, read and critically evaluate research,
                  design and carry out an experiment,
                  collaborate with a research team,
                  analyze data,
                  verbally and in writing communicate the experiment's results to his/her peers

                  all skills critical to doing and understanding actual science.  In my own faltering way I DO teach those things and evaluate them with a range of instruments that go a fair ways beyond objective tests.

                  Is the time I spend on those activities and evaluations wasted because they are likely not reflected in higher scores on the AP test?

                  Baz

                  We are the principled ones, remember? We don't get to use the black hats' tricks even when it would benefit us. Political Compass: -6.88, -6.41

                  by bmcphail on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 04:01:41 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  yep... (0+ / 0-)

                    if the kid fails ap science and gets no credit because they didn't pass the test.  yes.  that is how the system works.  

                    i believe instead of the sole burden being on the kid, it should be joint responsibility betwwen student and teacher.  

                    •  If the kid fails the AP exam (2+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      elfling, Fresno

                      but becomes an effective scientist, or even an effective citizen in terms of their ability to evaluate the claims of scientists and nonscientists making scientific claims, I will have succeeded, all test scores to the contrary.

                      We are the principled ones, remember? We don't get to use the black hats' tricks even when it would benefit us. Political Compass: -6.88, -6.41

                      by bmcphail on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 10:57:52 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                    •  Only wasted in terms of the empty game (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      Fresno

                      of standardized testing as opposed to preparing students to function in a professional career.

                      We are the principled ones, remember? We don't get to use the black hats' tricks even when it would benefit us. Political Compass: -6.88, -6.41

                      by bmcphail on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 11:02:25 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  I never knew... (0+ / 0-)

                        so many teachers were against standardized testing.  Interesting.  Because they determined so much and certainly have been employed by teachers to track kids and identify the cream of the crop.  Just interesting.

                        •  What you will find is that teachers (0+ / 0-)

                          are quite aware of the pros and cons of standardized testing.

                          The ongoing discussion of this issue is a subset of the larger topics of student evaluation and curriculum design, in one form or another discussion of which is a central preoccupation of the professional discipline of teaching.

                          After all, the questions of "What should we teach? How should we teach? and How do we know the students are learning?" pretty much encompass the whole practice of teaching.

                          What we object to, by and large, is being evaluated ourselves using instruments and methods which, based on fairly conclusive evidence, do not measure the things that they are assumed to be measuring.

                          We are the principled ones, remember? We don't get to use the black hats' tricks even when it would benefit us. Political Compass: -6.88, -6.41

                          by bmcphail on Tue Aug 31, 2010 at 09:20:05 AM PDT

                          [ Parent ]

                          •  I understand this... (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            bmcphail

                            What we object to, by and large, is being evaluated ourselves using instruments and methods which, based on fairly conclusive evidence, do not measure the things that they are assumed to be measuring.

                            But it is a central output of the system.  Standardized test scores are central to proving how educated a person is or is not.  Whether it is valid or not, does not matter as children are judged by it, even by the same teachers who see test scores so problematic when they are to be judged by them.  Tough, tough sell and it seems a little self-interested.  Schools are increasingly more competitive and as fallible as standardized testing is, schools still use them as a measure of achievement.  Now I can get behind a total abolishment of standardized testing.  But if they are a central output deciding someone's fate, I think teachers should be accountable along with students.  I don't think standardize testing will be abolished any time soon.  

                          •  What you are saying is: (0+ / 0-)

                            no matter how invalid or ineffective it is, because it's the system we must accept it and comply, rather than critique it and attempt to replace it with more well-founded methods.

                            We are the principled ones, remember? We don't get to use the black hats' tricks even when it would benefit us. Political Compass: -6.88, -6.41

                            by bmcphail on Tue Aug 31, 2010 at 02:28:38 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  Standardized test scores (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            Fresno

                            are to a troubling extent central to proving how well a person takes standardized tests and how rich is their daddy.

                            They have their place, for sure.  They do test mastery of a set of core facts and concepts.  The problem is the  seductive attraction of a simple numerical scale to the political process, leading to the scores being interpreted in unsustainable ways.

                            We are the principled ones, remember? We don't get to use the black hats' tricks even when it would benefit us. Political Compass: -6.88, -6.41

                            by bmcphail on Tue Aug 31, 2010 at 02:32:43 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  The diary isn't about removing standardized (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            bmcphail

                            testing.  It is about not tying teachers compensation to them.  This is very troubling to me because if all you say is true (and I agree), then it seems self-serving not to attack the test because they don't necessarily measure achievement but to attack the correlation between the test and teacher compensation.  So this says to me, it is okay to continue to allow these flawed objects to decide the fate of children, but oh no, we teachers and our unions, will not be accountable.  I'm telling you this is not a compelling argument.  I doubt seriously that this would be a hot-button issue if tying scores to compensation for public school teachers would be off the table.  I hope I'm wrong, but I suspect that if this were true, teachers would return to the status quo.  The status quo being kids' futures being boiled down to a standardized test score.  The fact that other schools are willing to put their compensation and reputation on the line vis-a-vis test scores, says a lot.  So yes, this is the deck we are dealt with and I honestly believe this was a natural progression when we allowed standardized test scores to take root in college admissions and other specialty schools like magnets.  In my opinion it is too late to turn the clock back now and as long as kids are judged by these scores, so will teachers and schools.  It really is that simple.  Asking for something else, well I don't think it is realistic.  

                          •  I understand your concerns but consider this: (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            teacherken

                            Let me relate my relevant experience.

                            I teach at a state-supported boarding high school for advanced students. We fall outside of a lot of the requirements and concerns of regular public schools.  Our daily and yearly schedule is more like that of a college than a high school. Our mission is to provide high-end educational opportunities for high functioning students and to provide advanced programs that students cannot get in many of their local schools.  We offer a free public education to all enrollees: room, board, books, tuition, subject only to an activity fee (which is a reasonable amount of money, currently around $1200/yr...payment options and support are available in cases of need).  Admission is competitive.

                            Now to the point: I serve on the admissions committee for my school.  Our admissions process is very similar to that of a college and I can tell you without reservation that while we require our applicants to take major standardized tests like SAT/ACT, their score is by no means the only criterion by which we judge which students will be admitted.  The application process includes test scores, transcripts, essay, teacher/counsellor/parent recommendations, and personal interview.  If the process were based only on standardized testing we could use a spreadsheet to determine our entering class: decide how many we can take in a given year and sort by score.  But that's not what happens.  

                            If an applicant is from a family without advanced education, if they are from a hard scrabble school that did not provide them with scholastically rich preparation, have all or mostly A's on their transcript, a good brag sheet (activities, leadership), good teacher and counsellor recommendations, a great interview, and other evidence that they are willing to WORK diligently and responsibly, they may be chosen over another applicant, even if their standardized testing is not the greatest.

                            This is to say, we try to look at the whole student and take their background into account. Part of our mission is to provide opportunities to the best students, as far as we can judge that, based on as broad a set of criteria as we can.  A talented student from the most disadvantaged school in Alabama may have not had a wealthy, educated background, or the advantage of a rich curriculum in the school that they came from, but we will give them an opportunity to put that basic talent to work and compete with the most advantaged students in the state.

                            My sense is that college admissions committees similarly do not in general view standardized tests as mechanistically as you seem to think. A great deal of work goes into the admissions process and the reason for that is precisely that standardized tests are not a panacea, they are understood to be inadequate on their own.

