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Union Boycotts LA Times Over Teacher Evaluation Disclosure

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the but-that-stuff-should-be-locked-up dept.

Education 629

Atypical Geek writes "According to Newsweek, the local teachers union is infuriated over the disclosure of teacher performance metrics. Quoting: 'Do parents have the right to know which of their kids' teachers are the most and least effective? That's the controversy roaring in California this week with the publication of an investigative series by the Los Angeles Times's Jason Song and Jason Felch, who used seven years of math and English test data to publicly identify the best and the worst third- to fifth-grade teachers in the Los Angeles Unified School District. The newspaper's announcement of its plans to release data later this month on all 6,000 of the city's elementary-school teachers has prompted the local teachers' union to rally members to organize a boycott of the newspaper.' According to the linked Times article, United Teachers Los Angeles president A.J. Duffy said the database was 'an irresponsible, offensive intrusion into your professional life that will do nothing to improve student learning.'"

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629 comments

Educational Problems (1)

Rukie (930506) | more than 3 years ago | (#33323370)

There are definitely problems in the U.S. educational system. This article was pretty cool, and they do state that their metrics aren't perfect, but lead to some valuable insight. I'd like to see further studies on this.

Re:Educational Problems (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33323422)

To compete with wikileaks, they must become wikileaks. Things are looking up for the media. Amazing - maybe now they'll have to do their jobs and report on the government with brutal facts, instead of placating the party line.

Re:Educational Problems (3, Insightful)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 3 years ago | (#33323924)

To compete with wikileaks, they must become wikileaks. Things are looking up for the media. Amazing - maybe now they'll have to do their jobs and report on the government with brutal facts, instead of placating the party line.

Yes, however they'll only do that if they see that there's eyeballs (and hence greater sales) in it. In this particular case, the relevance of the information is obvious to most people: if you have kids, you want to know that they're being taught competently. So people will buy the paper to find out. There are many other issues of equal or greater importance that are more complex, and it is up to the journalists to help people understand the relevance to their own lives. If they can do that, both inform and, to a degree, educate, then they'll regain my respect.

The truth is that journalism in the U.S. today is not what it used to be ... but this kind of report is exactly what journalists are supposed to be doing. That is, informing the public about what their government and its various organs are up to: it's why the Press has such standing in the Constitution. So the Teacher's Union might like to keep their performance (or lack of it) a secret, but as public employees they should not entitled to that. Fact is, such unaccountability is at the root of our school system's problems, and I'm glad this newspaper is giving it to them good. They deserve it, and frankly the fact that they're objecting so strongly indicates that they know there's a problem here, and are self-serving enough to want to continue the cover up.

Re:Educational Problems (4, Interesting)

ArcherB (796902) | more than 3 years ago | (#33323494)

There are definitely problems in the U.S. educational system. This article was pretty cool, and they do state that their metrics aren't perfect, but lead to some valuable insight. I'd like to see further studies on this.

Teacher's Unions are the biggest problem with the US educational system. They are more concerned with teachers' benefits than they are about students. Of course, that is their job, but they give campaign contributions and students don't, they've become a bit too good at it.

I love it when teachers bitch about pay (although, sometimes warranted) and we get the following conversation:
"Haven't teachers always been underpaid?"
"Yes, and we need to fix that once and for all."
"Then why did you take the job?"
"Because I love it!"
"!??!!!?!!?"

Re:Educational Problems (1)

Idiomatick (976696) | more than 3 years ago | (#33323674)

Meh to the teacher's union being the sole problem.

"You get what you pay for!"

Re:Educational Problems (1)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 3 years ago | (#33323708)

No, you can also get less than what you pay for. Indeed, that is the whole point of collusion: to make the customer get less than what he pays for.

Unions are a kind of collusion....

Price is not a reliable indicator of quality.

Re:Educational Problems (4, Insightful)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 3 years ago | (#33323786)

Unions are a kind of collusion....

So, it's OK for everyone else to negotiate the best price except workers. Is that what you're saying? Or are you saying it should be illegal for workers to organize and collectively bargain? Should it also be illegal for CEO's to negotiate their best salary and benefits package? Should it be illegal for cartels to set commodity prices? Under what statute or legal principle would you make the right to organize illegal?

It's amazing how free market purists suddenly don't trust the free market when it comes to workers' pay.

Re:Educational Problems (4, Insightful)

ArcherB (796902) | more than 3 years ago | (#33323946)

Unions are a kind of collusion....

So, it's OK for everyone else to negotiate the best price except workers. Is that what you're saying? Or are you saying it should be illegal for workers to organize and collectively bargain? Should it also be illegal for CEO's to negotiate their best salary and benefits package? Should it be illegal for cartels to set commodity prices? Under what statute or legal principle would you make the right to organize illegal?

It's amazing how free market purists suddenly don't trust the free market when it comes to workers' pay.

Actually, it is illegal for corporations to get together to fix prices. And, yeah, it should be.

Look, I don't have anything against unions until they get so powerful that they either take the company down (auto industry), endanger safety (airline industry), or cause the industry they represent to fail (teachers' union). When they look out for the safety and fair treatment of the actual employees, (fire union, police union), I don't have a problem with them.

Re:Educational Problems (5, Informative)

demonlapin (527802) | more than 3 years ago | (#33323970)

Should it be illegal for cartels to set commodity prices?

That is illegal; there's a reason OPEC meetings aren't held in New York, and that LCD makers were fined for collusion (like here [nytimes.com]; that's from 2008, or here [wsj.com], for the new suit by the state of New York)

It's amazing how free market purists suddenly don't trust the free market when it comes to workers' pay.

I'm not aware of any "free market purists" who think cartels are a good thing. After all, teachers aren't barely-literate manual laborers; they have college degrees - shouldn't they be able to negotiate a salary on their own? If there were a market in teacher pay, for example, I'm reasonably certain that a high school physics teacher would make a lot more than a kindergarten teacher. Instead, in most public systems, pay is determined by seniority and box-checking. (Got a master's degree? Check. Gone to summer course X? Check. Collect for each box checked.)

Re:Educational Problems (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33323986)

It's amazing how free market purists suddenly don't trust the free market when it comes to workers' pay.

It's not a free market unless union membership isn't required, and harrassment of non-union workers by union members is not permitted.

Meet those requirements, and then you can talk about a free market.

Re:Educational Problems (4, Insightful)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 3 years ago | (#33324046)

There's a difference between negotiating your price as an individual, and negotiating price as a group. At that point, you're now "negotiating" at gunpoint which is a whole different animal.

I'm a software developer: I'm not a member of any "Union", and I survive simply because there's a demand for my services, and I negotiate the best price I can with my employer. Furthermore, how much I can demand is tied pretty directly with my overall competence. I'm motivated to remain good at my job because otherwise I won't have one. Explain to me why a teacher should be treated any differently than any other worker. Are they so special that they can do a crappy job, get tenure, and then retire on a really really nice pension?

Worse yet, unions have, in many cases, gone from protecting workers from exploitation to becoming the very thing they decry, and often do more damage than they're worth. All those "think of the children!" types ought to be up in arms about this.

