L.A. Teacher Suicide Isn't the Fault of the Los Angeles Times

On Sunday, the body of Los Angeles fifth-grade teacher Rigoberto Ruelas Jr. was found at the foot of a forest bridge. His death appears to have been a suicide. The district's teachers union swung into action, making political hay out of personal tragedy. The union is blaming his death on the Los Angeles Times, which recently published teacher effectiveness rankings on 6,000 district teachers. In the days before his death, Ruelas is said to have been troubled by the fact that he received a "less effective" ranking.

(I hesitate to write about this subject at all, precisely because I think the main story here is personal and not political. But the union has chosen Ruelas as a martyr, and is using his death to further misconceptions about how the rankings work, the ways in which they might be used, and how teachers should respond to them.)

Having never met Mr. Ruelas, I have no idea whether the Los Angeles Times feature was the precipitating factor in his suicide, nor what he was like as a teacher. In various press accounts, students describe Ruelas as a good mentor and caring man. He probably was all of those things, and much more. But there's one thing I do know about Ruelas: he wasn't doing a very good job helping his kids acquire math skills. I don't know all the reasons for that failure. As far as I can tell, he wasn't in imminent danger of being fired because of those scores. And no one is arguing that being good at helping kids learn math is the sole appropriate metric for teacherly success. But it was an important part of his job description.

Erica Jones, a fourth-grade teacher at Arminta Elementary in North Hollywood had this take on the impact of "ineffective" ratings:

"People are questioning if they are in the right field, they are questioning what they have done to help a child or hurt a child ... when you are having that internal conversation all the time and then you turn on the news or go to a movie and it's also thrown in your face your morale gets really down."

What she is describing is the proper reaction of a reasonable person to negative professional feedback. If you are doing poorly at your job—even if by only one metric out of many—it should force you think critically about whether you are in the right field and whether you are helping or hurting your customers. Any reasonable person would be saddened to discover that she was not performing well in a job that was important to her. But most people can and will resolve to do better—or get a new job. Sadly, Ruelas wouldn't be the first person to commit suicide over a professional setback. Such deaths are tragic, but not a good argument for abolishing performance reviews or Yelp.

A note: Haunting the discussion of Ruelas's death is a misunderstanding how the scores work. It's a misunderstanding purposely perpetuated by the teachers unions and other foes of data disclosure:

"Test scores are directly related to the socio-economic status of the student population," said [union official Mathew] Taylor. "The best teachers are given the toughest kids. This man had won many awards."

This point has been made in many venues, many times, but bears repeating: The scores are value-added. That means the students who passed through Ruelas's classroom had one set of scores at the beginning of the year, and other at the end. Over the last seven years, according to the data obtained by the Times, his kids' scores didn't improve much. His "less effective" rating reflected only what he brought to the kids in his classroom, not what the typical kid in the system was doing. The ranking came exclusively from what he accomplished in his year with those kids. Kids that come in tough are going to be tough to teach, but it's not wrong to still demand that they be taught.

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  • ||

    In the days before his death, Ruelas is said to have been troubled by the fact that he received a "less effective" ranking.

    Actually wouldn't he have developed a superiority complex at that point? "HA! I'm almost mediocre!"

  • ||

    I do blame the LA Times. Reading that poorly-written rag made me want to jump off a bridge several times.

  • Max||

    Just be happy, Katherine, that nobdy is publishing effectiveness ratings for right-wing propaganda sluts.

  • Max||

    ARFARFARFARFARFARFARFARFARFARFARF!!!!!!!!!!

  • MNG||

    6th graders are of course interested in this topic, so no shock to see the arfarf kid here.

  • ||

    Or Max.

  • Bow Wow||

    Arf troll is arfing.

  • ||

    I give Max a "less effective" rating for trolling. His heart is definitely in it, but the substance is lacking.

  • ||

    If only more public school teachers would follow his example.

  • ||

    Jerk. How dare you joke about the death of a man who worked with the community. You have lost what matters most in our society.

  • ||

    I lost my fame? When?

  • cynical||

    I lol'd.

  • Bow Wow||

    Fame troll is delusional.

  • Ted S.||

    Worked against the community is more like it.

  • ||

    Jerk. How dare you joke about the death of a man who worked with the community. You have lost what matters most in our society.

  • ||

    It was the 2nd post that really put Episiarch in his place.

