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Old 04-21-2010, 02:58 PM   #121
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Rich corporate bankers making millions bought the mortgages. Had nothing to do with the dim bulbs in Washington.

I'm a university professor. We get the output from the schools. I know that teaching is an art and it is not making hamburgers at McDonalds. It is muuch harder to evaluate. We know from lots of studies that the teachers can only work with what they are sent. I've taught in the UK and Germany. American teachers have nothing like the rights and powers and job security of the German or British teachers. In all three cases the problems in schools are problems with the homes of the students. My kids got brilliant educations at our local public school.

If you think macdonalds style performance will do anything to improve teaching, you are sadly mistaken. Sure there are lousy teachers out there. I had several in a top flight Jesuit prep school. But you don't find them by testing the students using the kind of tests we have available.
Why do you persist in putting words in people's mouths and striving for the lowest common denominator in your analogies? Why would you choose prostitutes or minimum-wage McDonalds employees instead of world- class organizations like GE, Caterpillar, or Sony, for example.

Teachers should be evaluated on their work product. Would you object to paying the top 20% more than the bottom 20% if they were all being evaluated against the same set of academic achievement standards, i.e. performance objectives? Do you think the bottom 20% should get to stay on for 20 years, knowing they suck at their jobs? If so, why? What measurable metrics would you propose?

What really scares me is a University professor teaching kids that performance isn't measurable or important in their careers. Wait until they hit the real world, where the rubber hits the road....
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Old 04-21-2010, 03:16 PM   #122
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Not only that.... but my whole life as a student... from K up to the end of my masters.... I WAS GRADED by the teachers.. but if we believed Emeritis... this was a big mistake because we can not measure effectively if I learned anything...

I can tell you which teachers were good, which ones were bad.... which ones were GREAT and which ones should not even be teaching...

Someone who says teaching can not be measured must be in the profession... I am an accountant... and I can say that we can be measured...

And another point of view.... my University thought that teachers could be measured.... every teacher was evaluated by all of their students... every semester... and the ones that got high ratings were the good teachers... some were very tough.. I can remember one who taught accounting who most people tried to stay away because she was so tough... but if you were in her class... you learned a lot... so if you wanted to skate the course... you took the other teacher... but if you wanted to learn... you took her...
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Old 04-21-2010, 03:33 PM   #123
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Westernskies...

Not only that.... but my whole life as a student... from K up to the end of my masters.... I WAS GRADED by the teachers.. but if we believed Emeritis... this was a big mistake because we can not measure effectively if I learned anything...

I can tell you which teachers were good, which ones were bad.... which ones were GREAT and which ones should not even be teaching...

Someone who says teaching can not be measured must be in the profession... I am an accountant... and I can say that we can be measured...

And another point of view.... my University thought that teachers could be measured.... every teacher was evaluated by all of their students... every semester... and the ones that got high ratings were the good teachers... some were very tough.. I can remember one who taught accounting who most people tried to stay away because she was so tough... but if you were in her class... you learned a lot... so if you wanted to skate the course... you took the other teacher... but if you wanted to learn... you took her...
I have been a volcano refugee in Frankfurt for the last 5 days. I have a flight and hopefully an airplane I will leave you the field with these comments.

1) Subjective evaluations such as you describe are not the TESTS people want to use. They are the process the TEST TEST TEST folks want to get rid of.

2) I've graded students for 35 years. It's not the same thing.

3) Everyone always asks why Harvard law graduates get the best jobs. The answer is that they take the best students and even three years of Harvard Law School can't ruin them. Harvard's expertise is in picking these winners. No one knows what the faculty contributes.

4) I stand on the bottom line. We have no demonstrated test that links long term student achievement to specific teachers.
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Old 04-21-2010, 04:38 PM   #124
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I have been a volcano refugee in Frankfurt for the last 5 days. I have a flight and hopefully an airplane I will leave you the field with these comments.
Hope you make it out of Frankfurt OK and get home safely. Must have been a b*tch being stuck there indefinitely. Maybe you're delirious?

