Wednesday, March 04, 2009

A Defense of The Albuquerque Journal For Its Publishing Student Performance By Teacher/Classroom

In a brave step to better inform its readership, the Albuquerque Journal has this morning published standardized testing results by teacher classroom for all the elementary schools in APS. The Journal is to be commended for providing the key piece of information in determining whether a teacher is any good or not, her/his ability to perform academic magic in the 22 or so weeks academic weeks between first seeing a student and the standardized tests.

As every researcher, expert and blog commenter alike will tell you, this 22 week period (known throughout education as the "Magic 22 Weeks" is the single most important determiner of standardized test performance. Other factors such as:
  • Socio-economic status
  • Second language status
  • Special Education status
  • Family stability and parental involvement
  • Student mobility from school to school
  • Academic rigor in a student's previous school years
  • Student performance in previous school years
pale when compared to the Magic 22 Weeks. The Magic 22 Weeks, everyone knows, is a veritable magic wand, erasing all preexisting conditions and illuminating one as to the quality/ability of an elementary school teacher to teach. One might compare it with other magical things, like the Warren Commission's "magic bullet theory" that helped solve nagging questions about who killed John F. Kennedy.

We're lucky to have a dogged organization like The Albuquerque Journal, one prepared to focus on the truly important when it comes to how our kids are doing in school. I, of course, refer to the essential listing of teachers names alongside Magic 22 Weeks scores. That way truly magical teachers can more easily be identified, and parents can simply request not only a "good" school but now a "good" teacher for their daughter/son. Those less "magical" teachers can be avoided, as it is quite obvious they are inferior in providing the vital 22 weeks of magic necessary for kids to do well.

Another added benefit of the Journal's bravery in posting teacher names is that everyone in town can now look at the list, find teachers they know (e.g., from having them as teachers as a child, or having dated them some years ago) and discover whether they are magically good teachers or not. In this way the data effectively works like one of those published lists of sexual predators or persons convicted of a DUI. Those teachers worthy of public shame can easily be identified and shunned from society.

Some might argue this is going overboard, and harkens back to the use of stocks and pillories, but these comparisons are invalid. They are invalid because we know just how important the Magic 22 Weeks are. It's not our fault these teachers cannot properly perform this magic! They are bad teachers and they must be publicly humiliated!

Bravo, Albuquerque Journal! You may receive a fair degree of condemnation by the misinformed and humiliated for your decision to publish this list. Please take it from this humble professional educator and even more humble blogger: you guys are performing what might be the greatest public service since the decline of tarring and feathering.

I say this for two reasons.

First, everything that's wrong with this country is centered on our stupid unwillingness to blame and properly punish the non-magical. For years now we've obsessed over "fully studying issues" and "seeing things from both sides" and look where that's gotten us! To Hell with milquetoast excuses about things like "socio-economic status"! We need to revert to the good, solid statistical thinking employed by those during our Colonial Period. Why look at the mathematical magic of the "3/5ths Compromise"! Our Founding Fathers would understand and promote the meaning of the Magic 22 Weeks, and demand that such a list of teachers be published.

Second, publishing such a list is exactly the sort of "old school" newspaper selling technique that both Ben Franklin and William Randolph Hearst would have applauded. In a dire time for print media, you at the Journal have bravely risen to a journalistic standard not seen since the glorious days of the Spanish/American War.

Put simply, inspiring work Albuquerque Journal. Bravo, Sirs and Madams, bravo!


Anonymous said...

I take offense with the manner in which the journal has published these "scores". They do not account for important limiting factors on the scores such as the nature (economic status, ESL status, etc) of the class being taught. The raw scores should not be considered a measure of performance.

Anonymous said...

OMG great post!
Oh, but can we please, please list their salaries, too, so we can all tsk tsk over them? That's another classic Journal tactic. I mean, it's public information!

Abuelita2 said...

Oh, Scot, that was just great!! A great piece of writing! Also, helps to make me smile a bit while I'm furious and frustrated at the blooming idiocy of so many folks with whom I share this world.

steve said...

I wonder how many of the "bad" teachers have subscriptions to the Journal tomorrow. Can you follow up on that?

Dwight said...

The original purpose of these assessments of student performance was to help students, teachers, and parents help individual students with progress. I hope that the tests are designed well enough for that purpose to be accomplished. For that purpose teachers and parents would need to look at historical student data - to reveal differences in student achievement over time.
It is a very inappropriate and clumsy tool to compare teachers and schools.
I would be very interested in hearing from teachers and other school officials about whether or not these tests are being used effectively to help with student achievement. Are the tests good forms of formative assessment? Are teachers able to use individual test results to determine strategies to help students learn better? Are strategies available to help students and teachers?