Evaluating teachers

Teacher evaluation is broken writes Todd Seal, an English teacher.

Teachers in my school district are currently evaluated by a bi-annual visit from an administrator (principals and the like). Every 2 years, an administrator spends 53 minutes in my classroom, taking notes on what happens during that time. That 53-minute period, that solitary visit to my classroom on a day and time that I know about well in advance is supposed to be some type of record of how effective I am as an educator. That visit is the single requirement our district has for teacher evaluation.

. . . Suggestions from the current principal who used to teach 6th grade back in 1976 only go so far with an AP English teacher facing a room full of high school seniors.
Teachers could be evaluated by their peers (other teachers, not administrators). They could be evaluated by standardized test scores. They could be evaluated by students. They could be evaluated by themselves. They could be evaluated by administrators. All of these could make up a teacher’s evaluation.

The trouble comes in hinging a definition of teacher success on any one of these, leaving it solely to that as a deciding factor.

Via Jenny D.

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Comments

  1. Alas, good teaching is like pornography.

  2. …in the eye of the beholder?
    …widely available on the Internet?
    …easy to recognize, hard to define?
    …of interest mainly to fourteen year-old boys?
    …in which enthusiasm is mistaken for skill?
    …both of which are found, although not nearly often enough, in the public education system?

  3. … And you know it when you see it.

  4. I’m officially evaluated three times a year, with one scheduled eval and two pop-ins. All the principals pop in during the year to watch for fifteen or twenty minutes. Sometimes they’ve heard about something I do through the grapevine and want to see it specifically. My official eval includes all those observations. I’m guessing I had about 10 observations total.

    In addition, teachers eval each other four times per year. So, I go out and observe four other teachers in the building every year and write up what I see (it’s framed in a very positive way — as in what did I learn).

    It’s not a bad system. It probably seems invasive to teachers not used to others in their room, but I find it nice that there are no secrets about what I do. (I also have a SPED parter for a few hours a day.) I teach a number of mentally ill students, and I find the openess to be protective. Also, I get a lot of feedback all the time.

  5. M_David says:

    They could be evaluated by students. They could be evaluated by themselves. They could be evaluated by administrators.

    Over 15 years after the Berlin Wall fell, people still can’t understand that competition works and state-run fails. What about parents doing the evaluation by getting to choose their child’s teachers? Suddenly, all the mystery is gone about who’s a good teacher…and finally, good teachers will get the recognition they deserve and they will be in demand!

    Yet Mr. Seal cannot even imagine it as an option.

  6. A good principal knows the strengths and weaknesses of his teachers. The problem with administrator evaluations of teachers is that nobody is holding the administrators accountable. It takes empowering parents through genuine school choice to accomplish that. Until then, teachers cannot give up practices like tenure and accept merit pay, changes which are essential to improving the schools.

  7. ucladavid says:

    I just finished up my first year of teaching in Los Angeles Unified. I teach out in the bungalos of the school so it is rare when an administrator is in my part of the school. The principal only came in one time and that was to give me a gift for Chris…err…holiday season. The administrator evaluating me never came in to see my classroom. Other administrators and counselors came in for Back to School night, Open House and random times for five minutes throughout the school year. The counselors had to come into my classroom for entire day to explain to the students the summer school process and electives for next year. I invited my department chair to come into my class during her conference period for 2 days to help me judge a contest I was doing. Those were all the times I could have been evaluated by a direct visit.

    However, I talked with the administrators at new teachers meetings to discuss what is going on in my classroom and how could I improve it. If I had a problem in my class, I went to the administrators or counselors or fellow teachers in my department to see on how I could improve the situation. The counselors and administrators also know the job that I am doing by phone calls they get from parents about me, the number of students that are sent up to the office and the reasons for being sent up, and just by hearing students talk about teachers around the school.

    Thus, even though I was not observed that often by the administrators, they got a pretty good sense of what was going on in my classroom.

  8. RCC, where do you teach? The system used for evaluation sounds much better than average.

    M David, parents sometimes aren’t the best evaluators. They lack objectivity in a lot of cases. Believe it or not, some parents just want their kids to enjoy school and to get good grades; they have no idea what the kids are supposed to learn or if they have learned it.

  9. Walter E. Wallis says:

    If teaching is a profession, then the profession is obliged to develop an evaluation based on something other than paying union dues. It is a shame that layfolk have been given reason enough to doubt the ability of teachers to evaluate their own performance. If one of my old unions, the IBEW, were to care so little about functional ability, not a building would be safe.

