How do we judge the quality of teaching in foreign language, health, art, music and PE?

I understand the motivation and rationale behind teacher ratings. Of all the factors that influence student success within the control of public policy, teacher quality is now seen as the most important.

???????????????????But initial attempts by states to measure teacher effectiveness have been clumsy at best.

Georgia’s new rating system bases half of a teacher’s score on the classroom observations of administrators and half on the academic growth of students. (Teachers are complaining the observation piece is not as thorough as it ought to be because administrators lack time.)

For teachers of subjects anchored by state exams, the process is at least clear — teachers will be judged by the performance of their students on Georgia’s standardized math, language arts, social studies and science tests.

But 7 out of 10 Georgia teachers work in disciplines for which there are no state tests.

So, band students, for example, may take a pre-test – playing scales, sight-reading and multiple choice — at the start of the school year and again at the end. About half of the band teacher’s overall rating will depend on the progress shown by students.

These alternative measures for teachers in non-tested subjects in Georgia are called Student Learning Objectives or SLOs.

Matt Underwood, executive director of the Atlanta Neighborhood Charter School, wrote a good blog entry on his concerns about SLOs:

SLOs assessments are developed by teachers and districts ostensibly to measure student growth in “non-tested subjects” like art, foreign language, and P.E.  But the statistical validity of such assessments is incredibly flimsy, something even a researcher with the Atlanta Public Schools has made clear.

Ok, you might ask, so these SLO assessments (like the P.E. one I saw that asked students to label a stick figure drawing of a volleyball serve) are pretty useless—they’ll only take a little bit of class time to give, so what’s the big deal?  The “big deal” is that this aspect of TKES and LKES has already cost me alone about 23 hours of my time.  That’s trainings and workshops all related to SLOs in which I have had to participate over the past year.  Now, as we get ready to do the same to our teachers of “non-tested subjects,” I am deeply troubled that time that could be spent creating great lessons to inspire students’ artistically, to help them develop into healthier young people, or to master a new language will instead be spent on an electronic platform learning how to upload and analyze data from a Scantron form based on a crappy test.  And students as young as 1st grade will take as many as 7 different tests this school year to comply with the requirements of TKES, time that could be spent on real learning.  If you’d like to argue that these are worthwhile trade-offs, please feel free to do so.

Georgia is not alone in trying to figure out a fair and practical way to assess how good a teacher is and how much students gain in the class. Georgia is among 20 states using academic growth to evaluate teachers; Georgia committed to do so as part of its $400 million Race to the Top grant.

This new AJC story from my colleagues Molly Bloom and Ty Tagami demonstrates the complexity of that commitment. This is only an excerpt of a longer piece on MyAJC.com.

By Molly Bloom and Ty Tagami.

This year, all Georgia teachers — not just those who teach core subjects — will be rated in part on student test results for the first time. That’s straightforward enough for core teachers whose students take state standardized tests. But the majority of teachers — in subjects like art, music and gym — teach subjects and grades that aren’t covered by such high-stakes tests.

For them, many school districts have come up with their own exams. But educators and research suggest this approach isn’t good enough for evaluations that could make or break careers.

The new system for rating these teachers is open to cheating, educators say, because in some cases teachers administer and grade the very tests used to evaluate them. The quality of tests varies by district, meaning a Spanish teacher in Gwinnett could be graded differently than one in Atlanta. And there are concerns about fairness, because research shows teachers of non-state-tested subjects tend to score lower than those who teach courses where state standardized tests are given.

Educators have told the Georgia Department of Education there are problems with how teachers of non-state-tested subjects are evaluated, state reports on districts already using the new system show.

The tests and the cut-off scores that place teachers at different rating levels vary from district to district. Some districts — like Atlanta Public Schools — use multiple-choice tests to evaluate all teachers. Other districts combine multiple choice tests with other kinds of tests, like essays or how well music students, for example, play a C-major scale.

Carrie Staines, a teacher at Druid Hills High School in DeKalb County, said the quality of test questions in her district is poor. She should know: She was among the DeKalb teachers who volunteered to help write them. The Advanced Placement psychology test she wrote with two other teachers is far too short, at 20 questions, and reflects only “random” tidbits of knowledge that aren’t necessarily crucial, she said.

