Monday, September 13, 2010
A question of merit (?)
It has been ages since I last posted. And for that I am sorry. It's not as if there is a line at the door clamoring to see what I have to say, but rather I am sorry that I have let this practice in writing lapse.
My thoughts lately have been upon my work. Teaching. It has already been an interesting year, as it has been a beginning that I never expected to have to deal with. Third grade.
But really I have been thinking about teaching, testing, and pay. I was reading an article earlier about how a newspaper in California ranked 6000 teachers within the Los Angeles area from most effective to least effective. This sounds ok at first. I mean, as a parent I like the idea of knowing how effective my child's teacher will be. However, the ranking of the teachers' effectiveness was based off of student performances on a series of standardized tests given over multiple years. I do not feel that this in any way is an effective method of checking teacher effectiveness.
Working in a school where we have a large amount of transitory students I see a major problem with this style of ranking. Within the past ten years I have had ten classes with an average of twenty-six students, BUT I have had over 350 students. Now, how does that math work out for you? It doesn't seem quite right, does it? You see, here's the problem: During the course of the year I have had an average of about ten students leave my classroom to move elsewhere, and an average of about eleven come in during the course of any given year. With the large amount of military and low-income families in our area, the overall population of the school is very apt to fluctuate constantly, exchanging perhaps over a hundred students over the course of the year.
Now, where to do these students come from? How much have they learned from their previous teachers? How well were they trained on their basic facts? Do they have parents who support them? What is their family life like? Do they have issues with authority? What is their reading level? Can they even speak English? Really? Do I have to ask these things? Sadly… yes.
So here's where it gets difficult. These students transfer into and out of my room, often right before major testing time periods. The ones who leave are a reflection of all the work I have put into them up until that time, yet if I am to be graded on my students' state tests, they will not reflect upon my actual work score as they will be recorded on another teachers roles. Inversely, the students who enter my room and then take their tests with my class are NOT a reflection of what I have done over the course of the year, but they would affect how I am perceived if we were to continue with ranking teachers this way. True, they may come from a teacher who was amazing and perhaps even help with my class's overall score, but it still would not be an accurate representation of what I do as a teacher.
And then there is the issue that 22 states are currently basing teacher pay off of evaluations like this. I know that we are NOT the only city where there is a large turnover of student population. I mean, how would John Q. Public like to have his salary based off of the work of Larry B. Lazy or Sally "I can't get off my ass to do anything except get another HoHo" Jones? It simply would not be accepted. So why do people think that it is an appropriate way to award or penalize teachers with pay raises or decreases?
(So, I took a pause here. I found myself staring to channel my inner Dread Pirate, but I stopped for a moment and counted fluffy bunnies. But that didn't work, so I blew them away with my musket. I feel better now.)
I will leave off here, before the stench of bunnies permeates this blog. I believe I have said my peace and can now leave it in your hands to make a choice. You have the right to do that and to be wrong if you choose something that I wouldn't agree with. I have discovered that my typing fingers still work and now I must sleep. But if you feel like debating with me on this one, or you wish to simply ask, "Where is my bunny?" please feel free to leave a comment.