Re:Educational Problems (1)

therealkevinkretz (1585825) | more than 3 years ago | (#33323964)

He didn't say they were the *sole* problem. He said they're the *biggest* problem. I believe that more children today are harder-to-teach kids. And I believe that parents today are harder to work with. But a system where the worst teachers are paid the most, and where the ineffective can't be removed, overshadows those things.

exactly the point (4, Insightful)

nten (709128) | more than 3 years ago | (#33323972)

You do get what you pay for, and the teacher's union (NEA) are the single largest [opensecrets.org] campaign contributors in the United States. They pay for politicians, and they get them. That is not the sole problem, but its intertwined with the rest of it. Schools have trouble telling good teachers from bad ones, and there aren't enough good ones to go around anyway, so they pay them all the same as if it were unskilled labor, and pay the administrators more in the hopes that overcompensated administrators can manage away incompetence in those actually doing the teaching. These incompetent teachers and overcompensated administrators like the NEA because it is job security. The really good teachers either go along knowing that most schools can't tell they are worth extra, don't care about the money anyway, and don't really have the ability to make a change. They are gifted teachers after all, not gifted politicians. I don't know if there is a way to tell a very good newly graduated teacher from a very poor one in the time allotted for an interview, or if there is any hint on a resume. The ability to terminate the employment of a teacher as soon as they show themselves to be sub par without worrying about lawsuits would be a less efficient, but more feasible solution to mind reading employment candidates. Paying more won't create a greater number of good teachers either, because they are almost never money motivated people. Using poor or untested teachers as little more than TAs and proctors while the better compensated, proven teachers instruct large numbers of students via live or recorded media would provide more students with access to good teachers, and a testing ground for new teachers to earn their credentials in a less pivotal role in the child's life.

Re:Educational Problems (2)

ArcherB (796902) | more than 3 years ago | (#33324000)

Meh to the teacher's union being the sole problem.

"You get what you pay for!"

True, I can't blame the teacher's union for your reading comprehension skills. Here is what I said:

Teacher's Unions are the biggest problem with the US educational system

Biggest, meaning there are others, as in not the "sole problem". I would say parental apathy being a very close second.

Re:Educational Problems (4, Insightful)

bsDaemon (87307) | more than 3 years ago | (#33323814)

My mother is a public high school Spanish teacher. She has an undergraduate degree in Romance Languages from an Ivy League, a Masters in Spanish from a well-known state school, and is currently working towards her PhD. She's been teaching at the school she's at for almost 15 years, I believe. She used to work for an import/export company, then an investment banker. She speaks 7 languages with a high degree of proficiency, 5 of which she's fluent in.

In addition to the class time, there is prep time, duty (being made to come in early to watch kids on and off the bus, hang out outside bathrooms looking for smokers, etc), all the time at home grading papers, etc. If teachers were paid by the hour, most would likely make less than a fast food worker when averaged out. The argument that they get paid in the summer for not doing anything is also fallacious, as the fact of the matter is teachers have the choice, at least here in VA, to take their pay only during the school year, or to have it averaged out over 12 months so that they get less per cheque but have income during the summer.

I make almost as much as my mother does with 1 undergrad degree and just a couple years of relevant experience. I also don't have to give up nearly all my evening time grading papers, having to go to meetings about other people's kids so as not to have time to pay attention to my own (although i haven't got any yet), etc.

With my dad retired from the airline where he was a pilot for over 20 years and occasionally substitute teaching, my mother has assumed the role of primary income for them, so the fact that with all her degrees and experience she's making less money than the typical sysadmin with that much experience (who are another group of people, who if you average out their salaries over the amount of time they're required to put in are grossly underpaid) by quite a wide margin is really sort of shameful.

Then there are the parents who don't or won't take responsibility for their own children, and the children who won't take responsibility for themselves. My mother only teaches upper-level Spanish (3,4,5 and the AP prep classes). Even in those classes, usually in Spanish 3 where you have kids just hanging on long enough for the advanced diploma requirement, you get jackass kids who aren't really concerned with learning. And if they would rather smoke dope and show up late, parents want to blame the schools and the teachers for the kids poor grades.

I'm sorry, but if 90 percent of the kids in a class have a B or better, it's likely not the teacher's fault that the other 10% aren't keeping up. If we had pay-for-performance bonus rules, then my mom would make out like a bandit because she's a great teacher, the vast majority of her students love her, and they do well. This isn't the case for all the teachers. And yes, there are bad teachers. I've seen and known many in my day.

Basically, what I'm trying to say is that yes, teachers are underpaid. And if they were paid more, then better people would be able to afford to go into the profession. Most of the worst teachers are the young ones who go into it because they want their summers off and basically live with a case of Senioritis for the first 10 years of their careers. If you're willing to pay enough to make it feasible for an experienced engineer or scientist to come in and teach math and still be able to make their mortgage payments, then you're on the right track. I hate math teachers who know math but can't explain how it applies to anything real.

The teacher pay argument shouldn't be that all teachers automagically deserve more money, but that you need to be willing to pay talent what talent deserves. Of course unions won't like that, but I don't live in a Union state, and being a teacher isn't like being an autoworker -- it's not a blue-collar job, even though they by and large get blue collar pay.

Re:Educational Problems (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#33323926)

Indeed, I've been opposed to this sort of thing for a while on the basis that it at very least discourages the best teachers from risking the toughest schools. A teacher is on campus usually for something like 6 hours a day, and at least at the middle and highschool level probably has 5 hours of actual direct contact with students. You're not going to overcome a bad home environment and learning problems with the resources given. It's just not going to happen, the whole premise of evaluations assumes that you do something about it, and the way evaluations are typically done just doesn't lead anywhere productive.

What they should be doing is stripping back the testing to more generalized criteria, probably just taking a look at a random sampling of the tests that the teachers are assigning. If the test itself isn't good enough, help the teacher formulate better ones, and if the scores themselves are deficient, then that needs more than just discipline or training for the teacher to fix.

The whole teacher's union thing is a MacGuffin, it has very little to do with the problem of ineffectual school management, poor funding, and a lack of parental involvement. Ironically enough, the union is only a small part of the whole situation. And definitely not with the sort of pull necessary to fix the problems.

pay talent what talent deserves (3, Insightful)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 3 years ago | (#33323934)

What does that mean, "pay talent what talent deserves"?

I have a real talent for jerking off, it took years to master, I should get paid for that wonderful talent. So who is interested in paying?

--

Your argument is absurd. In real world we don't pay people simply because they have talent. People get paid because someone is making money.

A talented basketball player makes money for the investors.

A talented software developer makes money for a company.

A talented thief controls High Frequency Trade transaction house.

Another talented thief controls money flow from many people to a small subset.

A talented plastic surgeon gets paid for his work and discretion.

etc.

--

The REAL talent in this case is the UNION, it gets a LOT of people paid for doing very very little, sure some do more, but most do very little, that's what a union does, that's what it is all about. Used to be that a union was really built by people dying on floors of factories, that's not what today's unions are about, especially GOVERNMENT unions!

If your mother is so talented yet she feels that she is financially unappreciated, she has a choice of working in a private school, isn't that so? In fact if her talents are in high DEMAND then she can tutor people for much MORE money than she'd be making in a school, and eventually with that money that she could save, she could open her own private school, why not?

It's not that I am questioning talent of your mother, I have no idea, but the entire point is that you can have the best talents but nobody cares, and nor SHOULD they! Can she apply her talents so that people would want to give her more money, that's the question.

Re:pay talent what talent deserves (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33324006)

You should have stopped at your first sentence. You obviously don't know what he means by that phrase.

