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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 volunteeredto 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
3rd Street Elem Mom September 28, 2010, 11:52 AM

The LA Times was irresponsible in their actions and shallow in their research efforts. Did they look into the national trends regarding test scores for 8 year olds/third graders? Did they speak to educational leaders to ask their opinions on how much gravitas should be afforded to children’s test scores? As a parent at Third Street Elementary, I was offended that a nationally accredited teacher like Karen Caruso would be held feet to the fire. Her students often come in with advanced or perfect scores and if they drop by one point, it effects her value-add rating. How is this considered reasonable? It is widely recognized that testing can be affected by environmental circumstances such as hunger, sleep and stress. It is impossible to believe that a teacher can control the home and transportation environments of 25 students during the testing period.

Additionally, the scores at our school are start higher than average so there is less room for growth. The LA Times comparison is not apples to apples but apples to bananas!

The editor of the Times, as well as the reporters who wrote this series of articles, owe Karen Caruso, and the other teachers who were dragged through the mud, a public apology for their irresponsible actions in the quest of selling newspapers.

boord September 28, 2010, 12:04 PM

What was published was teacher effectivness, they compare test scores from previous years to currect test scores. The teachers who got a bad grade were the ones whose students scored worse than the previous year. Meaning students actually lost ground while in some teachers classroom. Example most of a class scored at 3rd grade level one year and the same kids scored at 2nd grade level the following year and the same thing happend in the same teachers classroom for a few years you got a bad teacher. That is what was published NOT just a single years test scores.

Susan September 28, 2010, 12:44 PM

But the article also said that the school doesn’t matter in the ratings it’s the actual teachers that matter. As a parent I think it is absolutely imperative to publish those reports. I need to know who is educating my child.
The fact is that right now a lot is determined by those test scores.
If we disagree with that, then fight that part.
Also, on the tests is all of the math english, etc. we expect our children to learn. If a teacher can’t teach that, then what.
The other reason I think to publish is that now a lot of areas are trying to train teachers better. This way we can see. Maybe one year is not enough to evaluate a teacher, but if year after this teacher is having issues, then there is clearly something wrong.
I think the schools need to train teachers better and I have a right to choose the teacher for my child based on evaluations

Debra Mathews September 28, 2010, 1:18 PM

No I don’t think the paper should have published it. I think ALL school districts should have minimums and a policy to work with a teacher that falls to the minimum and fire a teacher that has a rating below the minimum. We must improve our schools but not at the expense of embarrassing people!

Jon September 28, 2010, 2:37 PM

For those who still believe EQ is the path to nirvana and happiness, while IQ is just a myth,… this guy was ALL about EQ, so there you go!

I think they should publish all student grades in the newspaper. Embarrass the hell out of low performers, and force them to change their lifestyles, under threat of being taken away to serve in the Army.

Schools should have a hallway set aside called the, “Corridor of Shame”, where low performers march every Friday, as the higher than average students jeer at them!

Their parents should have bumper stickers on their SUVs that say, “My kid is STUPID, but we’re working on it.” Or, “My child was terminally DUMB, and just wrote me a semi-legible note using their govt. issued crayon, from Afghanistan”.

Anonymous September 28, 2010, 7:38 PM

I am a teacher and I work at a State Prison. I see the results of students passed along without knowing how to read, write or even to add.
Many children are not prepared for their grade level. Students are still moooooved along to the next grade because parents do not want the child held back.
If we are going to do this for teachers, then let us do it for the rest of the country; Mayors, Governors, Police, Doctors, Nurses,and Congress. The list goes on.
This is certainly demeaning. Most teachers that have the child’s future at heart, sometimes can’t get through a child that is some what damaged from all the things that happen before he or she even gets to school. That teacher is not a miracle worker without parents helping in the process. Just read the book Come on People by Bill Cosby. Many people from the beginning of the child’s life needs to be there long before the teacher gets there.
Discipline is another factor. I believe in a Boot Camp like Coach Carter in the movies. Teach children to respect themselves and then they will be able to respect others. Yet there is no money for this. Yet there is ALWAYS money for sports and buses. Where are our PRIORITIES????
Do you just want to make teaching extinct? More people will opt for another profession. During the 70’ and 80’s teacher left the profession because of all the Politics and garbage. The writing my friends is on the wall.

