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Teacher rankings are a bad policy


Before the ball gets rolling in Texas, it might help to address New York City’s new teacher rankings for perspective.

Ignoring that the idea of such a system has been implemented in multiple science fictions films, that it has concurrently failed in said science fiction films and that standard administrations attempt to cram some of the state’s most important workers into a cardboard box, you’ve got a tough situation at hand.

So how would one go about determining what separates an “exemplary teacher” from his or her “halfway-decent-most-of-the-time” counterparts in a state with more than 600,000 of them? Here’s a hint: You can’t. Without a universal agreement as to what “good” is, there won’t be any “good” teachers. It’s another bullet on the list of things that will never come to fruition. The difference between your “good” and that of your neighbors’ could be insignificant in some ways but could also be monumental in others. The absence of a multi-lateral “thumbs up” is the reason that so many different religions, diets and marriage practices exist.

There simply aren’t any assurances that standards are the same. And that’s not to say you can’t try, but even the obvious indicators, from the fruit on the edge of their desk to whatever arithmetic is being thrown around in the elementary school, hold only so much weight in some circles, while they are completely disregarded in others.

But for the sake of the argument, let’s say that a standard could actually be agreed upon. Even if the circumstances were in place to qualify a standard code of merit, how could it be done objectively? What would become of the teacher whose students pray for plague outbreaks, but consistently make high marks? Or the instructor who struggles to attain the results, but consistently concludes the year by instilling a love for learning in their students?

Anyone who’s been hostage to the public education system knows that it’s a two-way affair. No matter how much “pull” is provided on one end, the other has to pay its dues as well. There’s a goal established at the beginning of the year, along with an open promise from the instructor, that he or she will reach if the students do “their part,” as well.

This is a relationship that’s molded on a case-by-case basis, but one whose factors remain the same — none of these can be measured.

You can’t have a widespread ranking system without a widespread acknowledgement. You can’t have a widespread acknowledgement without a widespread consensus. And if the New York City Department of Education believes that they can acquire even a semi-unanimous agreement on the plight of the Native Americans, the proper use of a semi-colon or the umpteenth variable of pi, hats off to them. Bravo.

But for the rest of the country, correlated teacher rankings will only remain an idea and a half-fleshed one at best.

Bryan Washington is a sociology freshman and may be reached at opinion@thedailycougar.com.

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  • Bauer Alum

    The best teacher I ever had was my 7th grade geography teacher. He had travelled to 160+ countries and his class consisted of little more than slide shows of his travels with him explaining the historical, political, and cultural contexts of the slides we were seeing. He inspired in his students a desire to explore the world and understand cultures different than our own. Yet, if he were to be graded by any sort of standardized system, I'm certain he would have failed miserably.

    My high school had a tradition where graduating seniors were allowed to, if they chose to, invite a teacher from their elementary or middle school years to attend the graduation commencement and receive special recognition for inspiring a current graduate. Year after year, my 7th grade teacher was invited and recognized. I am hopeful that he was able to retire happily before being subjected to standardized evaluations and rankings.

  • Mike Wazowski

    >Ignoring that the idea of such a system has been implemented in multiple science fictions films, that it has concurrently failed in said science fiction films and that standard administrations attempt to cram some of the state’s most important workers into a cardboard box, you’ve got a tough situation at hand.

    I think you just deputized Space Balls into your argument. May the Schwartz Be With You!

    As long as leadership has a good understanding of what the rankings mean and how they should work, it's fine. There are going to be idiots everywhere – parents who demand their kid be pulled from a class; teachers who insist that the bad outcomes are anything but their fault; students who blame their underperformance on teacher rankings.

    The reality is that data is just that: data. It takes an idiot to do something stupid. The idea that the world needs *less* data in order to work well is both valueless and offensive to the idea of rationality. Data is never bad.

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