Wednesday, January 6, 2016

8 Education Stories

Here is an interesting piece and exchange I am having.
"Where's the objectivity? Hawkins' reformist views really show in her "8 biggest education stories" article.
  • Educators 4excellence? whose views do they really represent?
  • Things are better in New Orleans after Katrina?
  • The union DID NOT organize parents to support new school board members in St. Paul.
  • The accountability proponents and civil rights groups get good data via mandated tests? When many students don't even read through the test questions?" Sonja
"Status Quo.  Does this mean you are a proponent for the status quo? The one where the highest paid and supposedly most qualified Teachers in Mpls get to choose to avoid the schools with the most challenged families / students?
I have never figured out why Teachers are against tests, grading and consequences when they use these to determine how well a student is performing on a regular basis. :-)" G2A

 "You doubt that teachers who make the most money are better teachers? Why? Teachers are paid more for experience and schooling much like in other professions. Yet the idea persists that "young energetic" new teachers are often better. Would you prefer a doctor or lawyer who was experienced and educated or one who was young, fresh out of med school and eager to operate or freshly out of law school ready to represent you in court? You are devaluing what teachers do with that attitude.
As for avoiding the roughest schools, if you've been paying attention to the news lately some of these rough schools can be very difficult places to be. Teachers are often given little autonomy, must do extra paperwork of little value and are not supported in helping the students. What's the draw? Some teachers are even concerned for their safety in some schools. Would you want to work there? If such a school needs more experienced teachers, they need to offer incentives for them to be interested in adding the extra stress to their lives.
Finally, I will clear up for you the puzzle of why so many teachers are against your type of "accountability". Students are not widgets. So much of good teaching is very difficult to quantify. Teachers aren't against some sort of measure of effectiveness. They are against incorrect measures created by people with little to no education background being used to measure their teaching. That business model IS NOT ACCURATE. Would you like to have your work graded by an inaccurate measure and used to judge your effectiveness? What if your arguments against this inaccurate measure were dismissed as you not wanting any accountability? Unfortunately all of this wastes time, money and hurts students as well. Does that clear things up for you John?" Sonja
"My background is engineering, so yes I understand that education and experience are factors in being more capable and productive. However they do not ensure better performance / effectiveness. This is why the income level of engineers varies greatly even though they have similar degrees and experience.
I do not think that a 5 year energetic Teacher is better than a 25 year Teacher, however I think they can be at times. Whereas Tenure, Job Preference, Steps, Lanes, etc all give preference to older Teachers whether they deserve it or not. Sorry, for the good of the students compensation and job security should be based on the actual performance with the children / parents and the challenge level of the position, not degrees and years served.
I agree whole heartedly that the politically correct "keep them in the classroom" crowd is allowing our schools and classrooms to become too disruptive. Administrators and School Boards should ensure only children that want to learn and are capable of behaving are in the classrooms. It is unfair to the other students and the Teachers to do anything less.
The measures as prioritized by society are pretty simple in this case. Are the children in our schools able to read, write, do math and science when they graduate? Do you think the students deserve less? Do you think the tax payers deserve less?
And with MAP type testing it is possible to determine if students are making more or less yearly progress by similar classroom. (ie 6 classrooms in the same school)
Now I agree that questionable Parents are 80% of the achievement gap problem, however that problem is real hard to fix. Whereas the school system dysfunction 20% is much easier to address if the Unions and their supporters start putting the student's needs before the older Teacher's wants." G2A

Can students read, write, do. Can students read, write, do math and science? What do you think we work on every day? Most are learning as much as possible if they have any motivation. Their interest in showing how much depends upon what's in it for them. Testing that has no impact on their grades, ability to graduate or get into college just aren't worth the sustained effort to them. Many don't try. That invalidates their scores. At least try to judge their teachers or schools based on ACT scores. Those they are motivated to try on. Better yet go into the classrooms and observe to get a feel for what's going on. 
John you repeatedly make snarky comments about teachers and unions not putting the poor kids first. Did you have a mean teacher when you were a kid? Did he or she have tenure? Union protection? Do you now worry about legions of "bad teachers" getting paid for shoddy work? Untouchable due to seniority and tenure? Do you worry that the union knows they're bad but (kid haters that they are) cover up for those horrible teachers anyway? Breathe easy John. Taking away all of teacher's job protections and tenure to root out the few mediocre ones would throw the baby out with the bath water. Really excellent teachers already are leaving the profession all the time. They are driven out by the stress, the exhaustion, the frustration. There are so many people like you that have a lack of understanding of what is really going on but think that the solutions must be so simple. They think that good teaching is so simple to measure and thus reward or punish. They are also so quick to suspect, criticize and attack the people who are juggling the multiple roles that most teachers are forced to take on, especially in urban schools. Teacher, mother, father, social worker, babysitter, life-coach, supporter. Bad teachers hardly ever make it long enough to get tenure. If they do any competent principal can fire them. I've seen it happen numerous times. Stop obsessing about them. Try another track." Sonja

"Bad System. I don't see bad teachers, I see a bad system that the Union, some Teachers and their Politicians seek to protect. A system that is based on years, degrees, steps, lanes, tenure, employment contracts, etc instead of based on personal performance, accountability and the students.
This a system where an excellent Teacher in one classroom can make half of what a mediocre Teacher makes in the next classroom just because of their years / degrees.
This is a system that promotes the lowest paid employees working in the most challenging positions, and the highest paid employees taking the easiest positions.
This a system that does not have parents/students do class / teacher satisfaction surveys to ensure the best Teachers and the worst Teachers are trained/removed.
I actually have enjoyed working with 96% of the Teachers my daughters have had over the past 2 decades. The other 4% should probably be in a different profession." G2A


Sean said...