Re:pay talent what talent deserves (2, Interesting)

bsDaemon (87307) | more than 3 years ago | (#33324074)

Your argument rests on free-market principles, forgetting the fact that public schools are a government monopoly. But, to your point... her students do the best of any foreign language students in the school. Parents are always trying to get their kids into her class. She has one of the highest percentages of students accepted to the Governor's School program in the state, and has had very many of her students go one to Ivy League schools.

C grads from JMU turn out C grads from JMU. A grads from Ivy League schools turn out the same. That's the difference, and I think a lot of it has to do with expectations. But its harder to get the better people in to fill the rolls unless they don't /need/ the money. And economics are fluid. My mother wouldn't have been able to afford to be a teacher if my dad wasn't making a boatload of money. She'd have had to stay on Wall Street, we'd be stuck in New York, and I probably would have died in a traffic accident trying to learn how to drive in the clusterfuck that is long island where I was born.

Re:Educational Problems (3, Insightful)

ErikZ (55491) | more than 3 years ago | (#33324032)

You don't need three advanced degrees (And the debt load that comes with it) to each ANY high school class. Period.

Home schooling is becoming more and more popular, and one of the reasons is how completely disconnected from reality Public schools are.

Whole story. (4, Informative)

AnonymousClown (1788472) | more than 3 years ago | (#33324060)

Then there are teachers like my sister who pulls in close to $70K per year, gets a $3,000 raise when she completes teacher training programs in the Summer, and has this incredible pension with TIAA CREF paid for by the school system that guarantees that she'll retire as a millionaire.

My mother was a book-keeper for a school district and as a result was able to get the same benefits as the teachers. She has absolutely no problems with money in her retirement, now and she isn't exactly a frugal person to put it lightly.

In my financial planning class, we were shown stats that showed that teachers are the tops when it comes to people who retire as millionaires.

If you start teaching at the age of 22 right out of college and stick with it for 30 years (retire at 52), you'll be set for life - nice comfortable life. The first couple of years suck in terms of apy, though. But after you get over that hump, you're making a nice living. Looking back now, I kind of wish I did that.

Either your mother is in a very shitty school district, or you're not telling us the whole story.

Re:Educational Problems (2, Interesting)

dotfile (536191) | more than 3 years ago | (#33323860)

I don't think the mere existence of a teachers union is the problem. I think the problem is that the union is very often negotiating with a school board made up of union members and long time supporters. Very often the only people who stand any chance of coming out of contract negotiations with an outcome they're not happy with are the parents and taxpayers.

Re:Educational Problems (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33323894)

Teacher's Unions are the biggest problem with the US educational system.

Oh yes. By all means. Teacher's Unions are massive forces for corruption and exploitation of the taxpayer. Their cloddish brute force has subjected the US educational system to all the abuses for which unions are justly reviled. Such as:

1. Grossly inflated salaries a la the UAW. Wait - you mean even detractors will usually admit teachers get low pay?

2. Working hours strictly by the clock. Um, you mean none of that taking homework home to grade it or assembling teaching materials after hours?

3. Strictly protected jobs, no matter how incompetent. Guess we didn't need that silly old tenure system after all.

4. Ability to strictly set working conditions. Like, maybe not taking any #@#$ from parents and administrators about handing out bad grades or disciplining students.

No question, unions can be stifling. Personally, I think being able to threaten to unionize is worth more than actually having to live with a union. But really, the teacher's unions seem to be pretty toothless except for when Democratic political candidates want votes.

Re:Educational Problems (5, Insightful)

lbates_35476 (901961) | more than 3 years ago | (#33323962)

While I think that teacher's unions are "part" of the problem, I'm convinced that the bigger problem is that there is a lack of discipline and kids aren't afraid of anything that a teacher or principal can currently do to them. "Time out" just doesn't motivate a teenager to change their behavior. Parents just are not supporting teachers in this area. We have a complete generation of children that "can do no wrong" in the eyes of their parents. Until parents quit thinking their child is a complete "angel" and always blindly takes their side against teachers and administrators we will continue down this path. How things have changed in the last 30 years.

No I will admit that teachers and administrators could be wrong, but parents have got to go into this with the assumption that the child is probably wrong until proven otherwise. Assuming that the children are always right hasn't and won't work. They are children after all. While there may be times when the child is right, it is extremely important that they learn to work within the power structure that exists. The real world just isn't going to change to accommodate them even if they are right, they must find a way to adapt or we are setting them up for a lifetime of disappointment. The workplace is just not going to put up with the lack of discipline that teachers are forced to endure today and it is the children that are in for a rude awakening.

In return for this support, parents should expect teachers to be accountable. Asking teachers to be accountable for their student's proficiency without discipline or any ability to modify the student's behavior can't work.

Re:Educational Problems (5, Insightful)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 3 years ago | (#33323980)

Teacher's Unions are the biggest problem with the US educational system.

Not even close. The biggest problem in the US educational system is shitty parenting.

By the way, don't you believe teachers should have the right to collectively bargain? Should they not be allowed to negotiate their best pay package? Don't you trust free markets?

There is no law that says a school system must sign a contract with the teachers' unions. There is no law that says they must agree to contracts that say shitty teachers can't be fired, just as there's no law that says CEO's can't negotiate multi-million dollar golden parachutes so when they destroy a company they get a fat benefits package (like Carly Fiorina and her successor). There was also no law that said big car companies had to give their unions ridiculous pensions and post-retirement health care packages. They did so because they didn't want to agree to the modest raise that was being requested back in the '70s. The CEOs thought they were being clever, thinking that their retirees would continue to die at age 68 and they'd pull a fast one, but when people started living a decade longer, they were fucked and cried "the unions made us do it!" And the Chamber of Commerce and the Club for Growth and other anti-middle class organizations spent millions of dollars spreading FUD about unions so now knuckleheads spout crap like "Teacher's Unions are the biggest problem with the US educational system" when they ought to goddamn-well know better.

You want to improve schools? Do what I did and run for the school board. I ran as a parent when my daughter was in school, and I ran as a citizen-at-large after she graduated. I've been on and off the school board for 16 years and even in a city where there's a very powerful teachers' union, like Chicago, you'd be surprised at what can be done both to get rid of bad teachers and to improve kids' educations. The problem is that management is unwilling to assert itself, not that teachers have done what anybody could do, which is negotiate the most favorable pay package they could. It's not their fault that they're negotiating with cowards and imbeciles who themselves are paid hundreds of thousands of dollars (and they are NOT in the union). The head of a school system in a medium to large size Chicago suburb is making several timesthat school district is performing below average. Who's fault is that?

The second biggest problem with the US educational system is that people think they should just send their kids to school and hope for the best. The third biggest problem is that public schools are forced to serve every single child, regardless of disability or behavioral problem, which is something so-called "private" schools don't have to deal with. One severely handicapped student can take up as much teacher time and school resources as two classrooms full of normally-abled students.

And that list of problems doesn't even include the fact that we've got growing numbers of people who are requiring public schools to teach nonsense, like is being done in South Carolina and Texas. This crap about "unions are the problem" is just a denial of the history of the US, which if you're from Texas, is to be expected because that's what the textbooks do now.

