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Thursday, March 10, 2011
What Is "Merit" When It Comes To Teachers? Of Course If You Ask The Education Reformers They Are Clueless On How To Define "Merit."
In the last month I have seen two commercials by Joel Klein's Education Reform group how New York State should end "last in, first out" or LIFO by replacing it with merit and accountability, primarily based on standardized tests. The problem is that nobody has really found a quantitative way to determine "merit". Sure they claim that you just look at the standardized test grades of the teacher's students to determine "merit". However, it really takes two, three, and even four years to see if the students actually improved above the statistical average when compared to their peers. On the other hand, many quality teachers do best with struggling students and principals try to put these students with those teachers. However, if these students are compared to more academic inclined students, they would not achieve the academic level that would show the teacher is "great" and could be rated "ineffective", when in fact, the teacher did a great job keeping her challenging students on track academically. It would not be difficult for a vindictive Administration who wants to get rid of teachers they don't like or want by comparing "apples and oranges" by claiming they both are fruit. Any teacher evaluation system would require stringent safeguards to ensure that the Administration cannot abuse the process as Tweed does now.
Furthermore, the teaching to the test syndrome has not advanced student academic achievement but inhibited it. Many schools are so focused on test preparation that the children do not get adequate Science, Social Studies, Gym, and Arts education. Yet principals will determine merit and accountability based upon a single standardized test in Math and English. Incredible but true. Even when incentives are added, it had a negligible effect on student performance. Exhibit "A" was the NYC $75 million teacher initiative program for 200 high-need schools which showed almost no improvement in student academic achievement. In fact, the NYC "teacher data reports" are so flawed that they had teachers listed for teaching the wrong classes. Yet Tweed wants to use this as a biases for terminating teachers.
While it might be possible to find a fair and unbiased teacher evaluation method eventually, there is not one now and I doubt if one can be developed before 2013.