Sunday, December 5, 2010

What happened to "Education"?

Joanne Jacobs has a piece on evaluation programs that are looking to videotape teachers as they give lessons and then "Go Look at Tape." The issue seems to be that
More than 99 percent of teachers are rated satisfactory by their principals, reports a study on “the widget effect” by the New Teacher Project.
and this is somehow "bad," hence the need for overhaul. While I would argue that you need to improve the system so that middle-managers (Admin) can appropriately rate, measure and evaluate their assembly-line workers (teachers), I'm not sure that going to videotape is much of an improvement. If the Principal can't see the "errors" while sitting in the class, how is he supposed to make anything out of the 17th such review, even if he did have the time. Well, they have an answer for that ... Gates figures we'll pay outside evaluators who will somehow be able to see what the highly paid admin can't or won't.
The Gates Foundation is developing a new model, with the help of social scientists and teachers, reports the New York Times. Outside evaluators analyze videotapes to determine whether teachers are teaching well.
We've got money for outside evaluators? Pretty cool. I'll sign up. What gives you the idea that I'll be any more or biased/petty/superficial than the current system? The fact that I'll be able to rewind the tape? More likely I'll fast forward through it. The fact that I don't know the teacher so I'll be more honest? More likely, I'll make a snap judgment and move on.

You know we'll pay for training out of our RTTT money or something, hire bunches of consultants to teach teachers to evaluate other teachers who are trying to teach students. Pretty amazing, ain't it?
Hundreds of teachers will be trained to review 64,000 hours of classroom video. They will look “for possible correlations between certain teaching practices and high student achievement, measured by value-added scores.”
Let's say it's 800 teachers - that's 80 hours of tape to watch, per person. Asking a lot? I can't even spend that much time watching TV or movies in a month while sitting mindless and half-comatose. I'd need to be unemployed to look at 80 hours of tape multiple times and evaluate someone.

But here's the crux of my complaint ... those correlations. I've had students who completely and utterly bombed in class but did well on testing. I've also had plenty who did well in my class, well in the next couple of classes, had a great high school career, and then a great college career, and are now cranking out 6 figure salaries ... but didn't do well on testing. How do I know they did well? They told me.

Since when did value-added scores on NEAP mean an education? Since when could anyone figure out what I do that "works" by watching 10, 20 hours of videotape? Really? Do they know me? Since when did someone watching a few hours of video actually have a clue as to what went on and who and how the students were effected? Ten hours of video? That's two days. Does anyone here think that I couldn't fake it for two days and mess around the rest of the year if I was of a mind to?

I didn't think so.

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