Knowing is Half the Battle. But It's the Easy Half.

Liberating teacher performance data is a great way to start out the school year. But it's not enough.


They say that knowing is half the battle. But it's the easy half.

On Sunday, the Los Angeles Times caused quite a stir by releasing individual performance data about 6,000 of the system's primary teachers after weeks of hyping the story. The paper took the simple but ingenious step of filing a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for the district's raw math and reading standardized test scores over several years. For each teacher, the paper calculated a score based on the gains shown by his or her individual students from the time they arrived in the classroom in the fall to the time they left—a value-added score—and then rated the teachers' effectiveness.

Information is power, and the school system and teachers union had access to this data long before the Times. But instead of releasing scores—and thus seizing the opportunity to frame the information and the debate—they sat on the data for years, stalling, hoping no one would notice that it existed at all. Their mindset dates from a time when processing a large amount of data and offering a granular analysis was a difficult and expensive business. But number crunching on this scale is no longer the province of big bureaucracies with major computing power. Anyone can do it, and it was only a matter of time before someone did.

Naturally, the teachers union flipped out. In addition to announcing a boycott of the paper, union reps have condemned the release of the scores to parents as "dangerous." (To his credit, Obama education chief Arne Duncan backed the release of the scores, saying "What's there to hide?")

But all the data in the world won't do kids or their parents any good if they can't make choices informed by that data.

In a world where we can get rankings and information about every book, every household appliance, every restaurant, and every manicurist, we are in the habit of casually seeking information and making well-informed choices about the things we buy and the people we contract with for services. But in education (and, for that matter, in medicine) users are mostly working in an information vacuum. One reason doctors and hospitals are frightened of the popularization of information about patient satisfaction and pricing is that people can, with some constraints, take their broken legs, strep throats, or brain tumors elsewhere. But parents don't have that luxury when it comes to public schooling.

Even if parents know who the good teachers are—and they often do already—it often doesn't matter, since kids are randomly assigned. They're allocated to a district, a school, a schedule, and a classroom, all without any input from students or parents. The biggest decision public school parents get to make about their child's primary education is where they choose to live. Short of staging a mini-sit in at the guidance counselor's office (something my parents were known to do from time to time) there's not much you can do once the die has been cast. And if you're a parent who doesn't have the luxury of taking a day off from work to spend fighting the school bureaucracy, your kid is stuck wherever he was randomly assigned, no matter what. Teacher data doesn't do a lick of good if you don't have input about which teacher you wind up with.

Instituting a small degree of teacher choice wouldn't be overwhelmingly difficult. Schools at all levels could opt for the kind of first-come, first-served lottery that large colleges use. It's not an ideal system, but it's an improvement. Again, computers these days, they can do amazing stuff. Once a system is in place, this kind of limited choice would be neither time consuming nor expensive. But it would create one outcome that teachers unions will do almost anything to stop: It would quickly become obvious which teachers aren't desirable. The teachers with the half-empty classrooms would be ripe for firing. And that's the scenario that makes teachers unions (and to a lesser degree school boards and other education bureaucracies) fear a flood of data, especially if it's accompanied by even a little choice.

In today's Los Angeles Times, this troublingly common sentiment showed up: "As a parent, I think I have a right to know," said [school] board member Nury Martinez, who added that she did not believe that the general public should be able to see a teacher's entire review." Giving parents all the information that's available is a bad idea, the argument goes, in part because they might start trying to make the kind of choices for their kids that they make every day about their lunches, their jobs, or their dry cleaners.  

Asked about the release of the Los Angeles teacher data at a recent community meeting, reformist D.C. school Chancellor Michelle Rhee replied with a personal story and a similar gut reaction: "I was looking at the data in my own children's school," she says. "I could see the teacher data. One good, one not so much. I pride myself on not giving my kids preferences. But as a mother i was like whoa! From an administrative point of view, it's pretty terrifying."

There were a lot of mothers in Los Angeles on Sunday who were like whoa. But none of those whoa moments will amount to much in a system starved of choice.

"I'm kind of waiting for the FOIA request in my mailbox," says Rhee. It's coming, alright. But it won't be enough.

Katherine Mangu-Ward is a senior editor at Reason magazine.

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55 responses to “Knowing is Half the Battle. But It's the Easy Half.

