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Archive for Wednesday, September 14, 2011

First Bell: Local, state panelists to talk federal role for education Saturday; two Lawrence teachers up for state awards; should student test results guide teacher evaluations?

September 14, 2011

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Panelists with local and state experience in elementary and secondary education will widen their scope during a panel discussion Saturday.

The panel discussion — “The Federal Role in Public Education K-12: Too Big, Too Small or Just Right?” — is set for 10 a.m. to noon at the Lawrence Public Library, 707 Vt.

The event is sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Lawrence/Douglas County, and the Lawrence Education Association.

The panelists:

• Marlene Merrill, a former member of the Lawrence school board, who formerly worked in the Lawrence school district and elsewhere in grants and assessments.

• Kathy Cook, executive director of Kansas Families for Education.

• Mark Tallman, associate executive director of the Kansas Association of School Boards.

Moderating the discussion — expected to start with panelists addressing the questions in the title, then allowing for questions from the audience — will be Shannon Kimball, a member of the Lawrence school board.

While the discussion is scheduled for 10 a.m., coffee is set for 9:45 a.m.

•••

Deerfield School employees applaud Tuesday as Anne Tormohlen, center, the school’s library media specialist, is named as the winner of the 2010-11 Lawrence Elementary Teacher of the Year award.

Deerfield School employees applaud Tuesday as Anne Tormohlen, center, the school’s library media specialist, is named as the winner of the 2010-11 Lawrence Elementary Teacher of the Year award.

Chris Drinkhouse, left, is congratulated by fellow teacher Nici Coulson, right, after it was announced that Drinkhouse, the learning strategies teacher at Southwest Junior High School, was awarded Wednesday as the 2010-11 Lawrence Secondary Teacher of the Year.

Chris Drinkhouse, left, is congratulated by fellow teacher Nici Coulson, right, after it was announced that Drinkhouse, the learning strategies teacher at Southwest Junior High School, was awarded Wednesday as the 2010-11 Lawrence Secondary Teacher of the Year.

Two teachers from the Lawrence school district are among 21 teachers nominated to become semifinalists or finalists in the Kansas Teacher of the Year competition through the Kansas State Department of Education.

The district’s nominees:

Anne Leslie Tormohlen, who received the 2010-11 Lawrence Elementary Teacher of the Year in February, as she completed her 20th year at Deerfield School, where she had been library specialist for the past nine years and had taught fifth and sixth grades during the previous 11. Before that, she’d taught for three years at the former Riverside School.

Chris Drinkhouse, who received the 2010-11 Lawrence Secondary Teacher of the Year in February, as she completed her sixth year as a learning strategies teacher at Southwest Junior High School (now Southwest Middle School), where such work helps students who don’t qualify for special education instruction receive the attention they need to succeed in school.

The 2012 Kansas Teacher of the Year Banquet is Sunday evening at the Overland Park Marriott.

Even if they don’t win the regional or state awards, their achievements secured them plenty: Each received a $1,000 check from KU Credit Union, and each will have her photo displayed at district headquarters alongside those of other award-winning educators.

The photos, by the way, are framed and ready to be displayed. The only question now is what award — “Lawrence” or “Kansas” Teacher of the Year — each nameplate will say.

•••

As teachers in Lawrence and elsewhere continue to face pressure regarding the performance of their students on standardized tests, here’s a news item from The Wall Street Journal taking a national look at the issue of tying teacher evaluations to such student performance.

I’m curious what educators — and others — think: Is it fair to tie teacher employment and compensation to such assessments?

Comments

conservative 3 years, 3 months ago

Of course it is fair to use test scores as well as other metrics to evaluate teachers. The point of teachers is to impart information to the students and if the teacher isn't doing that well enough to get the students to pass tests then they are failing. However the teachers union would never allow something like accountability to be used in evaluations so the question is moot.

question4u 3 years, 3 months ago

It's unlikely that anyone would object to evaluating teachers on the results of student scores on tests, so long as the students were tested on the same material before and after working with a specific teacher, and evaluations were based on the kind and amount of change in that specific context. Someone who has to grow oranges in Montana isn't going to get oranges that are comparable to those grown in Florida, regardless of how dedicated, careful and knowledgable about citrus cultivation he or she might be. It defies common sense to suggest that a standard measure can be applied to both. If teacher evaluations using tests take into account the differing challenges of working with high populations of students in Dodge City who don't speak English as a first language and students in Johnson County who have multiple advantages, then no one could call that unfair.

The main objection has nothing to do with issues of fairness though. It involves the consequences of relying heavily on standardized tests to measure student outcomes. Instituting a monoculture in education is as dangerous as perpetuating monocultures in agriculture. How easily can a monoculture adapt to change? How innovative can it be? How susceptible is it to disease? The Irish in the 19th century discovered how foolish it was to create monocultures when the cultivation of a single variety of potato led to the rapid spread of a blight that wiped out the bulk of the nation's food supply and caused the deaths of a million people.

Why would anyone want to base an educational system on the model of the monoculture? Anyone who knows anything about math knows that most problems can be solved using more than one method. Why would anyone think that it's a good idea to pretend that there is only one way and make everyone follow that method? How will that lead to innovative thinking?

chootspa 3 years, 3 months ago

We can tie them to test scores if we want to make sure the poorest performing students continue to get the worst teachers. We already do. Schools in poor neighborhoods underperform those in rich neighborhoods by quite a margin. In fact, schools with less than ten percent reduced rate lunches have scores higher than the much bragged about kids in Finland, but we find this huge gap in student achievement between rich kids and poor kids even in the states in our country with the highest test scores.

Add to it the problem that we don't track individual students and their progress as outlined above, and this blame the teacher nonsense is a real recipe for disaster. Well, it's only disaster if your goal isn't to undermine public education and cede control from local school districts to shadowy corporate-owed charters cough ALEC's agenda cough

BTW, the article loses credibility when it cites Michele Rhee as a "reformer" without also mentioning the other thing tying test scores to evaluations and teacher firings did to the DC school districts: made them cheat on the tests. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/22/education/22winerip.html?pagewanted=all

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