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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
Mikki  September 28, 2010, 6:04 AM

There’s no such thing as “crappy” teachers…only “crappy” reporting ie..omitting “crappy” parents who don’t place a high value on their child’s education. Parents & children who have little or no respect for what a teacher is trying to accomplish in the classroom are the real culprits behind “crappy” test scores.
The LA Times should not have posted teacher ratings without looking at the parents, administration and the children involved. Give out ALL the information behind these so-called “ratings”. I am thoroughly disgusted with the LA Times article. How dare they be that irresponsible in not giving out ALL the facts.

Tony September 28, 2010, 6:05 AM

Teachers are a dime a dozen. If a teacher does not like their job get out. There is always more to replace you.

momof2 September 28, 2010, 6:52 AM

why are all the comments defending the teachers? What is wrong with telling the world that they are not effective. What about all of the hundreds of children that did not have the benefit of a good educator at the front of the classroom? The teacher’s union has gone too far. It is time for the union to end and allow school administration to remove teachers that are not fit to teach. Both of my daughters have had horrible teachers that nothing was done even though concerns were brought to the attention of the school administration because “they are close to retirement and will be out of the system soon” The students with bad teachers are put behind in their education. This country as a whole is behind the world in educating our children. It is a sad state of affairs.

JR September 28, 2010, 6:53 AM

While the suicide is awful, that teacher was probably on the edge to begin with. It may have been a shock to see it in print, but facts are facts. The teachers unions have protected teachers who do not do the job they should be doing, and lump the outstanding teachers in the same crowd-so they cannot “shine”. With teachers salaries coming from public pockets,it is not fair that an outside group (Union)can determine what their salary and requirementrs are, what raises they get,and what their grounds for dismissal should be. If a local school district wants to pay for a great set of teachers with a higher wage,and tighter restrictions-they should be able to do that. But the unions have decided what we can expect to get for our money, and will not relinquish control. As a result, the kids get a few outstanding teachers, a few good teachers, a few mediocre teachers and then the overpaid babysitters. It is not fair to the good and great teachers to lump them in with the others,and it is not fair for the students. In a private company, a person can lose their job over one complaint, wether or not it is justified. The public has a right to know how their money is spent. Perhaps this will cause some people to do a better job. I would be more worried that the grading system was fair. If there are extenuating circumstances (teaching someone else’s class for an extended illeness,teaching children who are not english primary, teaching multiple grades etc,,,) They should be noted. Also,there should be an attempt to contact each one listed for comment. If you are going to post publicly,each person should have the opportunity to add their two cents to their grade.

miss ann September 28, 2010, 7:00 AM

As a parent of four children ages 30, 22, 19 and 12 years, I have experienced decades of the PS system as well as having home schooled each one of them at different periods and they have all attended private and public schools as well. My children thrived best when taught at home. It doesn’t take a degree to at least take some active role in your child’s education but some parents have the additude that it is wholly the job of teachers to educate the children. This is so untrue! It is a parents first duty to oversee their child’s education. That does not mean all children should be educated at home entirely but the teachers role is secondary to the parents, not primary! The role of the teacher should be to “assist” the parent in their innate duty of educating their child.

Denise September 28, 2010, 7:28 AM

They most certainly should publish teaching ratings. Most parents put their children on a school bus and know absolutely nothing of what goes on in school between then and when they come home. Most parents don’t even bother to find out such like looking at teacher’s manuals/books which they have every right to do to review the subject matter.

Despite what has been said to the contrary, teachers also have some of the best salaries in the country when you factor in that they only work 180 days, usually get overtime pay for anything over that (15 years ago, teachers in my previous school district were getting $35.00/hour overtime pay), their benefits with benefits exceeding most everyone else’s in the country, paid education with a C+ grade or above, conferences, and so on.

They certainly do need to be accountable to the public.

If anyone really believes that someone committed suicide over just this, they are sadly mistaken. For a person to take their own life, there had to be a lot of ongoing problems that this person was already dealing with. This may have added to it, but the person’s psych had to already been damaged.

What’s really sad is to flaunt the suicide just to accomplish the goals they are setting out to accomplish in order to make their point, to prove themselves right.

What’s even sadder, those around this person probably ignored the obvious signs the whole time.

