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 Post subject: Re: What Teachers Make
PostPosted: Mon Jul 04, 2011 5:28 pm 
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jdawginsc wrote:
There seems to be a shift in the paradigm of thinking regarding teaching from an art form, which it is, to a quanitfiable science, which it is not. That is the business part of thinking in teaching/education.

Give identical classes to two equally qualified teachers and you'll get differing results.


And in both cases those "results" will tell you nothing, at least nothing important. The least important thing that educators do is "test". I'm not going to fall victim to the ludicrous mindset that creates a panic whenever 4th grade Indonesians produce better test scores than 4th grade Americans.

Fundamentally, our purpose is to inspire creativity, independent thinking, and a desire for life-long learning. What test measures that? Every year when my class discusses Napoleon I bring in an article that I cut out of Sports Illustrated years ago. It has a picture of Napoleon McCallum scoring a touchdown as he falls into the end zone. The caption reads, "A Little 'Elba' Room". By then my students get the joke, and that's why we educate - so our students get the joke, understand the reference, recognize the cultural icon, smile at the irony - in essence, fully enjoy life.

Measure that.


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 Post subject: Re: What Teachers Make
PostPosted: Mon Jul 04, 2011 5:39 pm 
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Exactly.

Assessment is intended to be a multi-methodological means to see if students are actually learning/progressing/thinking, and summative tests really are the least useful of these assessments. We should do more formative assessing, anyhow. Since the business world is predominantly evaluated by large-scale projects, it makes little sense to evaluate whether a student can choose from two non-ludicrous answers on a multiple choice test. That is not real world.

I believe more authentic, portfolio-based, multi-intelligence assessments are more valid anyhow...

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 Post subject: Re: What Teachers Make
PostPosted: Mon Jul 04, 2011 5:52 pm 
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Exactly right back at ya'.

One of my standard questions when interviewing candidates is, "Should projects be worth more than exams as assessments?"
If you want me to hire you, the answer better be, "Hell yes!"


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 Post subject: Re: What Teachers Make
PostPosted: Mon Jul 04, 2011 8:42 pm 
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Are you in SC, Genmet?

If so (as Darlington County indicates), you know how our state works...teachers judged by tests they are not allowed to see or participate in troubleshooting.

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 Post subject: Re: What Teachers Make
PostPosted: Mon Jul 04, 2011 10:55 pm 
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No, I'm in NY. The Darlington County is a reference to a Springsteen song - funny about the timing of your question, the opening line to the song is:

Driving in to Darlington County
Me and Wayne on the Fourth of July


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 Post subject: Re: What Teachers Make
PostPosted: Tue Jul 05, 2011 11:14 am 
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Interesting. Should have known it was symbolic as big a boss fan as you are. Intersting choice to make your location, btw...

I'm not going to make my location "Nebraska" though.

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 Post subject: Re: What Teachers Make
PostPosted: Tue Jul 05, 2011 7:52 pm 
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Genmet wrote:
Exactly right back at ya'.

One of my standard questions when interviewing candidates is, "Should projects be worth more than exams as assessments?"
If you want me to hire you, the answer better be, "Hell yes!"


I love that. I have met too many admins that think the direct opposite... including my old superintendent.

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 Post subject: Re: What Teachers Make
PostPosted: Wed Jul 06, 2011 9:31 am 
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I mean this completely devoid of any political/union/tenure/whatever discussion, because I am genuinely interested in what teachers/those in education believe to be the case.

My wife is a specialist in a poor elementary school and I often ask her the same question and want to see others' perspectives, perhaps in different learning environments.

Take it for a fact that almost every teacher (not admin, but teacher...at least those that I know) wants standardized testing de-emphasized as a measure of performance: how then is it best to quantify/measure/track performance? Both as a school/district and on an individual teacher level. These discussions often lead to "ideal world" views that about how teachers should ALL think and act in their classroom, but obviously, like in any profession, there are good teachers and bad teachers, and with that, good districts and bad districts, and there has to be accountability somewhere and somehow, right?

My wife always maintains that often, her hands are tied in circumstances because her students come from homes where learning is not reinforced, the assignments she gives her kids are not followed-through with outside of the school hours, and any potential repercussions are laughed at because the kids know the parents won't side with the school anyway. Or, even worse, the kids (especially her youngsters) seem generally interested in making school a priority, but they are completely devoid of a support system in the home, and how does a 6 or 7 year old learn to work independently at home without the assistance of their deadbeat/absentee parents/guardians? And with that, with her school's constant "underperformance", even against other elementaries in her district (there is a seriously varied socioeconomic spectrum even with the town she teaches in, and the schools at the elementary level definitely reflect that), she maintains cannot feasibly be held against her and her coworkers. In fact, she maintains she works twice as hard as those in a similar position to her in some of the other schools, with all the follow-up work she needs to do and reinforcing/conferences (in addition to her district housing the intensive special-needs program in her building, as well).

Fascinating thread so far, though.