  1. Did the teachers let you down, Katherine?

    1. They obviously let you down. Your inability to fashion a coherent argument shows that they faild to teach you the basics of composition.

      Do you think they should be rewarded for that?

      1. Whereas, you only failed to learn to spell? Sorry, I couldn’t resist.

    2. Re: Max,

      Secrecy is paramount, when it comes to State-run education . . . right, Max???


  2. Did the information include how hot the teachers were?

    1. Re: Jeff P,

      Did the information include how hot the teachers were?

      Somehow I have a difficulty putting together the concept of “being hot” with the concept of “teacher.” Maybe you went to school in Malibu – I don’t know.

      1. I’m reminded of my middle school Spanish teacher – wonderful cleavage. Mmmmmmm….. cleavage…..

  3. Actually I’d like to point out that you can, fairly easily, change schools if your city has more than one (which is a lot).

    Further, teacher ratings are a little too qualitative for me, because certain teachers might be getting all the idiots in his/her class. I remember my AP English class had all the smart, quite students and the other teacher of the same class had all the potheads and other incompetents. So obviously my teacher would have gotten a tremendously higher rating.

    1. No, it depends on scores they get in the grade(s) before (and probably the grades after).

      In other words, if a bunch of 60th percentile students score in the 40s the next year, you’ve probably got a bad teacher. If a teacher gets 10th percentile idiots and they stay there, it shouldn’t make a difference.

  4. When I took his Internet ratings and comments to my dentist, he laughed. He had never seen them before. (He generally gets great reviews)

    Self-motivated students with a solid family environment might show huge advances during the year with an ineffective teacher.

    On the other hand, a really good teacher sometimes is stuck with unmotivated students. As a former teacher, I feel this is especially true for junior high or high school.

    I am definitely in favor of releasing the data, but don’t feel it is necessarily an accurate way to assess teacher competence.

    1. What is?

    2. Personally, I think it’s necessary, but not sufficient. For one, I love the value-added part, because it eliminates a lot of the luck part in getting students. A teacher shouldn’t be punished for getting all the dummies or get a pass because they won the student lottery.

      That said, I would like to see a few other things thrown into the mix. For example, if a teacher ends up with a decent number of free lunch kids or special ed kids or kids with known issues (e.g. under child protective services, juvenile delinquents and the like) and they still produce, I would like some plaudits for that. Also, I would like the grades to be somewhat of a factor. For example, if a teacher gets in hot water for grading hard, but their students do well on testing, I would definitely give the classroom grades less weight. For example, that teacher may be challenging the kids above and beyond the curriculum, and that’s a GOOD thing. On the flip side, if a teacher is handing out A’s like candy, yet can’t get their kids to do well on the test, that’s a problem.

    3. On the other hand, a really good teacher sometimes is stuck with unmotivated students. As a former teacher, I feel this is especially true for junior high or high school.

      And if the data shows that year after year after year and class after class after class this “really good teacher” is not getting positive results, then I would start to question the “really good” tag.

      If, however, it was something that only happened with the occasional class or student, then you have a point….and you know what? The data would back the teacher up.

      I am definitely in favor of releasing the data, but don’t feel it is necessarily an accurate way to assess teacher competence.

      Since a good portion of my near and extended family is in the teaching business I hear some form of this argument alot…

      “I’m not in favor of unions, but…”
      “I think we should have standards, but…”
      “We should measure student performance, but…”

      and after all the buts comes a statement to the effect of “it just won’t work for education.”

      Which sounds much like the reasons my son used to give for his own failings as a small child.

      In other words, hollow excuses for misbehaving.

      1. It always makes me extremely upset to see conservatives and libertarians bring up this subject, when I would think they would be the ones that would realize how much it is the student’s responsibility to learn and not the teacher’s responsibility to make the student want to learn, it is only his responsibility to teach the students well. OK, let me sound like your extended family. This all comes from my experience as a physics TA at a prestigious private school, not an inner city high school. So I’m seeing the “good” students. I’d quit the first day if I had to teach inner city students.

