"The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves." -- John Adams

"No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution." -- Indiana Constitution Article 1, Section 6.

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilisation, it expects what never was and never will be...nor can they be safe with them without information. Where the press is free and every man able to read, all is safe." – Thomas Jefferson

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Fire the principals and the teachers...part 2

It's popular these days to demand accountability...but as we've discussed before it's not accountability for the banks who brought the country to the brink of economic collapse...it's not accountability for the insurance companies who decide who lives and who dies by denying coverage when it doesn't fit their "bottom line"...it's not accountability for the politicians who involved us in a war so we could be protected from weapons of mass destruction which didn't exist. No...it's accountability for teachers because they haven't solved the problems of child poverty, hunger and lack of medical care.

This time it's Michelle Rhee, Chancellor of the D.C. Public Schools who, like Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, didn't attend a public school, though who, unlike Duncan, actually taught for three years as a recruit of Teach For America. On the other hand she has a Bachelor's degree in Government and a Master's degree in Public Policy. She taught for a few years, but she's not an educator.

During Rhee's short tenure (a little over three years) as Chancellor of D.C. Public Schools she's done her share of firing and hiring, then firing some more. But last week she outdid herself by firing 241 teachers as well as a handful of others including librarians, custodians, counselors and others. Most of the teachers were fired based on the new IMPACT Evaluation process, a "growth model" process using student test scores.

The National Academy of Sciences issued a report late last year which, among other things, had this to say about "growth models,"
BOTA (the Board on Testing and Assessment of the National Research Council) has significant concerns that the Department’s proposal places too much emphasis on measures of growth in student achievement (1) that have not yet been adequately studied for the purposes of evaluating teachers and principals and (2) that face substantial practical barriers to being successfully deployed in an operational personnel system that is fair, reliable, and valid.
The report was sent to Secretary Duncan on October 5, 2009. Perhaps he didn't have time to read it or share it with school leaders throughout the nation. The Secretary of Education is probably too busy to share important research like this with school systems and states (sarcasm intended).

The questions are clear. Should kids be evaluated by test scores only? Should teachers be evaluated by student test scores? Does the "growth model" make a difference? The answer to these questions is "no" if you look at the research, but Duncan, Rhee, et al, don't care much for research unless they're using it to bash teachers for not using "Scientifically Based teaching techniques."

The public has accepted that students can be evaluated by one standardized test and that teachers can be evaluated by the standardized tests of their students.

As long as pundits (like Duncan and Rhee) proclaim that teachers are awful because -- look at the test scores -- we'll have this problem. As long as people keep blaming the "unions" for the poverty that the government won't address (the US has the highest level of childhood poverty in the developed world) then we'll continue to have this problem. As long as we let non-educators define the problem as being "test scores" we'll have this problem.

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