Texas Ed: Comments on Education from Texas

July 23, 2006

Just trust me

Filed under: Accountability, common sense, Education reform, standards, Teacher issues — texased @ 9:16 am

The Herald-Zeitung:

Currently, school administrators evaluate SCUCISD’s teachers once a year, but teachers such as Dawn Ryan argue that they should only be evaluated every three years.

I’ve never worked in a job with less than a yearly evaluation. Some were even quarterly. And that’s after proving that I actually produced what I was supposed to.

The Herald-Zeitung:

“I do not believe that appraisals hold teachers to higher accountability standards overall,” said Ryan, a teacher Schertz Elementary School. “I am accountable to the community, to the parents, to my students.”

I really don’t get this statement. Of course she’s accountable to the community, etc. but she’s also accountable to the organization that hired her, the school, which is the community’s representative. And what does that have to do with being evaluated? No matter how she’s evaluated, she’s still accountable to the same organizations.

I’m not dense. I know what she’s getting at is that one 45 minute observation a year is not a fair way to judge her abilities. (Okay, so one every three years would be–never mind.) And she believes that her students doing well in grades and passing the TAKS should be more important than any other evaluation system.

My problem is one: her expressed reasoning/logic is pathetic and will receive no sympathy from the rest of the world that is evaluated at least once a year. Her students are evaluated every six weeks! And two: teachers have been known to boost their student’s scores in inappropriate ways.

The Herald-Zeitung:

“The greatest benefit I can see for a less frequent PDAS is it frees up more precious time for our administrators.”

Uhmmm, yes, of course. They could use that time to interview the teacher’s students and their parents about her effectiveness, you know, the people she says she’s accountable to? But somehow, I don’t think that’s what she would consider a better way for administrators to spend their time.



  1. It is a common problem in almost all workplaces: What do we rate people on?

    If we had an effective rating system, we could put up a scoreboard, and a teacher would know by third hour whether he or she was winning that day. Each day would have inicators to show whether the teacher is winning that year.

    But we don’t know HOW to rate teachers, let alone come up with criteria for what to rate them on. We don’t know exactly how people learn, except it’s probably not the case that everybody learns the same way.

    The current rating systems tend to hold teachers accountable for administrator mistakes and missteps. Teachers are accountable for the local board’s failure to allocate money appropriately. Teachers are accountable for the effects of the local cotton gin’s going bankrupt and putting 20% of the parents in town out of work.

    All of these reasons add up to the argument W. Edwards Deming made, that in a truly quality organization, there would not be individual performance ratings. The success of the school is not the sum of the efforts of individual teachers, but is 85% or so the work of the principal and higher administrators.

    This is just one indicator that the education establishment doesn’t really know what’s going on in the classroom, but especially that it doesn’t know how to affect improvements in student performance.

    Heck, I sat through 20 days of instruction on how kids learn and how to manage that process in the classroom last month (in Texas). Every day we had a section on “motivation.” And each of the presenters made the same error, claiming that it is up to the teacher to motivate kids to learn.

    Of course, psychologists and especially industrial psychologists know better. Motivation comes from within, not without. (External motivation is called, in the famous Herzberg study, a “kick in the ass,” or KITA to be less profane; a mugging, as Herzberg notes, not a motivation). If our best instruction to teachers is 40 years behind on simple issues like motivation, where else are we decades back?

    The rating systems in most districts in Texas avoids any issue like familiarity with the subject, too. A teacher can have a lively discussion going based on the teacher’s having found a subject that thrills the kids and gets them digging into the material — something a teacher well-educated in the subject will do more easily than others — and if the rater sees it, the teacher will be rated down for noise, because kids call out instead of raising their hands, etc.

    I sometimes think Casey Stengel stalks the teaching profession, at least with teacher supervisors: “Doesn’t anyone here know how to play this game?” Stengel asked of the New York Mets, in their first season.

    Workers should be evaluated daily, constantly. Industrial errors, once-a-year or once-a-quarter evaluations, should not be repeated in the schools.

    Would your marriage survive long if your spouse told you once every three months whether you were still loved? Would you be motivated to try harder, or would you call the divorce lawyer? Would you stick around if your spouse were not paying any closer attention than that?

    These are our children we’re talking about. The teacher rating processes need a lot of work.

    Comment by edarrell — July 26, 2006 @ 3:21 pm

  2. I think you’ve made a lot of good points. My mother retired this year from teaching high school for a lot the issues you mention, particularly the ones about the administration’s mistakes. She’s tired of dealing with it. She tells me that maybe my son’s generation will be able to start figuring it out.

    Comment by texased — July 26, 2006 @ 5:39 pm

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