Student Failure = Teacher Failure

[Note: Snagged spotlights some of the latest and most stimulating articles on educational technology. This article by Anthony Cody was emailed to me by ETCJ associate editor Bonnie Bracey Sutton on Jan. 27. To share your catch of the day, email it to me, jamess@hawaii.edu, for possible snagging. -Editor]

Anthony Cody, in “How the War on Teachers Is Changing the Profession” (Valerie Strauss, The Answer Sheet, Washington Post, 1.27.12), calls it like it is. The national reaction against teachers (and their unions) is gaining momentum, and the blame for failure is being dumped on their shoulders. In Cody’s article, we find the following statements:

  • “The teaching profession is being redefined. Teachers will now pay the price: They will be declared successes or failures, depending on the rise or fall of their students’ test scores.”
  • “Under NCLB, it was schools that were declared failures. In states being granted waivers from the most onerous requirements of NCLB, it is teachers who will be subjected to this ignominy.”
  • “The individual teacher’s accountability for student performance is absolute.”

To hold teachers 100% responsible when they can account for only “10 percent of the variability in student test scores” is insane, especially in light of the fact that other factors such as “family income and education levels” account for 90% of the variability.

Why is this happening? Or more importantly, why are we, educators, allowing this to happen? -js

13 Responses

  1. Teachers account for only 10% of the variability in test scores, according to the quote. That may be slightly low, but it doesn’t really matter what the exact number is. I suspect that this number came from a large sample and used MANOVA. Some teachers probably account for more than 10%. It’s also unclear how teacher impact was measured.

    I would expect that the 10% would be quite different in the tails of the distribution of teacher quality. The best and worst teachers probably account for much more than 10% but in different directions.

    While I broadly agree with this note, I do not agree with implication that the headline is negated. Some students will not succeed except under exceptional circumstances. For the rest, failing a class completely should be a sign of the failure of an individual teacher, failure to recognize a failing student and failure to do anything about it. My view as a teacher always was that when a student failed, I had failed. (NOTE: I failed a lot.)

    I don’t expect teachers to have a class full of ‘A’ students, but the standards for most classes are such that students who would like to pass will.

    All of the above does not give a free pass to those who insist on pegging teacher pay to test scores. That’s a pernicious idea.

  2. Why is this happening? I suppose it’s a ham-fisted attempt to improve teaching. Teaching is a very exposed profession. I had a lot of poor teachers back in the sixties and seventies. I would have thought it was much improved by now. But then I had kids and the stories they brought home seem to indicate that things have not changed as much as you might expect. People want better teaching for their kids. And throwing more money at the problem is somewhat lacking in imagination. Maybe teachers need to put forward alternative suggestions and show that they work.

  3. It is interesting for the public to put the blame on teachers. Perhaps they do that because we are an easy target. I remember being on a subway with a class when a man started to speak in a rude way to me when he identified that I was a teacher traveling with the group.

    But there are other interesting things to think about on the parental side in that many parents put their trust in teachers and don’t rock the boat no matter how difficult the school year becomes for their child, that parents accept tracking and that tracking takes children into classes supposedly to help them but is a kind of segregation within a school. Many of the students in those classes do not go on field trips, and do not participate in cutting edge work, or use technology except perhaps in the reading class, and meet the most technology in testing,

    Principals are the leaders in the school and leadership is invested in them. Only seasoned teacher like me fear the change in a school because your reputation can go to hell in a hand basket if the person in charge dislikes your work style, your personality, your methodology and the funny thing , it any of this can be funny is that most of the teachers I know who became principals were never really effective teachers.

    Those of us who had great principals lose when change occurs , we often were involved in helping to pick our teachers , but think of it like the elections. The choices were not between much.

    We have endured the idea that anyone can teach. Here in my area a lot of people seeking a second career inundated the schools. They interacted well with the parents, they were cost efficient ( heck they were collecting a full retirement) and they were socially adept.
    I watched one of these torment a special education student who did not understand multiplication , she yelled at the kid until he cried.
    Kids and I intervened, but I paid a price. Pure hatred from that person who hardly knew what special education was.

    Who evaluates the principal? I think that is done from above the fray and perhaps the parental blowback if there is any. I don’t think there is a test so to speak for principals. Perhaps the school system hopes to put the best candidates forward. I love the New Zealand methodology of creating teachers who become principals. I liked the head teacher
    designation for the purposes of identifying a teacher with skills and
    who stepped in for the principal when he or she was not in the school. Maybe there are places that have a better blueprint.

    Then there are the other variables, the economic inequalities, the sociocultural biases, and difference and the literacy rates in the community. Did I mention the effective dissemination of good technology practices? Some school systems simply imposed a new cadre of administration with the way in which they created empowered technology “experts”,

    I was lucky to be in the Washington DC area with a lot of “experts” available to help with learning places like the Smithsonian on the mall, but I noted in my travels that most museums and learning places have a fee and that minority and rural students do not have access to informal learning and those experts and the festivals and resources they make available.

    Working in the most difficult areas as redlined by the Microsoft GIS device is simply not the same as working in a cushy suburban areas
    or a rural area where riding on the bus takes up so much time that lots of kids drop out bases on the factors of geography, poverty and
    very old schools that reek of ancient urine in the winter when the heat is cut on , or sweat out the musky heat of the coming summer
    working over eight year old texts that cannot be taken home since the book is being shared by several classes.
    Just a few ideas I have about the inequality of it all.

    Teachers need real professional development and not the warmed over kinda professional development that some schools give because the experts are the administrators in the system. It is sad when that is the way of the system.

    Enough, there is more but just thinking about it is making me depressed. I would rather remember the good things about teaching and the students who responded to new ways of learning ,

    Bonnie Bracey Sutton

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  12. [...] Student Failure = Teacher Failure « Educational Technology and Change Journal “The teaching profession is being redefined. Teachers will now pay the price: They will be declared successes or failures, depending on the rise or fall of their students’ test scores.” [...]

  13. [...] Student Failure = Teacher Failure « Educational Technology and …Jan 28, 2012 … Note: Snagged spotlights some of the latest and most stimulating articles on educational technology. This article by Anthony Cody was emailed … [...]

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