The state monitors its standardized tests in math, reading and other areas for cheating, but security for these new, local tests is left up to individual districts. So far, the number of potential test-security problems reported has been “relatively low,” King said. But Melissa King Rogers, an English teacher at Druid Hills High School in DeKalb County, said, “I think it’s just wide open to the sorts of scandals we’ve seen in APS.”

 

Reader Comments 0

43 comments
Andrew Weiler
Andrew Weiler

Unfortunately the state of foreign language teaching is in such a poor state that the current rates of success should not be used as a benchmark.  ALL of us were successful learning our first, so having a success rate of something close to 5% is so poor that it must put up a flag. Not about the appropriacy of teaching foreign languages, but how they are taught.

The fault lies with the ways teachers are trained, resulting in the belief that memorisation, translation, study and drilling are the ways to learn a language. A mistaken belief that needs to be turned on its head. Ask any really successful language learner and they will not be talking about other things that helped them to become so successful. Here are a few pointers as to what needs to be done: http://www.strategiesinlanguagelearning.com/best-language-learning/

Teacher-who-serves
Teacher-who-serves

I am a coach and a teacher. I think I am a hard worker at both and have had successes in both, but the moment you feel like a success as a teacher is fleeting. That could change tomorrow. 


I have an elementary, middle school, high school, college, and a special education teacher in my family, my immediate family.  I understand the question, but I think that differentiating those non-state mandated tests from others is part of the problem. 


As for art, PE, and music, what is the purpose of these classes? If PE is truly to teach life skills in a physical setting, moving students toward healthy habits and active choices, then we could assess that through more observation by administrators. This will not happen in our current system; there is too much time devoted to documentation and not enough to observation. Art is for the expression of oneself, and it is very abstract (imagine that) in its purpose. How do you fairly assess a teacher by the art of her students, who are all so different and so should be their art. 


What is the purpose of public education? To produce or manufacture? Those are different terms, and some of the comments have me wondering if you understand that. To produce something doesn't mean they are all manufactured with the same specifications, allowing students to fail and change to meet their talents and gifts. They are different sections of your local grocery market: produce and then aisles of boxed foods that are mostly the same.


If our students fail, then teachers fail? I agree...kind of maybe sort of a bit. We have to have students fail. This generation will have to create their own jobs; research shows they will do that more than 3 times before 30. So, teaching them to handle failure is more important than teaching them not to fail.  A good teacher understands this, and I think that is what most people want schools to do. 


But every kid is different. They are produce off different trees from different farms holding their own unique traits and characteristics. They are not produced on an assembly line where all students have the same exact skills. It is impossible to do this and against human history and creativity. This "boxed in" version of educating people is the exact opposite of competition.


Education used to built on competition. Now, we take the competition away from the students, protecting them from any sense of competition by raising the bar of standards. What we are really doing is teaching these students it is the teachers' faults when they fail. Do you know my learning style? I am asked that more than anything. Do you understand my child? I want to know both, but I also want students to know how to adapt. That is what we know they need, and that is what we need to change our society in the information age.


For all you who believe that public education is in need of a change, I agree. The classroom, industrialized model is in need of change. But, the idea that schools should compete is in direct opposition to this. 

cyadra
cyadra

That isn't as bad as special ed, especially in high school. Sped teachers in a collaborative setting don't do lesson plans, most don't even go into classrooms that is their content specialty, yet they are judged on ALL the students in the class, whether they directly teach or simply make sure that accommodations are met. What do you do about hard to find subjects like Calculus or Economics? Is it fair to judge a sped teacher who may have never had a Calculus class in their life in college?

Carlos_Castillo
Carlos_Castillo

The Club for Growth would be well advised to think twice, then think again, before coming in as outsiders to take on a popular, well respected senator.


It's not likely to be a fight that they could win.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

From my blog:


" As teachers, we must continue to insist that there is great value in teaching students to perceive all human beings with depth and not simply as convenient generic labels. Human beings can easily fall into hating others whom they perceive as labels (such as “enemy”), but when a student is taught to see another human being with a depth that transcends generic labels, then rarely will that student’s newly refined sensibility allow him or her to hate another. Martin Luther King, Jr. understood this. Educational leaders must always value the arts, literature, and history as much as they presently value science, mathematics, and data (which are aligned with the technological age) because those more introspective academic disciplines teach humanity how to love – not with sentimentality but with genuine compassion. If we, as a human race, cannot experience compassion for one another, then what is the point of existence, itself?"

