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PAX, LUX ET VERITAS SINCE 1965
Post re: Education: Evaluating Teacher Performance
Created by John Eipper on 09/20/10 1:53 AM

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re: Education: Evaluating Teacher Performance (Mike Bonnie, USA, 09/20/10 1:53 am)

John Heelan wrote on 18 September:  

We came to the conclusion that the only sound way was to measure the difference the teachers made to the knowledge and skills of the students as individuals. A difficult logistical task: it meant we had to provide a start point for the student learning experience (an "entry test") as well as an final test ("exit test").  Comparing the difference between the two tests at student level would give us the basic data to assess the difference the teacher had made. (Of course, this would be skewed by extraneous factors individual to the student surrounding testing mechanisms, but we thought this would be minimal in the overall scheme of things and lost in the summarising.)

Veteran teacher Mike Bonnie responds:

The "black box" approach to measuring teacher quality is the only way to conduct such as study, particularly if building mistrust and fear are the motives. Unfortunately, such gross measures preclude obtaining usable results. External factors are painfully obvious: some students don't test well under any circumstances. Does every teacher have to teach using the same words (direct instruction)? Reliability and validity of school testing present the same issues as research. Can the same test be used in New York City as in Podunk, Iowa? Structure of test questions enter into the formula, given such variables as language and local dialect, who designs the test and who reads the results (cost/benefit factors). The lists can go on and, on. However, the strongest argument I can think of against this approach is, we test before, we test after (summative assessment); what can be done for the student (after the fact) if he or she fails? Does the teacher get fired and everyone moves on? Standardized testing is perhaps only the least worst way.  Of measures of proficiency, portfolio development is much more humane in the sense, students are able to demonstrate knowledge gained throughout a program or course of instruction. It's not rocket science to evaluate a portfolio based on a rubric. If technology were dispersed throughout schools equitably, portfolios could be digitized and scored quickly and accurately. I agree that we need the best quality teachers for students, but designing a testing system based on mistrust is not the way to improve learning.


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  • "Black Box" testing (John Heelan, UK 09/20/10 5:13 AM)

    I am not quite sure to what Mike Bonnie (20 September) is objecting in the scheme we designed but did not implement for commercial reasons.  I understand his point that it might not work in a public schooling system but we had a more controlled environment--although globally widespread.



    The approach we took was "variance measurement" at the level of the individual, i.e. measuring the degree of change in knowledge and skills as a result of the education and training course undergone.  These were summed for all students taught by a lecturer over time giving us the base data to help assess the quality of that lecturer and what further training he/she might need to improve.


    Perhaps if I describe the teaching environment a little better, it would help Mike understand approach.  The environment was controlled in that the courses were designed at a central point (with common objectives and measurable outcomes), the lecturers themselves (mainly graduates) were taught how to teach the courses, there was a common testing process based on multiple answer sheets that were marked electronically, the subject matter was almost entirely technical with little scope for alternative answers and so on.   The variable was the students themselves.  As Mike says, some do not test well but that is less of a problem in multiple choice papers than script papers.


    As I said, the proposal turned out to be academic anyway as it relied on an "entry test" to assess how much a student knew before attending the course.  This was so unpopular--for a variety of reasons--that we dropped it and thus also that particular lecturer evaluation proposal.



     


     

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    • "Black Box" Testing (Mike Bonnie, USA 09/21/10 4:08 AM)
      In response to John Heelan (20 September), my posting of September 20 was directed toward
      public education. Private education is accountable with student
      achievement results to stakeholders only, not to the public. First of all
      "testing," as we are discussing, is a commercial venture in the public
      interest, so any exploration under the title "improving education" will
      receive public support. Teachers will contend that failing students are
      a community problem and parents must get involved. From the parental
      point of view, in the urban community where I live and work, parents
      are saying such things as, "I'm working two jobs to keep the roof over
      our heads and food on the table." "I see my son for 30 minutes a day."
      "I pay taxes to support schools so my son can learn and get a job to
      help himself." "I hope my daughter doesn't get pregnant again." "I
      can't afford to move to find a better job." "I can't ask for higher
      salary." "I can't afford to stay where we live." A parent told me
      today, "I threw my husband out because he wouldn't work." Parents,
      teachers, and students have been stuck in this paradigm since public
      education began. So the question is, how to get out of this mess, because clearly parents are doing a lousy job raising their kids and
      schools are doing a terrible job being both parents and educators
      (evidence, the current economic crisis).



      No one denies there is dead wood in the education system (teachers and
      administrators both who've retired on the job). No one (who isn't
      taking part) will deny that nepotism exists. Schools are families of
      both good and bad (like functional and dysfunctional families). What
      students want and need are tools to work through the maze of confusion
      and be self-sufficient. Without those tools the best alternative
      becomes running away (dropping out), or staying in school (out of fear
      of being arrested) and disrupting the process. Increasing the stakes on
      what it takes to be successful (across the board--for all educators,
      and educators only) does not address the problems--it increases them.



      Please ponder two quotes while considering the prime direction of
      corporations (book publishers), outspoken religious demigods and
      demi-goddesses, government representatives, with little other than
      pseudo-arguments in the guise of discussion of alternatives and
      solutions (while education systems further disintegrate), the goal of
      making the United States the number one nation in the world in science
      and math on tests including the PISS and TIMMS. Then ask, "What does
      requiring teachers to teach math, reading, and science out of a textbook to students so they can pass a test accomplish when the US
      infrastructure is failing, US health care system is failing, vast
      numbers of people are unemployed, the US can't settle a war in any
      part of the world, and the nation is a hair-breath away from civil
      unrest? Someone please tell me the woman who recently stopped her car
      in traffic on a railroad track and was struck by a train was a college
      grad. Teachers would much better serve students by preparing them to
      enter the job market, teaching how to fill out a job application,
      learning how to dress for an interview, knowing when they walk into the
      interview something about the place where they hope to work and the people in
      it, having examples of previous success on their resume (on in a
      portfolio). Imagine an applicant coming to a job interview, where he or
      she can't walk or talk but they sure have a good test scores, and they
      came from a school with all good test scores. Please consider this:



      "Now I have a very clear conviction as to what elementary education
      ought to be; what it really may be, when properly organised; and what I
      think it will be, before many years have passed over our heads, in
      England and in America. Such education should enable an average boy of
      fifteen or sixteen to read and write his own language with ease and
      accuracy, and with a sense of literary excellence derived from the
      study of our classic writers: to have a general acquaintance with the
      history of his own country and with the great laws of social existence;
      to have acquired the rudiments of the physical and psychological
      sciences, and a fair knowledge of elementary arithmetic and geometry.
      He should have obtained an acquaintance with logic rather by example
      than by precept; while the acquirement of the elements of music and
      drawing should have been pleasure rather than work."



      "To this end the university need cover no ground foreign to that
      occupied by the elementary school. Indeed it cannot; for the elementary
      instruction which I have referred to embraces all the kinds of real
      knowledge and mental activity possible to man. The university can add
      no new departments of knowledge, can offer no new fields of mental
      activity; but what it can do is to intensify and specialise the
      instruction in each department."



