Heresy

March 6th, 2011 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Rachel Grunwell in the HoS reports:

A leading Auckland school is installing state-of-the-art software that will allow it to pinpoint its best-performing teachers – and show up those responsible for poorly performing pupils.

Macleans College, a decile-10 state school in Howick which often scoops top scholarships and has a reputation for high-achieving students, hopes to install a programme called EdReflect.

It will record and analyse student results, allowing the school to learn which teachers have taught students that got the best – and worst – results.

My first reaction to reading this, was that I am sure the teacher unions will hate it, and possibly call on the Government to ban it.

Post Primary Teachers’ Association president Robin Duff said the technology could be a good thing if it was used to improve teaching. But the teacher union head was “fairly alarmed” about the concept and feared it could be used “punitively” among “an armoury of sacking devices”.

God forbid a teacher be sacked merely because their students don’t actualy learn.

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101 Responses to “Heresy”

  1. mpledger (428 comments) says:

    So it’s to a teachers advantage to give kids good grades – sounds like a win/win situation – parents are happy, students are happy, teachers are happy.

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  2. Michael (880 comments) says:

    There is a much simpler way of working this out – ask the students. When I was at school there were some teachers I liked, some teachers I respected, and teachers I couldn’t be bothered about.

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  3. mavxp (490 comments) says:

    There needs to be a good peer-review system so that any KPI evaluation method isn’t scammed by the teachers it is meant to evaluate/ improve. It’s human nature to game the system – there needs to be validation that students are achieving by an objective 3rd party. Not sure how a software system ensures that. Colour me sceptical.

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  4. kiwigunner (184 comments) says:

    Don’t know how this piece of software works but provided it was able to accurately determine teachers effectiveness then so what. All it would need to do is ensure that it measured progress between children from a broad range of socio economic backgrounds, included an analysis of those children being supported and encouraged from home and those who are not, showed which children came to school hungry and those who are well fed, which children come from drug free families and which do not, which kids have a headache on test day and those who are ok, which children have a broad range of experiences and those who stay at home and watch TV, which children are more interested in playstation than school, which children are simply smarter, and how much progress each teacher acheives with the children rather than purely focusing on the level they get these kids too – then it should be simple. Not to say teaching skills themselves should not be looked at – but I guess that the senior management of each school already visits classrooms to observe this at least once each term.

    But then again maybe this is just a simplistic idea to a problem that has less to do with teacher quality but to a stuffed society.

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  5. John Gibson (295 comments) says:

    David you make the mistake that learning is a one way process: teachers download information and skills into receptive students. This ignores the ability of students to learn.

    Measuring a teachers performance by the results of student academic assessment is only meaningful if you also take into account the intellectual, psychological & sociological factors that impact on student academic performance. Assessing those is far more complex than sticking exam results into a spreadsheet.

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  6. kiwigunner (184 comments) says:

    Michael, teacher popularity is no measure of teacher competence. and it is ridiculous to think so. And measuring teachers this way would lead only to teachers trying to be …well popular!

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  7. John Gibson (295 comments) says:

    The right don’t like teachers because they are traditionally supporters of the left. A right wing blogger can’t wrong by ignoring logic and giving the teachers a kick.

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  8. Offshore_Kiwi (557 comments) says:

    Yep that’s right. Teachers give kids good grades. Kids are happy, but stupid. Parents are happy, but ignorant. Teachers remain employed.

    And New Zealand continues its slide towards 3rd world status.

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  9. bhudson (4,720 comments) says:

    “So it’s to a teachers advantage to give kids good grades…”

    mpledger,

    So what you are saying is we cannot trust teachers to put the interests of the children ahead of their own scoring? Interesting view you have on the professional duty of teachers.

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  10. Falafulu Fisi (2,176 comments) says:

    Journo Rachel Grunwell quoted:
    state-of-the-art software

    Is Rachel Grunwell an IT illiterate or what? Such software is no state-of-the-art. This is what happens when IT illiterate hyping up software or system to be state of the art, while in reality it is not. The term should only be reserved to engineering/scientific application because that’s where real state of the art development happens, anything else is not state of the art.

    Anyway, using such system may distract teachers from teaching students rather than being worrisome that someone is watching them.

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  11. DJP6-25 (1,236 comments) says:

    It sounds like a very useful tool. It should be used in all state schools from next term.

    cheers

    David Prosser

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  12. John Gibson (295 comments) says:

    Agreed FF. Software that collects assessment scores and uses them to rank teachers was probably state of the art last century :-)

    It seems more of tool for wage bargaining than a genuine way of improving education results.

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  13. DT (104 comments) says:

    Staying well clear of the political questions, this sounds puzzling. How could such software ever be remotely indicative of teacher performance? It would be impossible to have enough controls or dummy variables for much useful information to be gleaned. I hope that nobody gets fired for the spurious `findings’ of such a tool – not without overwhelming independent evidence from elsewhere, anyway.

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  14. Caleb (465 comments) says:

    John, im sure everyone is well aware of student ability and background and how this effects
    the difficulty in teaching.

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  15. reid (15,594 comments) says:

    Assessing those is far more complex than sticking exam results into a spreadsheet.

    There are a myriad of statistical techniques that can be applied to show whether a before and after difference is statistically significant (i.e. not by random chance) and whether or not the difference arises from any given causal factor(s).

    These are used everyday to diagnose and adjust manufacturing and service processes so they perform better.

    The science is well-established and well-known and well proven.

    Of course you have to want to apply it in the first place.

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  16. Michael (880 comments) says:

    Kiwigunner, I disagree – there were teachers I didn’t like who I respected because I learnt. There were other teachers who I liked but didn’t learn much from. It’s not about questioning about popularity, it’s about questioning about effectiveness.

    One teacher I had in fifth form gathered feedback on others and went and saw them to learn how to be a better teacher. She already knew who was good and who wasn’t, she just wanted to know what made them so good.

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  17. Manolo (12,641 comments) says:

    These bad teachers are the ones responsible for fostering a culture of mediocrity in their pupils.
    Losers in life who cannot tolerate achievers, these “teachers” deserve to be sacked.

    All power to the good educators, the axe to the lousy ones.

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  18. John Gibson (295 comments) says:

    Caleb – so why are the teachers always portrayed in the media as being solely responsible for student performance ? Could it be that teachers aren’t National Party voters ?

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  19. mpledger (428 comments) says:

    Reid said:
    There are a myriad of statistical techniques that can be applied to show whether a before and after difference is statistically significant (i.e. not by random chance) and whether or not the difference arises from any given causal factor(s).

    Since I am a statistician I can tell you that you are misinformed. There is no statistical test that determines if something is significant in reality or just random chance – if you spot a significant difference then it could be true or could be a chance result – noone knows.

