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Topic: Grading school performance by student achievement. How and why?

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Subject: Grading school performance by student achievement. How and why?
Date Posted: 11/25/2011 10:48 PM ET
Member Since: 3/21/2009
Posts: 4,812
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Hi,

I'm not a teacher. I did homeschool my grandson in second grade. I was my son's advocate when he was in school and now I'm my grandson's advocate. He is in ESE for Autism. He has high functioning Autism and functions well in a regular classroom.

I'm curious about the position that has been taken by the school system in Florida. They are grading school performance based on the achievements of students. I'm also interested if this system is just a Florida system or is it national. My grandson's school is a "C" school, but I find the teachers to be excellent. They're dedicated, hard working and creative teachers. The administrators are also dedicated. Unfortunately, they are not happy with the new and changing school system. I've found out my grandson's home teacher's pay is based on the level of success of her students. It's sort of like a merit pay. Before I decide to agree or disagree with the new system, I'd like to get some input. It seems like the Department of Education has gone off the deep end and decided to base school success on the level of achievement of their students and not on the performance of the teachers. While I am in agreement that schools need accountability, I don't think schools should be soley graded by it's students acheivements. I think schools should be accountable by both the teachers and students performance.

I would very much like your input in order that I may form an educated opinion about my grandson's education and the school system in general.

Thanks so much!

Date Posted: 11/27/2011 4:07 PM ET
Member Since: 3/4/2007
Posts: 4,546
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The issue of merit pay is a hot button issue in Ohio right now.  One of my problems with it is that the state is saying 50% of the reviewing system has to be on student scores on the state test, but the other part is going to be left up to the districts to decide. I'm in a school where your reviews are ridiculously subjective and if the principal doesn't like you, you're essentially screwed. As yet, the district has made no decisions on what that part of the evaluation should look like, but we know that the intention is to let principals have free range over it with little to no input from downtown. 

Then there's the problem of how to evaluate those of us in special ed.  I work with students with learning disabilities, developmental delays (what we used to call mild mental retardation, but since that's not politically correct, we have to sugar-coat it) and students in all ranges of the autism spectrum.  My high-functioning autistic student is more than capable of passing the state test, but many of my other students are not.  A few of my students are in the 6th grade, but read at a beginning first grade level, so expecting them to pass an exam given at 6th grade level, where the reading passage cannot be read to them, is unrealistic.  How is it right to base my pay on their passing the test?  These students are on IEPs for a reason, for heaven's sake!  It's not about personal accountability, please believe me, it's about appropriateness of the evaluation.  Absolutely evaluate me on their performance throughout the year, come in quarterly and look at all of the academic measurement used to show their progress on their IEP goals and on the state standards, look at the progress they make from the beginning of the year to the end of the year, look at the increase in their social skills or the progress made on their behavioral goals, but to evaluate both them and me on the basis of a single test is absurd and unfair, both to me as the teacher and to my students. 

I also question why only teachers are held accountable for anything.  At what point are the students held accountable for their test scores and their education?  If a student fails the state test at any level, up until 10th, there are no sanctions.  No one has to repeat the grade, no one has to retake the test, they're just moved on to the next grade.  At 10th grade, suddenly they have to keep taking the part they failed until they pass or they don't graduate. How does one evaluate the teachers at that point?  Why is the 10th grade math teacher suddenly made responsible for all of the sins of the past or given kudos for all of the great teaching that came before 10th grade?  Why aren't the students in earlier grades being held accountable to raise their scores?  We can teach our hearts out, but if a student doesn't want to learn, we're just spitting in the wind.  And yes, there are students out there who really don't care about school and can't be bothered to put any effort into their education, even at the upper elementary grades.

Which brings me to the parents.  Why aren't parents being held accountable?  I don't expect parents to teach lessons to their kids, but I do expect them to 1) send their children to school on time and ready to learn; 2) hold their children accountable for their behavior at school; and 3) hold their children accountable for completing their assigned work both at home and in school.  It's frustrating to hear parents defend their child's behavior when that behavior is clearly unacceptable.  Sorry, but little Johnny doesn't get a pass on calling the teacher a bi@$h because he didn't sleep well the night before or because his ADHD meds need adjusting.  Mikayla doesn't get to beat the snot out of another student because that student looked at her funny.  No, the teacher is not picking on your kid because he/she insists that your child not jump up and down on his/her chair and knock books off the shelf in class.  Real life examples, btw, with names changed; I could give ones that are much worse.  My personal favorite was the parent who came in and screamed obscenities (literally screamed so loudly that she was heard by the majority of the school) at a teacher when the teacher gave her child a detention for not having done homework all week.  Her reasoning was that schoolwork should be done at school and that her kid wasn't going to waste his time "reading no mother f---ing book for no mother f---ing test when he should be out kickin' wit' his boys."  All this with the kid standing right there looking smug.  Want to guess how well that student did on the third grade state test that year? 