      The above quotes were delivered by Thomas H. Huxley at the formal
      opening of the Johns Hopkins University at Baltimore, Maryland.,
      September 12, 1876. I encourage a full read of that Huxley said. Is not
      Johns Hopkins a fine model for education? What
      happened to the elementary school support Huxley envisioned? Why can't
      other urban communities share in the wealth?



      http://www.ibiblio.org/pub/docs/books/gutenberg/etext04/8sced10h.htm#IX



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  • Evaluating Teacher Performance (Randy Black, USA 09/21/10 12:18 PM)

    Mike
    Bonnie, a veteran classroom teacher, made a good argument against any
    type of testing that might verify or discredit teaching effectiveness
    in his 20 September post.



    For
    decades, parents and those in public school governance have fought for
    teacher accountability. In contrast, for decades, teachers unions have
    resisted such accountability. Personally, I believe teachers should at
    some level be held accountable. The trick is in how to go about it. I
    don’t have the answer; perhaps someone in WAISworld does.



    The
    fight for and against accountability is especially concerning in the
    Los Angeles school system, where the graduation rate is only 40 percent
    despite spending that exceeds $30,000 per pupil annually. Among other
    troubles, this month, LA opened a new K-12 school to house more than
    4,000 students and costing $578 million. Note: The LA school district
    faces a $640 million funding shortfall this year.



    By contrast, in the Allen (Texas) ISD where my daughter is a 4th grader, the district has a balanced budget, spends $7,000 per student
    annually and the high school has a 99 percent graduation rate. The
    suburban Dallas district serves about 18,000 students, PK-12 in its 19
    schools, 4,000 of whom are at the high school that includes grades
    10-12. District wide, seven percent speak English as a second language,
    while 11 percent are classified as special needs students.



    I
    sat on a committee of another suburban school board some years ago
    reviewing just such matters as teacher accountability. On one hand, the
    system had a principal, department head, or an appointee “sit in” on a
    classroom and grade that teacher via personal observations. It was a
    simple two-page “yes, no” type evaluation, check a box here and there,
    and a scale from one to five as to the teacher’s grasp of the topics
    taught, class preparation and classroom controls, student participation
    and other topics deemed relevant.



    This
    type of evaluation process was the rule going back to my high school
    days of the 1960s. I recall my economics teacher tipping us off that
    the evaluator would be present the following day and that we should be
    on our best behavior. This was in a high school where 100 percent of
    the teachers had their Masters degree in their specialty. A fair percentage of our teachers had PhDs.



    Even
    with this system, there were teachers objecting to that evaluation
    process, using the argument that “this is unfair, that evaluator has
    never liked me and won’t give me a fair shake.” When it was suggested
    that outside evaluators perform the review, the same people objected
    with “who is this outsider and how do we know that they are qualified
    for such an important task?”



    Any
    way you look at it, teachers don’t like anyone questioning their skills
    once they’ve got their “lifetime” teaching credential, which is what
    you get with your education diploma in Texas.



    The Dallas ISD superintendent (14th largest district in the US), Dr. Michael Hinojosa, earns more than
    $320,000 annually plus $750 per month car allowance. In 2008, Dr.
    Hinojosa implemented controversial new rules. Among other craziness,
    Dallas teachers district wide are required to accept late work without
    penalty, give retests to students who fail and then keep the higher
    grade, and forces teachers to drop homework grades that would drag down
    a student’s class average. Homework grades can only be given if they
    will raise the student’s average, not lower it. How stupid is that?



    Apparently,
    he later added that no student could be given a test grade lower than
    50, even if the student failed to show up for it. I note that in 2007,
    80 percent of DISD 9th graders scored below the 40th percentile in reading on the Iowa Texas of Educational Development.
    Additionally, Dallas high school teachers who fail more than 20 percent
    of their students are required to develop a professional improvement
    plan and will be monitored by their principals. For middle school the
    rate is 15 percent; for elementary, it’s 10 percent.



    Here’s hoping that Dr. Hinojosa gets the job offer that he’s been seeking in Nevada.


    We
    don’t have such idiotic rules in our suburban Allen ISD district. You
    don’t turn in your work or show up for tests, you get a zero. A teacher
    has the discretion of accepting late work, or not. In the end, while it
    helps if there is a caring, talented teacher at the other end of the
    sidewalk to and from school, it’s really all about parenting.



    http://azstarnet.com/news/article_006930a8-fbca-5cf5-aebd-e47937d112a0.html

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    • Evaluating Teacher Peformance (Mike Bonnie, USA 09/23/10 3:00 AM)

      In response to Randy Black (21 September), I don't object to teacher test (correction:
      evaluations) at all. What I wrote in my Sept. 20 message was,
      "Increasing the stakes on what it takes to be successful (across the
      board--for all educators, and educators only) does not address the
      problems--it increases them." The classroom of any teacher is
      sacrosanct, it always has been and likely will always be, as is the
      doctor's office, the dentist, the psychiatrist. All licensed
      professionals require degrees of competence which includes upholding
      and protecting the rights of student, patient, client confidentiality
      and all shared personal information which could clearly identify
      individuals (except in cases of extreme risk to the individual or
      others). The education reform movement isn't after teachers' jobs. Who
      in their right mind wants to do what teachers take on? Most advocates
      of reform either have no idea what teachers do each and every day or
      couldn't care less. The education reform movement is after the minds of
      students. It's young minds that grow up to vote Republican or Democratic,
      approve laws, and budgets, and control the economy (directly and
      indirectly), and promulgate Christian or other values. Nothing is new,
      secret, or in any way hidden about that.



      Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Allen, Texas must be nearly at opposite ends
      of the spectrum. The Allen district boasts of 99 percent graduation rate and
      spends $7K per student per year. Perhaps a more telling number would be the
      number of free and reduced price meals served to students whose
      families are living below the national level of poverty? From the
      2008-09 Milwaukee School District Report Card, 69 (32%) of Milwaukee
      District's 213 schools report 90% of students receive free or reduced
      price meals. Sixty percent of all the schools report rates exceeding
      80%. Again, I'm not talking about who's best or worst at teaching
      students. I'm talking about equity in all the factors (including
      evaluations) surrounding student success. Let's stop wasting everyone's
      time and energy talking down teachers.



      JE comments:  I think Mike Bonnie and Randy Black would be in agreement with Randy's last sentence of 21 September:  "It's really all about parenting."  How can youngsters understand the importance of building their human capital (i.e., getting a good education), if they don't learn this lesson at home?


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      • Sacrosanct Classrooms? (John Heelan, UK 09/23/10 3:29 AM)

        On 23 September Mike Bonnie wrote, "the classroom of any teacher is sacrosanct, it always has been and likely will always be, as is the doctor's office, the dentist, the psychiatrist."