    If you do a double blind randomised trial then I might give credence to something being a causal factor otherwise it’s just speculation.

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  20. Yvette (2,591 comments) says:

    Try Googling EdReflect

    Nothing relevant until –
    NZ Herald 8th on list
    kiwiblog 9th

    So, state-of-the-art software?
    Rachel Grunwell seems to have dug up little about the software itself, so it is just as well her bosses don’t have JournoReflect.
    If I were Post Primary Teachers’ Association president Robin Duff, I’d ask to see the software.

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  21. Neebone (28 comments) says:

    I spoke to a teacher from a technical institute who lamented that as many students as possible were enrolled for courses simply to gain the funding including many who should never have been there, no concern was given to completing, passing or even attending courses. However at the end of the year the teacher was sent a ‘please explain’ when the pass rate was considered unsatisfactory. How would this software cover that situation?

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  22. mpledger (428 comments) says:

    Mpledger said:
    “So it’s to a teachers advantage to give kids good grades…”

    Bhudson said:
    So what you are saying is we cannot trust teachers to put the interests of the children ahead of their own scoring? Interesting view you have on the professional duty of teachers.

    Mpledger said:
    If you want an abjective and fair system then you have to stop the bad eggs from gaming and/or cheating the system. If you don’t have safeguards in place then you’ll end up with something like 100% pass rates in NCEA just like Cambridge High School achieved. What a great (and tidy) school that was!

    I can’t find any info on EdReflect on the web. It really is state of the art.

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  23. Alan Wilkinson (1,798 comments) says:

    mpledger, you are really twisting Reid’s comment to create a straw man. There are tests for statistical significance. That is different from “significant in reality” as you note but it does serve as a coarse filter to weed out some insignificant results.

    I’m curious why you think a double blind randomised trial is some kind of holy grail. It is no more powerful to prove causation rather than correlation than any other test.

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  24. peterwn (2,939 comments) says:

    Heaven forbid! Macleans College will be asking for bulk funding next.

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  25. mpledger (428 comments) says:

    A friend of mine had a child doing the Australian Naplan exam. She got him to work really hard out of school so he would do well and he did. The teacher said that he exceeded her expectations by a long way.

    To the Macleans sofware this teacher would have done a suburb job when in fact it was parents and the child putting in all the work.

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  26. GJKiwi (179 comments) says:

    So, we have a tool that measures teacher ability, by working out which teachers taught which students and then assessing the grades. Well, as I recall, students were graded, usually by about 3rd form (whatever they call that now). So, then we were assigned to teachers. Now, the teachers are stuck with whatever level of students they get. That means, it won’t matter if they are the best teachers, if the students aren’t interested, or don’t have ability, the students will still get poor grades. Yes, we want good teachers, but how will this software measure their abilities objectively and fairly? If used in conjunction with software that tests the students’ abilities to learn and their aptitude and motivation, perhaps. Student A is great at English, but crap at Maths. Teacher B is a great teaching, but is teaching me maths. This will have a negative influence on the Teacher’s stats.

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  27. PaulL (5,776 comments) says:

    I thought it was reasonably well known (and supported by studies) that quality of teachers is the single most important factor in determining educational outcomes. It is definitely the important factor that is most controllable – we can talk about parents and hunger and kid’s aptitude, but we aren’t changing those any time soon. Teacher quality seems to be something that we absolutely control.

    So, on the one hand, we have John Gibson. He appears to believe that any attempt whatsoever to assess teacher quality is doomed to fail, and shouldn’t be attempted. I assume the corollary of that is that, even though teacher quality appears the most controllable and important factor in educational outcomes, that we shouldn’t attempt to improve it.

    On the other hand, we have the evil right wing, who apparently control the media (refer John Gibson @ 2:02pm). They have suggested that we should at least try to measure this, and use it as one of many tools that are important in assessing teachers. Presumably once we start, we’ll be able to refine the process to take into account more variables, manage attempts to game the system etc. As opposed to not trying at all. Sounds like a stupid idea, right.

    Sometimes I despair. As someone I work with once said (and I’m sure they were quoting someone else), the perfect is the enemy of the good. Refusing to accept a solution that isn’t perfect means that we reject the good solutions that we could have had today, and more often than not we never get a solution at all, since you need to implement something in order to refine it. It’s easy to tear something down, so much harder to build it.

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  28. nasska (9,549 comments) says:

    John Gibson @ 2.02pm

    You seem a little obsessed over the low esteem National supporters have for the average teachers. It could be that these same people see their children & grandchildren come home espousing socialist claptrap that has been drummed into them by the left leaning pedagogues.

    Teachers give us endless waffle about educating the next generation….. great……they should stick to educating & leave their politics outside of the school gate.

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  29. bhudson (4,720 comments) says:

    “If you want an abjective and fair system then you have to stop the bad eggs from gaming and/or cheating the system. If you don’t have safeguards in place then you’ll end up with something like 100% pass rates in NCEA just like Cambridge High School achieved.”

    mpledger,

    But those sorts of actions and results stand out as obviously contrived don’t they? So the software would actually help to identify not only those in need of professional assistance, but also those who are simply liars and cheats (and are more in need of another form of professional ‘assistance’ from the local constabulary and courts.)

    Seems like not too bad an outcome.

    Surely you would support tools that helped to weed out the “bad eggs” that besmirch the honour of the teaching profession?

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  30. kiwigunner (184 comments) says:

    By this measure nasska teaching should not being discussed on this political blog. Everything is political and everyone is involved in politics – even teachers.

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  31. kiwigunner (184 comments) says:

    Anyone here game to tell us your profession and we can all give our opinions on it and offer some ideas how you can improve and how your performance should be measured and if you should be sacked or not for things that may or may not be within your influence.

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  32. mpledger (428 comments) says:

    # Alan Wilkinson (884) Says:
    mpledger, you are really twisting Reid’s comment to create a straw man. There are tests for statistical significance. That is different from “significant in reality” as you note but it does serve as a coarse filter to weed out some insignificant results.

    This is what reid said:
    There are a myriad of statistical techniques that can be applied to show whether a before and after difference is statistically significant (i.e. not by random chance) and whether or not the difference arises from any given causal factor(s).

    There are no tests that can tell you whether your significant result is real or a random chance. In a hypothesis test you are using the improbability of an event to refute that the event occurred but improbable things still happen.

    # Alan Wilkinson (884) Says:
    I’m curious why you think a double blind randomised trial is some kind of holy grail. It is no more powerful to prove causation rather than correlation than any other test.

    A double blind randomised trials is a method for experimentation not a test. It may not be the holy grail but it’s certainly the closest thing we’ve got at the moment. That’s why it’s the gold standard in medical trials where there is a lot at stake if things go wrong.

