Peter Greene said:
The new definition of “ineffective teacher” is “teacher whose students score poorly on test.”
Add to that the assumption that a student only scores low on a test because of the student had an ineffective teacher.
You have now created a perfect circular definition. And the beauty of this is that in order to generate the statistics tossed around in the poster above, you don’t even have to evaluate teachers!
As long as you don’t consider the possibility that low-income students do poorly on standardized tests because they go to schools with chaotic administrations, high staff turnover, crumbling facilities, lack of resources, dangerous neighborhoods, and backgrounds that do not fit them for culturally-biased standardized tests – as long as you don’t consider any of that, one thing remains certain…
Low-income students will always be taught by ineffective low-performing teachers.
If you define “bad teacher” as “whoever is standing in front of these low-testing students,” it doesn’t matter who stands there. Whoever it is, he’s ineffective.
Image credit: Front doors, ken fager
Apparently there’s yet another fear-mongering publicist named Alyssa (yes, a different one!). So once more into the breach…
Here’s the email I received:
On the heels of the recent Vergara ruling in California, which eliminates teacher tenure, the outcome has peeled back the Band-Aid on the appalling lack of adequate teacher training.
Whether the judge was right or wrong on tenure, no one can credibly argue that teachers are trained well enough to be effective and efficient in today’s classrooms. The challenges are too great and the support is so weak, it’s a miracle any teachers are succeeding at all.
And while the California challenges may be acute and the consequences deep, deficient teacher training is a problem from coast to coast.
EXPERT SOURCE: To speak with one of the industry’s top PD expert’s on what’s next to come – Alvin Crawford, CEO of Knowledge Delivery Systems (KDS) – the leading provider of professional development solutions K-12 – is available via phone or will also be at ISTE in Atlanta from June 29 – July 1 and available for in-person interviews.
Crawford comments, “Before we can debate whether teachers should have legal protections to stay in classrooms, we should create effective and meaningful support systems for ongoing growth and development of certified teachers so that they are adequately prepared to support all students.”
He believes that only then can we perhaps all agree that we want them to keep teaching as long as possible.
Crawford, formerly of SchoolNet and responsible for its explosive growth and purchase by Pearsons for $230 million in 2011, is an industry leader in the K-12 educational system and available to discuss PD trends, transformational classroom practices, and how to solve the lagging student achievement gap.
For more information or interviews, please contact me at and thanks!
And here’s my reply:
Alyssa, with due respect to you and Alvin, this PR pitch that you just sent me is a crock. Other than a few anecdotes, made-up education ‘reformer’ sound bites, and, apparently, messages from corporations and publicists who are willing to ignore the truth and use scare tactics in order to make a buck (‘here’s a fake problem and, oh look!, we just happen to have a paid service that can help you solve it!’), there is no real evidence that we have a large, systemic problem with inadequate teacher training. In fact, peer-reviewed research studies from the highly-respected Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond and many others show that graduates of traditional teachers colleges outperform alternative teacher preparation programs.
I’m sure that Alvin probably has some value to lend to the conversation about teacher quality and professional development, but your willingness to exploit the myth of ‘bad teachers’ and/or colleges of education is overhyped, irresponsible fear-mongering. Your overeager use of phrases like no one can credibly argue that teachers are trained well enough to be effective and efficient in today’s classrooms and it’s a miracle any teachers are succeeding at all and deficient teacher training is a problem from coast to coast contributes to an escalating climate of disrespect and disenfranchisement of educators and also distracts from some of the very real factors that significantly impact student learning outcomes.
What would the numerous wonderful teachers that you and Alvin had as P-12 students think of this PR pitch? Do you think that they’d agree with you and be proud of your messaging that their training was deficient?
Peter Greene said:
I think there are faux tin hat physicists who are closer to building a cold fusion generator and a perpetual motion machine than reformsters are to building a reliable and accurate system for identifying bad teachers.
Do I think there’s a valuable conversation to be had about less effective teachers and how to best deal with them in a school system? Oh, boy, do I. But we aren’t ready for that conversation, because you aren’t ready to admit that you don’t have a clue how to tell a great teacher having a bad day from a good teacher with a tough class from a bad teacher who probably should be a shoe salesman from a great teacher who just got randomly swept up by whatever mangled metric you loosed upon the teaching world.
You keep saying you want to raise the bar when mostly you’re just swinging the bar wildly around with closed eyes and every time you randomly clobber something you cry out, “There– it’s another bad teacher!” As long as you are swinging bad metrics around like so many long-dead cats on a ten-foot pole, no teacher is going to be comfortable getting anywhere near you and your super-secret method for weeding out the riff from the raff.
It really is not that we don’t believe in bad teachers, or that we think they should be enshrined and preserved. What we don’t believe in is you, and your cockamamie untested unvalidated unproven evaluation systems.