Re:Educational Problems (1)

jimmy_dean (463322) | more than 3 years ago | (#33324014)

Gee, a collective group that is trying to collude and look out for their best interests with protection from the government is the problem? I'm shocked! Shocked I tell you! /sarcasm

Teacher Evaluations (1)

nopainogain (1091795) | more than 3 years ago | (#33323408)

I ride the fence on this one. Having had some incompetent mere babysitter math teachers in high school and then also seeing competent teachers who worked their butts off to help lazy bum kids who didn't want to make anything of themselves, it's hard to quantify. Part of me wants something that can justify their value and employment but there would need to be something in place that shows them doing their part (or not) when it comes to helping the kids.

Re:Teacher Evaluations (2, Insightful)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 3 years ago | (#33323752)

Teachers who teach the advanced classes look much better in the test results than the teachers who have a class full of 'slower' students who need the extra attention that they can only get in a call full of their 'peers'. Lots of kids need extra help for a variety of reasons (language barriers, parents who don't do their part, learning disabilities, laziness, etc) and the best way to teach them is to have them all together so they don't get left further behind. That teacher will never look good on these standardized tests.

Re:Teacher Evaluations (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33323838)

True, but does that really come into play when you're talking about third- to fifth-grade teachers? Sure there are some slightly more advanced classes at that level, but nothing like what you'd get during junior and senior years of high school.

Re:Teacher Evaluations (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#33323942)

You can usually tell with simple oversight. Take a look at a random sampling of homework assignments and tests and you can usually get a pretty good feel for who's phoning it in. It's going to be somewhat subjective, but chances are if there's meat to the homework and tests that they're doing fine.

like any other job? (5, Insightful)

uncanny (954868) | more than 3 years ago | (#33323418)

I get evaluated at my job, should i be outraged? Maybe this will motivate them to actually try harder to be better teachers instead of just griping about a paycheck. There are worse jobs out there with even worse pay, i say start firing teachers that rank the worst.

Re:like any other job? (1, Insightful)

VojakSvejk (315965) | more than 3 years ago | (#33323442)

So where can I download your evaluation?

Re:like any other job? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33323466)

He's probably not paid with public dollars taken forcibly from unwilling taxpayers. His evaluation is thus a private matter between him and his private-sector employer.

Re:like any other job? (1)

VojakSvejk (315965) | more than 3 years ago | (#33323848)

Then perhaps that should have been the point; the original post clearly suggests that the union is complaining about the evaluations themselves: "I get evaluated at my job, should i be outraged?". And of course finishes with "i say start firing teachers that rank the worst", which is also beside the point. The question here is of whether people who agree to take low-paid, overworked positions to teach children deserve to be treated worse than any other employee who has a performance evaluation. To restate my post, do your coworkers read your evaluation? Shareholders? The general public?

As to "unwilling taxpayers", ok, speak for yourself. That argument can be made about any government expenditure.

Re:like any other job? (1)

mindwhip (894744) | more than 3 years ago | (#33323854)

Not to mention uncanny's job performance won't (or at least it is very unlikely it will) have a direct effect on the entire lives of 100s of children, their morals, abilities, aspirations, self motivation, self worth, and employability.

Good education should be a guaranteed right for all children, weather or not they or their parents want or care about it. The proper evaluation, hiring, and if necessary, dismissal of teachers is essential to this.

Re:like any other job? (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 3 years ago | (#33323940)

Good education should be a guaranteed right for all children, weather or not they or their parents want or care about it. The proper evaluation, hiring, and if necessary, dismissal of teachers is essential to this.

Slightly ironic, eh?

does taxes pay for your job? (1)

hansoloaf (668609) | more than 3 years ago | (#33323688)

We all know where the schools get their revenue from. So it is a good thing this info gets out. The more information the taxpayers have about the performance of the schools, the more pressure the schools will be under to explain themselves if they are underperforming. Of course this is only one facet of the impact on schools.

Re:does taxes pay for your job? (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 3 years ago | (#33324066)

We all know where the schools get their revenue from. So it is a good thing this info gets out. The more information the taxpayers have about the performance of the schools, the more pressure the schools will be under to explain themselves if they are underperforming. Of course this is only one facet of the impact on schools.

True, but it's an excellent start and is, after all, what our "Free Press" is supposed to be doing. Matter of fact, if they hadn't fallen down flat on the job the past forty-odd years our school systems probably wouldn't be in such a mess.

Re:like any other job? (0, Flamebait)

0100010001010011 (652467) | more than 3 years ago | (#33323456)

Are you union? See there's the difference. All these hard working unions gave us 5 day work weeks and 40 hour work weeks and safety regulations (70+ years ago) so that obviously gives All union employees free rides for life!

Re:like any other job? (3, Insightful)

JanneM (7445) | more than 3 years ago | (#33323458)

"I get evaluated at my job, should i be outraged?"

Should you get outraged if your evaluation is printed in a major daily newspaper as an example? Without a reporter even as much as contacting you for a chance at filling in your side of the story?

Usually no (2, Insightful)

Atmchicago (555403) | more than 3 years ago | (#33323532)

Usually no, except that the teachers' unions do such an amazing job at preventing any sort of information getting out, and at preventing the establishment of any merit-based pay system, that there is no way to incentivize better teaching. This is a last resort to get the ball rolling. Better teachers should get paid more, period, and we should know who they are. Once they start teaching at the correct level, then you can argue it doesn't matter which teacher you have since they are all adequate, and therefore shouldn't publish the data anymore. Clearly in this school that's not the case.

Re:like any other job? (1)

ViViDboarder (1473973) | more than 3 years ago | (#33323566)

Yea, I was originally thinking of backing the newspaper, but I just tried to apply this to myself. I get evaluated at work, but the evaluations stay INSIDE my company. My clients do not get to see these evaluations. Perhaps the bigger issue is that the Unions make it impossible for the Schools to do anything about teachers that have poor evaluations. If the School was more capable of firing incapable teachers then it wouldn't matter if the public knew or not.

Re:like any other job? (3, Insightful)

Smidge204 (605297) | more than 3 years ago | (#33323584)

Should you get outraged if your evaluation is printed in a major daily newspaper as an example?

Only if it's a bad evaluation that highlights my incompetence...

=Smidge=

Re:like any other job? (3, Insightful)

ALeader71 (687693) | more than 3 years ago | (#33323610)

Teachers are government employees serving a system most people take for granted. Teaching is the only profession that continually demands NOT to be evaluated or held accountable, "because I'm tenured." This cultural attitude has created social promotions, and indifference towards any student that doesn't fit the facory school model. A general lack of local election voting by non-retirees created the most broken educational system in the developed world. Teachers have far-reaching infleuence on our future than they know. They teach you how to read, how to comprehend, how to perform research. They should teach how to consturct a decent argument, write a decent setence, and how to operate in the adult world. As public servants, teachers must be evaluated. Tenure was designed to protect what college professors choose to research and publish, not to protect the lazy, the entitled, or the burn outs.

Re:like any other job? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33323952)

There is no way to evaluate the teachers when the system itself is broken. No Child Left Behind and other directives from higher up takes education out of the teachers hands. Furthermore, our lawsuit happy society pretty much has made things so that classroom discipline is non-existent. The only kids getting a true education are the ones who actively seek it themselves.

Re:like any other job? (1)

kai5263499 (751741) | more than 3 years ago | (#33323806)

A key difference for most of us is that we are not public employees and therefore our ultimate source of income is not the pockets of taxpayers. So yes, their evaluations should be published publicly, especially if voters are to be informed when they go to vote for politicians who support unions who harbor bad teachers.

