Thoughts, links & ideas from the 2008 National Teacher of the Year

Each time I've taken off in a plane since May (which is a lot), I've been writing in my journal, then adding these journal entries on this blog.

Check in often, or subscribe to get headlines fed to you! Oh, and the views expressed here are not those of anyone but me.  And anyone who happens to share the same views, I guess.

(Note: the blue posted dates are actually the dates I wrote the journal entries, not when I posted them online.)

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


Nashville, TN


I hope the pilot of this plane is at least proficient.  I’ve just finished working for a couple of days on a panel of experts on a small part of an evaluation tool for evaluating principals (they’re my “PALS”, remember?)  We basically just defined the “cut scores” for labeling principals as “Below Basic,” “Basic,” “Proficient,” and “Distinguished.”  A lot of work, I must say, to put labels on folks.


Ours was only a small part of the whole project, much like building a house, but only being responsible for the porch.  The rest of the evaluation tool consists of a detailed report on strengths and weaknesses in each of 36 categories.  Pretty handy.


But I’m a little concerned that the front porch is the first and most important impression that this house might give.  It’s a bit like, well… giving a student a single grade in your class.  Actually, more like a single grade for all their classes put together.  Like a grade point average, but no number, just labels: Stupid, Almost Average, Pretty Smart, and Nerd.  Except in education we usually use more positive sounding words like Hatching, Emerging, Developing, Pubescing, and so on.


Why not just use the GPA?  Or better yet, look at grades for each class.  Or the grades for each of them over time.  Or break each class into an academic grade and a citizenship/effort grade like we do at our middle school.


I suppose at some point it just becomes too much information to realistically deal with (although we do have some pretty sophisticated technology, like computers and stuff.)  But a single label is just too simple a metric to describe someone, and I’m a bit concerned how a superintendent or school board might use it.  This could be a powerful tool for improvement, but if it fell into the wrong hands that were not focused on improvement… who knows how they might use it?


As for this afternoon, I just hope my pilots are well beyond “hatchling” and somewhere in the vicinity of “eagle.”

1 comment:

  1. I agree with you completely about the concern of 'labeling' students and teachers based on one assessment. Recently, I was speaking to a group of educators and non educators. The question was asked, "Why shouldn't parents be allowed to look at a teacher's student test scores and then based on this data be able to decide whether or not they want their child in the teacher's classroom?" I can't begin to tell you how much my blood was boiling at this point(first of CAN'T view other students scores--confidentiality), but with a smile on my face, I carefully chose my words and responded,"I'd be glad to respond to this question. While accountability and student performance is important, how we READ and INTERPRET ONE score on ONE test is just as important. For example, if I were to look at the case outcomes for a law firm over the course of a week and saw the lawyers who lost and won these cases,would I be able to better pick an attorney to represent me?" Furthermore, not knowing anything about the case or the evidence supporting the case gives me little understanding of the effectiveness of the lawyer's ability to represent people. The same case is true for educators.One assessment does little to represent not only a child's abilities, strengths and weaknesses, but it gives VERY little evidence to support the effectiveness of a teacher. Who's to say the teacher you viewed taught a self-contained class of special needs children and although the scores are seen as low, maybe the gains made were HUGE! Something for us all to think about. I know I have heard many people say, "Don't judge a book by its cover." Well...maybe we need to apply this same view to labeling our students and teachers. Thank you for addressing a very important topic for the improvement of teacher quality and student achievement!


Feel free to question, disagree, challenge, or make suggestions! I'm a big boy. I can take it.