        With respect, this is redolent of the ages when religion controlled all education and knowledge, and perhaps is inappropriate today.  Mike is correct that professionals must be well-educated and trained in using the tools of their profession.  However, they must also be regulated by peers and others to ensure that they are using those skills and knowledge to the benefit of the community they are serving. 



        Someone said to me once that the essence of professionalism was the willingness to be measured by one's peers.  This is no different for the teaching profession.  Professional educators should thus be willing to invite potential critics into their academic groves from time to time.


        JE comments:  "Inquisitor" is the name I (silently) give to evaluators visiting my "academic grove."  I know it's important to have one's competence measured, but gosh it's disruptive.  And stressful.  Moreover, as any anthropologist knows, the entire classroom student-teacher and student-student dynamic changes when someone is there observing.

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        • Sacrosanct Classrooms? (Mike Bonnie, USA 09/24/10 2:38 AM)

          John Heelan's challenge (23 September) on my use of the word sacrosanct
          sent me scurrying to the on-line dictionary for the definition
          I thought I was referring to in my original posting. Thank you, John for calling me to task. According to
          Miriam-Webster:



          http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sacrosanct



          definition of SACROSANCT



          1: most sacred or holy:  inviolable

          2: treated as if holy:  immune from criticism or violation



          Examples of SACROSANCT


             1. the government's most sacrosanct institutions

             2. The tradition is regarded as sacrosanct.



          If I may quote my Sept. 23 post, "In response to Randy Black (21
          September), I don't object to teacher test (correction: evaluations) at
          all. What I wrote in my Sept. 20 message was, 'Increasing the stakes on
          what it takes to be successful (across the board--for all educators,
          and educators only) does not address the problems--it increases them.'
          The classroom of any teacher is sacrosanct, it always has been and
          likely will always be, as is the doctor's office, the dentist, the
          psychiatrist. All licensed professionals require degrees of competence
          which includes upholding and protecting the rights of student, patient,
          client confidentiality and all shared personal information which could
          clearly identify individuals (except in cases of extreme risk to the
          individual or others)."



          Protecting the rights of students to a Free and Appropriate
          Education
          (FAPE) including student the rights to privacy is not
          just sacrosanct, it's the law. I still do not object to educator
          evaluations, so long as educators are not the only people being
          evaluated.





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      • re: Evaluating Teacher Performance (Randy Black, USA 09/24/10 10:41 AM)
























        Mike Bonnie (23 Sept) responded to my statements about the achievements of
        my local school district versus the LA school district and my
        comparison of the ultimate results--graduation. I pointed out that the
        LA system spends $30,000 per student per year versus the Allen (TX) ISD’s
        $7,000 per student per year, but that Allen produces far better
        results. I concluded that not only is the district populated with great
        teachers but that there are plenty of great parents contributed to the
        process. I highlighted that the LA system with its multi-billion dollar
        budget graduates only 40 percent, while the Allen ISD hits 99 percent.



        Mike
        concluded that because the Milwaukee school system (is this Mike’s
        system?  Yes--JE) has a large percentage of its students that qualify for free
        lunches, that somehow this justifies lower performance. Mike pointed
        out that one third of the Milwaukee schools have 90 percent of the kids
        in the free lunch program. I got to wondering how many in my district
        benefit from free lunches due to low income households. From the Allen
        ISD: 18,000 students in 15 elementary, 3 middle schools, one freshman
        center and the high school--2,236 qualify for free or reduced price
        lunches. The system serves 12,000 lunches per day, meaning that about
        6,000 kids take their lunch. I'm not a whiz at math but this sounds
        like 8-9 percent get free or reduced price lunches (and breakfasts)
        locally.



        Other
        interesting stats about Allen: the district’s teaching staff numbers a
        bit more than 1,200 teachers of whom 75 percent have their Bachelor’s,
        24 percent their Masters and one percent their Doctorate. More than
        2,000 students are enrolled in various special ed programs and 1,700
        are in the Limited English program. Spanish speakers (1,500) are most
        prevalent, followed by Arabic (398), Vietnamese (230), Korean (163) and
        805 speak any of the 68 other languages represented in our ISD. The ISD
        student body is 63.5 percent Anglo, 11 percent black, 12.8 percent
        Hispanic, 11.9 percent Asian and .8 percent Native American, which
        includes our daughter who shares my Chickasaw blood line.



        The
        high school completion rate last year was 99.4 percent. Of the 3,698
        students at the high school last year, more than 2,400 were enrolled in
        one or more AP classes, pre-advanced placement classes and or
        International Baccalaureate classes. 301 were dual high school and
        college students. The college classes are offered on campus by
        professors from the local community college.



        Mike
        mentioned the sanctity of the classroom and alluded that classrooms are
        no different than a doctor’s office. I remind all that physicians and
        their activities are subject to review by their peers from time to time
        throughout their professional lives, and just as teachers must do,
        physicians are required to complete continuing education and the exams.
        Moreover, for the most part, physician’s records including disciplinary
        proceedings are open to the public under the various public disclosure
        laws.



        Finally,
        I’m uncertain how Mike concludes that any of this discussion includes
        “talking down teachers.” My point remains that it’s fair to discuss and
        explore the best way to evaluate classroom teachers as they move
        through their careers. And it’s certainly not a waste of time and
        energy. The various state and national systems test physicians,
        lawyers, bus drivers, cops, nurses and airline pilots throughout their
        professional lives. What gives classroom teachers a pass from such
        accountability?



        JE comments: It's pretty much a universal--a "given"--that suburban US school districts fair better than their inner-city counterparts.  Thus Allen would outshine Dallas (or Mike Bonnie's Milwaukee) in student performance, just as Birmingham, Troy and Grosse Pointe, Michigan put Detroit to shame (the former are some of the highest-ranked districts in the nation).  The best measures/forecasters of student success?  Parents' income and education levels.  (Somebody back me up here...)

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        • Student Success and Socioeconomic Status (John Heelan, UK 09/24/10 3:55 PM)
          JE commented on 24 September, "the best measures/forecasters of student
          success?  Parents' income and education levels.  (Somebody back me up
          here...)"


           



          JE might be relieved that the UK's current Education Minister, Michael Gove, supports him. 



          Announcing
          an independent review into educational failure in poverty-stricken
          communities, Gove commented, “In effect, rich thick kids do better than
          poor clever children when they arrive at school (and) the situation as
          they go through gets worse."



          http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/7914719/Rich-thick-kids-do-better-at-school-says-Gove.html



          JE comments:  I don't think any US politician or policy wonk could get away with calling kids (rich or poor) "thick"!



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          • Student Success and Socioeconomic Status (Nigel Jones, UK 09/27/10 1:33 AM)

            John Heelan's comment of 24 September reminds me of the occasion when Samuel Beckett as a
            young man took up a teaching post at a boarding school in Northern
            Ireland.



             


            When the future Nobel Prize Laureate made his impatience with the
            limited nature of his pupils' intelligence clear, he was called in by
            an outraged Headmaster. "You do realise, Mr Beckett, that these boys
            are the cream of Ulster society?" asked the Head.



