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Almost No Teachers In District's Low-Performing Schools Considered 'Ineffective'

Discussion in 'Sports and News' started by YankeeFan, Aug 5, 2014.

  1. YankeeFan

    YankeeFan Well-Known Member

    Lansing Michigan. Low performing schools, but highly effective teachers:

  2. Dick Whitman

    Dick Whitman Well-Known Member

    It's the culture. Teachers almost never get poor evaluations, in anything. And they seem to be particularly sensitive creatures. Mrs. Whitman talked last spring about a raging controversy at her school after a janitor ate a slice of pizza left out in the commons during Teacher Appreciation Week. This culminated in a hand-written note slipped in everyone's mailbox calling for a secret meeting to discuss the many slights during Teacher Appreciation Week.

    Indiana instituted an evaluation system like this over the last couple years. Some ridiculous number of teachers got "Highly Effective," and something like less than 1 percent got "Ineffective." This is a state with Gary, inner-city Indianapolis, and trailer parks in between. I told Mrs. Whitman that I was highly skeptical that 90-plus percent of teachers in the state were "highly effective" and less than 1 percent were "ineffective," considering the large percentage of teachers who arrive to the profession from the bottom third of their college graduating class. (It may have even just been "needs improvement.")

    Mrs. Whitman did not take that well.
  3. Bob Cook

    Bob Cook Active Member


    50 percent of Lansing children are in families below the poverty line.


    School funding technically is up, but it's not money that goes to the classroom.


    And where is Michigan going to get new teachers, the ones who can replace all those alleged layabouts in the classroom? It's been cutting higher education more than any state.

    Schools are a reflection of their communities. If the community is floundering, it's going to take a damn miracle for the schools to be excellent.
  4. Dick Whitman

    Dick Whitman Well-Known Member

    Two teachers out of 2,382?
  5. Bob Cook

    Bob Cook Active Member

    Indeed, that may stretch things, but how many are there supposed to be? 100? 200? 500? And what do you do with them? What miracle teachers are working at Starbucks waiting for a job to open up in Lansing?
  6. RecoveringJournalist

    RecoveringJournalist Well-Known Member

    Things like Teacher's Appreciation Week just piss me off.

    This year, three times we were sent home notices asking parents to "sponsor" a teacher for the week. If you "sponsored" a teacher for a week, you would send then their favorite coffee one day, favorite lunch one day, a gift certificate to their favorite restaurant. Cost to sponsor a teacher for a week: $100.

    At Christmas, we were sent home a list about where our teachers were registered for gifts. This was done "as a convenience for parents" and to be fair, it was the idea of a PTA mom, not the school itself, but holy shit did it piss people off.

    To their credit, a few of the teachers refused to participate, but I've never seen a profession that expects to have their asses kissed constantly.
  7. Dick Whitman

    Dick Whitman Well-Known Member

    Well, YF thinks that they are all big law firm partners and investment bankers making $1 million a year in Manhattan, not Starbucks cashiers.

    And you're right. Very few people want to teach in Lansing. Or Gary. Or Camden, N.J. You'll know the geography here, Bob. Mrs. Whitman had offers from Hammond, Portage, and Crown Point, I believe. The Hammond superintendent made an impassioned plea for her to work there, along the lines of, "Those kids in Crown Point will be fine without you. These kids need you."

    He was right.

    She's in her 11th year teaching in Crown Point.

    The point? If Mrs. Whitman is a microcosm of how teachers end up in districts, and I think that she is, then I find it difficult to believe that 53 percent of Lansing teachers are "highly effective," and only 2 out of 2,382 are ineffective.

    I occasionally - like four times a year - volunteer in a program that teaches Constitutional Law to Chicago Public Schools students. Last year's teacher was really into it. When I said I practiced antitrust law, the teacher tied it into the Sherman Act and trust-busting at the end of the 19th century. She was completely engaged.

    This year's teacher flipped through her iPhone all four times, the whole hour.

