Want reform? Why not ask teachers for ideas?

With Gov.-elect Nathan Deal set to take office today — despite the weather that has shut down schools and most businesses — I thought this was a good time to share this piece by Peter Smagorinsky, a professor of language and literacy education in the University of Georgia College of Education:

By Peter Smagorinsky:

“Hoping to attract and keep top teachers in public schools, Georgia is changing the way educators are hired, paid and rated through a new evaluation system with far greater emphasis on student performance.” So began Jaime Sarrio’s recent article in the AJC on the latest effort to grade teachers, and post those grades to the public, based on students’ standardized test scores.

Tying teacher performance to test scores is one of several efforts to grade teachers’ performance, and is the centerpiece of the $400 million Race to the Top grant awarded to Georgia in the hopes of improving teaching and learning. Because the money has been awarded and linked to scores, this plan is a fait accompli. But it is but one of many plans circulating presently to make teachers—and teachers only—accountable for learning in schools. Administrators, taxpayers who vote against funding initiatives, policy makers, politicians, parents, and students themselves are not among those whose performances are identified as contributing factors to students’ learning, however measured.

One plan reported recently proposes that teachers be evaluated by the parents of their students. As a parent of two who have now finished their secondary education, I can see why some parents would want input, given the stories their children bring home from school. But for the most part, their information is provided solely by their kids. I’m not sure I’d want my pay linked to what kids tell their parents about what’s happening in school. If you think that grade inflation is a problem now, wait till this plan goes into effect.

As a regular reader of Maureen Downey’s AJC education blog and column, and of the many comments that readers make in response to what she writes and shares, I have had an opportunity to eavesdrop on, and often participate in, discussions among teachers, parents, taxpayers, people who oppose taxation, and others who are invested in education in Georgia. The one group that continually impresses me in terms of their knowledge about education, their understanding of teaching and learning, their passion about schooling, their intimate knowledge of the lives of 21st century youth, their frustration with political and administrative meddling in their work, and their profound commitment to their profession is the group of Georgia schoolteachers who contribute to these discussions.

The discussion in general identifies many causes for the perceived problems in Georgia schools: pervasive poverty, uncommitted families, bureaucratic interference, administrative incompetence, indifferent students, and terrible teachers. Now, I’m no doe-eyed innocent; I know that there are bad teachers. There are also bad politicians, journalists, cops, parents, priests, lawyers, and college professors. Getting rid of bad teachers would be great for the system, and I think every good teacher would agree that there are some real losers on their faculties. I taught in some of the best schools in Illinois, and amidst our generally exemplary staffs were some embarrassing colleagues.

But their presence in the teaching force should not demean the many thousands of dedicated, intelligent, reflective, and knowledgeable professionals who provide the rank and file of school faculties. In reading Maureen Downey’s readers’ comments, I hear these teachers speak of the tremendous pain that they feel in being part of a profession that is continually battered by public commentary from education officials, taxpayers, and other stakeholders from outside the system. All of the solutions posed from without emphasize punitive approaches to addressing problems of student performance that villainize classroom teachers and reduce their complex and challenging work to students’ scores on multiple choice tests. Teachers’ judgment is routinely ignored as people from outside the teaching force impose assessments on them that are as superficial as the scores by which kids themselves are deemed successful or not.

Remarkably, in all the discussion about how to improve education in Georgia, the people closest to the action and most knowledgeable about schools are routinely and systematically ignored: the teachers. Perhaps the general lack of confidence in teacher competence makes policymakers wary of enlisting them in discussions of how to determine their effectiveness. But given the solutions proposed thus far—test scores, and then more test scores—I would say that we are not presently in an era of administrative enlightenment when it comes to evaluating teachers.

I propose consulting a new set of stakeholders to come up with an accountability system for teachers: classroom teachers in Georgia. I suspect that more than anyone, they want to sift out ineffective teachers who make their own work more difficult and create perceptions that are generalized to the whole profession. Based on my reading of comments on AJC education articles, they care more about teaching and kids than anyone else in the discussion, know more about what matters in school, and know what distinguishes good teaching from bad. So far their perspective has been ignored by policymakers. But if you want a system that has buy-in and credibility, and that is informed by sound professional judgment, put together a commission of respected classroom teachers and see what they come up with. It couldn’t be any worse than what we’re getting from outside the classroom.

– From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

55 comments Add your comment

Tip of the Iceberg

January 10th, 2011
9:05 am

I couldn’t agree more, Peter: Go directly to the teachers to seek reform ideas. I would also ask myself the question: How do weak teachers get credentials?

won't happen

January 10th, 2011
9:09 am

A well-written piece that I very much agree with. However, I would be astonished if that commision were to ever materialize and have any real influence in policymaking. Politicians will only be interested in ‘reform’ which puts all the burden on the one group that they can control financially: teachers.

Tony

January 10th, 2011
9:12 am

I wholeheartedly agree with what Professor Smagorinsky says. In recent years there has been a whole lot of lip service to Deming’s quality improvement cycle, but it has been from the top down. Anyone familiar with his work knows that the cycle was designed and works best when the front line forces are given the same level of involvement as upper management when it comes to improving their product. In America, we still use the top down approach in just about everything.

When charter schools started and before they were commandeered into the hands of profitiers, they were led by teachers. That was what made them so novel and that is what made them work. If you examine great schools today, you will find that teachers are major stakeholders in the decision-making process. Teachers who are worth their salt know their students’ needs and are willing to do whatever it takes to make sure the students are learning. Unfortunately, the top-down cure-alls being sent down the pike do more to undermine this valuable resource.

Merit pay, achievement-based evaluations, and other nonsense will further harm the good that happens in many of our classrooms. The over-emphasis on high stakes testing will continue to bring down the quality of education, too.

teacher&mom

January 10th, 2011
9:22 am

Excellent!
If Nathan Deal and John Barge are truly interested in improving education, they will develop a system that brings teachers to the table. To often the “representatives” who are invited to the table are administrators and superintendents who have their own agendas to push.

It seems the last time GA sought teacher input was the infamous Perdue administration teacher survey. We’ve yet to have anyone in the media or state government call them on the carpet for the obvious distortion of truth. The survey was clearly written to support the Hames/Perdue agenda (RttT application) and distributed to unsuspecting teachers.

When you have teachers in RttT districts that are just finding out that they will have to participate in pay-for-performance, you’ve got a communication problem.

Michael Moore

January 10th, 2011
9:22 am

Here is a quote from a curriculum coordinator in middle Georgia:
This week I did a training session with middle school ELA teachers titled Struggling Reader Strategies for Grades 4-8. I used a good bit of information from Tim Rasinski, McKenna’s book on struggling readers, and even some of the Reading First strategies for decoding and word work. However, I was met with much resistance and excuses of “not enough time” to deal with the struggling students. The bottom line is that there is so much negativity among teachers due to the pressures put on them that they are skeptical to try anything even if it doesn’t take any longer than 5 minutes or goes beyond basic questioning that they can grade easily to meet grading deadlines.

This is an indictment of the last eight years of budget cuts and wrong minded accountability.

God Bless the Teacher!

January 10th, 2011
9:29 am

Unfortunately, the policy makers would most likely solicit feedback from folks who would tell them what they want to hear. It already happens that way at the school and district levels. Why should it be any different at the state or national elvel?

God Bless the Teacher!

January 10th, 2011
9:31 am

“levels” instead of “elvel”…too much snow and ice today!

Cindy Lutenbacher

January 10th, 2011
9:49 am

Brilliant, Peter, absolutely brilliant, and I mean that. You and some of your readers have identified the issues that stand in the way of our public schools, issues such as power, control, and top-down authoritarianism. And your ideas can work if and when we, the teachers/parents/citizens, refuse to settle for the mindless (and greedy) attempts to pound our schools into factories and our children into widgets.

Cindy Lutenbacher

January 10th, 2011
9:59 am

@Michael Moore: I wonder if that coordinator/presenter has ever heard of the work of Stephen Krashen? And I heartily agree with the response: the resistance from teachers is about the obscene pressures put upon them. In the last fifteen years in which I have volunteered in public schools (urban, poor, almost entirely African American), I have witnessed only a handful of teachers deserving of the criticisms being leveled at all public school teachers. I estimate that about 95 percent of the teachers in the schools I know are dedicated heroes who are being TOLD to accomplish numeric miracles while starved, blindfolded, hands tied, and feet chained. No one with power seems to have a clue about the true miracles that are occurring every day in our classrooms.

Veteran teacher, 2

January 10th, 2011
10:02 am

My experience with legislators is that most do not want to be confused with the facts.

Dr. Craig Spinks /Augusta

January 10th, 2011
10:18 am

Classroom teachers, present and former:

Let’s follow up on Peter’s excellent suggestion by forwarding our ideas to:

johnbarge@doe.k12.ga.us,
state.superintendent@doe.k12.ga.us,
brooks.coleman@house.ga.gov, &
dan.weber@senate.ga.gov,

for starters.

We’ll be more effective if we’re respectful, brief, specific and intractable.

teacher&mom

January 10th, 2011
10:19 am

Since it appears spring break has arrived early this year, I plan to spend a few hours drafting a letter to my legislators. I’ve been sorting through research and data for the past couple of weeks to compile into a letter. They may not want to hear the facts, but I fully intend to send a few facts their way.

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mommamonster

January 10th, 2011
10:25 am

Rep. Lindsey promised on a previous blog post that he would provide an opportunity for teachers to weigh in on the new evaluation process. I hope he keeps his word. Not having true and meaningful input from teachers is so fundamentally wrong and short-sighted…

Middle Grades Math Teacher

January 10th, 2011
10:26 am

Bravo! Very well put!

Re: the third paragraph — my grandmother, who was a classroom teacher for 40 years before retiring in 1970, had an expression that summed this up for her parents. It was, “I’ll believe half of what they tell ME about YOU, if you’ll believe half of what they tell YOU about ME!”

Mikey D

January 10th, 2011
11:02 am

This is a brilliant idea that will never happen. After all, if we let teachers develop an evaluation system, then “experts” like Erin Hames wouldn’t really be necessary, would they? And what do you think the odds are of getting rid of those “experts”? Unfortunately, teachers will continue to be the villians, and the media will continue to do the leg work for the “experts” who perpetuate this myth.

ScienceTeacher671

January 10th, 2011
11:12 am

@Dr. Peter Smagorinsky: Excellent article! Bravo!

Now, to see if anyone is listening…

@Dr. Craig Spinks – great ideas! Thanks for the handy email addresses!

deep touble

January 10th, 2011
11:34 am

Ranking what is wrong with our schools from worst to everything else:
1.) lazy students
2.) bad parents
3.) poor administration
4.) unfunded mandates
5.)funding
6.) teachers

I am not a teacher, but I am very tired of teachers taking the brunt of the excuses when they are way down the list of problems.

Mike Honcho

January 10th, 2011
11:38 am

I can’t help but believe that our current math curriculum would be much different had the powers listened to classroom teachers. I was in a training session when representatives from the doe offered a question and answer session regarding the math curriculum. The concerned math teachers were treated like we were just against change. I assume there are different opinions, but I believe this new one-size-fits-all curriculum has been a mistake and a failure.

catlady

January 10th, 2011
11:59 am

Thank you, Professor! We have a few weak teachers in our school (of about 40 teachers). One is a little weak on skills (not the brightest bulb); the other 3 could be helped to be stronger teachers with the proper motivation. They aren’t BAD teachers, just not at the level of the others. Don’t know if any are on PDP or not.

First suggestion: Standardize all the nuts and bolts. That is,every student on grade level at the beginning and end of each year. If not, find out WHY not. Start in kindergarten or first grade and move up year by year. Child must be on grade level to continue. Each teacher ensuing is tasked with continuing the grade level advancement.

To be considered: How do we measure a year’s growth? CRCT is NOT IT. It is not valid even within the year. We would need to have a way to show that the child has mastered the skills needed for the next grade’s success.

Second consideration: What to do with a child who does not demonstrate appropriate skills? Do we look at the “why?” If the teacher can demonstrate her efforts via lesson plans, observations, homework given, needs-based grouping (ON GRADE LEVEL,not 2 years behind because all children in the grade start on level), then the child is retained. It is a matter of the child and its parents who did not make the effort. Perhaps they will with another year in the grade. (I predict a marked improvement in student effort if this happens in 75% of the cases.). Student is also tested for sped.

If the teacher does not demonstrate that she has done her part of the education “job”, then she is on a PDP for one year with mentoring and monthly accountability, and the student is placed in a “developmental class” for the next grade. The developmental class is especially designed to be a small class with a very experienced teacher, who will attempt to remediate deficits and move the child along in the next year’s curriculum. The student may or may not then be eligible to go to the next year with his original class, or he may remain behind a year and be tested for sped. (Like infertility, things are frequently due to multiple causes.)

Secondly, children with behavior problems that result in their inability to profit from class will be routed into a small behavior-management class with high structure and support. If their behavior problems result in serious disruption to their classmates, they will be put in an alternative settings.

(Aside: I currently push into a class of 24 under-achieving 5th graders. They are of average or slightly below-average ability, but their school careers have been marked by years of misbehavior serious enough that it has impacted their attainment. They are 1-2-3 years below grade level. If they had had the program listed above,it is possible they could be on grade level, and they would not have collaterally damaged dozens of classmates in their wake.)

Of course, this would require 1)money to provide the smaller classes for those with problems, 2) testicles to follow through and not grant exceptions, 3) tests and observations free of bias and highly valid. But think what would be gained–the majority of students who actually proceed through school,on target and achieving the goals realistically set and measured, the empowerment of parents to focus some effort on motivating their children (or be held back), classes significantly less hampered by poor behavior, a chance for kids who are behind to get up to speed, and a way for teachers to be evaluated for what THEY do, rather than what others do (or don’t).

All this may be snow-induced delirium. It would involve putting the weight on all 3 legs of the stool,and would require other significant changes in the way we go about educating our children. I believe most children want to learn (perhaps not what we actually study in school) and that many of our parents could do a better job supporting their children if they have to in order for them to advance. I think we would see achievement rates improve after several years of this program, as parents and students see that there are no excuses accepted. “Have to” is a tough taskmaster.

One of the huge failures here in Georgia have been the two times that I am aware of over the last 40 years that the legislature supported the idea of “you have to pass a test to go on” and then it was immediately watered down with exceptions so that now NOTHING is required other than being a living, breathing body. This is how we have 5th graders working on third grade level, and third graders on first grade level. And why we have teachers crying, “Mercy!” when expected to solve every social, emotional, and intellectual problem of the children who show up in our rooms. The accountability ladder has to go both ways!

We have many very astute bloggers here who would be excellent candidates for assisting with drawing up workable evaluation tools for legislators, GDOE, local administrators, teachers, parents, and students!

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Michael Moore

January 10th, 2011
12:22 pm

@Cindy…this particular coordinator is a doctoral student and very familiar with Krashen. She was trying very basic steps with struggling readers. She wouldn’t advocate the same practices for developing readers. I think she points a growing mindset trend. I will paraphrase Peter here: When all you require of teachers is to be technicians then that is what you will attract.

Private school guy

January 10th, 2011
12:51 pm

This discussion needs to consider that being certified as a teacher and working for a public school system are two separate things. Working for an independent school would exempt a teacher from the scrutiny of standardized testing and being graded by some government entity yet they would still hold credentials. Lawyers, doctors and other professionals police their own ranks, teachers should as well.
In developing a rating system, performance and professionalism should be the primary considerations. If doctors were judged by the death rate of their patients no one would go into geriatric medicine. Teachers with struggling, high risk and high ESOL populations need to be rated on what they do with these students not what the students do. One should also consider that a groups of smart and angry fifth graders could sink a teacher’s career if they all conspired to fail the CRCT .

northatlantateacher

January 10th, 2011
1:02 pm

Tip of the Iceberg made an excellent point that often gets overlooked: How do teachers who are ineffective gain the credentials necessary to become a teacher?

I work with someone who admitted that it took him four tries to pass the GACE. FOUR. And yes, he’s not someone I would want teaching my child; both because he lacks the appropriate content knowledge and because he’s just generally ineffective.
Since we’re talking about publishing teacher report cards, as a parent and teacher, I would love to see other things too. GACE scores and number of attempts for starters. This should matter and I think there’s a strong correlation between this and teaching competency. I’m aware that there are exceptions – people can be gifted in a field but not be talented as a teacher. I’ve seen that too.

Dr. Craig Spinks /Augusta

January 10th, 2011
1:02 pm

Catlady,

Good points! After all, who’re being cheated when a student is placed in a grade or course wherein s/he lacks the knowledge, skills and/or attitudes to succeed? Him/herself? his/her classmates? his/her teacher? his/her community? his/her state? I think all.

But what proof do we have that specific pre-school and remedial programs are actually helping kids get ready for their next steps? Are we funding programs which do not provide valid and reliable evidence of academic and/or social progress by kids who are behind their age-peers in academic and/or social achievement? Needy kids need effective programs, not programs with only catchy names.

teacher&mom

January 10th, 2011
1:12 pm

@catlady…I have a few suggestions for middle and high school.

Suggestion 1: Bring back reading at the middle school level as a separate course. When the middle school concept took hold, English and Reading standards were combined into LARTS. Many middle schools dropped reading as a separate class. Teachers are expected to cover both sets of standards in one class. IMHO, this isn’t working and is one of the reasons high school teachers are seeing a decline in the number of 9th graders prepared to read high-school level textbooks.

Suggestion 2: Recognize that many middle school teachers were never trained to be a reading specialist. My undergraduate degree is Middle Grades/ Math and Science. I had two reading survey courses as an undergraduate. I am not qualified to teach reading; however, I am highly qualified to teach middle school LARTS. That’s crazy. Place a reading specialist on every middle school team.

Suggestion 3: Stop pretending the CRCT provides any meaningful data to teachers. Look at how the reading scores are broken down. Teachers are only given the # correct within each domain. For example: the domains for reading are – Vocabulary, Literary Comprehension, Reading for Info, Reading Skills & Vocabulary Acquisition, Functional & Media Literacy. That’s it. Data that is a mile wide and an inch deep.

Suggestion 4: Bring back the vocational track in high school. The one-diploma is a train wreck. Allowing students to chose at “pathway” does not undo the damaged wrecked by the one-size-fits-all diploma.

Suggestion 5: Fund summer school every single year. Too often, we would not find out until the last minute if the state was sending funds for summer school. Sometimes there was enough money for 2 weeks, sometimes 4 weeks, etc. We never knew from one year to the next.

EdDawg

January 10th, 2011
1:40 pm

Dr. Smagorinsky, I love your writing. I always enjoyed reading your articles Joan Hall had use read in the late 90’s, and today I couldn’t agree more as well. Teachers must be stakeholders for any of this reform to work. I vote for catlady to be on the advisory committee to the state BOE/Governor. Catlady, I love your ideas for reform. I wish it was that easy to get kids the services they need. Now with the need for a school to make AYP if a student is getting services elsewhere like say in ESOL he/she may not be considered for the services they need.

Elizabeth

January 10th, 2011
2:11 pm

What??? Listen to the teachers? It will never happen. The only group in the school system that can be controlled and intimidated is teachers who need their jobs and are afraid to express their real opinions.

If you want me to be evaluated solely on my students’ test scores, then don’t send me students who are below grade level, who never bring school supplies, who do not bother to turn in work or push a pencil across the page, whose parents can never be reached, who are major behavior problems, and the list goes on. When I have perfect studetns then evaluate me ONLY on their scores.

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irisheyes

January 10th, 2011
2:24 pm

What???? Ask teachers??? Don’t you know that teachers don’t know ANYTHING about education? They only teach because of the fabulous pay, 8-3 hours, and three month summer vacations.

SomewhereInCobb

January 10th, 2011
2:34 pm

@Veteran teacher, 2 — that’s my experience, also. Notice that Lindsey & Morgan have yet to schedule their meetings to hear from teachers. In fact, I expect to hear any day now that they didn’t actually propose any such thing.

InEd

January 10th, 2011
2:53 pm

I second EdDawg’s recommendation for Catlady to be on the committee that puts forth ideas that she mentioned above; in fact, she should be chair of the committee. The ideas that she laid out would level the playing field when remuneration for teachers is based on student achievement data. Teachers of the Year should be invited to be on the committee as well. Set committees up regionally, perhaps according to RESA regions, have specific tasks assigned to each committee and report back dates. John Barge, are you listening?

InEd

January 10th, 2011
2:56 pm

P.S. Excellent and well-thought through article, Dr. Smagorinsky. Thank you. Also, to Ms. Downey, thanks for posting it.

Elizabeth

January 10th, 2011
3:10 pm

I echo this. It is one of the best articles I have read.

Tom Teacher

January 10th, 2011
3:24 pm

Here’s an idea: hire an independent auditor to determine where $ can be cut…am pretty sure he/she will not say “cut teachers.” Get rid of the waste at the admin level and central office and spend some $ where we need it: at the local school level.

just a teacher

January 10th, 2011
5:44 pm

This is an extremely well written article and the reader comments are truly accurate. Private school guy had an interesting thought about students possibly purposely planning to fail the CRCT to sink a teacher. I’d like to add that all the emphasis for passing “the test” in middle school is placed on reading and math. The science and social studies teachers do not have enough support, funds/materials, or respect to begin with and allowing the students to feel that these two subjects are less important, unfairly jeopardizes the future of these educators.