Re:like any other job? (0, Troll)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#33324028)

That has nothing to do with it. They are employees of the school district not, of the public. Consequently it's not up to you or I to make those decisions. If you don't like the results, you have options, take your kids out of public schools or vote for somebody different to run the school board, but you're no more there boss than I am the boss of the local Starbucks, by virtue of buying a drink from time to time.

I used to work for the state for a while, and it's mind blowing to me that random people think they're your boss. They have no clue what your job is or what the priorities are, nor do they know what the funding status of the project is, but somehow since it's taxpayer dollars, they're the boss. Which isn't true, they aren't the boss, and there is, at least in my state, mandatory auditing that goes on to deal with any problems that might pop up.

Re:like any other job? (3, Informative)

Stradivarius (7490) | more than 3 years ago | (#33323884)

The original LA Times article on the web did have a prominently placed solicitation for teachers to submit their comments on their score. Not sure what the plans for the dead tree edition were

It also seems to me that the teachers' side of the story was printed:

Many teachers and union leaders are skeptical of the value-added approach, saying standardized tests are flawed and do not capture the more intangible benefits of good instruction. Some also fear teachers will be fired based on the arcane calculations of statisticians who have never worked in a classroom.

Whether you buy their arguments or not, the teachers' official point of view has been spelled out for the Times' readers.

I for one don't buy it. Certainly care needs to be taken with designing any evaluations of job effectiveness. The value-added approach tries to take such care. The union response was just the standard line that you cannot and should not evaluate them by standardized tests that would let you compare them against each other. And similarly disappointing rhetoric implying that only teachers can evaluate teacher effectiveness - as if mere mortals like parents or statisticians have no insight. You don't need to be a master chef to know whether the food was prepared by one, and you don't need to be a teacher to know whether a teachers's students are learning.

Re:like any other job? (1)

mauriceh (3721) | more than 3 years ago | (#33324036)

Wrong.
The names of the teachers are not mentioned on these articles.
What you describe simply has not happened.

However, as a parent, I think one should be able to get access to this information.

This is not much different than Consumer Reports.
If I want to buy a good product I try to locate and read comparative analysis and tests.

I am sure Maytag are unhappy when a report shows their dishwashers are not as good as Kitchen Aide.

However this simply provides them with the necessary information and the motivation to improve their products.

Re:like any other job? (1)

DigiTechGuy (1747636) | more than 3 years ago | (#33323486)

The problem when you do something like that is you get even more of what we have now, a ineffective school system which teaches government mandated tests and does not teach useful valuable information that may be either intellectually satisfying or flat out practical in life. There's no time for that, as the kids are basically in one big braindump.

I believe a better solution is to make parents pay for their children's school, non-parents don't pay. Also give them the option of taking their tax dolalrs that would go inot the local public school to another public school if they wish to send their children there, or take their tax dollars and put them towards a private school instead of any public school. Give people the choice to vote with their money and their feet and schools will shape up or go under. Bottom line is it would not allow underperforming schools to sit and be content providing the status quo.

Re:like any other job? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33323664)

You sir sound like a Libertarian talking about a voucher system and the freedom such a system would bring. The United States of America will have none of that. The government knows better!

Re:like any other job? (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 3 years ago | (#33323896)

That's because Libertarianism is usually advocated by those who are well off and have the most to gain from it (or at least believe they do). Access to education must be granted to everybody in order to ensure they have a roughly equal chance to gain the skills necessary to join the job market. Make it too money dependent and you end up with too many people unable to get the education they need to work even if they'd be great workers once educated (good motivation, high intelligence, whatnot). And if anyone with a decent income decides to pay for a private school instead of paying taxes for a public one that'd mean the public schools would receive funding that's way below what they currently get, resulting in even worse education and tons of children that will never become suitable for the labor market, leading to a shortage of labor and more demand to import foreign specialists while producing an ever growing number of unemployed people who are nothing but a drain on resources because they simply don't get the opportunity to be productive (how many jobs don't need education these days? Almost everything that an uneducated person can do can be done by a machine, maintaining the machine needs skilled workers). If you want people from poor families to work their way up the social ladder you must give them the opportunity to gain the basic requirements for that.

Better education ultimately benefits everyone because it produces a larger pool of skilled workers that the economy needs and reduces the number of unemployable people that are indeed just money-sinks.

Re:like any other job? (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 3 years ago | (#33323748)

Depends on how the evaluation was done, Freakonomics found a lot of cheating by teachers when they got performance bonuses based on the test scores of their pupils so the evaluation metrics might favor the wrong kind of teacher which would of course result in the genuinely good teachers being regarded as bad.

Re:like any other job? (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#33323988)

Depends, do you get evaluated for somebody else's effort or lack thereof? I don't think anybody's really opposed to evaluating teachers, just the metrics involved. A teacher covering AP topics is going to look a lot better than one that's teaching remedial math is, and that's the default, you can get poor teachers in AP, but in practice the teachers cleaning up the messes from previous teachers end up being screwed just as hard as the ones that made the mess in the first place. And that's assuming that the teachers have the time and resources to teach in the first place, which in my experience is a dicey proposition.

At the end of the day, the proposals would probably be less offensive if administrative employees were being similarly evaluated. Which surprisingly enough, I don't recall hearing any proposals for doing and evaluations at the school district level.

RTFA before commenting (5, Interesting)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 3 years ago | (#33323432)

When I saw that test scores were being used, I got ready to point out that test scores are known to vary between rich and poor students. Then I read the actual evaluation, and saw this:

The fifth-graders at Broadous Elementary School come from the same world the poorest corner of the San Fernando Valley, a Pacoima neighborhood framed by two freeways where some have lost friends to the stray bullets of rival gangs.

...

Yet year after year, one fifth-grade class learns far more than the other down the hall.

That's not even from the article. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33323520)

When you're make up fake excerpts from a newspaper article, make sure you at least get your grammar correct. Don't write blatantly incorrect stuff like "come from the same world the poorest corner of the San Fernando Valley".

Re:That's not even from the article. (1)

Speare (84249) | more than 3 years ago | (#33323616)

When you're make up fake excerpts from a newspaper article, make sure you at least get your grammar correct. Don't write blatantly incorrect stuff like "come from the same world--the poorest corner of the San Fernando Valley".

Murphry's Law strikes again. I didn't re-read the article, though I've read each in the series. However, it seems to me that all that's missing is an em-dash, a unicode character that would not appear after posting due to the idiotically handicapped Slashcode system.

Re:RTFA before commenting (4, Insightful)

Fulminata (999320) | more than 3 years ago | (#33323530)

The fact that one class consistently does better than another is reason to look more deeply into the reasons why, but it's not reason enough to jump to the conclusion that one teacher is better than the other. There may vvery well be other factors. Maybe one classroom is closer to the street and has to deal with distracting noise? Maybe one is on the shaded side of the building and is more comfortable during the warmer months? Maybe one teacher truly is better than the other and it's worth studying what makes them better. It's a starting point, not an ending point, and to condemn the teacher of the lower performing class without exploring further why the class is lower performing is irresponsible.