        1) It is next to impossible to teach someone that truly doesn’t want to learn a subject. Yes, I know the Hollywood movies where some teacher gives an inspiring speech, everyone’s motivated to go do their homework, and the nerd gets the head cheerleader. It’s just that, a Hollywood movie. Even in the Hollywoodesque stories, like that teacher in California who was played in a movie by the admiral from BSG (yes, totally off the top of my head, I know), he didn’t have the whole damn school sign up for his calculus class. He had at max somewhere around 60, right? Out of a school that had over a thousand students? If you want to think about it in terms of the averages, he was a miserable failure. But it’s not the averages that matter. If a student comes into a class thinking that he doesn’t want to do it, it is rare to convince him otherwise. Those are the most pleasurable occasions, I’ll give you that. I’ve had some students like that in my work. But the vast majority won’t, and they will resist you every step of the way. When I was starting out, I tried to motivate these students. It was a complete waste of my time. It’s much better to work with the students that want to learn, whether they’re good at the material or not (especially if they’re not good at the material, it’s most enjoyable to see someone finally “get it”, the smart kids can teach themselves pretty well) then to chase after students that only show up to class half the time and cheat on their homeworks. The students that come around will come around on their own, anyway. And cheating is extremely rampant at the college level. Why do you think tests are worth so much in your final grade? It’s because professors have largely conceded that students will cheat on homeworks, and minimize the grade impact of homeworks accordingly.

        2) I am positive that if you look at the data, the “good teachers” will be concentrated in regions that have a cultural bias towards higher education. Indian, Asian, upper-middle-class and upper-class white neighborhoods. Thomas Sowell has a couple of good articles on this kind of thing.

        3) Students will always project how well they’re doing in the class on how well you teach. There’s a reason why schools ignore teacher’s evals. Don’t even bother filling them out; they’re just a waste of your time. We usually just look at them, laugh, then go do something important. There is a clear correlation between how well a student did in a course, and how well he thought the teacher taught the course. Even with students that put in almost no work to the class, they will blame the instructor for their low grades, rather than blaming themselves. An example: recently, I taught a recitation section where I was suppose to basically sit in and help them with questions that came up while the students did problem sets in small groups. I was actually prohibited from doing examples on the board; I was only suppose to help students who asked me specific questions. And I let them know this repeatedly. I still got a lot of bad reviews specifically mentioning that I just “sat there” all throughout recitation. Granted, it was a terrible system, and if they ever have me try to do it again, I’m going to violently protest. But they still blamed me because they didn’t come up and ask me questions, even though that was the point of the teaching experiment, and even though they were told that was what they were suppose to do. Is it really so hard for libertarians to realize that people want other people to take care of their problems for them, and get mad when they don’t? Isn’t that the entire point of statism?

        4) The only thing that can get a student to rate the professor highly, on average, is by the professor being animated. Note I didn’t say being good. I’ve taught for professors that did an excellent job of preparing their students, who had the motivated students doing well on extremely difficult tests, but were kinda dry and were hardasses. And I’ve had professors who were extremely animated but did a terrible job preparing even the most motivated students, and their test grades showed. Guess which teacher consistently gets higher evals. But this effect is subdued relative to how much the student wants to learn. I never really saw a difference between how many students wanted to learn and how much the professor was bouncing off the walls. The average student doesn’t care about learning, he cares about having fun during class.

        Believe it or not, but I actually do like teaching, despite everything I’ve written. Except for that goddamn recitation style I mentioned. I just got funded as a research assistant, and I’m already missing being a TA. Once you concentrate on the students that are motivated to begin with to learn, it’s a lot of fun. But they are not the average, and any averaging is going to wipe them out.

        1. An addendum to my comment: You don’t care what some random person on the Internet says? I would go read some of John Taylor Gatto’s work. He was a New York public teacher that won the New York teacher of the year award, and immediately quit the profession upon receiving it. He has a lot of good points on why educations is so broken. I think his diagnoses are wrong, mainly I don’t buy the conspiracy theories, but he’s excellent at talking about the symptoms of the problems.

        2. thenino85|9.2.10 @ 10:26AM|#
          “….it is only his responsibility to teach the students well….”
          Which is exactly the point of the data.

          1. Yes, but the whole point of my post is that when you look at the data as a whole, it’s going to be washed out by natural student apathy, and thus what you’ll actually be measuring is how good the average student is, not how well their teachers are. The teacher’s effectiveness in all but the most extreme circumstances will be washed out of the data; I honestly don’t think the teacher matters nearly as much as the motivation of the student, and that’s from all the time I’ve spent teaching. If I could rewrite my post, I’d have put much more emphasis on 2).