  • trent||

    I agree, nigger.

  • Warty||

    Anono-pussy, what do you think you're accomplishing here?

  • Jack of All Threads||

    (Sept. 25) -- Two Polish neo-Nazis who were childhood sweethearts and later became skinheads have discovered what for them is a shocking family secret: They're actually Jewish.

    Pawel and Ola, identified only by their first names, are the subject of a CNN documentary about Poles rediscovering their Jewish roots generations after their ancestors hid their religious identities to escape persecution during World War II.

    A few years ago, Ola found out from Warsaw's Jewish Historical Institute that both she and her husband are technically Jews. "It was unbelievable -- it turned out that we had Jewish roots. It was a shock," she said.

    http://www.aolnews.com/world/a.....h/19648414

  • ||

    It was a shock

    Ya think?

    Well they know what they now have to do.

  • Ice Nine||

    get circumcised

  • BakedPenguin||

    I'm thinking they probably found a new peer group.

  • Drax the Destroyer||

    That reminds me of that Chappelle's Show skit where he played a blind member of the KKK, who had never been informed of his african roots. Upon revealing his face to a crowd, one of the present white power types just couldn't take it, so his head exploded. I'd expect finding out you are related to people you hate for no good reason would feel something like having your head explode.

  • db||

    Having managed people at two different companies now, I know just how personally and seriously people can take a low performance rating.

    While I recognize that there may be a distinction between public and private employees, I still feel that a performance rating is, fundamentally between an employee and his employer. I'm not sure what good is served by publishing individual employees' ratings for all to see.

    It is generally considered a grave professional mistake, and borderline unethical, for a supervisor/manager to discuss an employee's rating with the employee's peers or anyone lower in the management structure other than HR folks. Publishing a performance rating just feels wrong to me, even in the context of public employees.

  • Keyboard Commando||

    We are his employer.

  • Keyboard Commando||

    Were. Ahem.

  • Drax the Destroyer||

    That made me laugh. Yes, I'm going to hell.

  • ||

    It's generally not the best way to motivate someone, but it's not unethical at all. You have no right to privacy in your boss' opinion of you....

  • db||

    Have you ever managed people? I hope you didn't go around talking to their peers about their ratings. I bet you just rolled your eyes every time they said something in a meeting, and fake coughed to hide a "bullshit" or two.

    That would be very professional.

  • Drax the Destroyer||

    Hey, if you want to work in the public sphere and have job security and "lower" pay, you have to be accountable to those paying your bills. I suppose they could send out letters detailing teacher performance to every taxpayer but I suspect just printing it in a newpaper or on a website is loads cheaper. If you can't take the embarassment or the stress, than get out of the public "education" racket. Full disclosure: I would have probably done the same thing in his position.

  • Abdul||

    db,

    The effectiveness rating is based on metrics.

    A performance evluation is, as you said, an opinion and can be based in metics but usually isn't.

    Publishing metics is just providing facts. Publishing opinions is a different story. It's one thing if everyone knows I've been married for ten years with no recorded incidents of infidelity. However, if my spouse's opinon of me were published, it could be pretty nasty.

  • Ted S.||

    It's one thing if everyone knows I've been married for ten years with no recorded incidents of infidelity.

    Emphasis on recorded, of course. :-p

  • MNG||

    I don't think the last paragraph's value added point necessarily does the work she thinks it does. If he was given the worst kids then it would make sense that they might learn little despite what may have been excellent teaching on the guys part.

  • Arf||

    I don't buy the 'the best teachers get the toughest students' premise. (And that's an idiot way to run a public school system besides.) I don't care about awards, either.

    I care that if my kid is in his class, my kid gets results, whether my kid is dumb as a stone or the next Einstein.

  • ||

    What type of results are you expecting if your child is a low-grade moron? How interesting that one never, ever reads or hears anything about the possibility that the students might not be up to the task. There is no such thing as a stupid child. There is only a genius, failed by the system, failed by some public school teacher, failed by the paucity of pre-school programs funded by monies confiscated from the populace. We have a very good native english word for some students who do not have the mental resources necessary to the job; they are called idiots. Instead of torturing them with 12 years of relentless and brutal mediocrity, teach them to DO something, anything; lay bricks, dance, maintain landscapes, assist in the creation of art...anything. But stop crushing them under the monolith of "Education". Children do not drop out of school because they are unable to bear the unsurpassable excitement and sustained pleasure of instruction at the hands of brilliant pedagogues. They leave because it sucks. Big time.

