September 6, 2010: Re "Teachers blast Times for rankings," Aug. 30, "School board ends evaluation silence," Sept. 1, and "Group urges new teacher evaluations," Sept. 2
Ranking teacher effectiveness by student test scores ignores the fact that education isn't a factory producing robots.
Teachers are not only dealing with varied skill sets and IQ's; they're dealing with a human being whose life experiences vary greatly and can't be neatly measured. Take into account that a teacher is dealing with students who may not have a breakfast to eat, may have been abused, may have been born to a drug addict, may not have any school supplies at home, may not have supervision at home, may not speak English fluently — the list is endless.
Maybe we should incorporate a "No Teacher Left Behind" policy, where we give all of our teachers the training they need and provide the salary necessary to draw excellent personnel and the monetary backing teachers and schools need for materials to accomplish their goals.
United Teachers Los Angeles expresses concern that the database will cause chaos at school sites, as parents scramble to get their children into classes taught by teachers labeled as "effective."
Instead of being concerned, UTLA should be welcoming parents to take a proactive part in their children's education. Until UTLA makes available to parents a superior resource for teacher evaluations, it has only itself to blame (and The Times to thank) for the publication of teacher rankings.
Reading the letters from teachers opposed to ratings based on test scores was illuminating. To a person, they acted as if The Times were espousing a system in which the only criteria would be student test scores, when in fact such scores would only be part of a system that includes peer reviews (real ones, not just showing up in class for five minutes) and other criteria.
It just goes to show that some teachers can be incredibly self-righteous about themselves when they're held to account. It seems to me these are the very teachers most in need of evaluation.
I have to agree with the teachers. As a matter of fact, I think this whole issue of putting the weight of student grades and performance almost entirely on the shoulders of teachers is unfair.
I made the honor roll in high school. My teacher for my electronics class was my favorite because of the excitement he brought to the course. My other teachers were quite capable. But I worked long and hard for the grades I received.
By the noise being made by those who are placing so much responsibility for grades on the teachers, you'd think I hardly lifted a finger.
I taught gifted and talented children at a school for advanced studies. The students commonly entered my class classified as advanced, with the majority scoring in the 90th percentile.
I wonder if my "value-added" analysis rating would reflect the fact that I was able to maintain their levels of excellence, which was a commendable feat.
Teachers have their side of the story: Parents who don't attend teacher-parent conferences. Parents who drop kids at school late, after the bell. Parents who leave the TV blaring at night instead of reading to their children. Parents who don't take their children to the local public library. Parents who don't help with homework or pay attention to student assignments.
I thought it was just a publicity ploy and that you would do the right thing in the end. I imagined that you would publish the teacher rankings anonymously, while giving all teachers access to their own scores. I knew you wanted to sell newspapers, but I didn't think you would go so far as to humiliate people.
Teachers complaining about having to "teach to the test" seem to prefer not to recognize one simple fact: The questions on a test are simply the tip of the iceberg built on a mountain of underlying information.
If, instead of focusing on test-taking strategies or superficial coverage of sample questions, the teacher takes probable test questions and has students explore the full depth of the question, those students are far more likely to do well on the tests.
Thomas B. Franklin
We teachers appreciate all you do to make us better teachers and more respected in our field. When you're done publishing our successes and failures, would you please do the same for principals?
Every year, UTLA does principal surveys, evaluated by the teachers. Please publish those.
Just as the school board and The Times believe that parents ought to know about their children's teachers, they should also know about the one who makes the most important decisions for their children's school.
Sadly, teachers now have to practice defensive instruction. Based on my 42 years of experience, this is what I recommend:
At the beginning of the school year, invite the principal and the reading specialist (preferably not your best friend) to come into your room to give a diagnostic test to each child. At the end of the year, do the same to show that your students have made good progress.
In this way, if someone gives you a bad evaluation based on the standardized test, you'll have other testing as evidence of progress.
Linda Mele Johnson
My 10 years of being evaluated as a teacher, then 20 years doing formal and informal evaluation of teachers as a principal, then five years of supervising student teachers for a university left me with a couple of less-than-profound but nonetheless valid conclusions.
The first is that some folks were just not meant to be teachers. They are easy to spot and should be encouraged to seek employment in another field before the end of their second year.
The second is simply this: The really great teachers are born, not made. What they bring to the classroom cannot be taught; it cannot even be defined. They too are easy to spot.
For the last 30 years I have watched the Los Angeles Unified School District mismanage funds and deny responsibility for the abysmally low test scores and dropout rates of its students.
It's time for a change of administrators and teachers who are not doing their jobs, which is to educate the students.
Kathy Hess Fisher
Administration, administration, administration. Teacher effectiveness directly mirrors administrative effectiveness.
L.A. Unified has poor-performing schools in part because administrators are not supportive of staff, do not deal effectively with students, cower to parents of problem students and refuse to identify poorly performing teachers with the requirement of improvement. Teachers lack the support needed to effectively run their classrooms.