                            Now, as far as professional schools go, that's beyond my direct experience.  I get the impression that the number of slots allowed in the nation's medical schools has to do with quality but dare I suggest it has to do with a certain perspective towards the supply of doctors?  In that case, the MCAT or GRE or LSAT may for all I know be applied mechanistically as a filter to reduce the workload of admissions committees, to reduce the gross number of applicants for limited positions, but if that process has integrity, I venture to guess that even in this case there is room for exceptional students who show evidence of talent.

                            Thanks for pursuing this discussion.

                            Baz

                            We are the principled ones, remember? We don't get to use the black hats' tricks even when it would benefit us. Political Compass: -6.88, -6.41

                            by bmcphail on Tue Aug 31, 2010 at 11:58:18 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  One more comment: (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            teacherken

                            Having said all of the above, standardized tests are instruments designed to evaluate student achievement, however defined.  Teachers and others are right to be wary in interpreting them and even to view them with a certain degree of cynicism, but their designed purpose is to tell us something about students. This is what they are designed for.

                            They are NOT designed to tell us something about the teachers of those students.
                            For reasons that have been adequately explained elsewhere it's not particularly valid to use them in this way.

                            I'll stipulate that teachers do need to be evaluated. It's just that this avenue for doing so is naive at best, a political hatchet job at worst.

                            We are the principled ones, remember? We don't get to use the black hats' tricks even when it would benefit us. Political Compass: -6.88, -6.41

                            by bmcphail on Wed Sep 01, 2010 at 12:04:11 AM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                •  Here is a good story about how (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  teacherken, Fresno

                  test scores can fail to catch real learning, and how real learning can fail to get a high score.

                  http://lilysblackboard.org/...

                  When I taught 6th grade in Utah, we gave a standardized test in the spring. One year, I was told that the Social Studies section would cover the Civil Rights Movement.

                  This was good to know since our textbook had very little on the Civil Rights Movement. So, I developed a curriculum that covered segregation and Jim Crow and lunch counter sit-ins and voting rights. You should have heard these 12 year olds arguing about things they had never even thought of before – about civil disobedience and the ideals of America and our responsibility to those ideals.

                  Then we got the test. There was one question on the Civil Rights Movement. This was it:

                  Which of the following won the Nobel Peace Prize?
                  A. Rosa Parks B. Martin Luther King, Jr. C. George Washington Carver D. Charles Drew

                  In that entire week of study, I had never once mentioned that Martin Luther King, Jr. had won the Nobel Peace Prize.

                  Almost all my kids missed that question, because after a week with me, they assumed they knew everything about Dr. King, so he was the first name they eliminated. After that, they just guessed.

                  Knowing who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 is not as important as WHY he won the Peace Prize. We don’t live in a multiple choice world. We must teach complex, critical thinking skills that are relevant to students who might be reading a history book on the Civil Rights Movement or a website on the pros and cons of nuclear power or a newspaper on the Gulf Oil Spill.

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

                  by elfling on Mon Aug 30, 2010 at 12:24:52 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  I had said I would post no more comments (0+ / 0-)

                    but I have to respond to you  :-)

                    First, I really wish you would get to my education diaries when they are very active -you offer very thoughtful comments that I wish more people saw.  If you want me to notify you when I post on education, send me an email message (addy in profile) and I will be happy to

                    Second, I was truly sorry I could not make NN10 this year (I was at Wise health fair) because I was invited to introduce Lily at some session -  I hold her in very high regard.  It will be wonderful for her to become NEA President -  given she was Utah teacher of the year, we will have a recognized outstanding teacher which might enable some pushback against the union bashers

                    Third, I noticed that you chose to comment on her blog.  Good for you.  I'd like to see your voice get more audience -  which takes me back to the First above  :-)

                    Peace -  and greetings to your hubby

                    "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 Aug 30, 2010 at 03:47:37 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

            •  How would you (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              elfling

              choose an art or music teacher for your child?  

              •  Extracurricular... (0+ / 0-)

                his school doesn't have art classes.  We go to the local art schools.  He takes drumming in school.  I may want him to get other instruction, but it really is up to him.  He is a scientist.  He would rather build with legos than draw or play music.  There is value in art and music instruction for sure and I do have a choice as to the settings and venues where he will receive that instruction.  However, a lack of art classes isn't on the top of list of disqualifiers for admission-enrollment schools.  Yes, it may suit my inner liberal to have the exposure but at the end of the day, I'm a pragmatist.  If it isn't a dealbreaker for achievement at the next level, it is extraneous.

                •  But how will you know they are good teachers (0+ / 0-)

                  without the standardized testing?

                  At Caltech, a very large percentage of students play a musical instrument. Feynman was also a drummer.

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

                  by elfling on Mon Aug 30, 2010 at 12:37:35 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  I'm pretty sure... (0+ / 0-)

                    that there will be a rolling average.  Or some mechanism to account for all of the complex variables outlined in the paper.  Honestly, if teachers don't realize that the larger society judges them by their students' acheivements, then we really have a problem.  

          •  does that equal a good education (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Daddy Bartholomew, joycemocha, k8dd8d

            or merely a good performance on that test on that day?  Is what you demonstrated on that test transferable to real-world settings?

            So let me ask you, how many times a year as an adult are you presented a problem which by definition has one "correct" answer which is provided to you, along with 2-4 "distractors"????  if not, is the performance on a multiple choice test really an indicator that you have learned something that you can usefully apply?

            "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 Aug 29, 2010 at 10:25:58 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  So am I. (5+ / 0-)

      And am skeptical enough to have found out that economic standing is a far greater predictor of a student's achievement than any arbitrary metric one may claim to coincide with teacher competence.

      Testing is entirely arbitrary and not free from bias.  Knowledge and thought is not received wisdom, yet testing acts as though it is.

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

      by Fossil on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 07:06:33 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I know testing isn't perfect... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        burrow owl, Justanothernyer

        I don't even believe in the so called "aptitude tests" to go to show you how cynical I am.  But we need an objective measure to see if the entire system is working.  I have options, if I see test scores dropping for my kid, I'm gettting him out of the educational setting as soon as practical.  Of course, there is a strong possibility that this options will be limited with lower test scores.

        I guess different people mean to get different things out of the educational system.  As a parent of a future scientist or vet, I value test scores because each step of his progression is based on test scores period.  It is unrealistic to think that not making teachers accountable for test scores is doing anyone a favor other than teachers.  As I said, I wouldn't put my kid into a school where the teachers hadn't produced outstanding test scores in their students and didn't see them as a measure of their success.  I'm not alone in thinking this way, trust me.  Those who would shun being accountable to test scores as imperfect as they all, I suspect will soon find that they are left with very low performers.

        •  An objective measure? (0+ / 0-)

          Well, let's try a few out:

          Like belief in a god.

          Or susceptibility to the cult of consumerism.

          Or, denial of the fact of evolution and the theory of natural selection.

          Or, denial of anthropogenic global warming.

          On all, America is failing, and I'd lay the cause directly at the feet of parents or a society that creates barriers (low wages, employment and work practices, healthcare insecurity, etc.) to quality family life.

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

          by Fossil on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 11:35:43 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  There's no bias in 5X=20, solve for X. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        princss6
        •  Actually, hmmmm (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Daddy Bartholomew, Fossil, Anak, Fresno

          There are language issues that can easily get in the way of your little algebra example.