             


            "Certainly" replied Beckett, "rich and thick."


            JE comments:  I wonder if Beckett had to look for a different job after this conversation.


            Here in the US, "rich and thick" sounds more like advertising copy for instant pudding or a hair-care product!

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        • on Teacher Accountability (Mike Bonnie, USA 09/25/10 4:37 AM)

          JE commented on 24 September, "It's pretty much a universal--a 'given'--that suburban US
          school districts fair better than their inner-city counterparts."



          No worries, JE, I doubt there no more a than a few
          exceptions to your statement; the proverbial rose growing up through a
          crack in the concrete. The author Stanley Kozol would know for sure. If
          there are urban schools performing better than suburban schools,
          successful kids without parents who support them, there's a teacher or
          teachers protecting their rights to privacy.



          I'm not certain I can say in too many more ways what it is I'm trying
          to express. Which part of teaching aren't teachers accountable for?
          Teachers are accountable to their peers every hour of the day. I have no
          doubt that if I mess up in my classroom the problem(s) I create come
          out in the classroom where my students go next. If it's the end of the
          day and I mess up, a parent will call or show up at my classroom door
          the next day, a department head or administrator will call me in for a
          sit-down chat, or a security guard will show up at the door (one day I
          had six security staff at my door all at the same time --my bad).
          Teachers input computer records of student attendance every class hour
          of the day. A note shows up in my mail box from the lead secretary if
          attendance is not taken on time. If a student leaves the classroom
          during a lesson, a teacher places a call to the security office and a
          one page check-box form
          (in triplicate) is prepared documenting the occurrence. Lesson plans,
          substitute teacher plans, grade books ("electronic" so parents can see
          their kid's progress at home, and on paper), referrals for discipline,
          referrals for counseling or psychiatric evaluation, direct reports to
          state child welfare and protection (subject to teacher license
          revocation if not done in a timely manner), Social Security forms,
          occasional probation office reports, daily progress reports to Special
          Education staff and parents, Individual Education Plans (IEPs)
          conducted by Special Ed staff. I've written court judges on behalf of
          students. I have to mention the monthly department staff and
          school-wide staff meetings where
          reports are given on the status and results of programs to improve
          student performance.



          I attended a first day of reporting for teachers at an elementary
          school, at the start of the school year last fall, devoted entirely to
          program reporting. Not one mention was given to program content. I'm
          happy to take responsibility for what I put in students' minds--even
          when it's only what sticks that matters. Are teachers to compete by
          providing lessons (on a daily basis) with all the distractions of home
          and community life, as well as what goes on within the school and other
          classrooms? Yes, we are. Teachers are just like all the other
          professionals presented here; we work so we can enjoy our families,
          homes, and have normal social lives.



          Of the professions listed earlier and expanded upon recently to
          include physicians, lawyers, bus drivers, cops, nurses, and airline
          pilots, I'll wager all are given complete criminal background checks
          before being hired (including teachers). I'm curious to know which of
          those professionals (other than police) have the opportunity of being
          given a Urban Teacher Perceiver Test during the interview process?
          Here's a sample of what's expected of urban teachers prepared by
          Carroll College in a neighboring suburb of Milwaukee.



          http://www.carrollu.edu/studentlife/wyc/jobsearchguide.asp#urbanteacher



          URBAN TEACHER PERCEIVER INTERVIEW


          Based on the same premise mentioned above, there are
          specific themes found to be associated with the most successful urban
          teachers. The Urban Teacher Perceiver Interview is designed to help
          identify those teachers who will have their greatest success in a
          culturally and economically diverse environment. The Urban Teacher
          Perceiver Interview has 55 questions and focuses on the following
          themes:


          COMMITMENT: Highly committed teachers
          make very conscious decisions to contribute to people through
          education, and primarily to work where there is the greatest need.
          Commitment means sticking with students and teaching in spite of
          obstacles.


          DEDICATION: Teachers with high
          dedication find satisfaction from each step of progress in a student's
          life. There is typically evidence of a history of investing in others
          and emotionally becoming a part of others' futures.


          INDIVIDUALIZED PERCEPTION: Urban
          teachers most-valued by their students have a sense of the differences
          present in each student and express regard for individuality. It is
          natural for them to personalize their teaching even when they see many
          students every day.


          CARING: Students bring out the best in
          teachers with strong caring themes. These teachers show warmth and
          affection to their students and give priority to relationship
          development as an avenue to student growth.


          INVOLVER: Teachers with a strong
          involver theme see life as a two-way street. The teacher wants to be a
          partner to students, parents and other teachers. Students have more say
          in their education when the teacher is an involver.


          EMPATHY: Sensitivity and anticipation
          mark teachers who bring empathy to the classroom. Students are better
          prepared to accept themselves and establish relationships when they
          work with a teacher who acknowledges and understands their feelings.


          POSITIVITY: There is a hopeful
          attitude towards students when a teacher has high positivity. These
          teachers look for what is right and help others feel better in their
          presence.


          INITIATOR: An initiator is an advocate
          of students. These teachers are willing to speak up when it makes a
          difference for a student.


          STIMULATOR: There is more emotion and
          excitement in a classroom when the teacher has a strong stimulator
          theme. These teachers can be personally dramatic as well as very
          receptive to the ideas and opinions of students.


          INPUT: Teachers intrigued with ideas.
          They search for those ideas and activities applicable to the classroom.
          Creating new techniques and sharing them with others meets the learning
          needs of these teachers.


          CONCEPT: Teachers that have developed
          a philosophy about what is best for students and are guided by positive
          learning concepts.


          I'll add a link to the Wisconsin State Department of Public Instruction
          web site instead of listing the ten basic and hundreds of academic
          standards teachers are accountable to upholding. 
          http://www.dpi.state.wi.us/standards/index.html




          I'll close with another statement like what I seem to have hit the mark
          with lately, the largest gap in education is between urban and suburban
          communities: children, parents, teachers, administrators, and
          especially political figures, furthered by the media. The best example
          I can think of to explain that is a small project I worked on around
          15 years ago with a group in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Our group of five
          adults produced a small flip-chart-like map of downtown historical and
          modern landmarks. We then gathered 5-6th grade students from an
          inner-city school and put them on a bus, along with 5-6th students from
          a suburban school. We toured the inner city, following the map,
          pointing out the landmarks and explaining the significance of each.
          Most of the suburban school students had never visited the downtown.
          Most of the inner-city students never knew the buildings they saw
          everyday had a purpose. Most all the students knew of each other was
          what was talked about at home and
          portrayed
          in the television, print, and music recordings.
          I'm absolutely delighted to be having this
          conversation.



          JE comments:  Mike Bonnie's list of the daily "accountability" tasks given teachers is a reality check for those of us commenting from the sidelines.  Teaching:  it ain't no easy job.


