Monday, February 22, 2010

Teacher Effectiveness - As Defined By A Bunch of People Who Have Never Taught

It's another news day, friends.  On Friday, I wrote about the INeffectiveness that is the reality of the teacher evaluation process for many of us.  (Unless of course, those evaluations are exercises in judging our ability to a) be patient with administrators, b) correct other people's grammar errors or c) not run screaming from the building despite an unusual amount of duress. Then they are right on target.)

On a related note, I perused this article today.  It's about Obama's plan to stress more competition for teacher grants aimed at improving teacher effectiveness and quality.  (Phew - that's a mouthful!)  (Imagine saying all that if you WEREN'T an educator already immersed in that dialogue and those ideas.) (Wait.  What?  A bunch of people who AREN'T teachers did just that?  You're shitting me...)

This article gives a nice summary of some of Obama's plans for the upcoming fiscal year as they relate to education and issues of teacher quality.  Let's see...here are some highlights ('cuz you know we teachers love us a bullet pointed list):

* $950 million is going to be invested into a Teacher and Leader Innovation Fund that will support competitive grants for finding ways to promote and compensate educators and provide them with an incentive to teach in more challenging school settings.   (Hmmmm...I wonder if a teacher is in charge of this fund...or even present for it's meetings...or maybe sits on some sort of governing board.  My guess is no.  So, I'm wondering how this will play out exactly.)

* $405 million to support various pathways into teaching - including the Teacher Quality Partnerships grant program (which I need to read more about...hey, I don't know it ALL), the Transition to Teaching alternative certification program and Teach for America (about which I have an opinion or two...). Granted, these alternative cert programs would need to compete with one another for funding which would hopefully weed out some of their bulllshit, but whatever.  I'm kind of with the president of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education when I say that these options severely downplay the importance of colleges for teacher education.  And in my opinion, this only furthers the idea that you don't need to be super smart, just have good intentions, a love of children and a few hours of classroom observation time.  An idea which is offensive and wrong.  (But maybe that's just my thousands of dollars in school loans and impending PhD talking...)

Here's my favorite part of the article.  Mr. Hirsch of the New Teacher Center wonders,

"How do we take these ideas and move them from federal government to state government, to districts and schools, to teachers and into practice?  If we look at it as a game of 'telephone,' there are a lot of places where the messages can get miscommunicated."

Gee, I wonder if a few teachers were up there at the "top", if maybe we wouldn't see things a little differently?  Or maybe, if we admitted that a top down structure (with the government at the top and TEACHERS AT THE BOTTOM) just isn't working....Teachers on top?  Crazy idea...and kind of pornographic sounding, but you get my point.

But the JUICIEST PART of this article lies in the comments.  Oh the comments!  My hat is off to the brave, articulate and teacher-centered souls who wrote in with their thoughts.  To sum it up, they kind of threw a big middle finger at this whole plan by wondering why teachers alone, and their effectiveness, are continuously named as the single biggest problem with America's public schools.

These individuals point out factors such as poverty, emotional issues, drug abuse, and less-than-fabulous parenting.  You know, little stuff like that.

Bravo!!

And if I may throw in my two cents...I think if we are going to start measuring and judging teacher effectiveneness in new ways that are tied into our potential compensation, then methinks it is also time to LET TEACHERS ACTUALLY TEACH INSTEAD OF NUMBING THEIR BRAINS AND SENSE OF POSSIBILITY WITH SCRIPTED, "TEACHER PROOF", "SCIENTIFICALLY PROVEN" CURRICULUM.

(Was I yelling?)

Basically, if you want to see how good I am, at least trust me to do my job and allow me the freedom to meet the needs of all my students in the ways that I know are best for them. Stop telling me what to do, how to do it, and when I should be doing it and then blaming me when it doesn't always work every single time.  Because a good teacher in one environment can't be replicated and reproduced across a million contexts like a robot.  The same goes for good teaching.

Mimi out. *throws microphone to the floor and walks away in fabulous high heels*

8 comments:

Ginger Snaps said...

I especially enjoyed the part where someone said they should start weeding out teachers based on student performance! WHAT?? They can't be serious!

I mean, this is all well and good for a normal, non Title-I schools and all, but when your poverty stricken-maybe-didn't-get-breakfast-got-slapped-around-before-they-came-to-school show up (or not), how are they expected to perform at the proficient level on those tests.

