Sunday, July 26, 2009

Off To The Races

Today's major Sacramento paper provides dueling quotes from Si Se Puede, the president of the California Teachers Association, and Jack O'Connell, state Superintendent of Public Instruction, regarding the Race To The Top funds which California cannot receive from the federal government unless it changes Section 44662 of state ed code.

California teachers are not opposed to tying teacher evaluations to student scores, said David Sanchez, president of the California Teachers Association. He said, however, that the union would never agree to merit pay or tying student achievement to salaries.

Actually, that's news to me. I don't recall that I've ever heard a CTA president say that the union doesn't oppose tying teacher evaluations to student scores. I wonder who insisted that Section 44662 be put into ed code, if not the CTA.

The Race to the Top funds are part of the $100 billion in stimulus funds directed to education. Duncan said the funds would go to 10 to 20 states that can serve as models of innovation. Applications for the funds will be available in October and due in December. The first round of awards will be given in March.

O'Connell said California will apply.

That signals a change to ed code; I can't believe the CTA would sit on the sidelines on this. Could be fun to watch the bloodletting.


Mrs. C said...

I'm a little worried, Darren. I don't "get" why student achievement and teacher salaries have to be tied. I'm the first one to be critical of public schools, but my two-year-old "Woodjie" is non-verbal autistic.

I'm not sure he's gonna score so hot on a test in four years. Will teachers just figure him for a lost cause and concentrate on the kids that are ALMOST proficient?

Sort of defeats the purpose.

maxutils said...

As I've put forth before, I would love to have merit pay in place -- but student performance has almost no relationship to teacher quality.

Darren said...

Mrs. C, I don't know how anything related to special education is going to be handled. Heck, they haven't even *talked* about changing the law yet.

And Max, did you say that just to prod me? I'm not gonna bite, except to say that usually you do so much better.

Mr. W said...

I used to work at UPS and our bonuses and pay were based upon performance, which is good.

Teacher merit pay can't work. Simply because when it comes down to it teachers have zero control over their student, minus the 1 a day they see them.

At UPS we saw our employees for about 5 - 8 hours a day and if they weren't cutting it, you wrote them up & started the process to fire them.

What can a teacher do? Call home? That might not work. Try and kick them out? Then how is that fair to the teacher that gets him/her?

While I won't go as far as to say there is zero relationship between student performance and teacher performance, I will say it's not as high as most think.

I come from a school where our API is over 860, if we were to take our entire staff to let's say a downtown LA school, would we be as successful? I think we all know the answer there.

Darren said...

I grant that teaching is part science and part art. Is there nothing we can do to measure teacher performance, however? I don't care if you succeed as a teacher because of the "science" part or the "art" part, just get kids to learn. Is there *no* way to measure the impact of a teacher on student learning, not even "value added"?

There certainly is no good way to measure it without having some repercussions for the student as well. That strikes me as being as obvious as the sunrise.

allen (in Michigan) said...

Of course there are ways to measure teacher performance but the self-referential complaints expose the shortcoming of the scheme which isn't that teacher skill can't be measured but that, as far as I can see, it's being proposed that only teacher performance be measured.

If all the professionals in the organization don't have incentives that coordinate to advance the organizations goals then providing incentives to the folks at the bottom of the organizational pyramid, the teachers, is useless. If principals and other administrative personnel don't have performance goals then no one ought to. That's the current situation and teacher performance measurement probably wouldn't be an issue if the public weren't running out of patience with all the excuses for the lousy results of the system.

maxutils said...

The greatest impediment to public education is that teacher performance cannot be quantified. If it could be, we'd have better teachers.

allen (in Michigan) said...

Of course teacher performance can be quantified.

If student performance can be quantified then teacher performance can most assuredly be quantified as a function of student performance. So it's not so much a matter of trying to measure the unmeasurable as it is a matter of measuring that which wasn't previously worth measuring.

But like I wrote above, if everyone in the organization isn't being measure for performance then measuring the people at the bottom of the hierarchy is a worthless exercise. If teachers are going to be graded then principals and other administrators have to be graded and using criteria that are clearly aligned with means by which the teachers are being graded.

maxutils said...

Allen, I don't think we disagree that much -- I just don't think you can put a number on a teacher. That said, I think everyone knows who the good ones are. It's just difficult to translate that into a legally binding salary schedule.

maxutils said...

And Darren, I wasn't just prodding. Good teachers with poor students will do badly; bad teachers with good students will do well. I was almost fired in my second year of teaching for having the audacity to fail about 50% of my students in English, simply because they would not read, nor do any homework. I tried everything, but the community was so used to low standards that it actually came to a school board vote. Thankfully, two of my students who were enjoying considerable success at the high school level, perhaps due to my ministrations, spoke at the meeting. I won, 3-2. It would be great if student performance were unassailable, but it's just not.