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          • on Teacher Accountability (John Heelan, UK 09/26/10 3:23 AM)
            In response to Mike Bonnie's post of 25 September, most public sector professions are
            dogged by bureaucratic systems dreamed up by the "suits" primarily to
            justify their own parasitical existence.  So the style of bureaucratic
            tasks that Mike describes are not unusual in other public professions.
            (A relative--a senior police officer--makes similar claims, i.e. that
            bureaucratic form filling and "diversity training" limits the time he
            has available to catch murderers and robbers.)



            Similarly in
            commerce, since Personnel Departments became Human Resources
            Departments, there has sprouted a plethora of touchy-feely tests,
            training and diktats that more often obstruct and delay rather than
            help. Some years ago, an inspiring book by a former CEO of Avis cut
            through the jungle of corporate administration departments.  On
            personnel management, he commented that every department should have
            somebody dedicated to looking after employees' interest, but, he
            warned, "Never let them meet or they will form an HR department!"  I
            lost count of the number of psychobabble courses I had to attend on
            mandatory instructions from HR departments.



            Further,
            there was the "MBA disease" in commerce.  Corporate and strategic
            planning became  very complex and bureaucratic.  Forests were denuded
            to provide paper for reports and eons of management time were lost
            every year trying to decide whether a proposed activity was a
            "Mission," an "Objective," a "Goal,"  or a "Task." 



            So Mike has
            my empathy.  However both managers and teachers should be measured on
            the output of their efforts. Managers on profits and teachers on the
            changes in attitudes and knowledge they inculcate in their students.


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            • on HR Departments (Tor Guimaraes, USA 09/26/10 6:30 AM)
              I'd like to comment on John Heelan's remarks of 26 September, when he wrote:  "Some years ago, an inspiring book by a former CEO of Avis cut through the jungle of corporate administration departments.  On personnel management, he commented that every department should have somebody dedicated to looking after employees' interest, but, he warned, 'Never let them meet or they will form an HR department!'  I lost count of the number of psychobabble courses I had to attend on mandatory instructions from HR departments."  



              As someone who has always straddled the great divide between practice and academia, my impression is that the academics often have their heads in the clouds while the practitioners always are too busy firefighting to see the "big picture."  Contrary to the Avis CEO's opinion, HR departments should not be viewed as a meeting of people "dedicated to looking after employee's interest."  HR departments should be dedicated to developing (recruiting, training, motivating, etc.) an organization's most critical assets: its employees.  As someone whose job experience started working with computer hardware, programming, etc. and today is mostly a technology management student, I concluded that Human Resources Management is the most important organizational function, which in the long run will be the most important determinant of company health and survival.  Without the "right" people to use and manage technology effectively, it becomes part of the problem rather than a facilitator in the innovations necessary to address business problems and benefit from opportunities.


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              • on HR Departments (John Heelan, UK 09/28/10 3:40 AM)

                In response to Tor Guimaraes (26 September), in the good times, "People are our most
                important asset!" is the mantra spouted by most large organisations.  In the bad times, most such organisations dump their "most important
                asset" as a priority.  Bad management, hypocrisy or psychobabble on
                their part?  As somebody who ran a major and very successful training
                organisation, I often found the corporate HR people added little value
                to education and training curricula.



                JE comments:  The mission of HR is a contradictory one--to recruit and nurture personnel, but also to cut them loose when the "need" arises.  Advocate, prosecutor and executioner:  no wonder they are mistrusted by a company's rank and file.


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                • on HR Departments (Tor Guimaraes, USA 09/28/10 6:11 AM)

                  Unfortunately,
                  I share John Heelan's negative impression (28 September) of most/many  Personnel
                  Departments.  Human Resources should think differently but good
                  leadership, attitudes, understanding, and determination seems to be in
                  very short supply: only the titles have changed.  



                  In some companies
                  which seem to be leaders in HRM such as Procter & Gamble, they are doing some
                  interesting things developing management leadership. However, most of
                  the herd are pitiful: they still treat their employees as a cost to be
                  cut, not an asset to be developed and managed.  



                  I believe most top
                  managers think they are the most important company asset and see no
                  need to include lower level-employees as such.  That is a huge
                  strategic mistake, as organizations (the world) steadily moves from
                  necessary Information Management to Knowledge Management.  As
                  organization structure has to be flattened to process information more
                  effectively, a larger proportion of the knowledge needed to
                  successfuly run an organization comes from lower employees who are
                  closer to the markets and suppliers.  Thus, top managers who are not
                  too narcissistic or stupid to see, will be forced to treat their
                  employees as an asset, lest their organizationn be needing a government
                  bail out in the not-too-distant future.



                  JE comments:  My apologies to Tor Guimaraes for sending a blank posting the last time around.  Here (above) is the full-text version.  I'm still learning the WAISForums system...


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                • More on HR Departments (John Heelan, UK 09/29/10 1:58 AM)

                  "Nothing is more valuable to
                  a company than human capital" (JE's comment to Richard Hancock's post of 28 September) is a corporate myth that applies in good
                  times only.  In bad times, the first asset to get dumped is what the
                  corporation had previously proclaimed as its most valuable one.  It is
                  not as if the corporation could sell that asset at a profit. The CEO
                  of one of the largest high-tech consultancy firms in the City of London
                  told me that every night 90% of his most valuable assets "went down the
                  Tube" (i.e. the Metro).  A few years later, that firm experienced a
                  series of bad years: nearly 50% of his assets "went down the tube"
                  (with a small "t"!)



                  Managers manage their people, an
                  admittedly crucial task; HR departments do not manage any people, other
                  than their own.  HR departments are valuable in the recruitment process
                  but should not be decision-makers on the specific people to  be
                  recruited.  Like many other corporate "administrative" departments,
                  their role is parasitical to the day-to-day management of a
                  corporation. Politically astute with immediate access to corporate
                  boards, over the last 30 years or more they have attempted to escape
                  being a purely add-on entity by seeking to expand their influence via
                  personnel policies but without acquiring the same level of personal
                  accountability for the survival of the businesses borne by other
                  managers.  The dictum of the ex- CEO of AVIS quoted earlier still has
                  merit.


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                  • More on HR Departments (Tor Guimaraes, USA 09/30/10 4:11 AM)
                    While I think that John Heelan's comments (JH, 29 September) regarding Human Resources Management are partly true, overall
                    they misrepresent the importance of this area; thus I make a point-by-point reply:



                    JH: "Nothing is more valuable to a company than human capital" (JE's
                    comment to Richard Hancock's post of 28 September) is a corporate myth
                    that applies in good times only.  In bad times, the first asset to get
                    dumped is what the corporation had previously proclaimed as its most
                    valuable one.  It is not as if the corporation could sell that asset at
                    a profit. The CEO of one of the largest high-tech consultancy firms in
                    the City of London told me that every night 90% of his most valuable
                    assets "went down the Tube" (i.e. the Metro).  A few years later, that
                    firm experienced a series of bad years: nearly 50% of his assets "went
                    down the tube" (with a small "t"!)



