Michelle Rhee - Success or Failure?

Discussion in 'General Education' started by Genmai, Jul 21, 2009.

  1. Genmai

    Genmai Companion

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    Jul 21, 2009

    Since taking over the schools in D.C. a few years ago, Chancellor Michelle Rhee has polarized opinions on educational reform to fix the chronic low performance in the lowest performing urban school system in the U.S. Many applaud her radical hard-charging style to initiate change. Others find her actions reckless and naively optimistic.

    What do you think?

    http://www.charlierose.com/view/interview/9170
     
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  3. Miss84

    Miss84 Comrade

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    I had an interview for DC Public schools...let's just say I bombed the interview...on purpose. The amount of un-professionalism going on during the interview, I knew I did not want to work there. I can't speak on Rhee's progress, but I do know that DC schools haven't improved that much. Which is why there are thousands of charter schools in the city...no one wants to send their kid to a DCPS school.
     
  4. KinderCowgirl

    KinderCowgirl Phenom

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    You know I love her take on getting rid of ineffective teachers. I wish more administrations would be able to do that.
     
  5. teach2read10

    teach2read10 Companion

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    I don't know enough about her, other than she has been able to get a lot of press.
     
  6. Genmai

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    Well, there is a lot of press about her for good reason. I'm surprised more folks haven't posted opinions about her actions...
    :unsure:

    She is probably the most radical big-city education reformer working in the U.S. right now.

    Here is a video of her on Charlie Rose:
    http://www.charlierose.com/view/interview/9170
     
  7. TeacherShelly

    TeacherShelly Aficionado

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    Michelle Rhee and I hold opposite beliefs in almost every aspect. She focuses on test scores - to the point that she will show 3rd grade classes their rank spot among other schools and rally them to do better on the tests. I would never do that. She measures teacher performance with scores on standardized tests. She has an ideal teacher in mind: one who stays and sweats it out with the class until they do better on those tests. She would not consider me a good teacher, I think, because I purposely protect my students from standardized test scores. "Results for kids" don't mean "STAR Test Scores" to me, but it does for her. "The best interests of kids" are measured by "student achievement levels" and "what else matters?" She says, other things like whether the kids "feel good" "are happy" "are creative" don't matter if they can't read. A kid who is reading 2 levels below grade level isn't likely to make strides toward grade level while feeling bad, unhappy, and like s/he has no creative outlet.

    She seems to believe that a kid who isn't reading as well as her peers should have all efforts on her behalf focused on fixing that. I believe in treating a child as a whole person with talents and qualities that deserve to be nurtured, and who is part of a community of people who are all on different places on every continuum of skills and abilities. To compare a kid and set them up to compete with other kids is wrong.

    Like I said, I just disagree with her in just about every possible way.

    She is a lightning rod for the Accountability Movement (I also object to this name because it makes me feel like if I'm not FOR IT, I am not for accountability which is not true).
     
  8. Ms.Jasztal

    Ms.Jasztal Maven

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    I see the positives and negatives. Yet I do hold the belief if a child cannot read, (s)he needs a lot of extra assistance to get him or her to where (s)he needs to be. A child cannot solve math word problems, write creative stories, explain his or her problem solving in science, appreciate chapter books, or learn about history through literature if (s)he cannot read. I cannot say the child is unhappy in not knowing how to read necessarily, but it does equate a feeling of inadequacy.
     
  9. TeacherShelly

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    I agree that a child who cannot read (at least by 8 or so) needs intervention. What I don't agree with is Ms. Rhee's assertion that nothing else matters. The kid matters. I think Ms. Rhee would be happy to expand the notion of teaching the whole child if and when the child was passing the state reading test and not a minute sooner.
     
  10. Genmai

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    Jul 27, 2009

    TeacherShelly,

    Do you teach in a tough urban district?