Intteach
Intteach

Many of the districts require the SLOs to be in multiple choice format. That is not how Foreign Languages and Music or Art are taught nowadays. What happened to the performance-based assessments that we are supposed to use? Not for SLOs apparently. So we are teaching one way but are assessing another for our evaluations. I thought it was a bad practice to assess differently from how we teach. But foolish me - we are just teachers, what do we know about teaching? Everyone seems to be more of an expert on teaching than teachers.

mgram2
mgram2

@Intteach Performance-based assessments are too "costly." The whole thing is absolutely ludicrous.
As an art teacher I would much rather be evaluated using student portfolios that are evaluated by another art teacher or even better - just be observed more. 
We don't need pre-tests and post-tests.. we need people to come observe our classrooms. If they came in more - they would understand the value of our classes and the teachers instructing.

dcdcdc
dcdcdc

Guess what....there will always be issues.  Always.  Especially when you are dealing with a bureaucracy that faces no real competition - so no real compelling reason to change (positively).


But the comments on this board complaining about teachers and org leaders having to "be responsible for what their students didn't do" is sickening.  Sickening.  As if the role of educators is to regurgitate lessons, but not take any responsibility for motivating the student.  Seriously?  


The one and only purpose of our schools is to educate our kids.  Not to lecture them.  Not to complain about them.  To see that they leave as educated citizens.  


Sometimes I have to remind myself that the posters on this board are a very small minority of whiners.  And don't represent the many hundreds of thousands of incredible teachers who give their heart and soul to kids - with a focus of making a difference in those kids lives.


But if someone just read this board?  wow, they'd come away thinking we just need to wipe out the current eduacracy, and start over with something completely different.

Astropig
Astropig

@dcdcdc


Well put (and heartfelt). This is the blog of "can't","won't" and "don't have to".

sneakpeakintoeducation
sneakpeakintoeducation

@Astropig


Armchair educator. Please give up two weeks of your life and spend it in the classroom in an ATL inner city school. 

Astropig
Astropig

@sneakpeakintoeducation @Astropig


Yawn. You're not doing that either.I've been in places that you wouldn't go with a cop escort (in fact,APD told me that I was on my own when I went to pick up bail skips). If inner cities are uninhabitable,it is because of the same misguided social policy that has made schools ineffective.A new way of thinking is needed and you just fail to understand that.

Quidocetdiscit
Quidocetdiscit

@dcdcdc


Many of us who are so called "whiners" are complaining precisely BECAUSE we are pouring our hearts and souls into teaching and we resent the HOURS and HOURS of instructional time wasted on these ridiculous tests. We DO care which is WHY we are upset about all this!


This year, our students will miss out on almost two weeks of teaching during their arts block in order to give these SLO tests.  Furthermore, there is a very real possibility that our younger elementary students will have to take the Milestone tests on the computer, including the written response portion.  That's right, my lower elementary students will be expected to answer extended answer questions and complete a writing evaluation by TYPING out the answers.  We don't teach typing.  We have no time to teach typing.... so how well do you really think they will be able to do?  Do you REALLY think they will be able to show what they know and understand?  Or will they be limited by their inability to type?  This is test bias at its worst, and frankly, I am much more worried about the mindset of educators who DO NOT raise the alarm on this and other practices occurring in the name of "reform" than I am about  those who come on this forum to voice their opinions.

sneakpeakintoeducation
sneakpeakintoeducation

@dcdcdc


The reason we have so many of the issues in education is because bureaucratic decisions are being made by people who have not stepped foot inside a classroom as an educator.


Skeetercat
Skeetercat

In the district in which I teach, the head football coaches are exempt from TEKES evaluations.  How is that fair?  I think that needs to be investigated.

Starik
Starik

@dcdcdc @Skeetercat OK, but let's keep the coaches out of the classroom, at least in academic subjects, unless they are qualified. Let's keep them out of the Principal's office too. 


