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6 Replies to “Who Lost Merrow?”
I object to Merrow’s principal argument based on my experiences as a teacher of both learning disabled and low-income students, as well as honors students.
In my experience, it is much easier to teach a new skill or subject to students who come to class motivated and well-behaved, with parental support. I do not believe it is fair to judge all teachers based on their students’ progress, without controlling for variables such as student behavior, abilities, and parental involvement.
In addition, variables out of the teacher’s control can very much effect his or her teaching effectiveness, such as: principal support, access to materials, class size, available prep time, and number of different subjects taught simultaneously.
It makes me nervous when a teacher is labeled “good” or “bad” based on his or her experience with one group of students, with one principal, in one school. Merrow should not be so quick to pass judgment without considering these factors.
I hope that the emphasis is placed more on student improvement than reaching specific skills, especially for low-income students, students learning English, students in alternative programs, etc.. If a student comes to you at the age of 18 and hasn’t learned basic division, it may take a while to get him to fractions, decimals, and eventually, pre-algebra and algebra (I speak from experience here).
So yes, of course, teachers have an impact, but so do many other factors, which teachers have no control over. It’s not as simple as “half the class can’t do fractions”. In many schools, that half of the class is the half that has behavioral problems, misses meals at home, has just moved to the country, or has just started in their 3rd school of the year.
Until we can really deal with the socio-economic and other issues that public school teachers must face, we can’t blame teachers for being unable to get every student to each learning goal.
I once had a principal in a school full of affluent, white students tell me that his teachers didn’t really have to do anything and the kids still learned. I’d have to, then, take issue with the idea that easy vs. hard to teach should be part of this.
In fact, there should be a way to know if a teacher is doing a good job, and that might include test scores and probably more. Every parent in a school knows which are the good teachers. It’s not a mystery. One parents know is by observing the learning in their own children.
To Anonymous (2:07pm): Regarding your experience w/ the principal at the school where students learned independent of teacher effort: This example further bolsters my theory that the type of student very much matters when you’re measuring teacher success in terms of student performance.
In your example, a mediocre teacher would still post good “gains” in terms of her students’ achievement, b/c the students were motivated and pursued knowledge independent of the teacher’s efforts. Conversely, in a low-income school, a mediocre teacher such as this would NOT post the same gains in student performance.
That is, the same “quality” of teacher would be evaluated harshly when teaching in one school, but evaluated positively if teaching in another school. Not only is this unfair, but it further encourages teachers to leave hard to teach schools (e.g., inner city, ESL students) in favor of teaching in affluent neighborhoods. What a backwards and counterproductive incentive structure!
All the more reason to be hesitant when it comes to evaluating teachers based on student performance.
Anyone want to link up this discussion with the previous post on Locke High?
I guess you could come up with a formula saying that teachers in a school where 600 students riot can be expected to produce gains of X, while those at a school where only 300 riot can be expected to produce Y% gains.
Just kidding of course, and I sure don’t want to sidetrack a good discussion like this.