Re:RTFA before commenting (3, Insightful)

Idiomatick (976696) | more than 3 years ago | (#33323762)

I wouldn't be quiiiite that generous though I agree on the whole. But I think publicly announced raw data of this sort (very uncontrolled and could mean a wide wide range of different things) will be terrible. Why? Because the general populace is stupid. BUT mama-bears that want the best for their kids will turn it into a horrible horrible witch hunt. And it will just make a lot of teachers quit rather than improve.

So instead of crushing a bunch of teachers and be forced to spend lots extra retraining/educating new teachers and having to increase wages. Why not use this as the starting point for a study? Find out what they are doing and retrain current teachers. It may be a bunch of small things you can teach in a month during the summer.

Survival of the fittest while cruel would be effective. BUT it would cost way more to do it that way.

Re:RTFA before commenting (1, Insightful)

krswan (465308) | more than 3 years ago | (#33323588)

I obviously don't know all the details of these two classrooms, and the data appears to show a real difference in the teaching abilities between these two teachers. However, let me throw out a few real scenarios that could provide other explanations...

If Teacher A's students get lower test scores and Teacher B's students get higher...

1) Teacher A specializes in working with lower level and learning disabled kids. He gets good results, although his students regularly don't make whatever the state deems "annual yearly progress" with his LD kids, so his results seem lower.

2) Teacher B is friends with the principal and is regularly assigned students who are already high performers. What, your boss never shows favoritism in your workplace?

3) Teacher A sees the standardized tests for the jokes they are, and concentrates on higher level skills that aren't measured well these tests - (processing, analysis, creativity, teamwork) all the while teaching the required reading, math, and science. Teacher B drills his students with the test prep books, the kids do ok on the tests, then forget everything. Teacher B's students do well as they continue on in middle school and high school because they have learned how to think, not just regurgitate. Teacher B's kids become part of the majority of High School students who can't really think, and whose scores and performance continually drop. Which class would you really like your child to be in?

Yes, I'm an elementary school teacher and no, I'm not just whining. Standardized tests are one measurement, but not the only or best one... just the cheapest and the easiest for politicians and lazy reporters to spout about. In evaluating teachers they should be considered by school administrators as one metric. The problem with what the LA Times has done is that while they say that there are other metrics for evaluating they present none.

Re:RTFA before commenting (1)

cvd6262 (180823) | more than 3 years ago | (#33323810)

Standardized tests are one measurement, but not the only or best one... just the cheapest and the easiest for politicians and lazy reporters to spout about.

"Best" would imply some set of criteria, right? If inexpensive, consistent, apparently-easy-to-understand, and status-quo are part of your criteria, then couldn't standardized tests be the "best"? While the states place far too much confidence in the results (e.g. they do not even report the students' scores in error bands), they may be justified in their selection of standardized tests as a method of assessment.

Many (most) states use tests that are far below industry standards. But we shouldn't besmirch all standardized tests because the state chooses poorly.

Re:RTFA before commenting (1)

Idiomatick (976696) | more than 3 years ago | (#33323828)

Point 2 is probably not that common though I'm sure it occurs.

Point 3 though has nothing to do with disclosing the data. They already said that it is not a great indicator but it is better than nothing. Maybe you don't like standardized testing but that is your problem.

What metric btw would you suggest would be best at determining whether or not teachers suck. It has to be something measurable (as in with a number) and not crazy expensive.

Re:RTFA before commenting (3, Informative)

Idiomatick (976696) | more than 3 years ago | (#33323932)

"On average, his students started the year in the 34th percentile in math compared with all other district fifth-graders. They finished in the 61st. "

Didn't catch this quote earlier but it invalidates point 1,2.

Re:RTFA before commenting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33323936)

Which teacher B?

Yes, this ranking is a good one (3, Informative)

dlenmn (145080) | more than 3 years ago | (#33323734)

This comparison is particularly useful because it tracks students over time so that the effect of a teacher can be separated from other preexisting conditions (like poverty). This [latimes.com] graphic from the LA times really says it all. The image shows how on teacher greatly improves the standing of students in his class, while the other does the exact opposite. This ranking has merit.

A good thing (2, Informative)

DigiTechGuy (1747636) | more than 3 years ago | (#33323434)

These unions need to stop whining and get on with something productive. I can tell whether a teacher has tenure after a brief conversation. It's so obvious in their attitude, it's like once they get tenure and know they can't be fired (unless they screw up really bad) it's like someone flipped the 'give a damn' switch to off.

As for the rankings, it's not conclusive but there surely is some correlation. I'd like to know simply because I subsidize these schools and pay the teacher's salaries (which are rather high in most cases). I deserve to know what the money forcibly taken from me to pay for things I do not use or condone is doing.

Bad Science (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33323478)

Seems like poor science to me. There is a bias in the data as schools in less affluent parts of town with less funding generally have less involved parents and less teaching resources. Teachers are stretched thinner and given fewer resources and in, the end, probably seem less effective. On the other side of the token, in more affluent areas parents are involved in their child's educational experience, tutor and work with their kids after school, provide some levels of financial support to the school and generally demand smaller class sizes and "special treatment" for their future President of the World. Seems like an unfair comparison to me.

Perhaps it would make sense to compare teachers on a school by school level since the resources and affluence would be fairly consistent, but not the entire district.

Re:Bad Science (2, Interesting)

Stewie241 (1035724) | more than 3 years ago | (#33323782)

Seems like poor science to me. There is a bias in the data as schools in less affluent parts of town with less funding generally have less involved parents and less teaching resources. Teachers are stretched thinner and given fewer resources and in, the end, probably seem less effective. On the other side of the token, in more affluent areas parents are involved in their child's educational experience, tutor and work with their kids after school, provide some levels of financial support to the school and generally demand smaller class sizes and "special treatment" for their future President of the World. Seems like an unfair comparison to me.

Perhaps it would make sense to compare teachers on a school by school level since the resources and affluence would be fairly consistent, but not the entire district.

A caption from the article:

Over seven years, John Smith's fifth-graders have started out slightly ahead of those just down the hall but by year's end have been far behind. (Irfan Khan, Los Angeles Times)

Scrutiny (3, Insightful)

RudyHartmann (1032120) | more than 3 years ago | (#33323492)

There are hardly any fields of endeavor where the people asking to provide a service are exempt from scrutiny. Teaching is a honorable and needed service, but the teacher's union does not want their members to be subject to the same feedback every other profession endures. They are not such a special class of human beings that the consumers of their service should be shutout from performance evaluation statistics. Would you want to hire the services of a crappy plummer, mechanic, investment counselor, or doctor? Why does the consumer not have access to the data to make an informed decision on whether to accept the services for which they will have to pay for? This is just not fair.

Re:Scrutiny (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33323560)

Here's one difference though, plumbers, mechanics, they don't have to deal with independent factors quite as much. Investment counselors and doctors do, but to an extent, but not quite as much. Teachers though, are entirely working with outside entities, which does make a scrutiny of them quite difficult.

Re:Scrutiny (1)

RudyHartmann (1032120) | more than 3 years ago | (#33323656)

Nobody should ever be beyond scrutiny.

Re:Scrutiny (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33323776)

Nobody should ever be beyond scrutiny.

Rudy, please provide me with a complete list of your current and past employers, and up-to-date contact information for each. Please also include a list of all educational institutions you've attended. I would like to scrutinize you.

