Sunday, January 13, 2013

I'm Not Sure This Is The Right Way To Act

Laws are sometimes stupid, and the stupid ones need to be changed, but unless we're willing to live with anarchy, laws should be followed until they're overturned (or at least you should risk the consequences of not following them).  I'm not sure these teachers are acting appropriately:
Teachers at a Seattle high school, in a rare boycott by educators against a standardized test, are refusing to give students a decades-old reading and math test after the city's school district decided to factor the exam into the instructors' evaluations.

The 19 teachers at Garfield High School have complained they are unable to adequately prepare students for the Measures of Academic Progress test, which was created more than 25 years ago and introduced to Seattle public schools in 2009.

The revolt by the Garfield teachers, who comprise all the instructors at the school required to give the MAP test, comes at a time of fierce political battles over teacher evaluations that has played out in cities from Chicago to Los Angeles.

The MAP test that has become a point of contention at Garfield is given at schools around the country, but is not required by Washington state.

Unlike the tests required by the state, which are the High School Proficiency Exam and the End-of-Course exams, it has no bearing on students' grades or their ability to graduate.
You want stupid? I'll give you stupid.  This year I teach two courses for which there is not a state test.  Juniors and below in my courses will take the "summative high school math" test, which covers Algebra 1, Algebra 2, and geometry topics--nothing I've taught them.  I guess if I were being evaluated on their performance, I'd have issues with that.  But refusing to give the test?  Are there no better ways of addressing that issue?  I notice that Washington is not a "right to work" state, so surely there's a powerful teachers union there--and this is exactly the type of issue a teachers union should address.

Hat tip to reader PeggyU for the link.


maxutils said...

Unions regularly oppose standardized tests, given that they are ineffectual and generally poorly designed. In this case, it sounds like they unilaterally imposed a provision to the evaluation process, based on nothing. Unless you make a standardized test be important to the students, there is no way it should be used to judge teachers. I think they are behaving entirely appropriately.

allen (in Michigan) said...

So max, how do you propose to tell the good teachers from the bad? If you don't like test then what do you like?

You are willing to stipulate to the fact that some teachers are better at teaching then others so wouldn't it be worthwhile, if you're interested in educating kids, to figure out which teachers did a good job of educating them and which teachers did a lousy job?

maxutils said...

My idea would be less popular, and less enforceable . . . but I'd have the teaching staff vote. Everyone on my staff knew who the couple of bad teachers we had were. Good teachers don't always result in good results for the kids . . .all they can do is try really hard. The single greatest component in a child's education is the parent -- and you don't hire those.

allen (in Michigan) said...

It's almost funny watching you try desperately to avoid having to come to terms with the fact of differing degrees of teaching skill.

"Almost" because of what it indicates and that's that until fairly recently teaching skill was entirely irrelevant within the public education system. Everyone on your staff might know who the lousy teachers were but so what? It's not like the district was going to do anything about it and it's not like it made a bit of difference with regard to pay or pretty much anything.

That's why you can't write four sentences about the concept of teaching skill without swerving off into excuses for lousy teachers and the lousy system that employs them.

Perry Mason said...

"laws should be followed until they're overturned"

But doesn't it usually work this way:

Laws aren't usually overturned unless people break them. Then we get discussion, deliberation, and action.

And sometimes the law doesn't get changed and the lawbreakers pay the penalty.

Anonymous said...


Would you be willing to have the parents vote?

-Mark Roulo

maxutils said...

This may be a doule post . . . but Mark, I wouldn't. Parents can still complain about teachers but there are two types they tend to complain about: the incompetent, who I guarantee you the rest of the staff knows about, and those with really tough standards . . .who wind up being among the best teachers. Parents' interests are geared towards grades . . .not necessarily learning. I know that they sometimes get it right, but they do so for the ones who would get the same result as my system. I know that's an undoubtedly unsatisfying answer, but I'm guessing Darren agrees . . .at least mostly.