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Subjective evaluations such as you describe are not the TESTS people want to use.
By "people" do you mean teachers? Again, by what metrics would you evaluate teachers? A spelling bee? 50-yard dash? Coloring inside the lines?

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I've graded students for 35 years. It's not the same thing.
Why not? By what measures or criteria did you grade them? How did you objectively evaluate their performance without "testing"? How did you know they "got" your curriculum?
Sounds a lot like "don't test the tester" to me.

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Everyone always asks why Harvard law graduates get the best jobs. The answer is that they take the best students and even three years of Harvard Law School can't ruin them. Harvard's expertise is in picking these winners. No one knows what the faculty contributes.
So, if no one knows what the faculty contributes, why not just identify particularly bright students and let them wander around the law library for three years? If faculty contributions are immeasurable, all of them would succeed on their own, right? (I have my own thoughts regarding Harvard lawyers, BTW, but better judgement decorum prohibits going into that here.)

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I stand on the bottom line. We have no demonstrated test that links long term student achievement to specific teachers
The "We" being the academic community in this case. Kinda like the fox guarding the hen-house, don't you think? This logic is a bit of a stretch, anyway- each teacher is responsible for grade-level curriculum, and making sure their students are adequately prepared at the end of their instruction to move up to the next level. It's ludicrous to suggest that since you can't measure Johnny's second-grade teacher's direct impact on his Master's thesis 20 years later that it is meaningless to measure anything at all. It's a self-serving hollow argument, IMO.
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Old 04-21-2010, 05:45 PM   #125
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Interestingly, the arguments against measuring teacher performance I'm reading here seem to paraphrase the teacher union literature that arrives in our mailbox regularly. Most unions strive to minimize measurement of individual performance and the arguments here fall into line with that outlook.
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Old 04-21-2010, 05:50 PM   #126
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I have been a volcano refugee in Frankfurt for the last 5 days. I have a flight and hopefully an airplane I will leave you the field with these comments.

1) Subjective evaluations such as you describe are not the TESTS people want to use. They are the process the TEST TEST TEST folks want to get rid of.

2) I've graded students for 35 years. It's not the same thing.

3) Everyone always asks why Harvard law graduates get the best jobs. The answer is that they take the best students and even three years of Harvard Law School can't ruin them. Harvard's expertise is in picking these winners. No one knows what the faculty contributes.

4) I stand on the bottom line. We have no demonstrated test that links long term student achievement to specific teachers.

I hope you do get out soon!!! Must be horrible to be stuck without anything to do...

I agree with Westerskies.... how can you measure 'me' as a student.. you give me a test of the subject matter and either I know it or I do not... you are not testing my ability to apply this to something else... I either know the answer or I do not..

But you CAN measure what level I was at prior to coming into your class... and measure what level I am after leaving... or couse, it all might not be your 'fault' or if I improved a lot your ability... but when we do it with 20 or 30 students we can get a feel if your class improved... and over a few years we can see if you are at the top of moving people up or at the bottom... just because you might not like the results because there are a lot of variable that you as a teacher can not control.... but we are not saying that if you get a 51 you stay, but a 50 you are fired... we are saying that we can rank teachers in such a way that we reward success and punish failure...

And I bet the professors at Harvard would have a different view of what knowledge they pass on to their students...
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Old 04-21-2010, 06:04 PM   #127
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But you don't find them by testing the students using the kind of tests we have available.
Do a student survey about the class. The students will tell you how good or lousy is the course, the professor or the teacher.
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Old 04-22-2010, 01:19 AM   #128
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Happy to go back to the pure pension issue