Too bad you couldn't actually discuss what was interesting about the piece instead of rehashing the same argument again...

Anonymous said...

"I have never figured out why Teachers are against tests, grading and consequences when they use these to determine how well a student is performing on a regular basis."

I don't know that I have ever found a teacher who is against tests, grading or for that matter, consequences. In my personal experience, I have often found that I am more critical of those things, than many teachers I have encountered.

The problem with tests, as I see it, is that we ask them to do too many things. We use them as an evaluating tool both for students and for teachers, a basic conflict of interest. If you engage in strategies that hype the test results, tests will less accurately reflect student achievement. If you use them as a measure of student achievement, you distort the role of the teacher.

Tests are useful pedagogical tools. But they are no panacea for improving educational performance, and the problem is that many think they are and that leads to a misleading and even incorrect perception of what our schools do.


John said...

I know... I keep hoping the point will sink in with more people that pay for position challenge / performance is for the good of the students / tax payers. Not to punish the Teachers. Not sure if that will ever occur since so many adults benefit from the current system at the cost to the children.

I see no conflict of interest. The test is just data regarding the current capability of the child at a point in time. Then people analyze the data in different ways for different purposes.

If Teachers or Students choose and are allowed to cheat, that is an oversight and discipline problem.

Testing and data is not going to improve educational performance on their own. They are just the CHECK step.

Anonymous said...

The test is just data regarding the current capability of the child at a point in time

Teachers give those tests all the time. I don't know anyone has a problem with them.

"If Teachers or Students choose and are allowed to cheat, that is an oversight and discipline problem."

Why would anyone cheat? The problem is that this is a low stakes test, one that participants might not take seriously.


Laurie said...

I agree with Sean (about your rehashing rather than attempting to offer fresh insight actually related to these top stories)

What would you do with the large number of significantly disruptive students, for instance? I believe that is an aspect of the ongoing story about St. Paul schools, and pretty much schools everywhere (public schools that is)

Maybe I will comment more later if I have the energy, as I do have 25 years worth of experience in public schools and have learned a few things.

jerrye92002 said...

Interesting how she demolishes her own argument, by talking about all the restraints on teachers from "the system" and then saying what a good job teachers are doing on their own initiative. One or the other, please. If the former, then let's change the system. If the latter, then they should all be fired because they aren't doing very well.

John said...

"Just one more thought based on this concept. Performance Mgmt Normalization

If my 4% number is correct and there are 70,000 Ed MN professionals in MN. That means there are about 2,800 poor Teachers in MN. Now that middle school or high school Teacher could negatively impact 6 classes of students per day. Let's say 25 kids per class X 2800... Or 70,000 students could be learning less than they deserve. It is an interesting concept..." G2A

"It is most likely futile on my part because you seem to be unable to take in new information even from someone actually doing the job that you as an engineer know little about. The link that you attached illustrates your thinking. Certainly this bell curve that may be useful in a business environment can be applied to teaching. So we must find all of these "protected" bad teachers, this 4%, and fire them! I guess that we don't need to worry about bad engineers, except for those who designed a bridge or two. I did tell you that most bad teachers are taken care of by the students themselves much like bad actors, comedians, or singers eventually lose their audience. Any remaining can be dealt with by principals, tenure or not.
I also told you that your plan of rating teachers by test scores is inaccurate. I'll include a link from the American Statistical Association which may open your eyes. Good teaching is difficult to quantify. If you want what is best for kids, work to give teachers what they need instead of pushing for a witch hunt. I'll also include a NY Times article showing how surprising the results of one of the teacher rating scheme was.

NYT Nearly All Pass
MH When Bad Teachers are Good
AMSTAT Challenge of Std Testing" Sonja

"I agree that it is unlikely that we will find common ground. I am looking at the system as a whole, and you are focused on high stakes testing. Your response addresses none of the systemic failures I noted in "Bad System". And those are just a few.

By the way, I agree wholeheartedly that tests should only be one component of the Teacher's rating due to the issues you raise regarding causality, accuracy, noise in the data, etc. I would add 360 degree feedback results. (ie Principal, Peers, Students/Parents)

As for bad engineers, for the most part engineers are not unionized or operating under an employment contract, tenure, steps, lanes etc. Our compensation and job security is based totally on our own individual merits and the value we provide the company, supervisors and customers. It is not a perfect system,however it is the best one I have found.

By the way, I found the NYT article fascinating. It sounds like further work is needed to consistently define what it is to be "good to great teacher". Then if we really want to improve the performance of the system for the good of the children, that base expectation level would likely need to be raised over time. " G2A

jerrye92002 said...

I will note two things: Our very successful merit pay system was based on the notion that every group had 10% exceptional performers, 80% satisfactory, and 10% performing poorly. Top raises went to the top 10%, cost of living + or - raises went to the middle group, and the bottom got no raise at all. After a few years of declining real pay (vs inflation), the bottom usually finds something better to do. There is no reason teachers should be any different. If they really want to be treated as professionals and paid as professionals (with which I have no objection), they have to be evaluated as professionals.

Second, this notion that teachers are difficult to rate is utter nonsense. Ask any administrator, involved parent or student who the "bad teachers" are and they will tell you. Highly subjective, sure, but subjective criteria are always part of any good merit system.