Thursday, March 10, 2011

"Well, duh", is Right

I've been saying this for over 17 years. Maybe all my life. And I don't get paid for saying almost exactly what Mr. Martin is saying.

Except at to bad teachers, let me set in a teachers classroom one day, two days at the most and I can tell you where that teacher rates in the title of one of my recent blogs, "Excellent, very good.........or bad. Like one famous quote, "I don't know the definition of porn but I'll know when I see it".

My qualifications? Read my profile and realize I had to meet a private sector payroll for 28 years without benefit of taxes or subsidies.

Why don't people realize you can "lead a horse to water but you can't make the horse drink". Leaders brag about the success of Peoria Promise. Yet the major driver in this program told me that 3/4 of these kids entering ICC do not read at college entry level. I'll go further and ask to see if anyone is tracking these kids; getting their first job, whether they can find one in the field they want, if they can find one, and where they are in life each year after graduation for at least 5 years from now.

That's how you measure success, not by diplomas.

And I don't mean just a select few but everyone of them. Don't have the money. Make ICC graduate job tracking a school class project for these second year PP kids, they all have computers and know how to use cell phones, and all the other high tech coming on the market.

Track them for years. Graduating means very little these years. How do I know? Ask any employer including myself. I hired for over 31 years.

If they can't, the public schools have an OBLIGATION to teach them how to read, write and do basic computation. I'll venture half the kids that enter college should be entering an elementary or advanced vo/tech school instead.

Please read the article if you are interested in a kids education and you should whatever your age.

Merle Widmer

By Michael T. Martin

Maybe it's just me, but I keep hearing about how there are all these
ineffective teachers in public schools that the unions are
protecting. First of all, let's ignore that unions are SUPPOSED to
defend ineffective teachers until they are proven ineffective, just
like lawyers are supposed to defend murderers until they are proven

It just seems to me there is no difference between the old "I have
the names of 200 communists who are working for the state department"
and today's almost identical "I have the names of 200 ineffective
teachers that unions keep on the job." It seems to be a witch hunt.

In both cases it is essentially fantasy wedded to fallacy. It is as
if there is an implicit assumption that all students are uniform
commodities for which there is only one way to teach them along a
single spectrum from bad to good. This is fantasy. The fallacy is
that instead each classroom is a roomful of conundrums that teachers
attempt to tailor customized instruction with varying levels of
success. This single spectrum fantasy taken logically implies that
somewhere in America there is a great teacher and everyone else is
less effective, or ineffective. The fallacy is that teachers are
actually functioning in an environment that is dynamic rather than
static and children are not uniform commodities. What works one day
for one group won't always work another day with another group.

Back in 1979 the Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank utilized its vast
computer research capabilities with the Philadelphia school board to
research what characteristics were associated with the largest gains
in fourth grade reading scores. The researchers were trained
econometric experts, experienced in finding associations between
economic characteristics and growth. The kind of analysis that
econometric researchers use is very closely related to the value
added concept in testing.

Their findings were that the usual things about teachers were not
strongly associated with reading gains. What I found most
illuminating, however, was their finding that whether the teacher had
a background in reading instruction was weakly associated with
reading gains, but whether the principal had a background in reading
instruction was strongly associated with reading gains. Meaning there
was empirical research forty years ago that showed student test
scores were more strongly influenced by the principal than by the
teacher. Not to mention last year's teacher has a significant impact
on the success of this year's teacher.

Plus, in 1991, some of the top testing experts, Daniel M. Koretz,
then with the RAND Institute, Robert L. Linn, with the University of
Colorado, Steven B. Dunbar, with the University of Iowa, and Lorrie
A. Shephard of the University of Colorado, collaborated on a paper in
which they compared student test scores on different tests of the
same subject matter. They used the existing test of the school
district to compare with a test that previously was used in the
district. When the existing test had been introduced the previously
high test scores plummeted. Now several years later the new test had
high scores. So they administered both tests to the same students and
the administration of the old test showed low scores. Their point
being that both tests that had demonstrated high subject test scores
for the same subject, showed entirely different test scores depending
on which test the teachers were prepared for.

Thus test scores do not actually measure subject knowledge, if they
did both test scores would be the same. Thus to use test scores to
measure teacher effectiveness is both a fantasy and a fallacy. We
know from empirical research that student test scores are more
strongly influenced by the principal than the teacher, and we know
from empirical research that students with the same subject knowledge
will produce entirely test scores on different tests. Yet the people
with the pitchforks want to use test scores to find ineffective

There is no denying that there are some ineffective teachers in
classrooms; there is no denying that there were some communists in
the State department. That there were any substantial numbers in
either case is unlikely, but there is no empirical evidence for
either. It is a fantasy world of witch hunts, much like the witch
hunts of Salem persecuting something we now know is fantasy. Witches
cannot do what they were persecuted for doing.

When I first became a "boss" after college, I inherited an
ineffective secretary who was unable to function other than ways she
determined were the way it had always been done. I was told my
predecessor had the same problem. I struggled to force the secretary
to change that went so far as to result in her passing out on the job
from "stress." I shared this secretary with a more experienced
colleague who simply arranged for the secretary to be transferred to
a job where she could be more successful. In other words, a lot of
the spectrum of effective and ineffective is based on matching the
people to the job. The fantasy that all teachers are in the same job
with the same students is the fallacy behind designating teachers as
effective or ineffective, even if we did have a valid measure of
effectiveness, which we don't. My excuse is that I was young,
inexperienced and stupid, what is Bill Gates' excuse?

The National Academy of Sciences assigned the National Research
Council to evaluate the Washington, D.C., school system. Their
preliminary "Plan" report subtitled "From impressions to evidence"
was released Monday and in it they state unequivocally "It is
important to note that measuring teacher effectiveness is a complex
endeavor for which there is no established consensus in the education
research community."

Well, d'oh.

Michael T. Martin

Jerry P. Becker
Dept. of Curriculum & Instruction
Southern Illinois University
625 Wham Drive
Mail Code 4610
Carbondale, IL 62901-4610
Phone: (618) 453-4241 [O]
(618) 457-8903 [H]
Fax: (618) 453-4244

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