Friday, January 07, 2011

Responding to questions of teacher evaluation and performance

"Our public schools need to be in the control of parents and the community, as opposed to businessmen who see the $23 billion budget as a means to giving no-bid contracts to their cronies." — Charles Barron (Brooklyn City Councilman)

CMO Corporate Charters discriminate against SWD, Special Ed, and ELL students!
Today a reader wrote me asking the following:

I am in a debate with a friend of improving teacher evaluations and teacher performance as a necessary political move for UTLA. She sent me these to pdfs from stanford [1]. Do you know this Stanford program at all? Or any of the folks, like the Milken institue or Stuart Foundation?

First off, it is entirely disingenuous of the corporate reform crowd to assert that UTLA (or any teachers' union for that matter) aren't interested in improving evaluations and performance. You might want to point your friend to this:

Teacher Evaluation Workgroup

If they're are really interested in this we could set up a meeting with UTLA folks. You might want to remind your friend that both authentic evaluations and professional development were key points in UTLA's contract re-opening press conference.

Dec. 15, 2010: Contract Re-openers Press Conference

In other words, this is a "political" move they've made, but the corporate style reformers will continue the dominant narrative that teachers somehow oppose reform. What they oppose is the false reforms designed to shovel more public funds into the corporate troughs. Education reform the union way contains an excellent list of union initiated reforms.

As for these ideologically stilted documents [1] you've included. Bear in mind that Stanford hosts the extreme far right wing think tank Hoover Institution. Hoover, in turn, publishes EducationNext, a reactionary publication featuring writers like Andy Smarick [2] and Rick Hess. So we always have to be wary of education "studies" coming out of Stanford. While I respect people like Linda Darling-Hammond to a degree, we need to be careful with anything from Stanford because of who funds them and who they serve.

Much of the language in these documents belies their far right origins. Statements like: "Most evaluations pay little or no attention to the performance of a teacher’s students," [1] are thinly veiled recommendations for highly discredited methods like Value Added Methodology (VAM). Education experts like Dr. Stephen Krashen and Dr. Diane Ravitch have written extensively against such nonsense. Here are some short Krashen pieces.

Does "value-added" have any value?
Value-added shouldn't be used at all.

Milken Institute is that of the infamous junk bond scoundrel Michael Milkin, a winger whose leanings are the same as the Broad-Gates-Walton triumvirate. An amazing piece on those plutocrats is: Got Dough? Public School Reform in the Age of Venture Philanthropy

I hope that's enough for you to continue your debate. I know sometimes even good intentioned people are caught up in the corporate school reform maelstrom. The thing to bear in mind is that we need to be stressing the works of Paulo Freire more than ever when we are discussing reform. Genuine school improvement will come with more collaboration between communities, parents, students, and teachers, not imposed by plutocrats, hedge fund managers, and right wing think tanks.

[1] The PDF files refered to are the Full Report and Executive Summaries of A Quality Teacher in Every Classroom: An Evaluation System that Works for California
[2] Smarick is of course Ben Austin and Marco Petruzzi's political muse. We talk about Smarick's privatization roadmap used by the CCSA/DFER camp in CCSA and Market Share: Setting the Table for Vouchers.


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