MoorMookie September 28, 2010, 7:32 AM

Does any other industry post an employee’s job performance/evaluation in a public forum? This is a tool to better the performance of teachers, not an opportunity to embarrass people who spend more time with children than the parents do. If a parent is concerned about a particular teacher, they should have the freedom to ask about that teachers’ ranking, but pillaring the teachers in a public forum is a ridiculous thing to do.

Marcella September 28, 2010, 7:33 AM

Teachers’ ratings should definitely be published like many other locally/federally funded positions…. I know few private organizations and companies that keep employees who consistently under perform, those employees are fired and often times resign if they can’t keep up. It is tragic that those same standards are not used in our nation’s public schools.
I’m sorry about the teacher who committed suicide because of her score, but chances are she would have done the same thing had she underperformed in another position and her results were made public. If you can’t do the job, you should simply be held accountable!!!

Alli  September 28, 2010, 7:35 AM

NO, it is not fair to publish grades on teachers. This country is so messed up I cry at night.
You send unprepared teachers to do the job that parents have not done on top of teaching them academics.

You give teachers outdated materials, books that would bore the oldest adult let alone a young child, and you expect teachers to be body guards, counselors, and suppliers. Some schools in inner cities don’t even have the essentials such as copy machines, libraries, or access to phones in the classroom for emergencies.

You want to grade the teachers you are turning out that you do not prepare to teach children from impoverised countries and poverty that have PTSD and borderline personality disorders? Then let teachers grade our govenment, the parents who fail their children in the first place, the teachers who taught them in colleges, and the administration which passes the buck.

Give me a break. (And for the record…I am a great teacher…because I had two degrees and one was in PSYCHOLOGY which is what today’s teachers need to teach to the impoverished, drug using, sex having in 6th grade, molested, battered, and neglected students.)

Alli  September 28, 2010, 7:44 AM

And to the young woman who said teachers grade her…your right…you should not have grades at all. IF teachers are there to help, then assessment should NOT mean judgement. Traditional grading creates levels of intelligence and islolates those who do have problems they bring to the classroom at home (Because developmentally they do not know how to handle their situations). Grading should be about helping…we are NOT helping students by judging them and labling them failures as early as first grade. Give me a break. Where the hell is your empathy and care for your students Mr. Obama? Mr. Bush? This is only a game of creating students who will join the military because thier grades are not good enough to get into a decent college. You want to grade teachers? This whole deal is one big farce.

Sharon September 28, 2010, 8:13 AM

I’m not going to make a comment on this story, but suggest people take a look at this site! Totally related to the story… America’s Promise started by Colin & Alma Powell.
http://www.americaspromise.org

Roni September 28, 2010, 8:39 AM

I don’t see a problem with showing the teacher’s rating. If they are doing a great job educating our children, then it’s no problem. But, if we have teachers that are failing our children, we need to know. That should inspire the teachers to do a better job. Especially, when we have good teachers losing their jobs because of seniority issues, etc.
Who knew that this particular teacher would react that way. I feel that if he went to that extreme, he was a ticking time bomb anyway. No one can prevent a person from harming themselves if they really want to.

Julie September 28, 2010, 9:12 AM

I am very uncomfortable with posting the testing results in the paper. There are a number of factors that determine whether or not a teacher is doing a good job. Our children are holistically developing little people whose indicators of growth and development are far more complex than testing results. I care even more about the people that they are becoming. Are they learning compassion? Are they growing in their ability to take on challenges, tolerate frustrations, effectively navigate social situations, and the list goes on and on. Publishing test scores says nothing about the way that my child is being shaped in these other very important ways. Nevermind that a teacher cannot be a panacea for all the other factors in a child’s life such as poor parenting, poverty, and exposure to violence in unsafe neighborhoods. I give a big fat “NO” to shaming teachers in this way. I think it’s totally unfair.

Cheryl D. September 28, 2010, 9:29 AM

Excellent post! I’d like to know what methodology is used to rate the teachers? The L.A. Times recently did a piece on schools that were considered great but actually weren’t (according to a rating they did). They dragged Wilbur through the mud in that article. While any of these ratings can provide meaningful information, they can’t be looked at in a vacuum, as you indicated. On the rating they used for unperforming and overperforming schools, schools on either extreme of the spectrum would come out looking better or worse to a bigger degree—it’s just simple math. Not to say these assessments don’t carry any meaning—they do! But lots of different assessments need to be done—not just one kind.

siditty September 28, 2010, 10:45 AM

The responses here are why I choose not to teach. I’ve worked in private industry, as well as in the public school system, and I would never ever go back to the public school system. People are under the impression you get overtime and tenure, in most states this is not the case. In my job in private industry I was well compensated for working my 40 hours a week. I was not compensated well for my 80 hours a week in the schools. You take work home and there is no overtime. I don’t quite understand why people feel teachers should get paid next to nothing because they work for the taxpayer. Am I saying they should get paid millions of dollars? Nope, but I am saying that teachers in this day and age get no respect and are treated as glorified babysitters, by both parents and the administration.