Major problems with government pension funds
1) cyclical not counter cyclical. When times are good investments tend to create "income" so governments reduce funding . This is simply stupid. Funding should be increased in flush times as a rainy day against bad times.
Agreed. As mentioned above, Seattle's pension plan has a piece of (IMO) poorly-conceived benefit increase legislation attached to it.
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2) ludicrous benefits for high paid not in danger police and fire managers. I have no problem at all with proper extra benefits for front liners , but when you put on the tie and ride a desk you don't get it any more.
This seems to be another case of objecting to late-career upgrades, as was the aide-to-teacher example earlier in the thread. The more I think about this, the less objectionable I find it. If someone upgrades their qualifications late in their career, why shouldn't they get a larger pension than they would have if they had just coasted until retirement? They pay more into the fund than an employee who doesn't upgrade, and less than someone who held the higher position through an entire career, and their pension reflects that. In this specific case, do police or fire department management jobs pay about the same as equivalent management positions in, say, the library or the public works department? Then IMO, the pension should also be equivalent.
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3) gaming the system with overtime and other payments in the last year
I agree with you here also, but this isn't applicable to my specific question as the Seattle retirement system does not include overtime in the calculation of the "average salary" on which the pension is based. I don't think there is any way to apply "other payments" either, except possibly to buy equivalent time for military service (?) or temporary employment with the City prior to hiring as a permanent employee (during which time retirement fund contributions were not deducted).
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4) get all the economies of scale. small funds tend to have excessive admin costs.
The Seattle retirement system is reciprocal with a few other cities, but I wonder if it would be beneficial to extend this and combine with e.g. the county employees, the local school district and possibly adjoining counties to the north and south. I wonder if a bigger system would make for more stable pension funding.
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Old 04-22-2010, 07:52 AM   #129
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2) ludicrous benefits for high paid not in danger police and fire managers. I have no problem at all with proper extra benefits for front liners , but when you put on the tie and ride a desk you don't get it any more.
I have a number of points of disagreement with this.

First, the primary thing about adequate compensation for fire and police is to be sure that you attract qualified applicants and retain personnel. You're paying people to do a job and you want the right people doing it. If you accomplish that - the compensation is basically fair.

Second, I don't know of any way to fairly compute compensation for dangerous jobs - other than my first point. There were days when my job was so easy I felt like I was stealing my paycheck, and there were days when you could have given me the city's budget for the year and it would not have been enough money.

Third, and this can be just theoretical at times because I've known some great managers and some miserable idiots, you pay police managers not for any danger they face (few do), but for their role in managing operations and implementing policies that keep their subordinates alive, protect the lives and rights of all the non-combatants, and protect the city coffers from lawsuits. [/QUOTE]
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Old 04-22-2010, 08:38 AM   #130
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The Seattle retirement system is reciprocal with a few other cities, but I wonder if it would be beneficial to extend this and combine with e.g. the county employees, the local school district and possibly adjoining counties to the north and south. I wonder if a bigger system would make for more stable pension funding.
Question here. If by "reciprocal" you mean that each of these entities recognize the years of service with the others on this list in terms of pension calculation -- that if you worked for the city for 10 years and the school district for 5 and the county for 10, you'd get one pension based on 25 years of service -- doesn't that more or less negate the argument that a primary goal of pensions is to encourage retention of experienced staff?

Obviously, if I've misunderstood the meaning of "reciprocal" here, consider the question withdrawn.
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Old 04-23-2010, 01:33 AM   #131
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I must strongly disagree with part of your post and you misunderstood another part.

Imperfect measures are not better than no measure e.g.
I give you a pot of hot water and you get to measure it with a yardstick
you report the temperature as 14 inches.
Taking another approach to this assertion:

Actually, you could use a yardstick to measure the temperature of water. The volume of water increases with temperature, and therefore the depth of water in the pot would increase with temperature. I could look it up, but as I recall from my beer brewing experience, water increases about 4% in volume from room temperature to boiling. This is one of the reasons that global warming is associated with rising sea levels.

So the take away is - there are many tools we can use to measure something. We need to apply some intelligence in which tools we choose, how we use those tools, and what we infer from those measurements. And who should be better at that than educators themselves? Aren't they intelligent enough to measure something?

And the type of measurement we are asking for is the easiest of all - relative change. It becomes very difficult and involved to measure absolutes (is that piece of metal exactly 1 meter long?). But we are asking, did X get better, relative to Y. It is much easier to say that piece of metal A is longer than piece of metal B, a piece of string is all you need. So measurement should be able to tell us if teacher A is better than teacher B.

It isn't that hard, really.

