Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Holding Them Teachers Accountable

Shaming and Embarrassing Them To Death:

LOS ANGELES — Colleagues of Rigoberto Ruelas were alarmed when he failed to show up for work one day in September. They described him as a devoted teacher who tutored students before school, stayed with them after and, on weekends, took students from his South Los Angeles elementary school to the beach.

When his body was found in a ravine in the Angeles National Forest, and the coroner ruled it a suicide, Mr. Ruelas’s death became a flash point, drawing the city’s largest newspaper into the middle of the debate over reforming the nation’s second-largest school district.

When The Los Angeles Times released a database of “value-added analysis” of every teacher in the Los Angeles Unified School District in August, Mr. Ruelas was rated “less effective than average.” Colleagues said he became noticeably depressed, and family members have guessed that the rating contributed to his death.

So the "value-added analysis," a slipshod calculation of teacher effectiveness mandated by the even more slipshod NCLB, was published by the L.A. Times?
The newspaper has refrained from commenting on the issue beyond a statement issued after Mr. Ruelas’s death: “The Times continues to extend our sympathy to Mr. Ruelas’s family, students, friends and colleagues. The Times published the database, which is based on seven years of state test scores in the L.A.U.S.D. schools, because it bears directly on the performance of public employees who provide an important service, and in the belief that parents and the public have a right to judge the data for themselves.”
Nice, huh? You can tell it was written by some hack in Legal because everything about the statement, beginning with the crocodile-tears expression of remorse, to the "public has a right" dodge, is factually absurd (the value-added analysis is no indication whatsoever on "the performance of public employees," nor did the paper perform an "important service" by publishing such a thing).

Regardless, proponents of the "hold them teachers accountable" myopia (including NCLB adherents, standardized tests apostles, and the Waiting for Superman dolts) are defending the paper and the release of this information. Some even assert this should be done throughout the country.
“Not including value-added measures is not acceptable,” said Yolie Flores, a board member of the Los Angeles Unified School District. “But it also has to be part of a more comprehensive system of evaluation.”

Eric A. Hanushek, a senior fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution who studies school accountability systems, said the value-added assessments should be combined with other factors. But he said the tenure system did not offer any meaningful evaluation of teacher performance.

“Now that The L.A. Times has published these scores, I think the genie is out of the bottle, and parents are going to want this information,” Mr. Hanushek said. “I presume the union’s opposition is a last effort of the teachers’ union to say that you should never evaluate teachers. This is their attempt to take a tragic situation and turn it into one that they can use for their own political advantage.”

More like the other way around. As the "accountability" zealots collect more scalps (both literally and figuratively), exploiting a teacher's death for political capital seems perfectly appropo for this crowd. Nothing says "hold them accountable" quite like driving "bad teachers" out of the profession.

Here's a novel idea: shouldn't we be trying to help "bad teachers" rather than run them out of their profession?

That's right...there is no political capital in that, is there?

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