Holding teachers accountable, in reality

June 5, 2013

Scott McLeod at Dangerously!Irrelevant put together a video, with computer voices to protect the innocent naive genuinely ignorant and proudly stupid.

Teachers who watch this may cry as they watch America’s future slip away into the Tide of Mediocrity™ we were warned about, which NCLB mistook for high water.  Turn it up so you can hear the full sound effects.  That’s the level of mediocrity rising as the “official” fiddles.

W. Edwards Deming researched and wrote a lot about organization managers who don’t really have a clue what is going on in their organizations, and who lack tools to measure employee work, because they lack an understanding of just what products are, what the resources are that are required to make the desirable product, and how to processes that make those products work, or could work better.

That’s education, today.

Should teachers be “held accountable?”  Depends.  Effective organizations understand that accountability is the flip-side of the coin of authority.  Anyone accountable must have the authority to change the things that affect product, for which that person is “held accountable.”  Texas schools lose up to 45 days a year to testing — that may drop as the TAKS test is phased out, but it won’t drop enough.  45 days is, effectively 25% of the school year.  If time-on-task is important to education as Checker Finn used to badger us at the Department of Education, then testing is sucking valuable resources from education, way above and beyond any benefits testing may offer.

Today, Texas Governor Rick Perry has proposed laws sitting on his desk that would greatly pare back unnecessary testing.  A coalition of businessmen (no women I can discern) with a deceptively-named organization urges Perry to veto the bills, because, they claim, rigor in education can only be demonstrated by a tsunami of tests.

What’s that, you ask?  Where is the person concerned about the student?  She’s the woman with the leaky classroom, who is being shown the door.

Why is it those with authority to change things for the better in Texas schools, and many other school systems throughout the U.S., are not being held accountable? If they won’t use their authority to make things better, why not give that authority to the teachers?

Check out McLeod’s blog — good comments on his video there.

More:

Fitzsimmons in the Arizona Daily Star

Fitzsimmons in the Arizona Daily Star


“Is our media learning?” Test scores require raises for public school teachers, don’t they?

September 10, 2011

Mike the Mad Biologist makes the case succinctly and clearly (teachers, observe his methods):

That shudder you felt was the Earth wobbling as an . . .

. . . education story actually covered U.S. students’ academic achievement during the last few decades accurately. I’ve made the point before that the claim of stagnating test scores for U.S. students is demonstrably false–in every demographic group, there has been a rise in achievement (and the minority-white achievement gap is closing to boot). Shockingly, in a Slate report on Steven Brill’s new book Class Warfare, Richard Rothstein sets up Brill with this:

The case they make for their cause by now enjoys the status of conventional wisdom. Student achievement has been stagnant or declining for decades, even as money poured into public schools to improve teacher salaries, pensions, and working conditions (reducing class sizes, or hiring aides to give teachers more free time). Teachers typically have abysmally low standards, especially for minorities and other disadvantaged students, who predictably fall to the level of their teachers’ expectations. Although teachers’ quality can be estimated by the annual growth of their students’ scores on standardized tests of basic math and reading skills, teachers have not been held accountable for performance. Instead, they get lifetime job security even if students don’t learn. Brill observes a union-protected teacher in a Harlem public school bellowing “how many days in a week?,” caring little that students pay him no heed and wrestle on the floor instead.

Protecting this incompetence are teacher unions, whose contracts prevent principals from firing inadequate (and worse) teachers. The contracts also permit senior teachers to choose their schools, which further undermines principals’ authority. Union negotiations have produced perpetually rising salaries, guaranteed even to teachers who sleep through their careers. Breaking unions’ grip on public education is “the civil rights issue of this generation,” and some hard-working, idealistic Ivy Leaguers and their allies have shown how.