  10. BadaBing says:

    Students are the ones that really know what goes on in a classroom, and I find them quite perceptive in their evaluations of myself and other teachers. I’m not above asking students how I might better present the material at hand. I don’t always agree with them, but sometimes they come up with great ideas that I implement. I’ll never forget the honors student that imitated me in front of the class one day. He was spot on and it was a riot. I owe him because it made me stop an irritating habit I had when explaining stuff to the class, and, no, it wasn’t picking my nose or anything like that. I value what my students think of my teaching ability far more than some administrator’s. Student feedback is important to me, and what they observe in their classes almost always gets back to their parents, who are the consumers, if you will, of public education. So if I don’t get the negative/positive feedback from the kids, I’ll often get it from the parents. Over and out.

  11. Just remember, folks, that the only thing in America that makes us unique is I N E Q U A L I T Y. Quit whining, and do your part to make it better. Does it really take an administrator to let you know if you’re doing a good job or not? If you have any doubt, please get out of the classroom now.

  12. Mr. Davis says:

    A serious question: Aside from the “It helps me become a better teacher” answer that I believe is sincere for teachers who frequent Ms Jacobs’ blog, what real world impact does an evaluation have on a teacher who has gained tenure?

    Is there any benefit an administrator will gain from commending only good teachers in any way related to the pain they will suffer if they condemn one bad one?

  13. Andy Freeman says:

    > M David, parents sometimes aren’t the best evaluators.

    That’s true, but they are the ones paying the bills. And, we’re talking about their children.

    The current scheme is broken. While some of its opponents may be wrong, all of its defenders are.

  14. The kids provide much more feedback as to whether or not something I’m doing is working. I’ve also been the subject of those imitations (and quite a few art projects). I’ve been known to stop a lesson that’s gone south and ask them what the problem is. Usually I assumed they knew something they didn’t or something had happened outside my classroom to throw them off.

    The benefit of the eval is to improve teaching. For the administrator and the bad teacher, I imagine it is paper trail. It’s possible to fire a tenured teacher — or force them out. Also the admininstrator has a better idea who is good at exactly what. For example, before a scheduled eval, my principal might ask me what I’d like him to watch for. I might say I’m not happy with X; see if you can see what I’m not doing right. My principal might then offer some suggestions of his own and/or say, “Well, Y does something really great with X, why don’t you go watch her.” I can then go learn from the teacher down the hall. As teachers, we have a good idea of who is effective and not effective in the building, but we’re locked in our own rooms; we have no idea about specifics. The principals, because they see us all, know the details and can direct us to those we can learn the most from. Cost to district? $0. We’d been saying for years that we could learn from each other — we have a talented faculty — and our boss worked hard to set up a mechanism for us to do so. (We still do traditional PD type things, as well.)

  15. Nancy D says:

    Andy Freeman,

    Your view is incomplete. All taxpayers are paying the bill, not just parents. In many districts, corporations are the biggest taxpayers. What they want schools to do, in terms of producing qualified high school graduates, probably isn’t the same as what the kids want to do in school or what many parents seem to want.

    Some parents pay no propery taxes and little or no state or federal income tax. Often these are the parents of the kids at the “worst” schools.
    While I expect they are still concerned about the progress of their kids, it doesn’t really make sense to say they are “paying the bills.”

    Others of us pay all kinds of taxes with no kids in school. What is the interest that all of us have in producing other educated citizens? This general interest, with consideration given to the more particular concerns of parents, should drive the policy of public schools. ( In my mind, the general interest matters more, but that might just be because I don’t have kids myself.)

    What aspects of public schools did you have in mind when you referred to the “current scheme”? That it’s often funded by property tax? That teachers unions have influence? That colleges of education have influence? That public education is available to all? That it doesn’t cost the students anything directly? That they are assigned by geography to their schools which are paid for the same way? That teachers can’t be fired based on parent complaint alone? That diruptive students can’t be removed? That special education is funded and offered though the schools?

    It seems to me that some aspects of the present system are actually good and worth retaining. We just need to think carefully about what needs to be changed. Then we’ve got to have the courage to see it through.

  16. Andy Freeman says:

    While I’d love to see the other tax-payers have some say, that’s not politically possible today. Today, we might be able to get parents some say. Arguing that we shouldn’t do what we can because there’s something better we can’t do is arguing for no change.