          2. I should also mention (sorry for the double post a second time) that I enjoy watching unions squirm like hell, and I’m convinced that high school teachers are absolutely incompetent, given that even at a prestigious school, I very often have to re-do their jobs for them. I’m not defending the teachers persay. I’m questioning the proposition that you can even measure teacher effectiveness in a scientific way, even though there clearly are amazing teachers and terrible ones. I’m more attacking the underlying positivism of the study.

          3. The job of the teacher is to instruct the students in a specific set of lessons and subjects. They are specialists. It is the job of the parents to educate their children and attain the best specialists they can for the subjects they themselves cannot educate their children in. It always appalls me when either a parent or a politician says that it is the teacher’s job to “shape the child” or “educate them”. No, it is the parent’s job. Teachers are specialists, no different from a music instructor, a driving teacher, or a plumbing master (w/ apprentice). Also, I am not a teacher, but will be a parent soon.

        3. ++

          It’s much better to work with the students that want to learn…

          Even thinking a little about it, I realize it’s much more complicated. My main concern is that school systems often seem to prevent the good students from being good students. The teachers’ unions, politicians, and CYA bureaucrats are more to blame for this. They’ll cater to the those who are less motivated and therefore poorer students (for whatever reason) and in the process reduce the motivation and quality of learning for those better students.

  5. It’s a band-aid, this teacher choice idea. The “value-added” paradigm, scientism in action. Since there are no means to measure opportunity costs internally due to no market price feedback, and lack of structural incentive to care about it anyway, public schools are antisocial. Who runs a parasitical system is rather ancillary– unless you think it relevant to wonder how Mother Theresa would have managed Auschwitz. When people live off tax money, compulsory law, and union privilege, they can never do more justice than harm.

  6. More widespread use of internet teacher rating sites – such as – would be helpful.

    1. No.

      Because the ratings are invariably about which teacher is “coolest”, not which is “best.”

      Teachers who are not cool, no matter how good they may be, will never be rated highly. Teachers who are cool, no matter how poor they may be, will be rated highly by a great majority of students.

      Very few happen to be both cool and good.

      1. I tend to disagree with this sentiment. There would, obviously, be some students who would take the route of saying “Mr. Jones is awesome because I showed up late everyday and he never said anything about it and he never gave homework and we watched movies all the time FUCK YEAH!”

        But there are actually students who are motivated to learn and will type things like, “Mrs. Smith is tough and grades hard but I learned a lot in her class and I feel more prepared for college.”

        The nice thing about teacher rating sites, if they’re coupled with some degree of teacher choice like KMW writes about, is that the intelligent and motivated students will be able to make the informed decision to take the better but less cool teachers’ classes, while the dumb ass kids will be able to gravitate towards the glorified babysitters.

        At the very least it makes the system more efficient. Maybe it would create an even larger achievement gap between the top students and the bottom students, but it also means you don’t have good students failing to reach their potential despite all their efforts, nor do you have teachers expending resources and energies into students who fail to appreciate or gain from the experience.

  7. Actually, if parents actually raised their own children instead of expecting their teachers to do it, teach effectiveness would soar. That said, anything that has union leaders frothing at the mouth has my approval.

  8. teachER effectiveness…public school victim…

  9. Average SAT Scores, 1972?2007

    Notice the trend downward in the Verbal Score but upward in Math Score.

    1. Um…there was a renormalization in there, but I don’t see it in the numbers. What gives?

    2. Sorry I don’t see the downward trend in Verbal scores. 1972 was just an outlier.

      1. Possibly but its hard to tell without data from say 1960 onward. If I was a gambling man I wouldn’t bet that its an outlier.

    3. Average SAT Scores, 1972?2007

      How come those Asian kids get all the best math teachers?

  10. Education is a weapon whose effects depend on who holds it in his hands and at whom it is aimed.

    Yes we can!
    We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.

  11. just a few days ago, i was talking to a liberal friend of mine who said he doesn’t trust the free market to handle education…without realizing the dismal failure of government control right before our eyes.

    i don’t care how poor i am, there’s no way in hell i would ever send my future children to any public school.

    I do not know why American people tolerate such a horrible system. I guess because it’s “free”?

    1. More likely because is is open to all and traditional.

      Any change is “radical” because it is a change.

    2. i was talking to a liberal friend of mine who said he doesn’t trust the free market to handle education

      There’s his problem right there. He expects someone else to ‘handle’ education, rather than doing anything himself.

