This quote should get some people riled:
"A new generation of economists devised statistical methods to measure 'value-added' to a student's performance by almost every factor imaginable: class size versus per-pupil funding versus curriculum. When researchers ran the numbers in dozens of different studies, every factor under a school's control produced just a tiny impact, except fro one: which teacher the student had been assigned to."
Elizabeth's homework is to read the first week of posts from Eduwonkette, which dealt with the issue of teacher quality in depth. After I finish reading Elizabeth's article we'll decide if we should add Elizabeth the kick line.
EDUWONKETTE (JENNIFER JENNINGS)
Sunday, September 23, 2007 From Eli Broad and Michael Bloomberg to George Miller and Checker Finn, we’re awash in chatter about measuring and rewarding teacher effectiveness. This week I’ll consider some of the problems with these proposals. What’s missing from this discussion, I argue, is a full exploration of their potential consequences for students, teachers, and schools.
Let me note that I am not opposed to measuring and rewarding teacher effectiveness in principle. But it’s more complicated than most commentators would like to acknowledge, and I hope this week’s postings will help us think about that complexity.
Monday: Tunnel vision syndrome - The teacher effectiveness debate focuses only on a narrow set of the goals of public education, which may endanger other important goals we have for our schools.
Tuesday: No teacher is an island - The teacher effectiveness debate ignores that teachers play many roles in a school. Experienced teachers often serve as anchoring forces in addition to teaching students in their own classrooms. If we don’t acknowledge this interdependence, we may destabilize schools altogether.
Wednesday: Ignoring the great sorting machine - If students were randomly assigned to classrooms and schools, measuring teacher effects would be a much more straightforward enterprise. But when Mrs. Jones is assigned the lowest achievers, and Mrs. Scott’s kids are in the gifted and talented program, matters are complicated immeasurably.
Thursday: Overlooking the oops factor - Everything in the world is measured with error, and the best research on teacher effectiveness takes this very seriously. Yet many of those hailing teacher effectiveness proposals missed out on Statistics 101.
Friday: Disregarding labor market effects - The nature of evaluation affects not only current teachers, but who chooses to join the profession in the future and where they are willing to teach. If we don’t acknowledge that kids that are further behind are harder to pull up, we risk creating yet another incentive for teachers to avoid the toughest schools.
Here we are at mile 26 of the teacher effectiveness marathon - the previous posts are all archived here.
One of the summer’s highlights was a talk at AEI by Chicago labor economist Derek Neal. (Footnote: AEI talks generally make me want to impale myself on a Powerpoint projector, but this one was exceptional.) For those who weren’t there, you can watch the video here.
Neal found that low-performing kids in Chicago got shafted when the Chicago accountability system went into place, and again after NCLB was implemented. His talk wasn’t about teacher labor markets, but he made a critical point in this area. If the measurement of teacher effectiveness doesn’t take into account that some kids start off further behind that others and I am labeled a bad teacher as a result, why would I teach in a low-performing school? We have a hard enough time staffing these schools to begin with, in part because of salary differentials but also because of working conditions. If these teachers feel disrespected as professionals because the measurement system doesn’t acknowledge that they have a tougher job, I predict that we’re going to have a harder time recruiting and retaining teachers in these schools. This is conjecture, I know – we really have very little evidence about such a system because no one has implemented a comprehensive teacher effectiveness plan yet. (If you know of any studies on this issue, please email them to me.)
The best part, I thought, was towards the end of the discussion, where Doug Mesecar (Asst. Secretary at Ed) and Neal go back and forth in response to Mesecar’s question, “Are you saying our teachers are not professionals?”, i.e. that they're not good enough to get everyone to proficiency no matter how far behind they start. Most folks back down when challenged with the “soft bigotry of low expectations” rhetoric, but Neal was having none of it.
That’s it for teacher effectiveness, folks – I hope that this week has made you think through some of the issues we don’t hear much about in this debate.
(Kickline roster (from left to right): Eli Broad (Broad Foundation), Kati Haycock (Ed Trust), Michael Bloomberg (NYC), Michael Petrilli and Checker Finn (Fordham).)
That's it for my blast from Eduwonkette past. Elizabeth Green is assigned to write each post 20 times on the blackboard. Or in Powerpoint.