You could have copy/pasted that conclusion without altering a word from the debate about every other educational reform: school choice/vouchers, NCLB, high-stakes testing, teacher testing, etc etc. It's invariant under every proposal because the goal is to employ teachers and education of students is a welcome-but-unnecessary industrial byproduct.
It is also just as false that the US lags peer nations in professional development / collaboration time / pointless frippery ("resources that help them not only meet the learning standards, but exceed them") than it was the last 47 times this was brought up as a panacea.
This is pretty much exactly what I was thinking, albeit less eloquently, as I read this article. The entire article, while it made good points, always had an undertone of "Khan Academy is dangerous to me, therefore it's dangerous for everyone."
It could just be a difference of perspective - the author is a teacher and has been trained in a certain way of educating students, so any idea that isn't the way they were taught seems weird, scary, and wrong.
I'm not saying that Khan Academy is entirely the right direction to take - I haven't used it enough to say, and I'm too old to be able to stand in the shoes of its target demographic - but the entire time I read the article, I felt a bias underpinning the entire thing.
Professional development can be helpful and to suggest that the goal is simply to employ teachers is ignorant and naive. I've never met a single teacher who has proposed an innovation with the goal of employing teachers. There are people who do care about teaching and some of those people are teachers and educational leaders. It does not appear to me that your cynicism is rooted in reality.
'One day when I was a junior medical student, a very important Boston surgeon visited the school and delivered a great treatise on a large number of patients who had undergone successful operations for vascular reconstruction.
At the end of the lecture, a young student at the back of the room timidly asked, “Do you have any controls?” Well, the great surgeon drew himself up to his full height, hit the desk, and said, “Do you mean did I not operate on half the patients?” The hall grew very quiet then. The voice at the back of the room very hesitantly replied, “Yes, that’s what I had in mind.” Then the visitor’s fist really came down as he thundered, “Of course not. That would have doomed half of them to their death.”
God, it was quiet then, and one could scarcely hear the small voice ask, “Which half?”'
It may not be 100% accurate (since we are all masters at deluding ourselves), however it is possible to self-assess. Speaking as a teacher I know that my work is much better than it was 7 years ago (when I started). Simply delivering the material so many times has meant that I now have far more effective ways of describing and teaching certain concepts. I know that 7 years ago teaching a 10th grader how to iterate over an array would have taken 5 false starts and 4 weeks worth of instruction (bearing in mind that many lack motivation). Now the same content takes half the time because I can anticipate what kinds of questions will arise and how to deal with them effectively.
Oh and teacher evaluation is hard. Teachers fear it because it's done by non-teachers to teachers. And as some comments on this thread indicate the world is full of monday morning quarterbacks who have lots of opinions without any real experience.
You can argue this kind of evaluation is not fair (it is certainly less scientific then test scores), but the point is that on the whole it works. And teachers don't have it. They mostly cannot be fired, and receive compensation on a schedule based purely on years of tenure and education.
A good analogy would be if programmers were given tenure after two years at a company and then could not be fired regardless of productivity or any other offense other than gross misconduct. If the programmers then (unsurprisingly) resisted every attempt, no matter how small, to reward high performance and punish incompetence, we would have an equivalent situation.
How exactly do you accurately assess teaching? Test scores? I've worked at very tough schools. High unemployment, high crime area. Good teaching in this context meant the teacher showed up, made it through the year without having a mental breakdown and student attendance was > 50%.
On the flipside I've worked at top tier private schools where success was gauged by how many of our students were in the top n% for the state.
Teachers fear outside assessment from bureaucrats. Here in Australia we even have league tables for schools, and there has been talk of tying teacher pay to student performance. Obviously a worry if you are a classroom teacher who understands the human component of teaching (ie it's more than test results in a spreadsheet).
In my opinion to truly assess a teacher you'd need to observe their teaching for weeks to see how they deal with the myriad of situations that arise in the classroom. What we end up with though is standardised testing which ends up telling us what we already know.
Basically I think all this "it can't be measured" stuff is a bit dishonest. My wife is a high school teacher, and amongst her department everyone knows who is good and who isn't, same as any job. The only difference is that that knowledge can't possible have any effect on your career.
In any case, the point you are making about standardized testing is completely beside the point. No one who advocates using testing advocates using only testing for teacher evaluation. And no one advocates using the raw scores. Of course teachers with poor students in bad schools will have worse raw scores then teachers with rich students in good schools. The proposed measurement is virtually always some kind of "value added" score that attempts to control for these variables and measure the teachers impact.
I never said that it cant be measured. It's just really hard to do it right.
The solution is not to simply use private sector type performance reviews since correcting for differences within the school is difficult let alone correcting for differences between schools.
Measuring teacher performance is a hot area of debate around the world, and a consensus for how to "do it right" hasn't yet emerged.
Lots of questions need to be fairly addressed:
-- Will testing be able to differentiate between school-based and non-school-based influences on
-- Will testing be able to differentiate between the influences of different teachers on individual students or groups of students? What might be the ultimate extent of increased standardised testing?
-- What criteria are intended to form the basis of a performance-based pay scheme?