    > While I expect they are still concerned about the progress of their kids, it doesn’t really make sense to say they are “paying the bills.”

    It doesn’t make sense only if you think that taxes are the only bills. Parents are “paying” with their children, which I think is pretty significant.

  17. Nancy D says:

    Andy Freeman,

    They’re not paying with their children; that’s ridiculous. Their children are either the products of the educational system or they are the primary consumers of the products of that system. What they sure as heck aren’t is payment for the system.

    I didn’t argue that we shouldn’t make changes to improve education. I argue that parents as the main evaluators of teaching might often make the system worse.

    To resist a change for the worse doesn’t prevent progress.

    Do you actually believe there is nothing of merit in our present system of public education?

  18. Mr. Davis says:

    Do you actually believe there is nothing of merit in our present system of public education?

    Nothing is overstatement, but so little that were Public Education to disappear tomorrow, the nation would be better off. Without doubt, the greatest threat to the national secuirty of the U. S. is the NEA.

  19. Nancy D says:

    How is the NEA more a threat to national security than say, I’m reaching here, Al-Qaeda? I’m no fan of the NEA, but your hyperbole is absurd.

    Please back up your claim that there’s so little of value that we’d be better off with no public education.

    What is it that you imagine would happen then?

  20. NEA is no threat to national security. Ignorance is a much greater threat, and NEA is on the side of the Good and the Noble in ending ignorance.

    But I digress.

    One of the more serious issues in all job evaluations is how to measure progress. The sad reality is that, except for the National Football League and the National Basketball Association, few jobs have a scoreboard in real time that reveal how the organization is doing today, and what needs to be done to win.

    One of my evaluators commented on the noise in my room — there was a lot of talking at that moment since kids were working in groups. I explained that, when kids are learning from each other, noise is a measure of success, and not a discipline issue. She said she’d not thought of it that way before.

    Ouch.

    I recommend the work of W. Edwards Deming on teacher evaluation. He recommends against such evaluations. In the case of the classroom it makes a lot of sense. Why do we evaluate the teachers as if they control the classroom, when most of the time they don’t have any say over who is in the class, when the state or district dictates the class content, when the teacher doesn’t even have time for body breaks, and when almost all resources that could help are limited by others (copiers, paper, texts, toys (“manipulables”), maps, other visual displays, room temperature, size of the classroom, classroom layout, desks and chairs, etc., etc.)?

  21. Ed wrote:

    I recommend the work of W. Edwards Deming on teacher evaluation. He recommends against such evaluations.

    Could you provide a more specific cite? I’m not terribly familiar with Deming’s work but from what I recall, he concerned himself primarily with industrial organizations so I’d be interested to know what he has to say about public schools.

    Why do we evaluate the teachers as if they control the classroom

    Whatever teachers control or don’t control, some teachers are simply better at whatever it is that’s within their control then others. It’s not unreasonable to want to weed out those at the “incompetent” end of that scale.

  22. Mr. Davis says:

    It has been evident since the time of Lincoln that the United States could not be conquered by an external force. al-Qaeda appears to be a threat only because we choose not to use all the weapons available to us in defeating it. Should it become a greater threat, we will choose to broaden the range of weapons we use until the threat disappears.

    So, the source of the decline of America will be internal; the loss of the republican spirit that enables a people to govern itself. The way to accomplish this is through eroding the education of its youth. That is what is being done through the dumbing down of American youth by public education. That is why I consider government schools and the NEA to be a bigger threat to the nation than al-Qaeda.

    What would hapen without government schools? The nineteenth century mold of factory schools that produce standardized student outputs would be broken. Corrupt unions that use involuntarily seized dues to influence elections would need to provide services to members to stay in business. Parents would have to take responsibility for their children’s education instead of handing them over to government officials. A much wider variety of schools would emerge to better meet the needs of individual students. Teachers would have a wider variety of employers available with wider ranges of educational styles and remuneration. Children would not be sentenced to spend time in schools that can be distinguished from priosons only by the absence of concertina wire fences. Some schools would not be as good as others. They would fail and disappear to be replaced by new schools. Educational proficiency of the average student would be improved and time spent in school would be reduced, allowing for longer productive careers.

  23. Andy Freeman says:

    > They’re not paying with their children; that’s ridiculous.

