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Thompson: Public Reprimands

Fishbowl-russian-dolls There are reasons for protecting teachers from public reprimands. We work in a fishbowl. Classroom instruction is a subjective work in progress requiring confidence, trust, leadership, and teamwork.  I have seen how administrators can undermine an educator by evading the collective bargaining agreement and expressing displeasure with a wink and a nod.  But the Los Angeles schools just outsourced the shaming of teachers to the press, and "reformers" seem oblivious to why the Golden Rule should apply in this case.  So, let us see the work in progress of others who helped to publicly reprimand teachers in the LAUSD.  Let's see the ongoing communications between the journalists and their editors discussing the strengths and weaknesses of their evidence.  How was the narrative framed? Didn't we know in advance that the series would find a teacher with National Board certification to criticize?

Even when using test score data in good faith, we must consider the harm to lab rats teachers drafted against their will into this experimental work in progress.  Surely reporters were not predisposed to find a traditional story line where teachers with poor test score growth also displayed poor interpersonal skills.  Did the evidence alone identify a sympathetic teacher who thinks she is helping her students but who is actually displaying low expectations?  Or did the reporters set out to find stories to illustrate the data with a  compelling tale?  And didn't the LAUSD consider these dynamics before allowing reporters to watch teachers at work in order to flesh out their morality plays narratives?

Superintedent Cortines, I hope you will read teacher/blogger Larry Ferlazzo and see this episode as a case study in abusiveness of data-DRIVEN evaluations versus data-informed evaluations.  Once the test scores give the "right" answer, is it a surprise that subjective observations magically find evidence to confirm the evaluator's agenda?  Had the Times reporters watched the National Board certified teacher they portrayed before seeing her lack of test score growth, would they have seen something else in her practice to praise, rather than attacking her progressive-sounding approach to assessments?

Superintendent, the same will apply to your administration.  Will the Times series generate more light on instruction or heat regarding the governance of the LAUSD?

Secretary Duncan, coaches can now compile a complete video archive of each player's work in progress in daily practice, and turn it over to the media.  So whenever a player does not put enough points on the scoreboard, the public could review his day-by-day efforts and judge for itself.  You would love to play for such a coach, wouldn't you?  Incentivizing public reprimands is a great strategy for building championship teams, isn't it?  Better yet, why not let the fans choose the player who gets the ball at crunch time?

I had hoped that teachers could appeal to the common decency of Secretary Duncan, but he has endorsed this "stomach-turning" practice of Los Angeles.  At minimum, I expected a balanced response similar to the statements issued yesterday by Cortines.  But Duncan has also chosen to contract out the dirty business of issuing public reprimands.


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umm big diff. teachers are public employees. government employees. last time i checked the la times is not funded by my tax dollars. thanks for playing, nice try. analogy SUX..

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