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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 student performance?

-- 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.

So, as asked earlier in this thread, how do you know it works?

"the point is that on the whole it works"

How do you know that?

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