    No – it’s true. School occupies a considerable fraction of a student’s time, time that can’t be spent doing something else. If the school isn’t cutting it, parents often can’t make it up. It may not be money, but it sure is a cost.

    > Their children are either the products of the educational system or they are the primary consumers of the products of that system.

    Actually, the product is said student’s achievements due to participation in said educational system.

  24. Nancy D says:

    Andy Freemen,

    Most things that we do require that we spend our time doing that one thing, rather than something else. That doesn’t make our participation in that one thing payment for that activity.

    I agree that student achievement, rather than the students themselves, is the best way to view the product of the system. And I agree that participation is required to have student achievement; however, I see the students’ ability and participation as the raw materials that may go into the production, not payment.

    Do you consider all participation payment? I’m guessing that you don’t. What sets education apart?

  25. Andy Freeman says:

    Actually, participation is always a cost, but if it helps, feel free to notice that said participation is mandatory. (To understand why participation is always a cost, think about why people will walk out of a movie that they paid for even if they’re not going to get a refund.)

    Arguing that student participation isn’t part of the cost just confirms the stereotype that “money to them” is the most important part of the public education argument to educators.

    > I see the students’ ability and participation as the raw materials that may go into the production

    Why would one think that said inputs are free?

    > I agree that student achievement, rather than the students themselves, is the best way to view the product of the system.

    What changed Nancy’s mind from “students are the product”? What will it take to get her to “the difference in student achievement due to …”?

    And we’re still looking for a reason why the folks paying aren’t qualified to judge….

  26. I think there’s an assumption of the middle-class educated parent who is capable of making reasonably good decisions. Once you’ve been a teacher, you realize there are some real doozies out there. Barring outright substance abuse, incarceration, and mental illness requiring hospitalizion, there’s neglect, abuse, adults who were drop-outs and have no idea what 11th grade looks like, and parents who are just crackpots, etc.* A system handed over completely to parents would tend to advantage students with good parents and disadvantage further students from less than optimal homes. So, if increased class and economic stratification is your goal, I’d say that’s the model to go with.

    Also, what happens when the private sector schools fold? The charters around here have been spectacular disasters and the Archdiocese has closed three schools within 10 miles of my house (probably something to do with the priests in charge being convicted of child porn). Once you’ve dismantled the public schools, where do those kids go? In addition, my wild guess is that the Christian Brothers and Country Day are not super-eager to take in ADD crack babies with Emotional Disabilities at 1/3 their typical tuition. Not to mention the child with cystic fibrosis who requires a full-time aid, the combative autistic child, children with down’s syndrome, or the teenager who was a shaken baby.*

    *Just my typical year.

    What has anything of this got to do with teacher evaluation?

  27. Nancy D says:

    RCC, Andy Freeman and I agree that the people who pay for education should be allowed to evaluate education, including quality of teachers. He thinks parents are the right folks to do this because of their unique involvement; I say they aren’t because they don’t pay anymore for education than any other taxpayers, the aren’t the sole consumers of the educational system’s products, and that their involvement might make things worse.

    Your post shows some of the problems that might develop. In general, I don’t think people, no matter their income or education level, are particularly rational when it comes to their children. I also think they focus on very short term and often selfish goals in what they see as the best interest of their kids. I’m not interested in paying for a system that was based on getting satisfactory evaluations from parents. I don’t know that most business or other taxpayers are either. But I think a lot of folks don’t stop and think about what would result from total parent control.

    Andy Freeman,

    What got me from the students themselves to student achievement was the recognition that students themselves aren’t produced by the system; they are perhaps refined by it. Suggesting that human beings are produced by the educational system was simply a mistake.

    Their parents in some form of procreative act produced them. If you need more information about that, I’m sure websites are available.

    You’re right to say that the inputs aren’t free; but the system buys the participation by rewarding participation with course credits, knowledge, and diplomas.

    (I don’t really have much to say about education being mandatory. My solution would be to abolish compulsory attendance laws. If parents and kids opted out, then schools would tax less. You seem to be mistaken that I want more money for education.)

    You haven’t established that parents ARE paying any more than any other set of taxpayers, so I don’t know why you believe they should have a direct role in teacher evaluation. It’s true that parents may be more emotionally involved, which may be a good reason that they shouldn’t be evaluating.