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  33. mpledger (428 comments) says:

    # PaulL (3,828) Says:
    I thought it was reasonably well known (and supported by studies) that quality of teachers is the single most important factor in determining educational outcomes. It is definitely the important factor that is most controllable – we can talk about parents and hunger and kid’s aptitude, but we aren’t changing those any time soon. Teacher quality seems to be something that we absolutely control.
    ~~~

    Surely the method of getting good teachers in front of kids is to train them before hand. No teacher should be put in front of a kid who is not competent to teach. If it takes us a year or more after a teacher has started to find out that the teacher is really bad then surely we have failed the kids who have had that teacher already.

    Of course there is already teacher training. They spend three (or more) years doing it.

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  34. Alan Wilkinson (1,798 comments) says:

    Gaming the system will always happen. So think for a minute of the unexpected consequences. Suppose you are a head teacher who knows exactly who the best teachers are but parents don’t. How will they be assigned to classes?

    Surely they will be assigned to those classes that can bring greatest kudos to the school and the head teacher? Chances seem high that the best students will get the best teachers so they top external exams.

    Now if schools are rated on pass/fail rates probably the second best teachers will be applied to the worst students to drag them up to mediocrity. That will leave the average students to share the mediocre and poor teachers.

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  35. PaulL (5,776 comments) says:

    kiwigunner, when my profession starts getting paid directly by the government (taxpayers) for the services we offer, and when the government starts determining in detail how we provide those services without the end consumers having any choice, then it will be interesting for others to have an opinion on how those services are delivered.

    Until then anyone is welcome to an opinion, but there’s no particular reason a) I’d be interested in their opinion, or b) they’d bother to tell me their opinion unless they were actually engaged in buying those services. In short, the procurement model for education in this country leads to educational policy being set by politics, not by evidence and personal choice. And therefore it is legitimate for many people to want to contribute to that process.

    In my preferred world, the government would give every caregiver a voucher, they’d buy the education they thought most fit. There would be rating and ranking websites, and forums that discussed pros and cons. There’d be league tables that told me which schools were good at getting kids to pass exams, which schools instilled self reliance, which schools turned out sports stars, which schools kept kids busy after school (for families with two working parents who don’t want their kids getting into trouble). Teachers would be paid like any other professional – those who are good at their job get more (good at their job being assessed through a range of quantitative and qualitative means). And in that world, this current discussion wouldn’t be happening. Unfortunately, the left wing control the way education is delivered in this country, they preclude my preferred delivery mechanism for ideological reasons, and they generally block any initiatives that attempt to identify good teachers and pay them more.

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  36. nasska (9,549 comments) says:

    kiwigunner @ 2.37pm

    What is discussed on this blog is totally irrelevant to teachers brainwashing children entrusted to them. Children don’t vote so all the pedants are doing is training up the next generation of socialists. Perhaps the time spent on indoctrination could be spent improving the kids’ reading skills so that they can develop their own opinions when they are adults.

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  37. Bill Courtney (107 comments) says:

    Two quick observations:
    First, remember the quote from Albert Einstein: “Not everything that can be counted counts; and not everything that counts can be counted”. This is a common mistake in an area like evaluating teachers based on student performance alone. Second, here is the link to the best paper I have found on the subject of attempting to evaluate teacher quality using supposedly “state of the art” value added modelling etc.:
    http://www.epi.org/publications/entry/bp278
    Well worth a read for those interested in the subject.

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  38. PaulL (5,776 comments) says:

    mpledger @ 2:47pm:

    Surely the method of getting good teachers in front of kids is to train them before hand.

    Are you not falling into the same fallacy that people are claiming about measuring teachers? You’re assuming that the only input that is relevant to teacher quality is training, not their interest, aptitude or whether they go to school hungry in the morning (in the case of middle class adults who are presumably well fed, maybe the relevant analogy is whether they got laid the night before).

    Yes, teacher training is important. But if our logic is that you do 3 years of training at the start of your career, and then you’re good to teach for 40 years, then I disagree. I’m sure that’s not what you’re saying, but equally I’m not saying that training is irrelevant. Selection of teachers, training upfront, ongoing training, apprenticeships (student teachers or whatever we call it these days), ongoing evaluation of effectiveness, and pay/conditions that make the profession attractive are all elements that are relevant to the quality of our teachers. In my opinion, we’re not using this full balance, and the interest groups are often focused on lower effectiveness initiatives that largely compensate for poor teachers (e.g. continually reducing class sizes).

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  39. bhudson (4,720 comments) says:

    kiwigunner,

    Sure. I am in sales. My performance is measured against business-specific KPI’s (they have varied across companies from contract value, billed revenue, booked revenue, gross profit, customer satisfaction results, business unit performance, company performance, or some mixture of them.)

    I have improved continuously over the years (I have been in sales for about 13 years now.) Measurement of my year-on-year improvement is easy and my improvement is reflected in my earnings.

    I can be sacked if I don’t make my number. I get no quota relief for things outside my influence (such as the recession and its lasting implications – the impacts of which are significant – or natural disasters, or fluctuations in exchange rates, etc.)

    By all means, please give me all the advice you feel you can. If I can glean something useful in it, I may even adopt it.

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  40. mpledger (428 comments) says:

    Mpledger said
    “If you want an abjective and fair system then you have to stop the bad eggs from gaming and/or cheating the system. If you don’t have safeguards in place then you’ll end up with something like 100% pass rates in NCEA just like Cambridge High School achieved.”

    # bhudson (961) Says:
    But those sorts of actions and results stand out as obviously contrived don’t they? So the software would actually help to identify not only those in need of professional assistance, but also those who are simply liars and cheats (and are more in need of another form of professional ‘assistance’ from the local constabulary and courts.)

    Surely you would support tools that helped to weed out the “bad eggs” that besmirch the honour of the teaching profession?

    ~~
    Cambridge High School was held up as a school to aspire to for a number of years before questions started to be asked. And that was caused by teachers speaking out rather than anyone from the MoE going “Hmmmm?”.

    So how would this software discriminate between a good teacher who students all deserve “A”s and a bad teacher who nudged his “B+”s into “A”s?

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  41. Caleb (465 comments) says:

    is not the answer, to allow parents to be the judge teacher performance?

    i would support a system like PaulL has suggested and would be happy to choose a school that focused on the outcomes i would like for
    my children.

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  42. Alan Wilkinson (1,798 comments) says:

    mpledger, I agree with your summary but I still think you were giving Reid a hard time somewhat unfairly.

    The double blind randomised trial is a test of a hypothesis – for example, that a treatment is effective on a statistical rather than individual basis. As such it attempts to identify one factor amongst many that contribute to the outcome distribution.

