Plus one for "how do you know?". My only caution to add in the case of teachers is that since the problem (or benefit) with standards is that there are so many of them, and since one corollary is that when a standard is chosen it's hard to change later and experimentation is rare, then the situation is doubly worse for teachers whose jobs revolve around a standard of performance because unless they have tenure the risk of a failed experiment aimed at helping the students learn (as opposed to only getting a high score with some performance standard) is too high. Anyway, your comment immediately reminded me of this anecdote I had saved in my quotes file that I thought was apt:
'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?”'
Are you a better programmer now than you were 5 years ago? How do you know? Has anyone evaluated your work and told you are now 18% more efficient than 5 years ago?
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.
In companies of any size, programmers generally go through quarterly, biannual, or annual performance reviews where they are assessed by the manager and peers. Programmers who are overperforming are promoted and given more responsibility (and money), those who are under-performing get coaching or are fired. This is the same as virtually every other job on the planet.
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.
I understand your points and they're all fair in the context of programming as a job. Code is code and can be evaluated in an atomic fashion, its objectively either good(correct, efficient etc) or not.
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.
Yeah I am fine with doing in-class evaluations, but I think if you think that through you would admit that those are biased in a different way. My point is really more about the importance of doing the kind of evaluation and talent management that every successful private sector company does--figure out who is doing well, and reward them, figure out who is doing poorly and try to help.
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 think we're in agreement. I totally agree that good teachers need to be rewarded and that and bad teachers need to be identified and helped or sacked. We owe that to our kids.
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.
I don't think you understood the parent's points...
First, the main point was that programmers were evaluated by their peers and managers, i.e. the people who they work with, not bureaucrats.
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.
As a matter of fact, I work in a company with a close equivalent: due to the worker-friendly labor laws and a very powerful union, if a worker stays with the company for three years, firing him costs the company a years' salary (unless gross misconduct is demonstrated), thus giving high-salary positions (like programmers) an equivalent to tenure.
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.
Forgive if someone has already stated the obvious, but the difficulty of rating the teacher profession, as opposed to other professions, lies in the intended outcome. For an engineer, there are many objectives metrics to measure code work against. The same is true for many non-programming corporate jobs (usual metric is $$$).
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.
In the same way that a bad parent who becomes a better parent knows they are now a better parent. Some things are not quantifiable. I know of no effective national evaluation system for parenting and yet some parents are good parents. I know that I am a better teacher now than when I first started.
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?
I know that I am a better teacher now than when I first started.
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?
What can you do that a fresh-out-of-college teacher can't?
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.
Patio11 made a claim that calls for reform, school choice, testing, etc. all had as their goal employment of teachers and that education of students was a by-product. Specifically he/she said this in regard to professional development.
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.
I know of no profession in which practitioners do not generally get better over time. Football players and Strippers don't automatically get better with time and despite learning new things their overall performance decreases with time. More generally any profession that deals with burnout either physical or mental has the same sort's of issues.
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.
The problem with thinking you're good at a non-quantifiable, hard to measure thing is that almost everybody thinks they're better than average at them. Are you sure you aren't just measuring your previous methods of teaching against your current methods? There's no way they can hold up if you use that measure, but that doesn't mean your current methods are better.
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 think the point they're trying to make (through this admittedly condescending questioning) is that when the institution is fundamentally wrong, elongated experience can only pervert rather than further skills. Or f it does further, it is only furthering a perversion of some concept of what's right. I think there's a degree of truth to that but but it's oversimplifying a bit.
the bottom line is that america's eternal quest for a teacher metric is failing in relation to systems like the (perhaps overly touted) finnish one, where the discriminating factor for teacher quality is much more a measure of trust in the intuition of experienced teachers.
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?
In the same way that a bad parent who becomes a better parent knows they are now a better parent.
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)
I read this question as an insult. How could they not know they are better at their job after 17 years of doing it?
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.