100 Things

email me

Listen to the Deviant SynCast! [Archive]

TPCQ = Tangential Pop Culture Quote

Why I Link to Amazon

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

All Teaching Awards Are Hooey 

Today I saw another announcement about some teacher winning a big award for her Wondrous Ability to Inspire Students and Achieve Powerful Educational Results in the Classroom. And I realized once again -- as I've said before -- all such awards are total hokum.

Before I explain why, let me state right up front that I was nominated this year for a Kohl Fellowship by an administrator at my school. My application was approved at the district level, so now we're waiting to hear back from the regional office, which should happen sometime in January. I want to post this now so that I won't be seen as some kind of Sour Grapes whiner when the results come back. (The only reason I entered is so I can use the $1000 reward for something useful.)

FYI: The image? Here, The Cheat, have a trophy!

Why All Teaching Awards Are Hooey

All teaching awards are bogus and meaningless, because there is no fair way to measure how excellent a teacher is -- and certainly no fair way to compare two different teachers. Where could we possibly look to make such an assessment?
  • Standardized Test Scores. Ha! Test scores are as good a way to tell how well a teacher's doing as garbage collection rates are to measure a mayor's performance. Which is to say: If the garbage backs up in the streets, the mayor's probably doing a bad job (but maybe not). Apart from that, there's no correlation.

  • Applications. How can this seriously be reliable? What is a teacher going to say? "I totally suck in the classroom. I start crying whenever someone's late with her homework." A teacher isn't an objective judge of his own abilities in the classroom! The bad ones always say they're doing swell, and the good ones always feel like they're never good enough.

    I don't see why they even bother with applications for these things. Even if the applicant stands out somehow, this is a demonstration of a teacher's writing abilities, not teaching skill.

  • Adminsitrator Evaluation. I love the administrators at my school. But they observe me -- at most -- twice or three times each year. Basing any kind of award on such a random sampling is laughable.

  • Student Feedback. This is getting closer, since the students are the only other people in that classroom every day. But to say that they're impartial observers is absurd! Even if all your kids love being in your class (like mine do), they're being evaluated -- and therefore we have a reverse Heisenberg in effect.

    Besides, which students are the ones speaking on the teacher's behalf? Those hand-selected by the teacher (or someone else with a vested interest)! It's like Bush's "town hall" meetings.

  • Parent Recommendations. Again -- who is the teacher going to ask? "Mr. and Mrs. Jerkface, your kid has vowed eternal revenge for the way I ridiculed him in class -- and I once told you that you were the worst parents I ever met -- but would you please write me a letter of recommendation?" I got a very nice letter from the parents of a great student of mine for the aforementioned fellowship, and it was lovely. But I expect every other teacher applying got similar letters. (And, again, this is more a measure of the parents' writing skills.)

  • Community Members. Give me a break. What? "We heard from Lou, the owner of Lou's Pizza, that you were doing some great stuff in your classroom." Feh.

  • Pig Entrails. Okay, I just put this in to see if anyone read this far. But of course, this is as valid a way of choosing a winner as any of the above criterions.
Now, of course I know that these awards are given because We the Community Want to Recognize Excellence in Education and Give Super Teachers an Extra Boost and Blah Blah Blah. But all these competitions do is pass out some small wads of dough and make the losers feel bad. If you really want to Honor Excellence in Education, cut our class sizes in half and pay us more -- all of us!


The Cheat is a Millionaire! Can you sense a theme here?

Today I'm listening to: Braindead Soundmachine, an album I haven't owned (because I couldn't find it, not even online) for ten years! Woo! (Danger: That site has mp3s and bad words.)