The new school year will see the value-added model playing an inordinate role in evaluating teacher effectiveness. In some states, the metric will count as much as half of a teacher's rating, according to the Institute for a Competitive Workforce. The weight alone is cause for deep concern, but it is not the only troublesome factor, for reasons that are given short shrift in the debate. I was reminded of this flaw after reading an obituary in The New York Times of Paul Meier, a prominent medical statistician who was one of the first and most vocal proponents of randomization. ...


Recognizing that the teacher evaluation system in place in the Los Angeles Unified School District is hopelessly flawed, school officials are testing a new version consisting of detailed observations, student and parent feedback, and standardized test scores ("Los Angeles teachers test a pilot evaluation program," Los Angeles Times, Aug. 15). If the strategy, which is underway at 104 schools, passes muster, it will be implemented by the 2012-13 school year. United Teachers of Los Angeles immediately requested an injunction, claiming that the LAUSD failed to negotiate the plan. Regardless of what the court rules, UTLA still demands the names of ...


It often takes an essay by a high-profile writer to confirm what lesser known writers have long maintained. I thought of this once again after reading "Super Teachers Alone Can't Save Our Schools" by Steven Brill that was published in The Wall Street Journal on Aug. 13. Brill came to prominence when his piece, "The Rubber Room", appeared in The New Yorker on Aug. 31, 2009. He described in great detail how about 600 teachers who are charged with a variety of offenses are paid their full salaries and benefits while sitting in six rooms in New York City's five ...


As Ronald Reagan used to say, "There you go again." The remark this time aptly applies to an essay in The Wall Street Journal claiming that three million job openings in this country can't be filled because of a lack of worker skills ("How to Close the Skills Gap," Aug. 10). The writers, Mary Landrieu, (D- Louisiana) and Patty Murray (D- Washington), maintain that schools are the culprit because they are not producing sufficiently literate graduates. According to a report by the National Commission on Adult Literacy, 90 million adults have literacy skills so low that they will not be ...


When parents decide where they want to live, one of the top considerations is the reputation of neighborhood schools. In fact, many parents willingly pay a premium for that reason alone. But their address no longer guarantees that their children will get the quality education they assumed, as the heated debate in Memphis, Tenn. and surrounding Shelby County illustrates. In November, the failing inner-city Memphis City Schools surrendered its charter after city voters approved the move in a referendum to merge the school district with the smaller, affluent Shelby County Schools. Voters in Shelby County, however, did not have a ...


Research has underscored time and again the disproportionate role that out-of-school factors play in student achievement. That's why it's encouraging to learn that billionaires Michael Bloomberg, the mayor of New York City, and George Soros, the hedge fund manager, have agreed to contribute $30 million apiece from their respective foundations to aid about 315,000 black and Latino young men who have been denied opportunities open to others. The balance of the nearly $130 million earmarked for the program will be paid for by the city ("Bloomberg to Use Own Funds in Plan to Aid Minority Youth," The New York ...


Just when it seemed that teachers unions could not possibly be subjected to any further attacks, they find themselves confronting a totally unexpected foe. According to a new survey by the National Center for Education Information, nearly one in five educators say they support abolishing teachers unions ("Profile of Teachers in the U.S. 2011"). The 33-question survey of 1,076 public school teachers across the country found that 19 percent favored eliminating unions and 33 percent supported eliminating tenure. This compares with 15 percent and 28 percent, respectively, from 15 years ago. Fifty-nine percent also said that they should ...


Every subject poses unique instructional challenges. Yet I can't think of one that is more daunting than teaching composition. That's because it's impossible to teach students how to write effectively unless they are given an authentic opportunity to do so. Multiple-choice and short-answer exercises are simply no substitute. During the 28 years that I taught English in the same high school, I envied my colleagues in other departments who did not have to lug home piles of essays. They were able to use answer keys to assess their students' work, or at worst had to read only short essays for ...


Two of the most effective tools of propagandists are to tell a big lie so often that it is accepted as undeniable truth, and to create a scapegoat for the anger and frustration that the public feels. An op-ed by Ted Nugent published on Jul. 29 in the Washington Times is a page torn from the textbook used in Propaganda 101 ("NEA - master of disaster"). Nugent starts out by declaring that public schools in America are a "complete and total disaster." As a writer, I take great pains in the choice of my words. I assumed that other writers ...


For too many years, tenure was granted to teachers almost automatically. Although critics charged that this practice undermined taxpayer confidence about the quality of education in public schools, their complaint never went anywhere. But things are finally changing. In New York City, home of the nation's largest school district, only 58 percent of teachers eligible for tenure this year received it, compared with 99 percent five years ago ("Once Nearly 100%, Teacher Tenure Rate Drops to 58% as Rules Tighten," The New York Times, Jul. 27). That's because teachers are now rated on a four-point scale, rather than merely satisfactory ...


The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner's Reality Check are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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