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Old 04-23-2010, 01:40 AM   #132
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Question here. If by "reciprocal" you mean that each of these entities recognize the years of service with the others on this list in terms of pension calculation -- that if you worked for the city for 10 years and the school district for 5 and the county for 10, you'd get one pension based on 25 years of service -- doesn't that more or less negate the argument that a primary goal of pensions is to encourage retention of experienced staff?

Obviously, if I've misunderstood the meaning of "reciprocal" here, consider the question withdrawn.
AFAIK, that is the correct meaning of reciprocity between Seattle and other pension funds, but I don't know any of the details of the arrangement because I've only worked in one of the systems.

I think a pension would probably tend to encourage staff retention, and if there were reciprocity between Seattle and the major cities and three counties of the Seattle metropolitan area as I imagined, it would tend to keep people in this region, even if not with exactly the same governmental entity. If an experienced employee, say an engineer, goes from the City of Seattle to Snohomish County, to the Port of Tacoma, in the course of a career, the people of Western Washington on the whole benefit from keeping that local expertise in the general area. OTOH, if an employee switches repeatedly from one job to another, all the while staying with the City, I don't know that there is much benefit to the citizenry from that. It doesn't strike me as a particularly strong argument, and it's not one I've made myself.

I don't claim to know why the City has a pension system, I'm just glad that it does.
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Old 04-23-2010, 05:58 AM   #133
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Several of the posters seem to continuously confuse two totally different things.

The first is the ability to measure something e.g. How can I evaluate a student's paper.
This is difficult but not impossible. I am measuring the paper not the student.

The second is how do you develop a standardized instrument to evaluate the influence of an external force i.e. a teacher (or anything else) on the rate of change of the observed object with regard to some ultimate effect. i.e. using standardized tests to evaluate a teacher relative to the rate of change in the student in a testable metric that tracks the ultimate goal of education. This is simply an unbelievably more complex task
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Old 04-23-2010, 06:09 AM   #134
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Taking another approach to this assertion:

Actually, you could use a yardstick to measure the temperature of water. The volume of water increases with temperature, and therefore the depth of water in the pot would increase with temperature. I could look it up, but as I recall from my beer brewing experience, water increases about 4% in volume from room temperature to boiling. This is one of the reasons that global warming is associated with rising sea levels.

So the take away is - there are many tools we can use to measure something. We need to apply some intelligence in which tools we choose, how we use those tools, and what we infer from those measurements. And who should be better at that than educators themselves? Aren't they intelligent enough to measure something?

And the type of measurement we are asking for is the easiest of all - relative change. It becomes very difficult and involved to measure absolutes (is that piece of metal exactly 1 meter long?). But we are asking, did X get better, relative to Y. It is much easier to say that piece of metal A is longer than piece of metal B, a piece of string is all you need. So measurement should be able to tell us if teacher A is better than teacher B.

It isn't that hard, really.

-ERD50
You post confirms the point I made
1) you are making a vast number of assumptions in saying you can measure temperature with a yardstick. in particular that you have know the volume and you are making separate measurements over time. In fact your example goes to the delta, the change in a measurement You cant do a point measurement. and you have no reference point so you cant tell the temperature..

2) we have an underlying physical law that relates volume to temperature. we have no such physical law on education.

There is simply is no research base that shows that can use student performance on standardized tests to demonstrate individual teacher influence on long term educational goals.
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Old 04-23-2010, 08:07 AM   #135
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Welcome back, (bold mine):
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The second is how do you develop a standardized instrument to evaluate the influence of an external force i.e. a teacher ... This is simply an unbelievably more complex task
The odd thing here is that I seem to have more faith in the capability of educators than you do. I believe they are smart enough and creative enough to come up with reasonable measurements. I think your comments sell them short.

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You post confirms the point I made

1) you are making a vast number of assumptions....
Of course I made assumptions. You didn't give every detail of the situation. But it was meant as an example of how one can be creative in obtaining a measurement, even with imperfect tools. Something tells me you understood that perfectly.

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In fact your example goes to the delta, the change in a measurement You cant do a point measurement. and you have no reference point so you cant tell the temperature..
Of course I would need another data point for this extreme case you formulated. Which is a good analogy to what we have been discussing. How much does a group of kids improve over time, how do those improvements compare to other groups? Those are all relative measurements. And they can be done. And it would be hard for the reasonable person to think that the quality of the teacher would not affect those outcomes.