    I actually have no problem with buyers getting to judge. I just think it makes more sense to establish objective, consistent standards rather than seeing if the system created by parent evaluation works for the rest of us. Parents are welcome to help shape the standards, just as any taxpayer or voter would. Political change will be slower, but I think, more for the public good.

    Personally, I’d like to see and would vote for a system of teacher evaluation based on student achievement, like Value Added Assessment, rather than looking for a set of behaviors that are supposed to be effective. It would really liberate teachers to teach well and have high standards.

  28. Andy Freeman says:

    > Their parents in some form of procreative act produced them.

    Why the snark? And why is it directed at me?

    > What got me from the students themselves to student achievement was the recognition that students themselves aren’t produced by the system;

    Ah, so she’s the one who was confused about where students come from.

    Nevertheless, my question was what will it take to get her to acknowledge that schools should only get credit for what happens as a result of what they do, that is, the difference in student achievement due to their involvement. The “due to” is important – schools don’t cause the sun to rise in the east.

    > I say they aren’t because they don’t pay anymore for education than any other taxpayers, the aren’t the sole consumers of the educational system’s products, and that their involvement might make things worse.

    Nancy continues to ignore the fact that parents pay in a way that no one else does. She may think that they’re compensated for that cost, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t paying it. (The other payers that she cites are also compensated, yet she doesn’t use that to downplay their payments.) FWIW, parents aren’t a small minority and they own biz, so she’s ignoring another large part of their payments.

    Maybe parents would do a worse job, but is the current situation so good that it’s not worth taking the chance?

    > I don’t know why you believe they should have a direct role in teacher evaluation.

    The role that I’d have parents play is the ability to pull their students out of a teacher’s class without significant hassle. If no one wanted their children taught by a given teacher, then saidteacher wouldn’t get paid. However, if enough parents were willing to let their child stay in said teacher’s class, no problem.

  29. Mr. Davis says:

    In general, I don’t think people, no matter their income or education level, are particularly rational when it comes to their children. I also think they focus on very short term and often selfish goals in what they see as the best interest of their kids.

    No doubt the world would be a better place if children spent the entire day at school from say, age 3.

  30. Nancy D says:

    The snark was directed at you because you seemed unwilling to allow me to correct a previous overstatement without assuming that it was your persuasive power that drove the correction.

    Perhaps I misunderstood what you meant here:

    “What changed Nancy’s mind from “students are the product”? What will it take to get her to “the difference in student achievement due to …”?”

    If so, I apologize.

    I don’t think I’m going to come around to believing that parent evaluation is the way to go, but it’s been thought provoking.

    I can understand that a parent who felt that his student was trapped in a bad teacher’s class would be frustrated, and an immediate solution would certainly appealing to him. If we do assume that the teacher is actually bad by the kind of univeral standards I would used, however, it would seem to me that there are other ways of getting rid of the teacher, even in our present system actually.

  31. Nancy D says:

    Mr. Davis,

    I think emotional involvement is what makes most parents good parents, but I think too much emotional involvement might make them poor evaluators of their children’s teachers.

    More time at home with parents is probably what a lot of students actually need to do well when they do go off to school.

  32. You haven’t established that parents ARE paying any more than any other set of taxpayers, so I don’t know why you believe they should have a direct role in teacher evaluation. It’s true that parents may be more emotionally involved, which may be a good reason that they shouldn’t be evaluating.

  33. Andy Freeman says:

    > If we do assume that the teacher is actually bad by the kind of univeral standards I would used, however, it would seem to me that there are other ways of getting rid of the teacher, even in our present system actually.

    As I suspected, Nancy is actually a defender of the status quo.

    Why is it so important to frustrate a parent who doesn’t want his/her kid taught by a given teacher?

    Yes, some parents will make bad choices. That’s no reason to deny that choice to all of them.

    Note, btw, that we routinely trust parents to make even bigger decisions. We only step in on specific cases with specific proof. Why should education be any different?

  34. Andy Freeman says:

    > The snark was directed at you because you seemed unwilling to allow me to correct a previous overstatement without assuming that it was your persuasive power that drove the correction.

    Overstatement? It’s a completely different view of education.

    And, there’s no “assumption”, there was a simple question, answered by snark and strawman attribution.

  35. “The kids provide much more feedback as to whether or not something I’m doing is working.” That’s assuming that the teacher pays attention to the signs from the kids – or even cares whether what he’s doing is working. There are those that don’t, and I know of one that spent about 40 years teaching in the same school system, and was abysmally incompetent the entire time.

