Editorial: How to help our teachers - Coeur d'Alene Press: Local News

Editorial: How to help our teachers

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Posted: Sunday, November 18, 2012 10:11 am

Tom Luna stepped in it again.

At least, that's what some critics claim after Idaho's superintendent of schools called anew for stronger teacher evaluations and rewards before the dirt on education reform's grave had properly hardened.

Respectfully, we disagree. Idahoans enthusiastically bent the three prongs of the state's ed reform fork, but even the propositions' most ardent antagonists agree there's room to do things better.

The quality of instruction - teachers - is as good a starting point as any, if for no other reason than teachers are the single most important factor in the delivery of quality education.

Luna might be freshly vilified for suggesting that teacher performance should take center stage in the coming legislative session, but we think there's no better time to seriously talk about this than right now. Every minute wasted is cheating kids out of the education they deserve and depriving families and society in general of the benefits.

Before the tired cries resume - you know, evaluations are unfair because they only assess students' ability to take tests, and rewards are unfair because they don't accurately measure student progress - we recommend anyone interested in this issue read an article by Amanda Ripley published in The Atlantic.

Ripley's story, "Why Kids Should Grade Teachers," paints a fascinating picture of the reliability of a survey being used in a growing number of school districts. As the headline suggests, the survey is a tool for students to evaluate their teachers, and as the story explains, its effectiveness is due largely to the questions it asks.

What's astonishing is the accuracy of the survey - created a decade ago by Harvard economist Ronald Ferguson - in evaluating the impact of teachers compared to any other measure. What's also amazing is that the survey results are consistent with students as young as 5 years old.

Of course, there's already resistance to the survey from select quarters, but there's enough empirical evidence of its effectiveness to warrant serious investigation by Idaho legislators and education officials. By a large majority, Idahoans believe there's more to judging teachers than their students' standardized test scores. This might be one valuable option.

For teacher vacancies, consider what Coeur d'Alene Charter Academy does. In addition to administrative assessments, Charter adds an important step in the hiring process that includes evaluations by students of prospective teachers. Here's how Principal Dan Nicklay explains it:

We have all finalists teach a sample lesson in front of real students. Our thought is that many people can interview really well, and have really good subject-matter knowledge, but might not connect with kids. My personal view is that between knowledge and "connection," the latter is far more important - at least up through middle school. If you can have both, you've got a winner.

Ferguson's survey with Charter's evaluation could be a winner for Idaho.


Amanda Ripley's story: Why kids should grade teachers  

  • Discuss

Welcome to the discussion.


  • inclined posted at 1:29 am on Thu, Nov 22, 2012.

    inclined Posts: 681

    wilbur. I did that for for you--so preoccupied with catching things in a web. What about our lives?

    You could be taken with the reality of webs, like that which is being spun, the placement, the strength of the material, the structure, the design--all of what it takes to get the prized little bugs and suck their blood. Unlike Charlotte, the reason the spiders in this time of trouble are plying their trade is not just to survive, but to capture, to take prisoner. The spiders in the education story are a different kind wilbur.
    If paying attention to details is what you do, you could warn them. Spreed the news and don't pig it.

  • wilbur posted at 8:15 am on Wed, Nov 21, 2012.

    wilbur Posts: 142

    inclined, oh uneducated one....it's not "loose their jobs", or "loose their homes"....it is lose. I could understand a typo, but when you repeat, you obviously need spelling lessons....

  • inclined posted at 2:23 am on Wed, Nov 21, 2012.

    inclined Posts: 681

    Teachers, like the Blacks in numbers, and the illegals, voted for "hopeychange".

    Wait til students find, and on their own, they're permanently buried by interest payments on the multitrillion-dollar debt and unfunded liabilities from Medicare. Yet in 2012 their rube strata educators still voted for Obama bought and paid for by the Union, with money from Washington, congratulated by the media for doing so.

    Wait til they come to grips with the expectation of being the hope of the future when their parents continue to loose jobs, loose homes, and the money for college is gone, and dreams too.

    Wait till they know that colleges and universities are licking and lapping with the tongues to drink on
    sponge brain, conversely providing the milk of new world order to the sucklings.

    Wait til they know we are headed for national collapse.

    Wait till they know that the war on woman is surgical. Black Women. That, the right to choose will stay intact, which insures us that the real war is against children, killing in the night, even same family babies of students with convenience and chink, chink, the "change" Progressive "morality" calls for.

    Wait til they know Obama-sized government funds stagnation, and prefrontal leucotomies(figuratively speaking), facilitates the Niagara Falls of regulatory obstruction, and will drive them onto the Golden Highway to dependency because we are headed for inflation and profound depression. Wait.

  • justme posted at 7:43 am on Mon, Nov 19, 2012.

    justme Posts: 119

    Please, come up with an idea you can present. Meeting with teachers is an excellent process approach. I also think all stakeholders need to be consulted..parents, students, administrators, retired teachers, employed teachers, employers of the school graduates, Idaho colleges, curriculum coordinators,, volunteers, experienced teacher aides and finally the media. No idea will survive without the blessing of the media.