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  43. Alan Wilkinson (1,798 comments) says:

    PaulL: “You’re assuming that the only input that is relevant to teacher quality is training, not their interest, aptitude …”

    Yes, one of the best teachers I had learnt working in the real world and transferred to teaching his later. Probably had minimal “teacher training” but knew his subject backwards and had a passion for it. Result: 5 of his students placed in the top 20 for his subject in national scholarship exams.

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  44. Yvette (2,591 comments) says:

    This post is titled HERESY, but why not HERESAY

    “A leading Auckland school IS INSTALLING state-of-the-art software that will allow it to pinpoint its best-performing teachers – and show up those responsible for poorly performing pupils.

    Macleans College, a decile-10 state school in Howick which often scoops top scholarships and has a reputation for high-achieving students, HOPES TO INSTALL a programme called EdReflect.”

    Who, besides Macleans College Principal Byron Bentley and academic Professor John Hattie, has seen the EdReflect software.
    For “state-of-the-art software” it has a very low profile on the Internet – like zilch mentions except for the NZ Herald and kiwiblog.
    I welcome correction.

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  45. Viking2 (10,738 comments) says:

    Yesterday in the Australian there was a long article about their new improved school monitoring and the results that schools obtained. Basically it showed the schools with the lessor amounts of money out performed those with cash to waste on flash stuff. I looked for it today but wasn’t able to find it but maybe someone cleaverer than I will. It was an interesting comparison.

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  46. mpledger (428 comments) says:

    mpledger says

    Surely the method of getting good teachers in front of kids is to train them before hand.

    PaulL says:
    Are you not falling into the same fallacy that people are claiming about measuring teachers? You’re assuming that the only input that is relevant to teacher quality is training, not their interest, aptitude or whether they go to school hungry in the morning (in the case of middle class adults who are presumably well fed, maybe the relevant analogy is whether they got laid the night before).

    MJP> Their interest and aptitude are judged prior to training. As far as I’m aware they are not selected randomly not is it undertaken at no cost to themselves.

    Yes, teacher training is important. But if our logic is that you do 3 years of training at the start of your career, and then you’re good to teach for 40 years, then I disagree. I’m sure that’s not what you’re saying, but equally I’m not saying that training is irrelevant. Selection of teachers, training upfront, ongoing training, apprenticeships (student teachers or whatever we call it these days), ongoing evaluation of effectiveness, and pay/conditions that make the profession attractive are all elements that are relevant to the quality of our teachers. In my opinion, we’re not using this full balance, and the interest groups are often focused on lower effectiveness initiatives that largely compensate for poor teachers (e.g. continually reducing class sizes).

    MJP> Really! If this were true why are class sizes kept small in years 1 and 2. Surely the govt isn’t funding this because year 1 and year 2 teachers are poor teachers? Similary why do private schools promote their small class sizes as something benficial about their school? If they really believed that big class sizes were better than they would use them since profit is their aim and one less salary cost means more profit.

    What are these other initiatives that compensate for poor teachers?

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  47. reid (15,594 comments) says:

    If I were Tolley I’d simply require all principals to rank all their staff from top to bottom on a yearly basis and pay the top third more and the bottom third less.

    And I’d some analysis on a yearly basis to find out if they were merely swapping out the bottom third and not really truly ranking.

    That might save McLean’s College a bit of angst.

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  48. Alan Wilkinson (1,798 comments) says:

    Bill Courtney, that was an interesting paper. Certainly if the teacher quality assessments are grossly unstable year to year they will carry little weight. However they would still provide reasons to look for causes and possible remedies.

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  49. Dazzaman (1,114 comments) says:

    Seems like their recruitment has been good anyway…..although this software is being looked at to improve standards further (I presume), it would be a pretty good idea not to incorporate it as a sole decision making tool (I doubt it would be that) when it comes to performance evaluations/reviews. That would be the only misgiving I would have with it….the potential for undermining morale.

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  50. PaulL (5,776 comments) says:

    mpledger:

    Their interest and aptitude are judged prior to training. As far as I’m aware they are not selected randomly not is it undertaken at no cost to themselves.

    And this suggests that no further management of teacher quality is needed, other than them entering the profession? I was giving you the benefit of the doubt, but you seem to be repeating a similar line that once trained, there is no problem. My organisation spends a lot of effort in recruiting top calibre candidates. We still rate and rank every year, identify the bottom 10% and give them focused improvement programmes, identify the and band the top 5%, next 25% and next 20%, and pay them more. I think most large businesses do similar things. Are you suggesting that teachers don’t change over time, and that they don’t require any performance management?

    If this were true why are class sizes kept small in years 1 and 2

    Way to go in picking out 5 words to focus on. Class size has impact in some specific areas, not in others. Reputable studies find that teacher quality has a far greater impact on student outcomes than class sizes. However, class sizes are pushed by the unions and other interest groups, as it externalises the problem and paints it as one of funding, rather than one of quality, focus and process.

    why do private schools promote their small class sizes as something beneficial about their school

    Because the argument that class sizes matter has permeated the discussion in NZ, and like any good business they pander to the client’s biases.

    If they really believed that big class sizes were better

    Strawman. I never said big class sizes were better, I said that money is poured in to less effective measures like lowering class sizes, when more effective measures like improving teacher quality are ignored.

    To move this discussion along, simple questions for you mpledger.
    1. Do you believe that teacher quality has a substantial impact on educational outcomes? (tip, if the answer is no, we could save a lot of money by paying minimum wage for teachers)
    2. Do you believe that it would be useful to try to improve educational outcomes through improving teacher quality?
    3. How would you propose to improve teacher quality without ever once attempting to measure teacher quality? Alternatively, do you have a different method of measuring teacher quality to propose instead of this one (i.e. are we arguing about the concept, or are we arguing about this particular piece of software that none of us have ever seen or know anything about)?

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  51. mpledger (428 comments) says:

    From Economic Policy Institue
    http://www.epi.org/analysis_and_opinion/entry/an_overemphasis_on_teachers/

    It has become conventional in educational policy discussion to assert that “research shows” that “teachers are the most important influence on student achievement.” There is, in fact, no serious research that shows any such thing. The assertion results from a careless glide from “teachers being the most important in-school influence,” to teachers being the most important influence overall. But because school effects on average levels of achievement are smaller than the effects of families and communities, even if teachers were the largest school effect, they would not be a very big portion of the overall effect.

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  52. PaulL (5,776 comments) says:

    mpledger: ah, good to see you’re agreeing with me. To recap, my argument is:
    1. Families, communities, feeding and innate aptitude are important influences. Unfortunately all these are hard to change, so they aren’t exactly great access points in trying to break the cycle of disadvantage.

    2. Teacher quality is the most important in-school influence. Being more important than other less-effective measures such as reducing class sizes.

    3. Improving teacher quality is therefore one of the most effective and able to be influenced actions that we can take to improve educational outcomes.

    4. In order to improve teacher quality, we need to start by measuring it.

    Are we now in agreement?