-- If the predominant criterion used is to be student progress as measured by standardised testing, what measures will the Government take to ensure the implementation of valid and appropriate testing regimes and instruments?
These questions come from an issues paper published by Australian Primary Principals Association.
Also from the paper:
In jobs where pay is linked to performance:
The criteria for determining the payment of additional rewards are to be objectively determined: whether in volume of product or sales, increase in profits, or additional hours worked. More accurately put, the context of the industries in which systems of this kind work well are those
where outputs and outcomes are easily, and objectively, quantifiable. This quantification can usually (although not always) be reduced to monetary terms.
So how exactly to we quantify and reward the teacher who helps her students develop skills that 'are not quantifiable'?
PS: In Australia primary and secondary teachers can't get tenure, however given a powerful union it is difficult to sack teachers, and this admittedly is a big problem.
Second, judging a programmer solely (in an atomic fashion) by their code is the exact same thing as judging a teacher solely by test scores. How do you know the code was not written at 2am the night of a release to stop vital information from being deleted every time a user submits a form.
On the flipside how do you know that the elegant code wasn't the combination of effort and discussion of several coders all considered to be in the top n% of some mailing list.
I think my point is really that we all tend to rush to judgement of professions outside of our own, when in reality we share the same human problems that are incredibly hard to formalize and hence provide a systematic solution for.
On the other hand, programmers are rarely/never advanced, there's no career plan.
As you suspect, it discourages studying and promotes laziness and getting out of date with current programming pratices.
And it also raises a tough mental barrier to exit, I'm unhappy here, but I really like having a safety net and have high fixed expenses and there's no unemployment in my country if I quit voluntarily, so I'm reluctant to quit unless I make my nest egg, which I've been putting off for some time.
Back to teachers, if there are no incentives, I suspect it might make them less motivated to stay up to date and better themselves - of course there are always those that are internally motivated and will do so whatever the environment, but many will be discouraged by it.
But what is the intended outcome of teaching?
Better test scores? (Google Scholar 'standardized testing and success' and take your side of the argument, but at best the jury is still out)
The three R's? Social development? Curiosity for learning? All of the above?
I understand your underlying point, but it is dangerous to contrasts teacher evaluations with other professional evaluations, lest we find ourselves programming students a science) and not teaching them (an art).
Crazy idea alert! With intended outcomes varying so much for teachers and teaching environments, I'd offer that teachers should be only evaluated by fellow teachers, parents, and students themselves.
How do you know that?
I'm not claiming to be a good teacher. I'm just claiming to be a better one. It's common for a practitioner to get better over time so one should assume that I've gotten better and not worse. What is the point of disputing this claim or doubting its veracity? I don't know the purpose of your question?
Sure, you know that you're a better teacher than when you started. But can you prove it? What can you do that a fresh-out-of-college teacher can't? What can you do better? How can you show that you do your job better?
As a programmer, I have a similar problem. But I don't just throw up my hands and say, "Well, some things just can't be quantified." Instead, I try to quantify them. I try to show how my estimation skills have gotten better. I try to show how my code now has fewer bugs and requires less maintenance effort.
As a teacher, what can you show me to distinguish you from a wet-behind-the-ears graduate?
I can plan lessons that include activities tailored for the needs of specific students. Training teachers find this hard and tend to plan for the median.
I can plan lessons more quickly than a training teacher, thus liberating time for more tailoring. I can use technology to differentiate delivery and to save time.
My feedback to each student is more accurately geared to that student's 'zone of proximal development'. I can set targets that mean something to each student.
I can 'reflect in action' in the classroom. I can read the situation in the whole class, and I can understand the logic behind mistakes that individual students make, and suggest alternative approaches.
How can you show that you do your job better?
In the institution where I teach we have QA observations and peer observations in place. That gives me some kind of benchmark.
Education is fuzzy, hard to measure, hard to standardise and quite hard work if you do it properly. As are many human occupations.
I responded to the professional development aspect of Patio11's comment. My point being that seasoned professionals do have wisdom to impart on less experienced colleagues. I used myself as an example but the point made is clear (I think).
Even if I really am not a better teacher now than I was 17 years ago the point is still true. Well, in order for the point not to be true one has to believe that there is no wisdom gained from experience is teaching an that this is universally true. I know of no profession in which practitioners do not generally get better over time. Indeed,there is no profession in which no practitioner gets better over time.
So what is the point of requesting that I prove that I really have gotten better over time? It's not germane to my point unless one believes that no one ever gets better over time in teaching.
Look, my Mother has 2 PHD's in education and often does professional workshops for teachers. However, like most forms of professional development her workshops are both expensive and their value is hard to quantify. So it may pay better than her normal job but as she says it's of limited value.
Programming is a lot like teaching it takes a few years to get up to speed, but vary quickly years of experience stops being a useful metric.
When I was a student I didn't notice much difference in teaching ability unless the teacher hand only been teaching for a couple of years.
I'd go so far as to say that it would be very difficult not to improve at something you were doing over a period of time.