  36. Nancy D says:

    As I said earlier, I apologize. If you claim there was no snark on your end, my comment was misdirected, and as I said, I apologize.

    In this particular case, Andy, the “students are products” was overstatement rather than a different theory. I was emphasizing what the kids were NOT, and I didn’t refine my description of the products of the system as carefully as I should have. I maintain that the students are closer to product than payment, but raw material is probably the best analogy.

    I’m still refining my idea about what the product of the educational system should be and thinking about how schools could achieve that result, so maybe someday I will come around.

    You’re right that schools “should only get credit for what happens as a result of what they do.” The school officials of the county where I live do a lot of crowing about testing results that reflect our suburban demographics as much as they reflect local school efforts. And some school districts are getting hammered because of their NCLB data for reasons largely beyond their control, so it seems to cut both ways.

    I really do think our present system of teacher evaluation and our present system of education needs improvement. I just don’t want to see parents alone be the replacement system.

    Maybe I have an unusually dim view of humanity in general and I’m extending it to parents. I don’t think that parent choice would end up creating better teachers and better schools. I think it would create schools that had making students and parents feel good as the first priority. It’d be a PR extravaganza, but no content. Parents and students feeling good is fourth or fifth on my present list of what schools should do, but it will never be number one.

    I’m all about individuals making their own choices; I just don’t generally think they should be government subsidized unless they are somehow government controlled. Maybe disbanding public ed. altogether is the way to go. Parents would pay all the cost and have all the choice. We could see if things got better.

  37. Andy Freeman says:

    > I’m all about individuals making their own choices; I just don’t generally think they should be government subsidized unless they are somehow government controlled.

    In other words, Nancy thinks that food stamps shouldn’t allow choice. If the govt decides that Fruit Loops are it, those who’d prefer Raisin Bran are SOL.

  38. Andy Freeman says:

    > You’re right that schools “should only get credit for what happens as a result of what they do.”

    Okay, but just before

    > In this particular case, Andy, the “students are products” was overstatement rather than a different theory.

    Do schools produce students?

    >I maintain that the students are closer to product than payment, but raw material is probably the best analogy.

    Providing raw material is payment….

  39. Nancy D wrote:

    I don’t think that parent choice would end up creating better teachers and better schools.

    What are the alternatives? Right now we have political entities which only have to submit to public approval every year or couple of years and even then, the process is often suborned by groups which have little interest in educational quality.

    If you set out to design a less responsive, more politically maleable system you’d be hardpressed to do better then what we have now. Could a credible case be made that those hired by the winners of the political process will be as motivated to pursue a good education for the kids as their own parents?

  40. Nancy D says:

    Andy, although I’ve never personally received them, I do think food stamps limit choices to foods with nutritional value. I’ve read signs in grocery stores indicating that.

    You continue to misrepresent my positions as if that proves the correctness of your own. I’ve tried to clarify, but I’m throwing in the towel. Continue to cut and paste out of context as much as you want, but I suspect I’m finished responding. I hardly think it means you’ve demonstrated that parent evaluation of teachers is the way to go. You certainly haven’t convinced me.

    Allen,

    While parent choice as teacher evaluation would have immediate effects, I don’t think the changes that choice would create in the long term would be good ones. I see more grade inflation, less discipline, and more permissiveness as the potential results; I’m guessing you think otherwise. I suspect you think that it would make every school like a private school. Who knows what would really happen?

    I think that an objective measure of some kind would be better. I’d be fine with states trying to break the education unions by being “right to work” states. I think the public and elected officials should be paying a heck of a lot more attention to what education schools are teaching; they’re a big part of the problem in my opinion.

    I guess I look at other areas of life in which people make bad choices: eating unhealthy foods to the point of becoming morbidly obese, smoking despite every conceivable warning, and watching reality TV despite its being crap. While it’s cool with me that people do these things, I don’t want tax money to go to support any of it.

    I don’t think people who make bad choices would make any better choices when it came to whose class they put their kids in.

    Sure, really great parents might make great choices, but with any area of public life it’s the idiots that we make the rules for.

    I don’t think parent choice in public schools is a good idea unless it’s regulated by some objective standards.

  41. Nancy D wrote:

    I see more grade inflation, less discipline, and more permissiveness as the potential results; I’m guessing you think otherwise.