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  53. mpledger (428 comments) says:

    PaulL (3,831) Says:
    To move this discussion along, simple questions for you mpledger.
    1. Do you believe that teacher quality has a substantial impact on educational outcomes? (tip, if the answer is no, we could save a lot of money by paying minimum wage for teachers)

    A substantial in-school effect.

    2. Do you believe that it would be useful to try to improve educational outcomes through improving teacher quality?

    Yes.

    3. How would you propose to improve teacher quality without ever once attempting to measure teacher quality? Alternatively, do you have a different method of measuring teacher quality to propose instead of this one (i.e. are we arguing about the concept, or are we arguing about this particular piece of software that none of us have ever seen or know anything about)?

    In order to measure something you have to define it. Define teacher quality.

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  54. wat dabney (3,464 comments) says:

    This is the sort of thing people are up against:

    “[teachers' unions] insisted that a renewed focus on detailed subject knowledge was “elitist””

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/8269849/National-curriculum-review-teachers-condemn-elitist-reforms.html

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  55. bhudson (4,720 comments) says:

    “So how would this software discriminate between a good teacher who students all deserve “A”s and a bad teacher who nudged his “B+”s into “A”s?”

    Well, Teacher Bad Egg inflates students results in Year 11. Next year Teacher Good Fellow scores same group lower (students in Teacher Good Fellow’s Y12 class typically perform well.) This raises questions as to how this came about (particularly as, surprise, surprise, Teacher Bad Egg has just produced another crop of ‘superstars’.)

    Further to this, your example is based upon practice that already has occurred (and possibly still does.) If the “eggs” are already bad, this software is hardly going to hurt matters – but may very well help catch them.

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  56. kiwigunner (184 comments) says:

    bhudson. I don’t mean to be disrespectful to you but sales is not a profession.

    The question though is “is it fair that when working in sales you are judged by things outside your control (including those that you mention)”. I don’t believe it is and neither would I agree with someone on the sidelines saying you are a shit salesperson if you didn’t meet your sales targets when there were reasons that affected your ability to achieve all the sales expected of you.

    And to go further, I wouldn’t agree with criticisms of you should you not achieve a sale every time you approached someone (as every teacher is expected to achieve with every child) because as all sales people know sometimes the customer is simply a pain and who doesn’t want to or doesn’t have the capacity to buy.

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  57. bhudson (4,720 comments) says:

    Kiwigunner,

    Irrespective of whether or not it is believed to be fair by people who are not in the occupation, it is accepted by those of us who choose to sign the employment contract – that is, we accept it as a fair part of our terms and conditions, typically set against an opportunity to overachieve earnings.

    Your questions were around measurements and impacts/implications of control (or lack thereof) on pefomance assessments. In sales it is the case that both our earnings and our continued employment can be influenced by things outside our control.

    As to “profession” no offence taken. By profession I was referring more to common usage; where it is generally accepted to refer to sales in my industry as a profession (much as technical folk in the IT industry can have industry certifications of ‘engineer’ or ‘architect’ even though they do not conform to the specifications of engineering or architecture degrees.)

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  58. PaulL (5,776 comments) says:

    mpledger: I suspect there is some accepted definition out there of teacher quality, but I personally would define teacher quality along the following lines:
    1. Hygiene factors – the ability to complete the basic administration and safety requirements of the job. A paedophile wouldn’t meet my definition of a quality teacher, someone who didn’t write school reports wouldn’t be a quality teacher. I see this as being largely a meets or doesn’t meet criteria – being really good at administration isn’t a lot more use than being OK at administration.

    2. Ability to increase a students knowledge and aptitude during the year. This isn’t relative to the student’s peers other than once the sample size is large enough to average out – it is more about starting position v’s ending position. The aim of a school is to educate, so we measure how much someone has been educated. This isn’t just about pouring knowledge in, it also relates to increases in reasoning ability, critical thinking, social and political awareness etc etc.

    3. Rapport and ability to motivate. A high quality teacher motivates their students to learn, and sticks in their minds long after they leave that class.

    I am sure these things are hard to measure at the margins – someone who rates as 56% is probably very similar in performance to someone who rates as 57%. In fact, probably people from about 35% to 65% are roughly similar, and accidents of circumstance or chance may impact substantially. But someone who rates at 10% will be very clearly different from someone at 90%. And I wouldn’t want someone who ranked at 10% teaching my child.

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  59. Alan Wilkinson (1,798 comments) says:

    kiwigunner: “sales is not a profession”. I think that is hard to defend at the top end. If management is a profession then so is sales which is why the best get paid more than most managers.

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  60. bhudson (4,720 comments) says:

    Alan,

    I accept that, by the traditional definition, sales is not a profession (in fact most occupations are not.)

    Times changes though an I checked the dear old Oxford English Dictionary online (as well as perhaps the less estimable dictionary.com) and, while they both note the traditional characteristics of profession, they both also note that any paid occupation or business can be referred to as a profession today.

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  61. nasska (9,549 comments) says:

    Re the discussion theme of “sales is not a profession”. I fail to see how this matters but it could be a good illustration of why pedants are called pedantic.

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  62. Manolo (12,641 comments) says:

    I must side with bhudson on this matter: sales is a profession as much as prostitution is. :D

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  63. nasska (9,549 comments) says:

    Hmm……teachers, counter jumpers & hookers….. it’s getting a bit crowded in the professional world.

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  64. kiwigunner (184 comments) says:

    Sales people can indeed do their job professionally but by definition sales is not a profession which is defined by, amongst other things, a lenghty period of training usually of an academic nature, a large degree of autonomy, and usually who act in the interest of others.

    bhudson, no, the argument cannot simply be about measurement it has to be about the level of the validity each measurement has. This is what this whole post is about. Using some computer programme for the very complex profession that is teaching would be, it seems, very unlikely to provide any reliable measure.

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  65. PaulL (5,776 comments) says:

    kiwigunner: why would a computer programme be unlikely to be reliable in an area that is complex? So far as I can tell, areas that are complex are those that are best handled by a computer. Unless you mean that it is subjective, which I’d agree that computers aren’t particularly good at.

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  66. mpledger (428 comments) says:

    Mpledger wrote;

    “So how would this software discriminate between a good teacher who students all deserve “A”s and a bad teacher who nudged his “B+”s into “A”s?”

    # bhudson (965) Says:

    Well, Teacher Bad Egg inflates students results in Year 11. Next year Teacher Good Fellow scores same group lower (students in Teacher Good Fellow’s Y12 class typically perform well.) This raises questions as to how this came about (particularly as, surprise, surprise, Teacher Bad Egg has just produced another crop of ‘superstars’.)

    Further to this, your example is based upon practice that already has occurred (and possibly still does.) If the “eggs” are already bad, this software is hardly going to hurt matters – but may very well help catch them.