I totally agree that a teacher’s pay should not be subjected to the whims of others and especially for things that they have no control over. As mentioned in a previous comment, there are too many exceptions available to those students who do not pass the test. Let’s remind the public that criteria was established for mandatory passing for grades three, five and eight. These exceptions permit students to progress year after year and who are unprepared for the current year’s work. They have become dependent on moving ahead without doing the work and passing the CRCT.

It seems to me, that the powers to be really do not care about the success of the students. Instead what looks good on paper and sounds good at the moment is more important. In fact, this also includes the grading system where teachers are forced to keep failures low or be reprimanded by letter or PDP. The teachers are held accountable for students who just refuse to perform!

I hope in the near future teachers are taken seriously and heard loud and clear.

ScienceTeacher671 at gmail.com

January 10th, 2011
7:03 pm

I LOVE catlady’s ideas, especially as revised by teacher&mom. My additional suggestions for right now would be:

1. Eliminate “committee promotion” for all students except the intellectually disabled immediately.

2. Forbid the GaDOE from further lowering cut scores, and require tests to be improved/cut scores to be gradually raised until more valid tests (possibly coming with the Common Core Curriculum) can be developed. (Meanwhile, is there another test that can be used to indicate whether or not students are actually below/at/above grade level? It is just plain wrong when students and parents believe that students who barely pass the CRCT are “proficient”.)

3. Put reading specialists in the high schools, fully fund remedial reading and math courses at the high school level, and require remedial reading courses to be taken by all students whose Lexile scores are not high enough to adequately read and comprehend high school textbooks.

Just wondering...

January 10th, 2011
8:15 pm

If all the state constitution requires is a “free and ADEQUATE” education, then how about charging parents to have students take classes they fail. I think once for free is adequate. Fail 6th grade math? Fine, take it again as a 7th grader, but it’ll cost your folks. That solves both remediation and funding at the same time.

By the same token, let a 6th grader with strong math skills test out and take 7th grade math. With the use of virtual classes, we can have a lot more fluidity in grade levels and achievement.

Have more fluidity in classes – with one’s birthday not being the sole determinant of whether you are a 6th or 7th grader. Maybe have a window from September 1st to December 31st – have the students take a school readiness test – those that pass are in. Those that don’t have to wait til the following year.

Do like the private schools do, and have a “pre-first” grade for those not quite ready for first. Or have half grades – grade 3.5 – for kids who don’t have the skills for the next grade. Let them learn the next grade’s curriculum (like science and social studies) while working on the current grades skills (math and reading).

Just wondering...

January 10th, 2011
8:21 pm

Forgot to add – if you are going to make tests count for the teachers, then you need to make sure they count for the kids as well. They will not take them seriously otherwise – they are kids! Make them valid and reliable – make them easy to read. I had so many kids tell me (on the science test – day 4 of testing) that the questions were too wordy, they knew the test didn’t count, and they were tired, so they just guessed.

SmartDawg

January 10th, 2011
9:16 pm

Thanks, Peter (and Maureen)! Well said!

Career Switcher

January 10th, 2011
9:57 pm

@Northatlantateacher 1:02…”I work with someone who admitted that it took him four tries to pass the GACE.”

Your comments about multiple attempts at the GACE are so true. At both schools that I’ve worked at, there have been at least 2 math teachers (at each school) who had to retake the middle grades test multiple times. I even know of a few who had been teaching on provisional certificates who were eventually let go because they could not pass the test after several attempts. Anyone who has ever taken this test should know that this is absolutely ridiculous. The most complicated math that I remember being on the test were slope concepts and 2 variable systems, and you can still pass without those if you are strong enough in other areas! I would like to go out on a limb and say that anyone teaching math above 2nd grade should have to pass this test. It is absurd t think that someone who doesn’t have the content knowledge to understand the importance of 2nd/3rd/4th/5th grade mathematical concepts as they relate to later math should not be teaching math. It really should take someone with some math aptitude to be able to teach math.

I am one of the first to say that there are many things wrong in education outside of a teacher’s control, but this is one area where I strongly believe needs some work! I highly suspect that only 50% (or less) correct is required to pass the test, and anyone who cannot make that bar within 2 tries should have to take classes prior to being allowed to test again. The cutoff for passing should be at or over 75%. Also, the GACE should be the one aboslute requirement that must be met PRIOR to teaching, even on a provisional!