  • ||

    How interesting that one never, ever reads or hears anything about the possibility that the students might not be up to the task. There is no such thing as a stupid child. There is only a genius, failed by the system, failed by some public school teacher, failed by the paucity of pre-school programs funded by monies confiscated from the populace.

    In 8th grade my son did well enough nationally on a standard math aptitude test that he was given an opportunity, through a program associated with John Hopkins University, to take the math SAT. He did better than 20% of graduating high school seniors. By his high school math scores you would never guess he was gifted in math. In fact, through high school he was consistently well below average barely passing.

    Roll ahead a few years. At 23 he decides he wants to go to college for guess what? Math. So I give him a pile of my math books so he can teach himself what the public school failed to. He is now going into his 3rd year as a math major having made the dean’s list every semester and on track to get his masters in 4 years.

    Then there was my son’s first science lab in high school. The fad that year was all work in every class had to be done in complete sentences. My son got all the right answers on the lab but didn’t put the answers in complete sentences. The worksheet they were given had one question with a line for the answer that only had room for one word. He got a zero on the lab. I called the teacher. The teacher proceeds to tell me that he got a zero because he didn’t put his answers in complete sentences and in the ‘real world’ he will have to write in complete sentences. I ask the teacher about the question that didn’t have enough room and he tells me ‘well a single word would be okay there’. I ask the teacher if he knows what I do for a living. He says no he doesn’t. I tell him I am an engineer and that in the ‘real world’ my employer doesn’t care if I write in complete sentences as long as I get the right answer. I also told him in the ‘real world’ bullet points, which aren’t complete sentences, are an effective means of communication. I tell him in the ‘real world’ I have a lab notebook to document all my work and rarely is anything written in complete sentences. The teacher changed my son’s grade on the lab to 100.

    I live in NY where you need a certification to teach in a public school. A person with a PHD in physics can teach in a university but can’t teach high school physics without getting a certification. To get certified you have to take some insanely stupid ‘education’ courses. OTOH if you are certified all you have to do is pass a woefully inadequate competency test to teach a subject.

    The vast majority of teachers have never worked in the ‘real world’. They have spent their whole life in the classroom. How is someone who has never spent time in the real world suppose to educate a child to prepare them for place they have never been?

  • ||

    I worked in the real world for 10 years prior to becoming a teacher. I'm ready to go back to the "real world."

    Teachers with actual career experience don't walk the line the same as one who has been through college educator preparation courses. It makes for a tense work environment between those who have, literally, never been out of the classroom for either learning or working purposes, and those who have different metrics for what a student should know and barometers for how well a student is performing.

  • Abdul||

    I'll back that up. When i was in ed school, the teachers who showed the most promise were mid-life career-changers. They typically had some sort of passion for thier original career (say, science or finance) and communicating some passion to students is the most effective teaching.

    Some of the teachers coming right out of college had a passion for "teaching" itself. While sincere and kind-hearted people, they didn't really get anyone interested in the subject matter.

  • ||

    Mostly good points, actually, but I have only one question: are you going to be the one to call up your son's boss in the 'real world' if he gets a bad performance review?

  • SIV||

    Now you know how we feel MNG.
    Stop eating that paste!

  • prolefeed||

    If they don't learn, it's not excellent teaching. "Well, I did a GREAT job of teaching them about literature -- not my fault they still can't read!"

    You're supposed to be there to get results however you can, not to stand in front of the class doing an excellent job of teaching those great kids who are not actually in that particular classroom.

    * Hands MNG a copy of "Stand And Deliver" *

  • ||

    How can I reech theese keeds?!?

  • Joe Biden||

  • Vermont Gun Owner||

    He just mees-interprated the rules.

  • ||

    I hear ya, db. Unfortunately, given the exorbitant demands and claims that the teacher's unions have been making, I think that teachers are now in a very poor position to make that argument.

    If they want to be treated like any other employee, then I'm happy to do so. Let's start by giving them the same kind of retirement package and job security that ordinary employees have.

  • MNG||

    WTF is an "ordinary employee" and why do we all have to conform to this mythical creature? Everyone should negotiate the best deal they can, be their employer public or private.

  • ||

    You're like talking to John about religion.