          And for kids to get to the point that they can a)understand what an equal sign is, understand that if one divides both sides of an equal sign by the same number, one gets to maintain the truth of that sign, that 5X actually means 5 TIMES X, that "times" means counting up the number of piles of sets of objects and the number of objects in each pile, that division undoes multiplication, that "x" is a "variable" and so is different in every problem, that something can symbolize or substitute for something else, that math can be done abstractly rather than concretely.....

          There's a helluva lot of stuff going on in that little bitty algebra problem.....

          •  I would agree... (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Fossil

            many kids don't even know how to solve word problems.  This is why even wealthy parents in good districts pay for test prep.  

          •  That's not a bias. (0+ / 0-)

            You're just saying it's harder than non-abstract problems.  

            And that's correct.  And that's also the point of testing kids on it.

            Or: it's biased in favor of reasonably intelligent teachers that don't have hack teachers.  Which is, again, the point.

          •  there could be (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Daddy Bartholomew

            if the question presumes you are going to solve for number base 14, where what you might be reading as twenty actually is a symbolic representation of 28.

            "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 Aug 29, 2010 at 02:09:40 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  maybe this is dated, and maybe not (0+ / 0-)

              but this book focuses on the verbal issues in math and there is far more than "base 14" and "base 28" at stake....

              http://www.amazon.com/...

              Also, since you don't teach elementary math, you might not follow some of the problems that have been identified in the Everyday Math Program, but one entire segment of the horrors of this curriculum is the overly verbal nature of the math lessons.

              If you use words in unfamiliar ways, the kids don't get it, and they have a hard time functioning even in math.

              It's not AP US, it's 2nd grade math, but language issues are ever present nonetheless.

        •  The bias is in the insistence that students learn (5+ / 0-)

          such abstractions in a context-free, "objective" instructional environment.  See Shirley Brice Heath's Ways with Words for examples of why, for some perfectly logical first-grade students in the Carolina foothills, 2 + 2 = 1.  They put the problem into the context of trains they saw in operation near the freightyard near their homes and concluded that two train engines plus two cars equal one train.

          Knowledge as pattern-making or story-making always has a context.  To simply tell students, "no, that's wrong, 2 + 2 = 4.  Now practice that until you get it right when it pops up at random on a multiple-choice test," is to strip teaching of a lot of its necessary subtleties and challenges.  One has to start from where the students are -- not where we want them to be -- and then build mathematical patterns with them.  

          If first grade students have a "bias-free" teacher who says, I taught them how to add, and they just didn't get it, then the eighth grade algebra teacher who later wants them to know that X = 4 is the solution to the problem you pose just might have to inquire deeply into the history and culture of the students in order to get the process rolling.  

        •  That's training, not education. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Daddy Bartholomew, gulfgal98

          Education is how to determine the model one needs to create for "solve for X".  If you want to train children that that's fine, but don't call it an education.

          I would rather cope with somebody who is educated and trainable, than somebody trained in rote mechanics.  Too frequently I have encountered people who rely on training - a cookbook methodology to pharmaceutical quality, rather than being educated in how to define solutions and access the training or methodologies to bring to bear.

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

          by Fossil on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 04:34:46 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  You shouldn't really be pursuing high test scores (15+ / 0-)

      so much as you should be pursuing breadth that eventually leads to high test scores as an artifact of good schooling.

      It helps to keep these categories separate.

      My kids are going through several years apart.  The older one got a far better schooling experience because NCLB hadn't quite destroyed the school experience.  The younger one scores well, too, but gets so much more limited an array of opportunities I could cry.

      I have watched the testing system really crush spirits.

      I have watched inadequate teachers crush spirits.

      I have watched lousy principals defend their turf, ill-informed board members make bizarre decisions, tax payers refuse to pay up but demand housing districted for the "good" schools....

      I have seen the corporate testing regime take over, the corrupt reading programs, the bad theories of how kids learn, the foolishness of thinking that if you could just change the curriculum one more time THAT would fix everything, the bankrupt emptiness of the phrase "best practices," and on and on.

      I have also noted that having 3 masters degrees isn't much evidence of anything.  But then, not knowing the curriculum at all is kind of a problem as well.

      Education is a complex system with more inputs than we can model, with lives at stake when we fail, with so many people to shift blame to that we could have a field day.

      Community, government, parent and extended family, business and local institutions, principals, teachers, school boards, and even the kids themselves all need to be involved.

      Instead, we get the testing regime.

      The tests can indeed tell us some things that we need to know.  But they should only be used within their limits, not extended so that we can yet again shift the blame.

      •  Agreed... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        teacherken

        so much as you should be pursuing breadth that eventually leads to high test scores as an artifact of good schooling.

        I don't think anything I've said opposes this, but how I know that the breadth and depth is through test scores.  My kid isn't taught to the test.  It is a montessori model.  Four years ago in another school, no one, no one, would have thought he would produce the test scores that he did.  In his first tour of first grade, they were willing to give up on him.  THANK GOODNESS, he has a parent who believes that in first grade, every kid is still redeemable.  If I would have left it to the teachers and administrators, no telling what would have happened to my kid's soul and lifetime prospects.  

        I sympathize with you as a caring parent.  I know it is tough.  And there are some real challenges to finding solutions to help even the brightest, if you are not wealthy, to succeed.  I agree, it goes up the entire chain of command.  

        •  And to add... (0+ / 0-)

          and then I was forced to find a school that was willing to lay it on the line, started by parents during a teachers' strike over 30 years ago, BTW. and the difference in his academic growth was night and day. No excuses for the kids and no excuses  for the teachers producing a fifth grader accepted into a program with scholarship that the experts and teachers would have written-off at the age of six.  Yes, I'm skeptical when I hear people say they don't want to be measure by those in their charge.  You and I at our work place are measured by what we produce.  So it begs the question, why not teachers AND administrators.  And honestly, so are school districts, ergo the high property tax rates in high performing school districts.  People move to areas where teachers and administrators and districts are willing to be accountable.  

        •  If that were the case (4+ / 0-)

          I would move.  Alas, things are very different in NYC.  Property taxes don't enter into the equation.  My school district doesn't even have a zoned middle or high school.  There are people living in 2 plus million dollar brownstones who pay 3 - 4 thousand dollars in property taxes.  

          School placement for middle and high schools are based on the medical school matching process and a lot of placement hinges on test scores.  I could live across the street from an excellent middle school and the DOE could place my child in a school MILES away.  

      •  I absolutely agree with you (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        joycemocha, Lissa Drake

        The differences in my children's education has been night and day.  Spirit crushing is right.  

      •  Just More Outsourcing (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        3goldens, Lissa Drake

        Is this just more outsourcing? Are these tests just a business for corporations to make a buck?

        I'd like to know where the money is going in this.

    •  I'm a Skeptic of VAM (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      teacherken, elfling, slatsg, 3goldens, princss6

      First of all, I think you should consider what I say here. Second, Teacherken is pointing out that a thorough and credible study says that the data has too much variation in it to be useful for primary evaluation of teachers.

      We need to step back and look at what will improve the quality of the schools. It looks to me that the biggest cause of quality problems is the environment in which education occurs. We need to look at what we can do to improve that quality (through community evaluation).

      Second, we are much more likely to improve the quality of education by improving the methods used than the people using them. People with quality educations have the ability to go get the facts (research), evaluate them logically and consistently (reason), and put that together to get appropriate results. Any educational system that does not teach students to research, reason and produce quality results is lacking in quality. The new 3Rs should be our goal in education.

