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Was It Right to Publish L.A. Teachers' Ratings?

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Guest blogger Michelle: I am furious that the Los Angeles Times printed the names of teachers -- and their "ratings" -- in their paper. One teacher -- Rigoberto Ruelas, a 39-year-old elementary school teacher for Miramonte Elementary School -- who was reportedly stressed over his low ratings even committed suicide over the weekend, reports KTLA. Just tragic!

Our school, which is a hidden gem in the San Fernando Valley, has a teaching staff that is caring and wonderful -- particularly Mrs. K., the teacher that my daughter has had for the past two years.

failing grade
The first year my daughter had Mrs. K. was in second grade, and the class was a 2/3 split, meaning that it was half second graders and half third graders. Nobody was happy about this -- not the teacher, not the students and not the parents. My daughter came home complaining that she couldn't concentrate on her work when Mrs. K. was teaching the third graders. It was hard work for my child and hard work for the teacher, who was trying to juggle 25 kids with two different curricula. Mrs. K. had even volunteered to teach the 2/3 split, because she had the most seniority and the school was running low on teachers. And now she's being publicly humiliated for it! 

It wasn't the best situation, but Mrs. K. did the best she could, and now her name and rating -- based on that one particular school year -- has been published. She was listed as being the least effective of all the teachers in the school. Well, yeah, for a good reason, too -- which of course isn't mentioned! There are just too many factors to take into consideration to accurately decide which teachers are the most effective and which are the least. Every school year, the students (and their backgrounds) are different. 

I have a friend who works for the L.A. Times, and she says they were right to print this information because now the school district will have to do something about all the crappy teachers who can't be fired. I see her point: The move spurred a dialogue and brought to light a problem in the school district. But how will parents be able to differentiate between a teacher who's crap and one who has simply had a bad year because of circumstances outside of her control? 

Moms, what do you think?


84 comments so far | Post a comment now
Traci September 27, 2010, 12:42 PM

My son has been in a K/1 split the last 2 years and it’s a wonderful way to teach. Maybe your teacher was ineffective because she didn’t know how to handle having 2 different grades, not because there’s something inherently wrong with having multiple grades in one class. While the story of the teacher killing himself is tragic, as a parent, I think the information on who’s dropping the ball in the classroom is invaluable.

REALMOM September 27, 2010, 12:51 PM

When it comes to fixing our education problem, it almost always come down to the blame game. This is a hard one because parents blame the educators and educators blame the parents and both parties blame the government. We know that the schools need money and we know that we (the parents/taxpayers)need to become more involved and concerned about our children’s education. Yes we should put poor teachers on blast. Should we say well, you did have a bad year so well you get an automatic pass. I think that the teachers should reach out to parents and try their best to make lemonaid with the lemons they are sometimes given. We should reward hard work no matter the situation. If you did your best with whatever situation it will most definately show. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for the parents help. Let them know what the situation is and what they can do to help you help their child. The split classes do work. They do it at my sons school and it works so well that its’ used as the AP substitute. Maybe your child didn’t function well in that setting and that’s fine too! we all need to work together on making the education system work for every child.

AJ September 27, 2010, 2:47 PM

I do not think the results should have been published in the newspaper, but I do feel the information should be made available to parents who request it.

There are so many variables to these results, that I don’t see how it could really be helpful.

Why do we expect all teachers to be able to teach every child completely “effectively”. We are so caught up in test scores and fairness, that I feel the educational system is starting to breakdown.

Every person is unique. It is ridiculous to expect that every child will test at or a above a certain level. This is detrimental to both gifted and delayed learners. Everyone is so eager to place blame, why can’t we (as a society) just except that not every child is capable of the same greatness? It is valuable to give everyone similar opportunities, but the school system does not allow every student to find their niche and really shine at what they are great at. Instead of everyone having to do the same exact thing. I think with just some really basic changes, playing on the strengths of the teachers and students, we could see some amazing improvements.

Keith Wilcox September 27, 2010, 5:33 PM

I don’t know. My first inclination is to grade people, publish results, and let the chips fall where they may. The schools are really in such dire circumstances now, and virtually no one wants to be held accountable. Unfortunately though — failing is failing. This might be the case of a general letting an underling take an undeserved fall. However, painting with a broad brush is necessary here because the entire barn needs a new coat of paint; some of the good stuff might get caught up in the process.

