August 24, 2010

If Teachers Are Professionals, Their Performance Should Be Measurable

Justin Katz

Veronique de Rugy points to an L.A. Times article analyzing students' test scores — against their own prior achievements — to determine the educational value added (or not) by third- through fifth-grade teachers. Here are two findings that give a pretty good flavor (which, overall, Anchor Rising readers will find unsurprising):

* Although many parents fixate on picking the right school for their child, it matters far more which teacher the child gets. Teachers had three times as much influence on students' academic development as the school they attend. Yet parents have no access to objective information about individual instructors, and they often have little say in which teacher their child gets.

* Many of the factors commonly assumed to be important to teachers' effectiveness were not. Although teachers are paid more for experience, education and training, none of this had much bearing on whether they improved their students' performance.

Where the school matters, I'd suggest, is in its ability — and structural motivation — to ensure that teachers succeed in their mission. That means a stronger hand in dealing with employees, on the one side, and a direct and rapid relationship between the school's success and its revenue.

Consider charter schools: Those representatives of the public school establishment who support charters will agree that one of their benefits is as "laboratories for best practices," as the jargon goes, but they clearly aren't controlled experiments. That is, the school doesn't have to explain what practice it intends to test, with the state requiring it to keep all other practices (such as union contracts) intact, and with a plan to transmit successful strategies to the broader education system. Rather, the "laboratories" are meant to sink or swim and, if they swim, to increase the pressure on unions and administrators to reform.

It's a fool's project and a delay, as indicated by the fact that nobody should be surprised that some L.A. teachers are better than others and that the quality of the teacher affects the advancement of the student. That such experiments are a delay to necessary reform is evident, first, in the fact that parents flock to these more-accountable schools when given the opportunity and, second, in the fact, noted by de Rugy, that California teacher union thugs are boycotting the L.A. Times.

Comments, although monitored, are not necessarily representative of the views Anchor Rising's contributors or approved by them. We reserve the right to delete or modify comments for any reason.

I'm with you on the concept, but teaching is an art. Is any art measureable?

There is also a science to teaching, but aren't there just too many confounding variables to pinpoint the teacher's accuracy.

There is one sure-fire way to know if a teacher is doing well. Teachers will always tell you that there is no way to measure them, but I guarantee you that they can measure how good a teacher is with just one question.

Posted by: Patrick at August 24, 2010 8:07 PM

I think it would be far more appropriate to evaluate teachers multiple times throughout the year, unannounced. It only takes 10-15 minutes to determine whats going on in a classroom. If standardized test are to be used to determine a teacher's effectiveness.... it should be required that students pass the test to move to the next grade. BTW...take a look at the NECAP tests. How can you expect students to do well on a test that has so many grammatical errors?

Posted by: Glockster at August 24, 2010 8:15 PM

I only check here once a month and it is post like this that remind me why.

I wonder what a 2 month fast will bring?

Posted by: Pat Crowley at August 24, 2010 9:20 PM

Two observations, Mr. Crowley:

1. I'm not sure that attracting your readership is crucial to our mission, here.

2. It's been remarkably common for you to comment within hours of my anti-teacher-union posts about how infrequently you read the site.

Posted by: Justin Katz at August 24, 2010 9:30 PM

Boycotted by Crowley?That's about as bad as NOT stepping in fresh dog poop.

Posted by: joe bernstein at August 26, 2010 7:39 PM
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