There is nothing more depressing than realizing that any change that might be good will likely come AFTER your child ages out of elementary, middle or high school. Not to say that we don't do things for the greater good or the future greater good but as a parent, you want for your child now. Of course, we are told that change needs to happen now but the reality is what it might or might not produce in results is years off. (Which matters not to Bill Gates or President Obama because their children are in private schools.)
All this leads to wonder about our teachers and what this change will mean. A reader, Lendlees, passed on a link to a story that appeared in the LA Times about their teacher ratings. (You may recall that the LA Times got the classroom test scores for every single teacher in Los Angeles and published them in ranked order.)
This teacher in the story, Faye Ireland, retired after 45 years. She got a commendation when she retired 3 years ago (her name misspelled on the sheet). She has awards and thank-you letters and photos from past students. I'm not sure I know why she was included but I guess the LA Times went back several years for their rankings. She got "least effective". She says:
"I know what I did; I know I enjoyed it; I know I did what was best for the kids," said Ireland, who spent 45 years as a classroom teacher.
"But 10 years from now, somebody will see my name with 'least effective' beside it and wonder 'What was that person doing in the classroom?' "
But Ireland's public outing won't help her become a better teacher. "I'm retired. What can I do about this rating?" she said. It's simply an ugly coda to what she thought was a successful and satisfying career.
Ireland has no quarrel with The Times' series or calculations. "I just wish the chart had said 'least effective in raising test scores.' That would be fair. I could live with that."
She knows that her fifth-graders' scores in her final years at Los Feliz Elementary didn't make their teacher look good.
"I remember those classes," she said. "I had only five English-speaking students" one year. "I wanted to get [the others] into regular English classes before they went to middle school."
Ireland knew that if they landed in ESL programs in middle school, they would have few chances to take challenging academic classes. "Their parents worked with me like crazy, and we got them through all the things they had to do."
By the end of each year, "every one of my students was fluent in English," she recalled. "That's what I set out to do."
In a separate column in the LA Times one teacher said this about the LA Times project:
A "public stoning," one teacher called it. She was among those we labeled "most effective," but also among teachers laid off by the school district last year.
Another teacher, though, said this:
"I've been teaching for 20 years, and this is the first time I've gotten an idea of how my students have fared in my classroom and how I am doing as a teacher," wrote Sujata Duggal Landon, a "most effective" second- and third-grade teacher.
(Even though I happy this teacher received a great rating, I have to wonder about a teacher who doesn't know how students are doing in her classroom. I guess she means after they leave it but if they remain at her school, she could always ask teachers in the higher grades how they are doing. Teachers, you tell me, am I thinking of this from the wrong direction?)
Still others said:
Second-grade teacher Juan Antonio Rodriguez "felt shocked, incredulous, saddened, embarrassed and disappointed upon seeing" his average score. "However, the bottom line is that none of this was the fault of [my] students. They deserve better.... This will certainly make me look deeper into my teaching practices."
"Please exclude the poor and minority students from my classroom data, and I can assure you that I am a highly effective teacher — but then I would not have a job," wrote Octavio Licon Gonzalez, who landed in the bottom tier, among "least effective" instructors.
"If you're going to list the names of teachers as 'least effective' then let's do the same for parents," wrote Mario Loeza, a "most effective" fourth-grade instructor. "9 out of 10 times, if you show me a student who's failing, I can show you a parent that doesn't follow through."
The columnist, Sandy Banks, ended that column like this:
A poor score may humiliate a teacher now, but the alternative — quiet mediocrity, played out in private — shortchanges students who can't afford silence.
Anyone? For me, I just can't see humiliation as a method to get the best out of anyone. Would she say that for any child? Humiliate him now because it will be better for him for the future?
What really got me started on this thread was something that PurpleWhite, SPS teacher, wrote in another thread (I paraphrase):
When the School Board and MGJ congratulated us on being board certified and we saying how wonderful it was I could tell they probably didn't know much about it, and do you really want a teacher that adjust to students needs, looks at data (but NOT the same type of data they are talking about), and doesn't go lock-step robot like with everyone in the District. A Pacing Guide - what happens if you don't match the pacing guide?
I hate being treated like a cog in a machine - and guess what - the kids see through it too, and what kind of teacher do you think they prefer? A lock-step teacher or a creative, meeting their needs teacher? I have NEVER felt so much like big-brother is watching you, so disrespected as a professional, and so much like I hurt in my Soul as I have at Alignment meetings and anything having to do with the John Stanford Center. These meetings about how good the Alignment will be Downtown have been miserable - so far I haven't found one teacher that was excited about it, and lots of us are are just torn-up about it...this may drive good teacher out of this district.
The Superintendent is fond of saying that change is hard. It is. But we have curriculum alignment, a slow but steady disintegration of our alternative schools pedagogy, MAP testing and a new teacher contract that includes student test scores as one measure for teachers.
One of those things might be okay but really, I think it's a lot for teachers to absorb over a couple of years. Just the learning curve on how curriculum alignment will work, pacing guides and MAP seem like a lot to me.
It feels like teachers may be losing a little bit of why they became teachers and that little bit might be the most important thing they have to give to students.