Between the Lines

I read this article tonight and wanted to respond to the authors. I chose to just write up a between the lines commentary from this simple teacher’s point of view. My rude comments are in red.

The Elements of a Quality Teacher Development and Evaluation System

a complete fantasy By Vicki Phillips  and Randi Weingarten

It can seem difficult (impossible) these days to find broad (any) agreement on important public policy issues (using sarcasm in this case is not funny at all. Oh, they didn’t mean this sarcastically? My bad), especially on thorny issues like how to improve education. So it might be surprising (shocking), to hear that an influential teacher’s (teachers’) union (PRESIDENT – NOT THE UNION) and the world’s largest philanthropy (self-serving tax-shelter) are finding plenty of common ground. For example, we agree (to say) that teaching is the most important thing that schools do, and that every student deserves an effective teacher in every class (because we agree that if we say otherwise, no self-respecting teacher will continue to read this article).

Here’s something else the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the American Federation of Teachers agree on: A thoughtful and reliable (reliable? Out of all the words they could have used here, they chose “reliable?”) teacher evaluation and development system (created by Gates and friends) is crucial to making that a reality for children everywhere (in those horrible public schools).

Like all professionals (not professionals like doctors and lawyers who would never put up with this sort of thing. More like professional wrestlers or roller derby teams who have to do whatever their managers tell them to do), teachers need (MUST HAVE) lots of high-quality tools (purchased from Mr. Gates’ company and the company he keeps – read: Pearson), targeted support (provided by [see prior parenthetical comment]) and actionable (do it NOW, or else) feedback (direct and indirect via the press) to continuously improve their skills and performance (or you will be replaced) and help ensure success (which will be measured by OUR tools and criteria). Which is why both the Gates Foundation and the AFT are concerned (yes, we are VERY sympathetic to the needs of teachers) that states and districts are changing their teacher evaluation systems on the quick, instead of taking the time to do it right. (Wait! WHAT? We changed them because your hero, Arne Duncan, told us that if we didn’t change our evaluations to rely on TEST SCORES, which is what Mr. Gates wanted, we would lose funding and be forever known as the states who refused to change our evaluations to rely on TEST SCORES…)(oops. Let myself go off on a tangent. Sorry). 

Both the foundation and the AFT have been investigating (browbeating our programmers to determine) how to measure (with tools provided by “the foundation” and their friends at Pearson) effective teaching (as defined by “the foundation” and their friends at Pearson) and how to best help teachers improve (as defined by criteria defined by “the foundation and their friends at Pearson) (Is there an echo in here?). From our research (everything MUST be research based and “we, the foundation” and our friends at Pearson have the research we paid for to prove it), and the experiences of our state and district partners (cronies) (do NOT confuse “partners” with “educators in the schools), we’ve learned what high-quality (as defined by… oh just repeat the echo from above) teacher development and evaluation systems look like (I strongly suspect the evaluation systems will look like something designed by Pearson and will be stamped all over with the Pearson logo). They have several common elements:

  • Good (not GREAT systems – they’re based upon something else completely) systems are based upon clear expectations (Common Core NATIONAL Teacher Standards) that spell out what teachers should know and be able to do (because every teacher across the nation should be exactly like every other teacher). (These Stepford) Teachers receive regular, timely feedback (data, data, data) on their (terrible) performance and the targeted support to get better (or else).
  • They use a balanced (in favor of the corporation and NOT the teachers) approach to assessing (data) teacher performance (and you’d better perform/dance) and do not rely too heavily (no more than 90%) on test (created by – yes, you know) scores (data). These systems (data systems) include multiple measures (data), such as observations (by trained data entry specialists), student work samples (samples can’t be random because that wouldn’t be good DATA – so they will be VERY specific “samples”), student surveys (wait, can’t students get angry at a teacher and say things about a teacher that are exaggerations or flat-out lies?), and student assessments (oh here are those pesky, i mean VALID, yeah, VALID data pools, I mean, assessments, yeah, assessments).
  • They aim to improve a teacher’s skill and practice (as determined by… “is there an echo in here?”), not to shame (oh definitely NOT! We the undersigned are here to praise teachers, not to bash) them. (It’s more productive to hold principals and districts accountable for the continuous improvement of their teachers.) (As IF accountability doesn’t run downhill at a breakneck pace directly impacting teachers). 
  • Principals and administrators are well-trained in evaluating teacher performance (but when we tell you next year or sooner that they are NOT really well-trained, we and our friends at Pearson, will create the training that will bring them up to speed – for the low, low price – worth every dollar). This means using a valid rubric (insert echo) during an observation, certifying (by a panel of outside (read: Pearson) certifiers) that observers can use the rubric accurately (test the observers), and requiring multiple observations by different people (because your principal certainly is not qualified quite enough to suit us), including administrators and master teachers (and Pearson will be HAPPY to certify these master teachers, too, for an additional ongoing fee).
  • States and school systems continuously (on our schedule) judge the effectiveness (echo… echo) of their (our) teacher development and evaluation systems, and adjust them accordingly as more (of our) research and experiences become available (on our whim).

Officials must (emphasis added) INVEST in these kinds of quality systems because (we are selling them to you! And we say you cannot function without them) when we help teachers be their best, we are also helping students reach their full potential (and we are making inordinate amounts of money for ourselves and our stockholders). The importance of achieving that goal is something (that we say) everyone can agree on.

Please excuse the excess parentheses. I get parenthetical when I’m angry. Just be glad that I didn’t create this to match the long-version of the article


2 Comments on “Between the Lines”

  1. Linda says:

    Wow. I won’t be able to sleep now.

    • francesca says:

      Adore this response…..perfect in every way. There are tempers a-brewin’ from educators and families around the country as an increasingly strong light is being shone on corporate reform’s systemic, data driven destruction on our schools

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