NYC erases low ratings — if teacher quits

New York City public schools have a “secret weapon to rub out incompetent teachers — an eraser,” reports the New York Post. If a teacher rated “unsatisfactory” agrees to quit or retire, all ratings will be changed to “satisfactory,” helping the teacher find a job in a new district.

Weak teachers fail in New Haven, but not many

New Haven’s unionized teachers gave up job security for better pay and benefits, writes New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof.

With a stronger evaluation system, tenure no longer mattered and weak teachers could be pushed out.

Roughly half of a teacher’s evaluation would depend on the performance of his or her students — including on standardized tests and other measures of learning.

Teachers were protected by a transparent process, and by accountability for principals. But if outside evaluators agreed with administrators that a teacher was failing, the teacher would be out at the end of the school year.

Last year, the school district pushed out 34 teachers, about 2 percent of the total in the district. The union not only didn’t object, but acknowledged that many of them didn’t really belong in the classroom.

Fifty more teachers out of 1,800 in the district have been warned their teaching must improve or they’ll be fired.

Mayor John DeStefano Jr. of New Haven says that the breakthrough isn’t so much that poor teachers are being eased out, but that feedback is making everyone perform better — principals included. “Most everybody picked up their game in the district,” he said.

Two percent of teachers were fired. That doesn’t sound like a very tough system. Maybe over time it will make a difference. Am I too bloodthirsty?

Update: Kristof fell for the latest edu-fad, writes Rick Hess, who’s seen many miracles turn out to be not so miraculous after all.

Too stupid to know they're stupid

The Anosognosic’s Dilemma:  Some people are so stupid they don’t know they’re stupid. The New York Times’ Opinionator Blog focuses on research by David Dunning, a Cornell social psychology professor and his graduate student Justin Kruger.

Errol Morris interviews Dunning, who says, “If you’re incompetent, you can’t know you’re incompetent.”

DAVID DUNNING: If you knew it, you’d say, “Wait a minute. The decision I just made does not make much sense. I had better go and get some independent advice.” But when you’re incompetent, the skills you need to produce a right answer are exactly the skills you need to recognize what a right answer is. In logical reasoning, in parenting, in management, problem solving, the skills you use to produce the right answer are exactly the same skills you use to evaluate the answer. And so we went on to see if this could possibly be true in many other areas. And to our astonishment, it was very, very true.

College students who were doing badly in grammar, didn’t know it, Dunning found in his research. You’d think someone taking a class would get feedback from the instructor. Are they not being told their grammar is poor? Or are they very good at not hearing what they don’t want to hear?

Dunning praises Donald Rumsfeld’s ruminations on “unknown unknowns,” the stuff you don’t know that you don’t know. Morris seems incapable of crediting Rumsfeld with insight. It’s kind of funny to watch him struggle to deny that Rumsfeld was on to something.