Student Tests – and Teacher Grades/Interesting read

Discussion in 'Special Ed 101' started by Sheila, May 9, 2008.

  1. Sheila

    Sheila Moderator



    Student Tests – and Teacher Grades

    [FONT=times new roman,times,serif]By JOHN MERROW
    May 9, 2008; Page A15

    [/FONT]Suppose a swimming instructor told his 10-year-old students to swim the length of the pool to demonstrate what he'd taught them, and half of them nearly drowned? Would it be reasonable to make a judgment about his teaching ability?
    Or suppose nearly all the 10-year-old students in a particular clarinet class learned to play five or six pieces well in a semester? Would it be reasonable to consider their achievement when deciding whether to rehire the music teacher?
    These questions answer themselves. Only an idiot would overlook student performance, be it dismal or outstanding.
    However, suppose test results indicated that most students in a particular class don't have a clue about how to multiply with fractions, or master other material in the curriculum? Should that be considered when the math teacher comes up for tenure?
    Whoops, the obvious answer is wrong. That's because public education lives in an upside-down universe where student outcomes are not allowed to be connected to teaching.
    Ten years ago, I encountered this view in an interview with Jack Steinberg, the vice president of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers. Here is the exchange:
    He said, "You're asking, can you evaluate a teacher on the performance of the students?"
    I said, "Yes or no?"
    He said, "No, you cannot."
    I, incredulously, said, "You cannot evaluate a teacher on the performance of his or her students?"
    He said, "Right."
    Today, the notion that student performance cannot be used to judge teacher performance is the law in New York.
    Until recently, New York City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein could consider whether teachers successfully used "analysis of available student performance" to improve their teaching when he was deciding whether to grant tenure. This isn't the same as using student test scores to judge a teacher's performance, of course. But the mere hint of connecting student performance to teacher effectiveness caused fits at union headquarters. Richard C. Iannuzzi, the president of the New York State United Teachers, complained that "Student assessments are designed to assess students, not teachers."
    State and city teacher unions lobbied the state legislature, and last month Albany gave in to the pressure. Today, the law reads, "The teacher shall not be granted or denied tenure based on student performance data."
    Celebrating the victory, United Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten said, "There is no independent or conclusive research that shows you can accurately measure the impact of an individual teacher on a student's academic achievement."
    Independent analysts disagree. Eric Hanushek, who specializes in the economics of education at Stanford University, told me recently that "It is very clear from the research into variations in teacher quality that such information would be useful." Calling this "very bad public policy," Prof. Hanushek added dryly, "I guess only friendships and politics count – just what the unions have always railed against."
    Ms. Weingarten denies that her members are afraid of accountability. That may be a hard sell to the public.
    School administrators have reams of data about student performance, thanks largely to the No Child Left Behind Act. Now that administrators are required to "drill down" to find out who is learning and who is not, they can also pinpoint who seems to be an effective teacher.
    I've met superintendents, principals and department chairmen armed with this data. They all have named teachers who, they said, were either outstanding or deficient at teaching specific skills. One educator singled out a specific teacher and said he "doesn't seem to be able to teach his students how to multiply with fractions." He then showed me student performance data and contrasted it with data from another teacher's class.
    Of course, not every kid comes to class equally able to complete the day's assignment. Some are new immigrants, others are gifted, and still others might have a learning disability. These factors affect test scores as much as or more than who is teaching.
    Still, students at whatever level of performance can also be evaluated on how much they've improved over a given period of time.
    Test data is not going to go away. So it is up to union leadership to decide if they'll ignore it, or if they will help school administrators figure out how to use it in the years ahead – and help the public understand its limitations.
    Forward-looking union officials would push for creative uses of student performance data – such as using it to help teachers in areas where the data reveals they are not reaching their students. This would put union officials in a position of pushing to improve the quality of our public schools, instead of simply wielding their political power to protect every union member's job.
    Denying any connection between teaching and learning is a dangerous course for teacher unions to chart. It contradicts what experience teaches us. And it flies in the face of common sense. If unions are telling us that there's no connection between teaching and learning, why should we then support teachers, or public education?
    Mr. Merrow, a former teacher in high school, college and federal prison, is education correspondent for the "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer" and president of Learning Matters, Inc.
  2. TheOnlyMe

