Monday, October 18, 2010

Teacher Salary Project

There's been some excitement over at the Center for Teaching Quality boards about a new film project called "The Teacher Salary Project."  Of course it's very important to include the voices of teachers in discussions about national, state and local educational policy.  Yet the project may actually being doing more to isolate teachers from the general public.

You can check out a clip from the film and decide for yourself.  I watched the "Before 9 a.m." clip and was a bit disappointed if not embarrassed.

I don't think teachers are going to build allies with other American workers by suggesting that we work harder than they do. Of course child care is incredibly important and teaching is a noble profession. But to suggest that people who take care of their families and put in a hard days work are less worthy than teachers demeans diversity and democracy. We need all kinds of people to be deeply engaged with their families, communities and society in general.

Heck, I'd love to have time to eat a more relaxed and nutritious breakfast with my family every morning. Good for the real estate broker and the choices he has made.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Managing "October Exhaustion"

Today in our "school reform" personal learning community (PLC), we acknowledged that it's very challenging to juggle student engagement, curriculum planning, life-coaching and family communications. And when would we have time to study and discuss national education policy?

We all work pretty hard (and I'd say pretty effectively), but we may also be susceptible to "October Exhaustion." Although this usually hits me -- hard -- in November, I do my best to pace myself so that I am relatively healthy and sane in June.

Elena Aguilar, a colleague from the Teachers Leaders Network, has posted an interesting (and somewhat controversial) survival guide for October Exhaustion in EdWeeks' Teacher Magazine. Her main points are summarized below:

  • Take some time off
  • Refresh your surroundings
  • Re-ground yourself in the “why”
  • Celebrate the successes
  • Optimize your time
  • Get some helpers
  • Learn to say no
  • Make good health a priority
What do you think? To what extent is this a fair and professional list?

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Limits of Value-Added Models of Assessment

Diane Ravitch (and others) have a lot to say about the limits of the value-added model (VAM).  For those in need of a tune-up on VAM, here is a nice synopsis from the Value Added Research Center.

One of the strengths of the VAM is that is suggests that there are number of variables that influence how "learning" takes place: schools, teacher prep programs, families, communities, teacher:student ratios.  What has to happen with these varables so that children are ready to learn and teachers are supported?

Taken in isolation, VAM has limitations.   For example, effective teachers may be miscast as ineffective, and therefore unworthy of employment, recognition and/or bonuses.*  Perhaps worse -- ineffective teachers could be identified as effective due to stand-alone standardized test scores.

And what if Oak Tree A is transplanted to Garden B?  Or how much time would Gardener B need to be effective in Garden A?  Think about switching from teaching 11th grade physics to 8th grade general science, for example.  Or switching from 5th graders to 3rd graders.  How much time, planning and coaching would you need to get to know the students, the 3rd grade teaching team, the curricula, and the families?  How long would it take for you to be "effective?"

We can also ask whether standardized tests scores are an adequate measure of learning, no matter how you adjust the numbers.

* For more on teacher bonuses, "Teacher Bonuses Don't Improve Test Scores."