And then knocks him down with:

Central to the reformers’ argument is the claim that radical change is essential because student achievement (especially for minority and disadvantaged children) has been flat or declining for decades. This is, however, false. The only consistent data on student achievement come from a federal sample, the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Though you would never know it from the state of public alarm about education, the numbers show that regular public school performance has skyrocketed in the last two decades to the point that, for example, black elementary school students now have better math skills than whites had only 20 years ago. (There has also been progress for middle schoolers, and in reading; and less, but not insubstantial, progress for high schoolers.) The reason test score gaps have barely narrowed is that white students have also improved, at least at the elementary and middle school levels. The causes of these truly spectacular gains are unknown, but they are probably inconsistent with the idea that typical inner-city teachers are content to watch students wrestle on the classroom floor instead of learning.

The question we need to ask is “Is our media learning?” (to steal a phrase from Little Lord Pontchartrain).

Maybe they are . . .

Brill, God bless him, proposed to shake up public schools in America a few weeks ago in a long article in the Weekend Wall Street Journal.  His solution?  Make AFT local leader Randi Weingarten superintendent of New York’s public schools.

Actually, his story was much better than his advocacy.  But I hope to get more commentary on that proposal, and this continuing War on Education and War on Americans, soon.


Schieffer: Education is our first line of defense – CBS News Video

June 22, 2011

Bob Schieffer plugs education and worries about last week’s NAEP report on what students know about history:

Schieffer is right:  Teachers deserve better pay, and that’s probably the quickest and best solution to get our kids up to snuff on history.

And history is our first line of defense.  Minutemen at Lexington and Concord knew why they were fighting, and fought to victory as a result.  Don’t our kids deserve as good an education today?

[I’m posting this on Wednesday — the YouTube version had only 54 views when I did.  Spread the word, will you?]


Education reforms working? Poverty, poor test results correlate in national study. What could it mean?

February 27, 2011

More from Greg Laden’s blog that deserves your attention, and a much wider audience.

The Science component of “The Nation’s Report Card” was released today and clearly indicates that we have moved one step closer as a nation in two of our most important goals: Building a large and complacent poorly educated low-pay labor class, and increasing the size of our science-illiterate populace in order to allow the advance of medieval morality and Iron Age Christian values.

The plan to sabotage the middle class, kill teachers unions and keep most Americans stupid, is working.

That was the plan, right?

Pay no attention to that teapot tempest in Wisconsin.  Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.  You are getting sleepy, very, very sleepy . . .

Get the facts:

Teachers, compare your class results:


Progress? Latest education assessment scores

September 26, 2007

Scores from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) were released officially yesterday.

Education Week said:

Fourth grade math scores on NAEP, called “the nation’s report card,” rose from 238 to 240 from 2005 to 2007, while 8th grade performance climbed from 279 to 281, both on a 500-point scale. The 2007 NAEP results were released today.

Those gains continued an overall upward trend in NAEP math scores in both grades that dates to the early 1990s, while reading scores have been more stagnant over that time. While the gains in math were smaller than in some previous testing cycles, they were still statistically significant, as were the increases in reading.

“It shows that the public attention to math instruction and professional development of teachers is having a positive impact,” said James Rubillo, the executive director of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, in Reston, Va. The movement for stronger standards that dates to the 1980s “has brought math and reading to the forefront of attention,” he said.

In reading, the subject that has seen the greatest investment of federal and state education spending over the past several years, 4th graders’ scores have risen from 219 to 221, also on a 500-point scale, since 2005. Eighth graders’ average mark increased from 262 to 263, which was a statistically significant gain, though that test score dipped slightly from the NAEP reading test given five years ago.

Two point gains on a 500 point scale sound measly to me. That’s less than 1%, after five years of a program that should have produced much more significant gains.

Is the No Child Left Behind Act badly misnamed?

Perhaps, instead of spending money on testing and forcing teachers to teach to the test or else, we should try putting some money into getting the best teachers, by providing significant pay raises, and put more money into providing the resources teachers need to make their classrooms successful — books, projectors, software, film, video, grading machines, classroom tools, classroom supplies (paper and pencils), preparation time, and parental involvement.

Other resources:


%d bloggers like this: