Monday, September 06, 2010

No gold stars for successful L.A. teachers

The LA Times deserves to win a Pulitzer for its series, which only started with the value-added analyses and is now diving into other, related stories.  The story at the end of this email focuses on how the system (driven by the union) fails to even acknowledge, much less reward, the many Jaime Escalate-caliber teachers who are achieving miracles every day:

The idea of publicly rating teachers by name has generated enormous controversy among educators and experts across the country. The debate has focused on whether the method is sound and the publicity is fair to those with low rankings.

Often lost in that discussion are the benefits of singling out those who consistently succeed.

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said as much in a speech last week, denouncing a culture in public education that has long been averse to talking about success stories.

"The fact is, rather than shining a light on effective teachers, our education system hides them," he said.

…Said Aldo Pinto, a 32-year-old teacher at Gridley Street Elementary School in San Fernando: "The biggest challenge is getting them to buy into the fact that school is important."

He does that by telling students his own story as the son of Mexican immigrants.

Pinto, like most other teachers interviewed, said his good results had not been recognized.

"No one is ever really singled out, neither good nor bad," said Pinto. "The culture of the union is: Everyone is the same. You can't single out anyone for doing badly. So as a result, we don't point out the good either."

"When I worked at a bank, I was employee of the month," he added. "For LAUSD, for some reason, it's not a good thing to do."

… Tan is 62 but looks to be in her 40s. An immigrant like many of her students, she understands what they face. She is still self-conscious about her strong accent from her native Philippines, which she left at 27.

When not teaching, she is a marathon runner, with the wiry frame to show for it. Last spring, she finished Boston's in 4 hours, 20 minutes.

Inside the classroom, she sets a sprinter's pace, at times zipping around her students' desks in an athletic shirt and shorts.

Tan is not reading from a district playbook or drilling her students in how to take tests. She says she has little patience for the district's rigid curriculum and at times ignores it. That gets her into trouble on occasion with district administrators, who urge teachers to stay on the same pace.

Tan brims with innovative ways to reach limited-English students, handle discipline problems and keep the kids engaged. "I do a lot of singing, games," she said. "It doesn't look like a lesson."

But no one asks for her advice. She says her fellow teachers at Morningside consider her strict, even mean. She tends to keep to herself.

"Nobody tells me that I'm a strong teacher," she says.

That's OK by her, she adds. Year after year, she watches her students make enormous progress and feels a quiet sense of satisfaction.

… Tan measures her success in stories like these.

But by the LAUSD's measure, Tam simply "meets standard performance," as virtually all district teachers do — evaluators' only other option is "below standard performance." On a recent evaluation, her principal, Oliver Ramirez, checked off all the appropriate boxes, Tan said — then noted that she had been late to pick up her students from recess three times.

"I threw it away because I got upset," Tan said. "Why don't you focus on my teaching?! Why don't you focus on where my students are?"

Ramirez said he wants to give more recognition to his excellent teachers, but with no objective measure to rely on, he's concerned about ruffling feathers.

"What about the teachers who feel they should have been recognized?" he said. "There'll be a whole mess. The district knows this would open up a can of worms."

"That's why it doesn't happen."


No gold stars for successful L.A. teachers

L.A. Unified has hundreds of excellent instructors. But no one asks them their secrets to success, and most of the time no one praises them. Often their principals don't even know who they are.

August 28, 2010|By Jason Felch, Los Angeles Times

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