Monday, December 8, 2008

Weeding out the teachers...


Houston Independent School District has been under fire lately for many reasons with this latest one taking the cake. Houston Independent School District Trustee Natasha Kamrani supports the method of identifying "great" teachers and rewarding them, while also identifying "bad" teachers who, after training are still not improving, will be terminated. This theory is very similar to what Michelle Rhee is trying to pass in Washington D.C.


Gayle Fallon, the president of the Houston Federation of Teachers aims to fight this measure. Here are some points that she makes in an article in the houston chronicle:
The proposal to terminate teachers based on value-added scores ignores numerous glitches in the system that the district has yet to solve, including but not limited to:
• HISD only has value-added scores on 3,700-4,200 teachers, or about one-third of the instructional staff.• Many teachers are in non-tested subjects, such as pre-kindergarten through second grade, special education and non-core subjects.
• Middle- and high-school-content core courses in the sciences and social studies generally do not lend themselves to a growth measure. There is no accurate measure of what the student knew entering the class, so growth is almost impossible to measure.
• The HISD value-added scores are largely based on the TAKS test. TAKS is a criterion-referenced test and is not a growth measure. Consequently, if a child enters a class reading four levels below grade level and a teacher raises him two levels, he still fails the TAKS test and his score counts against the teacher in spite of the extraordinary growth in the student's learning.
• HISD, like many urban districts with a high level of poverty, has a very high student mobility rate, with students arriving and leaving throughout the year, often in large numbers. The value-added formulas do not account or control for student mobility.
The "best" teachers that HISD claims to want to keep and reward already resent the current narrowing of the curriculum and the de-emphasis on creativity and teaching students to think and apply knowledge. A move to evaluate them solely on their standardized test scores may have the unintended consequence of driving the strongest teachers into districts that allow them to teach children rather than simply teaching a test.
I agree that it is going to be extremely hard to create a justifiable formula that will evaluate all teachers on all grade levels. However, this should not stop us from trying. Teachers should be evaulated solely on their student's test scores however they should be included in a larger mix. Allow room for error as well as creating a working growth chart so that teachers can be effective with their teaching styles. Those are my two cents....
What do you think about this new measure? Do you think it's justifiable to terminate a teacher's contract if they are not effectively teaching to their students?

2 comments:

Peach Pod said...

I work in a district that requires a standardized test for promotion of students. Teachers are partially judged on the results of this test. Dealing with students who don't speak English and/or read at an 4th grade level while being in 8th grade and/or don't have basic skills including integer math, multiplication or working with decimals is taxing and often frustrating. Add on being judge by a test that is not adjusted for population and demographic differences and you have a situation that is frankly almost impossible to handle. When school districts have these types of policies, how do they plan to attract teachers to troubled schools?

UltimateTeacher said...

You're right...it is frustrating and almost impossible. But that's why we keep showing up every morning...to do the impossible.

Low students are not going anywhere, and we all need to come together to find out how to best reach them. And by we, I mean teachers, administrators and PARENTS.

Keep fighting the good fight.