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There is simply is no research base that shows that can use student performance on standardized tests to demonstrate individual teacher influence on long term educational goals.
I am struggling to understand what this means in the broader sense. The wording is pretty specific - 'long term educational goals'. Why not 'on the performance of the kids regarding the material that was taught'? But if what you are saying applies more generally, then it seems that are you saying teachers make no difference at all? There is no such thing as a good or bad teacher? If the data and research absolutely cannot parse out any difference from teacher to teacher, then I guess there is no meaningful difference. I guess we ought to drop the requirements for a Bachelors degree or certifications or anything. What's the point? We could hire day laborers at a low rate, and they won't expect any (getting back on topic here!) pensions at all. That would solve some of these pension problems, and the kids would just go on to college just the same, your studies say so.

You really make me wonder - how did the teaching profession ever come to be? I mean, if you can't measure results, how do you know if what you are doing is helping, hurting, or if there are better ways to do it? Can it even be called a 'profession' based on your views? The general term I'd apply to people who charge you to provide results, but are unwilling to allow anyone to measure those results is 'scam artist'. And I certainly would not use that term to describe the vast, vast majority of concerned, dedicated educators.

Can't be measured? Where there is a will there is a way. When there is no will (or a will to avoid) there seems to be no limit to the excuses why something can't be done. Personally, I think your comments reflect poorly on educators, and I find that sad.

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Old 04-23-2010, 09:01 AM   #136
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Can't be measured? Where there is a will there is a way. When there is no will (or a will to avoid) there seems to be no limit to the excuses why something can't be done. Personally, I think your comments reflect poorly on educators, and I find that sad.

-ERD50

How many of you choose your financial advisor based on his or her scores on the standardized "financial advisors" test? If measurement based on such tests was easy everyone would do it.
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Old 04-23-2010, 09:04 AM   #137
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How many of you choose your financial advisor based on his or her scores on the standardized "financial advisors" test? If measurement based on such tests was easy everyone would do it.
I think most of us don't *have* financial advisors. But if you wanted to equate it to, say, index funds, the "test" is the expense ratio versus other funds in its asset class, and for an actively managed fund you can look at the manager's long-term track record compared to the relevant benchmark (after fees).

Not sure what resemblance this thread has to public pension woes at this point. I know threads can be hijacked and drift, but wow...
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Old 04-23-2010, 09:16 AM   #138
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I think most of us don't *have* financial advisors. But if you wanted to equate it to, say, index funds, the "test" is the expense ratio versus other funds in its asset class, and for an actively managed fund you can look at the manager's long-term track record compared to the relevant benchmark (after fees).

Not sure what resemblance this thread has to public pension woes at this point. I know threads can be hijacked and drift, but wow...

No NO NO , you don't get to look at the track record
you only get to look at a score on a standardized test

lets put up or shut up

how many think that pension advisors should be picked base on their score on a standardized test ?
If tests prove anything, this one should be easy since obviously there has to be a correlation between the score and their future performance (not past)
Who is willing to bet their retirement on a test score?
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Old 04-23-2010, 09:22 AM   #139
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No NO NO , you don't get to look at the track record
you only get to look at a score on a standardized test
False dichotomy. There's no reason we *have* to keep looking at standardized test results as the one and only performance metric. It doesn't have to be standardized tests or nothing. There's no reason why one can't develop and consider other metrics as well. The outright hostility and determined opposition to any suggestions that educators be "measured" in terms of performance is, IMO, somewhat telling.
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Old 04-23-2010, 09:45 AM   #140
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How many of you choose your financial advisor based on his or her scores on the standardized "financial advisors" test? If measurement based on such tests was easy everyone would do it.
You can defend educators all you want, but by just saying there's no way to measure the performance of teachers is a copout. There is a reason teachers unions across the country fight this tooth and nail, it would bring to light those teachers that are NOT up to par, and then the union and school districts would have to deal with that, and they don't want to go down that path.........
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