Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Lots of Sound and Fury...

The news was all abuzz in the last week about the connection of student test scores to teacher evaluation.  Federal law, No Child Left Behind, required testing for almost every elementary school year and 3 high stakes tests in high school in English, math and science.  Then along came Race to The Top, President Obama's contribution to the federal muddle of improving education.   In order to get Race to the Top money a state had to link student test scores to teacher evaluation.  The recommended percentage was a 50% linkage.  In the beginning, teacher unions and local school systems went along with the game to get the money.  Notably in Maryland, Montgomery County and Frederick County refused to play.  So when Maryland got 250 mil, they got zip.
But now the piper must be paid and folks are having lots of second thoughts.  Principal's are recommending a new evaluation processes, some of which do not include the linkage to testing.  In Maryland the State Board recently approved counting test scores as 20% of the teacher's evaluation.  Whatever happened to the 50%?  Reality and push back.
Now there comes a pledge by unions, the local school boards and the state school board to agree to work together to come up with a new plan.  Some principals and school systems have gone so far as to having principals and teachers establish learning objectives at the beginning of the school year and evaluate teachers based on the achievement of those objectives.  But here's the rub.  Many of those objectives are so innocuous that they would be almost impossible NOT to achieve, as in raising overall math achievement by x% without naming the measuring stick nor doing pre and post testing.
The fact is, what are all these people jumping and shouting about.  Unfortunately a teacher's evaluation has zip to do with the salary the teacher will receive each year.  That is determined by the extra degrees a person has and the years of service.  And by the way, research has shown that those extra degrees are expensive in salary but do not provide a commensurate improvement in teaching ability.  But they do look nice in the statistics of staff education.
Why don't we just start with getting rid of bad teachers.  Every principal knows who they are.  And so does every union because they are protecting them from losing their jobs.  Data seem to show that roughly 10% of all teachers are ineffective.  If the unions cared about something besides their own health and welfare benefits they would want to clean up the profession as well.  But they don't.
So the bottom line is 20%, 50% who cares about degree- it's evaluation that no one is really interested in doing anything about.  We just keep throwing up straw men to argue about.  Keeps us occupied and away from the real issues.

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