  • cynical||

    It isn't much of a negotiation if one side is barely aware that there is a negotiation and the other side gets to sit on both sides of the table.

  • ||

    I agree. Our public servants should negotiate the best labor agreement they can on behalf of taxpayers, rather than playing footsie with the teacher's unions in hopes of getting votes.

  • bubba||

    Are the scores scaled based on how the kids performed in prior and subsequent years?

    It's good to know that the kids sucked when he got them. But is it possible that some kids simply don't absorb education very well?

    So, while one teacher is praised for taking smart kids from 80 to 100, perhaps it's harder to take dumb gets from 60 to 65.

    Put another way. If one set of kids goes 40-50-60-70-80.

    And other goes 40-42-44-50-52, which teacher scores higher? The one who got the usual 10 point jump, or the one who generated the unusual 6 point jump?

  • prolefeed||

    Depends on the grading system, but actually the poor performing kids have more room to improve.

  • Jeff P||

    So, we have learned that Teachers cannot tell if they are bad teachers or not. And when they find out they aren't, they can't handle it.

    Name another job where both of those apply. Besides politics, I mean.

  • junior||

    "Teachers cannot tell if they are bad teachers or not."

    This means that we should decentralize the power structure and allow those closest to the teachers to decide who stays and who goes. Let their direct supervisor decide their fate.

  • EscapedWestOfTheBigMuddy||

    You'll be looking for "Unskilled and Unaware of It" (PDF link).

    Short-short version: there is a minimum competence in field X required to recognize competence in field X. People who don't have that minimum feel that they are competent even though they aren't.

    Slightly surprising bonus: people who are very competent in field X may underestimate their own level of skill because they find the things they do "easy".

    Bigger bonus: "domain-general incompetent"

  • Max||

    If they could count and grab their asses with both hands, more libertarians would probably commit suicide. Maybe being innumerate and physically awkward is an evolutionary advantage in right-wing politics.

  • Kant feel Pietzsche||

    Do you ever suffer respiratory illnesses because of your
    residence ?

  • ||

    As far as I can tell, he wasn't in imminent danger of being fired

    No kidding. Relatives of Kim Jong-il can only wish they had the job security of an LA teacher.

  • prolefeed||

    In LA school system, teachers fire themselves!

    Too soon?

  • Vermont Gun Owner||

    Too soon?

    Yeah.

  • Mike Laursen||

    To make that joke work, don't you wanna use "terminate?"

    And, yes, it would still be too soon.

  • ||

    WTF is an "ordinary employee" and why do we all have to conform to this mythical creature?

    Merely making the point that if you want an extraordinarily secure job with extraordinary benefits paid for by taxpayers, you shouldn't be surprised if people want to see your performance review.

    Everyone should negotiate the best deal they can, be their employer public or private.

    Still not getting it, are you, MNG?

  • ||

    The premise is that all children are created with equal potential. If you teach 5th grade at the start of the semester and your students are all at the 4th grade level and have equal potential for learning MAYBE. But if they have learning disabilities, or don't speak English, or parents are going through a divorce, or have no aptitude for the subject matter, or are discouraged by the competition, or can only learn using a different technique, or are at a 2nd grade level then what? Try to think back when you went through grade school. Were all of your classmates equal in potential? Why are there doctors, teachers, fry cooks, fast food clerks, military, and LA Times reporters? Is it just a skill set? If you think the grading system is 100% accurate prove it by going into the classroom and helping those kids and see the flaws in your theory.

  • junior||

    blah, blah, blah. Everybody's job has challenges, and we all have to live up to some performance metrics. What do you propose? Just hire people and keep them around as long as they don't rape a kid?

    How should we be measuring teacher performance if it isn't based on how much the kids learn?

  • Mango Punch||

    Did the L.A. Times adjust for class size or other possibly pertinant variables?

  • Mango Punch||

    It being a measure of "value added" doesn't make it a perfect measure of teacher performance at improving student competency in a subject - but it sounds like a usefull metric.

  • prolefeed||

    Class size isn't a pertinant variable, public teachers union propaganda notwithstanding. Going from a bigger average class size to a smaller average class size doesn't significantly improve educational outcomes according to statistical studies.

    Counterintuitive, but that's the deal.

  • prolefeed||

    10 seconds of googling "educational outcomes smaller class size" gets you this:

    http://www.hoover.org/publicat.....ticle/6948

    basically, if you want better bang for your educational buck, there are much more cost-effective ways to do that than throwing bodies at the problem by hiring more teachers -- better teachers works better than more teachers.