    ~~~~
    It all depends on knowing that teacher goodfellows y12 typically perform well but what if he usually inflates to look good but on this case deflates so that teacher bad egg looks bad.

    Mathematics changes markedly between form 5 and form 6 where it takes a leap into differentiation and limits. I know kids at my school who starred in school C maths but bombed at form 6 maths because they couldn’t make the leap. They had the same teacher so teacher quality wasn’t the problem it was the level of thinking abstractly that was required.

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  67. bereal (3,137 comments) says:

    Have we lost our self respect in New Zealand ?
    Do we think of ourselves as exceptional in any thing except maybe rugby ?
    i don’t think we do anymore.
    We used to. i can recall a national pride we had in the 50/60s that has gone.
    One way we can regain our self esteem is through education. It will take a generation
    or so but that is where we can start. That is where the rot began.
    One of the greatest problems has been the rise of PC and the power and militancy of teachers unions.
    This sounds like a great tool that we could use to help to begin turn things around.
    i humbly refer you to my post on education 10.16 March 16th general debate.

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  68. mpledger (428 comments) says:

    2. Ability to increase a students knowledge and aptitude during the year. This isn’t relative to the student’s peers other than once the sample size is large enough to average out – it is more about starting position v’s ending position. The aim of a school is to educate, so we measure how much someone has been educated. This isn’t just about pouring knowledge in, it also relates to increases in reasoning ability, critical thinking, social and political awareness etc etc.

    ~~~
    That seems like a reasonable component so how would you measure it?

    And how could you measure the teacher effect indepently of the effect of a child growing up especially in the “social awareness” component?

    How would you take into account the non-random allocation of students e.g. where one teacher has a class with 6 ESL students and the other has none? The ESL students ought to make great gains and make the first teacher look really good but they could have made those gains with either teacher.

    ~~~~~
    I can see some teachers who get given a crappy class of students by a nasty boss and decide that it’s not going to do their career any good and so leave or swap schools hoping to get something better. And don’t tell me that teachers should be altruistic and think of their children first before their careers – you wouldn’t expect that for any other person with a career.

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  69. PaulL (5,776 comments) says:

    @mpledger: Yes, that is true of any job, you can get screwed by the boss. That is also true of the assessment system now, so I’m not sure why you’re setting the aspiration that any new assessment system must fix that. Sure, it’d be nice if it did, but we shouldn’t rule it out just because it doesn’t – it’s certainly no worse in that respect, and arguably might be better in other respects.

    If we agree that it is reasonable to have an assessment system that measures the improvement in the kids, and that there are many variables that might confound such an assessment system, then what remains is a design task to try to avoid most of the pitfalls, with reasonable accuracy. And some sort of moderation process that allows a little subjectivity to creep in when necessary. I don’t know anything about this piece of software that’s being introduced, so I have no reason to assert that it does or doesn’t meet this standard. Do you know that it does or doesn’t? And if, for arguments sake, it doesn’t, does that mean that we should aim to improve it, or that we should give up and return to our existing assessment systems?

    My underlying problem here is that our current education system allows teachers who are known to be poor to remain in the classroom. The absolute worst teachers do generally get drummed out – usually from something other than teaching competence, given that someone who’s that bad as a teacher is usually also going to do something else stupid like hitting a kid. The next band up, the ones who are poor but not so stupid as to get caught doing something like that, are generally known to teachers in the school and surrounding areas, are known by parents, are known by principals. And they can’t do anything about it. If an assessment system gives a way to objectively identify those teachers and force action, then that’d be a really good start.

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  70. kiwigunner (184 comments) says:

    Well PaulL – there is certainly no one way for teaching success and you won’t find a step by step guide anywhere. I’ve seen successful teachers who plan to the nth degree and others whose planning seems minimalist, some who love kids others who love the art of teaching, some prim and proper some have a more relaxed style. What is true is that parents don’t always know which teachers are the best and tend to judge on their impressions of the teacher as a person – how approachable, personable etc. Also it is true that sometimes why teachers are successful can be tricky to pin point and in recent years many including Prof. Hattie have attempted to break teaching down to what they think is ‘best practice’ – this in my experience is mostly bollocks but some things are crucial like – building good relationships with children and their families, having clear and consistent goals, knowing about the things being taught, being hard working, being honest and ethical. All of these things are already measured by Principals and the profession through appraisal and the Teaching Criteria (Professional Standards).

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  71. PaulL (5,776 comments) says:

    Yes kiwigunner, and that is why there is some intent to measure results, instead of inputs. As you say, there are many ways to get to the results and they are potentially all valid. So you can either just not measure at all, which many of us are unhappy with as an answer, or focus on measuring the results. The old “you get what you measure.” So we need to work out what it is that we want, and measure it.

    And I’ve just realised that I’ve been far more active on this thread than any others recently. Not because I have more passion for this topic, but more as an active work avoidance technique. I’m going to finish my work instead, so I can have a relaxing Sunday evening.

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  72. bhudson (4,720 comments) says:

    mpledger,

    “It all depends on knowing that teacher goodfellows y12 typically perform well but what if he usually inflates to look good but on this case deflates so that teacher bad egg looks bad. ”

    The software is to be used to determine trends over time – that can be trends between different teachers (i.e. as the students progress through the year levels) as well trends for one teacher over time. It is true that it takes at least two years for the trending to start to show through, but such is the same for any trending system (unless you have historical data that can be manually migrated at the time of implementation.)

    On the point of deflating to make the bad egg look rotten – that is as likely to happen today as it would with such tools in place. Also Teacher Good Fellow would be doing himself no good service at all as he would distort his own trends at the same time.

    As to the point about differences in difficulty from year to year, that is why, in my earlier example, the trend analysis would be between the Y12 students Good Fellow received from Y11 teacher Bad Egg and the other Y12 classes Good Fellow teaches (as well, of course, also against other teachers’ Y12 classes.)

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  73. Steve (4,327 comments) says:

    bhudson,
    ‘Times changes though an I checked the dear old Oxford English Dictionary online (as well as perhaps the less estimable dictionary.com) and, while they both note the traditional characteristics of profession, they both also note that any paid occupation or business can be referred to as a profession today.’

    So a little trolling here by me. Paid occupation includes those who are Welfare Dependant by choice? Yeah they are professional. Dam maggots

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  74. bhudson (4,720 comments) says:

    kiwigunner,

    “Sales people can indeed do their job professionally but by definition sales is not a profession which is defined by, amongst other things, a lenghty period of training usually of an academic nature, a large degree of autonomy, and usually who act in the interest of others.”