  12. This piece of essay is written very well. Glad you are posting again!nhl jerseys

    1. The spambot is trying to tempt us with links to NHL jerseys, when in reality they take us to an NFL jersey “store”?

      How is that supposed to work?

  13. Example of a good teacher: Sam Jackson in 187. You’d better believe those kids got some good lessons.

  14. The quote at the end of the article sums up the idiocy of making a big deal out of this. The commenter looks at the data and says “whoa!”. WTF, this is exactly why it is fraught with problems. You can’t just glance at this kind of data and make a simple conclusion. But yet that is what is being done. Until journalists and conservatives are willing to look at nuance with an open mind you bet unions are afraid to release this kind of data. It’s like allowing kids to watch porn – you know they can’t handle it. And conservatives and libertarians have an agenda of course – they want to break the unions, privatize education, and demonize public institutions. They will read the data to fit their pre-conceived conclusions.

  15. We have as much information and choice as we want when it comes to cell phones, video games, and coffee mugs. Those things are built and marketed in a free market, and we have damn good choices there. Why is there quality and choice in all the unimportant stuff but where your child will spend 7 hours a day for 12 very important, formative years is pretty much set by the government?

  16. thenino85,
    it is the students’ responsibility to learn.
    it is the parents’ responsibility to support learning.
    that doesn’t mean teachers get a free pass to suck.
    saying that “But they are not the average, and any averaging is going to wipe them out” is misunderstanding what can be done with this data set.
    if the data is taken to rate each teacher according to the CHANGE in standardized test scores, then all of your concerns are erased. a kid who comes in apathetic and lazy, and who comes out apathetic and lazy, has no net effect on the teacher’s data.
    therefore, a teacher who takes low scoring kids and raises their scores, and a teacher with high scoring kids and raises their scores will look equally good.
    and if you worry that high scoring kids tend to open up the gap in scoring over time whether or not they have a good teacher (a valid conern), then you can rate a teacher by the improvement their kids have relative to the percentile rank the kids came in with.

    none of this would be hard to do, nor hard to analyze, but teacher unions will bring up very unusual cases that mean the sytem won’t be perfect as evidence for why it is the most evil idea ever.

  17. 1. *sigh* is there really not ONE teacher among the libercontrarian cohort ? ? ? unless those particular teachers are automatons, they will know that ALL this bullshit no child’s behind left unspanked, races to the bottom, and other counter-productive schemes, are ruining real teaching and real learning and real public education…
    2. it seems tiresome to point out only a few of the OBVIOUS flaws with the simplistic ‘metric’ of student performance, and teacher effectiveness: (i’ll translate to your native knuckledrag)
    A. *ugh* “Good” Teacher school high-income (much bear fat), upper class tribes/kids (loved by gods); *much*surprise* “Good” kids ‘above average’ test ! “Good” Teacher ‘naturally’ profit (more bear fat!)! (“Good” school get bear fat, too!)
    *oog* “Bad” Teacher from low-income (roots and bugs), low class tribes (gods hate them), transient (gypsy!); *no*surprise* “Bad” kids ‘below average’ test! “Bad” Teacher must accept blame: OFF with their heads ! ! ! (tribal bar-b-que tonight!)
    B. um, just HOW naive are you libbies, libbies, libbles ? ? ? WHEN (NOT “if”) you make a system where -not just teachers- but principals, etc have their jobs, raises, careers on the line, THERE WILL BE CHEATING at all levels…
    so now, teachers are either subject to lower income, or firing, if they DON’T cheat (one way or another); but the better cheaters will rise to the top ! ! !
    excellent plan to promote the borderline sociopaths ! ! !
    (yep, that sounds like modern day amerika to me…)
    3. in short, the ENTIRE premise of this avenue of ‘concern’ (and -really- its just another tool to kill -NOT improve- public education), is that “Good Teacher” = “Good Test Scores”…
    that is simplistic and childish, go back to school and get your learn on…
    art guerrilla
    aka ann archy

  18. art,
    i am a teacher, and you are a simpleton.

    ranking teacher improvement relative to percentile ranking of students would take care of your primitive complaints. but you would already know that if you had reading comprehension ability.
    cheating, would occur, but it is not difficult to severely restrict when you don’t have the classroom teachers be the same as the test proctors, fool.
    no child left behind is stupid, but not for the primitive reasons you think it is. there is no race to the bottom.
    you would like to pretend that things are okay as they are, of that if we just throw more money at the problem it will fix itself (when adjusted per capita spending on education has had an inverse relationship with outcomes for decades).