    TheOnlyMe Relentless Warrior Mom

    This is an excellent article and makes a great point, I will share will educators as well as mom's of difficult children! Thanks:crazy1:
  3. dreamer

    dreamer New Member

    Does this mean teachers who do not teach well are not held accountable for their deficiencies? Hmm, we push to make our kids accountable....
    Interesting, thank you!
  4. looking4hope

    looking4hope New Member

    As a teacher, there's another side to this argument. I teach in a school where over 90% of the kids are on a reduced priced or free lunch program. Most of the kids are ethnic minorities, where education is not valued in the household. Many of my students tell me that they didn't get their homework done because they have to babysit their younger siblings after school while their parent/ guardian is at work either before school (they come late) or after school (they leave right after the bell rings).

    If parents don't value education and don't hold their children accountable for doing well in school, how can a teacher instill that in a child? I have no control over what happens once the child leaves school. There is a free after school program at my middle school, where there are high school mentors who come in and help the kids with their homework, but not all students can or are willing to attend. Many teachers, including myself, volunteer as tutors at least one afternoon a week, but I have never had more than one or two students attend at once, and most of the time none come.

    How can I as a teacher be accountable for these kids performance? I do everything I can to give these kids the opportunity to succeed. I even give them two days to do homework before late penalties kick in, because I know that they have other responsibilities. And when I talk with the parents, I get the "I can't make them do anything either" spiel instead of them taking responsibility. The kids aren't accountable, the parents aren't accountable, but teachers are supposed to be accountable?

    On the other hand, if a majority of the students aren't learning, then a teacher needs to change his or her tactics. There is no such thing as "business as usual" in education, because our clients are always changing. Coming from the corporate world, I admit that I have a different take on this than many other teachers. But the inability to teach needs to be shown as a trend (2 -3 years), not just one class. And the teacher needs to be given the opportunity to learn new teaching techniques before being let go or denied tenure.

    Just an opinion from an educator who knows how difficult the profession is, because I had 20 years in corporate experience to compare it to.
  5. Sara PA

    Sara PA New Member

    I think you're missing something.... The kids are theoretically accountable - if they don't do the work, they fail. Unfortunately few schools have the balls to do that anymore. That's natural consequences for their actions, or should I say lack of actions. And teachers are accountable, not for making kids learn but for teaching in ways that children can learn. I really think that parents are the weakest link in this deal. Education is between the child and the school. While I strongly believe that parents are obligated to make sure children have the time to do homework, it is not the parents' obligation to be the teacher or even the checker. Teachers step beyond their authority when they make assignments for parents or ones that require parents to buy materials, particularly on short notice.

    On the other hand, if kids are failing simply because they fail to do homework even though they are knowledgable enough to pass tests, then the teacher or the school needs to rethink it's policies. Is the goal to get kids to do homework or to have them learn? Seems more kids have to repeat these days because they didn't hand in assignments or don't attend school regularly. How much they learn doesn't seem to be an issue. Discipline rather than education has become the focus. Maybe that's what's wrong.
  6. dreamer

    dreamer New Member

    I do not know how many times my kids brought home homework that was NOT repetition or reinforcement of something techer taught them, but rather it was new material to be learned. Many times my kids had difficulty grasping NEW material via homework and there were lots of times I tried to be there beside them to help- but even I did not have enough info in textbook supplied to be able to DO the asignment sent home. Those times, it was NOT that my kids were not made to sit and DO homework....we sat here often 4-5-6 HOURS trying........and unable, NOT becuz my kids did not WANT to do it, and NOT becuz they did not TRY. and not becuz I was not willing to be there trying to help, but becuz the assignment itself either did not come with needed accompanying materials, or becuz the assignment was vague, or there were no directions at all, or it was some new concept foreign to my child......those are times when I would say, if my child and say half his classmates all were stumped- then yes, The Teacher had accountability for the kids being unable to compplete the task at hand. If more than half the class fails, the teacher should have to re assess her method for that lesson.