Read more:

lee grant September 28, 2010, 8:59 PM

The problem with education today is too much testing and going by the results which are just someones opinion, they are not in the classroom to observe what is going on. Most children today have no respect for teachers,parents or authority,which begins at home. So parents get involvrd!!!!!!!!!!

Jan September 28, 2010, 9:25 PM

So, how were ratings determined? Who did the rating? What constitues an effective teacher?

Basing a teacher’s effectiveness on the children’s test scores is very deceiving. My daughter is dyslexic. By 2nd grade she was reading at a 1st grade level, barely. When her 3rd grade teacher got her, she was still at a 1st grade level. By the time my daughter was out of third grade, she was just over a third grade level. Even though she made significant progress, she was not “on level” yet. No one seems to look that my daughter gained about 2 grade levels in a year….just that the teacher didn’t have my daughter on grade level. That is very unrealistic. So 1/4 of her class didn’t pass the standardized testing…that’s a major improvement for those kids though…when you actually take the time to look and see that every kid improved from the year before…and over 3/4 of those kids had failed the previous year’s test.

icime1989 September 29, 2010, 3:32 PM

1)How many of you are teachers? 2) How many of you are REALLY INVOLVED in the school vs. just going to a conference? 3) For all of those who have said pathetic things about the person who committed suicide, how many of you have been there vs. just knowing someone? AND for those who say teachers are a dime a dozen, get certified and go teach. AND for those who say some of the good might get caught in the downfall, I am a person NOT SOMETHING. Anyone who teaches or has been thoroughly involved with a school know that the number 1 thing is PARENT involvement. LETS ALSO PUT OUT IN PRINT THE INVOLVEMENT STATUS OF ALL THE PARENTS.

Larry September 29, 2010, 3:54 PM

the story says that “the motive” for the apparent suicide were “UNKNOWN”.

the publishing of the teacher ratings IS a good thing.

quesadilla September 29, 2010, 11:45 PM

The LA Times is not responsible, and should not be held accountable for anybody’s suicide. The desire to end one’s own life prematurely springs from experiences they had as a child. It is true that the older a suicidal person becomes, the more unkind and misunderstanding people wear them down, but nobody with a toe-hold in reality would ever place so much stock in a newspaper’s feature about their work performance. The teacher who committed suicide was “reported” to have done so as a result of the feature, but for any of us to say that that was the “reason” would be ‘way out-of-touch. Only that woman knows all that she has been through in the entirety of her days on earth. The newspaper feature may have been the last straw, but it was only the one stressor at which point she had had “enough.”

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Bob October 26, 2010, 6:41 PM

So, teachers don’t need unions. Look how quick everybody is to pick on teachers and that is how quick we would lose our jobs just because a newspaper “reports” a story on how effective a teacher is without even knowing the criteria and district they are working in. This is why we need unions, for protection from people who have never taught a day in their life telling us how it should be. The problem is the amount people pay in school tax is visible on their tax bill. No one cares what the federal government is doing with the taxes collected or even what is collected at the state level. Just the school tax. I got into teaching to help kids, now all I worry about is getting rated badly because after all, that is what my job depends on. Not the character building, not the committees I am on. Not the setting up of schoolwide events. Not the home visits. Not the coaching. Not the hospital visits. Certainly not the outreach work either. I donot see many special area teachers in the top 100 either. Are they no less important. Many of the special area teachers (Art, Music, PE, SE) have a great influence on students’ lives. But who cares about them anyway?

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