    And what you’ve described is the current system into which parents have relatively little input.

    I suspect you think that it would make every school like a private school. Who knows what would really happen?

    To the extent that parental concerns would be of much more immediate interest to the survival of the school, yes, I think parental control would make every school more like a private school and it could hardly be a worse situation then the current one, coupling as it does fantastic waste with minimal accountability. I just don’t think we have anywhere to go but up.

    I guess I look at other areas of life in which people make bad choices:

    Too late. The bad choices are already being made in the public education system. They’re just being made by people who have little inherent concern with education, the professionals.

    I don’t think people who make bad choices would make any better choices when it came to whose class they put their kids in.

    Well, yeah but what makes you think that the decisions made in aggregate will result in a worse outcome then what we’re currently seeing?

    You’re implying that the assumed expertise of the professional, not that safe an assumption, will generate better educational outcomes then the natural concern of the parents. Given the woeful state of educational accountability the assumption of professional expertise is a thin reed indeed.

    Sure, really great parents might make great choices, but with any area of public life it’s the idiots that we make the rules for.

    Uhh, no. That may be a fashionable, not to say self-serving assumption, but it isn’t how we’ve done things till now. We’ve made the rules for those people who choose to infringe on the rights of others not to indulge in self-destructive behavior.

    The drunk becomes a concern to society when he drives his car into a school bus. If he just wants to get ‘faced in his own livingroom, what’s society’s rationale for interfering?

    I know what the fashionable rationale is: self-destructive behavior creates a burden for society so society can dictate non-infringing personal behaviour but that’s a fad whose attraction is fading as the potential for mischief inherent in that attitude becomes more difficult to ignore.

  42. Am I arguing for the current professionals to continue to make the calls? It doesn’t seem that way to me.

    I think I’m arguing for reform based on making public schools responsive to the public at large, rather than teacher’s unions, schools of education, threats of lawsuits, and nutty parents, which are what I think drive the system today. I want change; I just resist parent choice alone as that change.

    Can I play devil’s advocate about the drunk example? What about the public health care costs that the rest of us might assume if this man’s drinking damages his health and he is unwilling or unable to pay on his own. Where do you put the line on infringing on the rest of us? To me, you can infringe by shifting the cost.

    If you can pay all of the cost of your behavior and it doesn’t harm others, then drink up, buddy.

    I don’t want to see more regulation of private non-infringing behavior; I simply don’t want to subsidize it with tax dollars.

  43. Nancy D wrote:

    I want change; I just resist parent choice alone as that change.

    The sketch something out. What’s your change look like?

    Public schools are responsive to the public at large, that’s what we have now.

    The public at large isn’t all that interested, evidence the almost inevitable low turnout for school board elections, so groups with more immediate interests wield influence out of proportion to their numbers. The teachers unions. The administration.

    As long as the basic structure continues, the district-based public education system, why would you expect anything new to occur? The important factors, public, parental and interest group input will all continue to have the same relationship so we’ll get the same outcome. If you want changes in outputs you’ve got to make changes to the inputs.

    Can I play devil’s advocate about the drunk example?

    No. It’s an example of limited utility in this discussion. You posited “the idiots we make the rules for” as an argument against parental control. I responded with “the rules”, except until relatively recently in our nation’s history, were reserved for the infringers. The drunk who runs into the school bus, etc.

    A bad parent, a drunk, a drug abuser, a physical abuser, is the exception yet you’re suggesting that the system ought to be biased in favor of assuming that the bad parent is the rule by virtue of depriving all parents of the power over their child’s education.

    That’s the system we have now and it’s a system a lot of people, parents, tax-payers and teachers aren’t very happy with.

  44. Nancy D says:

    So the burden shifts to me if I oppose one possibility in a discussion thread about teacher evaluation in general? Interesting.

    You can bring in examples, but I can’t use them. Also interesting.

    What a great way to have a discussion.

    If parents want to assume the total cost of education, then they have complete choice. It’s only if they want publicly subsidized eduation that they are locked in to the public school in their district and the teacher assigned to their kid.

    Here’s my sketch: I think I’d give testing a chance to work, but I’d make sure we were using more rigorous tests, and I’d figure out a way to control for differences in raw material, like Value Added Assessment does. I’d also have to figure out a way to control for the general attitude about discipline in the school, which would be a little harder.

    Then I’d reward or fire teachers based on the results.