concerned teacher September 27, 2010, 5:48 PM

As a concerned teacher, I can tell you that educators feel it is completely inappropriate to judge teachers solely on test results. Yes, there are some ineffective teachers out there, and educators would love to be rid of them. However, for the majority of hardworking teachers, this method of judgement is completely unfair. There are many factors involved in educating a child. In addition to teacher effectiveness, one must consider socio-economic status, family support, possible learning disabilities, student motivation, etc… It is obvious that Mr. Ruelas taught at a Title 1 school, where students are typically English language learners from low socio-economic families. It is a challenge to educate these students. Despite the challenge, many dedicated teachers deliberately chose to work in these schools because they have a heart for the community. Because the students at Title 1 schools are considered at-rish, these schools will typically have lower scores than schools in more affluent areas. As a result, the teachers at these schools will most likely have lower test scores than their colleagues at more affluent schools. I know this from firsthand experience. Four years ago, I chose to leave the number one school in our district and move with my principal to a Title 1, low-performing school. We both felt we wanted the challenge; that it would refine our skills and make us more well-rounded educators. The first year, despite my efforts to keep my curriculum and expectations high, I went from 100% of my students scoring proficient or advanced (at my previous school) to 75% of my students (at my current school) scoring proficient or advanced. Did I change my teaching methods or the curriculum? No, in fact I worked even harder. Should I be reprimanded or scorned for this? No, in fact I feel I should be praised for my willingness to bring a high-level of education to these at-risk students. Shame on the LA Times for putting undue stress and embarrassment on this committed, well-loved teacher. Maybe the journalists who insist on judging teachers this way should visit the classrooms of the teachers, whom they have never even met, to witness firsthand the effectiveness of their teaching before judging them unfairly before the public.

concerned teacher September 27, 2010, 5:50 PM

As a concerned teacher, I can tell you that educators feel it is completely inappropriate to judge teachers solely on test results. Yes, there are some ineffective teachers out there, and educators would love to be rid of them. However, for the majority of hardworking teachers, this method of judgement is completely unfair. There are many factors involved in educating a child. In addition to teacher effectiveness, one must consider socio-economic status, family support, possible learning disabilities, student motivation, etc… It is obvious that Mr. Ruelas taught at a Title 1 school, where students are typically English language learners from low socio-economic families. It is a challenge to educate these students. Despite the challenge, many dedicated teachers deliberately chose to work in these schools because they have a heart for the community. Because the students at Title 1 schools are considered at-rish, these schools will typically have lower scores than schools in more affluent areas. As a result, the teachers at these schools will most likely have lower test scores than their colleagues at more affluent schools. I know this from firsthand experience. Four years ago, I chose to leave the number one school in our district and move with my principal to a Title 1, low-performing school. We both felt we wanted the challenge; that it would refine our skills and make us more well-rounded educators. The first year, despite my efforts to keep my curriculum and expectations high, I went from 100% of my students scoring proficient or advanced (at my previous school) to 75% of my students (at my current school) scoring proficient or advanced. Did I change my teaching methods or the curriculum? No, in fact I worked even harder. Should I be reprimanded or scorned for this? No, in fact I feel I should be praised for my willingness to bring a high-level of education to these at-risk students. Shame on the LA Times for putting undue stress and embarrassment on this committed, well-loved teacher. Maybe the journalists who insist on judging teachers this way should visit the classrooms of the teachers, whom they have never even met, to witness firsthand the effectiveness of their teaching before judging them unfairly before the public.

Sherron teal September 28, 2010, 2:36 AM

Is nothing kept private anymore?If I were this man’s family I would sue this newspaper!!

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Mrs. Cutter September 28, 2010, 3:39 AM

As a student in her last year, preparing to enter the teaching world, I understand the frustrations here, but you know what bothers me about this is that so many teachers are commenting about how unfair it is to judge them simply on tests scores, and yet this is what is done with students every day! So what is the difference? We don’t see children committing suicide for bad grades. Shame on that teacher for setting such a bad example to her students, whatever will they think now if they ever fail at anything?

No, test scores aren’t everything, but teachers should do more to make the public aware of what they think works in a school rather than waiting around until someone else judges them. Free press will always be honored in my book. The Times had every right to publish the scores, and the teachers have every right to write in and debate them. Perhaps a few would even be published! It’s not shameful that scores were so low, it’s shameful that the reactions were so hostile and negative. Way to set the example! Those poor kids don’t care about scores, but they do care if their role model goes and kills herself. What has the world come to?

DARLA KIDDER September 28, 2010, 3:43 AM

Not a very intelligent thing to do on the part of the LA Times , just goes to show how much class they have . NONE. How do you think those writers became writers in the first place because of teachers.

Special educator September 28, 2010, 3:49 AM

This is really sad. It is the absolute worst time in history to be a teacher, let alone public school. Since when are teachers the enemy? My students are several years below grade level because of their disabilities. yes, diagnosed real disabilities. They never perform well on standardized tests yet I am forced to prepare them all year. They never pass at all. If my district were to publish our scores based on the state test, I would be done on several levels. That would be a shame because my kids make progress every year and I used to love teaching before all of this nonsense. Very disheartening.

Mikw September 28, 2010, 4:18 AM

I am sure I will be called cold hearted etc. That being said I am sick to death of a completely dysfunctional education system. The teacher unions continue to protect teachers that do not measure up. I have children who have now spanned k-12. I have found that as they have gotten into higher grades it has gotten far worse. Parents need to take on much of the responsibility for there childrens education, I believe this is not the case. Teachers need to realize, they are PUBLIC SERVANTS and work for the TAXPAYER. We see all the time Police and other public servants in the press with ratings and how much they make. WE THE PEOPLE ARE YOUR BOSSES and you are accountable to US. IF YOU DO NOT LIKE IT TAKE A JOB IN A PRIVATE SCHOOL OR BECOME A PRIVATE TUTOR. WE all have choices.

