"I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power." - Thomas Jefferson 1820

"There is a growing technology of testing that permits us now to do in nanoseconds things that we shouldn't be doing at all." - Dr. Gerald Bracey author of Rotten Apples in Education

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Thursday, August 23, 2012

EAGnews Buys into the "Bad Teacher" Argument

There are many factors in a failing school.  Why just blame "ineffective" teachers...and just how are there "ineffective" teachers measured?

This morning we posted how the Missouri Riverview Gardens school district scores were not better even as the state took over the district's educational delivery for the last two years.  We questioned if Missouri DESE's Chris Nicastro should be fired as an "ineffective"  administrator.  According to a letter to the editor and a former Riverview Gardens teacher who was fired, the reasons a school fails could possibly be for additional reasons, not just that "ineffective" teachers cause low student achievement.

Augsut 23, 2012
Pennsylvania teachers told no more raises until they demonstrate their value
School board should be commended for demanding higher standards
From staff reports
     BROWNSVILLE, Pa. – The truth hurts.
     That’s a lesson teachers at the Brownsville Area School District learned this week when school board members explained their reasoning for rejecting a proposed contract with the local teachers union.
     In a public meeting, school board Director Nena Kaminsky said she couldn’t vote in favor of the contract because “we have the highest paid teachers in Fayette County and we have the worst test scores in the state,” the Herald Standard reports.
     In other words, the community isn’t getting its money’s worth and the board will not settle for that.
     The comments sent the teachers union into a tizzy.
     The Brownsville Education Association held rallies at two local elementary schools where dozens of teachers held signs reading, “We deserve respect.” The rallies, union officials said, were prompted by Kaminsky’s comments, not the rejected contract.
     “Yes, we do have some schools that are struggling, but we are working toward trying to improve the test scores,” union president Barbara Gera told the newspaper. “We don’t have the worst test scores in the state. We are very upset with the school board’s perception of teachers.”
     “We are not outraged or disappointed; we are just hurt,” said high school teacher Brian Nicholson, a union negotiator.
     Sometimes the truth hurts. Whether the district’s student test scores are technically the worst in the state, or close to it, is beside the point. It’s clear that students aren’t learning as well as they could and the school board should be commended for demanding higher standards.
     Too often, school boards adopt a go-along-to-get-along mentality that does nothing to improve student instruction. In Brownsville, school officials made it clear that classroom performance matters.
     The BEA would be wise to take the criticism to heart, work with the district to improve teaching techniques, and implement new methods to help students achieve their potential. Then, with student test scores on the rise, they’ll be in a much better position to negotiate for the amount of money they believe they’re worth. But first, they will have to demonstrate their value.
     That’s the way it should be in every school district in the nation.

I'm stunned by this myopic vision of what makes a school an "effective" school and what makes an "effective" teacher.  Kids may not test well:
  • If the standards and assessments are faulty or unproven/untested (common core standards)
  • If students are not able to learn the material
  • If students don't make the effort to learn
  • If parents don't/can't/won't support their child's learning
  • If the material is not appropriate for a child's' individual learning style 
EAGnews should be ashamed.  The Riverview Gardens experiment with Teach for America and firing "ineffective teachers" is just one example of how teachers are just one part of the equation in successful or non-successful schools.  EAG is blaming teachers for all the woes of education.
Why are they wrong?  Here's a tweet I received after the first article appeared this morning:

Hmm, what's worse, teaching what shouldn't be taught('what color is math', 'we are a Democracy')ineffectively or effectively?

What is most important?  An "effective" teacher or "effective" standards, assessments and curriculum?  Oh, that's right.  That idea of  standards, assessments and curriculum upon which "effectiveness" is based is now decided by the CCSSO, the NGA, and other private special interests unaccountable to taxpayers.  How this "effectiveness" is measured is mandated by the DOEd, not local districts.   Should we be celebrating that we can now measure teachers based on national standards that may or may not be appropriate in content, learning style and the fact that local communities have no voice in their crafting? 
Does EAGnews realize or care that teachers must "demonstrate their value" by teaching unproven, untested and unfunded mandates?  NCLB was a failure and common core is already raising much concern on its effectiveness.   Does this organization really believe "That’s the way it should be in every school district in the nation"?

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