      Third, how much can you reasonably improve the actual teachers? There are hundreds of thousands. They reflect the population of college graduates. You might be able to increase their effectiveness, say, 5% by spending an astronomical amount of money to weed out the bad ones and entice the good ones. And, as soon as you stop spending that money, the system will revert and you'll get teachers that reflect the average of the population they come from. Is that a good use of our money? A much more effective use of that money is to work on how the community supports education. That money not only improves education, but also improves the community itself.

      Finally, multiple-choice tests can give you some indication whether students have learned the new three Rs. But to make that evaluation complete you need real communication with them. Do they pass the Turing test? Simple mechanical evaluation will never tell you. You can't use simple computation (i.e., a computer) to make that evaluation. But how do you do standardized tests across millions of students using human evaluation of them at anything like a reasonable cost? You can't. It would be prohibitively expensive to figure out from real evaluations of the students whether they really got a good education.

      •  I reject none of what you say... (0+ / 0-)

        however, life chances are based on those test scores.  Life.  My criticism of education is broad and vast, I spare no sector.  But if a kid's future is based on test scores, then so should a teahcers.  

        I recognize the tests are not perfect.  I sincerely do.  However, since it is a necessary condition for advancement and opportunities, I'm looking for educational partners who value them (as a proxy for achievement) as much as I do.  There is too much at stake.

        •  Tests are not necessary for advancement (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          elfling, slatsg

          My son just transferred into one of the most competitive programs in the country in his field.

          Prior to starting college courses, he had taken no tests at all of any kind. In fact, he hadn't ever gone to school, nor had he done formal classes at home. On entering a community college, he took one placement test, on which the score only mattered to determine which level of courses he should begin whith, and then only the usual tests given in the particular courses in which he enrolled. After his first semester, he was accepted into an honors program based on his coursework.

          He earned an associate's degree from the CC, applied to the program of his choice at a top university, and was accepted. He never took the PSAT, the SAT, the ACT, the state high school exit exams, achievement tests, aptitude tests, or any other standardized tests.

          •  That's great! (0+ / 0-)

            I have more direct plans for my kid.  There are some colleges with feeder programs from CC.  I went straight to a four year and expect my kid will do the same.  I'm glad that worked out for your son.  

            •  The CC isn't a feeder school for his university (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Liberal Thinking, elfling

              Nor is it a feeder school for the colleges and universities several dozen of his friends have gone on to from there, all without having to do any standardized testing.

              Many schools are testing optional for entering freshmen now, but far more don't even accept test scores when considering transfers. They just want to know how you've done in college courses and real life - because SATs and ACTs and such aren't nearly as predictive of college success as actual college success. ;)

              •  Okay... (0+ / 0-)

                our CC can feed into one of our universities.  I've heard of the same in Delaware.  

                This is about options for me.  Until all universities do away with requiring tests, my goal will be to produce a child that scores well on these tests.  But at this point, I'm not limiting his options at this stage because things may change.  If he decides to go to a school that doesn't require testing, fine.  However, if he doesn't, I want him to be able to compete.

        •  IF - but should it be (2+ / 0-)

          if your predicate, that students' future is based on test scores, is itself something that is inappropriate, then the conclusion you draw therefrom is foolish -  fix the predicate.

          Even if the predicate is correct, you are placing on the teacher a responsibility not completely in her control.  How a student does on a test is far more than the effectiveness of the teaching.

          And please accept this simple fact.  For years the three professional associations involved with testing (two of which have been headed by Bob Linn, one of the authors of the policy brief that is the occasion of this diary), AERA, NCME, and APA, have been saying that a test designed to allow one to draw valid inferences for one purpose -  what a student knows, for example -  should not be used to attempt to draw inferences for another purpose - in this case how effective the teaching was.   It is not designed for that purpose, it does not control for other factors, therefore the rate of error in the inferences is too high to be dependable.

          "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 Aug 29, 2010 at 02:14:10 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  I don't believe testing is nearly as valuable as. (3+ / 0-)

          You seem to think.  Many colleges are becoming test optional, meaning that student do not have to submit act or sat scores in the application process.  The reason is simple.  Test scores are not very reliable in predicting success in college.  Actually, the sat correlates very strongly with IQ, not achievement.  The distribution of test scores is almost identical for enterig college freshmen, and graduating college seniors. Wake forest, where my daughter is planning to go, is the most recent addition to test-optional colleges.  

          For younger students, standardized tests also coorelate strongly with general cognitive ability.  Smarter kids are more likely to answer questions correctly, even if they have limited or no exposure to the material.   A few examples from my wife's school:

          Scores decreased by about 5 percent when the tests were scheduled the day after the spring time change.  Same for the day we had a major thunderstorm during testing. (lower scores on sections tested that day)

          When she inquired with the parents of students whose scores decreased from the previous year, she found that there was usually a factor at home that parents believed could have caused the problem. (ie. Marital problems or serious illness in the family)

          Scores increased when fewer sections were tested on each day.

          Students with attention difficulties produces very inconsistent scores.  Some days they are "on" and some days not so much.

          I agree that ineffective teachers need to be removed from the classroom.  I don't think that is likely to happen by using test scores as the criteria.  Btw my wife has worked in a union district and in a non union district.  She did not find any difference between the two In the calibre of teachers.    
             

          •  Is it test optional... (0+ / 0-)

            for scholarships?  Or is that just based on grades?  

            •  I think there are sever a different types of sch. (0+ / 0-)
            •  I think it depends (0+ / 0-)

              On who is giving out the scholarship.  There are different criteria for different scholarships. I know that my oldest son received several.  Some were need based and some were merit.  I think there was only one that was based on a combination of test scores and grades, but that one was for the university of south carolina and they still require test scores to be submitted.  

              If youggogle wake forest and test optional, thtere is a pretty good article on why they have made that decision.  There are around 750 colleges that no longer require test scores, and are willing to base admissions on a combination of grades, recommendations, and extra-curriculars.  Of course most of the big public universities still require them.    

          •  yep - allow me to respond by (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Daddy Bartholomew

            pointing you to Fairtest.  Look at the blue box on the upper right and follow the links.   There are some very prestigious schools that no longer require the SATs.  

            "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 Aug 29, 2010 at 05:00:36 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  Teachers and Testing (0+ / 0-)

          As long as the they are testing the teachers and not the students, I don't see a problem using test scores to evaluate teachers. But using students' test scores to evaluate teachers is like using my comments to evaluate yours.

          •  Analogy is absurd... (0+ / 0-)

            come on liberal thinking...do we spend every day together?  Do you lecture me everyday?  No.  If you believe this analogy to be accurate and comparable then why do we even have teachers?  Seriously.

  •  Thank you Ken (7+ / 0-)

    Educational reform has been in large measure hijacked by profiteers and ultra-conservatives who are enemies of public education. Ravitch outlines and documents all this quite well in her The Death and Life of the Great American School System.

    Those of us in education who desire sytemic change and positive reform are sickened by the how the focus upon education has become distorted and destructive. Additional dollars and resources are actually being used to make teachers' more difficult while blaming them for achievement gaps and lack of student educational growth. Academic freedom is evaporating as the curriculum is narrowed to basic literacy and measures of success reduced to high stakes tests. Teaching, a complex activity that is both science and art is assessed in terms of whether the right things on posted on a classroom wall, or the right magic word of the day is on the lips on every student in class when some "watcher" walks through, or...

    Foundations, and Federal Government are pouring lots of dollars into certain buckets. Unfortunately, much of it is misguided and counterproductive.