                    TG: Due to the great increase in business competition, the need for
                    faster communication and decision making far outstripped the capability
                    of the highly hierarchical organization. A more flat and democratic
                    organization structure became necessary, with enormous implications as
                    to the kind of employees being required: smarter, more flexible, team
                    oriented, etc.  A group of people dedicated to finding, developing, and
                    retaining these "special" people became more important.  That does not
                    mean that you don't let all or many of them go if your company is going
                    under for whatever reason. The reason why employees have always been
                    the first to go during hard times are twofold: they are relatively
                    expensive and hard times provide the perfect excuse to discard the
                    unwanted ones. It is true true that you can't sell employees; but
                    neither can you sell other assets used in company operations at a
                    profit.  So don't confuse people with investments which can be sold for
                    profit.



                    JH: Managers manage their people, an admittedly crucial task; HR
                    departments do not manage any people, other than their own.  HR
                    departments are valuable in the recruitment process but should not be
                    decision-makers on the specific people to  be recruited.  Like many
                    other corporate "administrative" departments, their role is parasitical
                    to the day-to-day management of a corporation. Politically astute with
                    immediate access to corporate boards, over the last 30 years or more
                    they have attempted to escape being a purely add-on entity by seeking
                    to expand their influence via personnel policies but without acquiring
                    the same level of personal accountability for the survival of the
                    businesses borne by other managers.  The dictum of the ex- CEO of AVIS
                    quoted earlier still has merit.



                    TG:  I can not believe that anyone feels such animosity ("... their
                    role is parasitical to the day-to-day management of a corporation")
                    toward any company unit in general.  I have worked with hundreds of
                    business organizations and Personnel/HR departments have always played
                    a staff role, where it is clear that their function is to support the
                    choices made by line managers.  Stating that HR groups try to unduly
                     influence corporate boards without accountability for business
                    survival is more an exception than the rule.  Quite to the contrary,
                    most HR departments do not receive the political recognition within
                    most companies, except for companies leading the herd in managing HR as
                    an asset rather than costs to be cut at every opportunity.





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                  • Still More on HR Departments (John Heelan, UK 09/30/10 2:05 PM)
                    Tor Guimaraes (30 September) is correct that in hard times permanent employees are the first to go because they are expensive and can be disposed of relatively easily--as one can observe around the Western business world today.  Tor is incorrect on two matters though:  firstly, even though it is an opportunity to get rid of the unwanted ones (presumably they are not counted as being part of the corporation's "most valuable asset?), it is inevitable that the corporation will lose good people to competitors in the process, uncertain about their future with the corporation.  Secondly, Tor is mistaken that you cannot sell off assets used in company operations--if that were true then asset strippers would go out of business.  Corporations can sell off buildings, machinery and scarce materials for products that are no longer to be supplied, or divisions being downsized.



                    Tor also wrote, "A group of people dedicated to finding, developing, and retaining these 'special' people became more important."  I agree and have already acknowledged the role of HR departments in finding the right people to be presented to business managers for potential hiring decisions.



                    In taking me to task for the animosity he perceives I display towards HR departments, Tor commented that in his experience  "Personnel/HR departments have played a staff role, where it is clear that their function is to support choices made by line managers."  As that experience appears to be based on "hundreds of business organisations (he had) worked with," presumably his interface was as an outsider rather than as a business manager working within the corporation.  Views are often different inside an organisation from those  projected outside.



                    I also differentiated between Personnel Officers and HR departments:  the former were invaluable to me when running a department with a large staff: the latter were often obstructive, constantly chasing the latest gee-whiz idea in the HR (and not necessarily the Personnel) world. (One example that comes to mind was the craze for psychometric testing that consumed many staff-hours with little or no perceivable benefit to the business.)  In some cases, the more psychologically based ventures did more harm then good. In my experience, some people came away from courses, run by those with no real training in psychology themselves, damaged in some way. I personally know several examples.



                    Tor further argues that my "Stating that HR groups try to unduly  influence corporate boards without accountability for business survival is more an exception than the rule.  Quite to the contrary, most HR departments do not receive the political recognition within most companies, except for companies leading the herd in managing HR as an asset rather than costs to be cut at every opportunity. "  



                    I suggest that Tor implies the words "that they deserve" should be inserted after "do not receive the political recognition within most companies."  If it is true in practice, does that not support my argument?


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                    • HR Departments, Revisited (Tor Guimaraes, USA 10/03/10 6:39 AM)
















                      This is in response to John Heelan's post of 30 September.

                         


                      To summarize and partially conclude our debate over the HR function
                      within organizations, it seems as if our respective views on what is
                      going on in industry is not very far apart.  The major gaps seems to be
                      in our opinions about the ethos of HR groups. Indeed I was surprised by
                      John Heelan's strongly negative view of such groups.  My opinion seems
                      quite different. While a significant percentage of HR groups need
                      drastic improvements in many ways, I do believe that "... most HR
                      departments do not receive the political recognition they deserve
                      within most companies..."  I think that employees are the most
                      important assets to any organization (whether managers presently
                      recognize that or not) and must be managed as such. For this reason, I
                      recommend that the HR director report directly to the CEO as the HR
                      group discharges its responsibility to assist all line managers in
                      finding, hiring, developing, rewarding, and retaining "good" employees.
                       What does John Heelan recommend?

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                      • HR Departments, Revisited (John Heelan, UK 10/04/10 1:35 AM)

                        Tor Guimaraes wrote on 3 October: "I think that employees are the most
                        important assets to any organization (whether managers presently
                        recognize that or not) and must be managed as such. For this reason, I
                        recommend that the HR director report directly to the CEO as the HR
                        group discharges its responsibility to assist all line managers in
                        finding, hiring, developing, rewarding, and retaining 'good' employees.
                         What does John Heelan recommend?"



                        I
                        have already made my views clear on the mendacity in practice of the
                        oft-spouted PC-shibboleth "our employees are our most important
                        asset."  Other than that, I agree with Tor that the HR manager should
                        report to the CEO and would add that it should be made clear to the HR
                        manager that his/her role was to assists line managers in their
                        dealings with employees, not dictate to them.  HR policies should be
                        decided by operational managers directly responsible for, and measured
                        on, achieving the objectives of the business, not by an administrative
                        department, no matter how high up the corporate tree it apparently sits.








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            • Crisis in Education; Some Films (Mike Bonnie, USA 09/26/10 2:25 PM)

              I'd like to thank John Heelan (26 September) for his support of teachers. Being a business
              major in college and having experience in the corporate world, I've seen
              first hand the growth in corporate bureaucracy over the years. What
              ever happened to the dream of a paperless society? If all that energy
              to define work, make work, refine work and create new work were
              transferred into manual labor, we'd have some mighty fine pyramids or
              more Great Walls than just the one.



