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Student Performance

On Sept. 18, Ted Mitchell, president of the California Board of Education, published an article in the San Jose Mercury News advocating the repeal of a 2006 law that prevents the state from using student performance data to evaluate teachers.  It seems that California will not be eligible to receive a share of the federal dollars being issued to other states in the educational “Race to the Top” program. 


What worried me most about Mr. Mitchell ‘s argument was not his plea to abolish laws that prevent instructional merit, it was his complete lack of perception on who and what determines student learning that makes me most nervous.  He offered insight into using standardized test data as only one component in a multifaceted evaluation system.  However, his perception that any student performance (or lack of) can be directly attributed to one teacher is misleading, wrong and dangerous.  Any of us in the classroom understand that a multitude of random variables affect a student ‘s leraning processes and performance and as a student ‘s grade level increases, so do the variables- most of which are out of our control- like attendance, substance abuse, peer pressure, family dynamics and financial demographics.  

 

It is pompous to declare that teachers have such influence over their students that they alone control performance outcomes.  Within the first ten years of any teacher ‘s career he or she better learn that personal attachment to student outcomes is false.  A student succeeds because he or she wants to.  We can inspire and coach, direct and instruct, but we cannot, cannot, cannot manipulate the final outcome

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