Another hot button in both No Child Left Behind and the Race To The Top, is the teacher accountability piece as is related to the value added component.

I’m for the value added component.  I recommended it be enacted decades ago.  What that does is measure the ability of a child in September; and measure that child (through testing) in May, and if there is any difference, .. that child learned…  The teacher gets credit for adding value or more to that child’s knowledge,  It lets us know who is teaching well.

Because face it:  personality polls by students don’t work:  easy teachers get high marks.  Administration evaluations don’t work:  brown nosers get good scores.  A final test doesn’t work.  Those with good students coming in, look like great teachers; those with problem students coming in, look like problem teachers…

So to determine who was best at dicing apart knowledge in just the right way, so children could take the pieces and build them into structures of knowledge,  one needed to test the beginning and test the end….

Of course, I developed this idea long before corporate entities had a stake in failing a district in order to print and sell more tests…   Of course, this idea was up and running long before anti-unionists saw artificially low scores, could turn the public against their teacher and the teacher’s unions.  And yes, this was before charter schools, or education for profit, was as big and as pushed for as it is today… ….

I saw it as a way of improvement….  There is a reason old teachers have better results than teachers coming right out of school… They learned tricks over time.  Through trial and error, they developed their own best way….  Someone new and just out of the gate, has to take the theories they were given in class, and try them… some are worth something, other won’t be, but only time and coaching will give them, each new teacher,  their own best way.

So for a new first year teacher to learn that they are very good in English, but not so good in Math, is indispensable for that teacher’s development!

It didn’t turn out that way!

We the theorists, approached the legislatures and what we thought were helpful corporatists, with this novel method of measurement that would require their funding to implement.  Test for the value added by each teacher….

What we didn’t expect, was this would somehow be pirated by those whose goal was to destroy the public education system and replace it with a privately funded one….

So accountability or a tool to improve one’s teaching, somehow became subverted into a weapon one could wield to weed out any teacher who answered to a higher cause, other than improving the advancement of their supervisor….

Those supervisors tend to be a lot higher up than one’s principal……

So here is Mr. Principal’s Amorphous Catch-22.

Principals are caught in the middle: they want to offer frank feedback but are all too aware that any criticism is a black mark that can be used to deny a teacher’s contract renewal or tenure. In this case, killing two birds with one stone—when those birds have about as much in common as a penguin and a pigeon—is extraordinarily ineffective….

So the principal is kept from giving honest value added feedback to potentially a marvelous teacher, because if he does, she gets fired….

How does this move us forward in improving our children’s education, can anyone tell me?

There are ways around it. And good principals do it.  As anyone in a corporate environment knows, a good boss is one who protects his good workers from the confusions up the ladder…

The best way to handle an evaluation in this environment is to bring in a teacher for a conference, tell her you already did the evaluations on paper for the state, and hand it too her.  Most likely it will be favorable since you weren’t bent of firing her. Tell her the consequences pro and con of the evaluation, either a raise, or demotion…

And then, put it aside, and say, these very important words….” that was for them, and the rest of this is for you... This is strictly off the record… ”  At this point the principal sincerely points to ways he thinks each teacher can improve, and listens to their frustrations and figures out his part in clearing away the obstacles beyond her control…. In other words together they have a good business meeting designed around developing ways tobetter  improve the education of their charges..

Where you have principals who are good in this type of duplicity, you get good results.  They form the team that works together, they constantly improve year after year,  Guess who benefits the most?  Kids.

Of course compare that to the Republican model of administrator,  a person who is cursed with the fervor of accounting for everything, who fires half his staff every year because they aren’t prefect enough for him.  Of course, … his student’s results plummet every year… There is no carryover year after year!

But ironically, in today’s mad state of affairs, this person is the hero because he is firing people who despite tremendous effort, simply weren’t absolutely and unequivocally perfect at that certain time and place…..  I don’t know about you, but I think it is time we parents, teachers, and local citizen controlled school boards  work to change the goals of who should be fired first, and instead,  fire administrators based on how well kids aren’t learning and not based on how many teachers they can find to fire….