Dana Goldstein said:
[Teacher tenure policies] aren’t the only, or even the primary, driver of the teacher-quality gap between … middle-class and low-income schools. The larger problem is that too few of the best teachers are willing to work long-term in the country’s most racially isolated and poorest neighborhoods. There are lots of reasons why, ranging from plain old racism and classism to the higher principal turnover that turns poor schools into chaotic workplaces that mature teachers avoid. The schools with the most poverty are also more likely to focus on standardized test prep, which teachers dislike. Plus, teachers tend to live in middle-class neighborhoods and may not want a long commute.
Educational equality is about more than teacher-seniority rules: It is about making the schools that serve poor children more attractive places for the smartest, most ambitious people to spend their careers. To do that, those schools need excellent, stable principals who inspire confidence in great teachers. They need rich curricula that stimulate both adults and children. And ideally, their student bodies should be more socioeconomically integrated so schools are less overwhelmed by the social challenges of poverty. Of course, all that is a tall policy order; much more difficult, it turns out, than overturning tenure laws.
Here’s an email I just received. Think about the messages contained in this PR pitch…
As the Vergara case continues to steal headlines and spark debate, I wanted to offer up an alternative angle. Although it’s a complicated issue, the tenure controversy seems to boil down to one real problem: that “grossly ineffective teachers” are entrenched and protected. But that raises the question: Why are we hiring grossly ineffective teachers in the first place – and how do we change that?
If you’d like to dive into this overlooked aspect of the issue for a blog post, I’d be happy to set up a call with Joel Sackett of Paragon K12. Paragon is a teacher selection tool that uses decades of research and large quantities of historical data to actually correlate individual teacher attributes (both quantitative and qualitative ones) to student achievement. Joel would be happy to engage in a high-level discussion about the hiring process, including current challenges many districts face – whether a lack of funding, efficiency or effectiveness – and also explain some skepticism and strategies surrounding next-gen hiring technology.
To round out the story, you could also talk to Katie Shortsleeve for an actual use case. She works in Human Resources at Douglas County School District – a district that actually using Paragon K12.
Would you be interested in chatting with Joel and/or Katie sometime next week? Let me know. Happy to set something up and I look forward to hearing from you! Have a nice weekend, Scott!
Here’s my response:
Alyssa, with due respect to you, Joel, and Katie, this PR pitch that you just sent me is a crock. Numerous peer-reviewed research studies and our best statisticians tell us that teachers only account for about 1% to 14% of the overall variability in student test scores. Nor is there any real evidence – other than a few anecdotes, made-up education ‘reformer’ sound bites, and, apparently, messages from corporations and publicists who are willing to ignore the truth and use scare tactics in order to make a buck – that we have a large, systemic problem with ‘grossly ineffective’ teachers.
I’m sure that Paragon K12 probably has some value it can lend to the educator hiring process. But I believe that this marketing message is overhyped, irresponsible fear-mongering that not only contributes to an escalating climate of disrespect and disenfranchisement of educators but also distracts from some of the very real factors that significantly impact student learning outcomes. What would the numerous wonderful teachers that you, Joel, and Katie had as P-12 students think of this PR pitch? Or the hardworking educators in Douglas County, Winston-Salem/Forsyth County, Chula Vista, and other districts that are Paragon K12 clients? Do you think that they’d agree with and be proud of you?
Here’s Alyssa’s response:
My point was simply that everyone seems to be focusing on the protection of the “ineffective teachers” being cited in the Vergara case, but not asking about how they may have gotten hired in the first place. And while no one factor obviously determines learnings outcomes, similarly respected research has shown time and time again that teacher quality is the most important school-based factor when it comes to improving student achievement – so it is far from insignificant.
Anyways, thank you for the feedback.
And here’s mine:
Actually, it might be better to say school-controlled. And, at 1% to 14%, it’s less significant than many other, more important factors such as peer-to-peer effects (which could be considered ‘school-based’) or non-school factors…
The subject of your message was ‘Why are we hiring grossly ineffective teachers?’ My point is simply that your messaging is untrue. With very rare exceptions, schools are NOT hiring ‘grossly ineffective’ teachers. Should school districts care about and try to improve whom they hire? Absolutely. Can companies try to create systems that will help schools with this task? Sure. Should companies and their publicists engage in fear-mongering scare tactics and grossly inaccurate overgeneralizations in order to try and capitalize (literally) on the latest education story du jour? I don’t think so, but apparently that’s ‘marketing’ in the eyes of your firm and your client, regardless of the harm and disrespect to our school systems and the dedicated people who work in them.
Another message from Alyssa:
I am sorry you found the subject line so offensive. I agree – it is over-the-top, but that is unfortunately par for the course. The double-edged sword of a “clicky” subject line that may be fear-mongering but will result in getting someone to open an email and then consider a nuanced conversation on said topic vs. a muted one that no one reads. Again, appreciate the feedback.
And my response:
You admit to over-the-top fear-mongering, yet somehow are so easily able to disclaim culpability… As an educator, why wouldn’t I be offended by intentional, inaccurate insults to and acts against the profession?