Oct 03 2012

False premise in the Luna Laws

Published by at 12:48 pm under Carlson,Idaho

carlson
Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

At the core of the Otter/Luna reforms there is a false premise—-that state government bureaucrats can design a logical, defensible set of metrics to measure how good a teacher is.
Don’t believe it. There are only two ways to evaluate a teacher: 1) the evaluator has to spend hours in the class observing to see if learning is taking place; and, 2) ask the students—-they always can name the teachers who teach and they respect, and the one’s who babysit and they don’t respect.

The state department of education should quit trying to have it both ways. On the one hand they say local school boards call the shots, but on the other hand they provide “guidelines” to determine who is and isn’t a good teacher. In fairness to the department, they do allow on a local option basis input by students in the evaluation of teachers. And they do mandate in class observation – at least once during a school term.

They also mandate some sort of proof of parental involvement in the evaluation of teachers, but they leave it to the local school board to determine what form and whether a teacher’s evaluation is incomplete without the parental assessment.

What to do about parents who don’t care and won’t participate is apparently a problem left to the teacher and the board to solve, but an evaluation is not complete in the eyes of the state office without the parental involvement portion.

So, what do good bureaucrats do? With the participation of the teachers they create a form with lots of numerical goals and metrics. Examine one of the forms though and it is pure b.s. It is a statistic driven exercise regarding who can most creatively figure out how to game the system and turn the form into a positive evaluation.

It is another iteration of the phony STAR system created by the department to help one determine the better public schools in an area. So surprise, surprise, Benewah County turns out to have a five star elementary and a couple of four star schools as well.

I’m sorry folks, but with all due respect to the teachers and administrators who work hard under difficult circumstances there are no five star and four star schools in Benewah County.

I taught eighth and ninth grade at Kootenai Jr.-Sr. High School one year after college graduation, the academic year 1968-1969. Recently I attended the 40th reunion of that ninth grade class. Though sparsely attended every one of those students immediately recalled how I had made poetry come alive for them by initially playing some Simon and Garfunkel songs and some Beatle songs.

I had the lyrics written on the blackboard also and began showing them the standard rhetorical devices used by the song writers’ common also to the great writers of poetry. Suddenly poetry was much more interesting to them. By the time I asked them to produce their own poems every one of the eighth and ninth graders was able to produce some pretty fair stuff.

I knew I had touched every one of my students for the better. Unbeknownst to me the school superintendent was listening outside the classroom door (he never came into the class), and he decided that since I was a Columbia graduate and playing radical songs by the Beatles I must be a communist.

He wrote my draft board and asked that they rescind my teaching deferment and suggested I be drafted and sent to Vietnam. The draft board was only too happy to throw me into the draft pool.

I appealed to the school board at a meeting in which almost all the parents of my students showed up and asked that the superintendent be fired. The school board, impressed by the many testimonials from parents regarding my teaching, did fire the superintendent on the spot.

The system worked one might say but I chose to pursue my Master’s the next year rather than return because, grateful though I was for all the support, it was an early lesson in the petty politics that exist in all schools and it left a sour taste.

So what’s the answer? Here I part company with the teacher’s union which steadfastly insists on protecting the weakest link. There are good teachers, who don’t have to fear evaluation, and there are a few squares in round holes who shouldn’t be teaching and school boards have to be able to remove a bad teacher without facing the threat of lawsuits.

My answer is that teachers should be “at will” employees and leave it to the local school board to hire and fire without prescribing elaborate sets of criteria. If one mouths the mantra of local control, they ought to really walk the talk and quit promulgating all sorts of criteria.

My bottom line is repeal the phony top-down Otter/Luna Reforms and start over with the participation of all and come up with real reforms that restore real power to the local school boards.

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