Re:Scrutiny (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33323904)

And this is why I find it hard to respect people who clamor for teacher testing. I find you just don't pay attention to what other people are saying. Because if you'll notice, I didn't say anything about beyond, did I? I said it was difficult, which it is. That means evaluating it is not as simple a matter as many people seem to think. You can't just say that Teacher X had their students performing on some test at a level lower than Teacher Y, so fire X, and assume that's fair. Or any of the other overly simplified metrics that are thrown out.

I don't even know that the testing is all that valuable. I know when I was in school that I thought it was a waste of time, and boring. If I'd had any guts then, I'd have just refused to take their stupid tests. And I didn't even have as much testing as they're thrown into now. Because you know what I noticed? None of their testing or evaluating ever dealt with the people who had real problems in learning and needed help, or helped me with my problems. Which weren't learning problems at all. But they were still problems. Which never got fixed.

See, that's what is hard, accurate and effective scrutiny. With a mechanic or plumber, you can reasonably fairly evaluate them on what they know, or can figure out. Teachers...it's not just what they know, is it? And sometimes they can do their best, and somebody will still not learn. Same with doctors or investment counselors, they can fail entirely against expectation.

Would it be so hard for you to recognize this? Once you do, then maybe we can start talking about how to do it without being unfair.

Or are you just so obsessed with your need to scrutinize that you can't see the value of a fair and accurate one? I'd like just once for somebody on your side to recognize that. Just once. Ever.

I say test the teachers (2, Interesting)

foniksonik (573572) | more than 3 years ago | (#33323498)

Test the teachers on the material they are teaching. Completely objective metric. If they know the material and yet their students do not and their peer (same grade, same school) classes are succeeding with the same criteria, then the teacher doesn't know how to teach. Either re-train them or let them go.

Re:I say test the teachers (2, Interesting)

cvd6262 (180823) | more than 3 years ago | (#33323754)

Test the teachers on the material they are teaching.

James Popham, a prof. ameritus at UCLA, wrote that if we want to know something about someone, we measure that something in that someone. To measure something in the students and then draw a conclusion about the teacher is "a second-step inference." He pointed out that current psychometric theory (see the AERa, APA, NCME 1999 Standards for psychological and educational testing) only deal with first-step inferences.

Note that the LA Time analysis used value-added methods, which have not been fully vetted in the psychometric literature. Especially, the degree to which measurement error (which is operationalized slightly differently in psychometrics than in other fields) interacted with value-added methods has not been established. Given that the false-result rate on New York State's tests are around 5% (which is probably close to CA's), I doubt you can rely on them as much as this analysis has.

Doing != teaching (1)

wowbagger (69688) | more than 3 years ago | (#33323858)

Being able to do something and being able to teach somebody else to do it are two different things. "Testing a teacher on what they teach" is testing the first, what we want is the second.

For example, I am very good at math (I slept through CalcIII and still got an A). Would I be able to teach it well? No - especially to some kid who didn't want to learn, as I have little patience with such things. So while I would ace the tests, I would suck at teaching.

Moreover, you have to factor in the students. I had an excellent physics and chemistry teacher in high school, but part of that was the fact that his classes, being electives, ONLY had honors students in them. Had he been force to teach "duh joks" I doubt he would have done as well. There are teachers who can teach "duh joks" but couldn't teach honors students.

However, a big part of measuring teacher performance SHOULD be evaluating the whole picture:
a) Can the teacher maintain order in the classroom (and part of THAT is empowering the teacher to do so - as in "OK smartass, get down to the principal's office. Won't go? SECURITY, remove this asshole.")
b) Does the teacher know how to teach what they are teaching?
c) Can the teacher engage students who aren't "getting it"?

Part of that is going to be moving the teachers around: if class A suddenly drops and class B suddenly rises when you swap teachers, then you can suspect the teacher.

Part of that has to be investigating further when you see problems: don't just go on the test, but when you think some teacher isn't doing a good job, start observing what is going on in the classroom.

And part of it WILL be removing bad teachers, and the union WILL oppose that. I had my share of really bad teachers - to the extent that I only learned because I ignored them and read the book. Any decent system would detect and remove those coaches^W"teachers", and believe me, they are usually the most active in the union, for some strange reason.

Depends who you thnk teachers work for (5, Informative)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 3 years ago | (#33323542)

In most places the whole educational establishment is there for the comfort and convenience of the teachers. Any learning that takes place is purely a side-effect of employing teachers, but it's certainly not the reason why they are employed. (Which is why teachers are so vehemently opposed to testing children and assessing how much they know - since this reflects directly on them, not the kids).

It would be nice to hope that this was the first step in recognising that (indirectly) real people pay for and therefore employ teachers. These real people would like to think the primary role of teachers is to impart knowledge, skills and abilities to the children in their charge. If this article leads parents to question schools about why they are employing sub-standard teachers, then it can only be a good thing, that should be extended everywhere.

Actually... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33323802)

I'm not a teacher, but I'm pretty sure that teachers are "so vehemently opposed to testing children and assessing how much they know" because standardized testing doesn't work. It motivates the teachers to teach to the test, and rewards the students for memorizing the contents of the test. There's no incentive for the students to actually learn anything in this system.

Also, t

Re:Depends who you thnk teachers work for (4, Interesting)

cvd6262 (180823) | more than 3 years ago | (#33323872)

It would be nice to hope that this was the first step in recognising that (indirectly) real people pay for and therefore employ teachers. These real people would like to think the primary role of teachers is to impart knowledge, skills and abilities to the children in their charge.

I'm a prof in a school of ed, but my background is in psych, not ed. I've noticed that many teachers (and those teachers who go on to become profs of education) do not feel that imparting "knowledge, skills and abilities" is their major goal. Rather, as I see it, they envision teachers as replacing the home, family, and parents as the conduit of social morals.

Re:Depends who you thnk teachers work for (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33323948)

One of the common complaints that pops up hereabouts is that performance is sometimes measured based on lines of code produced. As has been repeated ad infinitum, the amount of code is not so as important as if and how it achieves its purpose.

So then - how do you determine the productivity of a teacher? How do you determine the productivity of any service-based profession? Furthermore, what does the measure really say? Should we ask our teacher to truly educate our students, or should we ask them to teach within the confines of an arbitrary metric?

Of course. (2, Insightful)

therealkevinkretz (1585825) | more than 3 years ago | (#33323582)

Of course the teachers' union is infuriated. They've taken a stand against any policy having anything to do with performance - tying it or factoring it in to tenure or salary for example, and fight tooth and nail against anything resembling competition - even between public schools - that would highlight differences in teaching effectiveness. That they're openly furious that the public is being informed about the performance of the schools they pay for and the teachers they employ and whom they entrust with their children shows how out-of-touch they are with reality. The union hack is right that it "will do nothing to improve student learning" - as long as a few years of teaching guarantees a job for life from which a person can't be fired, no matter how crappy a job s/he does.

Glad I don't have that name. (0, Offtopic)

olsmeister (1488789) | more than 3 years ago | (#33323612)

publication of an investigative series by the Los Angeles Times's Jason Song and Jason Felch

It could be worse. My last name could be Felch. [wikipedia.org]

Union Boycotts LA Times Over Teacher Evaluation Di (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33323636)

This is exactly why you will never get nationwide electronic medical records in the United States. No profession can withstand the publication of the statistical distribution of outcomes by practitioner.