    If a child does not do homework becuz they do not bother to do homework, that is an entirely different story. If one child or 3 out of a whole calss fails, that is not the same as half the whole class failing.

    Do not think that just becuz parents are not college educated that they do not value education. Especially in these economic times, families can be haveing serious major difficulty finncially, and ummmmm......things may not be how they seem on the surface. A highly educated prents can still have financial difficulties, health concerns, a sick parent, a sick sspouse, another child who is handicapped or specialneeds......daily living for many families can be quite difficult and time consuming. even in a family that does place a high value on education might be in midst of a life crisis that creates what might seem to someone else to be a lack of value on education. when my difficult child was at her peak worst in school, I was at IEP meetings almost 3 times a week for approx 3 hours at a time........altho my younger son was dyslexic and his schol refused to follow HIS iep and provide HIS word processor or audio books, and I was bust at dtrs school and was not here to read my sons material to HIM or to scribe his assignments. when I was at the city teaching hospital with my son for almost 18 months due to his eye injry, I was not here to sign off on my PCs parent obligations per her school---such as administering spelling and math tests weekly, signing off on her reading log did not mean I did not value education, but I am only one person and my other child was in immediate crisis and my husband was in a different hospital in ICU.
    The parent admisistered spelling and math tests and signing off on reading log was consiered "homework" and lack of ME doing those things showed up as easy child failing to complete her homework.

    Then there were things like major long term projects that teachers handed out long rubrics, and parents had to sign off that THEY would do ALL the checking of the project along the way for the first 5 weeks, and at week 6, the prohject would be turned in to teacher for grading, BUT parents also had o first submit a final grade. Imagine my horror as well as ALL my sons cub scout dens parents horror when we got the final grades and found out only then that we had ALL done it ALL "wrong" and all 15 boys got an F? The teacher told every single one of us 15 parents that WE apparently did NOT read the instructions properly. 6 week project, .......nope- that is NOT parental lack of value of education, and THOSE teachers NEEDED to be held to some level of accountability, if FIFTEEN parents and 15 kids ALL thought they had done as assigned.

    ANyway, maybe YOU do hold yourself accountable, BUT that does not mean there are not teachers out there who do not behave differently than you do.

    I am a nurse, and I KNOW there are some very crummy nurses out there. Heck, Fri I was appalled to sit next to one at a seminar, shocked to listen to that school nurse talk with the lady next to her, she was a very poor model of a nurse, in my opinion, and she made me quite upset to think she dares to call herself a nurse. Just becuz I feel I am a good nurse, does not mean I will simply assume all other nurses are also doing a great job. ANd nope, I would not defend her- what she said, how she bhaved was wrong. There are good people and not so good people in all professions, in all walks of life. Maybe you DO hold yourself to a better standard than the people this article was alludeing to.

    My difficult child could not attend after school tutoring when offered becuz she had so many clinical appts with therapist, psychiatrist, group therapy, she had appts every single day after school till bedtime.......
    My son could not go to after school tutoring either.....and if a child cannot read well, or cannot write well, or some other spec need, sometimes standard tutoring is not a big help for them, anyway. My sons teacher tried to tutor him, but she wanted to simply sit beside him and hand him more books he could not see or read..... and transportation can be a problem that can keep kids from coming in after school.....or fact that maybe parent is entrusting kids to a babysitter and babysitter cannot work things out for transportation for the kids. That does not mean the parent does not value education. It might justmean a singleparent is overworked already trying to keep a roof over their heads. or------maybe the parent does not understand the homework, - maybe the parent is not able to read.or read well enough.......
  7. looking4hope

    looking4hope New Member

    I think you honed in on one point, which is homework. I don't give that much homework (it averages one assignment every 8 class days), unless the student didn't finish an in-class assignment, such as a lab write-up. But it's the lack of trying that kills me. I can honestly say that 30 - 40% of my students are failing my course, because they refuse to do the work. They are not motivated. The parents don't care -- I've had parents tell me that their kids are "my problem" between 8 and 3!