              I agree that teachers' abilities should be measured. Doing so in fair
              and equitable ways is the problem. The challenge is the wide choices
              for obfuscating responsibility and abilities to pursue the corporate
              mantra, "accept credit and defer blame" are many. Starting with the
              numbers. Speaking on the premise that every parent wants the best school for
              their child, the easy solution to getting the best education is
              enrolling in schools with the best track records. Not every school can
              be "the best" school. Some basic things:  even if society creates all
              great schools, we'd still have the race to the top. Families moving
              their kids from one school to another creates huge planning and
              budgeting issues. Every transition, from school to school, course
              section to course section, creates a gap in learning (math, science,
              reading, writing). Not all students learn at the same rate or in the
              same ways. So, how do schools (teachers) fill gaps so that "every"
              child performs above a threshold level? We (teachers) have the tools to
              improve student learning, applying those tools effectively and
              consistently presents a great challenge to meeting applied basic
              standards.



              Talking about the same group of students as above. I know I mentioned
              this in an earlier message. What if, after all the effort a teacher
              (the student and other stake-holders) put into a child's education, what
              if the student fails? Do we move on? Does the teachers get docked pay
              or fired, perhaps just not a bonus or raise? We (schools and teacher)
              remediate loss of learning through summer classes and after school
              programs, but the window of opportunity for learning opens and closes
              in very brief time and those results show on summative exams.



              On pre-testing and post-testing: I know this has been tried in various
              schools and is still applied, more likely in high performing schools, with entrance exams. Addressing improvement in knowledge and change in
              attitude depends on
              what a teacher has to work with in a student from the beginning, not
              only the circumstances that occur along the way. If there's always
              going to be a race to the top, the goal and success of having a child
              attend "the best" requires parent buy-in during the child's earliest
              ages. Parents need to understand and be willing to work with their
              child and the school to succeed at reaching the level of knowledge
              necessary to attain that goal. Failing students simply cannot be passed
              along from grade to grade. Schools need greater (effective)
              interdiction tools, the sensitivity, knowledge, human and otherwise
              time and energy to devote to individual students. I do mean
              "interdiction." If my salary is going to depend on each and every
              student's achievement, failure or success, that's a crisis requiring
              great response than I as an individual can manage.



              On limited budgets, how are schools to provide low student-to-teacher
              ratios in the classroom and provide teachers the support needed without
              expanding? That's one question that's not being discussed in this
              conversation regarding teacher assessment. I haven't mentioned any of
              the variables such as language learning, developmental disabilities in
              students, environmental or situational factors (including basics such
              as long and short term homelessness), students years behind grade level
              and age in abilities.



              One last maxim from the business world. To improve the quality or
              product or service of a business 100% (in a business with 100
              employees) one needs to start by improving the efficiency of each
              employee only 1%. It's been determined there is a "crisis in
              education." It's going to take national and local debates to break that
              down into pieces that can be addressed. High levels of education must
              be both national and local priorities including not only teachers and
              administrators, and parents of students. Everyone who expects sound
              economics in banking and industry, fine roads and highways, and limited
              wars needs to get involved.



              In response to Francisco Ramirez (25 September): 




              Thank you for the great article, Francisco.
              Beginning today Education Nation began a week-long look
              at education in America on the TV station MSNBC:





              http://www.educationnation.com/index.cfm?objectid=E689D721-B6C9-605B-DE1D813E4CDA3339



              On "Waiting for Superman" from the Christian Science Monitor. Is
              this an extreme measure of "dumbing down" public information or just
              sensationalized reporting?



              http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Education/2010/0924/Waiting-for-Superman-A-simplistic-view-of-education-reform



              Several other films on America's education will soon be hitting the
              silver screens:



              "Race to Nowhere"  http://www.racetonowhere.com/



              "The Lottery"  http://thelotteryfilm.com/



              "Waiting for Superman"  http://www.waitingforsuperman.com/



              An Oldie:  "Two Million Minutes:  http://www.2mminutes.com/about.asp





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              • Crisis in UK Education (John Heelan, UK 09/27/10 1:59 AM)

                In the most recent of his interesting posts (26 September), Mike Bonnie asked: "What if, after all the effort a teacher
                (the student and other stake-holders) put into a child's education, what
                if the student fails? Do we move on? Does the teachers get docked pay
                or fired?"





                Mike
                will know from his business experience that occasionally there will be
                product failures within a batch.  If there are many product failures in
                a lot of batches, then something is seriously wrong with production and/or inspection processes that have to be reviewed, corrected and
                even abandoned if necessary.



                A recent case in a local secondary
                college exemplifies a similar problem in education.  In one subject,
                not one person in a class of 20 or so passed the final exam in that
                subject, which for some students was critical for their accessing the
                next higher level of education.  Subsequent investigation showed the
                teacher had spent the year teaching an out-of-date exam syllabus.  She
                resigned ahead of being fired. Perhaps her college boss should have
                been reviewed as well for poor management.



                If over time, a
                teacher consistently has many students failing their examinations (the
                "many" is important because, as Mike points out, some students do not
                "test well"), then there is something wrong with the teaching.  Unless
                the fault is identified and corrected via mentoring, additional
                training, closer supervision etc., not only will the subject become
                unpopular, the school/college itself will also lose prestige.



                Political
                interference with education exacerbates the problem.  This has happened
                regularly in the UK with changes of government or changes of Education
                Ministers within the same government.  They interfere with the
                educational structure (currently privatising colleges and calling them
                "academies" is the political goal), they interfere with national
                curricula (the academies will be able to select students and devise
                their own curricula based on the ideological/religious affiliations of
                their new owners), and they implicitly encourage the downgrading of exam
                difficulty to achieve more high- level passes and thus prove their
                political strategies were right.



                Faced
                with this constant change, UK teachers are generally so demoralised
                they are leaving the profession in droves and brighter graduates are
                choosing other careers.  It is not unusual for a class to have two or
                three different teachers in the same academic year, leading to
                disruption of the teaching process and poor exam results.



                The teaching profession has my total empathy.

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                • Education and Business Models (Mike Bonnie, USA 09/28/10 2:01 PM)

                  This is in response to John Heelan's posting of 27 September, when he wrote:  "Mike will know from his business experience that occasionally there will be
                  product failures within a batch.  If there are many product failures in
                  a lot of batches, then something is seriously wrong with production
                  and/or inspection processes that have to be reviewed, corrected and
                  even abandoned if necessary.
                  "



                  What an amusing idea, treating education like a
                  business. Education certainly is beginning to act like one. The
                  question that comes up in my mind is, which business model does
                  education fit? Manufacturing? Service and delivery? Just looking at
                  statistical results, a normative "bell -shaped" curve showing student
                  success doesn't fit a desirable grading curve (A, B, C, D, U) or what
                  we want in terms of performance (1-1,000; 1 being really dumb kids and
                  1,000 being really smart). Ideally, such a curve would be heavily skewed
                  to the right. We certainly can't put up with too large of tails to any
                  curve, one or two standard deviations at the most. Perhaps, educators
                  and politicians could look into that.