    then you create strawman arguments to defend the status quo. you would rather have most kids get a terrible education than deal with some incentives to cheat. you would rather have teachers hired and fired based on seniority rather than ability because it would be so golly-darned tough to evaluate them (like almost every other job)

    art, you should be really proud of yourself.

    its is not that good teachers equal good test scores, you dolt. it is that good teachers equal relative improvements in test scores. hopefully the concept will someday make sense to you.

    and ffs, you just wrote that cheating will be rampant when performance is the criterion for career growth and safety. have you even looked at the real world? everyone else seems to have found a way to deal with cheating. i guess we in education are just too clever to be stopped by anti-cheating measures that work pretty well everywhere else!

    1. 1. i am not a teacher, you simpleton, but my better half is…
      2. sorry i did not go on for pages as to why NCLB/etc are wrongheaded non-solutions; apparently we agree, but you are such an asshole who instinctively dislikes me, that you can’t abide my correctness (however ‘wrongly’ i arrived at it), and so attack me anyway for not reciting YOUR reasons why it is ‘bad’… fuck you, doucher
      3. dog almighty, YOUR ‘reasoning’ of how it ‘measures’ RELATIVE improvement is besides the point: BESIDES the fact that i did NOT say anything about absolute results versus relative improvement (geez, maybe teach needs a reading comprehension refresher); HOWEVER, that STILL does not vitiate MY POINT: low income/lower class WILL STILL have all the disadvantages IN THE HOME and society which is the original CAUSE of much of the mess, simpleton…
      ranking teachers and tying that to pay will do NOTHING to remedy those root causes, simple simon…
      4. newsflash: reports of test cheating ALREADY occur in a number of school systems( google ny, ny and atlanta on these); AND -goshies, who could have guessed this- it just happens to be many districts where ‘dramatic improvements’ were (supposedly) made…
      REPEAT: there IS cheating already, IN SPITE of the superhuman, supermoral, super smart, non-cheating teachers like your uttermost self… (jerk)
      AND it has also been school principals, administrators, etc who have changed/faked test papers/results, EVEN WHEN there is no direct connection to pay/job/raises! ! !
      (CERTAINLY, there will only be LESS cheating when their jobs depend on it… surely that is the case… )
      5. again -talk about deficient reading comprehension- NOWHERE, NO HOW, NO WAY am i defending the PRESENT education system and its failures; i AM saying, that teaching to the test bullshit is NOT helping…
      in fact, one of my major points -which you elided to waste space on empty insults- is that these measures are NOT sincere efforts to improve our public education systems, but are thinly veiled methods of DESTROYING it…
      crony capitalist don’t make enough money off public education; it needs to be privatized so they can rip us off in EVERY aspect of our lives…
      6. “anti-cheating” measures ? ?? you are kidding, right ? amerika is PREDICATED on cheating and getting away with it: WE HAVE NO MORALS, WE HAVE NO SCRUPLES, and THAT is exactly how our betters in society want it…
      you are dickless wonder, write when you get a clue…
      art guerrilla
      aka ann archy

  19. wow, you really demolished my arguments!
    and a funny thing occurred. you act all butt-hurt that i am mean to you, when your original post is nothing if not antagonistic. i respond to your antagonism with some of my own, and you are upset! classic.
    you spelled it “amerika”!
    oh snap.

    you still dance around the issue of finding a way to hold teachers responsible for something. instead of acknowledging the issue, you say “amerika cheats!” then you say that learning outcomes are determined by the home environment. thanks, captain obvious! so since a large chunk of learning outcomes are so determined, then we should give up on trying to get as many kids good teaching as possible? brilliant! this isnt an article about how to improve parenting, its about improving teaching. but nice attempt to avoid the subject, again.

    speaking of insincerity, your multitude of efforts to dance around the subject of improving teachers are just insincere attempts to avoid the subject of responsibility for them. (see how fun the game is of accusing the other side of insincerity!?)
    actually, i am all for improving the public school system, as it seems unrealistic to replace it anyway. so thanks for so aptly reading my mind.

    since we need to go over this again, you say that since some people cheat, that trying to do anything is not worth it. then why have education at all? why fucking try anything?