    Specifically, I refer to a district whose school environment is dysfunctional because the schools do not educate the kids in any meaningful way. These districts exist in cities like Baltimore, New Orleans, D.C., Detroit, L.A., New York City, Chicago, etc. Basically, these are the districts with high violence, high poverty, and poor economic growth. These districts are primarily black and latino in population which further exacerbates the sense of disenfranchisement and heightens the alienation that certain groups feel about society at large.
     
  11. TeacherShelly

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    Nope, I have to admit I teach in very special circumstances. Wealthy, wealthy district; public lottery school for Whole Child instruction. So, no, I don't want to teach Michelle Rhee's way and I don't have to. Unless it becomes a one-size-fits-all panacea for all the world's ills. I hope not.
     
  12. Ron6103

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    .... I don't know about the DC situation specifically, and while I agree that all aspects of the child and his/her situation should be considered, if a kid can't read...... that is all that should matter. That needs to be fixed, and pronto.

    And until the kid can read, all other issues should be put aside. I have had several 14-15 year old's that could barely read, and the problem should have been addressed years and years ago, but never was.

    I personally feel that we've taken things too far.... we've begun to let self-esteem, happiness, and creativity override actual academic instruction. I'm sorry, but I think a kid needs to focus on academic achievement.... to hell with creativity if they can't read, count, or find their own state on a map. That needs to change. The self-esteem and other jazz can, and will, come later as the student builds up their skills.
     
  13. TeacherShelly

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    I don't see reading as a singular process outside the rest of learning. Learning, to me, is a holistic experience. But even if I'm wrong about that, I think it is pure rhetoric to put an entire class, school, district, state, or country on a path where we all master reading and then move on to other things. This puts all the focus on learning disabled kids (and a 14/15 year old who can barely read is learning disabled). What happens when 50% of the group masters reading? We focus on the other 50% because reading is the first "only thing" that matters.

    If you believe in teaching a whole child, you will naturally identify kids who are falling behind and engage them in developing all areas - some they are naturally good at and will lead to more positive reading experiences, and some they are naturally having trouble with (if it's reading, via reading interventions).

    Michelle Rhee reminds me of Michelle Malkin. My name is Michelle, too, but the similarities end there.
     
  14. smurfette

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    I taught in one of those districts that you mentioned, and now I live outside of DC. Thus, I hear a lot about her in the local papers. I have mixed feelings about Rhee. I think it's great that she's trying to organize things and get rid of the people who are just there for a paycheck. Those teachers who have neglected to get certified after a billion years need to go.

    However, I don't completely agree with applying the business model to schools, because teachers are not the only ones who can influence a student, and basing pay solely on test scores is ridiculous. Students are not products that roll off an assembly line. When I taught in the urban system, I had students whose parents were homeless, whores, drug addicts, drug dealers, etc. Actually, many were combinations of what I've listed. Some kids can rise above it, but not all can. Seriously, if you can't sleep because your mom takes you to a party until 3 a.m. (where drugs and alcohol abound), how are you going to focus in school? DC has to fix its community problems first and foremost before its schools will seriously be somewhere that I would dare send a child.

    I still teach in a Title I school, but in a district that trusts and supports its teachers. My students still have a lot of problems at home, but many of the parents actually do care, and they want their children to be better off than they are. I didn't see that when I worked in the city.

    As a disclaimer: I get the SPED students and the low readers in my class, and they pass their standardized tests (all but one passed reading and science, ALL passed math), but I still don't think "merit pay" is the answer to our educational woes.
     
  15. Genmai

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    Michelle Rhee's single minded focus on measurable performance is specifically for Washington D.C.'s public school system. It may be also applicable to other large urban systems, but not a rich largely white district. For a dysfunctional educational system that quite simply isn't working, stressing the fundamentals has been her approach.

    If you have a rich white kid whose dad runs a hedge fund drop out from school, the kid has other second chances simply because his family has money. He may go to Europe, learn filmmaking, etc. If a poor black kid from a broken home in a blighted community drops out of school, the implications are much more dire for him.

    I don't necessarily agree with Michelle Rhee - I'm only trying to present her fairly here. I'm interested in reading what others think.
     
