I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Absolute Must Read

I don't use that phrase very often; then again, Bruce Baker doesn't often get a large op-ed space to explain why using test scores to evaluate teachers is an insanely bad idea:
Reformers also point to studies showing that teachers’ value-added scores are the best predictor (albeit a weak and error-prone one) of a teacher’s future value-added scores – a self-fulfilling prophecy. 
These arguments are incredibly flimsy. 
In response, I often explain that if we lived in a society where people walked everywhere, and a new automotive invention came along, but had the tendency to burst into a ball of flames on every third start, I think I’d walk. 
Now is a time to walk! 
Some innovations just aren’t ready for broad public adoption — and some may never be. Some, like this one, may not be a very good idea to begin with.
I won't quote any more because you really have to go read the entire thing. Bruce has the ability (like Paul Krugman) to take complex statistical ideas and explain them in a way a layperson can understand.

So print out his op-ed, and put copies on the staff room tables at your school. This is important.


Chris said...

I found your blog a couple weeks ago and really enjoy it.

So I'm quite liberal while many of my friends from my college days are fiscal conservatives/social liberals due to their family background. While I'm pretty good at convincing moderate-types of my views, these guys are a much tougher sell, especially when unions are involved as in education. For instance, they loved the movie Waiting for Superman, and straight up argue that we should run schools like corporations.

The basic argument went something like, "In every other job your performance is judged by your supervisor, and if you underperform you are let go. Why should teachers keep a first in-first out system? Just do the same test in the Fall and Spring, and you will know how good the teacher has performed."

Of course I know the downsides of testing schemes that you frequently mention; This linked article was great. But do you know a larger or broader argument on why education shouldn't be based on the corporate environment? I picture my friends imagining some benevolent principal who can assign equitable classes between teachers and then given enough performance "data" can solve the "bad teacher problem" judiciously. Also in this pipe dream, its ok to fire expensive experienced teachers for cheap new ones because merit pay somehow makes new teachers awesome.

Duke said...

This is a great question, and it deserves a serious answer. Let me think a bit...