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Old 08-01-2010, 02:05 PM   #21
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Originally Posted by ERD50 View Post
The subject fascinates me, and it rolled around my head as I ate lunch, so you get at least one more post

Seems to me it is equally valid to look at this from another viewpoint. If one view is to attribute higher lifetime earnings of a class to the good teachers, then in turn one could also attribute the lower earnings of some kids to the less capable teachers. In that case, do we 'charge' those less capable teachers $320,000 per year for hurting the future earnings of their class?
Yes, that would be an equally valid or invalid way of looking at it, depending on perspective. The study showed a $320,000 lifetime earnings diffferential based on KG teachers. BTW, I'm not sure I accept these results, and they are yet to be peer reviewed. But, for the sake of argument, assuming this is correct, then you could just as validly dock poor teachers as reward good teachers.

The issue is performance-based compensation. For the ditch digger example you mentioned, the work and its results are fairly transparent, so it's easy to evaluate the compensation. For teachers it's very difficult. As the article points out, using test scores -- the current vogue -- has a lot of problems, and can lead to teaching the test rather than the basics. And those gains are short term.

Quote:
Sounds like all this is leaning to 'pay for performance', and 'pay what the market will bear' (yes, the market does assign value to better performance). The taxpayers would probably benefit, and the children would benefit. But the teachers support an organization that is opposed to those principles. What to think?
-ERD50
When "pay for performance" and "pay what the market will bear" are well correlated, as in the case of the ditch digger, then everyone benefits. But the market is, at best, only loosely correlated with performance in the teaching field. Or, you might say, the market is very inefficient when it comes to rewarding good teaching.

This is not to say the market is a bad compensator, just that it lacks criteria for judging good teaching -- we all lack such criteria. I have no idea what makes a good teacher. I know what makes a likeable teacher, or an easy teacher, a hard teacher, etc. But what makes a teacher impart skills that show up over a lifetime? That's what this study claims to dig out, but I suspect all they are finding is that some teachers do better than others for, as they admit, reasons that they don't understand. And I suspect those reasons have more to do with randomness and the luck of having students who will later perform well than with teacher factors. At least in KG. But who knows? It's worth studying, and that's why I said that I like the way they are thinking -- exploring these areas.

As to teachers being opposed to these principles, I don't know, but if I were a teacher I would be opposed to performance based salaries unless it was proven to me that there was valid criteria for measuring performance. So maybe this study is a step in that direction.
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Old 08-01-2010, 02:08 PM   #22
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Just addressing the teacher part of your post, my wife teaches high schoolers and always says you can't undo in one year the damage done by poor parents over the course of 14-15 years. This is why many teachers oppose pay based on performance. That, and there is no good, fair way to evaluate performance given the different clientele each teacher is presented with.
That's what I would suspect. Not just the parent effect, but the peer effect.
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Old 08-01-2010, 02:36 PM   #23
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Yes, that would be an equally valid or invalid way of looking at it, depending on perspective.
Agreed.

(I'm editing the order of your quotes a bit, to make my answers more concise and clear - hope you don't mind)...


Quote:
But what makes a teacher impart skills that show up over a lifetime? ... It's worth studying, and that's why I said that I like the way they are thinking -- exploring these areas.
Agree again. I do hope some good comes from this.


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... I suspect all they are finding is that some teachers do better than others for, as they admit, reasons that they don't understand. And I suspect those reasons have more to do with randomness and the luck of having students who will later perform well than with teacher factors. But who knows?
It isn't always easy or perfect, but good methodologies can account for the external effects. It's done all the time in the real world.


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As to teachers being opposed to these principles, I don't know, but if I were a teacher I would be opposed to performance based salaries unless it was proven to me that there was valid criteria for measuring performance.
This position always strikes me as odd. In much of the private sector, performance is measured and pay is (at least partially) based on it. It isn't perfect by any means, but over a career, I think it is better to have merit pay than not have it. I think that companies, consumers and employees all benefit from it. Why should one group be exempt?

I'm also going to break up and bullet this quote to respond more clearly:

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Originally Posted by BTravlin View Post

A) always says you can't undo in one year the damage done by poor parents over the course of 14-15 years.

B)This is why many teachers oppose pay based on performance.

C) That, and there is no good, fair way to evaluate performance given the different clientele each teacher is presented with.
I'm saddened that an educator does not see that the logic is flawed. A may be true, but it does not lead to B.