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 Post subject: Re: What Teachers Make
PostPosted: Wed Jul 06, 2011 11:26 am 
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MJ, tough question, no easy answer. I would say that teacher observations provide a good insight into teacher effectiveness. I supervise 24 teachers in 2 different buildings and observe each of them "officially" one time per year. Non-tenured teachers get 2 official observations. Administrators have a lot to do, but we should spend more time in the classroom, both announced and unannounced, even if for 10 minutes. As someone pointed out above, teaching is to a large degree an art form. There is an "it" factor.


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 Post subject: Re: What Teachers Make
PostPosted: Wed Jul 06, 2011 2:10 pm 
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There are no unions in South Carolina, so this comes from the perspective that administrators hold more power than teachers (which is seemingly reversed in union states).

Standardized test scores are one metric that could be used, except that they test limited subject areas/skills the further up you get. And often, it is the ancillary subject area teachers that have as much to add to the performance. As a social studies teacher, I guarantee I do as much writing and often as much reading as do the ELA teachers. So who had more impact? Same with Science and Math.

Secondly, standardized subject area test scores are sometimes skewed by a students ability to read. A history test given to eleventh graders may have a 9th grade reading level; if a student reads at a 4th grade level, the test has assessed reading abilty, rather than subject area knowledge.

Paper dossiers created by teachers are the least effective way to assess teachers, yet are used in many states (credit hours amassed, goals, portfolio of LPs and unit plans) for re-accreditation/certification.

Observation remains the most valid way of assessing teachers, yet its effectiveness is limited by the ability and knowledge of the observer. One or two observations a year are not going to tell much (I know that as an administrator, genmet, you are often deluged in things other than observations).

You might get an idea by observing 5 minutes at the beginning of a class, but often it is more of a gotcha observation. True observation is roughly 45 minutes, but even then, with 90-minute block scheduling, you are not getting a true picture of the effectiveness and efficiency by which a teacher teaches unless you stay the entire period, which is often not practical or possible.

Another relevant factor is the quality of teachers becoming administrators. I have no doubt that genmet was a fine teacher and a great administrator as a result, but I read somewhere that the average administrator certified in the US over the past 10 years has fewer than 7 years teaching experience.

The newest wave is/is going to be certifying businessmen/military officers as administrators without the appropriate number of years teaching.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The shortened answer, MJ, is I believe observation (announced and unannounced) to be the most powerful tool in evaluating/improving the level of instruction provided the observer/evaluator is a skilled teacher-administrator, and gives rapid and extensive feedback to the observeed teacher.

Standardized test scores may be used, but should not be a significant portion of the evaluation. Portfolios of work, lesson plans, unit plans are also useful, but without being used in conjuction with observations are somewhat empty in value. Education and level of experience are more solid indicators of a stable school than excellence as teachers.

Student surveys should also be given to either confirm or deny other evidence. I have never understood why teachers are afraid to ask their students. They will more often than not tell the truth good or bad, and it is relatively easy to remove hate grades from them.

I think you also can get a lot from a teacher so long as it is meant for growth rather than punitive actions. If teachers had nothing to fear from a self-evaluation, I think it would be an excellent tool.

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 Post subject: Re: What Teachers Make
PostPosted: Wed Jul 06, 2011 2:27 pm 
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JDawg - Of course, you very skillfully outlined all of the pitfalls of assessing teachers - and, by the way, as a chairperson I still teach 2 classes and think of myself as a teacher much more than an administrator. The "gotcha" point is a great one. Administrators need to build trust and camaraderie with staff, just as we do with our students. If teachers know you support their efforts and value their talents, then any critical suggestions are easy to deliver in a constructive fashion. And, when dealing with tenured staff, any suggestions I may have are given in the post-observation conference and never written into the report.


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 Post subject: Re: What Teachers Make
PostPosted: Wed Jul 06, 2011 2:29 pm 
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As far as differences in schools, the fact that schools are compared, even with different rates of special needs children, socio-economic metrics, rates of single parents, etc... is ludicrous.

Also, high poverty schools tend to be training grounds for teachers, and more affluent schools (even within the same districts) are often allowed to poach promising young teachers from the "failing" schools. There is no incentive to stay, especially with the call for new ways of evaluating teachers using standardized tests.

There seems no effort to match struggling schools with more experienced successful teachers from more affluent schools. And understandably so, since you are likely to not see any significant improvement.

We have a magnet school in our district that has minimum entrance requirements, and retention rules that ensure no lower echelon student may remain. Well, duh, the teachers pat themselves on the backs for their high quality teaching and national ranking. Are they really, better teachers? Several started in Title I schools, were ineffective and happened to move on to the Magnets for some reason.

It is extremely complex, and politically charged. When legislators, who know little of education and pander to the public through soundbites make the rules, it is a dangerous time. Teachers and schools should be evaluated, but it should be by very well-thought-out, necessarily complex and valid/reliable means, which is not politically expedient. So legislators go for the shorter, more understandable for the public...test scores.

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