    If Chicago is anything like Lansing, and it probably is, then there would be just one more ineffective teacher among the next 2,381 I'd work with.
  8. Bob Cook

    Bob Cook Active Member


    Here's the info on Michigan's rating program. Two reasons Lansing could have so few "ineffective" teachers. One is a system that rates teachers as highly effective, effective, minimally effective, or ineffective. You have to be pretty wretched to get even a sniff of ineffective. The other thing is that after three ineffective ratings in a row, the school "shall dismiss the teacher from employment." In theory, that's a good thing, but I can imagine a district like Lansing (or Hammond) worried that if it dismisses a teacher, it's going to have a damn hard time finding a replacement at all, much less someone who they know will do a better job. Plus, a lot of districts, for budgetary reasons, hire teachers who are just out of school or don't have much experience. I'm going to guess a district like Lansing has a pretty good churn rate.

    I've spent the last few months talking with people are various education schools while visiting colleges with my son, who wants to be a history teacher and coach. The requirements for entering schools have gotten far more strict, and the programs far more intense, so there are definitely improvements being made in the pool of teachers coming out of school. But any solution to education issues that relies solely on "better teachers" is doomed to fail.

    One thing that's also come up in our discussions is the greater challenges of teaching -- more students in poverty, more students who don't have English as their first language, cuts in classroom funding, declining communities. I find it possible to have a district whose teachers are effective, but whose district still struggles.
  9. Dick Whitman

    Dick Whitman Well-Known Member

    Which means that the problem we theorize - bad teachers in poor school districts, a terrible combination - probably does exist. Trying to fix it, of course, is a problem, though YF has advocated firing all of the ineffective teachers and replacing them with the veritable flood of corporate law partners, investment bankers, and Fortune 500 CEOs who are currently being shut out of teaching colors to kindergartners, to their ever-lasting frustration.
  10. Bob Cook

    Bob Cook Active Member

    Interesting stat here, from a New Orleans school reformer now leading an education department in a private Michigan school [emphasis mine]:


    Without adequate preparation, new teachers leave the profession before they actualize their talent. For instance in Michigan, teachers drop out at a higher rate than their students (40 percent to 26 percent). High-poverty schools are more than twice as likely to have inexperienced teachers than wealthy, suburban schools. One in six students is taught for at least part of the day by a teacher with one year or less experience. Only one in four teachers passed the revised Michigan teacher certification test.

    Districts need young teachers to stay employed in schools long enough to reap the fruits of the investments. Communities need young teachers to reside and participate in the communities in which they serve for more than a few years. Communities and schools need professional teachers who are durable neighbors of the school – actual members of the community.

    I don't know if there's a certain kind of training that has gotten better results to improve teaching and preventing people from leaving the profession. (This prof's plan is spending less time in the college classroom and more time in the actual school.) When we visited Ohio University, I liked that it emphasized training in how to teach and lead a classroom. By contrast, in the state of Illinois, you major in your subject area, and on the side take classes to get your certification, with student teaching after you've completed your coursework. To me, the Ohio way seems much better at training teachers to handle a classroom environment.

    We visited Eastern Illinois recently, and the secondary education department head, who had been a principal in Champaign, noted that what he saw from University of Illinois grads was that there were strong on teaching theory/academics but had real trouble with the practicalities of leading a classroom. I know he had reason to slag U of I in favor of his program, but I believe it. From what I've seen, the strongest education departments aren't name-brand schools, necessarily, but places that have people with experience in teaching and administration who can share their experiences of what it's like to be in an actual classroom environment.

    Also, the Eastern Illinois guy noted that at least in Illinois, teachers now have to wait until their early 60s, instead of 55, to start drawing retirement. Clearly, that's meant to cut what's paid out for retirement.
  11. Dick Whitman

    Dick Whitman Well-Known Member

    I was surprised to read recently - I can't remember for the life of me where, maybe here - that the University of Michigan is renowned for its practical approach to teaching teaching. (Actually, I think it was a NYT op-ed.)

    Wouldn't have guessed that.
  12. cranberry

    cranberry Well-Known Member

    Imagine that, another low-performing school that is coincidentally smack in the middle of a district with abject poverty.
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