                  Would the business model for education wax and wane, or just grow, and
                  grow, and grow (Walmart fashion)? Or, grow then tank, like Blockbuster
                  video? I could imagine Education Reform being a fad; let's get excited,
                  rearrange things, then get back to business as normal until the next
                  crisis.



                  Just like going to war in the Middle East, how are we to measure
                  success? I heard Pres. Obama mention longer school years yesterday
                  (Monday, 27 September), and mentioning Korea's school schedule.
                  Certainly, more time on task would improve scores, but that extra time
                  would need to be productive time. I haven't watched the news since his
                  statement was made, but certainly, he's provided ammunition for his
                  critics regarding globalizing the US  economy. Does he mean soon US
                  educators will also have to accept Korean salaries?



                  Back to business models. I haven't kept up with this however, I recall
                  way back when Federal Express (the air carrier) won the Malcolm
                  Baldridge award for excellence. The maxim floating around back then
                  regarding the Malcolm Baldridge was, "If a business has to apply for the
                  award, the business doesn't qualify." Federal Express is considered a
                  service business, which seems most like US education, which I believe
                  everyone hopes will shine. But, education should shine brightest in the
                  eyes of children, not only those of education product (text books and
                  methods of teaching) sellers.



                  JE comments:  Regarding education, should we discuss the notion of a longer school year for K-12?  US universities already tend to work on year-round schedules, although summer sessions have lower enrollments.  Add 4-5 weeks to the school year and I can see the students learning more (or more precisely, forgetting less), but what are the economic ramifications (tourism, summer employment, etc.)?  Also, Mike Bonnie brings up the quantity/quality question--would more days in class simply equate with more downtime for students?  And finally, how much would more school cost?

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                  • Education and Business Models (George Krajcsik, USA 09/29/10 1:40 AM)


                    I'd like to add a few comments to Mike Bonnie's posting of 28 September. "... [we] can't put
                    up with too large of tails to any curve one or two standard deviations
                    at the most," writes MB.  Well, two standard deviations from the mean
                    entails 95% of the population, so that's pretty inclusive.

                     

                    As to K-12 school program, we might adopt some practices from Europe. 
                    Not every child is capable of mastering high school material.  The Wall Street Journal had
                    an article a while ago stating that only about 25% of high school
                    seniors can handle freshman college courses.  It seems reasonable not
                    to waste resources teaching students the wrong subjects, rather,
                    separate them according to desire and ability and have them on either
                    academic or trade tracks.  Later, if so desired, tracks can be
                    switched.  That would also raise standards both in high school and
                    college.




                    JE comments:  Education "tracking" came up a couple of weeks ago on WAIS, first with Sergio Mukherjee's post of 12 September:



                    https://waisworld.org/go.jsp?id=02a0&objectType=post&objectTypeId=51717&topicId=27


                    The consensus (is there ever really a WAIS consensus?) seemed to be that tracking in the European sense is not a good idea, as it marginalizes students relegated to the "lower" academic paths.  Perhaps George Krajcsik's suggestion for more flexibility in tracking is the answer?

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            • on Student Evaluations (Charles Ridley, USA 09/27/10 1:47 AM)




              One form of teacher evaluation that has not
              been taken up in recent postings is that of student
              evaluations.   At one institution at which I made a rather poor
              attempt at teaching, instructors were evaluated by the students in the
              following categories:



               


              Course Organization


                      Clarity and
              progression of topics



                      Integration
              of different aspects



                      Usefulness of
              texts



                      Quantity of
              assignment



                      Methods of
              assessment/grading



                      Course
              objectives related to goals



                      Overall
              course organization



               


              Instructor's performance


                      Interest in
              subject matter



                      Knowledge of
              subject matter



                      Clarity of
              presentation



                     
              Preparation



                      Stimulation
              of thought



                      Response to
              student work



                      Overall
              instructor performance



               


              Contribution to your learning


                      Knowledge or
              skill w/subject



                      Interest in
              subject



                      Desire to
              pursue subject



                      Overall
              contriubution to learning



               


              Instructor's relationship with
              students



                      Respect 
              for student opinions



                     
              Responsiveness to questions



                      Openness to
              criticism



                      Availability
              outside class



                     Overall
              instructor relationship



               


              OVERALL RATING OF COURSE


               


              The evaluation forms were filled out on the last
              day of class, with the instructor outside the room and with the students putting
              their evaluation sheet in an envelope that was sealed.



               


              The highest rating one could receive was 
              5.00.   In the three courses I taught in Fall 1994, my rating were
              4.25,  3.20 and 2.42.   In the last rating I received
              in 1995, my score was 1.00.   Needless to say, I did not return to my
              position in 1996.



               


              In general, I feel that the student evaluations
              were pretty much on the mark.   In my final year, I was called upon
              to teach courses for which I lacked the appropriate knowledge and skills and my
              inept performance was clearly reflected in the student evaluations.



               


              Of course, these evaluations were done by students
              at the university level.   However, I am sure  that they could be
              adapted for the high school level at least.   And to be sure, students
              can manipulate them to get rid of a teacher they do not like, as happened
              in my situation.



               


              Needless to say, wild horses could not drag me into
              a classroom ever again. 



               


              JE comments:  The dreaded student evaluations!  At Adrian College for many years there was an item on the scan sheet that asked if "Instructor is aware when students are bored or confused."  In my courses--confused at times, but bored, never!  (I think the College administration removed this item a few years ago.)


               


              A question I cannot answer, however:  how could Charles Ridley's students fail to understand what an intellectual and humane treasure they have for a "Sensei"?



               




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        • Student Success (Alain de Benoist, France 09/25/10 3:49 AM)

          Commenting
          Mike Bonnie’s post of 24 September, John Eipper wrote:  “The best
          measures/forecasters of student success?  Parents' income and education
          levels.”



          Actually, the best measure/forecaster of student success is probably
          general intelligence. Empirical evidence show that people with a high
          IQ whose parents’ income and education level is low are more successful
          that people with a low IQ whose parents’ income and education are high.



          JE comments:  I'm never one to knock intelligence, but I think it depends on how you define "success."  Nothing ensures a bright future better than having Daddy set you up in investment banking or the family business.  Conversely, very bright kids have the deck stacked against them when they have no support from a dysfunctional, low-achieving home.


           

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        • Measuring Student Achievement (Francisco Ramirez, USA 09/25/10 5:56 AM)


























          In a 2006 article I published in the journal Comparative Education, I identify some empirical generalizations regarding what
          factors influence academic achievement in American schools. The paper
          is more broadly comparative and was published in an English journal.









          The
          School of Education at Stanford will be showing the film Waiting for Superman. It is an indictment of the public schools in the
          United States and many teachers will see the film as unfairly blaming
          teacher unions. Schools of Education are generally regarded by
          conservative critics as too supportive of teacher unions. We show the
          film to generate discussion.  That is what universities are supposed to
          do.




           




          JE comments:  I've transferred Francisco's monograph into Google Docs format.  (I hope!) it can be accessed at:



           




           



           

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