When you have severe behaviors problems impeding the learning of the rest of your friends...How is that fair? When you have parents who don't give a shit about their kids education, how is it my job to take on that whole responsibility?

I am just baffled. People have no idea what it's like to teach in a classroom where 97 % of the students are severely underprivileged and a smaller percentage malnourished. People have no idea what it's like to deal with students who have no respect for you or other students in their classroom.

On another note, there were some good intiatives and ideas, but that's all they are.

Kim D. said...

Basically, if you want to see how good I am, at least trust me to do my job and allow me the freedom to meet the needs of all my students in the ways that I know are best for them. Stop telling me what to do, how to do it, and when I should be doing it and then blaming me when it doesn't always work every single time. Because a good teacher in one environment can't be replicated and reproduced across a million contexts like a robot. The same goes for good teaching.

You completely took the words right out of my mouth. Now, if only I had tenure and could say the same thing to the powers that be at my school. *sigh*

It's good to commiserate with you though. :) Thanks.

luckeyfrog said...

I want to see President Obama spend a week in my school. I want him to see not only the challenges we face, but also the impact that extra money is making.

Our district has put almost all Title I funds and some stimulus money into putting two teachers (or a teacher and aide) in every room. In general, class sizes are small anyway.

Throwing money at a problem isn't the best way to solve it, but I feel like we need MORE teachers in urban settings- not better teachers, usually.

Stu said...

Here's an idea...Make a Teacher US Secretary of Education!

Why on Earth we allow someone without any training in Education, without experience in teaching - in essence, without any education credentials - to be the US Secretary of Education is beyond me. But we've done it twice in the last 5 years Margaret Spellings (B.A. Political Science) claimed that she was qualified because she was a mom and Duncan (B.S. Sociology) never even attended a public school...hmmm...have I said that before?

Of course, being an educator doesn't guarantee that you'd be a good secretary of education...Rod Paige comes to mind there.

Teachers are the ones picked on because the politicians don't want to take the blame for allowing 25% of our children live in poverty - the largest percentage in the industrialized world. If they acknowledged the truth...that poverty was the biggest obstacle to school success...then they'd have to do something about it. Much easier to scapegoat the teachers...

*Bends over, grabs ankles*

Yeah...beat me again.

Laura Swain said...

I don't know what the big fuss is about. Obviously a totalitarian educational policy requiring billions of dollars to be dumped into committees and programs is the best solution to fix the problem we have with our TEACHERS.

OBVIOUSLY it's the federal government's job to raise kids, and not families.

OBVIOUSLY we've got to crank out national standards and more mandates and more tests to compete with other countries, like China, whose policy is "hells NO your mentally retarded child cannot come to our school."

OBVIOUSLY every child in the USA has the exact same strengths, needs, and abilities in general, so let's just quit our bellyaching and reduce every child's learning experience to a federally funded script.

WTF.

Government, get out the way and let us do our jobs.

Lea said...

Sooooo...they're going to make teachers compete for grants to get paid more to work in schools which are most likely targets for turn-around, which means that all the teachers will then be fired? Yeah, sign me up for that competition.

I'll agree to being paid based on the performance of my students just as soon as politicians are paid based on the health and well-being of their constituents.

LM said...

I can't access the Teach for America article you referred to, but I am reading the new book Teaching as Leadership. I am also reading Dumbing Us Down The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling. I've only read the intro and the first rubric on the Teaching book, but am more than halfway through the second. If you haven't read it, I recommend it. I should be planning for the next 8 weeks instead of doing "adult reading" though.

Okay, the word I need to type in is HORNIZED? hahahah

Rachel said...

I pretty much love everything said by you and the comments above me.

This is something I've been saying for awhile: It really gets my goat that people who are making decisions for education don't have ANY pedagogy background at all (as Stu has already pointed out). Hells bells, even the SCHOOL BOARDS are reflective of this issue. I would love to run for school board one day...but I would not have the money or time to put into a campaign as a part-time job (you know, because I'll still need to be teaching. You get the idea. It just riles me.

And honestly, I know this kind of politicking will eventually drive me out of public schools. Part of me feels like a poseur for that, but then the other part of me says to hell with the flaggelation I would inflict upon myself by remaining in The System. It's sad, because I know The System needs many and good teachers.

Who's Peeking?