    Yes, I noted above that the traditional definition would exclude many occupations (including sales.) If you look at a modern reference, however, you will see that Profession is now defined broadly to include and paid occupation or business (reference both Oxford English Dictionary Online and dictionary.com)

    “bhudson, no, the argument cannot simply be about measurement it has to be about the level of the validity each measurement has. This is what this whole post is about. Using some computer programme for the very complex profession that is teaching would be, it seems, very unlikely to provide any reliable measure.

    I won’t argue on the point of validity, however, for my occupation the impact of external, uncontrollable influences being able to affect my performance measurement is valid under the terms of my contract (and, generally, speaking all sales contracts in my industry.)

    You asked for people to state occupations for general debate and to show how influences outside of their control are able to impact their performance measurements. I have summarised mine for you. I accept that you do not believe that those same conditions should apply to teachers, but, that in no way lessens the validity of my example against your criteria.

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  75. bhudson (4,720 comments) says:

    Steve,

    Occupation:

    As a “job or profession” – no chance

    As a “way of spending time” – let’s see them argue it in court

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  76. bereal (3,137 comments) says:

    mpledger, PaulL, and Kiwigunner,
    Have a nice dance around the head of a pin.

    Try and make a comment relevant to the issue that has been raised .
    Go on . Have a go .
    Sorry to have to point this out but you are examples of the problems we are facing.
    Its going to be hard work.

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  77. LabourDoesntWork (278 comments) says:

    Let the teacher without efficacy dig a hole for himself by complaining about accountability.

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  78. bereal (3,137 comments) says:

    PaulL , yep, back to your work.
    Let me guess. Marking. Right ?

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  79. bhudson (4,720 comments) says:

    Manolo @ 5:30pm

    Good one!

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  80. PaulL (5,776 comments) says:

    bereal: so, I think the three of us were discussing assessment regimes in schools, how useful or otherwise they might be, and what it might do for the quality of teachers. Seems on topic to me.

    Remind me again what your contribution to this discussion has been?

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  81. dion (95 comments) says:

    The thing that irritates me about this debate is that most of the workforce (not just sales) are measured on things that they have no control over – and cope with this sort of thing as a part of their everyday working lives. The same goes for the high workload that teachers keep banging on about.

    And when faced with this, the teachers’ unions talk about “an armoury of sacking devices”.

    The fact that some (like myself) in other parts of the workforce resent this has nothing at all to do with whether or not teachers are “National Party voters”.

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  82. wolfjung (59 comments) says:

    @John Gibson
    Your earlier comments come across as some communist who doesn’t want society to advance and are at best shallow by blame shifting the failures of unionised teachers onto right wing thinkers. Wake up call, schools no longer use an abacus (except in history lessons), schools are now highly computerised.

    If the software is setup properly then statistical analysis will identify 1) Students who are underperforming, 2) Teachers who are not consistently delivering results.

    If a pattern emerges that a mixed group of students are performing under-par with one teacher but apparently are not having any issues with their other teachers, then questions can be asked.

    The key words here are groups and patterns, single result failures would be ridiculous to act on and accuse a teacher of underperforming (the gaussian curve always anticpates some dumb fucks). Though single minded communists would have difficulty with that concept.

    Good job Mccleans College, most of the real world is a performance based culture, why shouldn’t schools be the same?

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  83. Maggie (674 comments) says:

    Class one: High decile school where pupils have own bedrooms and computers and can do homework without interruption. Parents are educated and can help when necessary. Teacher is average, but the kids do well and score highly in exams.

    Class two: Low decile school where kids live in over crowded conditions with no privacy. Parents work at cleaning jobs at night and are seldom available because of long working hours. Teacher is brilliant and works very hard with the kids whgo achieve average scores despite all their difficulties.

    Who is the better teacher?

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  84. nickb (3,629 comments) says:

    Maggie pops up with another cliched strawman argument. How original.

    As possibly one of the latest kiwibloggers out of the NZ education system, I can assure everyone that there are some truly awful teachers. Sure, some great ones, but a lot that I found atrocious (so god knows their effect or lack thereof on people less interested in academics than I).

    As Wolfjung says, if I don’t meet my annual performance targets, not only will I not get a payrise/bonus, but my job position is looking shaky. Why should teachers be any different?

    Does anyone here want to start a fund to bring Chris Christie over here? What I would pay to see him taking on the PPTA…

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  85. Max Call (212 comments) says:

    I struggle with the class size argument. How can class size not matter when one-on-one time does and feedback/feed forward does? To me, the smaller a class the more time a teacher can spend with individual students and the more time they can spend giving quality feedback/feed forward about their work.
    Also to consider – the ‘hidden curriculum’ – the stuff not in NZ curriculum but that students learn at school – values, social skills (how to make and keep friends) – in lots of ways just as important, but not assessed formally.

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  86. PaulL (5,776 comments) says:

    @maggie: sorry, that argument already addressed in this thread. Do try to keep up. We would measure improvement, not absolute results. And there are many studies that show a great teacher in a poor school with poor students still outperforms an average or poor teacher in a great school.

    @max. A great teacher can motivate many students, and we should spread their talent. A poor teacher is still a poor teacher, even if they are teaching you one on one. Class size does matter, but it doesn’t matter as much as teacher quality. Given a choice between reducing class size by 10%, or paying teachers 10% more (and presumably therefore improving their quality 10%), I’d choose the pay rise. (Actually, you could pay the teachers more like 20% more, since decreasing class size needs more than just another teacher – extra classrooms, resources, admin etc).

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  87. reid (15,594 comments) says:

    Class one: High decile school where pupils have own bedrooms and computers and can do homework without interruption. Parents are educated and can help when necessary. Teacher is average, but the kids do well and score highly in exams.

    Class two: Low decile school where kids live in over crowded conditions with no privacy. Parents work at cleaning jobs at night and are seldom available because of long working hours. Teacher is brilliant and works very hard with the kids whgo achieve average scores despite all their difficulties.

    Who is the better teacher?

    Class two maggie and what is your point? For the software applies to a school not a country. Therefore everyone teaching in the school gets assessed according to the same decile conditions, don’t they.

    Duh.

    Clearly, you weren’t well educated. What’s the matter? Did you have one of those useless politically correct teachers who focused more on teaching you how to be a good human being (which is the parent’s job) than on your really important things like logic and maths n stuff like that?

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  88. Guy Fawkes (702 comments) says:

    We need to focus on 3rd Party measurement. Any 3rd Party measurement. Teachers are generally very bright, and have not only too much time on their hands, but also the comparative luxury of a “Common Room” in which to compare notes and Rorts.

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  89. calendar girl (1,108 comments) says:

    Kiwigunner & 4:26pm: “bhudson. I don’t mean to be disrespectful to you but sales is not a profession.”

    What a perfectly elitist diversion, Kiwigunner. Bhudson gave you a clear and arguably helpful answer to your question, and you chose to sidestep it because it proved inconvenient to your point of view.