Let's make sure that teachers in the important subjects, math science, social studies and language arts are qualified - and let's make sure that elementary school teachers can speak, read and write standard English.

dcdcdc
dcdcdc

@Skeetercat When you make a positive, life changing impact on as many troubled and at risk kids as football coaches, then let us know.  Until then, might want to thank the football coaches for the crazy hours that they invest, and also "Thank God" you don't have to deal w/ the crap that they do.



redweather
redweather

SLO's can't tell you whether a band student, for example, ever bothered to practice his scales or sight reading.  And yet we want to base half of a teacher's evaluation on that? That would be like evaluating a car saleman's effectiveness on whether his customers pay their car notes.

teacherandmom
teacherandmom

The SLO implementation is a HUGE mess.  On any given day, the guidelines from the DOE can change...and sometimes are dependent on who you talk to. 


Cost (printing, scantrons, etc) to implement SLOs at the district level needs to be addressed.

The quality of the assessments is an issue.  The state "exemplars" are still a work in progress.

The paperwork to create new SLOs is lengthy and costly (substitutes, loss of instructional time, etc)


Then there is the data.  I'm not sure the DOE is prepared to deal with the vast quantities of pre & post assessment scores that will roll in by June 2015.

Talk to Race-to-the-Top districts.  Ask them about determining student growth using SLOs. Ask them if they feel the "accuracy" of the student growth model will hold up in court. 


There are A LOT of issues with SLOs.  



BCW1
BCW1

You are never going to have a fair and equatable instrument for all teachers.

living-in-outdated-ed
living-in-outdated-ed

I agree that it seems that this is a major shortcoming of the overemphasis on quantitative measures, especially for subjects not covered by state assessments.  For foreign languages, that should be easier to ascertain, because you can test a student's ability to speak, read and write the language.  But what about the other subjects that @Maureen raises?  Tests mean absolutely nothing in these subjects.  It's more about project-based learning. This is why educators should be looking to best in class think tanks such as the Center for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning ("CASEL").   You can still measure a teacher's effectiveness in these subject areas, but clearly, school administrators have dropped the ball here.

EdUktr
EdUktr

Giving parents the right to choose the school which best fits their child's needs is a cost-free way to allow the marketplace to determine teaching quality.

It's also the only way to foster innovation when education elites band together to protect a failed status quo.

Astropig
Astropig

@Quidocetdiscit @EdUktr


"Perhaps you could try addressing the actual topic?"


Perhaps you could too.How's about letting the moderator moderate and let the posters comment, okay?

Quidocetdiscit
Quidocetdiscit

@Astropig @Quidocetdiscit @EdUktr


You make a good point, and I usually do keep my mouth shut.  I guess this evening I just got too tired of   "second verse...same as the first" over and over, regardless of the topic at hand.

sneakpeakintoeducation
sneakpeakintoeducation

@EdUktr It's been tried in Chile when the Milton Friedman system of free market choices was implemented. It has been a disaster.


Astropig
Astropig

"Georgia is among 20 states using academic growth to evaluate teachers; Georgia committed to do so as part of its $400 million Race to the Top grant."


A lot of people tried to warn anyone who would listen that "Race To The Top" federal sugar would come with strings attached.Now that the money has mostly been spent,reality is starting to bite.

class80olddog
class80olddog

How do we judge the quality of their teaching?  The same way it SHOULD be for all teachers: Subject matter knowledge and ability to transmit that knowledge to a WILLING student.  Notice there is no mention of student testing or student outcomes or student learning - THAT would be evaluating the STUDENT.

redweather
redweather

@class80olddog While I agree with the point you make, "subject matter knowledge and the ability to transmit that knowledge to a WILLING student" can't be quantified.  If it can't be quantified, the Bill and Melinda Gates of the world have no use for it.

class80olddog
class80olddog

@redweather @class80olddog  Certainly you can measure the first part - a better PRAXIS test, Grade point average from a major university, etc.  But that is only if they are teaching the subject they were hired to teach.  If you put a math teacher teaching English, I am sure all bets would be off.

dcdcdc
dcdcdc

@class80olddog Surely you aren't saying that the teacher has no responsibility to motivate and interest the "unwilling" student?  If so, then that position is poster child #1 for why our schools are failing our students.  