    If we don't change, we don't grow. If we don't grow, we aren't really living. - Gail Sheehy

    by itisuptous on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 06:57:38 AM PDT

    •  What does that mean? (0+ / 0-)

      Those of us in education who desire sytemic change and positive reform

      I assume that means "more money."  If we bracket that for the moment, are there other reforms that you're looking at?

      •  come on, that is not at all what it means (0+ / 0-)

        rather it means a very different way of educating.  Our current structure of education is based on several badly flawed models, and is largely structured for the convenience of adults and not for the best learning environment for the students.

        When educators with whom I associate begin to talk about serious reform, we start with the fact that the very structure of school fails too many students, and piling more requirements and more "rigor" on top of a structure that is already failing students will leave even more behind.  And the cost of that to society is far greater than what it might cost to totally restructure how we educate our young people.

        "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 Aug 29, 2010 at 02:17:03 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Quite correct. (6+ / 0-)

    I've also asserted that if differential improvement would be measured, teachers in wealthier districts would come off as less capable as those in poorer districts who work very, very, hard to help their students.  Well, at least what I have seen N and NW of Chicago.

    A bit off subject, but considering the greatest "test" within our society, I would assert that the success of education, the success of teachers as well as the success of parents, may be measured by the general attitude toward skepticism and science.  Ignorant religiosity, anthropocentric climate change denial, and creationism all argue that education in America has been failing us.

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

    by Fossil on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 06:57:48 AM PDT

    •  I Can Vouch For That (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Lisa, teacherken, Fossil

      I used to teach on the West Side of Chicago at a school for teenagers who had dropped out but wanted a second chance, and my students' test scores would go up one grade level about every three months.

      I now teach on the North Shore, mostly in honors classes where my kids enter at the 98th or 99th percentile and leave at the 98th or 99th percentile. The material I teach them is not covered by the state tests, and there is no way to raise their scores anyways.

      "H.R.W.A.T.P.T.R.T.C.I.T.G -- He really was a terrible president that ran the country into the ground."

      by Reino on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 07:38:15 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  As an ESOL teacher.... (3+ / 0-)

    the most horrifying thing for me is the standardization of language acquisition tests for ELLs (English Language Learners) as if there is a justifiable way to test for language acquisition that can be standardized just so that we can label these kids with a number...ARGGGH

    Dr. Dean...Paging Dr. Dean...he's not on-call you say...then get me DR. MATT!! STAT!!!

    by doctormatt06 on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 07:37:05 AM PDT

  •  not to mention problems with student test (6+ / 0-)

    scores as the sole definition and goal of learning and education.

    Children are not numbers.

  •  Watchi This Week and seeing Arnie defend (4+ / 0-)

    this policy of evaluating teachers by students' test scores....ie. merit pay!

    Looks like I retired at the right time....my students whose reading scores always ranged more than 2 years below grade level...shit, I'd owe the District more money than I made!

    Courage is what you are in the dark. Emilio Lazzardo in Buckaroo Bonzai

    by Temmoku on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 07:44:53 AM PDT

    •  The AFT rep was very articulate and strongly (0+ / 0-)

      defended the teacher point of view on these scores and pay. Overall, that was a good segment on "This Week", along with school food programs.

      But even Arnie did point out that scores should only be part of the overall evaluation procedure for teachers.

    •  I tried to watch it but (0+ / 0-)

      I really couldn't hear much over the exasperated talk back / voiceover provided by my Teacher-Husband.

      So ... What did they say?!? :-/

      "Thunder is good, thunder is impressive; but it is lightning that does all the work." ~Mark Twain

      by Lady Libertine on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 08:26:03 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  how can we get innovation like this: (0+ / 0-)

    Duke grading experiment

    that would really make a difference in outcomes?

    I truly feel that our obsession with reducing learning to simple numerical data has been a big part of our problems in improving education.

  •  In Florida... (7+ / 0-)
    The results of this year's test were obviously flawed on a massive scale.

    The scores dropped, across the board, beyond the baseline levels that would be expected if students did not participate in any remediation.

    We are investigating, but the testing company insists that there was no problem with the scoring or the test itself.

    If our jobs were on the line, the Pearson Corporation would have been able to get us fired with a flawed test.

    Tragic.

    "I hate quotations. Tell me what you know." -Ralph Waldo Emerson

    by Rian Fike on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 07:54:34 AM PDT

  •  re-certification (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    joycemocha

    I was at a conference 10 years ago. Teachers were talking about this and a doctor stood up and described re-certification.

    Rather than punish teachers for poor results (as never happens in business), teachers could be regularly re-certified like doctors.

    They would have to pass a basic test that every teacher should ace. Those who failed the test would not be qualified to teach. The test might require a day or two of continuing education every few years but no more than that.

    "Your victory has demonstrated that no person anywhere in the world should not dare to dream of wanting to change the world for a better place." -- Mandela

    by agoldnyc on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 07:55:15 AM PDT

    •  Teachers already have to be recertified. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      elfling, 3goldens, joycemocha

      We are required to get a minimum number of continuing education credits and recertify every 5-8 years depending on where you are in the cycle.

      Wise men talk because they have something to say, fools, because they have to say something. - Plato

      by eashep on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 09:26:11 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Doctor Recertification Does Not Work Either (5+ / 0-)

      Due to pressure from doctor groups, the recertification tests for doctors are much easier than the boards doctors have to pass to join the profession. The recertification programs have now added steps such as research design that do not correlate well with being a good doctor. Many older doctors complained that the recertification did not do any good, and the reaction by some boards has been to grandfather older doctors out of the requirements just to cut down on the level of whining. Doctors can get a significant number of credits by taking multiple choice tests whose answers are mailed out with the tests.

      If you want education to copy medicine in this regard, step one would be to get the medical community to deal with their issues with at least a modicum of honesty, and step two would be to consider the differences between the professions (which are enormous).

      "H.R.W.A.T.P.T.R.T.C.I.T.G -- He really was a terrible president that ran the country into the ground."

      by Reino on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 10:10:42 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  The biggest problem in education is: parents. (4+ / 0-)

    Parents who don't read to their kids.  Parents who let their kids watch TV instead of doing homework.  Parents who aren't actively involved in their kids' education.

    When a kid comes from a family like that (or no family), how can we possibly expect mere teachers to make the kid want to learn?

    •  The biggest problem (8+ / 0-)

      is that everyone is blaming everyone else. Prepaing children for productive well adjusted lives is not an easy task. We all share responsibility for helping to made this happen. We need to work together, recognize their are no magic bullets, and do whatever is necessary to give children an opportunity to realize their potential.

      If we don't change, we don't grow. If we don't grow, we aren't really living. - Gail Sheehy

      by itisuptous on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 08:27:12 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  comment of the diary! (0+ / 0-)

        Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government. ~Thomas Jefferson

        by k8dd8d on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 08:39:52 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Maybe so (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Lisa, bmcphail, LynneK, joycemocha

        but teachers are the ones getting graded on their work, nobody else.

        I have parents who call me upset about letters home telling me that during the day I'm the baby sitter.

        I've seen parents come in for meetings and laugh at visiting teachers with foreign accents.

        I've seen parents of immigrant children come in and practically worship teachers.

        In our country, we've engaged in a devaluation of teachers as professionals.

        •  And I've seen teachers (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Lisa, Daddy Bartholomew

          brutalize kids, screaming at them down the hall, refusing to let them go to the bathroom til they pee in their pants, kicking them off the rug because they were pulling at fibers instead of giving them something creative to do with their hands, failing to understand an entire math curriculum and so totally unable to explain elementary school math to their kids, bitching about parents instead of partnering with parents....