    OK, you confine your narrow discussion to what you regard as the “true” professions if you like, but be prepared in your ivory tower to discuss the real-life failures of certain accountants, lawyers, architects, professional directors and others who have ruined thousands of their decent fellow citizens’ lives and livelihoods in recent years.

    School-teaching used to be a highly-respected profession in NZ. Its politicisation and inexorable lowering of standards (the latter caused significantly by watering down the recruitment standards of the country’s once-proud stable of competent Teachers’ Training Colleges) mean that teachers no longer hold the position of community standing that was once their due.

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  90. Maggie (674 comments) says:

    nickb, sarcasm does you no credit. An intelligent response would be much better.

    reid, can’t you reply without getting personal? My point is simple: Performance based pay is suyperficially attractive, but would be a mind field in education.

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  91. Pete George (21,828 comments) says:

    would be a mind field in education.

    Is that an interesting play on words, a typo, or incorrect word use in a phrase.

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  92. wolfjung (59 comments) says:

    @Maggie,

    to bring the debate back on topic, if such analysing software were to be introduced to every teaching facility, then after 2-3 years enough data would be available to bench mark the overall performance of a school/course/teacher. This means that if a brillant teacher decides to leave their plush Remuera school to give their skills to the under privilaged, then the teacher will be gauged against an already bench-marked performance. If 30% of students were failing historically, and then the new teacher arrives and only 20% are failing on average from the courses they delivered, don’t you think the teacher has made a difference? (proper statistical analysis would remove the argument the teacher got lucky and had a better bunch of students come through). It is stupid to compare decile areas, waste of time. The performance of the school/teacher needs to be separated and measured purely on improvement. Starting at a school full of scumbags, it doesn’t matter how good the teacher is.

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  93. Pete George (21,828 comments) says:

    It’s more complex than simply a measure of improvement. If a better than average teacher improves a class results, then leaves, and the replacement teacher maintains the same level of results (no more improvement) then surely they are doing a good job as well.

    And a personal anecdote – I failed one exam at high school, and that was in a class with what I would rate as the best teacher I had, he was prepared to teach outside the square and made learning interesting.

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  94. DeepScience (74 comments) says:

    They had programs to do this as soon as the first computer became available so not really new news. Student results always get reviewed as an indicator of teacher performance even though that is somewhat missing the point of the tests. Longitudinal tracking of the results is always a good improvement over just looking at one year level.

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  95. wolfjung (59 comments) says:

    everything is complex Mr. George, I believe it was Einstein who said “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler”

    That is the whole point of continuous improvement philosopy, that at the beginning it is always easier to make large step changes which give big improvements, afterwards it is fine tuning. Learning is a personal thing and I think you touched on what I think is more important for students to learn from your experience of failure, if a teacher sticks to a formula/curiculum and ensures the students learn it well, the students are 1) very one dimensional, 2) have not learnt to think for themselves., 3)and hey it’s good for students to experience failure.

    I think point 2) students learning to figure things out and think for themselves is more important than any prescribed teaching curricula. The teacher is there just as a guide, it is the student who should be making sense of the world around them. But one can not deny that if the guide is very good the path is not so difficult.

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  96. wolfjung (59 comments) says:

    @Deepscience

    statistical analysis was around before computers were available. So whats your point?

    “Longitudinal tracking of the results is always a good improvement over just looking at one year level.”
    - that is the whole point, statistical analysis requires a minimum sampling space for the conclusions drawn to become meaningful.

    Computers now allow sophisticated multi-variable analysis to be made and powerful testing of hypothesis. If setup properly and administered, it provides a powerful tool to measure students and teachers performance. So where is the problem with that? Oh thats right, it could be tied to performance………..well hello, whether Johnny boy gets Job A or B when he finishes his studies is very likely tied to his performance, or who his Daddy was for the lucky few.

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  97. Pete George (21,828 comments) says:

    “Teacher” was suitably descriptiver in the past, that was often at least the emphasis if not the virtually the total method. But now good “teachers” concentrate more on guiding and encouraging students to teach themselves, so they are more of an educational catalyst. And the best “teachers” inspire their students to want to learn – often beyond the basic curriculum.

    But these add-ons to basic teaching are difficult to measure – it is easier to meausre when teachers are succeeding in formulaic teaching for official academic results.

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  98. RJL (122 comments) says:

    It’s pretty obvious — even from the name of the software — that the intention of the software is to help teachers reflect on their teaching and their students’ learning, presumably by helping to do some sort of statistical analysis on their students’ progress.

    The software itself is entirely uncontroversial. Reflecting on teaching and trying to improve is something that every teacher tries to do. It is a critical part of modern pedagogy.

    What is totally inappropriate is using the results of this software to assess the teachers for promotion and other purposes. This is because the results are meaningless outside the immediate teaching context.

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  99. mpledger (428 comments) says:

    # wolfjung (28) Says:
    If 30% of students were failing historically, and then the new teacher arrives and only 20% are failing on average from the courses they delivered, don’t you think the teacher has made a difference? (proper statistical analysis would remove the argument the teacher got lucky and had a better bunch of students come through).

    ~~~~~
    There is no proper statistical anlysis that will tell you if the teacher was good or lucky (I am a statistician so I would know). A hypthesis test rejects a hypothesis when it’s unlikely given certain criteria but unlikely events still happen by chance.

    It the school implements a text messaging system for truancy at the same time as the new teacher comes then who can tell whether it’s the teacher effect or the not being truant efffect.

    There are so many confounds – is it the parent, the teacher, an intellectual growth spurt, the local factory closed rendering parents jobless, other confounds that people don’t even realise, that it’s impossible to accurately measure a teacher effect.

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  100. wolfjung (59 comments) says:

    @ mpledger,

    I agree & disagree with you. There is no doubt millions of factors, why not take it further and throw in Chaos effect of the butterfly beating it’s wings in the school in China causing poor little Johnny to develop a headache from turbulance changes and he performs badly in his exams.

    Isn’t that the point of nuisance variables in statistical modelling? And identifying the factors as part of the model and testing what influence they have?

    I don’t believe the factors you have mentioned would have diddly-squat influence in showing that a teacher has or hasn’t made a difference. It’s purely academic now. To remove that sort of statistical noise, the software would have to be run in many schools to render the data less prone to such outside influences.

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  101. teacherslounge.co.nz (1 comment) says:

    The real concern is that linking performance and pay in a poorly thought out way will further disadvantage our students. If a teacher is at risk of having poorly performing pupils reduce their income it is only natural that the best will endeavour to move to schools that will allow them to earn the best. This means that the quality of education offered to the more vulnerable and needy children will be of a lower standard further exacerbating the problem and gap. If this is to be implemented it need input from all the stakeholders and a realistic way of assesseing from a level playing field.

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