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Lead from the Start: and the survey says .... EdSector doesn't get teachers

Saturday, May 10, 2008

and the survey says .... EdSector doesn't get teachers

What do you mean teachers don't want to be financially rewarded by comparing their students to other teachers' students? A recent study by Education Sector and the FDR Group titled Waiting to be Won Over, surveyed 1,010 K–12 public school teachers and found:
Teachers are less likely today (than they were in 2003) to support paying teachers more based on test scores. Only half of teachers support the idea to measure teacher effectiveness based on student growth or "value added."
This finding struck me as convoluted because as a teacher I would not consider "student growth" and "value-added" synonymous. Student growth is what happens naturally when a student is supported and taught by a good teacher, but, it happens whether a teacher is good or not, it is natural. Value added is a measure of what the teacher does that makes a difference. It is not the norm, it is over and above "normal" student growth.

Below are the questions that I could find in the survey related to student growth and value-added. The number in front of the answers shows the percent by respondents.
How much would you favor or oppose giving financial incentives to each of the following: [Questions 19–23]

19. Teachers who consistently receive outstanding evaluations by their principals

24 Strongly Favor
34 Somewhat Favor

18 Somewhat Oppose
21 Strongly Oppose
3 Not Sure
To me this says that generally (58%) teachers trust the principal evaluation system to identify outstanding teachers.
20. Teachers whose kids routinely score higher than similar students on standardized tests
11 Strongly Favor
23 Somewhat Favor
25 Somewhat Oppose
39 Strongly Oppose
3 Not Sure
64% of teachers do not trust test scores as an evaluation system. This could be because teachers see test scores as invalid measures of their effectiveness not because they don't want to be held accountable.

21. Teachers who receive accreditation from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards
25 Strongly Favor
40 Somewhat Favor

16 Somewhat Oppose
15 Strongly Oppose
4 Not Sure
This finding, not mentioned in the summary, shows that 65% of teachers trust National Board Certification as a valid measure of teacher effectiveness.
23. Teachers who work in tough neighborhoods with low-performing schools
34 Strongly Favor
46 Somewhat Favor

11 Somewhat Oppose
7 Strongly Oppose
3 Not Sure
Another finding not mentioned by EdSector, 80% of teachers understood the inherent complexity of teaching in tough schools and favor financial rewards for those teachers.

24. Suppose that in your district the students of some teachers make more academic progress—in terms of improved reading levels, teacher evaluations, and classroom tests—when compared to similar students taught by other teachers. How much would you favor or oppose financially rewarding those teachers?
10 Strongly Favor
34 Somewhat Favor
22 Somewhat Oppose
29 Strongly Oppose
5 Not Sure

This question asks a similar question to 19. concerning test scores. It runs into what I see as a philosophical wall because they both compare students to each other. This, I believe, for most teachers runs counter to our situational understanding of teaching. It expects teachers to trust the assumption that value-added statistical measures can accurately account for the differences between students including, geographic, financial, parenting, race, culture, ethnicity, language, family make-up etc. etc. This sort of "large" view of teaching does not honor what teachers are taught from the very beginning. Students are individuals, they have their own stories, problems, strengths, and that if we compare two different students to each other we do them both a disservice.
At your school, do you think there are outstanding teachers who deserve to be especially rewarded because they do a stellar job?
48 Yes
5 No
40 There are outstanding teachers, but I don’t think they should be especially rewarded
7 Not Sure
This question does not ask about "good" teachers. It asks about "stellar" teachers. There is a great deal of baggage associated with the "star" teacher in schools. They are often ostracized from the "group" because of a strange group mentality that tries to maintain the status quo. It happens in all parts of society but may be even more prevalent in teaching.

In the research I read recently most of the statisticians (see Doug Harris) stop short of using "value-added" measures for teacher evaluation but do support their use in school wide and district wide evaluation of schools' effectiveness.

My inferential findings are:
Teachers value principals opinions and the NBPTS. They don't value test scores and star teachers. There is something that many business folks and Wonks don't get about teaching. Outstanding teaching is not necessarily what should be rewarded (or punished). It is not about 1 teacher making a huge difference with 12 out of 18 kids and letting 3 kids slip because that is a good pass rate, it is about the teachers that consistently push kids to do their best. This may not show up in test scores, it may show up years later in a better society.

Don't wait up... I can not be won over to thinking about children or teachers as numbers.

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At 6:04 PM, Blogger Vanessa said...

Very interesting post. Our campus is implementing merit pay based on student performance next year. I have mixed feelings about the whole thing.
I especially liked this part:
"There is a great deal of baggage associated with the "star" teacher in schools. They are often ostracized from the "group" because of a strange group mentality that tries to maintain the status quo. It happens in all parts of society but may be even more prevalent in teaching."
I couldn't agree with you more!

At 5:33 AM, Anonymous Amy Thomas said...

My state has done "bonuses" based on a performance formula for years now. However, it does not single out any individual teachers. Instead, they have a formula that includes test scores for each school, along with attendance data (and some other things) to arrive at a composite score for each school. Bonuses are awarded to entire faculty of schools that perform at the top 2 levels (labelled Schools of Distinction and Schools of Excellence).

While it eliminates some of the individual ostracism of star teachers by making us all accountable as a team, it has created a division among those that teach courses with end-of-course exams and those that don't.

It's not the best solution, but it's better than nothing.


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