          I've seen principals say "Oh, we want parent involvement in the schools" and then locking the doors and keeping the parents out.  Asking for input about teacher placement for the next year and ignoring it to the detriment of the children involved.  Refusing to admit that gifted education is actually different from a once a month pull out to talk about a dumb book with a parent volunteer who has no background in English, in lit, in education.

          And I've seen all sorts of absolute worst practices touted as pedagogical advances.

          The math curriculum changes every couple of years here because no one knows enough about ratios, proportions, fractions and decimals and what to do with a 0 that shows up in a weird place.  The teachers don't know how to make up problem sets on their own with enough local references and humor to get the kids involved so they are completely dependent on the ever-changing math texts.

          The poetry curriculum is nonsense beyond.  The kids seem to be taught only what a rhyme is and what a stanza looks like.  No metric information, no symbolism discussed, nothing about some basic tropes, nothing about striking images and language.

          The English curriculum is devoid of significant lit until they get to a few things in h.s.

          And on and on and on.

          It's not just the parents, and it's not just the teachers and it's not....

          It's an entire system that misunderstands the multiple purposes of education that run the gamut from basic facts to profound interpretive work.  Every kid should be exposed to all of this.

          Testing in the corners helps with identifying the kids who might be missing some facts.

          Paper writing helps identify the kids who struggle with interpretation.

          Projects help identify the kids who have a hard time putting a lot of disparate information and fact content together.

          All of this is complicated and it takes time and high stakes test prep really intrudes.

          My district has for one year a gorgeous science curriculum for middle schoolers.  It lasted one year and then was dumped because it took up too much time, and there were tests a-comin....

          My district purchased Odyssey of the Mind, and dumped it quickly as well.  It's a pretty good G/T elementary program.

          My district manages decent test scores, but what do these kids really know at this point?

          As I said above, my older one got a lot more than my younger one is getting.  Teachers are burning out, the curriculum is dry, the assignments are too short and so there's just no time to take time.

          The tests may show some useful stuff, I wouldn't deny it.  And we might even need some of the information from the tests.  Despite the variability from year to year, the tests likely would give the teachers and principals some information that they can then contextualize regarding snow days, effects of random and non-random distribution of students and issues; they might help teachers engage in some serious self-examination about their self-images as teachers.  All of these outcomes would be good.  Just don't use them to determine pay and promotion.

          When the stakes are high, the tests take the center, and the kids lose out.

    •  That suggests the answer is tracking. (0+ / 0-)

      Some kids, it sounds like, are just gonna be fuck ups by dint of their parents.  Better to identify and isolate them so they don't drag down the other kids.  

    •  maybe. (2+ / 0-)

      The question of learning is a human one, and it is therefore complex.

      My son has grown up with books, museums, music, theatre, good conversation, etc. He has been well-exposed to the world of ideas. He has always had access to good nutrition, good healthcare, and he has grown up in a peaceful, loving home. Other adults care about and guide him. His friends are high achievers who support one another and have fun together. He has a high IQ and no learning problems.  

      But, his interests are technical; I would say he has the nature of a tradesman rather than a scholar. Is it his teacher's fault he has no interest in Dante, or the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire? Is it his? I don't think it's a question of blame. I think we're living in a time where "success" is pretty narrowly defined for young people as getting good grades and going to college. My son will do those things, but in a different age I think he would already be gainfully, and happily, employed.

  •  Your comments are always good, but (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    burrow owl, washunate

    I think that the train has left the station. High stakes testing is very destructive, but American culture demands simple quantitative answers, even if they are invalid. I'm in academic medicine. I see exactly the same problems with doctor and hospital ratings, which are here and increasing with exactly the same problems. If third parties hire and pick up the tab, people want to know how to eliminate the less good doctors and teachers, who certainly exist.

    There isn't enough interest in rewarding those who are better than average teachers and doctors and it isn't easy to evaluate either group. Popular teachers and doctors who follow a retail model are often panderers. People and institutions game the system to an amazing degree.  If doctors get paid for the number of diabetics with HemoglobinA1c values below a certain level, they start diagnosing people with borderline scores as diabetic- then their patients have great A1c scores. At the same time, big picture critical thinking among the public and among doctors is probably worse than it was a few generations ago- not something that anyone can prove.

    If it's hard to fire ineffective teachers (it is in my city, especially if they are minorities, lotsa lawsuits) maybe we can do better by trying to reward the truly good ones. I have a beef about the Econ Policy Institute report. They tell us that teacher value added scores are unstable over time, which I am prepared to believe. However, they don’t provide the data or a link to data. That’s offensive. They shouldn't ask us to take that on faith.

    •  Then quantify the right thing (3+ / 0-)

      Students are producing their scores, not the teachers.

      Teachers are producing a teaching narrative which students may or may not access.

      The day when we could take a kid and throw them out of school for not paying attention, or indeed discipline them at all, is done. (Heck, most people realize this is why charter schools are successful!)

      As for your final point about data or a link to data - they did provide such a set of links. It's called a bibliography. You're supposed to use the information to find the books from which they gained their data. Also, many of them DO have links within the bibliography. For example, I was curious about endnote number 30, which references a study that examines the likeliness of student achievement varying on a year to year basis. The data for this was in a PDF, in the reference.

      •  charter schools are no (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Shakespeares Sister

        more successful, in aggregate, than regular public schools.

        •  Theyre not more successful at educating (0+ / 0-)

          But they dp a good job out of looking good. And do this by eliminating incoming students with low scores.

          •  not sure what state you're in (0+ / 0-)

            But here in CA we've been able to identify failing charter schools.

            Entrance is not by exam, so there's not a possibility of excluding low scorers. The fact that charter schools require extra effort on the part of the parents means the populations are somewhat different, but the success rates are no higher overall than they are for regular public schools.

            •  they may not exclude from admissions (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Lisa

              but there is a track record of KIPP in CA of "counseling out" families where they expect lower scores.

              And in many states, charters do NOT have to take the hard to educate -  ELLs, SPED, etc -  on the grounds that they lack the facilities or specialized faculty, which means a higher percentage of the harder to educate remain in the public schools.  That is still skimming.

              It is possible to identify failing charters after they fail.  The objection to the widespread expansion demanded by DOE is that there is no criteria established even on the basis of previous experience with charters in the state to prevent the new charters that will be thereby allowed from being like those that have already failed.

              "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 Aug 30, 2010 at 03:51:22 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  in my district, (0+ / 0-)

                we had several district-sponsored charters open a few years ago that seemed destined to fail. Most of them did. I am not sure how to get around that, as many of the charter start-up folks were good-hearted people who thought the district was failing their kids, and many families liked that message. It was quite disruptive.

                Of the ones that remain, the district is required to provide SPED services. They are not as comprehensive as would be received at a district campus, since there aren't credentialed Sped teachers or therapists in the charter schools (too expensive). So the students are evaluated and services are recommended as if the student would be in a position to receive them, and the parents are given the choice to have their child served in a district school or the charter school. A child who might be recommended to receive daily support, for example, is instead offered a quarterly check-in by a nomadic teacher with a very large caseload. Again, that is the parents' choice. Of course, those students' test scores are included in the charters' overall portfolio (unless they have some secret "keep your low-performing student home for the day" program I don't know about; which isn't entirely out of the question, given what the high-stakes testing has driven some otherwise good people to do!).

