Friday, June 06, 2014

Another Column Blaming Teachers

A guest column in the Seattle Times today spread the weird idea that "Teacher Quality" is important and should be the focus of the school district's efforts to close the achievement gap.


Mary Griffin said...


I'm not sure that the editorial criticizes teachers. In fact, what they are proposing is sort of the antithesis to the Teach For America model.

I think the editorial is flawed in that it offers no evidence that throwing money at experienced teachers to work in high-poverty schools results in better academic performance. From what I can tell in my informally conducted research, it does work:

The authors of this editorial are researchers. They should have given us a little more meat and little less bun on this editorial.

mirmac1 said...

Two are former TFA.

Mary Griffin said...

@mirmac1, well that's certainly an interesting point, given that the example of statistics that they cite is that students receiving free or reduced price lunch in Seattle’s seventh-grade math classrooms are more than twice as likely as their higher-income peers to be taught by a teacher with fewer than two years of experience (about 12 percent versus 5 percent of students). If they are using experience as evidence of teacher quality, that would pretty much eliminate TFA staff as high quality teachers.

Anonymous said...

Can someone create a thread on the TIERS recommendation and extension to the SEA-CAP. Also I heard Patu wants less SPED but TIERS wants more child find activity. That will mean more of those pesky dyslexic trouble makers (sarcasm)

The deadline won’t move, Gill said, just because planning is taking longer than it should. Ya right!


Mary Griffin said...

@Michael, if you post in Friday open thread, I will respond to you there.

Anonymous said...

@MaryGriffin: What do you mean, "it offers no evidence?" Why it's Dan Goldhaber from UW Bothell, and he says "Surely." Therefore, it's so!

To me, the article is using "native advertising" techniques. The authors state: "A new report by CEDR shows...." as though some objective, new report says it. In fact, Goldhaber is the director of CEDR.

So, to be fair and honest, he would have said, "OUR new report shows..." When challenged, the authors will say "Oops. Thank you. Sorry about any confusion it caused you. And feign other concerns."

What they will never admit is "Damn. You caught us."

My red flags go up whenever I hear "research shows" because most educational "research" falls so far short of any scientific or empirical standards, while commonly equating correlation with causation, it's virtually worthless as a resource.

Another former TFA lead think tank that allows it's members to say they "remain in the field of education." Just not the "field" kids and real teachers exist on.


Anonymous said...

@Mirmac1: That's it? That article provides what military pilots call a "target rich environment." WSDWG

Charlie Mas said...

Two of the "researchers" who wrote the guest column are former Teach for America corps members.

In this column they advocate for the exact opposite of what Teach for America does: send the least trained teachers into the neediest classrooms and then pulls them out after just two years. So where is the statement of opposition to Teach for America from these two?

Anonymous said...

I agree they haven't proved their claim that differentiated compensation is helpful... but why is it a "weird idea" that teacher quality is important?

My own experience, and that of my two kids, has been that it's incredibly important.

Patrick said...

Anonymous at 10:43 PM posted I agree they haven't proved their claim that differentiated compensation is helpful... but why is it a "weird idea" that teacher quality is important?

I'm not seeing teacher quality referred to as a "weird idea" by anyone here, Anonymous. The difficulty is the ed reformers who repeat "teacher quality" as a mantra as if it was the ONLY thing that mattered: Martin-Morris advocating for the cheapest textbook because they're just shiny things and only teacher quality matters, TFA claiming that their teachers are quality teachers (without evidence) and that career teachers are not, advocates of teacher evaluation by standardized tests claiming that test scores measure quality.

Teacher quality is extremely subjective from one student to another, depending on personalities that mesh. Teacher quality is hard to do anything about except in the long term -- if the top graduates from college competed for places in master's in teaching programs as aggressively as for places in, say engineering programs or biz school or medical school, that would be great I guess, but that won't happen unless teaching degrees lead to the same order of magnitude of career earnings.

Emphasizing teacher quality rather than other things they CAN do something about in the short term gives Districts and state legislatures a license to do spend no money on other things that do produce good results: anti-poverty programs, medical care, nutrition programs, early intervention for struggling students, good textbooks, a secure environment while at school and on the way to school, buildings that are maintained. Heck, Jane Addams this year had false fire alarms at least once a day for just about the whole school year. Every fire alarm pretty much loses 45 minutes of teaching -- say one class period for middle school. The equivalent of losing a month of school, or even worse since it's unscheduled. Should PTSAs need to have a bake sale to fix a building's systems so it doesn't set the alarm off constantly??

The ed biz firms -- TFA, textbook publishers, charter schools -- make an unspoken deal with legislatures. They all claim to have the magic bullet and if they just get 5-10 years to try it out thoroughly they'll give great results, so if the legislature just creates a market for their snake oil, the companies can contribute to the legislator's reelection and the legislators can claim to be Doing Something About Education. By the time each fad has been proven to be a ridiculous failure, the proponents have either retired or moved on to the next fad and everyone has forgotten about the last one.