  16. TeacherShelly

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    If Michelle Rhee advocates a business model for education, then I really disagree with her. If school is a business, what is the product? Who are the stakeholders? What is the currency? What is the mission statement? What is the purpose of education?

    I advocate for all kids - poor ones, rich ones, white ones, etc. My humble opinion is that people (and kids are people) do better when they feel better; they don't do better when they feel worse. In this feeding frenzy over justly criticized "self-esteem" programs that spread layers of honey all over real problems, it is important to understand the real value of emotions on achievement. When a child feels incompetent, in danger, stupid, lazy, and disrespected, s/he is not in an emotional place for learning. Educators focusing exclusively on their Inability To Read has the unfortunate consequence of placing more shame, guilt, and inferiority on the student. At best, it's like Henry Higgins fixing up Eliza Doolittle. She realized he was insulting her, and it was all because he focused on her negative quality. Sure, a cockney accent isn't as detrimental to life as being illiterate, but the effects of the singular focus are the same.

    There are many strands of problems leading to a school district full of illiterate, uneducated students. Turning everything off except the firehose of reading instruction is not a very well-reasoned response. In my opinion.
     
  17. rachaelski

    rachaelski Habitué

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    I think Rhee is great. She is shaking up urban education systems, which is needed. As educators, we need data to back up what we are doing in the classroom. Good teachers keep data on their students and can use that to better serve them. Great teachers understand the importance of standardized testing- a means of comparing results of student performance state-wide (or in this case, throughout the District). How can we say we are doing our jobs as educators if we do not have the data, unbiased data, to back it up.

    I am all about providing my students with an authentic education, and I do- my kids learn to write by writing and become better readers by reading- but it's vital that we have data to show their progress or lack thereof. I can claim that my students are learning to write narratively, but what and where is my proof?

    Data is your friend, we as teachers need to step up our data collecting and analysis- for the kids. I too taught in a rough district, in one of the most violent cities in the country, and using data to guide student learn is what made me as a teacher, and my school as a whole, great. We used data in a effective way to guide student achievement.
     
  18. karebear76

    karebear76 Habitué

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    If you are familiar with the Baldridge model, then stakeholders, mission statements, products, et al are all determined...

    Stakeholders are all those involved: kids, parents, teachers, admin, community, local businesses

    Product: a well educated student who can enter the community/businesses and be a productive employee.

    (FWIW, I know nothing about DC...I'm a long way from that reality...just wanted to throw this out there with the comment If schools are businesses then....)
     
  19. rachaelski

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    In the two districts I have worked for the book Good to Great has been a part of professional reading. Essentially, it is a book about successful businesses and why they are successful. We read it at the last school I worked at during inservice. While it's not literally about education its points can be applied. Walgreens are built on corners so there are two entrances on two different streets; that deals with accessibility...as a reading teacher, I need to make sure I have books and reading items accessible to my kids. Etc, etc, etc.
     
  20. smalltowngal

    smalltowngal Multitudinous

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    rachael~I agree that we need data to make sure that we're teaching what we're supposed to teach; however, I do not think that data should come strictly from standardized tests. There are other ways to gather more diverse data: benchmarks, portfolios, observations, projects, etc. And I do not think teacher pay should be determined by student performance.
     
  21. smurfette

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    We do Baldrige at our school. I like it and think it has really helped my classes come together as a community and work together towards goals. I also like how it involves the students in the goal-setting and data analysis. I'm just not putting my paycheck on the back of a single test.

    From what I understand, the DC teachers are not against using data to drive instruction. I'm sure there are some that don't want to, but you can find those teachers everywhere. It's her people skills. She simply never got the good teachers and administrators on her side. She posed on the cover of Time with a broom declaring battle on the teachers. Battle? On your own teachers? Really? It's hard enough being accepted as an outsider in a predominantly AA urban school district, doubly so if you're Korean (I personally don't have bias against other races, but a lot of DC parents were upset by her race. It's ugly, but it's the truth.) But it's possible, if you work with your teachers and not against them. Look at Alonso in Baltimore. He's a Hispanic leading a predominantly AA district, but there isn't huge resistance to him because he works with people. And he's increasing test scores.
     
