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Thompson: Teachers & Schools At The Mercy Of A Bell Curve


I have long warned about putting teachers and schools at the mercy of a bell curve. Now we see another bell curve as districts sacrifice both the most improving schools and the most promising individual teachers.

First, NY1's Lindsey Crist has a story Brooklyn School Earns City's Highest Grade, Along With Spot on DOE Overhaul List that describes  a school that is being closed.  Maxwell, the NYC high school with the fifth highest concentration of the city's at-risk students, moved from a grade of an "F" to an "A."  The district still plans to dismiss half of the school's teachers.  The "A" graded school in NYC is apparently being punished because Mayor Mike Bloomberg is angry with the union for opposing his test-driven policies. 

The other end of the curve is illustrated in Bill Turque's Washington Post story 'Creative ... Motivated' and Fired, which recounts the firing of teacher, universally praised as outstanding,  because of the value-added portion of her evaluation.  The D.C. teacher was apparently a victim of her students' previous scores being inflated by the cheating scandal, which was encouraged by former chancellor Michelle Rhee's test score mania.  

This year, we read about the victims in high-challenge schools.  But we should be prepared for reports on the other end of the spectrum - great teachers being fired at great schools because a not-ready-for-prime-time statistical model can't control for student scores on the upper end of its bell curve.-JT (@drjohnthompson)


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It is articles like these that remind me of how bad of a situation we are in. The top few percent of people that have actually succeed in test- and teacher-centered education think they are the norm an pushing for others to be like them. Actually out of many of the people who have succeeded in the type of education, the lawyers, doctors, and politicians, most are criminals or con-artists. I would never want my students to turn out like them. This will be a never-ending fight until we can educate the public on how people actually learn, and what a successful life really is.

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