    Now back to the subject. What idea would you think worth considering if you were advising any administrator including Luna. By idea I mean something that could be put into practice after all the meetings are finished.

  • Just_K posted at 7:28 am on Mon, Nov 19, 2012.

    Just_K Posts: 84

    I believe Cd'A High already has something like this in place. It's my understanding the first results of teachers being scored by their students will be after the first semester this year. It's a good idea overall, but I hope they factor in that as in everything there will be room for error and there is corruption within almost every system. Kids will want to get even with a teacher who gave them a failing grade even though they did failing work, and the "mean girls" who make fun of stodgy old gals, like me won't have anything positive to say. I don't know any firm answers, but I do agree that good teachers should be rewarded for exceptional teaching and the lax ones just waiting for retirement and hanging on for benefits aren't doing the students any good. Maybe is time to pull the weeds so that the garden can flourish.

  • lola123 posted at 7:17 am on Mon, Nov 19, 2012.

    lola123 Posts: 342

    Good one Voxpop!!!!!!!!

    "teachers are the single most important factor in the delivery of quality education"

    uhh No. It's parents then teachers. Parents have to instill the importance of an education before the teachers ever get the students.

  • hayden_guy posted at 10:30 pm on Sun, Nov 18, 2012.

    hayden_guy Posts: 400

    What now? What is next?
    Luna and company need to sit down with educators and discuss this.

    While backseat driving from those that do not have a drivers license can, on a rare occasion, help, the majority of the time it is loud noise that distracts the driver and makes things worse.

    Advice from Bill Gates? He is great a making money and running a tech company, not a running a school.

    Opinions on education "reform" are like armpits, everyone has them and.... well, you know the rest.

  • Shocked posted at 9:07 pm on Sun, Nov 18, 2012.

    Shocked Posts: 98

    Here's an idea... include some people who are actual educators in your planning for education reform. Tommy Boy still hasn't said he's willing to do that.

  • justme posted at 8:45 pm on Sun, Nov 18, 2012.

    justme Posts: 119

    I found this after my last post. Giving principals more authority had merit in the opinion of Bill Gates.

    By Bill Gates
    Wednesday, January 28, 2009

    Bill Gates released an annual letter this week outlining the state of his foundation and its goals for 2009. Following are excerpts from the section on education:

    Warren Buffett [says] every American, including him, is lucky to have been born here. He calls us winners of the "ovarian lottery."

    But even within the United States, there is a big gap between people who get the chance to make the most of their talents and those who don't. Melinda and I believe that providing everyone with a great education is the key to closing this gap. . . .

    The private high school I attended, Lakeside in Seattle, made a huge difference in my life. The teachers fueled my interests and encouraged me to read and learn as much as I could. Without those teachers I never would have gotten on the path of getting deeply engaged in math and software. . . .

    How many kids don't get the same chance to achieve their full potential? The number is very large. Every year, 1 million kids drop out of high school. Only 71 percent of kids graduate from high school within four years, and for minorities, the numbers are even worse -- 58 percent for Hispanics and 55 percent for African Americans. . . . The federal No Child Left Behind Act isn't perfect, but it has forced us to look at each school's results and realize how poorly we are doing overall. It surprises me that more parents are not upset about the education their own kids are receiving.

    Nine years ago, the foundation decided to invest in helping to create better high schools, and we have made over $2 billion in grants. The goal was to give schools extra money for a period of time to make changes in the way they were organized (including reducing their size), in how the teachers worked, and in the curriculum. The hope was that after a few years they would operate at the same cost per student as before, but they would have become much more effective.

    Many of the small schools that we invested in did not improve students' achievement in any significant way. These tended to be the schools that did not take radical steps to change the culture, such as allowing the principal to pick the team of teachers or change the curriculum. We had less success trying to change an existing school than helping to create a new school.

    Even so, many schools had higher attendance and graduation rates than their peers. While we were pleased with these improvements, we are trying to raise college-ready graduation rates, and in most cases, we fell short.

    But a few of the schools that we funded achieved something amazing. They replaced schools with low expectations and low results with ones that have high expectations and high results. These schools are not selective in whom they admit, and they are overwhelmingly serving kids in poor areas, most of whose parents did not go to college. Almost all of these schools are charter schools that have significantly longer school days than other schools.

    I have had a chance to spend time at a number of these schools, including High Tech High in San Diego and the Knowledge Is Power Program, or "KIPP," in Houston. . . . It is invigorating and inspirational to meet with the students and teachers in these schools and hear about their aspirations. They talk about how the schools they were in before did not challenge them and how their new school engages all of their abilities. These schools aim to have all of their kids enter four-year colleges, and many of them achieve that goal with 90 percent to 100 percent of their students.