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2009
  22. Genmai

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    If you listen to her interview, she addresses this photo. Time magazine editors, being in the business of selling magazines, took a variety of photos including those with her kids, but they selected the stern image with the broom. Kudos to Time magazine for eliciting the effect they sought.

    Michelle Rhee is not a warm and fuzzy type of administrator. She is a technocrat who would be perfect in the corporate world. It is true that many feel that she is not working with teachers and the community. At the same time, her predecessors have ALL failed to fix the system by being more politic, making compromises, etc. Her strength is her weakness - she is not a sweet talking, charming politician. Go figure.

    Rating a teacher's effectiveness strictly by numbers is not the best solution. But if you have 10,000 teachers in a failing system, how the heck is anyone supposed to objectively determine which teachers are good and which teachers are bad? Yes, it is true that a single statistic in isolation of other measures doesn't mean anything. But, I find it hard to support the argument that no empirical data on teachers is a good thing.
     
  23. MsBee

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    So...I have been reading up on her and watching her videos. There are some things I agree with and things I don't. I don't understand that she feel creativity and students being happy is not part of the big picture...but anyway.
    As a first year teacher I was thinking about trying to teach in DC Public Schools.
    Would this be a good move or bad move?
    I have not heard her say anything about the new teachers coming in that are not from Teach for America.
     
  24. schoolteacher

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    This district needs to make big changes. Rhee is a person with courage who is going to take risks and try something different. Something different is what is desperately needed here. She's intelligent, and she cares. For her, the students come first. I'll be watching this situation with much interest.

    "People say, 'Well, you know, test scores don't take into account creativity and the love of learning.' You know what? I don't give a crap. Don't get me wrong. Creativity is good and whatever. But if the children don't know how to read, I don't care how creative you are. You're not doing your job."

    I agree.
     
  25. MsBee

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    Yes she is right...but don't you need to be creative and do creative things to help students read as well?

    I'm not sure I am understanding correctly.
     
  26. Ms.Jasztal

    Ms.Jasztal Maven

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    I focus on a plethora of skills in my classroom, yet I teach through a variety of methods.

    One thing I learned about collecting data, however- by looking at a handful of standardized tests and practice tests my students have taken, I HAVE pinpointed strengths and areas where they need improvement.
     
  27. rachaelski

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    Amen, as a teacher I am very data-driven...however that does not mean that creativity is out the window. In fact, creativity and intuitiveness is more important in struggling districts than other districts. Kids in the DC district and the like need to be drawn into learning...they are often resistant, not because they don't want to learn, but because they don't have the training/support from home that more well off counterparts have. However, if an creative endeavor is not standards based, then there is probably no reason to teach it.
     
  28. Ms.Jasztal

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    Yes, Rachaelski, definitely!

    Right down to our class play in May, it is standards-based. We do so much- launch rockets, Halloween science, book talks, hands-on math, all kinds of review games... but I have standards to back nearly every activity up. Really, the only thing at all not standards-based is when my students decorate a few things for the holiday season.

    Just because I analyze data often enough does not mean I am some staunch, non-flexible person. Of course nobody called me that here, so no blaming caused me to type that. It was just a generalization that ran through my mind. I actually look at the cores of the questions my students miss- what skill was that question they missed based on? Last year, I had a boy who missed many sequencing questions (on tests I analyzed), and I worked on that with him. I must have done something right because I went from 2 (out of 20) students who earned a level 5 on the FCAT in third grade to 8 students who earned a 5/ 6 students who were less than 50 points (out of 2200 or so) from getting a level 5 in my class. I really attribute analyzing the data to how well the students performed.

    Creativity is so important, though, and maybe that's why my students also did well- I taught them so many ways they can apply EVERY subject to their life. I believe every student needs every subject in a way, but hopefully their learning can be optimized if teachers know what they have to work with.
     
