Disclose the Facts About Your Teachers Before Someone Else Does
ISSUE 59 | SEPTEMBER 24, 2003
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The facts about your teachers are more public than you think. Anyone with an Internet connection can look up a teacher's credential status on the website of the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing. But this is only the beginning. If California turns toward Indiana's way of disclosing facts, we'll be able to learn where a teacher went to college, what degree she obtained, when she obtained it, and her college major. This old owl thinks it's about time.
Parents' desire for information about the people educating their children combined with the growing acceptance of accountability measures, are overshadowing the teachers unions' concerns about the privacy rights of their members.
TAKE A HINT FROM KAISER
If teachers want the same professional consideration as doctors, they'd better prepare to show more of themselves to their clients. A year or two ago, the health maintenance organization Kaiser Permanente began placing doctors biographies in the examining rooms. Each contained a photograph, professional credentials, and a few paragraphs written by the doctor explaining his or her own philosophy of medicine. This type of disclosure not only helps patients know how qualified their doctors are. It expresses a graceful deference to the client who the doctor is there to serve.
Indiana is already moving in Kaiser's direction by providing parents access to facts about their kids' teachers. It is elegant and easy, and it is available on the Indiana state website. You can see a sample page for Frankton Junior-Senior High at:
TEACHERS RATING TEACHERS
In February, professor of education Dr. Ken Futernick of CSU Sacramento launched his own way of evaluating teachers, and dubbed it the Teacher Quality Index (TQI). His high regard for the craft of teaching is evident in his work. He affirms that teaching matters, and that it deserves to be measured. With help from a long list of experts including Margaret Gaston of the Center for Teaching and Learning and Linda Darling-Hammond of Stanford University and with the sponsorship of Assemblyman Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), Dr. Futernick's TQI almost became the law of the land. It Is well worth reviewing to see how your teachers measure up. But its also useful in defining policy problems in ways that can be answered.
STUDENTS RATING TEACHERS
Some students aren't waiting for their school district to report facts about teacher qualifications. They are rating teachers themselves. A website started by a California teacher now offers students the same opportunity to rate their teachers that universities have offered their students for years It is called RATEMYTEACHERS.COM, and this owl finds it to be a hoot. Students at both middle schools and high schools can go online and evaluate their teachers on several criteria, add comments, and post their findings. To date, more than 378,000 teachers working in some 22,000 schools nationally have been evaluated.
The founder, Tim Davis, a special education teacher in Bakersfield, told EDUCATION WEEK, "We felt that the students deserve a voice in their education This brings accountability back to the classroom." This owl recommends you take a look at a middle or high school in your district, and see what's been posted. Or to sample a bundle of comments from a couple of schools where students have been evaluating their teachers, take a look at Lincoln High in San Jose.
Note that the students at Alameda High have been busy reviewing 89 teachers at their school.
This owl is reading the tea leaves: if students are publicly rating their teachers, it is time for you to deliver the facts about your teachers to the public they serve.
Your school accountability report card (SARC) provides an opportunity to get ahead of this wave and ride it. Remember: The federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) requires all teachers to eventually become "highly qualified." Parents and your board will be watching how you define and report teaching quality at the site level. Here are some ways you might go about it:
1. Go beyond reporting the average years of experience of each school's teachers. Why not report the percent of teachers with one or two years of experience? Why not add what Indiana now presents?
2. Instead of reporting only those teachers holding full credentials, report the number of teachers holding single-subject/elementary credentials and multiple subject/secondary credentials. This is particularly meaningful for middle schools whose teachers can hold one or the other type of credential (or both).
3. In your middle and high school reports, go the distance and report out-of-field teaching. The SARC requires it, but the CDE does not calculate this figure for you.
4. Present your schools' actual expenses in the prior fiscal year. This, too, is the way the Education Code calls for you to report financials in your SARCs. This will show which schools have more veteran (and more expensive) teachers on staff, and which have less experienced (and less expensive) teachers. Because NCLB requires education leaders to look at the distribution of qualified teachers across school sites, the actual cost of teachers by site becomes a more important policy matter.
REFERENCES AND LINKS
The EDUCATION WEEK story about RATEMYTEACHERS.COM appeared in their Sept. 17 issue.
Another national website, GREATSCHOOLS.NET enables parents and students to publicy comment about their schools. This link goes to a comment about a Palo Alto middle school.
EDUCATION WEEK covered the misreporting of teacher pay in their May 28 issue. The story criticized a common tradition among districts to average teacher pay across all sites, which, says the article, disguises wide-ranging differences in teacher salaries.
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