  • ||

    Is the point really supposed to be that some kids are just unteachable? Because if that's the case, I bet we could get prison guard/babysitter to warehouse them for 8 hours a day much cheaper than a union teacher.

  • ||

    They're unteachable if the teacher gets a bad performance review, but they are teachable--but only by a fantastic teacher--if the teacher gets a good performance review. Miracle worker and all that.

  • ||

    "How do I reach these
    keeds
    ?

  • ||

  • ||

    If you are doing poorly at your job—even if by only one metric out of many—it should force you think critically about whether you are in the right field and whether you are helping or hurting your customers.

    But- when the government forces your customers to come back for more of your "services" every day, no matter how incompetent you are, you lose an important part of the feedback mechanism.

  • prolefeed||

    Everyone should negotiate the best deal they can, be their employer public or private.

    So you are in favor of replacing unionized public workers with private workers, MNG? Because the best workers in a union where only seniority, not merit, counts are not able to negotiate the best deal for themselves, short of quitting and looking for a new employer.

  • Kant feel Pietzsche||

    this

  • ||

    WTF is an "ordinary employee"

    One who doesn't have tenure, you fucking retard.

  • Greer||

    According to the teachers union, it wasn't that he was a poor teacher that drove him to suicide, it was being found out that drove him to suicide.

    It would suck to be in the papers as an ineffective teacher, but I would think that you should do what the union WILL NOT do, and that is try to figure out how to improve.

  • Abdul||

    Really, how could this guy send students home with bad grades on their report cards if he couldn't handle getting a bad grade on his?

  • ||

    Brilliant, Abdul. A succinct and withering rebuke to all the upthread trolls.

  • ||

    "This point has been made in many venues, many times, but bears repeating: The scores are value-added. That means the students who passed through Ruelas's classroom had one set of scores at the beginning of the year, and other at the end."

    Without googling, is there a more in-depth description of how they calculate the ratings somewhere? Because even if you have a "before and after" delta per teacher, you'd want to compare teachers vs. other teachers with students of similar ability. Ideally you'd want to do it on a student-by-student basis. Using district-wide statistics, come up with a probability distribution of "yearly change" for each starting score.

    Then, using the distributions for each student in a teacher's class, gauge how well that teacher has done vs. the students' "expected" performance.

    For instance, a student who scored "perfect" on the exam would have a zero probability of improving. His expected delta would actually be negative. His teacher, then, shouldn't be penalized if that student's score decreases by *less* than the expected amount. If that happens, the teacher should be considered to have done a good job, despite that student's score actually decreasing.

    I very much suspect, though, that the system for determining the ratings isn't sophisticated to capture this sort of thing. In which case the teachers may have a valid gripe. (Even if they're griping for the wrong reasons.)

  • not the real jb||

    It's worse than that. VAMs do not adequately account for measurement error. In most states, the +/- between two tests would include the expected gain. A recent report cautioned against the use of VAMs.

  • ||

    To be clear: I feel like there ought to be some way to properly use standardized test scores to evaluate teacher performance. If it were done right. Without having fully researched the matter, my initial response is that its probably not being "done right" in this instance.

  • ||

    There are several reasons why I do believe that the Los Angeles Times is at least partially, if not largely, responsible for loss of Rigoberto Ruelas. They have published a series of articles focused on the creation of a database that ranks teacher effectiveness based on one sole aspect of teaching, the student's performance on a standardized test. The art of teaching is complex and standardized testing is but one facet, albeit a heavily emphasized one, that unfortunately eclipses all other aspects of teaching in the current reform discourse that so many people who are completely unfamiliar with education seem to promote. What this news source does not seem to understand is that by solely providing the public with one evaluative form of a teacher's performance, while leaving out other types of criterion, such as the planning and delivery of actual lessons and the level of engagement that they foster in students, they are restricting the ability of the public to judge the performance of a teacher based on an array of factors, not just one. The value-added methodology (VAM) used to evaluate teachers on the Los Angeles Times database is a rather controversial type of methodology for several reasons, the most significant one being that students are not randomly assigned to educators. I think that people who are upset with educators who they deem to be less than effective will not achieve the educational reform they hope to accomplish by simply looking at this one piece of criterion. A more hollistic approach to evaluations, as well as an analysis of pedagogical approaches promoted by the school districts across the country, but particularly the LAUSD, should be examined as well, if we are to approach a more effective form of educational reform. It requires time and energy spent on research of a more qualitative type that most politicians and others who refer to themselves as educational reformists are not willing to take. I suggest that the metric system used by the LA Times to rank teachers has too many impairments and is too myopic in scope to accurately and reasonably assess the caliber of an educator. The Los Angeles Times, which declares itself to be an objective news source for the public, could have been more prudent in publishing these articles and creating this database for the common good. The information it has disseminated has served as a detriment to many dedicated educators in our city, most notably Rigoberto Ruelas, and now, seemingly, to itself. Katherine Mangu-Ward does not seem to have conducted the appropriate amount of research to argue that the rankings issued by the LA Times did not play a significant factor in the death of this educator. If anything, her reference to students as "customers", leads me to believe that she has a very limited understanding of education, viewing it more as a commodity rather than a process, and undermines her defense of the Times.