  29. rachaelski

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    And this is exactly the direction that education needs to go! Rhee is one of those people who can do it!!! :thumb:
     
  30. Ms.Jasztal

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    I don't know much about her... but...

    I am very much a middle-of-the-road person.

    Hopefully teachers can obtain a balance in their classrooms, focusing on data and making instruction engaging/fun for the students.
     
  31. Genmai

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  32. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    I don't work in a poor, inner-city district (although I have). I work in a high performing, high SES district with supportive parents, professional staff, excellent professional development opportunities. We are one of the higher paid districts in my state and our almighty test scores are good. At a recent administrators' meeting, however, the following article was left out on the table after the meeting adjourned:
    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB125860189986054965.html#printMode

    Not sure what the discussion around the article was...and I certainly can appreciate the difficult job Ms Rhee has in 'cleaning up' the DC school district, holding teachers accountable, raising the bar...However, I am concerned that administrators in other districts see her tactics as strategies they may employ during tough contract negotiations, tough budget times, even though those districts may be VERY different than DC...My district is not one in which an administrator needs to 'clean house' at all, so it makes me wonder....just WHAT was that conversation?
     
  33. FourSquare

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    I just love her. :) She has no interpersonal skills at all whatsoever, but I like to think her heart's in the right place. I just hope she's not some nasty corrupt politician like the rest of them. I do not mind her red track/green track plan and I would go teach for her in a heartbeat. Unfortunately I don't think the union will ever let that be implemented, so you probably don't have to worry about it spreading.
     
  34. Doug_HSTeach_07

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    I love her too. Get rid of the bad, lazy, apathetic, and ineffective teachers that have been coddled for far too long by the overzealous teachers unions. Get some accountability, teach like you mean it, and watch the results. Love the common sense, tough love, and simple approach to education.
     
  35. Bumble

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    I teach in a drug and crime infested area of the city. A lot of my students came to me in September throwing chairs, tables, or fighting if someone looked at them. Now they rarely do these things. Would Michelle Rhee identify these as successes? No, because they are not measurable by a standardized test. How on earth am I able to get a kid up to grade level who is 4 years behind and the parents refuse to read to their child?

    There are amazing teachers who teach in tough areas, but we don't have enough parental involvement. We have kids raising their siblings. They are in survival mode. We can throw billions of dollars and attract the best of the best, but it won't solve the problem. Hold parents accountable. I'm all for accountability and I'm glad that I'm held to high standards, but it is ridiculous that parents get away with so much. I had groups of parents scream in my face to inform me that their children can fight whomever they want.

    I'm not a fan of Michelle Rhee. She did not once talk about the fact that students with disabilities are held to the same standards as their typical peers. Some of these students can barely write their names, yet they have to take these tests!

    /end rant
     
  36. futureteach21

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    I love her! Education in America is in the pits. I think teachers, administrators and the like tend to throw blame around as much as they can. I like that she holds people accountable. Like she said, if you can't do your job, you should get a new one. I think she is on the right path, maybe not exactly where American education should be, but at least she is changing the way things are.
     
  37. FourSquare

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    Not true to an extent. The media has focused pretty intensely on the test score aspect, but there are other evaluation methods that would be used, including observations of classroom management. She is also looking for things like better attendance and less behavior referrals.

    You get a bonus if you meet test score goals. You don't get fired if you don't, but they should be going up at least. There is a probationary period and other things that have to happen before you're kicked to the curb.

    ***And if you don't want this "green" track, you can still go the traditional route and get a 26% raise***:eek:

    The only teachers that should be horrified of this plan are the ones who put minimal effort into their jobs. These teachers maintain low expectations for their students because nobody cares. Once these teachers reach tenure, it's incredibly hard to get rid of them.

    If you are concerned enough about your evaluations to be worried, I think you would do what you needed to get a good rating. It's the ones who shrug them off that Rhee's after.

