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01:45 PM on 12/25/2010
The issue in public education continues to be how we define student achievement. Corporate-led reformers insist on defining achievement as a number on a test score, and using this as a barometer of teacher effectiveness as well as student achievement. Those who work closest with students i.e. teachers and parents are fully aware that achievement is defined by much more than a test score. Achievement equates with how well you are able to use what you've learned outside of the classroom, whether a student chooses to read and write outside of the classroom, and with how much ownership students have of their own learning. Education continues to be something done to students instead of with them. Neither standardized testing nor value-added assessment approaches can provide an accurate picture of said achievement.
But don't look for any meaningful dialogue about accountability and assessment any time soon. Since corporate-led reformers have caught on to the cash-cow potential of testing and curriculum within education, the willingness to explore truly alternative approaches to assessment is nil. While we laud Finland as an education model, the fact is we are not willing to invest in an assessment program that will provide a true picture of the whole child and their progress, give teachers a voice in what assessemnt should look like, nor invest in mentoring and support for those teachers who need to improve. There's too much money to be made off the backs of children...
09:51 PM on 12/25/2010
Thank you. I am a special education teacher. Many of my students may never pass the standardized tests but they will improve. I have students who could barely read ( I teacher middle school) in the beginning of the year to by the end have improved their reading levels greatly.
So evaluating a teacher on standardized tests only is greatly flawed. What do you do with those teachers who teach students who may be in the grade level but intellectually are not?
01:31 PM on 12/25/2010
So what are they going to to with me? I have been teaching for 9 years with a Master's . My teaching record shows one year I lost half my class to a split mid year, 2 years of student teachers, some team teaching and a maternity leave with a horrible long term substitute. I used to be proud of what I did, I thought I was a successful teacher. I had the quarterly scores to prove it, positive student/parent feedback and a rounded curriculum that included history, arts, geography, problem solving math and high quality literature. Then I was rated a "least effective teacher". Now my entire focus is teaching to that test.Then I received National Board Certification. Believe me, I received that honor doing the opposite of teaching to the test. So what are they going to do with me? Will I be fired? It worries me everyday! And about this new research saying "most effective teachers" don't teach to the test. I use state testing worksheets everyday now and students don't even know. They just think they are just normal worksheets. The reason why I am now giving tons of worksheets is because I am now following in the footsteps of what the "most effective teachers" do at my school. Sadly this is not what I valued about being a teacher but it is not true what I have told my students in the past, they aren't more than a score and neither am I.
Thomas Ultican, MEd. BS Mecahnical Engineering
11:22 AM on 12/25/2010
Because of all of the variables involved in measuring student achievement, a “value-added” system of evaluation of teacher effectiveness is scientific and statistical ignorance. Seniority is the only rational way of carrying out the irrational act of laying off teachers from overburdened schools.
Eric Mann
Do you want to be on the opposite side of Progress
10:55 AM on 12/25/2010
So, a flawed idea-"value added" says one thing, so we ought to do the opposite!
Of course, we need a few more F-22 Raptors so we can't, right?
Courtesy counts
10:24 AM on 12/25/2010
Trolling through school district offices and cutting administrators, curriculum specialists and paper-pushers would be a great start in cutting expenses.
08:07 PM on 12/24/2010
The whole logic behind the "fire the bad teachers" argument is way off base.

It's akin to having a gangrenous finger and deciding to amputate the arm.

This school is performing poorly! Fire the teachers and cut the funding until they perform better!