I’m not sure if the multiple failing attempts is specific to math/science, or if it is common in other areas, but I do know that math education is sequential and it is hard to undo one year of a teacher who lacks content knowledge!

ScienceTeacher671 at gmail.com

January 10th, 2011
11:10 pm

To add to that, many of us suspect that the state switched from Praxis to GACE to “dumb it down” some more. Either that, or someone at DOE is related to someone at Pearson. Or both.

Everyone I know who has failed the GACE multiple times has failed the math part, and with one possible exception they’ve all been weak teachers, and we couldn’t understand how they actually got degrees. How does someone who can’t pass the GACE get a college degree?

d

January 10th, 2011
11:58 pm

I took PRAXIS in Social Studies – you can’t even take a broad field Social Studies in GACE (way to make money I suppose) but I remember being in the free response portion and people in the room telling me to sign up for the next administration the second I walked out the door. One person opened the book for the free response, closed it, handed it to the proctor and left. That’s scary. I passed PRAXIS with a nearly perfect score and received an award for being in the top 15%. Now my sister is a math teacher. She took the GACE prior to graduating her undergraduate program (she has a B.S. in Math and a MAT in Math Ed). She passed it the first time no problem.

ScienceTeacher671 at gmail.com

January 11th, 2011
6:13 am

d, I didn’t take either (old enough that I took the TCT) so I’m just going by what I’ve heard and observed. Most of the bright teachers I know say the GACE is extremely easy, just as our bright students say that the GHSGT is.

Many of us didn’t think it made sense to stop using a nationally-recognized test in favor of one created by the state unless the state wanted to hide the fact that it was requiring lower scores than other states on the Praxis – and different states do require different scores for certification (http://www.ets.org/Media/Tests/PRAXIS/pdf/09706passingscores.pdf)

Of course, the state does seem to have a “thing” for Pearson, which created the GACE, and also created, publishes, and scores most of the other state tests, and sells most of the dedicated student tracking and gradebook software we use….

ScienceTeacher671 at gmail.com

January 11th, 2011
6:14 am

and d, congratulations on your great score! :-)

Peter Smagorinsky

January 11th, 2011
7:49 am

First, thanks to all the teachers who have weighed in on this issue. If anything, you make my point that teachers are the greatest experts on good teaching far better than I did in my column.

Second, in today’s Athens Banner-Herald, Rep. Lindsay has written a column chastising Dick Yarborough for not calling him before writing a critical article (http://www.onlineathens.com/stories/011111/let_768432100.shtml). He closes by saying, ” I invite Yarbrough and any other interested Georgian to contact me on this issue or any other education reform. My legislative office number is (404) 656-5024 and my e mail is edward.lindsey@house.ga.gov.”

I do hope you take him up on his offer with the free time afforded by the school closures.

long time educator

January 11th, 2011
8:14 am

In elementary school, it might be difficult for all the homeroom teachers to pass the Math GACE, but this might be an area where one teacher in a grade level passes it and specializes in math and all the kids rotate through that class. We have talked about this before under the topic Teacher Preparation, but I think every teacher (Elementary included) should have a 4 year degree in an actual subject, not Education. This would add some rigor and eliminate some of the weakest candidates. Requiring every teacher to pass competency tests before certification is a bare minimum and there should be a limit on the number of times the test can be taken. There are many reasons a teacher may be considered “bad”, but incompetence should not be one of them, especially since passing a test is not subjective, you either pass it or you do not. Make this requirement more stringent and instantly eliminate one of the variables that allow incompetent teachers in our schools. Good teachers will support this move.

I love teaching. I hate what it is becoming.

January 11th, 2011
9:22 am

I sent Rep. Lindsey a letter outlining my concerns and suggestions over a week ago. I spent several hours composing it. I have heard nothing in return.

d

January 11th, 2011
9:28 am

@ST671 Thanks :)

@Long Time Educator I know in my sister’s case she wanted to teach Math since her freshman or sophomore year in undergrad…. she started as a theater major but changed to Math her junior year when she showed a talent for the subject. She was going to major in Math ed, but Georgia State did away with that major so she majored in Math and then got her masters in Math ed for certification purposes, but I think she had to have another 15 semester hours of graduate level math courses in the process on top of all her teacher classes.

Ella Smith

January 11th, 2011
10:38 am

This is very well put.