I think the 'I NEED MORE NUMBERS' mentality of empiricism you're using here has neutralised the prospective utility of the intuition of experienced teachers who would make effective consultants, if they ever come across something that works that they simply can't explain. Obviously, questioning their suggestions and looking for answers is the next step, but to insult their ability to think and view their opinions with derison? How are you helping anything talking that way?
That's not a great example. There are loads of bad parents who think they are good parents. There's a bit of Dunning-Kruger effect, and also some bad parents who hold beliefs about what makes a good/bad parent that differ from the norm (i.e. some parents think beating their children is OK and think that modern society is wrong to condem that practice. They think they are good parents because they beat their children. This is wrong)
This is just my personal opinion but the true judge of a teacher's effectiveness is how much their students learned, and even that can only be used as a measure if the students were willing to learn in the first place.
Relying on some national standard to judge teachers hasn't seemed to help any country in history to have better teachers. I'd wager to guess that periods in history where education unilaterally improved are more due to the motivation of those being educated than anything else.
Doctors go through significantly more schooling and receive significantly more professional development — yet they are still perceived with respect as professionals who care about their patients. Why can't we do the same for teachers?
My experience with one of the larger HMO organizations here was very disconcerting.
I was bedridden with spinal joint pain for several days. They were unable to see me in a reasonable timeframe (2 week wait minimum), which meant by the time I was able to come in for a blood test the acute inflammation I was experiencing had passed, preventing screening for the condition I was concerned about (my dad and brother both have ankylosing spondylitis, making it extremely likely I do as well).
Worse than that, I found I had to educate the RN that was responsible for interpreting my test results (specifically that ankylosing spondylitis shows negative rheumatoid factor).
In addition to this, I've watched what's happened to friends with serious but not readily diagnosed diseases. One was in advanced stages of liver failure. In the end she only got a diagnosis by going to a hospital, making herself a bother and refusing to leave until someone took responsibility for actually finding out what was going on. The result was she avoided an unnecessary liver transplant. Her diagnosis was an uncommon but easily treatable autoimmune condition.
There's roughly 50% odds the transplant would have killed her by now (this was some 10 years ago). Taking an adversarial approach and having the support of a friend's mom who worked for the business side of the HMO in doing this probably saved her life.
It shouldn't have to be this way.
It's abusive to doctors that things are set up this way as well.
In any case, I don't mean to rant, but I just wanted to provide some counter anecdotes to to your feeling that the callousness and incompetence of medicine in the states was being exaggerated.
My stepfather went for a routine visit to the doctor in Vienna, Austria. They found a suspicious object, and decided to treat him immediately, and he was operated on the very next day. It ended up being benign, but I was amazed at their speed of treatment.
My uncle went for a cardiologist evaluation here in Montevideo, Uruguay (where we have a form of socialist-style medicine in the style called Mutualism). They found a suspicious spike in his heartbeat, which they suspected to be a treatable syndrome (Wolff-Parkinson-White), and decided to do some special evaluations. He was treated (with full anaesthetics) one week later (at almost zero cost).
Both were quite good experiences, times are a little slower in Uruguay but everybody has access to basic medicine.
That said, I suspect that for difficult-to-catch diseases, you have to make yourself a bother, otherwise you might slip through the cracks like your friend almost did (doctors here in Uruguay are heavily penalized if they take too much time with one patient).
[Note: I realize it might just be that my insurance is ridiculous. I'm looking into alternatives.]
Because peoplegenerally have much less exposure to doctors and when they are they're desperate for either treatment or hope. Both of these contribute.
Also, medical training is much harder than education. There are teachers at every average large high school who could have been doctors but they're a minority.
The study of education is based on social sciences and everything is much more slippery. What is being taught to teachers right now is whichever theory is currently popular. When I earned my credentials to teach, it was quite frankly a joke most of the time. Getting an A was easy. Many of the people in my program were not competent enough to compete in a more difficult field or program.
In the years since, as my own children began working through the public school system, I am taken aback regularly by evidence that their teachers are poorly educated themselves.
I'm shocked that someone would be surprised that there is a gap between how people view doctors and teachers.
I mean I have no love for unions and I am well aware that they have no great love for the students but even so, isn't your point a bit to cynical?
That said, I've also worked with big companies. This does not obligate me to believe that big companies are universally properly managed collections of competent, self-effacing employees who would never dream of advancing their own interests at the stake of the job. It also does not obligate me to believe that big companies cannot be improved, even radically improved, by measures which would discomfit at least some people who work for big companies.
Indeed, if I hypothetically believed either of those two things prior to working for a big company, working for them would have cured me of those delusions, rapidly.
Does the whole "Bingo card" concept qualifies as efficient teaching? The word "gamification" seems to have been invented for it.
For an example of this -- look at the amount of times the Student-to-Teacher ratio is brought up. Which is such an interesting statistic because it implies that time with a terrible teacher is preferable to having the good teachers handle a few more students.
IIRC in disciplined classes between the sizes of 6ish and 40ish the results are very similar.
Also the article did not bring these up as a panacea. These kinds of complicated, cultural, and meaningful improvements will not be made easily, in a short period of time, etc.