Makes no sense.
11:20 PM on 12/24/2010
Like the t-shirt..." The beatings will continue till morale improves"
You don't happen to make it. You make it happen.
04:24 PM on 12/24/2010
Teaching has always been a boom or bust occupation. When you lay off teachers college students avoid teaching programs like the plague. Then you have a shortage again. No one will take out a student loan for an occupation without jobs or a decent wage.
Educational Reformers need to be "Reformed."
05:14 PM on 12/24/2010
I think the goal is to have teachers without training and a high turnover, keeping teacher wages low. Florida Republicans tried to pass a bill where you wouldn't even need a degree to teach. When it was vetoed by the Republican Governor, he was demonized in the national media by every Republican from Cheney on down. They have a new Governor in Florida now that hired Michelle Rhee to lead his Educational Transition Team.
suds mcduff
we're not perfect, but they're nuts!
06:38 PM on 12/24/2010
Yup, Fl teachers need to think long and hard about leaving the state to in whatever pension you've earned and get out, it's not going to get any better...
02:48 PM on 12/25/2010
In the days of rural schools, only, the tactic was to hire a teacher, keep her about 3 years when a decent raise was expected, and permit her to leave so that another inexperienced teacher could be hired. That policy is what largely caused the creation of teacher unions. It also created tenure and other social issues for the professional employee.

Too many people do not view teachers as a good wine - improving greatly with age. They have forgotten one of the "rules" of living: that most people do NOT repeat the same mistakes over and over. They do learn - and that is the most important topic a teacher DOES teach - HOW to learn.

My favorite, and over used quote, involves Carnegie Hall and how to get there: Practice, Practice, Practice!

The joy and challenge of teaching is the uniqueness of each student. There are no two who are identical. Each learns in their own style. Yes, we can teach ways in which to learn specific types of information and how to apply it, but in the end, each "does it my way!"
science educator
01:18 PM on 12/24/2010
One of the biggest mistakes being made by public school administrators and politicians is the push to pressure educators to "teach to the test". There are far too many important aspects of learning and cognitive growth that do not lend themselves to assessment via standardized multiple choice tests.
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12:59 PM on 12/24/2010
I don't like blaming all our ills on the republicans, but really, there has been a concerted effort by them over a number of years to destroy public education. They begin by complaining about, benefits, summers, etc., then cut funding, then schools operate on less than bare bones, then they say "See how bad the schools are? They don't deserve our money." Our schools are a mess, but it's not because of the quality of teachers. It's much more insidious than that.
Educational Reformers need to be "Reformed."
03:46 PM on 12/24/2010
Well said and exactly right.
08:35 PM on 12/24/2010
Exactly. This is their strategy in many areas. "Cut spending (not for the military or corporations...just for "social" programs.) Then, drone on and on about how inefficient and ineffective the government is. Then cut more. Or privatize." And this strategy is impervious to rational counter-argument. Republicans prove that repeating something again and again, and just not listening, actually "works". When an argument is countervailing to actual fact/reality, just keep repeating it. That's the only way to pelt people's minds into believing what is false. I think it's a kind of terrorizing.
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11:21 AM on 12/24/2010
Why not charge the teachers for the privilege of teaching? The money could do much to offset the high costs of prisons and other more important institutions. It might even bring down the deficit.
English and ESL teacher
02:39 PM on 12/24/2010

Well said. F and F.
10:23 AM on 12/24/2010
This assumes "standardized tests" are the best way to measure teachers.
10:19 AM on 12/24/2010
I've been teaching for 19 years, and I've gotten better every year. Even though I have a BA and an MA in the content area I teach, I learn more about my subject each year. I learn more about how to reach students each year. I've grown and matured.

I see great and mediocre teachers among all age groups. But I also see the younger greats moving out of the profession and going back to school to do something that earns them more respect and more money. The ones with fewer options hang on. The ones with a passion for teaching hang on.

