The purpose of this blog is to know and understand the teacher's perspective concerning current issues on education reform and the teaching profession. Inputs from the ones who probably knows what is best for students academically -- the teachers -- are rarely considered in decision making of policies. Yet, these so-called education experts and lawmakers dictate how we do our jobs and what we should teach. That's not right!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

What's the Rush? Running the Rat Race in Education Reform...

Slow down, Tito...Damn! ~ Chris Tucker

Seriously, what is the rush? Why are we playing Russian Roulette with our children's minds and teachers' time?

Oh! I get it. According to the public at large,
  • "We won't know unless we try..."
  • "We have to be innovative and be open to change..."
  • "We have to do something..."
I am trying to be open-minded and nonresistant in trying new things. But, this is getting ridiculous!

This sudden push for school districts and policy makers to make these education reform tactics mandatory in the school houses is idiotic when done hastily. "Oh, but they are research-based..." SO! When research is conducted, it is done under a controlled setting. While it may work in a controlled setting, the judgment is not out if it will work in the real world, dealing will all possible factors not included in the controlled setting. Hence, pilot studies/programs are needed before marketing something mainstream. With education reform tactics, particularly charter schools, merit-pay for teachers, and test-based teacher evaluation; there isn't enough research done to conclusively prove these tactics will work for all public school settings and all school districts. It may work in some schools, and it may not for others. Education scholars are producing mixed findings in their studies on these tactics. Agreeing to disagree, they can't come together collectively and said that either one of these tactics works to improve student achievement and teacher effectiveness. So, again, what is the rush?

Today, The New York Times published an article about the current national debate on how to effectively evaluate teachers. After the LA Times blunder and a recent study done by a group of respected education researchers last week, there has been widespread discussion on whether teacher evaluation using the Value-Added Model (VAM) is fair and effective. According to the article, the reviews are mixed. What is VAM? According to the article,

In value-added modeling, researchers use students’ scores on state tests administered at the end of third grade, for instance, to predict how they are likely to score on state tests at the end of fourth grade.A student whose third-grade scores were higher than 60 percent of peers statewide is predicted to score higher than 60 percent of fourth graders a year later. If, when actually taking the state tests at the end of fourth grade, the student scores higher than 70 percent of fourth graders, the leap in achievement represents the value the fourth-grade teacher added. 

Another article, which further discussed the implications of test-based teacher evaluation using VAM, describe it as follow:

...a statistical technique called value-added analysis to see how much progress students had made, from one year to the next, under different third- through fifth-grade teachers... [referring to the bogus study commissioned by the LA Times]
Yet, the Obama administration has included in its education agenda the implementation of these unproven reform tactics. Those states who recently won the RTTT funding will have to try them out. If this is their way of conducting a pilot study, well it would have be great if politics weren't involved. I can't speaker for all state winners except for Georgia since I live here. Even in the midst of budget cuts in education and teacher layoffs/furlough day/pay cut in salary, Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue was determined to include these reform tactics in its RTTT proposal, even when the largest state teacher association formally dissent his efforts. Nevertheless, Georgia still became one of the winners. Hey, President Obama! I thought you said that whatever education reform tactic you want to see implemented, you want the teachers' support in doing so...*humph* While I love me some Obama, I hate his education policy. I really do.

Oh goodness, here we go again. There was no mention of teachers' input on these decisions and policies. But of course, not. Why? Most teachers, including myself would have offered something different, like using student portfolios and other means to be included in teacher evaluation besides students' standardized test scores, and would have emphasize the need for more time for a thorough, yet more effective evaluation of teachers. As I stated previously in an earlier blog entry, "student learning is a life-long and complex journey that involves numerous experiences and educators..." Politicians and the public don't want to hear that. They want something done now and in a hurry. They rather settle for "a quick fix"  and deal with the consequences later than study the effectiveness of these tactics further and make necessary modifications to improve them. For the most part, these tactics were prematurely touted as effective by non-education experts and lawmakers, as well as educators who forgot where they come from.

So what can we teachers do, if anything? Take small steps and become vocal. Become actively involved in your professional organization and don't just be a dues-payers...and hold them accountable too. If you have time, write letters and op-eds. This hasty push has more to do with politics and money than the education welfare of our children. Not only will this affect student achievement but also teachers careers.

Get up! Stand up! Stand up for your rights! 
Get up! Stand up! Don't give up the fight! 
~ Bob Marley

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