    My point is that the student has to put in some effort as well. As a teacher, I don't think I should have to entertain my students, but that's what they want. No matter what strategy I try, at least one-third of the class will state that they are bored. They make it clear that teachers should entertain, and then maybe they'll learn something. They don't understand that I have a curriculum that I am required to follow, and there is very little leeway in what I can choose to teach. They don't understand that by not turning in their work and showing me what they can do and where they need help, I cannot effectively reteach topics that need it. Homework helps teachers as much as it helps kids, if it is for reinforcement and not new topics.

    There seems to be an overall lack of caring in students, or at least in the population I teach. Most parents are not college graduates, which means that the parents either don't understand the benefits of higher education or they just couldn't afford it. But they should still encourage their children to do their best in school. I call the phenomenon Lack of Educational Zealousness in Youth, LAZY for short!

    been there done that with the IEP meetings 3x a week with my difficult child, while I'm trying to balance work and life. I do understand the difficulties of parenting difficult children, and I go out of my way to make sure the difficult children in my classroom have what they need (individual tutoring, extra time for assignments, etc.). I am constantly trying new things in the classroom. I am involved in extra curricular activities to motivate students. But my point is if students don't care whether or not they learn, and there is no support from the parents or the local community, then there is little or nothing I can do as a teacher to change that attitude.
  8. Sara PA

    Sara PA New Member

    How did it evolve that education has to be entertaining? Is this Sesame Street's fault? Getting an education is work, not fun and games.
  9. flutterbee

    flutterbee Guest

    I don't think this article is addressing so much the average teacher who tries her best with the students she has. I think this article is addressing teachers who just shouldn't be teaching, whether because they don't have the talent or the motivation.

    For example, my 8th and 9th grade English teacher (small school in upstate NY - grades 7-12 in one building) was also the golf coach. He didn't teach except for the one day per school year he was observed by the principal. He assigned stories to read out of our books and to answer the questions at the end and we turned them in. We never talked about the story, never went over the questions, nothing. I had been in Honors English in the school before that and I had a hard time with the questions, but if you asked you didn't get an answer. He spent the entire class bs'ing. Literally. He also assigned vocabulary out of our workbook and we had to look up the word and write 3 sentences for each and then we had a test every week. That was it. There was absolutely ZERO class instruction. I'm not exaggerating. But, he had tenure. When I moved out of the school district, I spent the rest of the year playing catch up with the other students. Even if I hadn't moved out of the school district, I would have eventually gotten a teacher that actually taught and would have still had to play catch up. In all of my other classes, I was ahead of the other students when I moved.

    This year my son has an English teacher fresh out of college. I think he has a lot of good ideas and he tries really hard, but he is 1) very scattered and 2) is teaching way over the heads of his students. Over 1/2 of his students are failing, including my son. Given that there are only 2 teachers that teach 11th grade English and given that my son is going to have to take it again next year along with 12th grade English, do you think I want that teacher at the school next year and take my chances that my son will get him? easy child's history teacher is also brand new this year and they had a rough first quarter (meaning all of this teacher's students), but he was able to identify what areas of his teaching and assigning work to correct and still make the kids accountable for their work. My son had an F the first quarter. He has a B in that class now.

    Absolutely teachers need to be held accountable just as we all are at our jobs. If we are not effective, we no longer have a job.