Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Los Angeles Times Teacher Ranking Controversy

The Los Angeles Times is running a new series called "Grading the Teachers." There's been a number of articles published so far, and I meant to write something earlier. The Numbers Guy at Wall Street Journal published an analysis of the current methodologies of teacher rankings, and he mentioned the Times' series right when the controversy kicked up: "Needs Improvement: Where Teacher Report Cards Fall Short." There's a lot of problems with the selection of student populations assigned to teachers (some teacher get great batches of students) and the "sample size" is small, perhaps as little as 20 students upon which a teacher could be evaluated. And if the evaluation is performed over just one academic year, it might not fully capture the learning taking place, so it's a double-edged sword: One the one hand, you might see dramatic learning in one class with one teacher, but a whole school over time --- say over a five year period --- might not show as much improvement as other schools with a student body beginning with a lower skill set. The latter school would be rewarded with higher "yearly progress" evaluations, while a top school considered exceptional in a community could be considered underperformimg. The Times series in fact look at that possibility in one of its previous reports, "L.A.'s Leaders in Learning."

In any case, ABC News covered this in a debate last weekend, "Top Education Officials Spar Over Teacher Reform, Student Success."And recall my essay on this from last month, "Michelle Rhee and Teacher Accountability."


Rusty Walker said...

Are the evaluation forms structured so that it doesn’t become a popularity contest?

A check-off list should also have a place for "comments" and a method for weighing that information. My twenty years in college education taught me that the numbers do not always tell the whole story. I had instructors that scored low because they were strict, had high standards, and did not grade inflate or coddle the students. Yet long after the evals had made their permanent mark, the students as they matured into their senior year, realized his value. He would get the biggest and longest applause when professors were named at graduation.

AmPowerBlog said...

Rusty: It's not student evaluations but student performance. Teachers are evaluated on how well students are learning, as measured by how much they're improving on standardized tests.

DrCruel said...

The ultimate indicator is how graduated students perform. THat standard has shown that our present public school system is failing, and is becoming worse as ever more money is thrown at the problem.

We need a school choice system. Given how dedicated the teachers unions are to higher teacher salaries, better teacher benefits and no accountability, an alternative to our present kleptocratic education monopoly is inevitable. The question is, can a nationwide voucher system that enables parents and student be implemented before our education system turns the US into a Third World country...

Dennis said...

I believe that teacher's rankings et al are just symptoms of an education system in crisis. It should not surprise anyone that today's graduates are unprepared to meet the requirements of the world they are faced.
One only has to look at Harvard, as an example, to see demonstrated the failure to produce thinking people who can solve problems. Point in fact is that it does not take long to notice that behind a number of disaster we face as a country is a graduate of Harvard either perpetrating it or making it worse. Worse yet is the fact that the professors seem "academy" bound and lack real world experience at the subjects they profess to be expert. NOTE: I remember when the Navy finally had to start putting engineers on ships that were going to sea to give then a picture of what the crews had to deal with especially when they were under the pressures of combat.
They appear to be ideologues who cannot think outside the "box" so to speak. They are one dimensional people who are one dimensional in their thoughts. The said part is that it seems to be rampant in Columbia, Yale and most of the "good" universities.
Rusty does cover what part of the problem is for many schools. Education is NOT and end. It is a means or a set of tools one has that can be utilized to accomplish goals and to meet the exigencies of life. To be continued later if I have time.