                The charters, in my experience, have been pretty good about keeping their Sped kids, even reaching out to many families and intimating that the district's evaluations of the students' limitations are inaccurate or excessive. I think time will tell how these students fare, though I have worked with a few who are falling through the cracks -- even though everything is quite transparent. In the end, it is the parent's right. I am afraid that in some cases, charter schools here have inadvertently tapped into parents' natural denial about their children's challenges, and I am afraid that the students will not do as well as they could have with more supports. OTOH, our special ed programs seem to become less effective as students get older. We don't seem to know how to serve more complex people as we do, for example, young kids who are slow to read.  And each of us gets more complex the more times we go around the sun.

                We don't have any for-profit charters here. I know that colors the picture substantially, for example, in how a school is populated, as you mentioned. I think it is also possible to be a parent in a charter school here and not have to make huge time contributions, as some charters do to weed out less involved families.

                At least one of the charters in our community (chartered through the county and not the district) has a really good inclusion specialist. That charter relies on outside agencies to provide sped therapies. In looking over these agencies's reports and recommendations, I can see there is a lot of  profiteering going on. But that happens in regular schools, too.

                I was listening to a state-level charter school honcho doing a radio interview the other day and he was quite energetic about identifying and either significantly improving or shutting down the failing charters. It was refreshing to hear someone who appeared less enmeshed in and protective of his bureaucracy than in his commitment to students.

                Good chatting with you!

    •  one other thought (4+ / 0-)

      If third parties hire and pick up the tab, people want to know how to eliminate the less good doctors and teachers, who certainly exist.

      Something that I've found very interesting is how we increasingly expect everyone to be better than average. But the whole point of the concept is that half the population is below the median level of competency. By creating these relative standards, instead of absolute standards, we create, by definition, less good employees.

      If we have systems set up where a below average doctor or teacher or fire fighter or accountant or whomever is inadequate, then that indicts the system, not the employee. That's the fault of the people who Make the Big Bucks, the Superintendents and Senior Executives and Board Members and politicians and so forth.

      Getting rid of a less good employee is harmful if that employee still delivers positive value. There has to be some mechanism for determining how much less good the employee is relative to some absolute standard of benefits and costs.

      But I do agree, it seems the train has largely left the station on blaming workers for the failures of management and politicians. All we can do is push back to create a more accurate historical narrative.

  •  "improper use" of value-added testing (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    burrow owl, bmcphail, Fresno, docmidwest

    The study concludes that VAM methods are superior to one-shot measures, and discusses various ways that they have been weak and warns against applying them improperly. Some of their warnings were taken into account in the LA Times study. For example, to try to reduce the effects of small samples and of oddball factors, the study averaged across several years (i.e., several different classrooms per teacher). To reduce the adverse effects on teachers, the LA Times recommended that (1) teachers be informed of their position relative to other teachers and (2) that more resources be given to teachers with relatively poor outcome results (i.e., additional training, more supplies, more classroom assistance). I don't recall ever reading in the LA Times article that, say, the bottom 20% of teachers should be fired. Far from it.

    It seems to me that the scariest thing about this for teachers must be the disconnect between a percentile rating based on several years of teaching, and individual, daily decisions and habits used in the classroom. It seems to me that given a range of these percentile scores, the ball would be in the court of school administrators to make an explicit connection between the score and what goes on in the classroom. Once an hypothesis about such a connection has been made, then attributes shared mostly by successful teachers should be promulgated and attributes shared mostly by unsuccessful teachers should be corrected. These "attributes" do not necessarily have to do solely with teachers, other external factors such as facilities and community/parent involvement would have to be taken into consideration.

    As for the tests themselves, there is nothing terrible about standardized tests per se. There are useful tests, less useful tests, and more useful tests. I see the tests themselves as one of the factors that must be on the table, to be improved and made more useful.

    Finally, what I think organized teachers should do is not to run away from these massive testing programs, but rather to get involved at the design and analysis phases to prevent their "improper use" (e.g., inadequate tests, inadequate statistical model, unjustified application to compensation and firings). Having a strong empirical foundation for schools is a good thing for everyone, including teachers.

    •  this makes so much sense (5+ / 0-)

      that more resources be given to teachers with relatively poor outcome results

      and it's my understand this was the intent of NCLB, and is why Ted Kennedy signed onto it.

      Then it was administered punitively and it all went to hell.

      Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government. ~Thomas Jefferson

      by k8dd8d on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 08:39:13 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  sorry, but what LA Times did was indefensible (0+ / 0-)

      the researcher they hired did not have names or identities of individual teachers, and has implied that had he known the results would be put out with teacher names attached to them might well have refused to do the analysis.  That is because he is aware of the limitations of what the data can offer.

      Again, several years is still not enough.  I quote from the brief the analysis that Mathematica did, which is that if one is trying to tease out either superior or inferior teachers from the great mass in the middle, with two years data you have an error rate of 36%, with three year 26% and even with ten years 12%.

      I believe most of the analysis by the LAT was on 2 years data.  You had a better than 1 in 3 chance that the classification of a teacher was erroneous.

      Add to that the wel-documented instability of value-added scores for individual teachers, and even if you have a large number of observations for a teacher -  which in most cases the LA Times did not -  you still have a problem with affixing the kinds of labeling their piece did.

      They do not understand the limits of valuye0-added assessment.  I would suggest the authors of the brief are far more qualified than either the scholar from Rand (an economist, not a psychometrician) or the reporters and editors at a newspaper to determine whether the kinds of assertions being made about teachers were justified.  

      "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 Aug 29, 2010 at 10:36:45 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  The LA Times commissioned a study (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Lisa

        and published an article. Instead of calling for strikes and calling it indefensible, if there are problems with the study or the article (and of course there are), then new studies and articles about them are needed.

        I think the president of the LA teachers made a very bad move politically by calling for an immediate strike. To some extent, using words like “indefensible” could also have adverse repercussions. Obviously the LA Times study and the VAM methodology can be, and will be, defended. Will it be a successful defense? Too early to tell. If the attacks are in the form of union strikes and speeches, then they will do little to improve the status quo. If they are in the form of new analyses and new studies using different methods, then the opposite will probably be true.

        •  I also think the teachers (0+ / 0-)

          who chose to deride the Times article did themselves no favors in the comments section. I agree with you that we have to start somewhere, and improvement should be the goal, not dismantling the testing analysis altogether.

          The VAM results, if they are used at all, would constitute 30% or less of a teacher's evaluation. Obviously that leaves a lot of room for qualitative judgments that take into account things like which teacher tends to get the most disruptive students, etc. No one is suggesting a teacher be fired based on the VAM results.

          I was a little shocked myself to see the photos and names of teachers that accompanied last week's article. However, each teacher had a chance to respond to the findings, and did so in the article. One factoid that jumped out at me was that a highly-regarded (and ineffective, based on VAM results) teacher had decided not to have her students use vocabulary words in their own sentences, and instead had them copy sentences containing the target words. Clearly one approach is pedagogically superior to the other. THAT seems to be the kind of data we need, and it was revealed as a result of the VAM study.

          •  No It Wasn't (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            teacherken

            The test scores are unreliable, so using them to draw the conclusion that "Clearly one approach is pedagogically superior to the other" is irresponsible, especially when we have no breakdown of the scores to determine which teacher's students performed better in the specific area of vocabulary and made no effort to correct for other variables.

