Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Teacher effectiveness focus of new Kentucky panel

This from the Herald-Leader:
Five Kentucky teachers told a newly formed advisory panel Friday that student achievement should be part of teacher evaluations in the future, but factors besides test scores should be part of that equation.

The teachers said evaluations should take into account students' individual progress, not just their scores on standardized tests.

"I think it's more about how much you've moved them, not about where you end up at," Buffy Sexton, a middle school science teacher in Jefferson County, told about 50 people attending the debut meeting of the Prichard Committee's Team on Teacher Effectiveness. Sexton was joined by four of her colleagues, all from Jefferson and Fayette counties.

The panel was formed by the nonprofit Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence, an education advocacy group based in Lexington. Its goal is to make recommendations for the 2014 legislative session.

Kentucky is in the midst of massive public school reforms. Among the areas being examined are new ways to measure teacher effectiveness.

The teachers also urged the panel to examine ways to help pay for getting master's degrees, which are required under Kentucky law for public school teachers. The requirement puts a huge financial burden on teachers new to the profession, they said.

"That would be a great place for Kentucky to start" in looking toward better ways to retain quality teachers, said Alison Crowley, an algebra and calculus teacher at Lexington's Lafayette High School.
The teachers also said that incentive pay aimed at attracting and retaining math and science educators or enticing teachers to work at low-performing schools is a controversial issue that needs further study.

Crowley also addressed the thorny issue of standardized testing, saying she estimated she spent almost 25 percent of her time last year either preparing for or administering a host of different assessments. She added that teachers "want the best for our kids," and urged the panel to examine whether all the standardized tests actually provide valuable data.

The teachers agreed that mentoring programs should be strengthened to help retention rates and said professional development opportunities should be more practical.

Robin Reid, a high school social studies teacher in Fayette County, said professional development should be individualized for each teacher, rather than the one-size-fits-all approach that meets district-wide goals but might not be practical.

"If the teachers aren't engaged in the professional development, how can we ask the teachers to engage their students?" added Crowley.

Working conditions were also briefly addressed. The teachers agreed that the top priority is for teachers to feel they are backed by administrators.

Teachers are a "rare breed," said Pat Thurman, a middle school science teacher in Jefferson County. "We will work under terrible conditions ... if we see that we are having an impact."

The teacher effectiveness panel, made up of educators, legislators, advocates and business people, is scheduled to meet again Sept. 11.
In the interest of full disclosure, Ali Crowley is a former Doc student of mine who teaches Algebra 2 and AP Calculus at Lafayette High School in Lexington. A National Board-certified teacher with 11 years of experience, she is also a member of the Center for Teaching Quality's Implementing Common Core Standards team. Crowley participates in Ed Week's Teaching Ahead Roundtable.


Anonymous said...

I'm one of those people with half a foot in public education and half a foot in higher education. I think, and I am certain some would agree with me, that there is no objective way to measure quality teaching or teaching effectiveness.

Because I keep my mouth shut, each year I serve as K-TIP mentor. Even those standards are arbitrary and subjective. I know what I expect a good teacher to do, but is my standard what is best for students? Let's face it: at any particular school a teacher is considered effective if s/he is liked by the students and the principal, admired by the parents, and if s/he stays off the radar. At our school effective teachers are those who use technology, do hands-on activities, pal around with the kids, and don't expect too much in terms of rigor.

Sadly, because of the emphasis on test scores (which do not accurately measure student achievement, in my view) an effective teacher at my school is also one who teachers to the test.

I practice an active, covert dissent. I teach my subject, more of it than is required by the national standards, I do "practice testing" only when required, and I ignore any of the latest trends that come from Central Office. I, not a Dr. Shelton, not a Tom Guskey, not Arne Duncan, know what my students need because I see them daily. They are getting a quality education because I believe in education, manage my classroom effectively, and because I do not buy into trends that overlook handwriting, basic grammar, and the accumulation of factual knowledge. the students who are not achieving in my class are the same group of kids who lack parental involvement or an infrastructure that can make them do their homework. (MY principal tell the kids daily "We can't make you do you homework" and then he also says "At__________High School all students learn at high levels." Yeah, right.

Anonymous said...

We are living in a time where a political ally without a college degree can get a $200,000 a year job as a U.of L. chief of state. What makes anyone think this sort of thing isn't going to continue to occur at the county level? In many counties the public sector power resides in the County Judge executive, superintendent and maybe the high school principal.

Anonymous said...

I must admit that I find some common ground with the perspective of the first contributor. There are simply too many factors beyond the control of teacher to imply a consistent direct and single source line between teacher effectiveness (whatever that is) and student achievement. I think that most research points out the various limitations in evaluating "teacher effectiveness" solely on student achievement.

This perception only emphasize how our lack of trust has expanded from the classroom teacher to the school level administrator whereby we are more trusting of a one time third party exam than we are of multiple obsevations and direct interaction between the teacher and their supervisor. Not to sound too Orwellian but one can't help but speculate that as we move toward reducing the control and trust in educators and increasing the oversight and influence of government and national private sector vendors who seek to standardize curriculum and performance (especially through the use of technology) that we are moving toward an era which will rob us of individuality and free think.

Bill Phillips said...

Several states pay tuition for work toward a masters degree, I think this is a very good idea for the following reasons: first, it is a great way to spend professional development money; second, Kentucky has mandated newly redesigned Teacher/Leader master programs which are very strenuous; and third, teachers seeking a masters degree would be able to select the highest quality program not just the cheapest program.

Anonymous said...

Unless she was misquoted, I do hope Ms. Buffy Sexton is not an English teacher. I would not want to be quoted saying "Not about where you end up at."

KDE might consider the selection of more articulate spokespersons for their panel on effective teaching. I'd hate to even think how this crew would handle a group of struggling teachers.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

I too cringed when I read that quote. I should not have allowed my nerves to up-end me.
This group of teachers successfully mentors not only struggling teachers but also new and student teachers as well.
I hope The Prichard Committee, KDE and others will continue to look for effective, accomplished teachers and not just articulate spokespersons. Normally I fit into both categories equally, I missed the mark this time.
Thank you for the feedback.