    -----------------------------------
    The plan is publicly available through DCPS:

    http://dcps.dc.gov/DCPS/Files/downl...aching-and-Learning-Framework-August-2009.pdf

    And there are diffierent guidelines for special education teachers:

    http://dcps.dc.gov/DCPS/Teaching+and+Learning/IMPACT+(Performance+Assessment)/IMPACT+Guidebooks

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dy...30/AR2009093004729_2.html?wprss=rss_education

    Program Overview: IMPACT

    *Only half of the evaluation is based on test scores.

    "Most of the other half -- and the bulk of the evaluations for teachers in non-testing grades -- will be based on an elaborate new 'teaching and learning framework' introduced at the beginning of the school year. Over the course of five classroom observations, teachers will be scored in 22 areas across nine categories. The criteria include clarity in defining a lesson's objective and instilling in students a belief that hard work leads to success.

    After an initial observation, all teachers will receive a "growth plan" outlining strengths and weaknesses and plans for assistance, if needed. Rhee said the District is committed to "targeted professional development" to help struggling teachers improve.

    By June, their performance will be converted to a 100-to-400 point scale. Those falling below 175 will be subject to dismissal."

    *To allay teacher concerns that assessments will be tainted by personality clashes with principals, IMPACT will employ a corps of third-party "master educators" to conduct two of the classroom observations.

    :love:
     
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2009
  38. KinderCowgirl

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    Dec 31, 2009

    Personally, I guess I've never really understood tenure. I know people don't want to have to pay more for really experienced teachers and could summarily dismiss them-but some places teachers are tenured after like 3 years. It's like saying your a car salesman and after so many years in the business, it doesn't matter how many cars you sell each year-no matter what you have your job. I can't think of another industry that works like that.

    I like that they are planning on doing classroom observations-I wonder who will do them-will that be admin or someone from Rhee's staff. Working in early childhood, we are exempt from our district's incentive pay because we don't take a test in the beginning of the year to compare their January standardized scores to. Even though we often make huge leaps in progess-it's not considered measurable. I certainly don't want them taking those tests in Pre-K but it would be nice to have a system of observations in place.

    I do agree with others though, once something in education is deemed a success, it seems everyone wants to implement it and this probably wouldn't work everywhere.
     
  39. FourSquare

    FourSquare Fanatic

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    Dec 31, 2009

  40. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Dec 31, 2009

    Outside of a sports arena, I don't think it's possible to judge most people as "success or failure", myself included.

    The kids who got 99's and 100's (and Katie with her 97) on my trimester exam think I'm a wonderful teacher.

    The 3 kids who failed for the trimester probably have less glowing things to say.

    I think she's sincere about trying to make positive changes for most of the kids in her charge. For that I commend her. She's not afraid to make enemies if it means getting the job done. For that too I commend her.
     
  41. monsieurteacher

    monsieurteacher Aficionado

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    Dec 31, 2009

    While her delivery is harsh, I agree with her as well. I think many of us have read this quote through our own lens of experience. The fact that you are on a website to discuss professional practice says a lot about your level of professionalism in the first place. We are a biased sample. At my previous school, there was quite a big deal about the grade two french immersion test scores in reading and writing. The school had two classes, and of those two classes, only 12% reached at least an appropriate level. That's pretty low. Of course, the gut reaction is to blame everyone around... but judging by my interactions with the third grade teacher who is looping with her second grade class that did so poorly last year, she is very "creative"... she would play Disney movies during Art class, and when talking about how she missed her Art class because of a fire safety demonstration, she said she would just make a switch... taking away from time for reading and writing in order to make their Thanksgiving turkey art. Then, when I mentioned that me and the other grade three English teacher were organizing a field trip to view some historical places in our city, touching on outcomes in both Social Studies and Science, and that the grade three French classes could come on the bus as well, providing their own French program, she said "oh, it will be nice for them to see the Christmas lights" ???

    My point is that there are creative teachers who come up with creative (and effective) ways to teach students, and then there are "creative" teachers who are all about creativity as opposed to learning. I believe Rhee is talking about the latter.

    (And just before I get comments about that last paragraph, don't hear what I'm not saying. There DEFINITELY needs to be creativity time in school... but there has to be a balance.)
     

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