Thanks for asking, Elona, and I hope my soapbox rant helped.  We need parents and grandparents like you to question these practices and make suggestions to those in charge.  I don't know a single teacher who objects to being held accountable for their lessons and classroom activities, but to make half of their evaluation based on a single standardized test just doesn't make sense. 

Date Posted: 11/30/2011 4:48 PM ET
Member Since: 3/21/2009
Posts: 4,812
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Here in Florida, students can be left back two consecutive years, but no more.

My grandson has high functioning Autism and is doing well, but he is struggling with reading. He still passed the FCAT state exam with a high average last year. This year he's still getting C's with effort. He's supposed to be getting extra help, but they aren't doing it. (that's for another story). If he didn't have a language problem, he would be getting all A's and B's, like the rest of his grades. Since this grade is lower, the teachers merit pay should be a bit lower. So you are right, it's unfair.

So what's being done to make this fair, anything? I don't see a thing from my experience.

As far as parent responsiblity. There's no way to grade a parent without grading student performance.You are in a sense grading parents behavior by grading students behavior. The students often behave likke their parents. Personally, I think homework should be a required subject with it's own grading.

I have to go now. I plan to post again.

Thanks for responding to my post. I wish there were more teachers interested in posting about this. I think it's a valuable topic for everyone concerned.



Last Edited on: 11/30/11 9:42 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 12/21/2011 2:32 PM ET
Member Since: 6/29/2011
Posts: 122
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If implemented correctly, I don't think this is all bad, but it's dangerous ground for sure. For example, if students are tested every year and all of those tests are taken into account, that's one thing. Like if 25 students do well for five years, hit Mrs. X's class and do poorly, then bounce back up the next year, and this happens each year, you know there is a problem. On the other side, you know a teacher is doing well if the opposite happens. But there are a lot of factors that cannot be determined by testing, so this should not be the only factor in evaluating teacher performance.

As for what Sandy said about the potential for unfairness in evaluation if the principal doesn't like you, I don't think that really is something to be too concerned about. Everyone in every field is subject to that kind of problem if their supervisor doesn't like them. There should be ways to go through HR if one really feels their job is at risk because of personal differences. Most principals are not going to get rid of a quality teacher over petty differences, though.

Date Posted: 12/22/2011 11:05 PM ET
Member Since: 3/4/2007
Posts: 4,546
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As for what Sandy said about the potential for unfairness in evaluation if the principal doesn't like you, I don't think that really is something to be too concerned about.

Spend a week in my building and you'll change your tune about that. It happens more than you might want to believe and going downtown to HR can be frustrating and unproductive, especially when you teach in a district where everyone is somehow related.  I could give you specifics, but frankly, I wouldn't want to risk anything getting back to people I know.

Like if 25 students do well for five years, hit Mrs. X's class and do poorly, then bounce back up the next year, and this happens each year, you know there is a problem.

In theory, I agree with this statement, but you should be careful with this assumption.  In Ohio, the 5th grade test is notoriously difficult for some reason and students who have done well on the 3rd and 4th grade tests tend to fall down on the 5th grade test.  If it's only happening with a couple of teachers, then yes, you need to look at those teachers, but when it happens across an entire district and beyond, then you need to look at the test. 

For me, the scariest thing about merit pay is that districts have been told to start implementing this, but NO ONE has come up with any guidelines and it seems like they're going to leave it to principals to decide what form of evaluation they want to use.  Again, being held accountable and possibly rewarded for a job well-done is perfectly acceptable.  Being held accountable to a mystery set of guidelines, is not.

 

Date Posted: 12/23/2011 3:14 PM ET
Member Since: 12/26/2008
Posts: 1,958
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My district is experimenting with something called Academic Growth Over TIme--which evaluates test scores of students against what they would expect to gain in a given year.  There is a three year averaging so that you can look at trends.

I am uncomfortable with either discounting test scores entirely or basing pay solely on test scores.  No one seems to be able to come up with a happy medium.