Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Scapegoats

The LA Times has decided to print "value-added" scores of all LAUSD teachers again. Although, if my local daily printed my scores I would have nothing to worry about, the point is that we shouldn't trust the major newspapers to get this right.

First of all, what do the journalists compiling the information know about teaching? Education is one of those subjects that you need to be involved in, in order to fully understand it. I've gotten to the point of refusing to have discussions about education with people who only work on assumptions and their high school experience.

The teacher ratings in the LA Times are based on standardized test scores. Those tests are a bunch of worthless bullshit that kids don't care about and give nothing for teachers to guide instruction. I don't need a three day test to tell me that Eduardo isn't proficient in reading, or Anab in writing. All standardized tests do is create a facade of accountability, at the same time robbing precious school time.

Perhaps we should evaluate the LA Times based on the same collective criteria teachers are. Here is my evaluation of their paper.

#1) The LA Times endorsed the Iraq War in March 2003, saying:
As this nation enters war, we trust that the U.S. and British armed forces will be able to take advantage of their vastly superior training and technology to end the conflict soon with minimal casualties.

Even I knew better. The LA Times has taken down that editorial that now only exists in small nuggets on the web. Getting the war wrong is one of the greatest failures of the modern media. The American media was alone in the world in terms of advancing the jingoistic vocabulary and propaganda of the government.

#2) The last time the LA Times endorsed a presidential candidate before 2008 was in 1972. The LA Times endorsed Nixon. We all know how that turned out.

#3) In 2006, shortly after the Republican defeat at the polls, the Times published Bomb Iran where the author Joshua Muravchik
The only way to forestall these frightening developments is by the use of force. Not by invading Iran as we did Iraq, but by an air campaign against Tehran's nuclear facilities. We have considerable information about these facilities; by some estimates they comprise about 1,500 targets. If we hit a large fraction of them in a bombing campaign that might last from a few days to a couple of weeks, we would inflict severe damage. This would not end Iran's weapons program, but it would certainly delay it.
Muravchik later goes on to compare the cold war with Iran as similar to that with the USSR, and compares the Iranian leadership to Nazis and Bolsheviks. The ignorance is palpable.

Are these examples nit-picky and selective. Yes. So are teacher evaluations. We need to understand the validity and reliability of data before we use it to evaluate and judge people. Teacher #1 in the white school will always get better scores than teacher #2 in the poor and immigrant communities. LA Times, come back when you have teachers on staff.