            "H.R.W.A.T.P.T.R.T.C.I.T.G -- He really was a terrible president that ran the country into the ground."

            by Reino on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 01:51:13 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Don't forget that unreliability is relative. (0+ / 0-)

              No technique will ever be perfectly reliable in this domain. The goal is to increase reliability along with other aspects of the testing or other sampling techniques. But rejecting an analysis simply because it is "unreliable" is not acceptable.

              Obviously, the more reliable (relevant, etc.) a study's results are, the more credible and useful it is. But even a somewhat unreliable outcome could still be quite useful if used properly.

              •  How About This? (0+ / 0-)

                I reject the analysis because it uses a test that is unreliable at what it was trying to measure, and no effort was made to look at the specific data that would be relevant to the conclusion of the analysis.

                Read the statement again: "Clearly one approach is pedagogically superior to the other. THAT seems to be the kind of data we need, and it was revealed as a result of the VAM study." Explain to me which aspect of that statement resembles something truthful. You are correct that "a somewhat unreliable outcome could still be quite useful if used properly," but that statement is irrelevant to the LA Times article or the comment above because the unreliable outcome was used improperly.

                "H.R.W.A.T.P.T.R.T.C.I.T.G -- He really was a terrible president that ran the country into the ground."

                by Reino on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 03:31:15 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

              •  I don't think you understand (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Daddy Bartholomew

                what reliability means when doing statistical work.  Reliability is a necessary prerequisite to allow one to draw valid inferences.  Absent reliability there is no validity.

                One can have reliability without validity, eg, a scale that consistently reports a weight that is 40 pounds too low.  You cannot, however, have validity without reliability.

                VAM is unreliable.  Ergo, one cannot draw valid inferences because of it.  Certainly not for high stakes purposes such as firing or awarding of bonuses.  And if not for that, printing pictures and names using data that is unreliable is way out of bounds.

                "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 Aug 29, 2010 at 05:05:18 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  I think I understand what reliability means (0+ / 0-)

                  in statistics, which is why I wrote the comment I wrote. In statistics, reliability or statistical significance is most generally the estimated probability of incorrectly rejecting (or accepting) a null hypothesis. SInce it is a (1) an estimate and (2) a probability, it is relative (i.e., not absolute). It is one of the criteria one might use in evaluating a research study but there are many others: the adequacy of the design, the adequacy of the model, the germaneness of the hypotheses being tested, the appropriateness of the statistics used, the size of the effects relative to the real-world context, and perhaps most importantly, how the study fits with (i.e., supporting vs contradicting) the other experiments that are already in the literature or which are published subsequently.

            •  it's not irresponsible (0+ / 0-)

              It's empirical. The process of copying does not encode meaning as well as the process of creating a sentence. That's not a matter of scores, it's a matter of psychological processing and pedagogy that is well-established.

              The point I was making was that the teacher was well-regarded by those in her building, as well as by her students and their parents. Yet her test scores weren't good (one measure of effectiveness), and at least one teaching method she used was not best practice (another measure of effectiveness). It may be coincidental, or it may be that the test revealed general weakness in a teacher, and interviewing revealed specific weakness, that appearances did not reveal.

              •  It's Anecdotal (0+ / 0-)

                The evidence we have is one teacher who scored low on an unreliable overall measure that did not focus on vocabulary. We also have your beliefs on psychological processing which probably are true generally but are not true when the task given is not appropriate for the students because it is too difficult, as the teacher in question believes it is. At this point, we have reason to think there might be some validity to the hypothesis that creating a sentence is helpful for the development of student vocabularies. If it was an issue we were interested in, we could now start to test that hypothesis.

                "H.R.W.A.T.P.T.R.T.C.I.T.G -- He really was a terrible president that ran the country into the ground."

                by Reino on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 07:19:26 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  check out an ed journal (0+ / 0-)

                  or two, from a looooong time ago, and you will see that the hypothesis has been tested and confirmed.

                  Your evidence is not my evidence, as I have already explained.

                  •  some ed journals long time ago not peer reviewed (0+ / 0-)

                    current status of peer-reviewed literature, particular those specializing in measurement, support what Reino is offering.

                    "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 Aug 30, 2010 at 03:52:55 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

      •  I wonder if the L.A. Times (0+ / 0-)

        feels a civic duty to do something about what are perceived as failing schools, and this is what they came up with?

        I don't think it's fair to assume that education writers and editors at the L.A. Times, who have worked in this community and on this beat, are largely ignorant of education and evaluation issues.

  •  those of us not in education can be more blunt (6+ / 0-)

    Testing is stupid. We waste way too many resources administering high-stakes test to students, and tests don't even reveal the right information by which to judge teachers.

    When economists and doctors and lawyers and politicians and CEOs are paid this way, I'll reconsider. Until then, this whole movement is clearly just an effort to blame teachers and bash unions while public education is replaced by a two-tiered system where some are just a little more equal than others.

    •  Testing results used properly (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      burrow owl

      can be revealing and helpful to the teacher and the student. Its the improper use of testing that is dismaying.

      Wise men talk because they have something to say, fools, because they have to say something. - Plato

      by eashep on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 09:05:37 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  is the improper use of nuclear weapons (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Lisa, bmcphail, joycemocha

        what makes proliferation dangerous?

        My primary concern is testing being used precisely for its 'proper' usage.

        1. It's a corporate black hole, driven by for profit firms.
        1. It takes up time to do lots of testing - student time, teacher time, administrator time, etc.
        1. Students are not the teacher's customers. Teachers work for administrative staff, which work for the school board, which work for local voters. Teachers are in the business of making local voters happy about the overall education their district's students are receiving, not in generating test results.
        1. Testing masks arbitrary, relative decisions in the aura of quantifiability. Somebody has to make a subjective call not just on what goes in a test, but more fundamentally, on what's an acceptable outcome of a test. Not only does this invalidate it as a primary mechanism for determining compensation, but it undermines the value of education itself. Critical thinking and self-awareness and knowledge of the world should not be guided by high stakes tests. This does particular damage to those areas that are less quantifiable - which are precisely those areas most central to intellectual freedom and personal development and critical thinking and creativity. High stakes testing is completely redundant. Teachers already grade students. To make this remotely plausible, the starting point would have to be replacing 'grades' with 'test scores'. That's the only way to make a systemic impact; have class rank based not on locally decided GPA, but on performance on SATs and ACTs and all the stupid NCLB tests. Of course, that gets right back into the circle of subjectivity at the heart of testing's fake numerical objectiveness. What's it worth to do marching band or cross country or theater or concert choir or original oratory? Heck, the AP tests can't even do a good job judging quasi-quantifiable things like essays. And then there's the small challenge of what is 'fact' and what is 'opinion'. Those of us who are good test takers know the 'right' answer is the one the test writers are looking for. Bothering to actually ponder a question about 'reading comprehension' or 'government civics' or 'history' is fraught with disaster.
        1. Testing is obsolete in its mechanism for extracting information retention. Who cares if you have the periodic table of the elements memorized or know the date of a given battle? That's what reference materials are for. Far more important than rote memorization is the ability to find out the answer. Show me a high-stakes test that lets students use calculators, computers, textbooks, cell phones, and the internet.
        1. Nobody else does this. Imagine if we paid politicians based upon how well their policies lowered the unemployment rate or increased wages?!? Imagine if we paid executives based on how well they avoided breaking the law and needing government bailouts?!? There's a reason that this kind of pressure is targeted at public teachers. Allowing for this discussion to happen within the public education sphere is simply participating in the larger assault o