    These successes and failures have underscored the need to aim high and embrace change in America's schools. Our goal as a nation should be to ensure that 80 percent of our students graduate from high school fully ready to attend college by 2025. This goal will probably be more difficult to achieve than anything else the foundation works on, because change comes so slowly and is so hard to measure. . . . If one school's students do better than another school's, how do you determine the exact cause? But the difficulty of the problem does not make it any less important to solve. And as the successes show, some schools are making real progress.

    Based on what the foundation has learned so far, we have refined our strategy. We will continue to invest in replicating the school models that worked the best. Almost all of these schools are charter schools. Many states have limits on charter schools, including giving them less funding than other schools. Educational innovation and overall improvement will go a lot faster if the charter school limits and funding rules are changed.

    One of the key things these schools have done is help their teachers be more effective in the classroom. It is amazing how big a difference a great teacher makes versus an ineffective one. Research shows that there is only half as much variation in student achievement between schools as there is among classrooms in the same school. If you want your child to get the best education possible, it is actually more important to get him assigned to a great teacher than to a great school.

    Whenever I talk to teachers, it is clear that they want to be great, but they need better tools so they can measure their progress and keep improving. So our new strategy focuses on learning why some teachers are so much more effective than others and how best practices can be spread throughout the education system so that the average quality goes up. We will work with some of the best teachers to put their lectures online as a model for other teachers and as a resource for students.

    Bill Gates is co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Melinda French Gates is a director of The Washington Post Co. The full letter is online at http://www.gatesfoundation.org/annual-letter/.

  • justme posted at 6:26 pm on Sun, Nov 18, 2012.

    justme Posts: 119

    I say lighten up on Mike. At least he is trying to come up with new ideas. The voters turned down the Luna reforms and the question is "what now?' We can't reward teachers who excel and we can't fire the bad ones. I for one appreciate any new ideas. If you don't like his ideas please suggest some of your own. To make any progress in education we need to set standards, evaluate, analyze the results and take a plan of action to make improvements.

    I will kick this off with my own idea. Since we cannot hold teachers accountable for performance perhaps we should hold the principals and administrators accountable. It is my understanding that principals have two year contracts. They make a very large salary based on years of experience and not on meeting goals. Perhaps if we could set reasonable and equal base pay for all principals and then reward them for meeting high standards. Teachers have said they do not want merit pay so let’s offer it to principals. If principals fail we could reassign them to the classroom.
    If you think this idea is a poor one please respond in a polite fashion and suggest another idea to help improve education.

  • milburnschmidt posted at 2:01 pm on Sun, Nov 18, 2012.

    milburnschmidt Posts: 1160

    One can only imagine the wooing of students by teachers if we relied on students to rate teachers, As long as this old man has lived there never has been a year went by without listening to cries of not enough money for teachers or schools. Perhaps we should separate administrators and cost of administration in the mix to see where the money really goes,Consultants constantly changing books and curriculums lots of money there. In this era of downsizing,tight budgets and loss of purchasing power its time complaining teachers shut up and look at their own system and get rid of tenure ,admit there are soime people teaching who shouldnt be and tighten up ther schedules as many others are forced to. It wouldnt be fair to judge a teachers worth by how a disadvantaged child with no family structure or interest in their education by whoever is raising them ends up when tested and fails. The teacher can only do so much. But to many schools have gone from basic work rules to padded hours and preparation time and more time out of the classroom and time spent on issues not connected to basic education. Teachers will never be paid what they think they are worth and those that think they need more should look to other occupations. We pay very good salaries and large budgets to educate our kids and its time those administrators solve their problems. Private businesses go out of business when they cant solve similar problems schools are gauranteed by law and can skate on. I refuse to believe that good teachers and administrators dont know how their good teachers are and who the bad ones are. With the fear of lawsuits or mandated laws and court decisions there is the reason to many hangon or are left alone. When I read how many kids are provided clothes and meals at school you have to wonder how much time is put into these issues rather than classroom basics. We cant keep letting poor teachers or burned out teachers riding on the back of the good teachers. Then again thats whats happening to workers and achievers in general society also.

  • concernedcitizen posted at 11:21 am on Sun, Nov 18, 2012.

    concernedcitizen Posts: 2530

    Again lets not look at and ad to this editorial the fact that tenured teachers can perform below standards and keep their job. Teachers at CdA High that send kids out off campus during class hours to get Starbucks, a teacher at LCHS that leaves class to go to Applebees to slam a couple of alchoholic drinks and returns before class ends, teachers cursing at students, teacher dress code violations, and the list goes on and on.

    Yes this is hearsay but when it is said on many occasion there might be some validity to it.

    Then there are the teachers in THIS economy that complain "I didn't get my raise." Guess what? NO ONE HAS GOTTEN A RAISE! It's not rocket science. People have lost their jobs and their houses. Where do you think taxes that pay your wages come from?

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