Wednesday, February 29, 2012

February '12 Educational Tip

There has been a running dialogue lately in The New York Times regarding teacher performance  where everyone from Bill Gates, to past and current educators, have given their opinion on the practice of making teacher assessment scores public information. The supposed premise of the practice is, in theory, to root out and expose the lower performing teachers.  
As parents, we are deeply committed to the education of our children. Bill Gates has some definite opinions on education and what our children are learning in their classrooms. Whether you agree with his ideas or not, he wrote an Op Ed piece recently where he questions the practice of publicly flogging an already fragile system with teachers who feel overwhelmed and unappreciated. Mr. Gates, the founder and owner of Microsoft, with hundreds of employees who work for his company, states in his opinion piece that the New York City Department of Education is going about business the wrong way. He states that no other business operation, with the intent of publicly identifying the weakest link in the chain of operation in order to make improvements, exists.
Many educators who responded stated they thought the practice of making teacher assessment scores was not effective in helping the poor performing educators receive constructive criticism to help them improve their classroom skills and techniques which then, in turn, benefits the students. Many people were surprised that Mr. Gates, who is all about school reform, including more teacher accountability, came to the defense of teachers in the New York public school system. His point is that releasing the scores of teachers, who are assessed by the student performances in the classrooms and standardized examinations, amounts to little more than public shaming.  
Every teacher has an individual teaching style. If we are sending the message to the student population that they should work together and respect everyone’s unique personality and talents it seems to be that the same courtesy is not being extended to the staff of teachers by essentially publicly embarrassing the weaker teachers into improving their performance. Remember when your mother taught you that you get more flies with a little honey than vinegar?

Be Well 
Alice Knisley Matthias
SFC Educational Writer

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