From: Dom on
<<Obviously, teachers have little incentive to teach any topic that is
not tested, or indeed, anything that will not be tested that year; why
lay groundwork for improving next year's scores? If you thought No
Child Left Behind led to an overemphasis on testing, wait for the test-
prep frenzy that follows linking salaries to test scores.>>
================

http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/editorial_opinion/oped/articles/2010/02/04/turning_schools_into_registry_of_motor_vehicles/

The Boston Globe February 4, 2010

Turning schools into Registry of Motor Vehicles
By Daniel Willingham

IN AN effort to improve public schools, President Obama wants to hold
individual teachers accountable for student test scores; indeed,
states that prohibit the practice are ineligible for the "Race to the
Top" funds.

To a cognitive scientist, this is a strange line to draw in the sand.
We do not have good tools to measure teachers, and when you hold
people accountable with poor measures, things don't just fail to
improve. They get worse.

The reason is simple: Accountability changes workers' focus from "do a
good job" to "do a job that looks good according to the measure."

One approach to classroom accountability is to measure children's
learning and let the teacher do whatever they think is best. You
simply administer a test in the fall and one in the spring and find
the difference. That's intuitive, but there are a number of conceptual
and technical problems.

Obviously, teachers have little incentive to teach any topic that is
not tested, or indeed, anything that will not be tested that year; why
lay groundwork for improving next year's scores? If you thought No
Child Left Behind led to an overemphasis on testing, wait for the test-
prep frenzy that follows linking salaries to test scores.

Another problem: not everything is in the teacher's hands. Rowdy kids
are harder to teach than well-behaved kids. And it's easier to teach
your class if your principal (and parents) are helpful and supportive.
Several studies have shown that teacher evaluations based on test
scores are unstable. About 25 percent of teachers pegged as terrific
or terrible get the opposite designation the next year.

The logic underlying this approach is suspect. It assumes that
teachers know what to do but just aren’t doing it or that they will
figure out what to do once the pressure is on. It's the equivalent of
the frustrated parent shouting "I don’t care how you do it - just
bring home better math grades!" No Child Left Behind should have
taught us that improving student achievement doesn't happen simply by
mandating it.

So what if you do tell teachers how to improve? A second approach
limits accountability to how teachers do their job. You observe
teachers in the classroom and see whether they are using what are
known to be good teaching practices. The problem is that people then
become slavishly devoted to the rules, because it is to the rules that
they are accountable. Call it RMV Syndrome.

I once waited in a long line at the Massachusetts Registry of Motor
Vehicles only to be told that I needed an additional form. I saw the
form about two feet from the clerk, but he insisted I wait in a
different line for that form. Maddening for me, but perfectly sensible
from his point of view. Why should he break the rules and risk
punishment, just to save me a wait in line?

Social scientists have a technical term for this type of behavior.
It’s called "covering your butt." This type of accountability only
works if the list of required behaviors is so intelligently
constructed that in covering their butts people end up doing a good
job. It can also work when the supervisor is knowledgeable and
flexible; the RMV clerk might have known that his supervisor would
understand that giving me the form was technically breaking a rule,
but contributing to the larger goal of effective service.

There are ways of making accountability work. The two key elements are
evaluations that take place over long periods of time, to increase
stability, and evaluations that are conducted by people who are
knowledgeable and are known by teachers to be knowledgeable.
Unfortunately, neither element is part of the Obama administration’s
plans.

Advocates of teacher accountability often acknowledge these problems,
yet insist it's better than nothing. Not true. A poor system could
make teaching worse and a failed attempt will allow opponents to
dismiss accountability as a failed policy. Accountability is a good
idea, but we have to get the measures right.

Daniel Willingham is a psychology professor at the University of
Virginia and author of "Why Don't Students Like School?"
From: Bob LeChevalier on
Dom <DRosa(a)teikyopost.edu> wrote:
>Advocates of teacher accountability often acknowledge these problems,
>yet insist it's better than nothing. Not true. A poor system could
>make teaching worse

Those advocates tend to be of the opinion that NOTHING could make
teaching worse than it already is, since the existing educational
system is abysmal by their way of thinking.

Sometimes, YOU, Dom, seem to be of that opinion. I haven't heard you
ever say much of anything positive about the schools.

lojbab
---
Bob LeChevalier - artificial linguist; genealogist
lojbab(a)lojban.org Lojban language www.lojban.org
From: Dom on
On Feb 4, 3:40 pm, Bob LeChevalier <loj...(a)lojban.org> wrote:
> Dom <DR...(a)teikyopost.edu> wrote:
> >Advocates of teacher accountability often acknowledge these problems,
> >yet insist it's better than nothing. Not true. A poor system could
> >make teaching worse
>
> Those advocates tend to be of the opinion that NOTHING could make
> teaching worse than it already is, since the existing educational
> system is abysmal by their way of thinking.
>
> Sometimes, YOU, Dom, seem to be of that opinion.  I haven't heard you
> ever say much of anything positive about the schools.

The U.S. public education system was hugely successful before it was
overrun by junk-book publishers and by pseudo-educational
administrators. The mushrooming testing racket has made matters worse.