C is also not true. These things can be controlled for. It isn't perfect, but it can be pretty good and over the long run it should average out. Again, the alternative to not having a perfect measurement seems to be to not measure it at all? I don't think our children are served by that thinking. I guess I should rip out the thermostat connected to my A/C, it's useless as it is isn't NIST traceable

Again, it 'works' in the private sector and they have the same constraints (sales people don't get exactly equal sales regions, engineers don't get exactly equally difficult projects, etc). And it would make sense to look for changes over the course of the year, not the absolutes. That probably accounts for most of the 'objections' to differences in the students assigned to one class or another. With a little tweaking, you can have a pretty good measurement system. At least one good enough to point out that maybe one teacher needs some help from another who seems to be doing better. It'll never be perfect.

-ERD50
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Old 08-01-2010, 02:53 PM   #24
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Just addressing the teacher part of your post, my wife teaches high schoolers and always says you can't undo in one year the damage done by poor parents over the course of 14-15 years. This is why many teachers oppose pay based on performance. That, and there is no good, fair way to evaluate performance given the different clientele each teacher is presented with.
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That's what I would suspect. Not just the parent effect, but the peer effect.
Since you commented on it, let me give a simple real-world example to illuminate the flaw in the thinking:

Two mechanics are assigned maintenance duties on a fleet of vehicles that are 14-15 years old. Half the fleet was purchased used, and not maintained very well during that time. The other half was well maintained. At the start of the year, each car is given an inspection, and graded on its condition. The group is randomly divided in half, and a group is assigned to each mechanic.

At the end of the year, we track the performance rating of each mechanic. We can take into account that the poor condition cars will require more maintenance. But it shouldn't be too hard to determine if one mechanic did a better job than the other overall, since we have a record of the car's entry condition.

We could make sure they get assigned equal numbers of class A,B,C,D condition vehicles to help level the load - that shouldn't be too hard. And if their counterparts in another city have a better or worse conditioned fleet to maintain, that should be easy to see and adjust for also. We would expect differences in the absolute number of break downs, but relative measures should be fairly easy.

None of this would be perfect. But if there are issues, they could be investigated, and that might lead to an adjustment. And if worker A's pay is based on it, he will make sure the boss knows that this one vehicle is a lemon, or something. And over a few years, these things do average out. And most importantly, if one mechanic is under performing, but motivated to do better, the boss can help him get the training he/she needs to become better.

And the fleet, and the mechanic, and the drivers, and the customers all benefit. It can be done, and it is done. Imperfectly, but far better than nothing.

-ERD50
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Old 08-01-2010, 03:09 PM   #25
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Since you commented on it, let me give a simple real-world example to illuminate the flaw in the thinking:
...
-ERD50
ERD, the problem with your example is that it's extremely difficult to measure incoming student quality in the same way you measure trucks, on moral as well as technical grounds.

Is the school board going to question every family as to their income, their drinking habits, their marriage fidelity, their dedication to their kids, and then assign a quality number to a kid? Is the kid going to be pre-measured based on his or her family? And then, even if you did this, you would still have the original problem -- lack of good metrics for teacher performance.
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Old 08-01-2010, 03:36 PM   #26
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Is the school board going to question every family as to their income, their drinking habits, their marriage fidelity, their dedication to their kids, and then assign a quality number to a kid?
No, not any more than I would expect them to measure my limb length, lung capacity, body mass, etc to determine how fast I can run the 100M dash. Make me run it and measure my time.

No question in my mind that family environment affects student performance. But that will show up on the entry tests.

Do we need better evaluation criteria? Very likely yes. I could easily be convinced of that. And I also think that smart people could develop some good (enough) tests. I can't be easily convinced that this is unmeasurable to the point of having no overall benefit. That extraordinary claim will require extraordinary evidence.

I'd be happy with small steps. It doesn't have to be a disruptive all-or-nothing thing.

One thing I learned at MegaCorp (it took me a long time), is that when apparently intelligent people are taking what seems like an unreasonable stance on something, there are two steps to take:

1) Think long and hard about your position. If it holds up from a few different angles, and you have conviction, move to step 2...

2) Do they have an agenda to support, and your data conflicts with their agenda? If so, you need to approach the problem differently, because it is now a 'political' problem, not a logical/technical one.

-ERD50
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Old 08-01-2010, 04:02 PM   #27
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No question in my mind that family environment affects student performance. But that will show up on the entry tests.
-ERD50
Maybe, but I wouldn't bet on it. Entry tests can differentiate between knowledge levels, but not necessarily between capacity to learn. Education has many counter-intuitive issues. Let me give you one example based on a short time when I was a teacher/administrator.

We used student questionnaires to "grade" teachers at the end of courses. We figured that teachers with better student ratings would be better teachers, and that could be somehow reflected in their appraisals. From my experience, I suspected that was a faulty way of measuring teacher performance, since "easy" teachers would get high ratings even though they didn't impart much knowledge.

