According to an article in the Dec. 20, 2017, edition of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, State Sen. Peggy Lehner recently introduced a bill under which teacher evaluations would be impacted less by student test scores than they currently are. Sen. Lehner is proposing this bill because, she says, the current system, which mandates that from 35 to 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluations is based on student test scores, hasn’t had the desired effect of “weeding out bad teachers and helping others improve.”
Imagine that: a law that is based on no credible research didn’t have its desired effect. Why would anyone be shocked by that?
So here comes the repeat performance of a law that uninformed legislators have previously created being replaced by a new law created by the same uninformed legislators. In other words, for about the 10,000th time, the good senator and her cronies will just make stuff up as to “fix” their error. It never ends.
I suppose we should be thankful that lawmakers have (once again) seen the error of their ways, but I am well past the point of feeling thankful for their reform efforts. After all, how many times is it acceptable for legislators to be permitted to replace one useless mandate with another useless mandate? I would be much more thankful if they broke the mold just once, had meaningful discussions about how children develop based on scientific research, and then just made their worthless laws go away.
But, alas, methinks that will never happen.
The fact is, you will find no credible research that suggests that a teacher is from 35 to 50 percent responsible for a student’s academic growth, just as you cannot possibly determine with any degree of certainty if LeBron James’ coaches are 35 to 50 percent responsible for him becoming the best basketball player on the planet. One cannot attribute one’s success or lack thereof to a single factor, because of the many variables that contribute to human development, and Sen. Lehner and her peers continuing to pretend as if it can is an insult to anyone with half a brain.
True to political form, according to the article, Lehner’s bill wouldn’t eliminate the use of test scores altogether from the evaluation process, they will just be used “in different ways than now.” In other words, she apparently subscribes to the old “different is better” mantra. The problem is, different isn’t better if the new “different” is as baseless as the old “different” was. And, if we have learned nothing else from history, we should certainly have learned that any new law created by our legislators will be just as poorly conceived as the old one was.
I almost laughed out loud when I read the senator’s quote about the evaluation system being created to “weed out bad teachers,” as if our schools are overrun with them. Not only is that a political myth, but apparently she is unaware that laws she and her legislative friends have created over the years have made “weeding out” bad teachers, as she so indelicately phrases it, incredibly expensive and nearly impossible. For a person in a leadership position to think that the answer to that supposed dilemma was a new evaluation system shows a level of ignorance that is astounding.
Interestingly enough, in the same Plain Dealer article touting Lehner’s “seeing of the light,” it was noted that Microsoft founder Bill Gates has also experienced an epiphany, as he has stopped a major research effort to find ways to identify strong and weak teachers. His three-year study, called “Measures of Effective Teaching” (MET), found that multiple measures of looking at teachers were more effective than relying on test scores.
He was surprised by that revelation? Really? Brother Gates could have saved himself millions and millions of dollars on a worthless study had he just employed a little common sense. But, alas, he thought he knew better, and he has spent untold millions of dollars trying to convince himself, lawmakers, and the public in general that he was onto something big; that test scores equated to teacher effectiveness. Well, he wasn’t.
I suppose there is some solace in the fact that he merely wasted his own money in his misguided search for how to properly judge others. Ohio’s legislators insist on wasting yours and mine, though our tax dollars, as they continue with their charade.
Lehner also said in the article that she expects a “robust” debate when the legislature returns after the holidays. I have no doubt it will be robust, as most political debates are. What would be nice would be for the debate to be informed and meaningful, which never happens. Frankly, we’ve had more “robust” political debate regarding this topic than one can stand.
Tom Dunn is the superintendent of the Miami County Educational Service Center.