    you are just fighting your own strawmen, painting the whole situation as black and white in everything you write. you still dont even understand what the hell i am talking about with respect to an easy but effective method of analyzing such data, so this conversation remains pointless.

    since you dont seem to think that schools cheating on tests can be thwarted due to the supercriminal school system, ill try to simplify it. there is a saying called “fox guarding the hen house” it means you dont’ have someone guarding something that is in their interest to guard poorly.
    if said tests were not administered or even seen by the employees of the school in question, cheating would be severely curtailed.

    it would be neither difficult nor very expensive to have separate proctors.

    anyway, you are so dead-set against standardized testing that i might as well argue with a wall. (i have plenty of experience in this with other teachers).
    standardized tests are the best we have right now, especially since we have no idea what kind of schooling we want after the current industrial revolution factory model goes away, and we refuse to experiment because we want everyone to fail equally.

    the number of teachers who could be considered “good”, but don’t have the highest increases in test scores is far overblown, in my experience. most teachers who inspire a love of learning (the most important but most difficult to evaluate part of good teaching) are also good at helping their kids raise their scores. so i find that argument to be little more than a red herring.

    how difficult would it be to have seventh grade teachers evaluated by the following criteria? you subtract the end of year average from the beg. of year average for the class, then compare that to the average for the same group? For example, if kids come in at a 5th grade level, and the average improvement for 7th grade kids with a 5th grade education is typically 1.5 years, then a teacher has done well if they improve more than that, and poorly if less.

    and i like how you say capitalism will rip us off in education. private schools are, by far, the better deal. the other red herring of “all the bad kids go to public school so that is why private schools do better” is demonstrably false.
    why the hell do you say that private schools will rip us off when it would be impossible for them to rip us off worse than we already have been by public schools? did that irony even occur to you when you wrote that?

    the main reason i am so terse with you is that every single thing you wrote is the same, trite, superficial bullshit i hear from so many in the teaching profession that my patience for it is long long gone.

  20. Blake, your arguements may hold more weight if you used capitulation and punctuation in your post.

  21. If a “First come First served” approach is used for teacher choice, then the kids with slacker/very busy parents will fall even farther behind, while the kids with the luxury and good fortune of an involved, stay-at-home parent will have even more of their childhood optimized. The end result will be even more widening gaps in education.
    The single parent working two jobs to pay the rent in the “good” school system will still be stuck with the worst teachers in that system.
    The children who’s parents do not highly value education will be lumped together in the least talented teacher’s classrooms and will collectively learn to value education even less.

    It will be a good thing for those already doing well and a very bad thing for those already doing poorly. That is not a formula for a peaceful, highly functional society.

  22. johnd,
    i disagree!

  23. cpt obvious,
    you are missing the point of this. in the long run, you get fewer bad teachers and more good ones. everyone benefits. and do you really believe there would be first come, first served way of distributing good teachers?
    hardly. first the well connected will get in with the good teachers. then there will be some sort of lottery for the remaining spots. but, again, that is in the short term. if schools can fire a teacher that parents dont want, then you can remove bad teachers and keep replacing them until you have improved the whole group, over time.

  24. There are statistical issues with this type of report. Nevertheless, it is interesting.

    But the issue is not teacher choice or education reform. The debate is a much larger canvas.

    We do not need to know how to ‘fix’ public education. We merely need to get rid of it. The market will do the rest.

    This includes post-secondary education as well. Our public universities must go. They are terrible and barely survivable.

  25. I had not previously heard about the LA teacher data: I think it’s great to move the data into the sunshine.

  26. Not sure this is anywhere near as helpful as one might think it is.

    An example: a friend of mine was a teacher in a mid-sized school in California. She was assigned two classes that included all of the troublemakers from the grade she was in, plus another that was essentially normal. Her scores almost certainly sucked, and in a lot of the schemes people are talking about, she’d have been automatically canned. But hey, all the other teachers had pretty good scores, so it worked fine for the majority of people, right?

    It’s easy for principals and other authority figures to stack the deck this way, and despite all of the talk about how amazingly powerful the teachers’ union is, they weren’t willing to speak up for her about this problem.

    What ended up happening? She went from a bright, promising young teacher to ‘totally burnt out’ in a year. She taught for another year or two, but finally just got out of it entirely.

    But hey, all our problems can be solved with standardized tests… everyone knows that!


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