So we set up a small experiment in which we correlated teacher questionnaires with student performance on subsequent courses, and adjusted for their performance on previous courses. What we found was a negative correlation -- that is, teachers with good ratings tended to have students perform worse in subsequent courses than teachers with bad ratings. That's not to say that teachers should have sought bad ratings, but when a teacher is demanding, and requires students to learn the material, they tend to get worse ratings than teachers who let them slide by with minimal learning.

As a result, we threw out teacher ratings in the appraisal process. We still had ratings, but made them available only to the teachers for their own use, and with appropriate warnings.
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Old 08-01-2010, 04:38 PM   #28
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I'm saddened that an educator does not see that the logic is flawed. A may be true, but it does not lead to B.

C is also not true. These things can be controlled for. It isn't perfect, but it can be pretty good and over the long run it should average out. Again, the alternative to not having a perfect measurement seems to be to not measure it at all? I don't think our children are served by that thinking. I guess I should rip out the thermostat connected to my A/C, it's useless as it is isn't NIST traceable

Again, it 'works' in the private sector and they have the same constraints (sales people don't get exactly equal sales regions, engineers don't get exactly equally difficult projects, etc). And it would make sense to look for changes over the course of the year, not the absolutes. That probably accounts for most of the 'objections' to differences in the students assigned to one class or another. With a little tweaking, you can have a pretty good measurement system. At least one good enough to point out that maybe one teacher needs some help from another who seems to be doing better. It'll never be perfect.

-ERD50
She didn't say that A always leads to B just that it is one of the reasons but that wasn't necessarily clear the way I related it.

Measuring the student's current situation regarding their home environment would be nearly impossible.

Are parents interested and involved in their child's education, do they monitor homework and studying?

Or are the parents alcoholics who express little concern regarding the child's education?

Has the child been sexually abused or still is being abused? Same goes for physical abuse?

Is the child more worried about homework or whether or not their will something to eat today?

Does the kid expend most of their time and energy toward athletics or other extracurricular activities vs studying?

Do you expect the Dept of Education to get a handle on all of this?
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Old 08-01-2010, 05:45 PM   #29
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Education has many counter-intuitive issues. Let me give you one example based on a short time when I was a teacher/administrator.

We used student questionnaires to "grade" teachers at the end of courses. We figured that teachers with better student ratings would be better teachers, and that could be somehow reflected in their appraisals. From my experience, I suspected that was a faulty way of measuring teacher performance, since "easy" teachers would get high ratings even though they didn't impart much knowledge.

... What we found was a negative correlation -- that is, teachers with good ratings tended to have students perform worse in subsequent courses than teachers with bad ratings.
Like you, I'm not surprised at those results at all. I am surprised that your associates expected positive correlation.

That doesn't mean there are not good measures to use.

Side note here: DD uses one of those 'rate your professor' web sites when working out her course selections. I've glanced at them, and I think that in a selective college with motivated students, the reviews are probably a reasonable indicator - these kids are serious about getting a good education and it is reflected in their critiques. I've looked at one that includes our High School - as expected, there is a much higher level of 'noise' there, but I'd say that most were serious evaluations. I'd expect a pretty steep drop off as you get into middle-school and elementary level.


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Measuring the student's current situation regarding their home environment would be nearly impossible.

Are parents interested and involved in their child's education, do they monitor homework and studying?

etc, etc, etc....

Does the kid expend most of their time and energy toward athletics or other extracurricular activities vs studying?

Do you expect the Dept of Education to get a handle on all of this?
No - but YES, if you look at the question differently. Just as I stated in my 100M example, don't measure the influences, measure the results. If the kids have a sub-par home life, I'm sure it is going to show in their initial test scores too. Even entering Kindergarten, aren't they going to be behind (on average)?

So we measure improvement.

Take 40 kids from a poor environment, test them and split them evenly between two teachers. If one teacher is incompetent, and one is talented, I'd expect that the proper tests could show the difference as the year progresses. It surprises me that this would seem controversial.

Sure, it is possible for one teacher to get saddled with two bad apples that disrupt the others. But on average this is going to work out. And their administrators should be there to notice and help out.

The same things happen in the private sector - you get assigned to a lousy program and even if you work miracles it may be hard to get that noticed. A successful product tends to make almost everyone look good, even if that success was external to the talent in the group. But then there is another assignment, and another chance, and over the long run the talented are rewarded and the less talented aren't.

The more I think about this (and I think this came out in an earlier thread), the more convinced I am that measuring teachers is easier than measuring people in many other professions. A teacher has 20 different data points (students) in a year, and many opportunities to measure them during the year. An engineer may be on a single product for 18 months or more, and maybe only one final measure of success or failure. The more data you have, the faster averaging works in your favor to smooth out the noise.

-ERD50
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