  • ||

    Paragraphs, Grace, paragraphs.

  • ||

    They are focus on the "unreadable wall of text" technique this semester. And they are apparently studying special pleading as well.

  • TwoFingers||

    @Grace
    If the guy jumped off a bridge, aren't there others to blame besides the LA Times?
    - The guy who made the bridge
    - The inventor of gravity
    - Whoever made the ground that he landed on, etc.
    - His mommy or whovever made him so susceptible to constuctive criticism

    The VAM used by the LA Times is not perfect, but it's only information.

  • ||

    The art of teaching is complex and standardized testing is but one facet, albeit a heavily emphasized one, that unfortunately eclipses all other aspects of teaching in the current reform discourse that so many people who are completely unfamiliar with education seem to promote.

    That reeks of bullshit, Grace. Somehow I suspect you have an M.Ed.

    The most galling and hubristic thing you wrote was "people who are completely unfamiliar with education". Who are these people, Grace? Everyone who has been through school is familiar with education - as a client or customer.

    Oh noes, commodification. LoL.

  • Michael||

    How do you feel about failing students co-opting this exact rationale in explaining their shitty outcomes to their parents at the end of each semester?

  • ||

    The writer seems to have missed the point. It's not the rating system or that system's negative evaluation in question, it's whether that information should be made public. I'm sure glad I've never had my job performance reports published in the LA Times. Is that really necessary in order for the evaluation system to work?

  • Atanarjuat||

    I'd guess most parents have an interest in seeing how their child's teacher scored.

    I for one wouldn't mind having my performance reviews published. I'm proud of my work, and if there were any shortcomings I'd want to know so I could correct them. Then, when the next review was published, it would reflect the improvement.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Don't we have a right to know how people we pay with our tax dollars, perform their jobs?

  • ||

    If this man's unfortunate suicide was due to teacher rankings, then teachers should stop giving kids grades.

  • Failing student||

    Yeah!

  • ||

    Oops, you beat Abdul to the punch. Sorry 'dul, yours was pithier, though.

  • Pogo the Clown||

    I realize that libertarians have a problem with state sanctioned executions, and God knows I have reasons not to be crazy about them -- HAHAHAHA -- okay, okay, it is bad form to laugh at your own material, and the more obscurant the more it makes you out to be an asshole, but, whew, just a second.

    Having a little trouble breathing.

    Okay, alright. I have a solution to the problem that will not compromise libertarian principles. Instead of an electric chair, needles or a firing squad, we place the prisoner in to a snug, warm place, kind of like a sensory deprivation chamber -- whew, spent some time in those I tell ya -- for a good long time, and when it is time to kill them, we jerk them by their legs until only their heads remain inside, apply a needle and a suction hose to the back of their skulls and suck their brains out!

    I'm sure all of you principled libertarians would be just fine with that, now wouldn't you?

  • Pogo the Clown||

    Well, shit, Pogo, a little less on the nitrate in the mix next time!

  • Pogo the Clown||

    Well, shit, Pogo, a little less on the nitrate in the mix next time!

  • What the ||

    Fuck

  • ||

    A partial-birth abortion reference. How very off-topic. Even John and RC, our house fetus fanciers, don't stoop this low.

  • ||

    Dear Ms. Mangu-Ward,

    You don't know shit.