Brandy Byrne September 28, 2010, 4:49 AM

Well said Mikw!! I totally agree.

Carolee September 28, 2010, 5:05 AM

Boy this one is a hot button for me!

I have had 6 kids/stepkids in public schools- all very smart kids. They love learning but none really liked school.

I have always wanted to homeschool, yet everyone kept harping at me about socialization,socialization,socialization…

Last year, due to a medical issue, I homeschooled my 12 year old daughter.

She did so well and met so many great (nice, drug-free, non-sex talk, etc…) kids.

Because her Dad (who by choice has no contact) thinks she’d be BETTER in school than at home socializing with good kids, she wanted to go back to PS (thinking that would please him and he’d see her- NOT!).

I’m not too pleased about her being in PS….Check this out:

http://comeonhome.net/theyre-armed-and-dangerous

I think teachers have way too many kids in their classes and not enough flexibility to teach in a fashion that may actually work better than the standard “read this chapter, then fill out this worksheet, and here’s your test”.

I worked for a year in an elementary school- problem students in k-2nd grade were “pushed out” to me for extra academic resources.

The teachers weren’t all that cheerful in my opinion…but how could they be?

There were at least 5 “problem children” that I helped from just one class. Most classes had a few…

For the record, maybe my own kids are strange, but …..

In 6th grade, my daughter LOVED science, but didn’t do too well grade wise.

She did great in language arts, but didn’t ace the state tests, like one would assume she would, in fact she was a little low.

Now math is the one that surprises me- math has always been her weak subject, yet she did very well on the state tests.

Go figure….

So do test scores really mean anything? Some kids test well, some don’t test well at all.

And I will shut up now :-)


Jeannie September 28, 2010, 5:43 AM

Free press indeed, but the LAtimes abused that right when they didn’t research both sides. That is a responsibility that comes with freedom of the press. I’m thinking the LA Times just emphasized their own inabilitiy to report the news effectively. Ironic, isn’t it?

Julie@comehaveapeace September 28, 2010, 5:43 AM

I have the perspective of a teacher and a mom. I understand how the teachers must’ve felt, but I also understand the need to draw attention to gaps in our educational system. Teachers ARE public employees, and the public has a right to know information (There is a law in CA to provide for this). The manner in which the Time did it may’ve not been the best approach. If I’m doing my best in the classroom, though, my students, parents, and administrators will know it, and I have nothing to worry about.

Carole M September 28, 2010, 5:43 AM

It’s more of a system wide problem.Don’t necessarily blame teachers.Is there a lot of support from their community?Remember Central Falls,RI?My husband and nephew graduated from that school system.No one pushed them to go to college or to excel.I went to school the next town over where we were told you had to go to college it wasn’t an option.You had to go.There was 30 years difference between my husband and nephew.The school system should be put on notice like Central falls was.Central Falls remained complacent until they were forced to change.

Wanda September 28, 2010, 5:50 AM

I have a 10th grade son who has dyslexia and ADHD. I have been asking for help for him from his teachers since 6th grade to no avail. I am finally battling school administrators with a lot of frustation on my part. They take their good sweet time, meanwhile my child is failing. I work with him at home on his schoolwork and even do the practice tests before school. He needs additional help and they don’t seem to care. They need to be held accountable. I’m not saying the smear campaign is the way to go but something needs to be changed. If that was me in my position at my job, I probably wouldn’t have the job.

CynicalEdge September 28, 2010, 5:51 AM

First of all, I think it’s a sad state of affairs and is a telling concern that so many parents don’t want to know who is teaching their children or how good they are at it.

Personally, I care enough about my children and their education to want to know these things. I don’t want my children taught by subpar teachers and you shouldn’t either.

Secondly, if that man was capable of committing suicide, it has nothing to do with people knowing he was a poor teacher. I’d wager it had far more to do with a culmination of his life choices rather than him being a poor teacher and the world knowing about it. If your job is that stressful for you, get another job.

Being so selfish as to kill yourself over a job is a little pathetic, don’t you think?

serendipity September 28, 2010, 5:51 AM

Suicide is no answer to a bit os stress. With such instability, he needed to be removed from the kids anyway. He likely internalized and had issues with “blame” which ended up as this: his own final personal selfish catastrophe. It was ears in the making, not just a spontaneous act, so lets blame the newspaper..blame blame blame!! You like Darwinism? There you have it. All this insipid sentiment on tap for the most irrational things, isnt’ that the female way? You know Venus/Mars and the right-brain halve? Chemistry ruling females. I say publish results of all teachers. The good ones get a star on the firdge. Good teaching isn’t about more money, it starts with having high expectations for the kids and a servant’s attitude.


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