Until teachers are both expected to motivate said kids and given the tools and flexibility to find ways to do so, then these kids will be failed.  And if the kids fail, the schools fail - no way around it.  Schools have one main purpose - to educate the kids they are given.  That's it.  Not to "lecture to them but take no responsibility for their learning".


Once again, we are teaching 2014 era students using 1950's era approaches.  That is always what happens when you have a bureaucracy running things, that faces no competition.  Only when the principals face loss of funding, will they begin to be open to - heck forget that - to be forced to new ways of teaching and motivating students in ways that truly reach them.

class80olddog
class80olddog

@dcdcdc  What you are talking about is a system where all the responsibility is on the teacher and the students and their parent(s) have NO responsibility.  Of course, a teacher should motivate the students, but how do you motivate an empty desk?  Some students refuse to be motivated (I don't want to be educated, because my friends will say I am acting too white).  School administrators have taken away any means for teachers to hold their students accountable.  How would you run a business like a school?  You have to "motivate" your employees, but you can't pay them more, or discipline them if they are late, or fire them if they just are terrible employees and refuse to do the work.  I can tell you what would happen to such a business:  they would be bankrupt in no time!  And that is the way you want to run our schools!  The sooner we have school choice (with start-up charters leading the way) the better for the students and the parents who CARE!

dcdcdc
dcdcdc

@class80olddog @dcdcdc OK, I admit its probably crazy -  But as a sales guy, I had to motive my prospects into "buying into" what I had to offer.  Crazy, I know.  I should've just been able to lecture them with the facts, and then go back to my boss and "wash my hands of any responsibility" - since I'd done my job, and the fault was theirs for not buying what i was offering.


It's so plain and obvious to the non-educators among us.  Young males will invest untold hours of completely focused attention on video games - because that technique is effective.  Education needs to adapt, and leverage the technology gifts that are available to actually reach young men.  But instead, we have boring old women lecturing on, and sending them to detention.


And then complaining that "the kids these days don't want to learn".....

redweather
redweather

@dcdcdc @class80olddog  About all those "boring old women," slightly less than 50% of public school teachers are under the age of 40, and most (almost 60%) have less than 14 years of teaching experience. So I don't think you can blame so-called "boring old women."

Quidocetdiscit
Quidocetdiscit

@dcdcdc 


"Boring old women"?  I think we all just got a glimpse into what kind of student YOU were.


We do adapt the "game" format to a lot of learning these days, but some lessons cannot be learned via a video game, not to mention what happens to the attention span of children who spend hours on those fast paced games.   Learning is not always FUN.  Just like life, it sometimes takes hard work.  Too many of today's youth have NO stick-too-it-ness, and that is going to hurt them in the long run.  Life is not a video game.



dcdcdc
dcdcdc

@Quidocetdiscit @dcdcdc Learning can be fun.  ANd when it is, it works.  But the current eduacracy can't see out of its outdated model. 


Your comments are so telling..... and IMO are a leading cause for kids not learning.  Only when the folks who want to lecture, but not motivate, are removed, will the schools start delivering results.

class80olddog
class80olddog

@dcdcdc @class80olddog  " But as a sales guy, I had to motive my prospects into "buying into" what I had to offer."


That is what salesmen, lawyers, and politicians all have in common - they have to convince someone to do something that may not be the best thing to do.  Salesmen have to sell their product - even if it has health risks, or is overpriced compared to the competition, or is of poor quality - does not matter - their job is to sell it (very much like APS testing - they just had to raise scores, did not matter how).  Lawyers may know their client is guilty as hell, but their job is to get him off, any way they can - suppress evidence, pack the jury, anything.  And politicians will tell you anything to get you to vote for them, then they do whatever they want.


I apologize if you take personal offense to my opinion.

Quidocetdiscit
Quidocetdiscit

@dcdcdc


Are you speaking of my comments?  If so, I am not sure what your are finding "telling".  The fact that I mentioned that we DO use games to teach some content?  The fact that I pointed out that learning is not always fun?    That does not mean NO learning is fun, only that some content requires more than a video game approach.  Some content takes WORK to master... it requires perseverance and motivation, and brain -sweat, if you will.  Not sure where you get the whole "lecture" thing since no one here has advocated "lecturing" all day.       


I am not sure my comments are "telling" as much as you are reading into them