    I'll be more specific: you definitely don't know anything about Rigo or his teaching, and you certainly seem to be ignorant about the unreliability and instability of Value-Added Measures: http://www.epi.org/publications/entry/bp278

    Just for your information, it is Rigo's family that wants to make him a symbol of the mistreatment of teachers. UTLA is just following their lead.

    Just who the FUCK do you think you are, judging a man you have never met? You are dumping crap on a good man's grave. You ought to be ashamed of yourself.

  • Abdul||

    So why haven't other teachers with the same or worse VAM scores also chosen death before dishonor?

  • ||

    And WTF are you to judge a woman you've never met? That "wisdom" cuts both ways, asswipe.

  • ||

    The difference, "asswipe," is that I know what this writer has written about Rigo, and I know that she has not attempted to get any evidence on which to base her conclusions about Rigo, other than taking the Times at its word. I also know for a fact that she has never interviewed any parent, student, teacher or administrator from Miramonte, and so she does not know about Rigo's former students who have gone on to college or stayed out of gangs, or both. But she still makes an ignorant statement about Rigo's abilities, based on scientifically questionable techniques.

    Journalism is dead. So is critical thinking...."asswipe."

    Therefore, while I certainly do know something about Ms. Mangu-Ward, based on the above, she most definitely does not know anything about Rigo Ruelas. And that, my dear "asswipe," is not a two-way street.

    Also, based on your defensive and ignorant fanboy-groupie responses to critics of this writer, I now know something about you, "asswipe."

    P.S. Abdul: Increasing numbers of us are starting to doubt that Rigo committed suicide. But whether or not his death was intentional, the real crime against decency and propriety is being committed by the local trash media, who are dragging a good teacher's name through the mud in their reflexive zeal to defend a fellow trash paper, the Times.

    Read a book, "asswipe." Or even better, a research journal. Grow a brain, and then a heart.

  • Leroy||

    You are a dumbass.

  • ||

    See above. :)

  • ||

    The idiocy of how teachers are required to teach starts at the top. My son's second grade class is all ready for 3rd grade. Because of district rules they have to be taught junk that they are bored with because it is beneath them. They may score low just because they are being bored to death by LAUSD. Let's grade the idiot's at the top in their ivory tower. Time for them to sit in the classroom again.

  • John C Jackson||

    Just a couple thoughts about the whole "value added" test-scoring thing..
    I took an SAT prep class my junior year of high school. It was either that or woodshop or home ec or whatever. We were graded on our improvement from day 1 to the final exam. On the first day's practice test I scored 800 Math and 600 something Verbal. I got a C on the final exam because I did not improve my math score- which I'm sure anyone reading this knows is impossible.

    My son just entered 3rd Grade. At the end of 2nd Grade some test said that he was reading on a 5th grade level ( 5.2 or something like that). What should he test at the end of 3rd Grade for this year'e teacher to be effective? If he's only reading on a 6th grade level at the end of 3rd grade, did the teacher fail him? How is he going to improve beyond his 5th grade reading level if the school is using 3rd grade level materials? Hell- he WILL from reading at home because he has fucking parents.

    I don't know.. I'm no fan of teacher's unions, but I'm not a fan of teaching to tests or evaluating teachers on things beyond their control, either.

  • Kat||

    My wife is a teacher, her scores have been going up each year but not as much as before do to having to LOWER her standards to California state standards, Her district pushes the teach to the test mentality, but the test standards are lower than in years past and so she has been forced to lower her standards or she get into trouble with the district. Her students are supposed to pick up proper spelling and grammar through reading Literature, she is not allowed to teach spelling and grammar any more. Everyone need to look higher in the education system, to the state, before blaming teachers. Also she has students that just refuse to do any work because they know they will be passed to the next grade regardless of how they do, and their parents back up the students they believe that their student shouldn't have to do anything just give them an A for showing up. Standardized tests are not the way to completely evaluate a teachers effectiveness.

  • ||

    Ms. Ward states: "But there's one thing I do know about Ruelas: he wasn't doing a very good job helping his kids acquire math skills."