I’m frustrated that the newspaper posted these results without giving disclaimers. If you teach special education where you are dealing with the mentally impaired, you are not going to get a good score because those kids don’t test well. If you have an IQ of 70, you typically don’t do well on a standardized test, common sense should tell people this, but people don’t take this into consideration when look at these ratings. If you are teaching English as Second Language, those kids might not do well on standardized tests because they don’t speak English and cannot read or fully understand the test, giving the teacher a bad rating. If you are teaching children with emotional problems, they might not test well.

Again though most of the people here posting comments about how horrible teachers are, probably aren’t taking how these ratings are calculated.

It’s not easy to teach, and since you think teachers have it so easy, you might want to go ahead and try teaching, and then I want you try to live off the salary and how well you live compared to other people with the same level of education.

There is a reason it’s hard to find good teachers, they get driven away from teaching by nonsense like this. Why take a job where people think you are overpaid to “babysit” their kids and where you work long hours, when you can get paid better in private industry to work with people who actually respect you and pay you for your time?

mikiwo September 28, 2010, 10:50 AM

Several important points:
1. The Grade needs to be a measure of each student’s CHANGE in test scores from last year. If a teacher has a class of low performers who were already years below level, she can’t be expected to perform a ‘miracle’ and yank them up to the current grade level.

2. Parents are responsible for making sure the kids do their Homework and that their kids listen and not be disruptive in class. As a parent, I am upset by the ‘out of control’ kids who waste our teachers’ ‘teaching time’ to deal with disciplining them. Some parents only blame the teachers instead of working with them.

siditty September 28, 2010, 10:50 AM

I also want to know how many of you working buy your own office supplies? Teachers often have to if they work in a low performing school. I wonder how many of you buy hygiene and toiletry items because your co-workers don’t have parents that provide such things for them?

TeacherMom September 28, 2010, 11:25 AM

I was thinking about teachers that are upset about being graded based on the test results of their students, and it made me think about all those children who stress about being judged on the basis of these same tests. I believe that learning of children, and the effectiveness of teachers, can’t be evaluated solely through a single evaluation tool (like a test score). It gives only a very limited picture of a hugely complex process. I’m not sure what the best way to measure overall success would be, but I think it would have to allow for multiple factors to be evaluated.

HomeCeoMom September 28, 2010, 11:31 AM

I absolutely think the LA Times has the right to publish the rankings. I do think the names of the teachers should have been limited to first name and last initial or the report should have excluded all of the teachers names and broken down the rankings by district, school and grade.

I know there are often circumstances out of a teachers control that can negatively impact their rankings. These can range from situations described above like class/grade splitting to uninvolved parents, to a great teacher having a class of students who lack fundamentals from previous years. There are too many variables that could affect the ranking to be an incorrect reflection of a particular teacher. The names should be provided to the district, not the public, and on-going rankings and evaluations should be performed to assist the district in specifying the effective teachers from the ineffective.

The bottom line is that public school districts are tax-payer funded and the tax-payers and citizens of the district have a right to know how effectively their tax dollars are being used within the district. These reports are excellent indicators of the districts performance and whether or not the district needs an overhaul.

I am sorry for the teacher who took their own life supposedly because of the report. It is extremely unfortunate that a handful of bad apples have unfair job security protection and the good, hard-working and passionate teachers and students are the ones who usually end up getting the shaft.

~Hillary is a Home Ceo Mom~
www.HomeCeoMoms.com

karen September 28, 2010, 11:33 AM

i think more newspapers should do this! parents have a right to know how teachers are doing! and the teacher that killed herself was obviously not stable to begin with,if it wasn’t this article that pushed her over the edge it would have been something else very soon ,she should not have been teacher kids in her unstable condition. who know what crazey thing she might have done in front of students!the article didn’t kill her she was not stable to begin with.why didn’t anyone see she wasn’t right in the head? or did they? and ignored it? either way it’s sad.


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