Teachers (1)

XPeter (1429763) | more than 3 years ago | (#33323638)

Are employed by the government and surrounded by their money-hungry corrupt unions.

Since they are employed by the government they are indirectly paid for by the local taxes, which means they are "property" of the public and when you own something, you have the right to access it's information.

At any normal job, you are evaluated on performance regularly and this should be no different for the teachers.

Absolute Lies (1)

b4upoo (166390) | more than 3 years ago | (#33323666)

Their are mentally challenged individuals who have such absurd notions that schools should be run like businesses and that teachers should be paid by performance.
                  The fact is that that is bullshit. We have absolute proof that the price of the home in which students live is the greatest determinant of success in schools. Schools that draw from rich areas have great students whereas schools that draw from poor areas tend to have very poorly performing students.

Re: Absolute Lies (2, Insightful)

Stewie241 (1035724) | more than 3 years ago | (#33323820)

Their are mentally challenged individuals who have such absurd notions that schools should be run like businesses and that teachers should be paid by performance.

                  The fact is that that is bullshit. We have absolute proof that the price of the home in which students live is the greatest determinant of success in schools. Schools that draw from rich areas have great students whereas schools that draw from poor areas tend to have very poorly performing students.

Are you suggesting that within this school they separated the two classes based upon where they lived?

Mistake for the union (1)

Improv (2467) | more than 3 years ago | (#33323670)

Unions are an important engine for decent treatment and pay of workers, and we're overall much better off with them than without. Still, they occasionally make mistakes, and this is one of them. Unions tend to push for a seniority-based payscale - seniority is not a bad foundation for pay, but there should be a performance-based metric as well (many unions support this too) in order to ensure that wayward workers don't bring the profession or union into disrepute or cause poor product. Concern over alienation from labour goes both ways.

Re:Mistake for the union (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33323856)

Unions WERE an important engine. Today however, the only thing they care about is protecting the NUMBER of union members who all pay dues. This is especially true in education where instead of caring about the product they deliver (they of course pretend to), they focus on elements like this that would inform the parents and make it easier to justify getting rid of a teacher who was just punching a clock.

Since when is a teacher solely responsible (2, Insightful)

Gregg M (2076) | more than 3 years ago | (#33323704)

Since when is a teacher solely responsible for students grades. Can teachers kick unruly students out of class if they choose? Can teachers turn the TV or video games off until children have done their homework? Is there a report card for parents? Can any of you say that you've always tried your best in school? When you didn't, did you blame your teacher?

Judging teachers solely by students grades is unfair.

This is horrible! (3, Insightful)

M. D. Nahas (901805) | more than 3 years ago | (#33323716)

My God! How can you advocate unbiased, quantifiable measures of teacher performance! Teachers have magical powers that can't be measured by numbers! Teachers aren't like people in other jobs who can be fired based on their performance! And tests are a horrible way to measure learning! Teachers never use tests themselves! Tests are never used to assign advanced/remedial classes, nor to enter college, and certainly not to get Advanced Placement credits! And, certainly, by God, hide this measure from the parents! You might make them think that something can be done to improve their child's education!!!

They should be outraged (1)

Jason_D_Berg (745832) | more than 3 years ago | (#33323720)

They absolutely should be outraged. In what world should anybody's job be judged by their performance? Especially a job funded by taxpayers. <\sarcasm>

Test scores are a bad measure (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33323726)

Test scores are a bad measure of teacher effectiveness because teachers cheat on the tests. In one elementary school of which I am aware, there is one (award-winning) teacher. Students in her class always do significantly better on their tests than they did in the grade prior or than they do in the next grade. Even special ed students get great test scores in this person's class. A couple of years someone tried to blow the whistle ago and was fired, in spite of or because of the fact that they were an eyewitness and had documented evidence of the cheating. Of course, the kids are learning something from this teacher. They are learning it's OK to cheat because their teacher teaches them to cheat. As long as teachers are rewarded with money and job security for producing good test scores rather than good students, some of them will cheat and test scores will not be a consistently accurate measure of anything whatsoever. The system, at least here, is badly broken and there is no sign it's going to be fixed anytime soon.

Unions??? (1)

dniq (759741) | more than 3 years ago | (#33323826)

Isn't the whole point of unions to extort money and benefits from their employers? I mean, of course they're outraged: now people can see them for what they are. It reduces the leverage to extort additional money/benefits.

Education System needs Work (1)

sunfly (1248694) | more than 3 years ago | (#33323864)

I hold people that choose to teacher in high regard. Several studies have shown the variable with the highest correlation to student performance is the quality of the teacher.

In most other industries, if you do not perform, you get fired. Why should teaching be different? I bet the really good teachers feel the same way.

In most school districts the only good paying jobs are in management. I have known several good teachers that went back to school so they could stop teaching and double their salary as a principal, or curriculum director, etc. We need to rebalance the pay, raising teachers salaries, and cutting in administration roles.

Likely major fail with approach... (1)

Bourdain (683477) | more than 3 years ago | (#33323878)

The reporters ranked the teachers using "value added" scores, which are based on the amount of progress individual students make from year to year on standardized tests administered by the school district. The teachers whose students consistently made more than a year's progress over a school term were judged to be the most effective, and those whose students made the least progress were considered the worst.

This sounds like an unbiased system, and assuming there are no substantial confounding variables, it is. However, having had many protracted discussions with friends of mine who are teachers, I've found out that in many districts the principals identify the best teachers in the school themselves and assign the worst students to them. The "sampling" of sorts is most likely very unrandom and biased.

I'm certain this isn't captured in these test scores or being adjusted for. This would be difficult if not impossible to tease out but might be by looking for the expected patterns, i.e. a student's poor performance is less than it was with a previous teacher. Unfortunately, there are relatively objective ways to identify these problem students and add variables in a regression to adjust for them but it doesn't appear they were applied as predictors (e.g. IQ, parents taxable income, birthday, single parent household, distance to school, ADHD or not, height, weight, play a sport, play an instrument. etc.)

So when are the other evaluations being published? (1)

Quakerjono (1561915) | more than 3 years ago | (#33323938)

More than any other job, teaching depends on a multitude of parties "doing the right thing" in order to be successful. Teachers are definitely one of those, but the best teacher in the world can't overcome parents who aren't involved with their children, a home environment and surroundings that don't value education, children themselves who may have been taught that teachers are "bad" and the public education system is "bad" so they want none of it and school administrations which are more interested in CYA than supporting their teachers. One, maybe two, of these can break down or be sub-par and a child still might get an education. But in many systems, you've got massive cascading breakdowns in all of them. Trying to then point out the faults in just one of them is then little more than blame shifting and finger pointing. Further, because of their intertwined nature, how can you fix one of them without fixing all of them? Any improvement in one area will slowly be ground down by the interference coming from the others. Are there bad teachers? You bet there are. Maybe more than anyone would like to admit because having the desire to work with kids and education doesn't mean having the ability to navigate the current learning environment. But unless this evaluation takes into account the whole picture (kids, parents, administration, teachers and environment), it's just another bandwagon "Let's blame teachers!" torches-and-pitchforks battlecry. Even worse, its just bad journalism. It also means the teachers who the evaluation call "good" are about to get all sorts of hell unleashed on them as parents read these things and then fight, sometimes quite viciously, to have Little Billy put into the top teacher's classroom or, upon seeing Little Sally is in a "bad" teacher's classroom, well, what's the point?
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