How to hold teachers accountable? Find out exactly what they are doing

Posted: September 30, 2010 in Uncategorized

According to the Baltimore Sun article, City schools, teacher’s union to end linking pay to years of employment, “A new pay structure could be easily married to the state’s new laws and regulations that require 50 percent of teacher evaluations to be based on student achievement.” Some teachers are enthusiastic about this change because they work hard to improve the quality of education for their students, and they feel their efforts should be rewarded. I entirely agree that better teachers should receive rewards for adequately preparing students for the future.

My problem, which readers may already know if they are familiar with my blog, is that standardized tests do not provide enough information to go by. We should not place such great emphasis on which bubbles students filled in or didn’t fill in. Students may be English as a Second Language Learners, students may move frequently and their scores are not a reflection of the teacher’s efforts, or students may not have enforced bedtimes and they are working on too little sleep. Students may be distracted because they just ended a relationship or they may have test anxiety. I could continue to provide more examples of why students’ scores may not reflect the progress that is taking place in the classroom.

How do we monitor progress then? Deciding that a certain method is not going to work is easy, but providing a working solution is much more difficult. Anybody can complain. Few provide solutions that are not vague. We have been bombarded with education reform conversation lately and the topic has gained a lot of media attention. Unfortunately, only the wealthy are given the opportunity to speak and the advice they are giving is too abstract to be helpful. For example, one new education spokesperson is the musician John Legend. Several comments he made on NBC include, “These kids are our kids.”

“Get involved. Politically get involved.”

“Go to school and tutor.”

We need more details. What do those quotes even mean? The average person is not qualified to just show up and start tutoring a kid. Teaching a subject, such as reading, is very complex and involves much more than simply reading with a child. John Legend’s advice sounds inspirational, but it’s not really helpful because it’s not descriptive enough.

I’ve decided that I’m going to share exactly what I’m working on with my students, including student examples, in my next blog. Then, I’m going to ask them for their feedback on how they think the lessons are going, and I’m going to display that as well. I won’t hide behind vague statements.

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