This is a complicated and emotional issue for teachers, and it just got more emotional in the past 10 days with a series of articles on teacher quality published by the Los Angeles Times.
Essentially, the Times took seven years of student test data and developed what is called a “value-added” analysis to show which third- through fifth-grade teachers are making the biggest gains. The results are about to be posted on the newspaper’s website in a searchable data base by teacher name — taking transparency to a whole new level.
I appreciate how painful this may be for these L. A. teachers, and I also appreciate the fact that even the best data systems won’t tell the whole story. That’s why it’s so important to get teacher evaluation right to ensure they look at both student learning and other factors to paint a fuller picture.
Local school districts must decide in collaboration with their teachers how to share this information — how to put it in context — and how to use it in order to get better.
If the release of the scores is “painful” and “may not tell the whole story” why does Duncan support the release of the scores?
Thousands of LA teachers, with a mouse click, were branded as failures, branded with a scarlet letter (perhaps an F” for failure rather than an “A” for adulteress). Hester Prynne, the heroine of Hawthorne’s the “Scarlet Letter” was not a failure,
“Never afterwards did it quit her bosom,” Hawthorne writes. “But, in the lapse of the toilsome, thoughtful, and self-devoted years that made up Hester’s life, the scarlet letter ceased to be a stigma which attracted the world’s scorn and bitterness, and became a type of something to be sorrowed over, and looked upon with awe, yet with reverence too.”
For some the VAM grade will produce “scorn and bitterness,” the entire populace, from parents to colleagues, from kids to supervisors, can shake their finger and chant “bad teacher.”
Others will reject the stigma of a “grade,” reject the reduction of a career to a dense, unproven formula, will reject the avarice of a newspaper with an “if it bleeds, it leads” philosophy. They know that they are regarded with “awe” and “reverence” by students, parents. peers and supervisors.
Schools are complex organizations and effective school leaders create synergistic energies.
Why are some schools, with same kids, far more effective than other schools?
Effective schools are characterized by schools with strong cultures,
School cultures are complex webs of traditions and rituals that have been built over time as teachers, students, parents and administrators work together and deal with crises and accomplishments. Cultural patterns are highly enduring, have a powerful impact on performance, and shape the ways people think, act, and feel. (Deal and Peterson, Shaping School Culture: The Heart of Leadership, 1999)
None of us are in teaching to impact test scores, we are teachers to impact children. Tracy Kidder “paints education’s sacred mission,”
Good teachers and good school leaders put snags in the rivers of children passing by, and over the years, they redirect hundreds of lives. Many people find it easy to imagine unseen webs of malevolent conspiracy in the world, and they are not always wrong. But there is also an innocence that conspires to hold humanity together, and it is made up of people who can never fully know the good they have done.