Teacher Gets A Report Card

1954/1955: Progress Report
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There’s been a lot of chatter recently about ways to assess teachers.

Some say that principals and other supervisors do a lousy job assessing teachers because they don’t have the time, the training, or the inclination.

Others say it should not be totally up to principals because they play favorites, are vindictive, or have some other agenda.

My first two years teaching I worked for a principal like that. Now her school is being shut down.

Some say that the scores students get on standardized tests should be used to rate teachers.

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The President of the United States says that’s the way to do it.

Which just goes to show how little he understands about education, about assessment and about motivation.

The people who go to elite private schools never really get what education is like for the rest of us, especially those of us who work or learn in inner city or rural schools which, counter-intuitively, have a lot in common.

At the present time there doesn’t seem to be a really accurate, workable way to assess teacher effectiveness, at least not one that can be applied to all teachers.

I give the task of assessing my teaching to the people who see it every day and for whom it is most crucial that I do it well: my students.

At the end of each quarter, when I have to determine and enter their grade for the quarter into our data system, I ask my students to give me a grade, to give me a report card.

I tell the students they do not have to put their names on the paper, but I want their assessment of me in writing.

I let them pick the criteria and determine how their assessment will be expressed.

Some make elaborate report cards with various categories, letter or number grades, and comments.

Others just write one sentence.

The first time the students assess me I get excellent marks. By the second quarter, when they see I take this very seriously, they are more critical.

My sixth grade class can be VERY chatty and a majority of the students in it told me I should be stricter. Even some of the chattiest ones said that.

strict school teacher
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They also told me they liked the projects I give them to do, that they like that I give them choices about how to do things and what kind of presentations to do. They want more parties.

Many of my colleagues who I know only through Twitter thought this was a great idea but one, Glen Westbrook, said that he knows some teachers who would be very worried about letting students have a say.

I have a message for those teachers:

All students assess their teachers every minute of every day.

Our grades are delivered as behavior.

The students who do the work, obey the rules and get good grades are saying they like, or at least can tolerate, the way you teach.

The others, those kids who are not engaged, not doing the work or otherwise acting out are delivering a different message.

Its not an easy message to receive.

It’s a lot easier to blame the students, their parents, the community or the administration.

Next time, before you bad mouth anyone else, take a look in the mirror and ask this question:

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Am I teaching my students the same way I’d teach my own child? Do I teach the way I want my child’s teachers to teach?

Think carefully before you answer. Be honest.

Or hope your students will be when you ask them.

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I’ve Got Money; Are You Available?

WASHINGTON - MARCH 26: Stacks of one dollar bi...
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News item: Gov. David A. Paterson on Thursday proposed a host of changes in state education law, including eliminating the cap on the number of charter schools, which he said would make the state more likely to receive $700 million in federal grant money. (NY Times 1/8/2010)

If we ever needed proof that – despite all the promises, platitudes and protestations – no politician gives a damn about students, this is it.

From the moment President Obama renamed No Child Left Behind (a giant, expensive race to mediocrity) with the equally catchy and vacuous Race To the Top, governors and state legislatures have been eager to lay down and spread them as any Nevada hooker offered the right price.


Perhaps, but not nearly as harsh as the way those officials charged with making the policies that rule their educational lives treat students.

Just so I am not misunderstood, let me say it loud and clear:

Nothing any politician says or does about education is about children.


Everything they do and say is about money, power, or reelection, usually all three simultaneously.

This Race to the Top is just another attempt to hold the gun of money against the head of state government and attempting to justify it by claiming the gun holds a silver bullet.

I don’t know what races President Obama, Governor Patterson or any other governor shining their red light has watched, but every race I’ve seen has had a small number of winners, usually one, and a much larger number of losers.

That’s right.

Our persuasive President’s education plan promotes there being a large number of education losers.

This is why he, Duncan, Klein and Rhee despise teachers so much. Teachers know there are no silver bullets.


Not charter schools, not standardized assessments. not centralized authority and not union busting.

But also not technology, not better-trained teachers, not smaller classes and not fewer exams.

Some combination of all the above may do wonders, but there are no silver bullets.


Governor Patterson, that gun held against your head holds blanks. Sure it makes a loud bang, but it will not hurt you.

The only ones hurt will be the students.

I guess that’s okay with you.

After all, it is not about them, is it?

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