    How would Ms. Ward "know" this? Because of the test scores the L.A. Times published? Ms. Ward is contending, as she does later in the article when she explains how the "Value-Added Model" (VAM) works, that not only are high-stakes tests a valid way to measure teachers (something they've actually never been designed to do), but that VAM is a fair measure of a teacher's work. There is indeed a consensus from statisticians about VAM. Unfortunately for Ms. Ward the consensus is that they DON'T work. At all. It's a nonsense measurement--with so much variation from year to year, and based on tests that are not vertically aligned (among many other reasons), it is not remotely accurate enough to help a teacher, much less be used to evaluate him/her. Ask Diane Ravitch, who can quote every study that debunks it, and is hardly a liberal stalwart, having previously been in favor of high stakes testing and NCLB until her own examination of the facts and REASON led her to the conclusion that these models do no good whatsoever. Read "The Death and Life of the Great American School System" if you want the facts to back this up.

    I would be shocked that a Senior Editor of Reason Magazine had used so little actual REASON to come to such a certain conclusion unjustifiably, then I saw Ms. Ward's resume. She used to write for the Weekly Standard. Nice to know that a conservative ideologue doesn't lose her conservative bias when she changes jobs. The baseless anti-union, "blame the victim," "blame the worker" nonsense stated openly in the piece clearly proves that.

    That doesn't say much for Reason Magazine, however. If these are the kind of Senior Editors they're hiring. I guess I don't need to waste my time with them.

    That much I do know.

    Joseph Zeccola
    Teacher, LAUSD
    Proud Member, United Teachers Los Angeles

  • John Adams||

    If anyone needs to be graded its the incompetent LAUSD Administrators like Guadalupe Paramo, which UTLA did nothing about. When Paramo left Belvedere there were 24 unfilled position being taught by substitute teachers and we ended up with 21 unfilled at GHS. She had also dismantled our functioning student discipline policy i.e., allowed a student to stay, never even disciplined, after he stole a teachers car twice. Arrived late almost every day, only did one week of AM supervision in three years, falsified attendance rates...cumulatively (allegedly) leading to another student burning down the historic Garfield Auditorium (over $30 million in damages). The District then promoted her.

    The is the same Distinct that protects both male and female administrator pedophiles. See Micheal Bujko You Tube and Perdaily.com

  • ||

    Value Added does not mean that the students had one set of scores at the beginning of the year and they dropped. It means that the students had one set of scores from the previous grade at the end of the previous year and they dropped on the new material. Each year the students learn new material. Comparing how much of the new material the students are able to regurgitate for an end of the year test to how much they were able to regurgitate from the previous year is similar to comparing apples to pears, more similar than apples and oranges, but still not the same.

  • ||

    This publication is a rag. If this author thinks any high-stakes tests accurately measure student achievement she must have been born last night. Teachers who don't cheat, or resort to a host of other unethical practices to inflate test scores will have the lowest scores. There aren't that many teachers left who do the right thing. Ruelas might have been one of them. Yes, the LA Times should be held accountable for putting out information they knew or should have known was bogus. They knew it would cause harm.

  • ||

    As an educator, I know there are good teachers and bad teachers in my school building. There are also good teachers who have a "bad year" because they have a crop of students who are unwilling to learn. How can a teacher reach a student who doesn't try, won't listen, never hands in work, dislikes teachers, hates school, and basically tunes out? Should a teacher be blamed for conditions that he/she has no control over? How do you expect teachers to fix a kid when everyone else has failed the child? And yet, day after day, the teachers try, try, and try again. Some days it's like shoveling smoke.

    The local school administration needs to take care of bad teachers--either in the building, or in the central office of that district. But judging a teacher on the scores of their students? How logical is that? Why judge a teacher on something they don't have control over?

    Many people who post opinions bashing teachers should try substitute teaching for a day, **then** they might be entitled to post an opinion about what's wrong with teachers. Good luck with that.

  • Nelson||

    fuck, this fucking sucks...either ruelas sucked, or the students/parents sucked, or the schools front office sucked, or the district/administration fucking sucked.

  • ||

    Whatever, douche. You have no clue what it is like. The socio argument you cite explains whatever "value added" voodoo you champion: the kids "christmas tree" a test, and they "christmas tree" a slightly more difficult test a year later to see how well you supposedly taught that year. They "christmas tree" the tests because they are down and out, and a larger percentage of the low socio-econ population just can't get it. Your tone is horrible also. Regarding the teacher in such a genteel, philosophical voice is sick. The problem is yours, bro, unless ANYONE actually solicited your thoughts on this man's suicide. Write for Reason Mag Online, but ignoring human emotion in this situation is irrational, because the subject of your twistedly detached rant is, unlike you apparently, a human.

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