When we decide as a society that we value education and understand that it is the key to every other success, we will attract the ambitious students with the best minds to teaching as we currently do to medicine and law. Until then, we will have a mix of what we can get.
suds mcduff
we're not perfect, but they're nuts!
06:35 PM on 12/24/2010
You have a BA and an MA, yet the wingnuts want you to make minimum wage...
08:38 PM on 12/24/2010
My experience too after 18 years. But "hanging on" is the correct metaphor. The burn-out in this profession hardly makes it into the discussion.
11:25 PM on 12/24/2010
Typically,... in 5 years, the 50 new teachers in the room, 25 have left the profession for other types of work. As we have shortened and weakened teacher preparation in the "student teaching" mode, we have lost the tool that eliminated those who had little aptitude for teaching. The 6 week student teaching programs have not produced the long term teacher. Few professions prosper with this type of drop out rate.
10:07 AM on 12/24/2010
"A young teacher in the Chicago suburbs who received a layoff notice last spring but kept his job said he likes the idea of keeping the best teachers, but wonders how schools can be sure they're keeping the right people."

That gets to the nub of the problem. How does one determine who are the "right" people.

After some twenty years of teaching, I found that those in charge of educational systems simply had no objective way of evaluating teaching. The worst evaluators were those who considered teachers to be nothing more than suave bartenders filling empty glasses. Just test the students beforehand, test them after they've been taught, and then you know which are the best teachers.

But, then, the evaluators back down when the results don't favor the sycophants. They then say, "Oh, well, teachers are just teaching the students to pass tests?"

In my near twenty years of teaching, I always said, tell me what to teach and I'll decide whether or not I can do it, and whether or not I will.

No one ever came up with any objective way teach or what to teach. Filling empty glasses is easy to evaluate. Teaching isn't.
09:53 AM on 12/24/2010
Everyone is always blaming teachers. Certainly there are some bad apples but teachers are not the problem--and especially not the unions.

Schools are woefully underfunded and teachers are criminally underpaid and overworked.

Every class is a grab-bag of students. Sometimes you get a good class, sometimes you don't.

A teacher usually gets to work with a student for a few hours per day... a single hour if in high school.

Parents, for one reason or another, are unwilling to accept that their children's under-performance might not be the fault of teachers.
Not a puppet
11:12 AM on 12/24/2010
You are correct teachers are not the problem, Unions on the other hand are a huge problem. Unions primary goal is not education, it's membership. I'm sure if the unions could add monkeys as union members to teach our children, some would be OK with that as long as they pay their union dues

Schools are not woefully underfunded, not by a long shot. We as taxpayers pay far too many administrator, assistants, etc, etc, etc. We have multiple layers of burdensome bureaucracy that drives up the cost of education. A lot of it is mandated by the federal government, which is completely unnecessary. The money saved by cutting out the fat administration could easliy pay teachers better

Your point about grab-bag of students is actually the biggest problem. At one time, students were placed in classes based on their ability to learn. Smart motivated kids with smart motivated kids in the same class. ( I know a novel idea) Nowadays classes are mixed with all types of students so slower or non motivated kids aren't supposedly left behind, that only drags the whole class down. PC is killing education more than anything else
11:31 AM on 12/24/2010
Puhleeze. It has nothing to do with unions and you know it. Teachers have the right to form a union. Teachers already do not get paid their worth, without unions, many of them would be the working poor. they deserve better than that. If a principal wants to get rid of the bad teacher, he/she can easily do it. It is not like it's being made out to be.
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12:14 PM on 12/24/2010
I agree. There are 5 administrators (1 principal and 4 asst. principals) for 1200 students at my middle school. They all make 6 figures. The principal has been in my classroom once this year; the first week of school.
08:40 PM on 12/24/2010
It is not my experience that unions are the problem.
09:51 AM on 12/24/2010
Great, firing bad teachers. But this won't result in any more good teachers. The teaching profession has to work with what talent it can find. Given the paltry wages it pays, don't expect every classroom to be led by a superstar.
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01:25 PM on 12/24/2010
What is the average wages for teachers now? How much will be required to get "good" teachers?
07:58 PM on 12/24/2010
Starting salary in most states is around $25000/year. Oftentimes less. And contrary to popular belief, teachers often work up to 10-12hours/day. More if they have after school activities. They often have to work on weekends too. And if they have a problem student, they have to arrange to meet parents and meet the parent's schedule.

That is why new teachers don't stick around.

How much would you require for a job like this?